Land Trip to the Guadalajara Region
The Degollado Theater
This theater, just one example of Guadalajara's magnificent 14th century buildings, offered a performance of classical Mexican folk dancing as a Sunday morning treat. It is at the edge of one of the four massive plazas radiating from the cathedral.
Guadalajara required a lot of walking, but rewards the tourist with numerous fountains, friezes and gazebos. The first night, we stayed at the Hotel Frances ($55), a beautiful 15th century building. But lack of air conditioning required keeping the windows open, after which the all-night music and street noises prompted us to move. The Hotel Fenix ($50) was a modern alternative equally close to the cathedral area, but with air conditioning and 11 stories that gave us a comfortable buffer zone from the noise. All the hotels we stayed at included breakfast--another wonderful custom.
At the end of the seeming endless Plaza Tapatía rises the "Institute Cultural Cabaña". Built as an orphanage in 1805, this building has almost 30 patios and hundreds of rooms where various arts are offered: ceramics, dance, music, sculpture--you name it. The chapel hosts Orozco's 1930 mural of air, water and earth centered around fire and damnation--very contemporary, but not our cup of tea.
In front of the Degollado Theater, a breath of fresh air prepares us for our trek to the mercado.
The Mercado--need we say more?
Candy and Sandwiches were our personal favorites. But other booths offer watches, hats, produce, books, yarn, fishing gear...the list is endless! But after a cool cactus/cucumber smoothie, Diane was overwhelmed and Les was exhausted: "Let's go watch TV!"
Tonala: The Town of Stuff Galore
At first, it was all great fun seeing the ceramic factories and endless roads with shops selling hand-made glassware, lamps, statues and candles. Then it all turned into a big blur, so Les convinced me to tuck our precious Talavera bowls into our bags and head for the hotel before we really lost our minds.
Ending the day with dinner at Tlaquepaque was a brilliant suggestion. This town seemed to have more upscale products, but most shops were closed when we arrived. We were introduced to another unique Mexican custom: customer-charming. This is difficult to explain, but the plaza where the Mariachi bands play is surrounded by tables belonging to about 50 different restaurant owners. It was not obvious to us, but each restaurant has their own waiters, tablecloths, menu, etc. As we approached the area, we were greeted by several waiters, each of whom tried to convince us that their food was the best, their beer was colder, their prices were cheaper and their tables were more strategically placed. There was no yelling or yanking, but whichever waiter could charm the customers the most won them for dinner. In America, the guns would have been drawn immediately. In Mexico, they just laugh at their loss & scan for the next customer. Dinner was fine, but after observing the setting for 2 hours, all the food, beer, menus and prices seemed the same. Only the charm of the waiters varied. What a wonderful concept!
Lake Chapala: Ajijic
As a result of overuse and damming, Lake Chapala itself has receded from its original shores, leaving the shoreside restaurants high and dry, and the economy in a noticeable slump. We only spent a half day there and were not even tempted to take any photographs. Hopefully, new environmental awareness and aggressive lobbying will return the lake to its former beauty before it's too late. We stayed at the Nueva Posada in nearby Ajijic ($65), a charming building with a wonderful restaurant, beautiful garden and large, sunlit rooms. Due to the huge settlement of affluent retirees from Mexico's northern neighbors, this town offers an amazing range of products and restaurants from the U.S. For example, "eggs & sausage" meant breakfast links--not hot dogs! Needless to say, this was a quiet slice of heaven which we thoroughly enjoyed for three days before returning to Puerto Vallarta.
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Return to Log 9: The Mexican Mainland -- Spring 2002
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