Category Archives: Mexico trip

A Few of My Favourite Things

My feet touch the floor and my first reactions is, “what is that funny texture?” Then I realize that it is carpeting. We are at home, in our own bed. Did I really get that used to tile floors while we were in Mexico that I would notice the difference immediately?

Tile floors are one of the things I love about Mexico. I love how it feels so smooth, cool, clean. . . Even in some of the budget hotels we stayed in, the floor was always spotless and shiny.

There are other things I love:

– the freshly squeezed orange juice. I wonder how many oranges they had to squeeze to provide me with my generous glass every morning.

–  I love their Tres Leches cake (3-milk cake). Not sure what the milks are, but I’m sure whipping cream is one of them.

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–  continuing with the food theme – there is food everywhere. There are the breakfast stands, that later in the day are all closed up. And the taco stands that appear on certain streets at specific hours. The stands selling fresh fruit juices, or chopped up fruit. The specialty foods – roast corn, or tamales. . . If you are hungry, just go one block over and you’re sure to find something to eat.

–  the markets that take over whole streets. And how all of the shops are grouped together according to what they sell. No running around from store to store if you want to buy a certain kind of thread. All the thread shops are all together.

Need thread??? Shop after shop selling an amazing amount of thread.
Need thread??? Shop after shop selling an amazing amount of thread.

– I love the art and sculptures that are everywhere, in the plazas, in the parks, in the centre of round-abouts. Mexico supports their artists.

– The luxury buses (although we took a couple to the smaller towns that were just mediocre) that give you assigned seats, that give you a little bag of goodies when you board, and have headphones so that you don’t have to listen to the movie that is playing on the overhead screens.

​- And, perhaps the main thing I love, is people-watching in the plazas. Nothing like hanging out in the shade with an ice cream cone or some fresh fruit and watching the world go by. . . especially in the evening when whole families come out to promenade together, some busker is entertaining a small group of people, music comes from across the plaza.
Thank you, Mexico, for sharing your food, your culture, and your art with us.

Puerto Vallarta

Our day in Puerto Vallarta was full of exploring, walking, tasting and geocaching. The geocaching gives us an excuse to go exploring parts of the city that one would normally not see. It takes us into neighborhoods and little parks and plazas. We walked many kilometers today and took many photos. The public art continues to amaze us. And people love to sit on and interact with the sculptures. We wish our cities back home would invest more in art and public places.

Puerto Vallarta is a city of 255,000 built on the edge of the mountains as they plunge into the ocean. It’s a long narrow crescent-shaped city, maybe 20 kilometers along the harbor. Tourism is it’s main income with airlines and cruise ships bringing people here from all over the world.  Canadians seem to have a big representation here. We have talked to many. Also it is a major vacation spot for Mexicans. This is a rich paradise.
The Rio Cuale that flows next to old town is a great place to get away from the hustle of tourists and the eager vendors. We saw the Great Kiskadee, the Little Blue Heron, the Plain Chachalaca, the Snowy Egret, swallows, and other birds. Plus there is a nice little cafe there that sells the 2 for 1 drinks that every place in PV seems to sell.
Rio Cuale
Rio Cuale
How about a couple of Mojitos and Margaritas?
How about a couple of Mojitos and Margaritas?
One of our geocache finds was at the top of a high stairs in a beautiful neighborhood.
Climbing to check out a cache
Climbing to check out a cache
When we got up there and were looking for it, a little girl came out from a house and asked if we were looking for the geocache and said it with correct pronunciation. Then she showed us where it was hidden. That was very cute and she was very proud of herself.
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People are friendly and helpful here. A lot of the Mexican people whose job is to deal with the tourists can speak pretty good English. A lot better than our Spanish, but we keep trying. We need to spend more time down here to get our Spanish together.
This is where geocaching takes you!
This is where geocaching takes you!

