Puerto Vallarta, Last Days

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

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On our last day we had another day trip scheduled. But we decided to skip it. Our day trips were such fun but very tiring. So we decided to ask around and find a beach with soft sand and a soft break for the girls to just play in for a few hours.

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It was such a relaxing and low key last day. We even went back to our favorite restaurant there instead of trying another new place.

The trip to Puerto Vallarta was hard, the girls were very emotional and Reagan was very out of control. The trip to Puerto Vallarta was productive. Tyler finished a lot of video editing for his latest project and I finished 6 whole books. The trip to Puerto Vallarta was fun, so much wonderful fun. We were so glad to come home but also so glad to collect some beautiful memories.

I think I will be back with one more Puerto Vallarta trip to talk about some of the funny random things.But for now I put together a short highlight video of our trip:


Puerto Vallarta Trip Nov 2014 from vanessa brown on Vimeo.

Puerto Vallarta Day 8, Las Caletas with Vallarta Adventures

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

The Las Caletas Island is owned by Vallarta Adventures. It is an adventure company that is very organized, very touristy, and very scheduled. Which is ok to have a day or two like that on your trip! You have to go to the marina which is a bit of a pain but doable. The boat ride is on a small cruise ship type boat and has a wonderful breakfast for you. If you have a daughter like Reagan you will be pinning their body to yours so they don’t throw themselves overboard the whole time. Still beautiful views though, even while trying to keep your two year old alive.

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When you go things are very scheduled. Want to snorkel? Well you’d better be in the right spot on the island in the 40 minute window the have organized so you can get it done. Which is fine! My husband when I told him about it tried to talk us out of going for a full day. But I wouldn’t let him and we ended up having a lot of fun. If we had a whole vacation in this style it would have been tiresome. For the day though it was so nice to just go where people told us and get a lot of fun activities off our check list. It is a dream there, a man made dream, but whatever just enjoy it. Hammocks on the beach waiting for you, people holding animals, someone blowing a whistle to make macaws fly over your heads, and flamingos off to the side.



Ok fine, it is all fake! But it is FANTASTICALLY FAKE.

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Abby was so excited to snorkel with Tyler. The gear was right there, people to point out where was the best places, and a safe roped off area to do it in. While they were snorkeling there was a man carved out section of the beach that had very very soft waves for the kids, life jackets right there, a man handing out freshly shaved ice, and sand toys waiting for us.

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All my sweet daughter Cameron wanted to do is swim out far in the ocean. She pointed as far as she wanted to go and we did it. We swam out far in the ocean for a good hour. They had rafts with beach chairs on them to relax. We would climb on every one and jump back into the ocean. It was my favorite hour of the entire trip. Cameron and I had a ball.

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They have a kids section where you can go take your kids and they can do some activities for an hour. You have to stay there during that time, which isn’t a big deal. The kids can do rock climbing, face painting, zip lining, meet a monkey, ride a donkey, and I’m sure other things I don’t remember.


Listen there is even a meet the animals time. There are people standing there with monkeys, bird, snakes, etc. and you get to hold them! There are also photographers every where asking to take your picture so they can sell them to you at the end. But its ok, just let go and don’t let it bother you.

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The included in price lunch buffet, wow. The free drinks you get all day long, double wow. Just listen, this is not “authentic Mexico” it is all man made. But whatever, just let go and let it be a lazy, everything done for you day.

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Puerto Vallarta Day 7, Sea Turtle Release

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

Oh you guys, this day was magical. Even better than dancing with a dolphin which I didn’t think could be top-able. Releasing sea turtles at sunset with the babies, top of my list people. Top of my list of magical moments.

Watch this:

Sea Turtle Release Puerto Vallarta from vanessa brown on Vimeo.

Some sweet friends of mine told me the video made them cry. MADE THEM CRY! You must watch it.

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I must have not been paying too much attention when I booked this tour because it was also a crocodile tour. Before going to learn about and release sea turtles we got to go to a crocodile sanctuary. AND SOME OF MY FAMILY HELD ONE!


