October 18-20: Guadalajara

IMG_1400I had been undecided about visiting Guadalajara, one of Mexico’s largest cities and the cradle of mariachi music, but eventually I realized that it would an opportunity missed if I simply drove past it, so we went. Although it was Sunday, the traffic was nuts as many inner-city streets had been blocked off for pedestrians. And yet, I benefited instantly from one of the many urban advantages–social density, a.k.a propinquity–by realizing that, oblivious to the fact that we had crossed a time zone as we left the state of Sinaloa, we had been living by the wrong time for three entire days!

IMG_1401The hotel I had selected is only blocks away from many of the city’s famous churches. It also boasts a secure garage, which we accessed via a freight elevator. Harry wasn’t allowed in the lobby or room, though, so he stayed with la bestia. I visited him every six hours, and–as always–he was a good sport.

IMG_20151019_172954Much like the campgrounds we’ve visited elsewhere in Mexico, Hotel Morales–a beautifully restored gem–was nearly deserted. Maybe this isn’t the season; maybe tourism to Mexico really is down as a result of the drug wars — I pretty much had the entire hotel to myself.

IMG_20151018_145138There is a stop for Guadalajara’s Bus Rapid Transit system right across the street, next to the Church of Francis of Assisi (which unfortunately was locked up).

IMG_20151018_150412A break dance show drew scores of people. I found it remarkable that one of the artists mimicked what was supposed to be the stereotype of a gay man and, in this role, approached the older chap with the green baseball cap who turned away in horror as the crowd burst into laughter. While homosexual civil unions have become part of Mexican law, social acceptance appears to be a different matter still.

IMG_20151019_175756Guadalajara’s cathedral is a stunning architectural accomplishment. Its interior is surprisingly modest, with white-washed walls resembling East Coast Anglican churches.

IMG_20151019_182138With a neoclassical facade and richly ornamented altars, the Church of St. Joseph (San Jose de Gracia) a few blocks away displays the usual Catholic pomp. Its layout evoked happy memories of St. Paul’s in London, probably one of the most pompous Anglican houses of worship in England.

IMG_20151019_214310At night, hundreds of salsa dancers gathered on the Paseo Chapultepec (locally known as Chapu), one of Guadalajara’s bar scenes.

Following a solid breakfast on October 20, Harry and I checked out of our hotel and drove south for about an hour to reach Lake Chapala where I was thrilled to find a pair of Teva sandals for USD16, as well as locally made German-style rye bread for USD4. Eating healthy has been a challenge since we crossed the border; not just that most dishes come with at least one variety of meat, but almost every processed product also contains either high fructose corn syrup or several artificial sweeteners. Even “natural” and “Greek” yogurts are heavily sweetened (no wonder, then, that Mexico has recently surpassed the United States as the country with the most overweight population in the world). Finding food made of natural ingredients therefore is a source of considerable joy… We pulled into Roca Azul (blue rock) campground near Jocotepec and spent a quiet night under giant ficus-type trees.

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