I don’t know how I ended up having such a great job… flexible working hours, travelling, and most importantly loving what I do. Ok,ok, this “bragging” has a point , what I want to say is that without my job, I would have never visited Mexico this year ( far away and flights pretty expensive).
In June 2015 I had to plan and attend a face2face meeting with some of my colleagues , and one of the options was to do it in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since I was organizing it, what do you think I chose? Tequila and mariachi of course 🙂 After a 23 hours travel ( 3 flights,7 hours layover between them in total) I managed to arrive in Guadalajara at 11 PM on 6th of June Saturday night ( I flew with KLM, the tickets was around 1000$ ,Bucharest-Amsterdam-Mexico City-Guadalajara, because it was booked only 3 weeks in advance). The very first nice thing about Mexico : airports have fixed priced taxis, at least in Guadalajara and Mexico City , so I felt really safe from the beginning : you go to the taxi desk, say the destination, pay a fixed price, and you get a ticket with which you can take the cab, and not worry about the cost, the driver or the route ( between 200-400 Mexican dollars, depending on the zone).
We stayed at Crowne Plaza , the room was around 90$ per night, with breakfast. During a personal travel, I would never stay at a chain hotel, as it takes away the local experience( and money from your wallet), but surprisingly this hotel had the Mexican touch, with a huge inner garden, a nice pool, and an overall atmosphere of holiday/resort, even though it was on a busy street.
After a couple of hours of good sleep, and a great breakfast, I went to the historic city center and wandered around for the whole Sunday. My first impression of Mexico : AMAZING!!! The nicest people I’ve met ( maybe besides the Vietnamese), the best food, a crazy mixture between old, new, rural atmosphere and business/cosmopolitan areas , hectic traffic and weird weather.
Guadalajara metropolitan area is quite big, includes 7 municipalities, totaling around 4.5 million inhabitants ( second biggest area in Mexico) , and has the third-largest economy and industrial infrastructure in Mexico. I will not go in more details , as you can easily read it on Wikipedia or in a guide book , rather tell you my “touristic” observations : the place is huge, and with traffic you can end up driving more than 2 hours from one side to another of the city. You can definitely feel the difference between municipalities, some are newer, others are old and underdeveloped. Having in mind it’s one of the most developed cities in Mexico, in some areas you feel like in a small rural town, the architecture is really untouched by 21st century, with one-storey buildings, with a ground floor shop, narrow roads with no asphalt.
The historical city center is beautiful , well maintained and you can easily lose yourself there for a couple of hours. Lots to see : you can walk around from Plaza Guadalajara, Plaza de la Liberacion to Instituto Cultural de Cabanas. Surprisingly, there were not so many tourists on Sunday, mostly local people having a nice day off in the sun, either walking around, visiting the Sunday market , or having a cold drink ( we were there during election weekend, so no alcohol was sold on the streets, unless you were eating as well)
Going into a church/temple is a must , we were lucky to visit one in the middle of a communion. One of the pretty communion girls let me take her picture. The city center has an European/Spanish vibe to it in terms of architecture, once you get out of there , you can feel the colonial spirit and, as I said, in lots of areas, as you are in a small rural town.
Unfortunately, due to the heat and jetlag, we didn’t get the chance to walk around as much as I wanted to , but I will definitely go back for more. Some touristic details : we only used cabs ( between 60-100 mexican dollars the trip- 7km), even though I saw there are public buses – quite crowded and old- and even a tourist bus which could be a good option to see the city;you definitely need comfortable flip flops (hot during afternoon) and comfortable clothes, pretty decent, as I have not seen any local person dressed indecently; and you might need an umbrella or a rain jacket, as the weather was changing ( morning and evening rain, 30 degrees during afternoon with lots of sun). Maybe it was just “our luck”, I don’t know.
