06 December 2012
Traveling by bus around Mexico is cheap, efficient and very comfortable. For our trip to Guadalajara we boarded an ETN bus at the Puerto Vallarta central bus station. This “bus station” (as well as the terminal in Guadalajara) is nothing like those that come to mind in the states. These facilities are similar to a major city airport except they are clean and efficient. The ETN bus, which is a huge vehicle, has 8 rows of seats – 2 on one-side and a single seat on the other. Complete with reclining seats designed for the “mid-westerner”, these buses have free wifi, movies and food for the trip. Our time in Guadalajara was wonderful but rather than a play by play rehash I’ll hit some high points and conclude with a few suggestions for those planning to visit the second largest city in Mexico (about the same population as Los Angeles). Our hotel, built in the 1700’s, was downtown where the “beat” was contagious! Our first evening there we wandered to one of the plazas and found the streets lined with people waiting for something – turned out to be an annual gathering of motorcycles clubs from throughout Mexico and the “parade” was about to begin. There are no words to truly describe that which we watched for 45 to 60 minutes as 30,000 to 40,000 motorcycles of every configuration and shape roared down the main drag. It was a fun way to begin our Guadalajara visit. There is so much history in the central part of this city that a person could spend years learning about all that happened. Our attempt at a self-guided walk about was a short-lived mistake and soon we were in the trusted care of “Polo” who, while somewhat opinionated, was an outstanding guide for close to 4 hours. Then, after icing down some cerveza, we boarded a horse-drawn carriage for another guided tour of the city. When this idea was first “suggested” (KT code for “we’ll be doing this”) I must admit my first reaction was other than embracing; I mean the “exhaust pipe” end of the horse is but a few inches from the passenger compartment of the carriage and it’s not like this carriage has a set of Monroe gas filled shocks supporting the suspension system. But, once again, my lovely bride proved to be right and our ride around town with Romero calling the shots for his beautiful horse Vincente was a fun experience. Romero knew as much about the city as Polo and proudly shared the history while Vincente smoothly ran through the streets and would stop and start at an intersection based on the color of the traffic light – seriously! All of the small restaurants downtown had great traditional food but our best meal was at the #2 rated place in Guadalajara. La Vaca Argentina scared me when we first entered – seeing the white tablecloth, elaborate place settings (more glasses in front of each chair than we have in total on the boat), and giant wine cellar I quickly concluded we’d be blowing our December budget in one night! Our Colombian born waiter who followed his aspiring Bull Fighter brother to Mexico was most helpful in making our selections – in the end, the whole thing was better than excellent and cost about $30 US per person (I’m pretty sure we’d be looking at 200+ in the US with the food and/or service not coming even close to that of the La Vaca). So here are some tips for future visitors; use trip advisor, travel by bus, Google “what’s happening” in Guadalajara, get a guide (talk with a representative at the many tourist info centers for help with this), take a horse drawn carriage ride (go after 5 when the sun is going down – very pretty – don’t bring wine, remember there are no shocks…), ride the taxis, talk to the people (all very friendly and helpful), if you like steak go to La Vaca Argentina and, most of all, visit as many places in the old town as you can.