Mexico City and Guadalajara
A long time ago BF (before Freda), we visited Mexico City. Unfortunately it was when I was pregnant, so I couldn’t sample the delights of Mexican cuisine or their alcoholic beverages. The alcohol needs no explanation, but the food, just the smell of it, had a terrible effect on me. But, even with horrific morning sickness, we both really enjoyed Mexico City, so we decided to return.
Mexico City, I have been informed, is the worlds 4th biggest metropolis. A vibrant city, traffic clogged, filthy, but also truly beautiful and magical. We decided to stay in an area called Coyoacan, it’s a large southern borough and a small haven away from the rest of bussle of the City.
Founded in the seventh century by the Colhua people and later conquered by the Mexica, the “place of coyotes” retains its small-town charm. Last trip, we visited just for the day, this time we stayed for a whole week. This, however, was not the plan, as we had initially only 3 nights booked before we were due to fly down to Guadalajara, but then we realised, half way through our stay, that no one had booked that particular flight! Now I think that Mitch was meant to book it, got distracted, probably with the Lincoln City football scores and didn’t!! He denies this, and swears I was booking it. Anyway, no one booked it, we were just pleased we found this out before we turned up at the airport!
Luckily Coyoacan is lovely place to find yourself stuck with a few days to kill. With its narrow, cobbled streets, colonial churches, vibrant markets, world-class museums and sidewalk cafes, its historic center has a lot to offer. Including the oldest church in Mexico City built in the 1520s.
One of the main attractions for tourists is Fridas Kalhos Blue house. The house looks like it did when Kahlo and husband Diego Rivera lived there. At this location, just under 5 years ago, we both agreed we loved the name Frida and it stuck with us. I have to say I didn’t imagine we’d return, but our Freda was desperate to go, which was really sweet.
She has come away from Frida Kahlos’ house wanting to be an artist, luckily though for anyone who may have seen Fridas art, not paying too much attention to the detail. I think Mitch makes a good Diego Rivera!
We spent our other days wandering around the local markets (I’m obsessed with all things Mexican) and eating more great food. Although, we all had pretty bad stomachs for the whole of our time in the capital, which I put down to us eating in our first poncey eatery since being in Mexico. The raw scallop taco perhaps was a bad move, so it seems to be best, I think, to keep it simple and stick to street food. Tostadas Coyoacan being a firm favourite.
Another place close to us, was the beautiful area of San Angel. It holds a famous Saturday market, where you can wander around the Cobblestone streets through many plazas, eyeing into beautiful gardens and elegant estates, to see the neighborhood’s rich colonial past. There is so much I want to buy in Mexico, I have told Mitch I will need to come back with a suitcase and start a Mexican shop. However, there was one little lady who was getting a little bit fed up with markets, and I have been accused of spoiling her, as I keep buying things to appease her.
So, we took her to Mexico City’s children’s museum. It was excellent, much better than anything we have in London, there was so much interactive stuff for her to do, it didn’t seem to mater that it was all in Spanish, she was in heaven. They even had a supermarket, I don’t think Mitch realised the food was plastic!
Although, I have to admit, I got a bit annoyed with her when she bashed me over the head with one of these hard pot masks!
We did manage to leave the tranquility of Coyoacan and go into the historic centre of Mexico City to see its famous, massive and grand central square, the Zocalo……made even more famous since a recent James Bond film!
We also paid a visit to the Ministry of Education where Diego Riveras’ murals line the corridors. It was a beautiful place, Jacaranda trees are all in bloom in Mexico City, which is quite a sight.
Rivera was one the most visible figure in Mexican muralism, that emerged in the 1920s in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. His paintings often depicted social inequality in mexican life, with communist themes running through lots of his work.
Mexico City once again did not disappoint. It’s a fantastic city, full of culture and history, on every street there is always something that makes you think and wonder. The lonely planet summed it up as “the sun in the Mexican solar system.”
Finally leaving Mexico City behind us, we boarded our newly booked plane to Guadalajara. I didn’t delegate this time, that way there can be no mistakes! Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city, and is quintessential Mexican, this is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila.
We had two weeks and no plans and after a lot of driving around Mexico in “Part 1” we had little desire to do any more driving.
