Ok. I don’t usually prefer the city type traveling, but I have to admit that Guadalajara gave us a nice surprise. It’s a HUGE city and confusing as hell to drive through (as with all Mexican cities, they don’t believe in street signs,) but it is absolutely beautiful and the people were very charming and open minded. We saw a lot of modern charm in the city from it’s shops to cafes, but it still had a little bit of a Mexican twist with it’s mariachi bands, food stands, and strange bazaars.
The first thing we did when we got into the city was find the hostel that our friend Richard recommended to us. It was right smack dab in the middle of the centro but when we got out to get a room we discovered the hostel was full. Wasn’t surprising considering it was still the Semana Santa. Fortunately the hostel had another location outside of centro which was really lovely. It had plenty of parking on the street and was in the middle of a quiet neighborhood.
The hostel was also a short walk from a happening street called Chepultepec which had loads of wonderful places to eat, cafes, bars, and shops. And every Saturday night from 6pm-12am they have a huge artisan market in the middle of the divided street and performers come out. We got there on a Saturday and had fun walking up and down the street after some dinner checking out the cool art and stuff. Then we settled back at the hotel with some beer in the backyard garden. We also got an email from Richard saying he was in Aguascalientes and was going to hop on the bus the next morning and meet us in Guadalajara!
So the next morning we woke up and Richard was already at the hostel checking in. Steve and I had some plans that day to go check out the sights of the city so Richard decided to settle in while we went out and meet us later for dinner. One of our first stops was an art and antique market at the end of Chepultepec. As we were walking there we got to experience one of Guadalajara’s neat little gems. Every Sunday from about 9am to 2pm the city closes off a huge area of the city near Chepultepec and allows people to freely ride their bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or just walk around on the streets to promote getting excercise. I thought that was really cool.
When we got there the market immediately made me think of Jody, she would have had a blast here! Of course everything was overpriced, but we had fun walking around and looking at everything. Steve also found a vendor that had some old World War 2 memorabilia. We were also looking at old antique rings that might have served as wedding bands in the future, but we didn’t find anything we fell in love with, hehe. And all of this was accompanied to the wonderful sound of accordion music playing on the street. The gentleman was very good and played beautifully. I gave him a few pesos.
After the antique market we walked toward centro to check out some other points of interest, but not without getting some free hugs first!
We stopped in the Plaza de Armas which had a Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) and stepped inside to see some wonderful architecture and a HUGE beautiful mural painting on the ceiling of the main staircase to the upper level. It was awesome!
After the Palacio de Gobierno we headed toward what was supposed to be a huge market/bazaar. We had heard great things in the book and from other travelers that the market was a must see for a strange bit of culture. When we got there it turned out to be a gigantic 4 story building with wall to wall vendors, eateries, food markets, and everything in between. You could buy fruit, veggies, meat…oh god the meat, leather, trinkets, baskets, birds, bunnies, chicks, clothing, you name it they had it. Lots of it was cheap touristy crap, but there were some truly strange sights to see. The baby chicks they had were dyed colors for Easter too. It was a little sketchy inside and we felt like strangers in a strange land, but it was a lot of fun to walk through. We didn’t even get through the entire market it was so huge.
After the market we went back toward centro and found this weird wing restaurant called Wing’s Army. I love that name, it’s so hardcore for a wings restaurant and I made fun of it all day. But one thing it had going for it was it had imported beer from all over the world, including Delerium Tremens! Unfortunately it was terribly pricey so we opted to try a few other brews there before dinner. We tried a ITA (Imperial Tequila Ale,) which was a mild IPA aged in tequila barrels. It was pretty good. Then after Wing’s Army we went to a restaurant that Richard had been adamantly promoting as the best restaurant in Guadalajara since we met him. He met us there and was so excited to enjoy the restaurant with us. He had already been there multiple times throughout his travels in Mexico over the years and loved it. It was called La Fonda de San Miguel Arcángle and from the outside was hardly noticeable, but once you got inside it was absolutely gorgeous and had a beautiful atmosphere.
We started off with happy hour, 2 for 1 beers and an appetizer included with our meal. Then we moved over to a table and Steve and Richard had one of Richard’s favorite dishes, a huge bowl of marinated fall-off-the-bone meat shank and I had a plate with Arrachera, potatoes, and veggies, all accompanied with a bottle of red wine. It was all absolutely delicious and for being one of the most fancy places we have dined out in before in Mexico, the total for three people was less than $100 USD. Unbelievable. After dinner we headed back to the hostel and shared some tequila and played some Five Crowns late into the night.
The next day we decided to stay one more night and go out into the city again with Richard. This time we were heading toward a smaller part of the city called Tlaquepaque. On the way into centro, where we would eventually catch a bus to Tlaquepaque, we stopped at a few other points of interest. The first stop was at a huge cathedral called Templo Expiatorio and the architecture inside of this building was stunning. Pictures can’t capture this huge beautiful temple. We learned that there was also a crypt below the temple that opened later that day so we decided to make sure we came back to see it.
After that we kept heading toward centro and stopped to see some weird sculptures behind the Universidad de Guadalajara that were right up Steve’s alley.
We also stopped at another church called Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Carmen which had beautiful murals painted on the ceiling and gold leaf all over the inside of the temple.
After that bit of sight seeing we went to another wonderfully delicious restaurant which specialized in serving goat meat. It was a birrieria called Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas and their special dish was Goat Birria which was this marinated goat meat in juices and sauce served in a bowl and then the table had tons of fixin’s like salsas, tomato, cilantro, onion, lime, pickled onions, and of course tortillas. It was so amazingly delicious, I wish I could eat there every day!
Then we finally got on a bus to Tlaquepaque and perused around there for a while. We stopped in many shops that sold lots of modern collectables for your home and such. We also stopped into a gallery of an artist called Sergio Bustamente who had some gorgeous sculptures and paintings. Unfortunately they didn’t allow photos in the gallery, but you can click the link and check out his stuff. We also stopped into a tequila store that had over 300 kinds of tequila including some cheap huge 5 gallon plastic jugs of tequila, haha! I wanted to buy a bunch just to have the bottles, but decided it might be more trouble than it’s worth trying to get those all over the country and back home without breaking.
Then we ventured down toward a pottery museum and discovered that the pottery displays were closed and a new exhibit was on display which featured an audio tour of the worlds most dangerous and terrifying serial killers and criminals. So cool! Mexico is obsessed with dead things. Richard wasn’t as fond of the strange things Steve and I were, so we decided to do the tour without him. It was very eerie and they had displays of some of the serial killers possessions and fake mannequins of them…unfortunately the entire tour was taking a long time and we didn’t want to leave Richard sitting for hours so after doing the audio tour part for the first few exhibits (each one taking well over 10-20 minutes) we just walked through the rest and still really enjoyed it.
Then we decided to head back toward the hostel, but not without stopping at a local pub to get some brews first. We stopped at this pizza place that had some decent beer and after a while ended up sharing a pizza which had a special name I can’t remember with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and chorizo on it. It was wonderful! Gosh, the food in Mexico is amazing. Some more Five Crowns with Richard at the hostel that night ensued and then we woke up the next morning to pack our things and head for Guanajuato.