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The destination for a happy heart: Puerto Vallarta

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(eTN) – February is a lovely month! It is the time we replace a cold nose and frozen feet with ROMANCE. There it is, smack-dab in the middle of miserable weather: Valentine’s Day – the moment when all thoughts turn to Love!

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(eTN) – February is a lovely month! It is the time we replace a cold nose and frozen feet with ROMANCE. There it is, smack-dab in the middle of miserable weather: Valentine’s Day – the moment when all thoughts turn to Love!

Forget the flu, the approaching tax deadline; the lapsed New Year’s resolutions… think pink, warm and fuzzy thoughts. Now we follow our hearts instead of our heads.

No Reservations
In pursuit of ROMANCE I found a destination that is as close to perfect as is legally allowed: Puerto Vallarta (PV), Mexico. This is the absolute correct location for LOVE! So – grab your honey, find your passport and credit cards, pack a bathing suit, t- shirt and shorts, throw in some sun-block, and the land of engagement parties, weddings and honeymoons is but a few hours away.

Capturing Love
PV has the best weather, terrific accommodations, incredible dining opportunities, and for visitors with deep pockets – overwhelming stuff to buy (from silver bracelets and sculptures, to incredible clones of Tiffany and Cartier designer rings), plus handmade wedding dresses, and aged Tequila (Jalisco’s most famous product).

Go Away
I flew American Airlines to Chicago and connected to a PV flight. O’Hare is not my favorite airport: it is huge and there are silly plastic covers on the toilets. To make matters even worse, there are limited distractions (mediocre merchandise selections in Duty Free, very few book choices, and endless CNN loops).

The good news is that even with a technical aircraft glitch, the AA flight was better than expected. In fact, the food and service in Business Class was so good that I wanted to ask for seconds on the sea bass with pasta (along with a doggy bag for the luscious cheese cake dribbled with chocolate sauce). Even the flight attendants were helpful; maybe they would become my new “best friends.”

PV Airport: Perfecto
The arrival section for the PV airport is compact and efficient. Almost no time is wasted from landing to exiting the terminal. Staffers know we are looking for love, sun and sand and they “make it happen.”

As usual, my luggage was the last to float down the belt and as I lugged it toward the exit I made mental note to upgrade my bags. (I acquired the current for free from a Staples’ promotion. What did I expect: Gucci? Maybe this is the reason it was sent out last – the airport staffers did not want me to be embarrassed).

ROMANCE Starts Now!
For folks with Romance on their mind the first and only stop has got to be the CasaMagna Marriott Resort and Spa. With a small and pleasant sanctuary at the airport, delightful Casa Magna associates tasked with “romance” rapidly move your heart desires from fantasy to reality.

Want your lovely to meander down a red carpet on the way to the hotel? Considers it done! Wish for every glorious moment to be captured on video – no problem. From a rock band at the hotel entrance to a traditional Mexican Mariachi group in your suite – your wish is their command.

Marie, the CasaMagna’s charming airport greeter offers Romance guests a flute of chilled champagne and a glass of Tequila during the small wait for the Marriott car to transport the couple from the airport to the hotel.

Marriott genies’ have eliminated the check-in-at-the-desk process and guests are instantly whisked to a fabulously grandiose suite overlooking the pool, beach and ocean with a wrap-around terrace large enough for skateboarding. You are surrounded by privacy so – in this case – love is (truly) all you need! (Of course a swimsuit and jeans would work; do note however, in PV – less is more).

Baño para dos
Ensuite, awaiting the duo is a bottle of wine, two glasses, and a gourmet assortment of fresh fruits and cheeses. To ease the stress of travel, the bathtub is chockfull of flowers and bath salts. Add water, breathe deep, and plop into the tub for moments of blissful relaxation.

