A nice place to call 'home" for a while

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End May 10, 2011

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Monday, August 30, 2010

We loaded our bikes and made our way from Serena Hotel near the long distance bus station in Tlaquepaque to Guadalajara's historic town center 7 miles away. It's our first experience navigating a sliver of the rough road edge in such heavy urban traffic. This is quite an adjustment from the mostly quiet country roads or toll roads with their wide shoulders we have traveled for awhile. We crank our alertness button to '11' and sprout eyes in the back of our heads, always scanning our surroundings, and check for occupants in parked cars, who could unexpectedly open a door in front of us, while attempting to avoid, if at all possible, gnarly potholes that could swallow us whole, not to speak of the maniac bus drivers who pass us with only millimeters to spare, horse and carriages with tourists, motor cycles weaving in and out .. and more.

Near THE Metropolitan Cathedral, a local guy came to our rescue when he saw us staring at our map. We asked him if he knew of a small apartment we could rent by the month. He said the place where he was renting had an opening and is centrally located for just $150US per month! He gave us the first name of the apartment manager, Ricardo, who lives near the corner of Garibaldi and Liceo (maybe). He did not have the exact address. We rode the 5 or so blocks to vicinity. And while Michelle watched the bikes, Dave knocked on all the doors around asking for Señor Ricardo. Nobody had heard of Ricardo. He tried a block west and then a block east until finally one person knew of a Ricardo! He was Ricardo's grandfather! Ricardo would be away for a few more hours but the grandfather was happy to show us the apartment. It was a good size furnished room, a bit dark and no air-con, shared kitchen and no laundry. Great for a student or someone on real tight budget. We decided to keep looking for something more to our liking.

We had called ahead to our 1st hotel choice, Casa Vilasanta, but it was fully booked for that day so we spent a night in Hostel Casa Maria, a cheerful clean place catering to backpackers. We stowed our bikes and gear and checked out some other places to stay along our walking route to Casa Vilasanta. We found some other solid choices but when we stepped into the lovely Casa Vilasanta, near Parque de Revolution, we immediately asked them to book us for one month. At Casa Vilasanta, the clean colorful rooms and courtyard make it a happy and relaxing place to hang our hats for awhile. We have a large bin in the huge fridge for our perishable groceries and have use of the fully stocked kitchen (utensils, pots, pans, plates etc). It is near the University of Guadalajara, happening nightclubs and trendy restaurants. If the urge strikes, we are never far from corner food stands where, for max 30 pesos, you can fill your belly with delicious tamales,empanadas, tortes, hot-dogs, and roasted corn-on-the-cob. One of my favorite dishes is a goat stew served with a sprinkle of chopped onions (fiery hot chillies if you desire) and freshly made corn tortillas. In the food section of the large public market's they sell huge bowls of it (Birria Chivo) for 40 pesos. For me it doesn't get better than that.;) Top it off with a jumbo glass of fresh carrot/beet juice...yummmm

Guadalajara is Mexico's second most populated city with 1.5 million residents. If you include the 7 surrounding areas that have all grown together, that figure jumps to 4 million! Still the city feels very civil. The elevation 1,566 m (5,138 ft) creates moderate weather year round. Summer is the rainy season with a brief downpour virtually each night. It is mostly dry during the daytime though. We're within a 20 minute walk to the museums, theaters, cathedrals, markets and restaurants catering to every taste and budget in 'Centro Historico'.

There always seems to be something going on in the large plaza. Early in September a national mariachi competition was kicked off from there with a free public performance. The place was packed.

On the 16th and 17th of September, Mexico celebrated its Independence Day, 200 years since Hildalgo called for revolution against Spanish rule. Downtown, the historical buildings got decorated with green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag and tinsel. In our hotel, the girl at the front desk, Chary, was dressed up for the occasion with hair in braids and colorful skirt & blouse. The entrance to the courtyard was draped with colors of the flag as well and so was the tablecloth in the dining room."Viva Mexico!" On THE day, Vero the housekeeper, excitedly told us the parade was starting and we needed get over there right away. We made our way there past temporary security gates where they were checking all bags. Obviously they were concerned about a terrorist act. The parade had a decidedly military tone with armored personnel carriers, soldiers, and jets doing a flyby overhead. Then came the public service workers, firemen, paramedics, air/sea rescue, etc. What is an Independence day celebration without them? Finally, near the rear, equestrians groups paraded in traditional costumes. Last and least, garbage trucks and street sweepers picked up all debris left about as the street barricades were taken away. Parade over.

Here at the hotel, we quickly made friends with Bill, a sixty-ish Texan and nine month resident of Casa Vilasanta and Peter, from Florida, who is taking a 5 week course from ITTO to get his teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certification. Bill clues us in on great little restaurants and sights to see around GDL. We taught them how to play "American Joker" and it has become a daily ritual to play a few hands of this card game before bedtime. They remind us of Oscar and Felix of the odd couple. Bill is pretty easy going, but to some extent, set in his "Texan" ways. And Peter, more emotional, takes winning or loosing pretty seriously. They egg each other on, but in the end, it's all in fun.

I would call Bill an advanced enthusiast photographer who is working on further advancing his skills here in Guadalajara. The HDR labled images in this blog post are the "artistic" looking pictures and are a composite of an overexposed, normal, and underexposed image of the same scene. Pretty cool eh?