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We have done….man 3 at least other crocodile tours. This one really was the coolest, I think it was because we weren’t on a boat just learning about them and watching  man throw a piece of chicken to one. We got to see crocodiles of all ages, be so close to them, hold them, walk around in their habitat. It was really nervous the whole time. Oh mannie, this one couple got right in a HUGE crocodile’s face. Even after the tour guide told them not to. The tour guide and turned her head and the couple crouched down and looked right into the crocodile’s eyes (through a wired fence) and the crocodile hissed. HISSED PEOPLE, I WAS TWO FEET AWAY FROM A HUGE HISSING CROCODILE. GAH!

I did not work with this company or get anything for free. But I have to say I have never been more impressed with a tour. The marine biologists that take you on the tour really care about the animals, teach you, and are so warm. They don’t take tips and just give you a big warm hug at the end. I will recommend them to everyone, they made our trips so magical. Check them out here: Puerto Vallarta Tours 

Puerto Vallarta Day 6, places to eat….

December 13th, 2014 in Our Travels Worldwide

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On this day I think we had a down day to recover from the long Yelapa day and prepare for two more trip days in a row. So I will tell you where to eat in Puerto Vallarta. There are just so many to chose from and I’ll give your our favorites:

#1 Pipi’s, now this isn’t a place you are going to go for “local” food. This is a fun, family friendly, clean, fairly priced place you are going to go for really good Mexican food. And perfect, dreamlike guacamole.

#2 Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, is where you are going to go for a beautifully perfectly cooked plate of fish, rice, and beans. The customer service is some of the best I’ve had anywhere, they are so warm and friendly. If you don’t want seafood the mac and cheese, burgers, everything on the menu is deliciously cooked comfort food. You’ll love it. Also their seafood stew you guys, get that as a starter and give everyone a spoon.

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#3 La Playita, is where you go for brunch. For local items like beans, tamales, plantains, fresh fruit, etc. And also American items like sausage, pancakes, etc. It is right on the beach, a gorgeous beach. Everything I had tasted fresh and wonderfully prepared.

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#4 Family run, hole in the wall, lots of locals sitting around TACO STANDS. That is where you need to eat, the locals are all there for a reason.


Other places to try: Coco’s Kitchen, Barcelona Tapas, and Red Cabbage Cafe.

Other random tip, go walk around the Hotel Catedral. It has such interesting artwork, sanctuaries, and walls. Yes even the walls.

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Puerto Vallarta Day 5, Day Trip to Yelapa

December 13th, 2014 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

This was the first vacation as a family that I did not organize and plan way in advance. I found time just one or two days before we left to do some investigating on what we should do on our trip. A lot of blogs, yelp reviews, etc. suggested a day trip to Yelapa.


Sold. That destination was at the top of my list.

Also you had to take a water taxi to get there. I read a few times online that during whale season that the drivers would stop so you could see the whales and dolphins. That did not happen BUT it still was a fun & relaxing ride.



The sweet girls were so excited to sit and wait for the water taxi. Every time they saw pelicans on boats they asked me to take a picture of the “birds driving the boats” so I have a lot of pictures that look like this.


I snapped this picture of Abby on the boat. This is how the whole ride felt, just peaceful! It is always nice to have a break from the heat with the cool ocean boat air.

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Other than the amazing pie I read about over and over on little blogs and in the middle of comments online we read that Yelapa was a “quaint” fishing village to go visit. I still can’t decide if it would be a place I recommend people to go to. The boat ride is wonderful but the taxi only goes out at a certain time and comes in at a certain time. So you are stuck there for at least 6 hours. When driving in and seeing the views it looked just as it was described online.


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A man on the water taxi offered to take us on a tour of the small city and on a very short (really, everyone can do it, promise) hike to the local waterfall. I loved that little tour, it was wonderful.

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The hike to the waterfall was gorgeous, I also have a little camera attached to Tyler’s head to film it a bit:



No matter how many times I am in a country and grab a piece of fresh tropical fruit to eat off of it, I will find it about the coolest thing in the world.




I will also never ever tire of walking through old chapels. Never.





Now up until this point I was so glad we made this trip. I still think I am but I have to warn you of some things so be wary of. I have visited a lot of countries where we are stopped non stop and asked to buy things. I get this, and most of the time it doesn’t get under my skin. When it does get under my skin is when they roll their eyes or show hostility when you don’t buy things. That makes me feel uncomfortable and almost like I’m not a human to them. The only thing I wish I would have gone back and bought were these beautiful signs.



