Travel story: The grand city of Guadalajara
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of travel stories from Edwards residents Dennis Jones and Yolanda Marshall about their journey through Mexico. Jones is a professional photographer. View more of his work at http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com.
Changes, always changes. We’re on a bus leaving Guadalajara, returning to Puerto Vallarta for our flight to Denver. Yolanda has been trying to delay our departure but there are no reward seats until mid-April.
We’re returning to spend a couple of days with friends in Vail, to get some important things done, and to get our car and drive back to San Miguel de Allende for March.
Having rented our house in Singletree to pay for the travel, we have no place to live. We considered southern Europe, but it seems right to return to San Miguel. Plus, with a car, Yolanda can buy all the pottery and furnishings she wants. There are incredible deals on beautiful, hand-made ceramics in Dolores Hidalgo, the birthplace of the Mexican revolution and only a half hour from San Miguel.
I hadn’t been to Guadalajara in 30 years. I always remember it fondly from my time playing French horn with the orchestra of the state of Mexico. We played a series of concerts in the stunningly ornate 19th century Teatro Degollado, a jeweled music box, it’s gilded tiers of boxes rise to the opulent ceiling and grand, crystal chandelier.
Unfortunately, there are no concerts now so I’m unable to show Yolanda the theater’s interior. A pity. The impressive facade is also undergoing renovation. Years of heavy pollution having taken a toll.
I recall the plazas surrounding the theater but, memory being imperfect, I am unprepared for the grandiosity of the multiple plazas, huge public spaces and colonial majesty of the buildings constituting the heart of Guadalajara.
At one of the several tourist kiosks we learn of an exhibition of paintings tracing the progression of Spanish art from Picasso to the present. It’s Tuesday, therefore free, so we immediately head there.
Upon entering the museum, the oldest colonial building in Guadalajara, we learn the central building contains the masterwork of one of Mexico’s finest muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco. We join a tour with an English speaking guide explaining the enormous murals covering the interior surfaces of this large, former church. We’re further fortunate that our guide did his doctoral dissertation on the very murals he’s explaining.
Afterward, we aimlessly wander the long succession of sculpture laden plazas, thinking that Saturday nights here must be particularly lively. Eventually we find ourselves in a plaza along one side of the enormous Cathedral. An ornate band stand sits on its pedestal in the center of the plaza. The municipal band is tuning up and along with several hundred other tourists and residents, we spend the next hour watching the day fade and the lights come on, listening to the music of Rossini, Von Suppe and Rodrigo.
The following morning we catch a bus to Tlaquepaque, a suburb known for its arts, crafts and ambiance. I have fond memories of wandering the streets and purchasing some of my favorite glassware here. I’m not disappointed.
The center of town has been cordoned off and you can only walk the streets. Stores selling high-quality art and crafts as well as numerous lovely courtyard restaurants, music pouring forth, line the streets. Another gem of Mexican culture.
We wander through cavernous stores crammed floor to ceiling with new, made to look old, religious artifacts. For some inexplicable reason, dozens of ancient sewing machines sit rusting in the open courtyard.
Another store sells massive, dark, colonial-style furniture ” bedsteads, cupboards, and bars, even a set of 20-foot high doors from an old church.
Other stores sell paintings, whimsical animal sculptures and ornate pewter furnishings, beautiful clothes and lovely jewelry all in exquisite taste.
As I now sit on the bus, with Guadalajara an hour behind, and the land taking on a blue-green tinge as fields of Blue Agave snake toward the encircling mountains, I’m reminded of the incredible Tequila stores in Tlaquepaque. I had no idea there were so many brands, 350 in one store alone. Two gallon jugs of rotgut to exquisitely designed, ceramic bottles selling for around $90, line the walls.
Most quality tequilas sell for between 250 and 450 pesos, $17-$32, very reasonable prices, another reason to get our car and return to the tranquility of San Miguel de Allende.
Dennis Jones is a local photographer and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.