Back from the tour to Guadalajara! We saw Tlaquepaque, took the José Cuervo Express to the town of Tequila, went to Tonalá and toured Guadalajara – all in 4 days!
Before going further, make sure you have a beverage and a light snack handy! We had a full four day trip and the telling will take a few minutes to read!
Tour Guide: Christian Mazatlan
In October, when hurricane Willa was headed to Mazatlán, I high tailed it out of town to Guadalajara/Tlaquepaque to hide out. Knowing I was doing this tour in December, I thought I’d stay in the same hotel and use my time to get familiar with the area. I’m glad I did, as I was able to make the most of my time this trip.
Friday. We started in the morning from Mazatlán and had a little lunch in Tepic. My best impression of Tepic from the bus trips that have all gone through there, is that they have a LOT of Pollo Feliz restaurants! I’m a fan, but Tepic seems to have Pollo Feliz like Seattle has Starbucks 🙂
On to Guadalajara, we arrived early afternoon at the hotel, the La Villa del Ensueño Boutique Hotel. I wasn’t aware that they had rooms on both sides of the street, but this time we were in the other building from where I stayed in October. Rooms were just as nice, but my shower was a tad small – and I’ve lost weight! Were I any bigger, I would have had issues. Still the free welcome drink on arrival, and very nice breakfasts were included (buffet breakfast two days).
After getting settled we piled into the van and headed to the shopping district of Tlaquepaque. Needless to say, I purchased another Rodo Padilla piece. This one is more of a traditional Rodo Padilla style. Unfortunately we arrived too late to grab a bite in the mercado, but we all met and ate at one of the restaurants in the area. Food was good, but I was tired and have no idea of what I ate! Edit: It was birria! Sometimes a little coffee will kick start the old memory!
Saturday, another up early day! Again the piling in the van game, and on to the station for the Jose Cuervo Express! I like trains, so this was the deciding factor for me in doing this particular tour. Nice cars, but the REALLY nice car was one up from us. Still, we had tastes of three different tequilas with an explanation (in Spanish) of each, and of how to drink tequila. Cocktails and a nice selection of finger foods were also included – and many of the riders participated heavily! We had a large group in our car that were celebrating a birthday – and yes, they were doing a pretty good job celebrating!
Once we arrived in the town of Tequila, we had another shot of tequila and the presentation from the train was repeated in English for us. I now know the proper way to drink tequila – ask and I’ll explain, but you’ll need to buy me a shot so I can show you!
After the presentation, we toured the José Cuervo tequila plant, learning about the distillation process and then having …. yes! More tequila! By now it was lunch time and several options were given to us by our English speaking guide, Lupita. One of the options was taking a van to another location for a buffet lunch. You don’t have to ask me twice to go to a buffet! It’s not that I want a lot of food, it’s more that I want a selection of items that don’t include things I’m not particularly fond of. Well, this time I had a lot of things I liked! The restaurant is the on site restaurant at the Hotel Villa Tequila. Very nice grounds, and restaurant. Staff all spoke excellent English (except the woman in town who directs you to the van). And the price of lunch was comparable to the buffet at the Cholula place in town. Were I going back to Tequila, I would definitely stay at the Hotel Villa Tequila.
Back at the José Cuervo plant, we had a show of mariachis, then traditional dancers. It was all very loud, and a few of us decided to listen to the presentation from several yards outside the auditorium! Then we played our favorite game again, but this time we piled into a premium bus! Off to the blue agave fields where el jimador gave a demonstration of how the blue agave is grown and harvested as Lupita described what he was doing. Very informative, and a lot more information than I received in 2010 when I did a tequila factory tour in Puerto Vallarta. And they also provided snacks – I can say that the salchichas and fries were not a winner, but the elote en vaso was! Why México thinks sausage has to be a hot dog is something I’ll never understand. I’m pretty sure there was tequila available in some form, but I didn’t search it out 🙂
Back in the bus and on our way to Guadalajara, we played two games of lotteria (México’s version of bingo). The winners received small bottles of vodka! No, they got TEQUILA! Thankfully, I was not a winner – I’m tequila’d out for a while! I was still a little hungry after we got back, so I went to my go-to corner taqueria for a couple of tacos de lengua and a toni-col! Then off to bed as we had another early day ahead.
Sunday was shopping day in Tonalá. Shopping is not the proper word to describe what goes on – there are blocks, and blocks of sidewalk stalls. Food, crafts, kitsch – you’ll find everything you ever wanted if you wander long enough! Then there are the brick-and-mortar shops! ¡Dios mio! My head began to swim after a while! Strangely I was able to keep a little map in my head of where I was so I could get back to where I needed to be when it was time to leave! I don’t know how I did it! Ok, I did have to ask our tour guide to confirm where the van was parked when I ran into him while I was having lunch. During my travels, I ran into one of the couples in our group having a cup of coffee at a little bistro. Then one of the other couples said they had been there, so when I hit 15,000 steps and started getting tired, I made my way there and had a little lunch. Enchiladas verde con pollo – and they were very good. If you go to Tonalá, they’re kitty corner from the big TONALÁ sign, and down just a couple of stores.
