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March 4th 2010
Published: March 11th 2010
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We were able to take a first-class bus from Bucerias to Guadalajara, which was nice since it had air conditioning, a bathroom, a movie (in Spanish of course), and comfortable seats. We were even given a bag with a ham and cheese sandwich, a cookie, and a Pepsi. If we had known, we wouldn’t have packed our own sandwiches! Oh well. 😞 We had assigned seats, but when we got on the bus, there was a young man sleeping in one of our seats. Several people tried to wake him up, talking louder and louder to him and shaking him. The alcohol fumes rolling off him told the story - he was passed out cold and even shaking him couldn’t wake him up. We sat in the seats behind him, and luckily, nobody else wanted those seats, so the rest of the ride was uneventful. Four hours later when we arrived in Guadalajara, he was still passed out in his seat. Que sera sera.

Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico (after Mexico City), with a population of around 6.5 million. As we traveled through the city on the bus, it reminded us a lot of Los Angeles. Big, old buildings, graffiti, crazy traffic, poverty, riches, and everything in between. But mostly, the centuries of history that we don’t see in western Canada. The Spanish colonial architectural influence is evident everywhere. Outer neighborhoods have new low-income townhouse developments that look like children’s building blocks all shoved together - same color, same shape, and same design. But as you move toward the old historic centre of town, you see the buildings that tell the story of the conquering Spaniards and their once-stately homes. Now, most of them are fallen into disrepair, crumbling stonework, metal grills on doors and windows for security, and yards hidden by 15 foot cement block walls and huge solid metal gates. You never know what is hidden behind those walls. Sometimes it is a yard of junk. Other times, there are beautiful old homes and carefully tended lush gardens. It was one of these secret gardens where we stayed for our three days here. There is a separate blog entry for Las Sabilas - our hotel - with pictures and a bit of history of the place.

Guadalajara is a city of squares and fountains. We only saw the old central part of the city, so can only comment on that. Families congregate in the squares on weekends and at nights. Children play in the fountains, and run across the squares while parents and grandparents sit on the many benches and chat. Food carts are everywhere with all kinds of treats - tacos, ice cream, tamales, fruit drinks, the list goes on and on. Almost every square had a bandstand where free concerts are given on the weekends. We really enjoyed people watching in the squares. The Plaza de Armas has the government palace which is structurally very similar to the government building we went to in Mexico City - the same arches, open centre court, etc - and was finished in 1774. There is also a mural on the ceiling of Miguel Hidalgo which is quite famous - by artist Jose Clemente Orozco. However, I can’t help but compare it to the murals in Mexico City by Diego Rivera, which were the most amazing things I have ever seen. Where the elected members of government hold session is a semi-circular room that looks quite similar to our own - except older of course. We also saw many different beautiful old churches and cathedrals, and so many government buildings and squares that I can't keep the names straight. We have been so busy travelling and sightseeing that we haven't had time to figure out which picture is of what, or to post to the blog, so in the interest if time and letting you all know what we are up to, we will just show you - and I apologize if you know what the picture is showing and I have tagged it "another building". It was difficult to choose just a few pictures to post, so have a look.

Besides people watching, we walked our feet off going to see all the old churches, government buildings and museums that are within about a 10 block radius. Also, there are several parks for the people to enjoy nice green spaces, and we walked through a couple of those as well. One day, Steve used his GPS to track where we walked, and by the end of the day, we had walked 14.5 km (almost 9 miles)! As in other places we have been in Mexico, the markets are lively and colorful. The market just down the block from where we stayed was an indoor maze of more kinds of fruits and vegetables than I have ever seen in one place - many of which we had no idea what they were. We tasted something called Mamay - it looked something like a cantaloupe, had orange flesh, but it was very soft and creamy like an avocado, and tasted something like a cross between cantaloupe and sweet potato. I liked it, so we bought one and took it back to the hotel to share with the others. There were also meat markets with different parts of the animals than we are used to seeing (pig heads, cow tongue), cheese counters where the people sold the cheeses that they make themselves (no “Kraft” here), bakeries, and lots of different places where you could get a juice, smoothie, or have a meal. The juices are all freshly made, and the food is prepared right in front of you. Nothing is frozen or canned or preserved. The preparation methods are quite different, and food is always right out in the open with lots of people walking by. Breads are not in covered counters, and in some places we saw people sitting behind their products with fans chasing the flies away. So, in their own way, they kept the food fresh. There is also a pride in the products they sell. Most will offer you a slice of fruit to taste so you know it is good, or they will tell you how the soup, cheese, or whatever, is made, to assure you of its quality. We found these markets to be a destination in themselves.

Also, one day we took a tour bus to a town on the outskirts of Guadalajara called Tlaquepaque (pronounced Kla-key-pa-key). It is a place that has become an artist and artisan hang out, and of course packed with shops selling all different kinds of art, ceramics, metal works, leather goods, and who knows what else. And of course, lots and lots of restaurants. I had read about sandwiches called “tortas ahogadas” which means “drowned sandwiches”. A crusty bun similar to sourdough is filled with tender chunks of roast pork, then the whole thing is smothered with a red chili sauce. The consistency of the bun allows it to be submerged in sauce without loosing its consistency. Squeeze some lime over the top, stuff some onions inside, lean way over your plate, and this is something worth trying! (I did find out that the chili sauce does come out of white shirts 😱 ).

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