Manzanillo to Puerto Vallarta – Saturday

We were going to get up early in Manzanillo and go for a walk on the beach, but somehow until we took showers (cold, because the water ran so slowly that it wasn’t until the end of the second shower that the water started to get warm) and packed up all our stuff, it was time to call the taxi to go to the bus depot. We had a bit of a panic after we were on the way – Galen couldn’t find his wallet, so the driver stopped and backed up and Galen went back to the room. With the help of Jesus (the name of the hotel clerk) they found it on the floor under the bed!
At the station, we got to sit in the special, air-conditioned waiting room for Premier Plus passengers. Waiting with us was a couple from Canada with their two young girls. Nice to see families travelling Mexico by bus.
Galen in the air-conditioned wating room for Premier Plus passengers.
Galen in the air-conditioned wating room for Premier Plus passengers.
We expected a first class, direct bus to Puerto Vallarta, but as soon as we saw the bus – not one of the fancy Premier Plus buses, but one of their older buses – we knew we wouldn’t have wifi. Bummer. 6 hours on the bus and no wifi! How will we manage? I heard the Canadian mother explain to the little girls that they wouldn’t have wifi. . .they were expecting it as well.
The bus also stopped at every town along the way, including one on the north side of Manzanillo, where several English-speaking tourists got on. It was an interesting drive out of town past little markets and places selling pottery and tile. Big bunches of coconuts were for sale by the side of the road. Later we passed by lots of coconut and banana plantations.
Bananas and coconuts
Bananas and coconuts
We stopped in Melaque, a beach town just north of Manzanillo. The place is crawling with foreigners, walking, biking, driving. . . Lots of them got on the bus – almost half the people on the bus were foreigners, probably Canadians.
Highway 200 stays fairly close to the coast most of the way north, climbing through hills and then back along the water. When we are near the water, we see quite a few private, gated roads that must lead to private estates or clubs. As we go north, the country is dryer and cactus reappear. In some areas where there is irrigation there are large fields of vegetables. Then we get into an area that is almost exclusively mangos – huge plantations.
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Corn with beans
Mango plantation
Mango plantation
Some kind of vegetables
Some kind of vegetables under the coconut palms
On the last part of the trip, the road skirts the Selva El Tuito National Park. We climb up high, switching back and forth. Then we have to go back down to sea level. Galen didn’t take his dramamine soon enough and eventually woofed his cookies, the last time just as we were arriving at the bus terminal. He felt yucky, but managed to keep everything down during the 20-minute taxi ride to our hotel. He felt better after resting a bit, then going out for some food.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta by 2:00, so we had time to go exploring, walking along the Rio Cuale that flows close to our hotel, and crossing over on the suspension bridge to an island.
The suspension bridge that crosses to the island
The suspension bridge that crosses to the island (the man is not Galen!)
We see some interesting birds and several iguana.
We do a little geocaching, climbing stairs to the high bank on the side of the river. Can’t seem to find the cache here. . .
Stairway across the Rio Cuale
Stairway across the Rio Cuale
Then we wandered down to the Malecon along the water and walked along it, stopping to enjoy the amazing sculptures and watch the other tourists. We made our way back to our hotel, then decided we weren’t ready to stay there, so we went back out, looking for a place to have a drink. It is so easy to find food and drink here – just walk a block or two and you will find every kind of restaurant: air-conditioned, fine dining; hole-in-the-wall cafes (often family run); and street food. As we walked by Gilmar’s restaurant, the lone customers were a couple sitting at the sidewalk table. Their food looked delicious and they raved about it. So we went in for a drink. Then we decided we were a bit hungry, so we asked for some kind of appetizer. Turns out, they make salsa for you, right at your table. You say how much garlic, hot pepper, onion, etc. that you want and they mash it up in a molcajete for you. The peppers and tomatoes are already roasted and the whole thing is so delicious I would fly back to Puerto Vallarta just to have salsa at Gilmar’s.
Salsa, made right at your table at Gilmar's. The BEST salsa you will ever taste.
Salsa, made right at your table at Gilmar’s. The BEST salsa you will ever taste.

Tapalpa to Manzanillo

Our bus leaves at 9:00 AM and there were no breakfast places open. We asked the coffee crew sitting outside the confectionery where to get breakfast. Do ranchers all over the world meet at 7:00 for coffee?? So we bought coffee (really good, actually), yogurt, and pan dulce from the confectionery and sat in the square to eat. Guys were power washing the plaza, so it was noisy and it was cold, probably about 8C.

Coffee and pan dulce in the Tapalpan Plaza
Coffee and pan dulce in the Tapalpan Plaza
Our tickets to Cd. Guzman cost 85 pesos each. We stood by the drainage ditch across from the bus depot, in the sun, and waited. Two guys had a ladder down in the ditch and one guy was down there retrieving something. He climbed out with a small green ball. Later we saw him throwing it for his dog. No wonder he had a sheepish look on his face when he looked at us.

Across from here is a wand, car wash and beside that four guys are digging for a new building. A large wire cage (about 6’x6′) sits on the street, full of empty plastic bottles.

The driver announces it is time to leave and we get on the brand new bus that must have been made especially for really small people. The seats are comfortable, but narrow with no leg room.
We have to go back down the mountain the way we came up, about a half hour of switchbacks. A young couple was sitting in front of us, she was holding a baby and he had a small boy on his lap – maybe about 1 year old. The poor little boy got carsick going down the mountain and kept throwing up in a plastic bag that dad had ready. This must have happened before. But the little boy was so good. . . no crying or making a fuss.
Down on the flat again we made our way past lush, irrigated fields. Lots of shade houses for raspberries. Like acres and acres.
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Raspberries under shade
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Not sure what these were for. . .
We passed several lumber mills, probably cutting the pine from the mountains. Also cement plants mining the limestone from the sides of the mountain, and a paper mill.
Nice bus terminal in Cd Guzman.
Bus terminal in Ciudad Guzman
Bus terminal in Ciudad Guzman
We bought our tickets for the 11:35 bus but it was late, probably coming from Guadalajara. The ticket agent hadn’t assigned us seats together, but the bus was fairly empty so we moved to a seat together.
We climbed through gorgeous mountains with many steep canyons with lush vegetation. It was a two way road for a while, then the toll road started and we sailed along on top of a plateau.