While Guadalajara is not very bike friendly, the parks and recreation department is putting in significant effort to raise awareness and make it more bike friendly. Every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm, a cluster of major roads are closed off to traffic so cyclists, skateboarders, joggers, in-line skaters and dog walkers can make use of the road. The result is a (sometime) dangerous free-for-all with first time cyclists and enthusiasts who like to give a new sport a try, swerve like drunken sailors. The park near the hotel is filled with hula-hoops, jump-ropes even huge chess, domino and checkers sets. Loads of fun for all. They have a similar programs in the nearby towns of Tonala and Tlaquepaque as well.

Michelle visited an OBGYN here for her 3 month post-op check-up. Dr Orozco Iberra was one of 2 physicians on the 'approved' list published by our insurance company. We rode the 3 miles to his office and waited quite some time in his lobby. Then another Doctor breezed in just before she was brought into the exam room. This second doctor was brought in to help with English/Spanish translation. The examining room had state of the art equipment. They were doing an Ultrasound and Michelle asked what the image was. The translating doctor quickly announced, "It's a Boy!" All laughed.We are happy to report that Michelle got a clean bill of health!

We didn't overdo it on the museum or cathedral front. As with the temples in Asia, one can overdose on too many in my opinion. We did enjoy a few hours exploring the Regional Museum where they did a nice job showcasing burial objects of different tribes who lived here in and around this area from 1600 BC to 1520 AD. Earthenware pots, bowls, statues, jewelry, tools and arrows. It also has a paleontology room anchored by an impressive fully erected skeleton of mammoth unearthed in this area.

We finally made it to the Cabañas Cultural Institute museum which features the highly symbolic work by the famous Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, called Man on Fire or in Spanish, "Hombre de Fuego". The main room includes many other of his dark works. We were joined by Kevin and George who recently moved into our hotel. We took a few minutes to view the works laying flat on our backs on benches provided for that purpose. None of us were captivated. In fact, I enjoyed looking at Orozco's 1937 work in the Governor's Palace (built in 1714) more which depicts Father Hildalgo in 'Dark Forces' and 'Political Circus' and an interesting legislative chamber.

We enjoy the plaza's and relax in parks or people watch and just strolling the different neighborhoods of orange tree lined streets. We visited Tonala, Tequila, Tlaquepaque and Tapalpa which we'll describe in separate blog entries.

Jason showed up and was able to make it past landslides and washed out bridges from sea level over the 6000+ foot mountain pass into Guadalajara. We thought it looked tough from the comfort of the bus. Jason confirmed that it was very hard and decided every ounce of extra baggage should be discarded. Before leaving the coast, he had left behind some "luxury" items and from what we could tell, he didn't have a lot of those to begin with.... don't tell me he left his girl-magnet cologne behind! In any case, he said it made a huge difference in his climbs especially. We will follow suit before we leave here. Along the way he had a serious break in his frame and after a short bus ride was able to get it welded in small town. He had couch-surfed for several days with wonderful family who had taken him under their wing, 30km before GDL. We were happy to see Jason when he finally showed up at 10 pm with flat trailer tire. He pulled his bike & trailer in our room and couch-surfed with us for few days. He had lost some weight. His cheeks were hollow. Here at the Casa they were pretty relaxed about that. The cornucopia of pastry shops and great eateries around here re-energized him quickly. We took him to Costco where he loaded up on nuts and muffins. He purged some more weight before heading further into the mountains. A few days later, one of the family members he had couch surfed with in the mountains picked Jason up from here to celebrate Mexican (200 year) Independence day with their whole family at Lake Chapala.

Jason's journey was written about in a Mexican paper. Link to the article at:

Now we have been here in Gualalajara for five weeks already and we are reluctant to leave. A new batch of ITTO students have checked in; Celeste, Gereth, Kathryn, Jenna, and Terry. They have brought new energy to the Casa. It is refreshing to see their enthusiasm as they prepare to embark on new lives in teaching English here in Mexico.

Today (7 Oct), while riding to Walmart, a city bus cut over as he began to overtake Dave. He bumped him with the side of his bus and Dave veered toward the sidewalk and crashed to the pavement. He laid on the sidewalk there to see what the bus driver would do. The bus stopped. Passengers bolted to get on other buses. Concerned on lookers came by to help. Dave got up after 20 seconds and one guy was holding his bike and another had retrieved his glasses that had skidded off. And yet another was ready with his cell phone to call for help. Dave had only minor road rash but he did not want to let the bus driver off the hook. Paramedics arrived followed by a motorcycle cop five minutes later. Dave showed them the scratches on his stomach and said he would be fine. They poked and prodded him a little to make sure but still suggested he take a ride to the hospital. They said not to worry, the bus company has insurance that will pay for the visit. They asked if he wanted "compensation." He checked his bike over and could not find anything wrong except some new scratches so said "no". He had to sign a waiver to be released without going to the hospital. The police waived his ticket book around a bit so Dave decided he had returned enough grief to the driver, and left. Dave was lucky this time!

Sunday Oct.10 we are moving on. Our first day we plan to get to Chapala, 30mi/50km, maybe spend a few days, we'll keep you posted.

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Ludus Tours on

Guadalajara is full of heritage places and tourist attractions. Many thanks for this article and the information provided. I am going to contact Ludus Tours (www.ludustours.com) soon to book my tour package for Guadalajara.

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