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With over 300 restaurants in San Miguel de Allende there is no shortage of food options so we’ve narrowed it down to our favourite, and not so favourite spots.

La Cocina, Pila Seca #1

Try: Enmoladas and Mezcal

Don Taco Tequila (Vegan), Hernandez Macias #9

Try: Taco de Setas and Sotol 

La Azotea, Not sign posted, upstairs Calle Umaran #6

Try: Taco de Camarón y Jicama 

Baja Fish Taquito, Mesones #11B

Try: Taquito de Pescado

Andy’s Tacos, Corner of Hidalgo and Insurgents

Try: Taco de Pastor

Antonia Bistro

Antonia Bistro at El Palomar, (go for sunset) San Francisco #57

Try: Torta de brisket horneado a la leña and Lechon con su jugo de carne

La Posadita, Cuna de Allende #13

Try: Tamarind Margarita and Conchita Pilbil 

Cent’anni Ristorante, Conde de La Canal #34

Try: Lobster Pizza

La Doña, San Francisco #32

Try: Mole, rice and plantains and flautas de Jamaica

No Name Family Taco Stand, In front of Ignacio Aldama #1

Try: Tacos Dorado (shredded beef) and mollejas (chicken gizzards)
Note: this is only open Friday and Saturday night

Mama Mia

Mama Mia, Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias # 91

Try: The Pan Dolce, Huevos Rancheros, Pepperoni Pizza 

Places that you can skip 

Hanks

Hanks – good atmosphere and music but food isn’t as good as the ambience
Quince – nice for drinks and appetizers with a view but go somewhere else for a main.

Quince

Most know Tequila as something you shot before a wedge of lemon and salt but few realise that it’s also a scenic town in the Sierra Madre Mountains in western Mexico – 52kms out of Guadalajara.  

Tequila is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and a Pueblo Mágico.  

Mexico’s pueblos mágicos programme was developed by the tourist board in order to promote the rich cultural heritage and history of Mexico through smaller, once overlooked towns. 

Read more about the program here.

So what is Tequila

Tequila – in order to be called tequila it has to be made from Agave Tequilana Azul Weber – the plant AND it has to come from a specific area of Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas. 

If it was made somewhere else, it’s not tequila. 

Jalisco is the most important producer and the best tequila comes from the cities Los Altos de Jalisco, Tequila, Amatitlan, Arandas.

It also has to contain 35- and 55-percent alcohol.

To make tequila the agave has to grow for at least 5 years in order to produce enough sugar to produce fermentation on its own. If the plant produces enough sugars it will be called 100% Agave, if not it will be called Licor de Agave.

Once the plant is ready, a Jimador – the person that cuts the leaves,  leaves what looks like a huge pineapple. 

These pineapples are taken to huge steam ovens and are cooked and crushed to obtain the juice. The juice is then fermented and passed through two distillation processes before producing a final product. This is Tequila Blanco or white tequila. This is that the stuff that’s used in your margaritas – it’s not super high quality but good enough to mix. 

To produce a higher quality, more flavoursome tequila, once it reaches Blanco point, rather than bottling it for sale it can pass through an aging process in oak barrels to make either: 

  • Tequila Reposado – aged between 2 – 10 months or 
  • Añejo (12 – 24 months), 
  • Extra Añejo (more than 2 years).

The wood gives the colouring that comes with añejo as well as a finer taste of course a higher price tag.  

Ok so what about Mezcal? 

The plant used in Mezcal is also an Agave, but a different variety. Mezcal is not limited to one type of agave like Tequila but the most common or the ones that produce the best Mezcales are Agave Espadin or Agave Weber. 

Mezcal can also be produced in any state in Mexico but the most popular comes from Oaxaca and Tamaulipas.

The big difference between Tequila and Mezcal is its production, Mezcal is more of a craft drink – like the craft beer or tequila. In general Mezcal has a much greater range of possibilities because it’s not limited to one type of agave, it can be a blend. 

Each Agave Plant has to obtain maturity for 6-8 years, then leaves are cut and it is cooked just like tequila. But other than the lifting of some of the restrictions that tequila has to be made under another major difference is the cooking of the pineapple. Using a large fire and volcanic rock, once there are only ashes and the rock has gotten hot enough temperature the pineapples are thrown into the fire to be cooked, that is where Mezcal gets its smoky flavours. Then the pinapples are crushed to obtain the juice and it is fermented and distilled just like tequila.

At the end of the day tequila is a variety of mezcal but there are some branding and legal aspects that say they are different. It sounds like Tequila lucked up and is the famous cousin but Mezcales is the more interesting in general. 

