Guadalajara – The Markets

There is a song they sing about the city of Guadalajara, and included in the lyrics is hermosa.  That means beautiful.  And it is.

Our first trip here was with our Mexican friends.  Back then, we hardly had the confidence to leave the tourist areas in PV.   I cannot begin to describe how far out of our comfort zone our first trip to Guadalajara was!   Adding to our trepidation, was their announcement that we would be leaving  on the midnight bus!    After a restless night on the bus, we arrived at the Zapopan bus station around 5am, and finally, at the family home of one of our friends. In spite of the early hour, we were warmly welcomed by the entire family, even though we most likely looked like we had just rolled out of a ditch and they could not understand a word we said.

Our command of Spanish back then was less than poor, and we spent a lot of time sitting in their living room understanding nothing but our names, which seemed to be bandied about frequently.   In spite of the language difficulty, our hosts eagerly toured us through as much of the city and surrounding area as we could handle in 3 short days.    It was a weekend all of us will remember fondly for many years to come.

IMG_1254

Now, 5 years later, our Spanish is a bit better; at least we can make ourselves understood, which also makes us better at translating street signs on the fly.

IMG_2126

We have visited this great city several times since our first visit and have learned that the major streets in Guadalajara are fairly easy to navigate, but they are as busy as any other major city, and they come with their own set of rules and etiquette.   Coming from Edmonton, Alberta, population about 900,000 last time I checked, driving thru Guadalajara with its population of about 5million, we never cease to be amazed by the traffic here.   Kevin has figured most of the major streets in Guadalajara and where they will take us.  Aside from a little difficulty navigating around the construction for line 3 of the underground train system this trip, he got us to all our destinations with very few wrong turns.

gdl images

As always, the underlying reason for our trip was to visit the markets.  Its not like we actually NEED anything, but we both love to wander thru the stalls looking for something that might strike our fancy.

IMG_1248

Our favourite and most frequented stop is the Tonola Market.  Thursdays and Sundays, a normally busy street becomes insane when vendors set up their tables and tarps to display everything from curtains to ceramics to wood work, pictures, artwork, furniture, lamps, cushions, name it, you can probably find it at the market.  Adding to the confusion, hawkers walk thru the narrow alleys selling everything from cold drinks to washing machine covers.   Whether we buy anything or not, we always see something new and enjoy the time we spend there.  Incidentally, all of the furnishings for our guest rooms came from this amazing place.

Kevin, navigator extraodinarre, has also taken time to figure out the subway lines.  From the Hotel Portobello, our home base for this visit, it was a 7 peso, 10 minute, subway ride to the Mercado San Juan de Dios.    At least one full city block, and 3 stories high, its immenseness is awesome.   Restaurants and electronics & accessories on the top floor, general goods, including clothing, saddles and leatherwork on the second and food on the bottom.  Meat vendor after meat vendor eventually gives way to cheese and dairy, dried beans and finally, fruit vendors towards the exits.

IMG_1239

In between all that, stands selling Mexican Tortas large enough to feed a family of 4.  If not for Kevins funky wheat allergy, … There are a lot of repeat stalls, and regular visitors all have their favourite vendors.  My favourite vendor was the guy who sold me an new iPad mini cover for $160 pesos!  This place is amazing and surprisingly, does not duplicate the Tonala Market.

imagesimages

Our final market was one we had only recently heard of and our understanding was that it sold nothing but FOOD!!!!!  Count me in, I couldn’t wait to see it.

We a bit of difficulty getting around the subway construction, but when we finally laid eyes on the Mercado de Abastos, our jaws dropped.  Covering a minimum of 5 streets, it never seemed to quit.

Here, we found onions for 8 pesos a kilo, tomatoes (yes, good ones) for 7 pesos, sweet corn! (who cares how much that cost, we rarely see it!), fennel, avocados for 16…oh, the list goes on and on, as far as your imagination can take you!  Some prices were so low we could hardly believe them, and others were similar to here.   If not for the 5 hour unrefrigerated drive ahead of us, I would have filled the back of the truck so fast it would have made Kevin’s head spin.