We just missed the big volcanic eruption of the Colima volcano that happened on Wednesday. We couldn’t even quite figure out where it was from the highway.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iyGyfcYER8

We dropped down pretty fast to the coast, coming in to Manzanillo. Lots of coconut palm plantations, mango and papaya orchards. The air is warm and humid here and the vegetation is lush. Manzanillo is a major port city for Mexico, with rail lines to Mexico City and Guadalajara and lots of shipping traffic. It’s nice to see ocean-going vessels again. . .haven’t seen that since Victoria (BC).

Before we left the bus station, we buy our tickets to Puerto Vallarta. The only first class bus that leaves during the day is at 8:40 AM, so we will be getting up and leaving tomorrow. Then we will have a couple days in Puerto Vallarta and then home on Monday.

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Procrastinating about writing in the blog!

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Our hotel is right along the beach, so we sit here now watching the crescent moon set and the ships coming into the port that we can see lit up on our left.

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There are a few more photos in our Flickr album.

Tapalpa

After six wonderful days in Guadalajara it is time to move on. After some questioning of the hotel staff as to where we need to depart from, we catch a taxi to the central bus station. Since Tapalpa is a small city of 17,000 it did not warrant a fine bus line, so we get on a bus, Sol de Jalisco, and do a “milk run” stopping almost every 10 minutes to let people off and pick up more for the next three hours up into the high mountains to reach this town which has a designation “pueblo magico”, and an elevation of 2040 meters or 6637 feet.

As we are leaving Guadalajara we pass through university areas, rich neighborhoods, middle class neighborhoods, every kind of shopping you can imagine, and every kind of industry you can imagine. Mexico makes it all. Then we go through suburbs on into agriculture country with greenhouses for kilometers and orchards and sugar cane, corn, sorghum, pineapple, and irrigated fields of vegetables and alfalfa.

Climbing up out of the valley on steep switchbacks
Climbing up out of the valley on steep switchbacks

As we climb into the mountains there is less irrigation, so the crops change to agave for tequila and another cactus for some fermented drink. This is cattle country too and every once in awhile we pass rodeo grounds.

Arrived in Tapalpa. Note the cobblestone street.
After much back and forth and climbing the bus finally arrives in Tapalpa at a simple bus station. Tapalpa is a Mexican resort town for people to get away from the heat down below. It is situated in a pine-forested, high mountain valley. The streets are narrow and steep and all cobblestone.  So the scene is an antique town with tiled roofs, white stucco, wood-pillared verandas, all lined with small shops, half of which are designer clothing and rich consumables and rich restaurants and bars. The inevitable beautiful central plaza in front of the cathedral is a haven for people to play and sit, and pass through to their favorite shops,  or stop for a shaved ice fruit syrup cone.
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The ranchers come into town in their big 4 wheel drive Ford or Dodge pickups and the locals run around the steep streets in their SUV’s or 4 wheel ATV’s. Also there are lots of young people here with their mountain bikes taking advantage of the terrain. All very interesting. It is fun to be sitting on an upstairs balcony eating breakfast and watching the town wake up.
Coming back with pan dulce to go with the espresso
Coming back with pan dulce to go with the espresso
I would post more photos here, but you may as well check them out on Flickr.

Downtown Guadalajara

We decided to come to Guadalajara because, as we were searching for flights from Portland to Mexico City, we saw there were direct flights to Guadalajara. In doing research on Guadalajara, it looked like a great destination and perhaps easier than going to Mexico City, with a great historic city centre and many museums and galleries to explore.

Regional Museum of Guadalajara
Regional Museum of Guadalajara

Now, I’ve never been to Mexico City (perhaps next time) but I read that Guadalajara is becoming a cultural centre like Mexico City without the smog! And so we ended up here and fell in love with this place. Perhaps staying in the European Lifestyle Hotel and Suites has influenced our feelings, being surround by art and sculpture, but really, the city can stand on its own.

Plaza Tapatiá fountain, bronze and very tall.
We caught the 51 AB bus downtown (7 pesos each) and got off at the 16th of September Avenue. From there we had several blocks to walk to the beginning of the historic centre. The historic centre is about 3 blocks wide and 14 blocks long and is almost exclusively for pedestrian use, with churches, palaces, museums, galleries, plazas, fountains, bronze sculptures, vendors and lots of people.