As I’ve mentioned, Guadalajara has several municipalities/cities incorporated, here are some things about the ones I’ve visited, mainly during the evening with my colleagues, so maybe the experience was influenced by the “luxury” of a business trip 🙂
- Chapultepec – excellent restaurants and quite a nightlife. We’ve been to restaurant La Tequila , where I had Grasshopper Quesadillas ( not as bad as you would think) and Tamarindo Margarita ( once you have this, you can never go back to regular Margarita :))) ). Another restaurant we visited was La Casa de los platos , again great food and nice atmosphere, but nothing that really stuck in my mind. The only thing that struck me, while driving at these places, we passed through a brand new neighborhood , which name I missed, that seemed a completely different scenery , brand new buildings, lots of green , up-kept, and lots of new expensive cars, something which I haven’t seen in any other places in Guadalajara ( I actually found it weird, in comparison with Romania, that there was some sort of “mediocrity” in cars and people, there was no clear difference between very wealthy and very poor). To give you a feel about the price : the most expensive dinner was around 30 euros ( split appetizers, main course, dessert and at least 2 drinks)
- Tlaquepaque – main square filled with street-food vendors , nice restaurants, narrow old streets filled with shops of local artists and galleries. A nice thing to visit is the Museo Regional de la Ceramica, great building and impressive collection. It’s the bohemian part of the town.
The best restaurant we’ve been to, I am not sure in what neighborhood it was, is Santo Coyote , not just because of the food, amazing everywhere, or the Tamarindo Margarita, or the great tequila we had, but mostly because of the architecture of the place, and the show – Mexican dancers and music. Amazing! I can’t wait to go back.
With this mexican visit , I’ve discovered some things about tequila ( my favorite drink) that I had no idea : firstly , there are 5 types of tequila : blanco, oro, reposado(rested), anejo(aged) , extra anejo( vintage); tequila gold is a chemical crap, always stick with Blanco! Tequila is drank slowly, to be savored, as good tequila has a great taste ( so no shots!), accompanied by a glass of tomato juice. A decent bottle costs around 150-200 Mexican dollars, and there are no “special” bottles of tequila with a worm in it, this is used only for bottles of mezcal ( which is a different spirit).
There were lots of other things to do near Guadalajara, unfortunately I didn’t have the time to do them. One of them would be a tequila distillery tour to Tequila town, or Amatitan. There is also a train called “Tequila Express” , which departs every weekend from Guadalajara to Herradura distillery , which I wanted to take 😦
After our meeting ended in Guadalajara, I managed to change my first ticket Guadalajara-Mexico City, and head to the capital for 36 hours, trying to see a bit of it as well. I arrived on Friday early morning, and stayed until Saturday night. I was lucky enough to have a friend there, who helped me get a taste of how it is to live in such a city, without going necessarily to very touristic places. Again, I haven’t seen that many tourists, I wonder why?
How much can you see in 36 hours, with a jetlag? Not that much unfortunately, but I can honestly say that Mexico City is a town that I would love to ( and will!!) live in for some months. I stayed in Alameda Central , at Hilton Reforma ( of course using Hilton points) , and I had an amazing view from the 25th floor of the building. It was great, because I was right next to the main things to see in the city : the historical center, Monumento de la Revolucion, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palacio Nacional, Templo Mayor and Plaza Garibaldi.
Mexico City has a good subway coverage, and the public transport seemed quite good , but I have not used them, I preferred walking. Traffic again is crazy , as experienced first hand, unless you know the city perfectly, use the GPS, as there are lots of one way streets, and if you miss a turn you can end up adding 30 more minutes to your commute 🙂 ( quoting the local friend).
I spent all of Friday walking around Alameda Central and historical center , and during the evening we went to see neighborhoods Condesa and Roma , both known for a young vibe, filled with restaurants and bars/clubs. Condesa was an amazing area, with lots of trees and parks ( Parque Espana and Parque Mexico) , lots of young people, and alive nights.
When I’ll stay in Mexico City ( yes, I said WHEN) , I’ll definitely choose Condesa as the home-neighborhood.
In terms of safeness , I can’t really say I felt unsafe, not even for a second , but again I did not walk alone during the night , I haven’t been to any of the other neighborhoods , and I always took care of my bag, keeping it in front ( Romanians would know you need to do this back home as well 🙂 ).
That’s about it …. I feel like I’ve seen 0.0001 % of what Mexico is about, I definitely want to go back and spend a lot more time visiting the whole country. Having the Latin spirit in me, I can honestly say it’s an amazing country, close to my heart, where I would move in a bit , way better for my personality than US or most of Europe 🙂 Hope to see you very soon Mexico ! As I was saying to my friends while there : Andale, Andale, tequila, mariachi! :))