12.06.2018 - 12.10.2018
We recently had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Guadalajara, Mexico. We had been wanting to visit the mainland from here in Baja and when we found out flights were under $100 US round trip we jumped. Guadalajara had great reviews from people we've met here and it lived up to expectations.
As the second largest city in Mexico, it is a sprawling mass of humanity, traffic, and chaos. It is also a beautiful and historic place with many great neighborhoods and opportunities for day trips. Unlike other Mexican cities, Guadalajara's sign is not the typical colorful big letters you've seen in our other posts and below in Tequila and Tlaquepaque. This one, I think, must reflect the famous Mariachi song of the same name and how it begins "Guadalajara, Guadalajara". If you are unfamiliar with it, check out Elvis' version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBy66bXeTSQ
Our first stop after arriving was the Mercado Libertad - San Juan de Dios, the largest indoor market in Latin America and home to stalls selling anything you can imagine. There are multiple levels and multiple courtyards around which the shops are arranged.
Best of all, it is filled with food stalls selling local favorites among which our favorite was the Torta Ahogada! I still stick to the rule that you shouldn't eat anything bigger than your head so Scott and I split one.
The heart of Guadalajara is it's historic center. Here are the buildings that date back to the Spanish occupation in the 1600 and 1700's. It prompted us to take a look through wikipedia and refresh our memory, or perhaps learn for the first time, the dynamic history of Mexico. In many ways, it deepened our understanding of Mexico and it's peoples. Guadalajara was central to Mexican Independence as well as the Mexican Revolution/Civil War.
The main district is centered on the massive Guadalajara Cathedral. Construction started in the 1560's and took about 50 years to complete.
The current towers were replaced in 1854 after an earthquake destroyed the originals in 1818. They dominate the views from all over the center.
Surrounding the cathedral are four squares that form the shape of a cross around the cathedral. Each plaza is fronted by other historic buildings and the entire area is closed to traffic making it a great pedestrian area in the very heart of the city.
Plaza Guadalajara is west of the cathedral and has a circular fountain and an outdoor restaurant where we enjoyed refreshments and people watching. It is fronted by the Palacio de Gobierno (Governor's Office). This is the historical center of the government of the State of Jalisco. Today it is mostly visited for the murals painted there by José Clemente Orozco, though they are not the best of those to be found in Guadalajara, in my opinion.
Plaza de Armas south of the cathedral is fronted by the amazing Palacio de Gobierno (Governor's Office). It also has a French Ironwork bandstand bought by former Mexican president Porfirio Diaz that's quite beautiful.
Plaza de la Liberación is east of the cathedral and along with the huge Guadalajara sign it has a gigantic sculpture of Miguel Hidalgo, the man who signed the Mexican Declaration of Independence and ended slavery in Mexico. Also, the oldest surviving theatre in the city, Teatro Degollado, is at the far end. It has a beautiful frieze depicting the nine Greek muses.
Rotonda de los Jalicienses Ilustres is north of the cathedral and serves as a mausoleum for important men and women born in Jalisco.
(Note that the bird is real!)
Stretching away from the center, Plaza Fundadores is another beautiful pedestrian way that has a set of fountains running through it along with a huge fountain dedicated to the founders.
It leads down to the Plaza Tapatía and its soaring fountain and finally on to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas that is a cultural and art center decorated with huge murals by José Clemente Orozco. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
It started as an orphanage and hospital and is an incredibly beautiful building with many cloisters.
There are tons of great restaurants in Guadalajara and on particular the neighborhood of Chapultepec is worth a visit. It's a beautiful boulevard with a pedestrian park down the middle of it. On weekends, it's closed to traffic and open for bikes only. We biked over and had fun there a few times. Scott even got to watch some American Football! Definitely visit Cerveceria Chapultepec where everything on the menu costs $19.90 MXN ($1US)!
Guadalajara is in the state of Jalisco, the birthplace of Tequila and the eponymously named town. Although Tequila can be made in parts of a few other Mexican states, Jalisco is the only one in which anyone, anywhere can produce Tequila and call it that. Like Champagne, Tequila has a protected designation of origin. We decided to take the public bus to Tequila and it was certainly an adventure. It stopped pretty much anywhere someone hailed it or someone wanted to get off. At some stops, there appeared to be absolutely nothing around and we had to wonder how far the person's walk was back to their home. But it was a great way to see the local sights, towns, roadside stands, and of course the Blue Agave fields that make Jalisco famous.
This is a statue of a "jimador" (Mexican agave farmer) preparing the agave heart by removing the leaves.
Tequila is a beautiful town that is very well preserved and is one of the Pueblo Mágicos of Mexico, a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a "magical" experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts and great hospitality. As with most historic towns, it centered on a plaza that was not only beautiful but filled with Tequila stands that served Cantaritos cocktails.
Normally served in a souvenir clay pot, alas that won't fit in my backpack!
There were also many sculptures throughout out the pueblo that were very nice. These bronze and metal sculptures are pretty ubiquitous in Mexican towns.
Of course while there we had to tour a distillery and do a taste testing and it was so interesting. We watched the process at La Rojeña, the Jose Cuervo distillary, from the loading of the agave hearts into giant ovens, through the mashing, to the final distillation. We even saw a "Tequila Tanker" on it's way to the bottling plants in Guadalajara.
And of course, we tasted the four distillations (from youngest to most aged): blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Extra añejo could really rival any good scotch or whiskey for flavor and color. It is aged in French Oak barrels and is known as the brandy of Mexico.
Our guide was a young woman from Tequila who had just finished her university education and was doing tours until she got a job. She told us the story of the 400 drunken Rabbit Gods. "They were the children of the Goddess of Alcohol Mayahuel and Petecatl, God of Medicine. These 400 thirsty bunnies stood for the infinite ways in which people could intoxicate themselves. Infinite? Yes, in the Aztec numbering 400 was such a big number that it also meant infinity. So when someone got absolutely smashed, people would say he was ‘drunk as 400 rabbits’." Thanks Wikipedia for that explanation. Our guide referred to her as the Goddess of Fermentation and said she is closely associated with the Agave (Maguey) plant. She is revered in Jalisco because without her and blue agave there would be no Tequila! There is even a statue for her.
And a very humorous plaque.
On our way home to Guadalajara we were treated to a beautiful sunset behind the volcano.
Another Pueblo Magico, Tlaquepaque is located just 20 minutes by bus from the Centro Historico. It is filled with shops selling high end artwork and clothes and many beautiful churches. Of course, there is a main square, more sculptures, and quaint, narrow pedestrian streets.
It is also where we had our first (and only) Cazuela. A relative of the Cantarito, it is also a citrusy Tequila cocktail served in clay but true to its name, in a flat pot.
It was a really great weekend and we would recommend Guadalajara to anyone.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram @arrradventures for more great pics!