We wandered to the east end of the Centre, to the Mercado Libertad, one of the largest indoor markets in Latin America. We only saw a small part of it, because as soon as we got in, Galen wanted to get out. Later, we went to the Mercado Corona on the other end of the plaza, which wasn’t as crowded and he actually enjoyed it.

Flowers, and, in the background, sugar cane
Flowers, and, in the background, sugar cane

Beans, spices, dried fish, fine bulk food store in Downtown Guadalajara

We spent several hours exploring the Hospicio Cabanas. The huge complex was built in the early 1800s as a hospital, orphanage, and workhouse. It is a World Heritage Site. This building alone would make a trip to Guadalajara worthwhile. We didn’t realize we could take photos with our phones (no real cameras allowed) until we were past the area with impressive murals. Room after room is filled with exhibitions of various artists.

Main rotunda Museum Hospicio Cabañas

Exhibition mad with cut-up, old money.

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On our second day in downtown Guadalajara, we went to the Museum of Graphic Arts, the Regional Museum of Guadalajara, and the Museum of Popular Art.

Museum of Folk Art, Guadalajara.

Our Flickr album for Guadalajara has more photos of the historic downtown, as well as photos from the hotel, Tlaquepaque and Zapopan. Hope you enjoy it, and if you ever want to spend some time in Guadalajara, I highly recommend the European Lifestyle Hotel and Suites.

Zapopan – Monday

It is +11C or about 51F this morning. The altitude here in Guadalajara is 5362 feet, so the nights cool down and the afternoons get into the low 80’s. It’s very comfortable.

We got rolling after another very good breakfast served by the hotel, hoping to go to the zoo only to find out that it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. So our friend, Enrique, suggested that we go see Zapopan (accent on the middle syllable) which is a municipality of Guadalajara. The door man of our hotel helped us with the bus numbers and so two busses and 25 minutes later we were in Zapopan center looking at fine plazas, grand churches, lots of shopping (flowers, shoes, hardware, wedding dresses, electronics, Internet shops, bicycles, leather goods, shoe repairs, cowboy boots & hats, etc. and lots of small restaurants.)

Bronze sculpture in Zapopan
Bronze sculpture in Zapopan

The plaza in front of the big cathedral starts to fill up with small portable venders selling tortillas, deep fried foods, fruits, and jucies. The cathedral is a basilica and is a major place for pilgrims so is very busy. Basilica de Nuestro Senora de la Expectación de Zapopan is a massive elaborate cathedral with lots of statuary and gold leaf every where inside. It feels too irreverent to take photos so you will have to imagine. Hundreds of people worshipping. We walked in and sat on one of the benches and a woman came up and was whispering something fast which we interpreted as having to pay to enter. It turned out that we got fleeced for 10 pesos. We had to laugh after. Attached to the side of the cathedral was a fine museum of the indigenous peoples of this area, lifestyles, legends, and artifacts.

In front of the museum an entrepreneur was set up to give eye examinations and fill the prescription immediately from an assortment of lenses and glasses. The picture is not focused, as I was in a hurry to take the photo, but it is such an unusual site (for us, anyway). See the eye exam poster on the side of the window. . .

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On the North side of the big plaza in front of the cathedral was a government building with a long line of people, so we had to ask what was happening. It turns out they were waiting to pay their taxes. Also along there was a nurse at a small table giving out vaccinations for the flue.

Influenza shots
Influenza shots

There were some fine bronze sculptures in the plazas, but of course the big Museum of Art was closed, it was Monday. So we stopped and had an expresso and a cardamom coffee at a neat little shop under the arched breeze way of a fine old building.

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After having a very disappointing Chinese buffet, we explored a bit more and then decided to come home. We got on a bus which soon filled up too full and the driver kept stopping and taking on more passengers which seemed impossible, but still more pushed on. The door would hardly go closed. People would get in the back door, where there was more room, then pass their fare hand to hand up to the driver, where he would make the change and the ticket and change would make its way back to the passenger. It was so crowded that the fire extinguisher got pushed and a cloud of white powder filled the bus. This is another one of those humerous situations. The people just shook their heads and took it all in stride. We couldn’t see where to get off and went past our stop several stops. No big deal. We walked back streets for a couple of kilometers through interesting neighborhoods till we reached our hotel.

Love walking through neighbourhoods, seeing what kind of houses people have
Love walking through neighbourhoods, seeing what kind of houses people have

Later after a good nap we went out and walked to the grocery store and purchased two cans of ready mixed margaritas, a tres leches cake (three milks cake), and an eight liter jug of water. The margaritas go down like pop, smile, and oh the cake is to die for. Such goes our day. Galen

Margarita from a can, conveniently bought from the grocery store
Margarita from a can, conveniently bought from the grocery store