This trip occurred in 2014. I had written these posts a long time ago on a different computer which I just gained access to again. I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as we did. It is a wonderful place to visit and live.
It was still dark when we checked out at the front desk. In the same spot near the cathedral the souvenir sellers and shaman were setting up. They were more into the mystical side of Catholicism here. I saw people’s arms outstretched like Christ while another person waved burning leaves all around them, enveloping everyone around with smoke. Words were chanted and souls were absolved. Baptism by smoke was an option here. The sun slowly peaked through the buildings casting an ominous mood on the activities as the light was refracted by the smoke.
We had left so early, we had to wait for the train station to open. We were not alone, many homeless and merchants meandered out front of the metal gate until it opened. Everywhere you went, especially trains or buses, people were selling candy, pencil sharpeners, most everything you could think of. I didn’t fully understand this until we popped into a store; the lines were at least 10 people deep. There is definitely no such thing as a quick trip to any store so everyone had to put up with a barrage of sales pitches wherever they went. If you wanted gum or candy to quiet a screaming kid, you got those types of items on the trip to work or home.
It was a short flight to Guadalajara, maybe an hour. There weren’t too many people on the plane or at the airport. I was again amazed at how big Mexico City was as we flew over for over and there was buildings, houses as far as you could see in any directions. The City was surrounded by mountains and even had a small one in the middle, one of the few places that weren’t covered by buildings in the City. Most of these smaller mountains did have radio towers so they tried to build everywhere.
There were more mountains around Guadalajara, but a lot less buildings. It seemed very much like a small, college town. Less people, less traffic, less rush were all evident as soon as we hopped into our taxi. We were en route to Tequila Backpackers hostel, a place that was the most highest rated online and had an intriguing name. Upon check in, a friendly guy came over and poured me a shot of tequila, my friends abstained. He said that they made this tequila out back, it was their house blend. This place was very nice; it was a former residence for a large family, so everyone got their own room. There were a few rooms adjacent to an open courtyard where people were already drinking and swaying in hammocks. It was before noon. Our room had two beds, a wardrobe and TV. A large window looked towards the courtyard and lit up the room. I got a bed as I found the room while my friends shared the other bed.
We walked down the street after settling in our new room. We were going to check out another cathedral and then meet up with some other friends who were staying in the city. It was about 30 minute walk straight down the street in front of our hostel to the square. Once we arrived, I noticed that the cathedral grounds had a lot of performers so I skipped checking out the inside of another cathedral. Whenever I traveled, I usually found a square with people performing, tumblers you could say. They flipped, somersaulted, and generally nearly face planted as often as they could for 10 minutes or so. There was usually a main guy who announced each performer and most importantly, passed around a hat for tips. There was also a sound guy who controlled a large boom box. There was always one really good guy who did the most stunts along with a couple others who would just do basic tricks. They took turns until the really talented guy got tired, and everyone applauded as a hat made the rounds for tips.
We met a couple friends in the square and quickly agreed to go with them to a huge shopping area. It was like a mall, but without walls. In fact, the amazing thing about this place was everything was handmade, sewn. We found a cooking stall where we were told to get a torta ahogada, a sandwich covered in sauce. What was surprising is that the red sauce was hot, but more like an Italian sauce with oregano, sage, not cumin or cilantro. You eat it with a spoon as the sauce makes the bread pleasantly soft.
It tasted very good and was just the right size for a snack. We walked all over the large, two story market, passing your standard Mexican foods to sushi prepared by Japanese guys. There were many souvenir shops selling magnets, shot glasses and other Mexican items. There were many clothing shops, bag shops, hat shops, all filled with hand sewn items. I picked up a small hand bag as I’ve found all my pockets full of various items accumulated walking around all day when I travel.
Our new friends were in route to a futbol game so we parted ways but promised to meet up later that evening for beers. We wandered back to the cathedral, the plaza de armas. There we watched a local symphony play against street performers. They did what they could during the quiet sections as the ever present boom box pumped out beats. The scene was an interesting mash up of strings in one ear, bass in the other, which we could only endure for so long. Plus there were many older people around trying to watch the symphony so we gave up our seats to them and moved on.
My friends communicated used a voice mail like system, speaking in rapid Spanish or Portuguese to each other in different countries. My friend received a message to meet later at a real British style pub a couple blocks in the other direction from our hostel. It was pretty authentic pub, nearly everything on draught was English, but they still had a fair selection of Mexican beers. When traveling, I enjoy tasting local beers to gain an idea of local flavors. In this part of México it seemed darker, amber ales were more prevalent than the lighter pilsners. Surprisingly I saw Corona everywhere whilst in Mexico and for some reason I thought it was a US beer they just built a brewery in Mexico just so they could label it as an import. Corona was everywhere the difference here was I saw it quart sizes usually, they drank quantity down here.
We drank many beers, even my friends who normally don’t drink had a couple. We soon wound up at a place that had Mexican schwarma! It was exactly as I’d seen in Europe: a large leg of beef or pork was slowly spinning around heat making a crust on the meat. We each ordered a plate mixed with vegetables, I elected to get cheese on mine. This would be the only thing I ate with cheese during the whole trip. You can get just a cheese taco, quesadilla, but cheese isn’t seen as a topping, more of a main ingredient. Aside from the torta I ate earlier in the day, this was the best thing I ate in Mexico. It was a perfect end to a very long day as we staggered back to the hostel, full of beer, schwarma and joy.