Because of its handcraft process, Mezcal is a more refined and expensive drink in Mexico.

How to drink? 

No, you don’t want to take a shot with lime and salt. This was a process that was sold to people to disguise the horrible taste of poorly produced, cheap tequila. 

Good tequila can be sipped on its own and won’t give you a nasty hangover if you drink it straight but there is a technique – Tequila Yoga. 

  • Pour a small about into a glass, (by the stem), raise the glass to eye level and look at the tequila’s color. Is it white? Get your shaker you’re having margaritas!
  • If it’s a light to deep brown give it a swirl, just like wine and look for the ‘legs’ or the ‘string of pearls’ AKA the liquid clinging to the walls of the glass. If it sticks you can proceed with your sipping.
  • But first! Take a deep breath and exhale all the air out of your mouth, take a small sip, enjoy the flavours and then breath out. 
  • Pour about one ounce of tequila in a tequila glass or snifter. Hold the glass at the stem (not the bowl), raise the glass to eye level and look at the tequila’s color.
  • Swirl the tequila gently in its glass. Note how the tequila clings to the walls of the glass, looking for the “string of pearls” effect.[2]
  • Take a small sip, swishing the tequila around in your mouth for about 10 seconds, letting the alcohol travel over different parts of your tongue.
  • Swallow and repeat! Fancy, huh?

Salud!

Owing to its peculiar topography, the city is made up largely of a series of alleys, where you can find numerous picturesque recesses. It is through these alleys that you can take one of the famous night tours, or “callejoneadas” one of the most popular activities in the city.

This tour starts from Juárez Theater which is located in front of the Plaza Principal or Jardín de la Unión where a student will guide you through the seven main alleys of the city.

At the beginning of the tour you stop to buy a drink (optional) and then you are led by students (although the rumor is they aren’t really students and this is just a sales tactic) dressed in old-school clothes with string instruments and accordions. During the tour, the students sing songs and tell stories that happened in the alleys as you go through. During the tour, everyone participates, sings and dances. Be aware that it’s all in Spanish but there’s bound to be a friendly local with a little English to help you out if you aren’t sure what’s going on.

The tour ends in the ” Alley of the Kiss “, which for lovers is one of the most emblematic alleys of the city and legend has it that if the couple kisses right on the third step, it promises for them seven years of happiness and love.

The tour costs $120 pesos each and you can buy a drink at the start. You also get a cute souvenir included in the ticket price.

While Addison and I were in Puerto Vallarta recently we were fortunate enough to volunteer at the Vallarta Food Bank for two months. We met some incredible people that truly loved and supported their community and made us feel welcome even though we were only temporary residents of Vallarta. Now, we’ve left Vallarta we are proud to say we’ll still be supporting from afar through our new initiative @ourpaperpromises. 

We’ve created Our Paper Promises as a way to help travelers give back to the people and places that have given to them throughout their journeys.

In a nutshell, creators from all over the world will be able to submit their photos/art for sale as art prints on our website, we’ll print them, send them out all over the world, and will donate 25% to our nonprofit of the month.

Every month we’ll be supporting a different nonprofit to give them exposure and much-needed donations.

We hold a simple belief that together we have the ability to create a ripple effect of kindness and giving around the world and would love your help to it. 

If you’d like to get involved you can submit your art for sale (you’ll receive a commission every time one of your pieces is sold), you can share this post to help us reach a larger audience, you can purchase a print when we launch or you could donate directly to Vallarta Food Bank, our first cause.

Vallarta, like many places around the world, is facing a crisis with lots of people out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help the community, a food bank has been set up for the families in Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding areas. Without your support, feeding those in need becomes an even more challenging task.

A little does a long way with $130MXN or $6USD feeding a small family for a week.

If you’d like to get involved please DM us for more information or sign up to be a contributing creator on our website www.ourpaperpromises.com

I’ve really been putting off doing our income and expense report this month. 

Without even looking at it I just knew we were way over budget and I have been burying my head in the sand. 

So, what blew-our budget?

As usual, we ate out more than we should’ve including a very fancy meal with too many glasses of preseco at La Cappella one of the nicest restaurants I think either of us has ever set foot in (see the video).

We used a private driver (Jose) for 3 x day trips.

Jose also drove us from Puerto Vallarta to Guanajuato and as you’ll see in the report that’s really where the biggest cost lies.

