Trip Reports IICarene Lydia -- Thursday, July 27, 2017 -- 07:24:32 PM
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Guadalajara: Day Four 19 June 2018
More avocado toast, this time for breakfast. Believe it or not, I have never had avocado toast and I am beginning to think that I have been missing out. meli also gave me on pitaya of each color – they do not have a lot of flavor but the magenta and orange definitely have a stronger flavor than the red or white. (Pitaya are not to be confused with pitahaya – dragon fruit – but they are also cactus fruit.) meli said the pitayas are supposed to be good for your cholesterol and the seeds have omega-3. meli also made hot chocolate with chocolate from the ranch.
The plan was to get tortas ahogadas at the best place in Guadalajara for those sandwiches. This is the signature sandwich of Guadalajara and if you do not have one, then you have not been to Guadalajara. Unfortunately, they were closed on Tuesdays and we never made it back, so apparently I have not been to Guadalajara. This is a pocket park in a city that I have never been to.
We walked to the Museo de las Artes de Universidad de Guadalajara.
We took a cab home and had a little time to rest before we left for food court, where meli does yoga upstairs. While she was yoga-ing, I walked around a bit and then went to Rendez-vous – Café de las Artes across the street. I brought the median age of the crowd up by about 30-40 years. I did not realize the patio was smoking until after I sat down but it was okay. I was sitting under a tree, enjoying my sangria, and watching the horse and carriages and horseless carriages go by.
After yoga, we went to the wine bar in the food court, bought a bottle of wine and sat inside and talked and drank and talked and drank. We walked home and stopped for tacos at a small restaurant near meli’s. I think I had beef and tongue and something else I cannot remember and horchata. All were very good.
Guadalajara: Day Five 20 June 2018
Tianguis! Anyone who follows meli on Facebook, sees her Wednesday posts when we get thrill over seeing all the wonderful food she bought at the tianguis (open air market). A few of the vendors sell produce from their own farms but most of the vendors buy from the wholesale market. They are in a different neighborhood every day and in meli’s neighborhood, Wednesday is tianguis day. Just a short walk from her house is several blocks of all kinds of fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, cheeses, eggs, butter, chili peppers, and some clothing and jewelry.
For lunch we had some of the ready-made tamales de elote (corn) we purchased at the tianguis along with cotilla cheese (just on mine) also purchased there and avocados. We also got string cheese and a cheese with habanero peppers for me.
The water guy was shouting “agua” and meli bought a new bottle from him. He carts around water cooler size bottles of water and you give him your empty and purchase a new full bottle.
Later we walked to yoga but stopped along the way for ice cream. This time I had mamey (a tropical fruit) and it was delicious. I cannot describe the taste – it tastes like mamey.
To our surprise, the US Consulate was sporting rainbow colors for Pride Month.
The food court has a cooking school.
I waited for meli in Mercado México. You can order food from several different restaurants in the food court. I got the agave y moras (mezcal with macerated berries and limón and the skin from agave leaves) and a burger sampler (cheese, bbq with cheddar, brie, and guacamole). Most of the restaurants in Guadalajara do not have table settings. Instead either on the table or given to you when you sit down is a small bucket or tin cup with silverware and napkins. And there are always several bottles of hot sauce. (When I was tasting cheeses at the tianguis, the vendor always put the cheese on a piece of bread and the put a drop of hot sauce on it before he gave it to me.)
This tasted as good as it looks.
meli joined me after yoga. She ordered some food and then we went inside the food court to listen to the jazz trio, the Tom Kessler Trio. We drank wine and talked and listened to the music.
There was an electric guitarist, an acoustic guitar that was acting as the bass, and a drummer. The drummer was brilliant – he made himself heard over the amped guitars, yet he was quiet and never overwhelmed them.
I bought churros for the walk home.
Guadalajara: Day Six 21 June 2018
We got up early on Thursday because we were taking a road trip to Teuchitlán, which is the town next to Guachimontones, where the nearest pyramids are.
It had rained the night before (as it had every night), so meli thought it would be a good idea to take a later bus so that the land would not be muddy. We went to the old bus station to get the bus to Teuchitlán. The trip would be a couple of hours.
The bus dropped us off in Teuchitlán and we walked around the town. It was like any small town I would see in Puerto Rico or Managua. Stray dogs running around, roosters crowing, and men riding horses through the streets. There was a plaza with the church and a municipal building across from it. But the big church was up a hill. We did see a policeman with his automatic rifle (they all carried one). And in Guadalajara, we saw a truck go by with the police pointing their rifles out. But I only saw that once.