Seeing absolutely too much of each other? CasaMagna addresses this issue by diplomatically providing two huge plasma TV’s – one in the living room and the other in the bedroom. Don’t want to leave the suite – even for a minute? Room service is faster than Domino and goodies arrive at the door in well under 30 minutes. (The selections are many and the taste goes beyond good – all the way to delicious)!

Couples are Cooking
Newly paired guests sign up for the Marriott’s attractive Super-Chef’s Fred Ruiz Cooking Classes. Learn how to design gourmet meals in moments! Slicing and dicing takes on a new meaning when the classes are in the middle of a hotel kitchen that serves thousands of guests a day. However, the romantic duet gets a private dining room for their “in love” luncheon and flight of Tequila orchestrated by the Sommelier.

Spa-ing Together
After yummy dining, terrific drinking, there is energy left-over for only one thing…a trip to the Ohtli Spa.

Head to the steam room to open the pores, move to the sauna to dry out! Run naked into the Swedish shower, and dip into the cold splash pool, the hot pool, and plunk gracefully into the Jacuzzi. With suds billowing from head to toe let the rain-head shower cleanse every little tiny (and hidden) spot.

The next stop is a meet and greet with Kenya the master masseuse for a his/her, her/her; or him/him Swedish massage. “You are a little tense” I am told. “No Kenya – I am very tense!” “You will need more than one massage madam” “Yes Kenya – I will need a lifetime of massages. Thank you very much.”

Ohtli offers a special 5 hour Brides package that includes a facial, make-up application, hair-styling, manicure, and pedicure. Staffers help the bride into the dress, slip on her shoes, and whisk her down to the beach where she meets her “significant other” for wedding vows.

The groom is not overlooked, and “Just for Him” and the “Spa Escape” includes a skin moisturizing facial, sports massage, feet treatments, a pedicure, plus steam, Jacuzzi and a smoothie.

Have an ounce of energy remaining? The Spa’s exercise room, with the most current equipment – boldly stands in a well-lit, well-ventilated area near the Spa entrance. The completeness of the gym makes the guilt even worse for it leaves absolutely no excuse for not exercising EVERY day.

First Time or Second or Third?
It really doesn’t matter if you are getting engaged, married or renewing vows, there are many delicious places in PV for couples to pop the question, say I do, and yes, I’d do it again and again!

On the Water
Romantics looking for an unusual location for “popping the question” will select Hugo Arce’s Great Escape fishing yacht docked at the PV Marina. Plan an early start :Marina arrival is 8 AM so pick-up the coffee and cakes at Los Chatos before boarding. While your beloveds’ day-planner indicates “fishing,” the real objective is Romance! Arrange with Hugo for an on-board luncheon with chilled champagne and let the Captain select a romantic inlet: The rest of the program is up to you.

Overlooking the Sea
One drop-dead gorgeous location is Le Kliff Restaurant. Often cited as the most beautiful restaurant in Mexico (and America) there is no doubt that having an affair-of-the-heart overlooking the ocean as waves’ crash against the cliffs creates a spectacular vision and gourmet cuisine grounds the event. Wait a bit of time, and the bride and wedding party will be able to arrive by boat, tie-up at the dock, and proceed to the party – without having to worry about the spiraling roads that lead to the Le Kliff.

Wedding Angels
If an adventure, heart stopping location is not your métier and your quest for romance takes a more historical path, the Hacienda San Angel (once the home of Richard Burton), located in a quiet, residential area of PV’s downtown area, will make your most intimate dreams come true. The small number of suites and private villas, courtyards, intimate swimming pools, gourmet garden and rooftop dining areas are so special that you will feel like a movie star.

Café des Artistes
For art collectors who have tired of browsing the dozens of galleries in downtown PV, there can be no better location for popping the question than the Café des Artistes headed by Chef Thierry Blouet. Incredibly modern, sizzling with only the beautiful people currently in town, this dining/entertainment/party spot has got to be the summit for celebrating with the “one and only” in your life!