We could’ve taken a couple of buses, we could’ve flown, there are plenty of transport options that would’ve reduced the cost but at the end of the day, we felt more “socially distanced” and less at risk this way. We also got to shop in Tequila, Tlaquepaque and Leon on the way!

We did some shopping and bought a new day bag to replace one that was falling apart.

We have also reduced our work hours, not only does this reduce our income, but it also gives us more time to go out and do stuff which more often than not leads to us spending more money. 

We didn’t leave our comfortable lives in New Zealand to work all the time and be miserable but we will be taking our head out of the sand this month and being more mindful of our choices to ensure we can continue to sustain our travels and have some backup during these uncertain times.

Full breakdown:

Expenses

Accommodation$576.76
Groceries$170.56
Transport$718.13
Entertainment$370.28
Shopping$251.30
Eating Out$537.70
Laptop Payments$103
Subscriptions (Apple Storage & Netflix) $23.23
Cellphone Plan$29
Total Expenses$2,779.85

Total Income
$3,321.67
$541.82

All prices are converted to USD

1. Release Baby Turtles 

If you’re visiting between August and March you can take part in a turtle release with Campamento Tortuguero Boca de Tomates, this is a conservation program and donations are welcome. You can’t book in advance, follow the camp on Facebook and when they have hatchlings a call will go out to reserve your place on the release line for that night. 

2. Go to Mismaloya and Swim at the Beach Where Night of the Iguana Was Filmed

Mismaloya is the beach that put Puerto Vallarta on the map when in the 60s John Huston filmed the movie ‘Night of the Iguana’. You’ll hear so much about the movie while in Puerto Vallarta so a trip to PV just wouldn’t be complete with our checking it out. 

3. Check out the View from Faro de Calle Matamoros 

We like to think this is a bit of a hidden gem, no one really talks about it and you could easily walk past it if you don’t look up. Tucked away on Matamoros Street you’ll find the lighthouse, climb up the stairs to the top and you’ll be greeted with a breathtaking view. It’s a quick, easy walk and well worth the detour. 

4. Visit Our Lady Guadalupe Church and People Watch in the Plaza 

One of the icons of Puerto Vallarta, this beautiful church sits just behind the town square and was build and added to over many decades resulting in a mix of styles being used along the way, including neoclassic, like the main building, the crown is reminiscent of baroque European temples and the side towers have a renaissance touch.

5. Take Part in a Free Walking Tour and Explore the Streets

Free walking tours are our favourite thing to do, especially when arriving in a new place. It allows you to get a feel for the city, ask questions, and learn about the local culture and customs. We did our tour with Memo from Vallarta101 and we went on to book some of his paid taco tours too. 

6. Stroll the Malecón and Learn About The Sculptures

On the Malecon, you’ll find 12 beautiful, cryptic statues. One at every cross-section. All of the sculptures have been created by famous local and international artists and have their own unique story. Like “The Subtle Stone-Eater” by Jonás Gutiérrez (2006). The author says us that he feels negative emotions are like stones which we swallow through life.

It’s also said that the Stone-Eater eats all the stones along the shoreline that disappear with the tides.

7. Visit the Zona Romantica Market and Watch Tortillas Being Made

If you want to really get to know a new place visit the local market, not a market that sells tourist souvenirs but a real produce and food market. We absolutely loved doing our groceries at the Zona Romantica market in Puerto Vallarta and watching the fresh tortillas pop out of the machine at the tortilleria. If you don’t need groceries we still highly recommend stopping by and grabbing something to eat or just browsing. 

8. Browse the Trinkets and Souvenirs at the River Cuale Market

Speaking of markets, who doesn’t love a little souvenir shopping? Support the local store owners and pick your souvenirs up at the River Cuale market, located on the “island” between Downtown and Old Town (Zone Romantica) 

9. Walk from Downtown through Conchas China to the Lindo Mar Resort For Lunch 

Follow the beach along through all the beachfront neighborhoods from downtown to the Lindo Mar resort for beautiful ocean views and reward yourself with lunch at the end at the resort restaurant. 

10. Hike to the Cross and Watch the Sunset Over Vallarta

One of the most popular free things to do is definitely hiking to the cross that looks over Puerto Vallarta and we actually never did it! We planned to in our last week but every time we tried the rain was pouring down 😬 but we saw loads of people up there every day so it’s gotta be worth it. 

A day trip from the seaside town of Puerto Vallarta to Talpa de Allende and Mascota is a must!

First stop before we really get on the road to Talpa de Allende is Panaderia Carmen’s Bakery to pick up some breakfast. This is a must-do on the way to San Sebastián, Mascota, or Talpa. Carmen’s is located just before the Progreso Bridge.

