Word count: 11895 | Since last entry: 1962
So that was Guadalajara. All in all, even if I hadn’t gotten sick I think I would give it a mixed review. Though Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico, there didn’t really seem to be a lot of different things to do there. Where were the theatres, the major museums, the department stores, the galleries? Guadaljara’s population is comparable to San Diego, Phoenix, or Philadelphia, but it just felt like an enormous, sprawling small town. Street after street was crowded with tiny shops, and more than half of them were tightly shuttered, with no signage or other information whatsoever about what they might sell or when they might be open.
Lack of information and infrastructure was a general problem. There were no bus maps or schedules available, and many places were not open when they were supposed to be (nor was there any indication that schedules had changed). Bus stops were rarely identified by signs and even when they were the bus might not stop there, even for Mexicans (on the other hand, you could generally flag one down wherever you spotted one). I had to wonder how the country functions at all. To some extent I believe that the answer is that it doesn’t, not the way Americans expect; the other answer is that it functions quite well at a local level. Most people know where and when their bus runs, when their shops are open, and when there are changes they find out simply because they are there every day. But it’s hard for a tourist.
We did eat pretty well (and I am not going to fault Guadalajara, or any particular food or restaurant, for making me sick; these things do just happen when you expose yourself to unfamiliar microbes), but I wasn’t impressed by the variety and quality of the food on offer. France or Italy is a place you go for the food. Japan astounded with the wide variety of very different Japanese cuisines and the astonishing deliciousness of each in the hands of its specialist chefs. Even German cuisine, though unbelievably heavy by modern US standards, often surprised me with the subtlety of its flavors. But the Mexican food we found in Guadalajara was largely variations on a theme, and not much different or better than good Mexican food we’ve had in the States.
But. The people were uniformly friendly and very generous with their time and information. The little streets with their hand-painted signs were real and picturesque in a way that, for example, the Africa and Asia themed areas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom can only approximate. Our B&B was fabulous. We did have one extraordinary meal, at El Sacromonte, and visited some delightful small museums.
So, mixed review. But I think I would go back, because I was really only able to give it two full days of touristing and I think it deserves more than that. And it was an experience of a world different from my usual, which is what travel is all about.
And now, some photos.
The delightful sunny entrance area of our B&B
The tub was decorated with original art and Aztec-style sculptures
The sink was equipped with large dual mirrors, yet you could not see yourself (note the weird floating elbows)
Los Arcos, the Arc de Triomphe of Guadalajara. There’s a museum at the top but it was closed.
Weird-ass tentacled tortoise-shell-baby-head sculptures
Masks of scary Indigenous People at the ceramics museum
Detail of one of the masks
Santiago (Saint James) comes down from heaven, in the form of a caballero, to whip those scary Indigenous People into submission. Not shown: the Three Kings, who also come to help.
The very impressive Templo Expiatorio
Interior of the Templo Expiatorio. Did not get a good shot looking up into the light-filled stained-glass spire.
The Delta-Winged Queen of Heaven
Another DWQH. She may or may not be the Virgin of Zapopan.
You may have heard that Mexico is inexpensive, but it is not! (A fib. Mexico uses the $ sign for pesos, and each peso is worth about 11¢ US.)