As we gathered at the van to go back to the hotel, some of the group decided they wanted to try a torta ahogada. Ahogada means drowned, and I’ve wanted to try one – but have passed since you need to get messy eating it, and I don’t normally carry hand sanitizer. But I went with, and did try a bite! Traditional eating method is either using your hands, or eating with a spoon. The torta (sandwich) is on a bollilo roll and then covered with a light red sauce. Filling is pork. Using a spoon is not easy, so I’ll just be sure to pack the hand sanitizer next time! My neighborhood birria joint (El Mono. Tortas ahogadas y tacos.) specializes in them. I like their birria, so I trust I’d like their torta ahogada as well.
Shopping – I was looking for talavera flower pots. Several places were selling them, so I asked prices and then right before going back to the van, I bought at the cheapest. 4 small, 4 medium, and 4 large (but not huge) pots – under 700 pesos ($35 usd). I also bought a hanging light fixture for outside my apartment – but it had an unfortunate accident on my stairs 🙁 Looking at where my light is, I realized it wouldn’t have worked there anyway – and it was under $20 usd, so I’m not too sad. After piling into the van and returning to the hotel, we went back to the shopping area of Tlaquepaque! This time we were there early enough for the mercado to be open, so I was able to do a little more exploration. I wanted to get a bite to eat, but most of the food stalls were closed, and those that were open were packed! Plus, I admit I was still a little full from lunch – so I skipped a potential eating adventure.
Dinner was at Santo Coyote. The restaurant is so big that they gave us a tour guide after our meal and we spent about 20 minutes exploring the different sections and levels! Food was pricy, but very good. I had beef medallions, and they were cooked exactly as I ordered them. The big hit with our group was the included dessert bar – there was a large selection of different items, all very good. I even had several, and I’m not usually into sugar.
Monday. For those that are still reading, Monday was our last day. Our agenda was breakfast, check out of the hotel, then on to a tour of Guadalajara. When we arrived in town we were near the mercado. I didn’t make it there in October, but I had taken a tour of the city, so I opted to wander the mercado. The place is huge! Three levels of shops, food, produce, meat, food, watches, clothing, food, electronics, food, shops, …. It’s like Tonalá, but organized! But no talavera, at least in the shops that were open 🙁 We’d arrived early, so most of the shops were closed. Food stalls were mostly open though, so I was able to watch the hustle and bustle of the workers and customers. Strangely, the menudo place was packed! People must have been celebrating something on Sunday, as tripe soup is the recommended cure for a hangover 🙂
After several rounds in the mercado, I ventured out and about in the streets of Guadalajara. Thankfully, cathedral steeples are visible from almost everywhere, so I was able to get my bearings and find the main area of town where I’d toured during my last visit. I always get angst about being lost, but never seem to have it happen – guess my internal compass is working! On my way to the cathedral, I explored a couple of streets I hadn’t been to, and saw a few sites for a second time. Getting a little tired, I gave our tour guide a buzz, and he said the group on the city tour was just around the corner! A short hustle and I joined up and finished the tour with them! We all met and had a little lunch at a really nice (structurally) restaurant, with really bad food! Ok, not everyone’s food was bad. Several of us though, had salads – and they were wet (standing water under the lettuce wet), and had been made with cheap bottled dressings. Prices were decent, and I was hungry, so I ate mine. Salads in Mazatlán are hit and miss too.
Oh, we had a ride in a horse drawn carriage as well! The last time I did that was in New York and I think I was 15. It wasn’t as fun as I’d remembered, and then our horse rear-ended the carriage ahead of us – and he was not happy about it. But we did see a part of the city that I’d not seen before, so it was interesting. I think this would be the one thing I’d change though – it would have been nicer to have skipped the carriage ride, and gotten home a little earlier.
One last round of ‘pile in the van’, and we were on our way home! I am at the younger end of the age scale for our group and I was POOPED! The silence on the way home was deafening! All in all, it was a great adventure! I enjoyed everything but for the one soggy lettuce lunch, and while it wasn’t a budget tour, the price was very reasonable for what we did. I would recommend the tour to anyone who has an interest!
Just in case you enjoy a little Rodo Padilla, this is the piece I purchased this trip!
¡Ay mi cielo, aqui te traigo lo que te prometi, tu luna y tus estrellas!
Oh my heaven, here I bring you what I promised you, your moon and your stars!