We’ve done some whale watching before — about 10 years ago, to be precise. That time, we took a bus up to Punta Mita, got out, headed for the beach and waited for someone with a boat to approach us and make us an offer. It was not very scientific, but it was uncomplicated, and we saw some whales.
This time around, we took a very different approach. We booked far in advance with Ocean Friendly and arrived at the pier Los Peines early on the day of departure. After an on-shore briefing on humpback whales in general and the unique characteristics of Banderas Bay (and a last-chance bathroom break — you do NOT want to have to use the head on board!), we boarded and motored out of the marina area, headed for the open waters of Banderas Bay.
Our guide explained the patterns to watch for: spouts, flipper flapping, flukes and then a breach about 45 seconds later.
We were very impressed with the emphasis this company put on limiting the environmental impact of our activities. There was an on-board lunch packed in reusable food storage containers. The drinking water was served out of steel containers. The only disposable waste items at all were the paper napkins.
This certainly felt like a better way to watch whales — for them and for us.
We’ve been to Puerto Vallarta plenty of times. Inspired by the Taco Chronicles, we wanted to discover the food we love in the place we love, but not in the restaurants we already know.
AirBnB to the rescue again! We found Memo’s tours there, but if you’re interested, you should consider booking through his website vallarta101.com. He does more than just food tours: history and culture walks are also on offer (and he gave us an inside tip that they’re expanding that area, too).
We were a mixed bag: an omnivore, a fish (and raw onion!) abstainer, and a mostlytarian. Therefore the vegetarian Taco Walk 103 made the most sense for us. Two other people joined up who were much stricter vegetarians. Our tour covered taco offerings at not-strictly-vegetarian restaurants, even though all the food we ate was.
I’m not going to blow up Memo’s spot by revealing all the neat places hiding out in the open. Suffice it to say, these restaurants — none of which we’d tried before — were all in well-known places downtown where we thought we were pretty well-versed.
But we got more than just good food out of it. Memo covered cultural, local, and regional aspects of the food and the restaurants as well. Some of the stops on the walk were high-concept fancy-pants places, and some were holes-in-the-wall we’d never have given a second look…but should have.
Three big tips for you, taco enthusiast:
Arrive hungry at the meeting point.
Prepare to share with someone else in your party, particularly after the first stop on the walk.
Save room! Drinks and desserts are part of the package. If you fill up, you miss out.
We are fully aware of our coffee dependency — never moreso than while hopping time zones. So we decided to Learn the Process of Coffee Roasting via this AirBnB Experience, which popped up while searching for things to do in the area. We were looking to AirBnB for inspiration after our good buddy Kristin’s recommendation to take the Pasteis de Nata baking class during our trip to Porto.
Daniel’s coffee shop, La Cabra y La Mata, is not in Puerto Vallarta. It’s not even in Jalisco. But it’s less than an hour away by bus in Bucerías, a sleepy resort town north of Nuevo Vallarta with long stretches of beach.
We started our journey with a walk to the airport — about 20 minutes from our home base in PV — and caught a bus going towards Bucerías, or maybe La Cruz de Huanacaxtle or Sayulita. Bus fare was $20 MXN per person each way, payable in cash to the driver upon boarding and stating our destination. That works out to around a dollar or euro, depending on the exchange rate. We monitored our progress on the bus via GPS and just got out at a stop that seemed close enough.
… along with some drinks (espresso, natch, but also an iced espresso over Licor 43, which was lovely) to accompany his explanations, and then it was time to get roasting. We took careful notes about the temperature, fuel, ventilation, and time at each stage of the roasting process and came home in the end with a couple 250 gram bags each of two different coffees we roasted. We were wide awake for the bus ride back to Puerto Vallarta.
A buddy and I met up with our bikes at the train station in Sinzing late this morning and biked our way to lunch near Bad Abbach. Then we pressed on to Kelheim for a nice ice cream treat. We went back the way we came a bit for me to catch the train in Saal an der Donau.
The last part of our trip was a big change of scenery on the way back to Regensburg. Rather than going back the way we came through the mountains, we jagged west at Bozen/Bolzano towards Meran/Merano instead of east towards Brixen/Bressanone. The drive up through Bozen to the Brenner Pass is usually good for some oohs and ahhs, but the little towns along the route from Merano to San Valentino were adorable. It also took a lot longer than it looks on the map, because those are little country hillside roads getting you to Graun im Vinschgau, because those villages come with a speed limit of 50 km/h (≈30 mph) most of the way.
Modena and Parma were undiscovered country for us. We’d been to Bologna before (ten years ago!). We’d heard good things about Emilia-Romagna and Italian cuisine from various sources — including our waiter at Colline Emiliane on our trip to Rome. But for all the famous foody aspects of this bit of Italy (balsamico, parmesan cheese, prosciutto), we’d never actually been. Well, why the heck not? We loved both these cities.
It was only a few hours’ drive from the outskirts of Venice to the former capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna.
We’d been to the town before, but last time, it was dark, and cold, and difficult to navigate with our rental car. This time we arrived with plenty of daylight, parked the car once, and did all the exploration on foot. The weather was generally agreeable this time, too — though some fierce winds and a brief rain spell motivated us to spend a little more time under the awning at a restaurant eating piadine for lunch.
Some brief notes:
We stayed on the edge of the Altstadt in a cool (despite the dorky name) little boutique BnB called "M Club DeLuxe"
We did the FreinsheimKulinarischeWeinwanderungagain this year. And again our pal Snooker joined us for good wine, good food, and especially good company. This year was a little trickier than most with regard to accommodations. Seasonal demand in the area is always high, so we plan far in advance. But this year, our Ferienwohung host bailed on us with rather short notice, and we had to hunt for a place to stay months later than normal. The pickings were slim, but we managed to make it work through AirBnB. We stayed in Flörsheim-Dalsheim and used the local transit system to get into and out of Freinsheim on the Saturday of that weekend. This is a trick our pals the Heidelbergers taught us back in 2012 on our very first Kulinarische Weinwanderung.
Last week one of our city’s most identifiable symbols played dress-up. You can read more about the event on the city’s webpage here (in German). The occasion is the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Dom’s towers. We probably would have missed the memo on it completely, but a colleague of mine called our attention to it.
For reference, here is what it looked like before the light show began:
Music and a narrative, from the perspective of an apprentice and master stonemason, accompanied the light designs projected onto the cathedral. These stills look nice, but really it was the illumination’s animation that made it clear how the cathedral looked at different phases over its history.
We’ve visited Piombino Dese twicebefore, at the agriturismo "Ca’ de Memi." It’s a great place to stay on its own, due to its location in Veneto: Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, Treviso, and Castelfranco are all easily reachable by car or train. It’s also a fantastic place to eat. If you’re going to visit Ca’ de Memi, book it soon, because this month they got a write-up in the Guardian as one of the ten best cooking classes with stays in Europe. We have enjoyed their food immensely, but not yet taken a cooking course there…maybe next time!
This time the draw to us was the five-minute walk from the train station. From there we did a 40-minute train trip to Santa Lucia station in Venice.