The pie lady was sitting, very worn out looking near the waterfall. I was so excited to see her and she was very grumpy. Listen we all have our off days! But her pie! I could tell that if it was fresh it would have been amazing. Her pecan pie and chocolate coconut still was. But her banana cream pie, which everyone says is the best, tasted very old, along with her cheese pie.
What can I say though? We all have off days. But I did find the famous Yelapa pie lady.




The part of Yelapa I really did not like was the beach. The water is very dirty, there are constant jet skis, boats coming in and out that are leaking gas along the beach. It smelled so strong of gas and it was yucky. The sand was very rocky and hurt to play with and sit in.




When we showed up on the beach I saw the plan of the man running the show. He sat in the back and had a whole team of people. He had men with jewelry walking around telling us how they had young kids at home starving. They would walk back to him to give them the money they had collected, laugh with him, then turn around and put the sad face back on to sell more. The man in charge also had an old woman walking up and down between the chairs asking for “one peso” over and over to people. He had two younger boys standing in the back watching when people left their belongings and had them run and grab things out of bags and take people’s shoes. He even had “iguana men” who would run up to people as soon as they tried to sit down, threw an iguana in their hands, and after they were in their hands would demand five dollars. Later on during the day I saw the iguana man in frustration throw down the poor iguana as hard as he could on the ground. Obviously I did not know what was going on when Abby took this photo.

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Stops from cruise ships came in and other tourists were on the beach with hours to kill after seeing the local waterfall, town, and chapel. So they drank and drank and drank. There were beer bottles everywhere that I had to keep Reagan away from so she didn’t take sip after sip. Listen I get it, I get needing to make money off tourists. I get how it is normal for locals to look at Americans as money signs and a way to eat. But the trip to Yelapa did not leave me with the warmest feelings. But the boat ride there, tour around the town, and if the pie had been fresh. I still don’t know if I would go again. I just wanted to give an honest view of the town, you decide for yourself.

Cameron’s Holiday Book Guide for 6-9 Year Old Girls

December 2nd, 2014 in Books/Reading

My sweet girls spent a long time on their homeschooling project this week. They did a lot of writing, practiced presenting, edited film, did a bit of graphic design, and put together their top book lists.

Cameron’s Holiday Book Guide for 6-9 Year Old Girls



Abby’s Holiday Book Guide for 8-10 Year Old Girls

December 2nd, 2014 in Books/Reading

My sweet girls spent a long time on their homeschooling project this week. They did a lot of writing, practiced presenting, edited film, did a bit of graphic design, and put together their top book lists.

Abby’s Holiday Book Guide for 8-10 Year Old Girls


Puerto Vallarta Day 4, the rainy day

November 29th, 2014 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

We had one day where we canceled plans because it rained for a good twelve hours. The girls everywhere we travel try to skinny dip in the pool in the rain. They say it is the coolest thing ever, and they are right! But you can’t do that for a full twelve hours. After the rain ended we went down to the lighthouse and the boardwalk and let them run free.

So I will show off some yummy food, our backyard jungle walks, and other randomness.

The center of town is another place we would let the girls run wild. The home we stayed on was on a very steep hill and the house itself was all tile and sharp corners. Not the best for being crazy. On this day the popsicle man came by. Who knew popsicles could taste like this? You could get papaya or coconut or lime or something else. I swear to you they just blended that coconut and put it on a stick. When I love a food I think about it for years. I will be thinking about that popsicle for a long time!

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On one of our jungle walks behind the house I found a pretty sturdy set of vines. So we took turns being Tarzan & Jane and swinging on them.

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I snapped this picture when we were waiting for the taxi, isn’t it beauitful?

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You guys, the food, THE FOOD. You do have to be a bit careful in this town because there are some just “ok” places to eat. But when you find the right ones, holy moly, you are in heaven.

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Grandma Brown told the girls about the skeletons they would see and what they really mean. So anytime we saw one the girls asked me to take a picture of it.

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Tyler was giving me a hard time about these pictures saying you couldn’t even see the girls. But I wanted to see how tiny they were in a big jungle like this. Kind of a beautiful feeling I think to feel so small.