You can not go wrong with any choice you make here. They make the. most delicious fresh baked bread and pastries filled various fruits, one with delicious vanilla filling, another warm sausage, or meat. The bakery is a garden oasis where you can sit, relax, and enjoy your break. Each item was roughly $25MXN pesos or $1.15USD

We have stopped here twice and would go back again in a heartbeat.

Talpa de Allende is a municipality and magical town in the state of Jalisco

Talpa de Allende is home to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, housed in the magnificent Cathedral built in 1644  and visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Founded in 1599 the town of about 10,000 people sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains. Most of the visitors here are religious pilgrims from Mexico, who travel to Talpa to visit the Virgin, not to play. But Talpa is a beautiful place and a great experience with or without participating in religious ceremonies. We surprised (and pleased) to see the art line streets juxtaposed to the traditional buildings and religious feel of the town.

On the way into Talpa de Allende you’ll pass the Cruz de Romero by the Talpa sign (pictured above). From here you can climb to the top of the monument up some winding stairs for the most incredible view of the mountains and the town below.

Like most Mexican towns the center of Talpa is the plaza and the Church. The town is very walkable so just park up or jump off the bus in the town center and start walking.

We visited the Church and were blessed by the bishop and received a diploma to verify our first pilgrimage to Talpa de Allende, despite neither of us being Catholic we appreciated the experience and would recommend anyone visiting to embrace it and take the time to gain some understanding of the main religion in Mexico. There is a museum just behind the Church (this is also where you pick up your certificate) where you can learn more about the history of the town and the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa.

The plaza itself is the social center for the town, and you will see all ages of people gathered there during the day and into the night. It is flanked by shops and restaurants. We recommend heading into the main market for Birria at Birrieria El Gran Chivo for a cheap, authentic meal. It was $320MXN / $15USD for lunch for and drinks three people.

The farther you get from the plaza, the more varied and modern the architecture. The walk from the Church up the main street (Independencia) out to the large arch just where you enter Talpa follows La Ruta del Peregrino, which is the route of the pilgrims who walk through the countryside on a pilgrimage to see the Virgen de Talpa.

When you are finished exploring the Church and town center you can take in the scenery further up the hill, at the statue of Christ the King. The views from the statue, overlooking the town and the valley, are remarkable, and worth the climb.

On the way back down from the lookout, you’ll pass through the beautiful callejones (alleys) filled with murals, be sure to take your time and check these out – it was a highlight for us.

Mascota

Fun fact: The name (Mascota) is not Spanish (where it would be translated as “pet”), it is from Teco and means, the place of deer and snakes.

When you drive into Mascota you immediately notice it is a beautiful and picturesque town like you’ve traveled back in time, to a quiet, peaceful period, you’ll also notice that the air is cooler here especially if you compare it with Puerto Vallarta.

There is, of course, another beautiful church and town square to see in Mascota but the real gem here is the Unfinished Temple de la Preciosa Sangre (Temple of the Precious Blood) The temple is an unfinished ruin of a church that was to be built in the late 1800’s. Its entrance is framed in a Roman arch; its neoclassic altarpiece is one of the best in the region. There is also an active church on the property. The bougainvillea in the gardens provides vibrant color on the stone background.

We booked a private driver for the trip, less risky than a group tour with Covid-19 still an ongoing issue. a similar price to a group tour and gave us a lot more freedom to see what we wanted. We used Jose from Xplore with Chamaco who we’ve now booked four times because he’s the best.

For a 12-hour day, it cost us $4500MXN / $200USD plus $500MXN / $22USD for our food, coffee and beer, and snacks for the day.

Come with us to try some tacos in El Pitillal, a suburb in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

About El Pitillal

El Pitillal a suburb in Puerto Vallarta where many local workers live. Next to the traditional plaza is the San Miguel Arcángel Parish church, which has a twenty-six-foot tall sculpture of Jesus Christ carved from one single piece of wood hanging over the altar. It is not as touristy as other parts of PV and offers some wonderful shopping opportunities and interesting restaurants.

History of the Taco

We love tacos but never knew just how much there is to the humble taco until we came to Puerto Vallarta. From tortilla type to meats suited for different times of the day and so much more. Here are a few taco facts we’ve picked up long the way.