308460

Aside from the low prices, it seemed everyone in Guadalajara was in there!  We had to gawk on the fly because of the river of people pushing us ever deeper into the market.  Get to the end, change sides and the river pushes us out again.  We highly recommend this stop, if only to have a good look at what organized chaos looks like from the outside.  The vendors never seem to stop moving, weighing this, bagging that, next customer.   It is one of the busiest places we have ever seen.

723482

Across the street, behind the parking lot, which is very civilized when one considers all the confusion of the market, there is a sugar store.  And a bean store.  And a seed store selling everything from Amaranth to Quinoa, including Turin Chocolate in large chunks suitable for baking.  Take a number, because they are so busy, they don’t  have time to look at you until it is your turn.

Oddly, amongst all that food, we could locate only 1 stall selling prepared foods.  Their speciality was Tacos de Cabeza, which includes but is not limited to beef tongue, cheeks, lips and brains.  Already reeling from the sensory overload of the market, we opted to look for our breakfast in a quieter local.

Guadalajara

The Journey to Casa Madera – Guadalajara, It took a year but we finally got there!

On June 7th, 2012 a remarkable thing happened to Heather and I.  We drove to Guadalajara!  I attribute this to not parking the Jeep near any trees or other things that could fall down on it.  We made sure to visit the mechanic to have the oil changed, the brakes checked and the bolts tightened so it was running well.

It all worked.  At 11:30 am on Thursday June 7th, we backed out the driveway of Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast and hit the road.  It was exciting.  Our first road trip in quite a while.  We were giddy with anticipation.

Or was it hunger.  It had been 4 hours since breakfast.  So we made it as far as Bucerias (12 minutes) before we stopped for lunch.  But hey, we were on the road!

A quick lunch and we were off.  It was a nice day for a drive, sunny but not too hot. The traffic was relatively light which was really nice.  It was a pleasant 4 hour drive to the big city.

We had booked ourselves a room in the Suites Bernini as it appeared it was close to the fabric store area.  We had never been to the hotel before and really had no idea where it was but thankfully the gps was able to pinpoint it and made it relatively easy to get to which at 4:30 in the afternoon is a good thing.

After checking in and putting the Jeep in the smallest parking lot known to civilization we took the elevator up to our room on the 16th floor.  Only the penthouse was above us.  The view should be spectacular!

The view from the 16th floor

We were right, the view was spectacular.  The interesting thing about this view was that the entire wall was glass, floor to ceiling.  The top half, opened.  Totally opened.  We could open the window up 4 feet.  It was just a little disconcerting.  We got used to it but neither one of us ever really got close to the glass.

The area had many watering holes and restaurants.  It was tough to make a choice of where to eat but we did and the food was great.  So many places within 4 blocks and so little time we will definitely return.

One of about 15 stores where you could buy a wedding dress

Friday morning we were out and on foot looking for the fabric stores that Heather wanted to visit.  We hit the area right, there was a street of fabric stores, bridal shops and general formal party wear just a couple of blocks from the hotel.  It was a beautiful street with a pedestrian walkway down the middle of the road with benches, fountains, shade, plug-ins and wi-fi.

Could walk this all day long

It was a great way to spend the morning before it really got hot.  Once it did we headed out to the Galeria’s mall.  I know what you are saying, a mall is a mall.  And you would be right but this mall had a Krispy Kreme kiosk, sigh…oh and a Best Buy.  All it really needed was a Golf Town.

On Saturday we were going to move hotels over to Tonala as we wanted to do the market on Sunday.  So we checked out of the hotel after breakfast and headed out.  Our plan was to spend a few hours in Tlaquepaque to check it out but do all of our buying in Tonala.