We took a taxi to Guachimontones, which I am glad we did. Walking there plus the walk up to the pyramids would have killed me.
A timeline as you walk to the museum.
The view from the museum.
A mural when you walk in.
And a map on the floor. Guadalajara is in the far left corner. Guachimontones and Teuchitlán are mid-right. You are looking north to south.
meli explained to me how this is a recent excavation. No one thought there were civilizations this far north in Mexico. The people had died out (conquered by other indigenous people before the Europeans arrived) and in the arid climate the fibers had disintegrated. An American, Phil Weigand, believed that a civilization had lived there. And archeologists are still digging in the area.
The people were named for the nearby town, since no one what they called themselves.
What a burial looks like. There are dogs to help lead you to the afterlife.
Representations of what the area looked like.
And more gorgeous views. No camera can capture the beauty of the views from the museum or from the pyramids.
Panels that you could open and close to see how the pyramids were built.
Their representation of a dance.
A ball court. Later we would see an actual court.
Courts from different regions. Similar but different. meli said a variation of the game is still played today – you hit the ball with your hip.
The volcanoes gave them many types of obsidian.
Then we walked to a reproduction of a home.
Then the walk up to the pyramids. I am out of shape, so I was out of breath and had to take some breaks. And luckily, the ball court is on the way up, so you get to stop and check that out and catch your breath.
And finally you see the La Iguana. You cannot climb on that pyramid but you can climb on to the smaller platforms around it.
meli and I sat for a bit. It was very quiet – very few people. But there was someone playing a pennywhistle nearby. If you look carefully, you can see him on top of this very large pyramid, El Gran Guachi.
We walked downhill to back to Teuchitlán.
We stopped at a small store for shaved ice, which was made like piragua (shaving the ice off a large block). I had the guanabana. Wall with broken glass bottles as security measures fascinated me.
There was poetry written on walls throughout the town.
We went up to the big church. A funeral was taking place. We got there just as the mass was ending and a truck pulled out carrying all the flowers. The hearse followed with what looked like half the town walking behind. A mariachi band also played and followed the hearse. Later we saw black draping at the municipal building, so someone important must have died.
Hipsters are everywhere. Even in small towns in Mexico.
The bus came right away and we were making good time until we got just outside of Guadalajara proper. A heavy storm came through, streets were flooded, and traffic stopped. We were not going to make our reservation at Alcalde, especially since we both needed to shower before we went out to eat. We went to another restaurant that meli likes and where there is another owner who she knows - Pal Real. This restaurant came the closest to be a hipster restaurant. It started in a garage and then was built out. The floor is from MoMA.You are handed a book for the menu (in either Spanish or English). I had a Ni muy muy Ni tan tan white wine and tongue with corn flour dough in pesto, fresh cheese, and chichilo (the least known of the seven types of moles in Oaxaca). Despite the strength of the mole, you could still taste some of the earthiness of the tongue and they were a good pairing. I would say if you had never had tongue or even if you did not like it, that the mole would cover up the taste enough that you would not even know you what the protein was. Another excellent choice of restaurant.
We could not go to Alcalde on Saturday night because meli had planned for us to go to her friend Oscar’s restaurant. And we decided at the last minute to go to Puerto Vallarta on Friday and spend the night, so that meant there were other sites that I would be missing. Travel to other small towns and more exploration of the historic district in Guadalajara including the church and a folk art museum that meli had not been to yet.
Guadalajara/Puerto Vallarta: Day Seven 22 June 2018
meli was able to find us a hotel on the beach at Puerto Vallarta. It is off-season but the price still was incredible – only MXN$100 for the night. meli made breakfast – quesadillas with squash blossoms.
On the way to the bus station we went down Avenida Chapultepec, where the Niños Héroes Monument to the six teenage military cadets who died defending Mexico City’s military academy from the US during the Mexican-American War. There are also statues of the cadets. Currently the monument is covered with the names of the 43 disappeared college students in 2014.