The origin of the word taco is the term ‘tlahco’ from the Nahuatl language, which means ‘half’ or ‘in the middle’, in the sense that the food is placed in the middle of the corn tortilla. … The. stew that was put at that time to the taco, was based on the meat that was consumed during that time. Moctezuma used the tortilla as a “spoon” to hold food, which was prepared on hot stones and decorated with cochineal, beans, and chili. Whereas the women used to send the food, in tortillas, to the men who worked long hours in the field so that they could heat it and eat it part-time.

Some of the tacos you should try in El Pitillal

What’s Birria?

The birria has its origin in the center of the state of Jalisco, specifically in the town of Cocula, located northwest of Chápala lake. During the time of the Conquest, around the 16th century, the cultural exchange between Spaniards and Mexicans changed the way they lived and ate both. This gave rise to new foods and traditions arising from the combination of Aboriginal and foreign, as well as ways of preparation.

Goats became a real problem to the inhabitants of the land, quickly reproducing, causing devastation to crops, eating everything in their path. Famine set in and the locals began to use the meat of these goats as food and birria was born.

Where Did Tostadas Come From?

Tostadas are a dish that has been part of our diet since pre-Hispanic times and are currently still an important part of the diet of Mexicans. Tostadas have their origin in the indigenous cultures, to prepare them they left the tortilla on the fire until it was stiff and crispy, then they ate them with beans and chili. With the arrival of the Spanish, ingredients such as paw, chicken, cream, and cheese were integrated into the recipe; thus giving rise to the toast that we know today.

What’s in a Cabeza Taco?

Cabeza or head tacos are a popular night time taco and can be tongue, lips, cheek, brain, and eyeball.  If you’re keen to try it lookout for a gingham pattern cloth over the meat on the stand and steam.

The best tacos are?

This is hotly debated and varies from place to place but from what we’ve found Al pastor is the king of tacos. It is pork steaks layered and marinated, some times with layers of onion in between. 

If you’re excited to get back to traveling again, you’re not alone. The locals in the places you visit can’t wait for you to arrive. Bearing that in mind, your visits can help a place become even better when you find ways to give back during your travels.

Wondering how you can give back during your travels to help the communities you visit thrive again while caring for the environment? These 6 tips will give you a better travel experience while bettering the world.

Buy local goods

No travel experience would ever be complete without souvenirs. When you buy them, choose authentic crafts made by the locals. It helps support the very people that live there and makes their community stronger. Besides, nothing is more unique than gifts you can’t get at any chain souvenir shop.

Dine locally too

When you travel far from home, part of the experience in other lands revolves around the foods the locals eat. Try their cuisine, stopping at the family-owned restaurants, cafés, and street vendors when hunger strikes. Avoid going to big chains you might recognize from home. You can eat there any time, but when else can you get home-cooked cuisine in the country you’re visiting.

Choose local accommodations

Big hotel chains will survive the world as it is, but those local independently-owned hotels need business. With travel shut down for so long, they can’t wait to host you. While it might be smaller than what you’re used to, you get a chance to make friends with locals and be a part of their world. Plus, they will know all the inside tips about what to see and do that will make your experience unique and real. 

Go green

If you do choose a local hotel, chances are it will be eco-friendly. But if you’re determined to stay in a larger chain, you can also reduce your carbon footprint by taking on a few green travel habits. Reuse your towels and sheets by selecting the card that comes with your room declining a change unless they become dirty. You should also bring a reusable water vessel to cut down on plastic waste.

Other ways to go green during travel are to use biodegradable or organic products that won’t cause damage to the environment. Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags. Those canvas totes you use for grocery shopping are a great way to bring your souvenirs back from the local markets.

Look for ways to volunteer

Anywhere you go in the world, there is always a place in need of volunteers. Take a look before you book your adventure and find a way to help the locals. It could be a few hours or even a few days of your trip, but it will mean the world to the people you help and you’ll gain the kind of experience that will bring you fulfillment.

We’ve been volunteering at Vallarta Food Bank as Covid-19 takes hold of people’s livelihoods in Puerto Vallarta. Find out about the Vallarta Food Bank and how you can help here.

Submit your travel shots for sale to Our Paper Promises

Disclaimer: Our Paper Promises is our new initiative!

In a nutshell, creators from all over the world will be able to submit their photos/art for print. 20% will go to the creator and 25% to the nonprofit. 

Every month we’ll be supporting a different nonprofit around the world to give them exposure and much-needed donations.

Our mission is to make Our Paper Promises a way for creators to give back and also make some money on the side to fund their journey. 

Don’t stop traveling either. Tourism is essential for every economy and every one of them will benefit from our visits if we find the proper ways to give back during your travels you help the communities you visit to thrive.

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