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Mrs McRae’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 28 Feb 2010

Location: GUADALAJARA, Mexico

MapAs soon as the bus pulled into GU, I knew we were about to see a completely different type of Mexico. This historical city is filled with a buzzing energy unlike any city I have visited. We were dropped off in Centro, about thirty minute (and under $10) cab ride from the bus station. Staying in PV for a month I was shocked by the city sights and how memorizing the design and people of this city were. The buildings were striking, in size and architecture. A purple painted structure took up half a block and was at least three stories in height; it’s outer rim painted in white which high lighted every aspect, from the wooden window frames to the enormous door. I was completely taken aback by these buildings, each one more unique than the one before.

The city center of GU is over shadowed by a gigantic church, carefully built with each brick placed with purpose and meaning. It was probably the most meticulous and striking church I’ve ever seen. I’m not one to explore in places I don’t feel welcome but this cathedral seemed to emanate acceptance and love for all. In fact, GU has around 300 churches scattered through out and they all shared the same energy.

It’s the little details of a city that always catch my eye and take my breathe away. Here, the cleanliness of the streets and side walks, the precisely trimmed bushes that lined every road and park, and the clearly marked and easy to read street signs. This city was very conscious of making it as easy to live in and as pleasant as possible to explore.

You don’t see many ‘Gringo’s, as we are graciously referred as, which was markedly different from PV. Here, you definitely can’t survive without speaking a good amount of Spanish, but apart from a few stares now and then, I felt accepted and appreciated
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Centro felt historically old but incredibly youthful. Teenagers fill the crowded streets which were lined with clothing and beauty supply stores. I admired their style- fifteen year olds sported funky ‘Williamsburg” mullets and facial piercing. The girls dressed up, with full make up, exotic nails, and revealing tops, and nearly all of them on the hand of a stylish teenage boy.

There is an endearing gay youth that you get a glimpse of after dark, on the only gay block in town that I spotted. Girls make out in front of nightclubs blasting Lady Gaga whilst flamboyant boys dance on the side walks. I felt old but also proud of to see such an expressive, and beautiful group of young adults embracing and experimenting with their sexuality.

Sunday in the city

Sunday was a surreal day for me because every single thing in the city felt different, as if I had woken up in a different place. An overwhelming sense of community charm had surfaced. There was a energetic yet passive energy transferring from every living thing. As the light wind whistled and whispered amongst us, it was as if a spell was being casts around throughout the city, “restfully, relax, take it slow…,” seemed to be the undercurrent of everyone’s spirit. It was no doubt a day of rest in this city, although there was still activity. As we turned onto one of the more intimidating, four lane main roads with it’s store lined streets and hustling food charts, I was taken back by the silence. It was as if everything was on mute, yet we were surrounded groups upon groups of people. On bikes, there was probably twenty to thirty at a time. From toddlers on four wheelers to “Park Slope-looking-women” on roller blades holding on to a dog lead or the back of a friends bicycle seat. No cars, not even an engine sound in the near distance. It was so heart warming to see a community like this. So this is what Sundays are all about.

Overall, I left Guadalajara feeling like I had experienced a more true sense of what Mexico is really about-a great culture that works hard but knows when it’s time to relax and enjoy. It truly left a great impression on me and I would definitely love to visit GU again. I would recommend it to all; just don’t forget to pack your Spanish dictionaries!

Here are my recommendations:

MADOKA- Café and deli

This is truly an old fashioned diner with flavor filled cappuccinos-under $2 US-that are served as lattes (note, there is no such thing as skimmed milk in GU, so get ready for the full fat). Great spot for people watching as you can really feel the vibe of this laid back city. Endearing old men gather to sit in silence and sip on espresso shots whilst looking out of the oversized window frames.

CAFÉ BENITO

There’s no way a city girl could walk past this place without wanting to go in. It oozes coolness. Sooo Upper West Side meets Tribeca! Rich kids with stunning mothers and attractive fathers socialize whilst their three-year-old, dressed head to toe in Ralph Lauren and very European influenced hair styles, run around the tables, A very artsy feel, with retired models and artist/architect look alike share light conversation over wine and nibbles.

The décor is extraordinary with oversized graffiti style mural lined on the outside walls and chalk sketches with the days specials blasted on the bar walls.

We enjoyed two corona’s and a bowl of crisps (chips for the Americans) for under $4

JOSE CLEMENTE OROZCO

If you have studied or appreciate art you must seek out these astonishing murals that are hidden in a number of buildings around town. They will leave you breathless, You can find them at the university and the governors office building. If you want an interesting and entertaining interpretation on the murals at the governors building, keep a look out for a 5’4 guy with a rolled winter hat and hand stitched trousers. He will approach you by telling you that ’they are all lies’, referring to the story about Jose in the brochures that are given out at the entrance. If you show him interest he will lead you around the art work and give you an explanation of each character and meaning behind each painting. I really enjoyed his company and was even more impressed to here him speak eight different languages. Just be sure to tip him for his time and passion.

HOTEL SAN FRANSCO PLAZA

We made a pact to ourselves that the first night in a new city we would stay in a basic hotel instead of hostels so we could get are bearings. This was our first nights stay in GU, and it was architecturally the most stunning. The pictures will do it more justice than I could ever with words. It felt like a magical secret garden with waterfalls and lush greenery lining the courtyard, whichvsat in the middle of the two stories of balcony rooms. The rooms are very basic but well worth the price just to experience the uniqueness of what surrounds each room.
bathroom and two double bedsThe hotel is conveniently located only a few blocks from the city center so you can check in and immediately begin exploring. I would recommend at least one night here to anyone who is visiting GU for the first time.

HOTEL POSADA SAN PABLO

We stayed at this hotel/hostel on our second night from lonely planet. It is considered a hotel although it has the feel of a good hostel. A shared kitchen, living area, and super cute back yard with plenty of sunshine and umbrella filled patio furniture.

We opted for the upgraded private room which had our own . Luxury like this will set you back about $31 US, which is well worth it if you pee a lot in the night. We met a lot of travelers at the hostel, some who were staying in GU to learn and eventually teach Spanish. Everyone has a story to tell and advice on where we MUST go, but no one quite light David Anthony Stone though. We met David in the kitchen one morning and spent at least an hour talking to him, or more like listening to him. I felt an overwhelming feeling of appreciation to have met David- his wisdom, social awkwardness, high degree of intelligence, as well as his giving nature-had me in awe of his character. David is the reason we are in Guanajuato today.

All in all this was a great place to nest for a couple of nights. It includes all of your basic needs.