We went to the new bus station for the five-hour bus ride through the mountains to the coast. The buses are better than first class on a plane. Lots of legroom, huge comfortable seats, and a TV to watch movies or listen to music. The buses were double-decker and our seats were on top for a great view. You get your choice of soda or water and a Krispy Kreme donut for the trip. On the return trip we got a sandwich. meli also brought cut up fresh pineapple and jicama and I brought the string cheese. Even though I did not get to go on a mezcal tour, I did see plenty of agave farms, especially when we got near Tequila. When the highway ends the bus either goes south to Puerto Vallarta or north to Mazatlán. Going southwest we were on small winding mountain roads that went through a few small towns. I saw a man wearing a straw hat and walking along a dirt road with his machete – a scene that would not be out of place in Puerto Rico. I also saw a big lumber truck on its side in a ditch off the side of the road – luckily the mountain side.
It was a 30-minute taxi ride to the Hotel Emperador, which may have seen better days but there is a lovely view of the beach and the malecón from the terrace, there were two beds in our suite plus a trundle bed, and a kitchenette. And like all the hotels on the beach, there is a restaurant attached to it. The hotel is at one end of the malecón and after we checked in, I went into the water for a bit and then we walked the length of the malecón.
Vendors walk along the malecón and there is artwork – statues and art on the sidewalk. Opposite the beach are loud bars and restaurants and souvenir shops full of tourists. And we saw Los Voladores de Papantla spinning around a pole. On our first walk we saw them when they were almost done. On the walk back to the hotel we caught the entire show and watched them quickly spin down the pole.
In some spots there is barely any beach and there is just rocks. There is a river that runs into the ocean underneath the malecón.
Our dinner that night was at El Arrayán, which was uphill a few blocks from the beach, and is another restaurant where meli knows the owner. There is an arrayán tree in the middle of the open courtyard in the center of the restaurant. On one side is the bar and the kitchen and on the other side of the courtyard are the tables. It is another comfortable inviting place to eat. There was a large table near us of Americans. meli and I were trying to figure out the relationships. There were two older adults (Married? Brother and sister?) and each seemed to be the parent of only some of the teenage/early 20s children. Was it a blended family? Did an aunt and uncle take some nieces and nephews along on their trip with their family?
I had their signature margarita made with arrayán fruit. I had another drink also but do not remember what it was. I ordered the duck tostadas (shredded pickled duck, sesame corn crispy tostada, black beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado and crema), shrimp red pozole (dried pepper-shrimp stock, hominy corn, fresh shrimp), and salad (lettuce, tomato, basil, cucumber, olives, panela cheese, oregano-mustard dressing). The waitress said that was too much food and suggested that I get half a pozole. She was correct – it was a lot of food. The portions were big and the food was delicious. Yet I still had room for dessert – a goat milk flan. You could taste the goat milk, which made for an interesting twist.
On the way back to the hotel I heard a man singing and playing on acoustic guitar “En mi viejo San Juan” on one of the side streets. I had always been told that the song (from the 1940s) was popular throughout Latin America despite it being a lament about missing Puerto Rico and here was proof.
Puerto Vallarta/Guadalajara Day Eight: 23 June 2018
My final full day in Mexico. When I got out of bed I heard meli yell, “Hey!” from the terrace. Some of our upstairs neighbors were throwing bread for the pigeons, who were then swarming around the terrace. meli had also captured a photo of the orange cat I had seen walk across the roof the night before (our terrace abutted against the restaurant roof) and we were hoping the cat would show up to chase away the pigeons, which he eventually did. We saw some people throwing a fishing net off the malecón and immediately come up with fish.
Mexico was playing in the World Cup that morning and the beach vendors were lined up in front of the restaurants watching the game. While we were in the water we heard cheers for the first goal of the game. You could hear the cheering up and down the beach – there was a slight delay as the sound would get to us. The second goal was scored when I was sitting on the terrace while meli showered. So we missed all three of Mexico’s goals but heard the cheering in the streets.
The water was warm, not very salty, very calm. meli floated and I watched the pelicans hang onto boats. Several of them swarmed one fishing boat when the fisherman was cutting bait. He would occasionally throw out some bait to them. While in the water I could feel fish bumping up against me but could not see them.
There were hotel lounge chairs on the beach and we dried off and went back to the room to shower, change, and check out. We could have ordered drinks or food from the restaurant if we had wanted to.