Don’t Bring the Dress!
Brides to be – listen to me! Do not bring the dress from NY, Chicago, Paris or Buenos Aires! It could get lost, smashed, stained along the way – and then what? You will not want to marry in your shorts and t-shirts. Avoid all the hassle by having your engagement dress, wedding gown, and crocheted bikini made right in PV by the charming Laura Lopez who has been hand-stitching garments for the rich and famous for decades. Her trademark dresses are all-white or natural tone clothing in 100% cotton, lace and fine gauze fabrics that float in the beach breezes.

And…don’t spend all that money on the Cartier and Tiffany designed engagement and wedding rings. By all means look through the catalogues, stop in the shops and select the design that makes you pant and sweat and wish to win the lottery. Send the photos to Richardo Hernandez at Pacific Jewelry and – and at a fraction of the cost – your jewelry will be ready for pick–up within 48 hours of your arrival in PV.

Don’t Bring the Gifts: Buy Here!
Olympic-level shoppers with deep pockets will find abundant opportunities to acquire contemporary art and sculptures, designer jewelry (from silver to gold and diamonds), crafts and carpets. Buy everything from the engagement present to the wedding gift – right in PV. It is also a good idea to come with empty suitcases and leave satiated. For unique jewelry pieces look at Cassandra Shaw, awesome sculptures made from sterling silver are on display at Ole. Stop at Galeria Uno for contemporary paintings and GemCasa for magnificent rings, bracelets and ear jewels made from Magdalena Opals and amber.

Moving In
It is likely that the love affair that was celebrated in PV will continue forever. This is why thousands of Americans, Canadians and Europeans are buying homes or condos here; the place and the people are just too splendid to leave.

For creating the perfect home, you must first meet with Jorge Rubio (Shanti Healing Center), a noted interior and furniture designer, wedding planner, healing coordinator, and just an all-round super person who knows everyone and everything about PV. Put Jorge at the center of your planning universe –and all the bits and pieces necessary for your new life will easily fall into place.

Real estate specials proliferate. Of course there are homes valued in the millions, but couples will find awesome opportunities at under $300,000 usd. At Nima Bay at Marina Vallarta, 2 bedroom apartments with balcony views to the Marina, the Pacific Ocean or the Marina golf course are available. Luxury amenities include valet and concierge service, a fitness center, spa, and swimming pools, as well as dining opportunities, meeting and conference rooms, a business center and beach club.

No one can leave PV without visiting Alain Diore at Mundo de Azulejos. Couples can design their own luscious tabletops – from dishes and glasses, to flatware and serving dishes. Bring along the design, personal signatures, and color palette and in a few days – all the dishes and serving pieces used for entertaining are your own! What a wonderful treasure to pass along to the children and grandchildren. Alain will also design your kitchen and patio with tiles of your own design.

Coming Back
No! I don’t want to leave. Please close the airport, ground my flight, and don’t let me go back to cold, wet, hectic NY! When is my next break??? I am heading back to PV!

Café des Artistes
Guadalupe Sanchez, 740
322 222 3228

Cassandra Shaw Jewelry
Basilio Badilo 276
322 223 9734

Galeria Uno
Morelos No. 561
322 222 0908

156 Basilio Badillo y Olas Altas
322 223 8416

Hacienda San Angel
Miramar 336, Col Centro
52 322 222 2692

Jorge Rubio
Shanti Healing Center
322 223 3530
[email protected]

Laura Lopez
Labra Designs
Basilio Badillo 329
322 222 3074

South Coast km.17.5
322 228 0666

Mundo de Azulejos
World of Tiles
Venustiano Carranza 374
Col. Emiliano Zapata
322 222 2675

Morelos No 507 Centro
322 223 0370

Pacific Jewelry
Paseo Diaz Ordaz 558
322 8269

Team Red Bone Sport Fishing & Yacht Charters
Hugo Arce
044 322 116 9416

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