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Oh sweet Reagan, a lot of the time was spent trying to make you happy. You are such a strong girl but traveling stressed you out my love.



So like I said in the last post we prepared for this trip in home school in lots of ways. One of them was to watch tourist/news clips on the area. We were all so excited when we passed right by a candy shop that was featured in one of those films. We went right in and bought a good selection. Then we ate them during a movie night. A lot of them taste like a soft pecan log. Then that green stuff is condensed mango with sugar. The colored tootsie roll looking things are the same thing, condensed down fruit with some sugar.


Puerto Vallarta Day 3…the DOLPHIN DAY!

November 29th, 2014 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

I kept this day secret from the girls. Which is good because we almost didn’t end up going. The taxis were all unavailable, the company we booked it with sent me some emails confirming it that actually confused us. The taxi driver took us to the wrong place. Then when we arrived they told me I never told them I was bringing two kids under 3. Oh sweethearts, I ALWAYS mention that, we talked online and the phone in detail about this. I did not back down and they took us on that dolphin encounter.

When we were on the boat to go meet the dolphins I finally felt that it was safe to tell them, look at their reactions:

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This something everything in our family has wanted to do. The girls for a couple weeks before we left studied Mexico and specifically Puerto Vallarta. We studied up on tourist tips, the history of the town, who settled it, where it was in Mexico, and what animals lived there. The girls would always ask, “Do you think we will meet a dolphin” and I would respond with, “I’m so sorry I know you have to be quite a bit older to do that.” Such a liar I am!

We were partnered up with a pregnant dolphin. The sweet thing kept on rolling over so her belly could be rubbed. Really everyone, you can imagine what it would be like pregnant for a year, right? We rubbed her belly a lot. In exchange she gave us kisses and danced with us.

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Another funny side note. On the first walk we took in the jungle I had Reagan on my back and Tyler had Shae. I was walking behind everyone and heard a soft growling in my ear. I decided to keep calm and pick up my pace. Because what good was it going to do to scream there was a lion in the jungle with all our girls? We will all trip while trying to go 5 seconds faster and be eaten by the lion. Or tiger. Or panther. Or wild boar, who knows. Man the more I picked up the pace the more I was worried. This animal was keeping up right with me. At the bottom of the hill in the city I was finally able to turn around to see. It was Reagan the whole time, growling in my ear.

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Shae loved riding on Daddy’s back the whole time, but did not make him so terrified he almost wet his pants.

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I got sidetracked, back to the dolphins. Boy did we love that, everyone but Reagan. There was one point where we were asked to splash the dolphin and she splashed us back. It was the only thing Reagan did but she did it while laughing/crying. I didn’t know you could do those two things at once, to be crying fearfully and laughing, but I guess you can. On the way out we saw some baby dolphins swimming in a separate pool. We all decided we would ask Santa for a dolphin for Christmas. We shall see if he delivers!

Puerto Vallarta Day 2 & 3

November 29th, 2014 in About Me, Our Travels Worldwide

On days we did not have planned excursions our formula went like this. Spend either the morning before nap time out and about or spend the late afternoon after nap time out an about. The rest of us when the babies were napping read or swam. Or whined about having nothing to do.

On Saturday we saw all the “sights” which I thought would take us much longer. Turns out if you just walk the boardwalk you will see all the art, statues, chapel, and arches that people talk of. Perfect for the group I was with, we banged that out in one afternoon.

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At the end of the day we dipped in the ocean, went to a restaurant for Sprite & fries (4.50 per Sprite, we did not go back) and Cameron got her wish. She wanted two things during the entire trip; #1 see the sunset and #2 swim really deep the ocean. Look at her sweet face in this shot…

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On Sunday we went to sacrament meeting at the local branch. And by went to sacrament meeting I mean I ran outside with the babies who gained this privilege by smacking me int he face over and over during the meeting. Oh those Americans, their children show know no respect.

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It was fun afterwards to walk around the part of the city where some locals live and to grab some tacos. I always am in the mood for tacos.

Every night when we would get back home Tyler and I would just collapse and fall asleep way too early. This taking four little kids out of the country is a rough and rewarding business.