So, we choose to stay in Tlaquepaque, one of 3 separate towns that make up Guadalajara City. It’s a town in its own right, very up market and full of over priced boutique shops. But, the place has a lovely laid back atmosphere, especially in a town this size, and it’s bloody hot so with Freda, we became limited as to what we could do. This area and another more, the grassroots town of Tonala, are home to many artisans. From wood carvers, to sculptors and potters, there is a lot of amazing ceramic made around here, so it was right up my street. Unfortately I couldn’t get these in our bags!
We spent our next 3 nights in the centre of Guadalajara, but the heat kept beating us and we had to do things in the morning and take Freda back to the flat for the afternoon. Our flat was lovely, it had a hummingbird feeder and we got to watch them coming and going, which was pretty cool.
We still managed to get a feel for the city, just wandering around our area, Chapultepec. They have great idea here, every Sunday they close off a lot of the major roads to traffic, so all the residents come out on their bikes or roller skates, walk their dogs and they also set up little areas for kids with bouncy castles, games and face painting.
It was great being able to roam about a car-free town, I think London should give it a go.
We did attempt a tourist day and went to have a look around the historic centre. We managed to get to see another big hitter from the Mexican mural renaissance, José Clemente Orozco, considered by many to be the greatest.
His works is political and very dark paintings, we found out today painted all his murals with one hand, as he lost his other one when it was blown of by a firework! Pretty mean feat when you see the size of this chapel in the beautiful Hospicio Cabañas. An old hospital, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Freda unfortunately wasn’t at her best, so to ease the pain, I thought it would be fun to get a horse and cart around the city. What a bad idea.
This photo was just before we sat in 6 lane slow traffic, in 35 degrees heat, on a horse and cart. It was awful, we had to get out early because dripping with sweat, lungs full of pollution we could stand no more. We got in a cab and retreated to the flat to watch the hummingbirds.
We enjoyed our time in the city but felt it was time we moved on, so we went down to the lake. Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and is around an hour south of Guadalajara. We spent our first night in the town of Chapala, but we weren’t very keen on our hotel or the town. There aren’t many places that we have left early on this trip, but this place had a very unwelcoming vibe to it. So, the next morning we quickly found an Airb&b and checked out, fortune favours the brave.
This was our view from our Airb&b, a room in a 200 year old hacienda, in the hills of a little town called Ajijic. Because of the benign prevailing climate and attractive scenery, a substantial colony of retirees, including many from the United States and Canada, has established themselves on the lake’s shore. I sometimes feel out of place in Mexico because of the blond hair, but here its was because I was under 60. Not to be sniffed at, it was a lovely, charming town full of worldy North American retirees. The pace was slow, so we relaxed and enjoying the stories from our charming host. She had spent most of her life moving around various country mansions in Dorset and spent time in London in the 70s, where she lived in houses that are now the homes of multi millionaires.
I dragged them all horse riding, Freda was none the wiser that she was on a donkey and was very pleased with her ‘pony’. Too sweet.
Also just down the road there is a thermal spa area, so we visited a water park there, with slides and all sorts. All the pools were heated by the thermals, but when it’s this hot you long for a cool dip, not a 30 degrees pool! We had a great week by the lake, it was so peaceful, may be one to keep in mind when we retire, obviously we will have to think about going back to work first!
We fly out of Guadalajara early in the morning, so we have decided to come back to Tlaquepaque for a few days. We took a day trip out to Tequilateral, as it’s only an hour out of town. It was a great town and we had a really interesting tour around a distillery. I still have to say, I’m never going to be a neat tequila drinker, reminds me of previous misuse. However, we have learnt there are different qualities, and like all things the better it is, I think the less of a hangover you get……..apart from that it all tastes pretty nasty!! At the tasting, I think Mitch was regretting the amount of margaritas he’d had the night before!
But it was facinating to see the process. The story goes, that apparently while working in the field, lightning struck the blue agave cactus, along came a guy and saw that the heat had changed the plant, he tried it and it was sweet, took it home, fermented it, and tequila was born! So after being picked from the field the agave roots are cooked, this is how your tequila starts off.
We are both sad to be saying goodbye to Mexico, but we are very happy we decided to come back here, we’ve had a wonderful time. What I love about this country is its vibrant culture, the colours and the creativity. It’s a beautiful place, which I would advise everyone to visit.