Refreshment time in Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque is another must visit in Guadalajara.  Beautiful galleries, totally different handicrafts than we have seen here before and a nice traffic free pedestrian only mall.  It was fun.  It was there that we found the Tapatio Tourist bus.

For 110 pesos you could ride the double-decker bus to downtown Guadalajara where you could take the Guadalajara tour, or change to the Zapopan bus and take that tour.  From Tlaquepaque you could catch a tour bus to Tonala.  We decided to take the Guadalajara tour.  It was cool.

Great way to spend the day!

The roof of the bus is open air so you can take it in all the sights and sounds.  It also has stops along the way where you could get off, see this attraction and catch another bus an hour or two later.  Great idea.

Beautiful cathedral just outside of downtown

We really enjoyed the Guadalajara tour.   When you are not driving you can take it all in.  It allowed us to see where things are so in future visits we will have more of an idea where we are going.  When the tour is over they park downtown by the government buildings and main cathedral.

When getting off of the bus they told us that the bus back to Tlaquepaque leaves at 4:30 and it is bus number 4.  This gave us about an hour to kill so we wandered around, toured a corn exhibit in the main City square, bought a cold lime and salt drink and then just headed for shade to wait for bus number 4.  At 4:15 a bus pulled in, number 2.  At 4:22 I wandered over to just double-check where it was going and just before I got to it the bus pulled away.

There are 6 traffic lanes in this traffic circle, there are at least 6 of these in town. Fun to drive in! Really!

So we waited for bus number 4.  At 4:40 we finally asked the tour people where the Tlaquepaque bus was and they told us it left 20 minutes ago.  Well this was a problem.  First off, it left early and was not the right number.  Our car and our luggage was sitting on a side street in Tlaquepaque.  There were no more buses.

They did eventually see the problem and started to make phone calls.  Finally they said a bus would be by at about 6:30.  This was just under 2 hours away.  We had yet to get a hotel, this was too long to wait.  So we eventually took a taxi back to Tlaquepaque.

Will we take a Tapatio tour bus again?  You bet.  It was great.  Yes there was that little glitch but it was our fault as much as theirs.  And where else can you spend a day travelling around a city getting on and off a special tourist bus for less than 10 bucks.

The taxi driver knew where we needed to go and dropped us close to our car, into it we got and started searching for the hotel.  We knew where we wanted to stay it was just finding our way there.  That is always the main challenge.

Surprisingly it did not take that long to find our Hotel, the Hacienda del Sol.  Once registered and luggage put away we headed out in search of food and drink.  Found a great restaurant 4 blocks away with super cold beer and great beef.  It was a lovely meal.

Sunday brought the market.  Always a lot of fun.  People everywhere, stalls everywhere.  You can buy everything under the sun there.   And we did.  More artwork, soap, lamps, mugs and so many other things it just too hard to list them all.

Just a tiny, tiny bit of the Tonala market.

On Sunday night we went for a walk.  It was a beautiful evening and while walking during the day we stumbled upon the town square so we wandered down to check that out and see if there was anything good to eat.

Sunday night is the night to go to the town square.  It is teeming with life.  Food stalls, music stalls, bands playing music, places to get drinks.  It is something else.  On this day we found something really special, a corn dog.  Hot out of the oil.  Heather thought she had died and gone to heaven.  There are just some things you don’t regularly see on the street here for food and corn dogs are one of them.  Alas he only had one left so I was forced to have a deep-fried taco instead.  Oh, poor me.

Monday morning it was time to head for home.  So after a quick stop at Krispy Kreme to pick up a dozen glazed for the road (they really are the best donuts in the world) we were on our way.

Monday morning rush hour in Guadalajara. All this for Krispy Kremes…..

Passing by the town of Jala we could see the new 4 lane toll road being built from Jala to Puerto Vallarta that should turn a 4 hour drive into 2.5 to 3.  I can hardly wait…