We decided on seafood and looked for a restaurant on the beach. I do not know if all the restaurants are the same quality but Cuates y Cuetes was a good choice on our parts. There was a musician playing acoustic guitar and singing. The service was excellent. And the vendors come to your table but leave as soon as you say you are not interested. They sold everything – hairbraiding, souvenirs, clothing, shrimp on a stick, plates of oysters, and drinks. meli did stop the masseuse and got a foot massage. I watched the cranes and seagulls. The waiter went to grab something at a one of the empty tables. I thought it was a mouse but as he was turning the towel to show me I saw it was a small bat and covered my eyes until he went away. We shared guacamole and chips and salsa and meli had a ceviche and I had a shrimp and octopus salad.
It was a fast cab ride to the bus station. The driver showed us a photo of his wife on his phone and a video of the proposal. This was not spontaneous but came out of the conversation that meli was having with him. [meli's edit: "The taxista showing me his proposal video came out of the blue, as far as I was concerned. I had just been to Vallarta for the hotel project, and a couple of the employees that I interviewed maintained that it is a town with very defined class differences. I wanted to know if that was an impression held by others, so I had asked was he from Vallarta, blablabla. we we're talking about earning a living, high season/low season, cruise ship tourism, the cost of food, that sort of thing. He said he was married, and that they wanted kids, but wanted to have a house first. Then he brought out the video of him in full firefighter gear (he was a firefighter at some point, I think, though that was rather unclear), proposing to his wife in front of the fire engine named in honor of her father, who had been the fire captain. He had died, so the taxista hadn't been able to ask formally to marry his daughter, but proposing in front of the rest of the company and the engine was like having his approval. I think that he pulls out that video to show anyone he can under whatever pretext!"]
The bus was full but there were two seats left but not next to each other. We crossed the river that separates Puerto Vallarta from Nuevo Vallarta. And then it was back through the same small towns. I did not get any photos of them but there was lots of flamboyant trees (a symbol of Puerto Rico) on the side of the road. We did get off one stop before Guadalajara – Zapopan (meli said that now I had seen all three bus stations) – because the taxi ride would be the same length and it would be less time on the bus.
Iggy Pop on the jazz station.
I got very excited for a minute and then realized it was the wrong Lucero.
We showered and changed and went to Xokol. Oscar Segundo is indigenous and uses the corn from his own farm to create the dishes. It was long cab ride to the restaurant and meli was thrilled to find out that the restaurant was moving to her neighborhood. Also, Oscar will be doing pop-ups in several cities in the US and I cannot wait to bring people to his place when he is in NYC in September.
His wife Xrysw was making tortillas when we arrived. They nixtamalize their corn and make their own masa and supply tortillas to other restaurants. In addition to Xokol, there is a monthly pop-up, which is less casual. Xokol is tiny – a couple of long tables and benches and what looks more kitchenette than kitchen. A portable grill, plancha, portable sink, and refrigerator. The food was so fresh and so delicious and I could not eat it all and felt terrible about it. meli and I talked about how when the food is fresh good ingredients, you fill up quickly. I can easily eat 15-20 White Castle burgers but just a few bites of Oscar’s food and I was full. We had tortillas with salsa and then tortillas with avocado and cilantro. I had soup with bone marrow – I dug out the bone marrow from the bone but the broth itself was earthy enough. There was corn in the soup. I also had a tortilla filled with cheese and covered with nopales, avocado, and pickled onions. And also a tortilla covered in beans and sausage meat. We drank atole (warm cornmeal drink) and a fermented drink that you can only get there. [meli's edit: "The corn dish isn't considered a soup here; it's a street snack called esquites. It's corn off the cob, either roasted on a comal with epazote and chiles, or cooked in water with epazote and chiles, then served in the broth. It's become popular recently to add things like the bone marrow to the brothy esquites."]
At home we had a nightcap of mezcal and more talk.
The thunderstorm woke me at about 5am on Sunday (day nine). meli made me avocado toast with tomato for breakfast and I lost track of time and had to run upstairs to close my suitcase (not any easy job) when the cab showed up to take me to the airport. The trip home was uneventful. Mexico City is huge (saw it from the plane) and then the flight from MEX to JFK was smooth but we could not get to our gate for an hour, which made people antsy.
A+++++ would visit meli anytime and would visit Guadalajara and Mexico again.
Where oh where do you get the energy! I have been just sitting in (my too hot) house reading about your trip and a bit of Mexican history you had links to, salivating over food descriptions, checking out all the photos, admiring the views ---and not even moving an inch--- and I feel like I need a foot and neck massage, another bottle of water; and a rest.
Of course it's always wonderful to visit friends, but this trip and visit sounds superlative.I'm glad the photos included you and meli.
Thank you, thank you. Love all the details!