Guadalajara (Part 1) :: In the Heart of the City

Murals in a plaza & the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, around the corner from our hostel.

Wowza, we have lots to catch up on!  Sorry we’ve been so silent on the blog lately, we’ve been visiting with family and we’ve also been hunkered down working on our Tiny House book – turns out it takes a lot more time to write a book than we thought (kind of similar to how it took a lot more time than we thought it would to actually build our house ….hmm…. I’m sensing a theme here!  But, hey, this is another “first time” for us, so we’re learning as we go.).  Other exciting things are happening behind the scenes here too, like our meeting with and interviewing folks in the area who are doing some incredibly inspiring work (we’ll share videos soon) and, last but certainly not least, the stars have aligned to allow us to focus on some really important life-work, but that’s a story we’ll share with you another time.  For now, I want to get you up to date so let’s start where we left off – Guadalajara!  There’s a lot to cover here so I’m going break our time up in to several posts, this is Part 1.

August 14 – September 10, 2012

Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico and we were excited by it’s energy.  The location of our hostel, the Casa Vilasanta, teeters between the “Colonia Americana” section of the city and the “Zona Centro” (or historical center) and is perfect for those who prefer to spend most of their time in the cultural heart of the city.  Our originally intended two week stay turned in to a 26 day stay, something we’ve heard often happens to touring cyclists passing through!

We loved walking or cycling through the older neighborhoods where every corner revealed amazing architectural delights and blazing colors.  Occasionally we would come upon tiny mini-markets, bookstores or a park, where we would find lovers sitting on benches or sprawled on the green spaces smooching (seriously, EVERY park is FULL of amorous couples – love IS alive in Mexico!).  Traveling westward through the Colonia Americana we found neighborhoods of ornately decorated historical McMansions, some of which had been turned in to public or government buildings (like the U.S. Consulate).  Upon crossing Chupultepec Street colonial housing morphed in to modern skyscrapers of high-priced condos and we discovered Chupultepec Street’s walking avenue where street performers, concerts and sometimes indigenous crafts vendors could be found on weekends.  Heading south we would run in to the industrial section of town after meandering through mostly residential areas sprinkled with small businesses.  On the East side of us sat the Historic Center, where we could find blocks and blocks of early colonial architectural gems, corners where night-time Mariachi bands performed and the largest public market in Mexico, the Mercado San Juan de Dios, which is three stories high, covers over 4,000 square meters and offers almost 3,000 vendor booths selling everything imaginable.

El Expiatorio Cathedral, Guadalajara

Inside of the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento – it’s simplicity much more beautiful, in our opinion, than the more-popular Guadalajara Cathedral.

Historic Center, Guadalajara

In Historic Center Guadalajara.

Teatro Degollado (theatre), Guadalajara

Teatro Degollado

Pinatas, Guadalajara

Piñata shop in Guadalajara.

Shampoo, Soap market, Guadalajara

BYOBottle and re-fill your shampoos, creams, etc..

Markets in Historic Center, Guadalajara

Some streets in the Historic Center are blocked off from motor-traffic.

Taking a Shade Break, Guadalajara

Taking a break in the plaza.

Guadalajara Cathedral from Plaza de Liberacion

A photography show in a plaza, Guadalajara Cathedral

Photography Exhibit in the Plaza de Liberacion

The photographs were of scenes from around Mexico.

Photography Exhibit in the Plaza de Liberacion

Pottery Table in the Plaza de Liberacion

Beautiful pottery on the plaza.

Female shoe-shiner off the Plaza de Liberacion

The first female shoe-shiner I’ve seen in Mexico.

Sidewalk Scene from Guadalajara

Street vendors everywhere.

Fruit Vendor, Guadlajara

Our most-visited type of vendor, those who sell various fruits (usually cost around 20 pesos or ~$1.50 U.S.)

San Juan de Dios Market, Guadalajara

The Mercado San Juan de Dios from the third floor.

San Juan de Dios Market, Guadalajara

Mercado San Juan de Dios Vegetable vendors.

Lots of Bras, none without underwire, Guadalajara

Mexicans like their padded and under-wire bras – can’t find a simple non-padded exercise bra anywhere!

Street Scene, Guadalajara

Where the Mariachi bands come out to play.

Mural in Guadalajara

Handmade brooms are used to clean streets

People who sweep the streets use these really beautiful hand-made brooms.

Side Street, Guadalajara

A quiet side street.

Tree taking over Cement

We were amazed that the beautiful HUGE trees survived in the city – trunks were being swallowed by cement and asphalt.

Tree Taking Over House & Fence

This tree seems to have revolted, swallowing up the fence and the house! They survive despite all the obstacles.

Scenes from Guadalajara

Churches churches and more churches

Ferreteria = Hardware Store, Guadalajara

A hardware store.

Plaza de Armas, Art sale, Guadalajara

Local artists selling work on the plaza near the cathedral.

Kai & Sheila in Teatro Degollado

Our day at Teatro Degollado, what a magical place!

Teatro Degollado

Teatro Degollado

Teatro Degollado Folklorico performance

Ballet Folklorico at the Teatro Degollado

Although we usually make all of our own meals to save money, we also try to take advantage of the dining options a city the size of Guadalajara has to offer.  When we wanted to cook our own food in the hostel’s kitchen we would gather food from the local organic bakery (La Panaderia), a natural food store (EcoTienda) and the grocery store a few blocks East.  If we wanted to live it up we’d head West toward Chupultepec street and beyond, where we could find cafes serving chai lattes, could spend an evening at our favorite Indian restaurant (Goa) or we could gorge ourselves on a very reasonably priced and tasty vegetarian lunch at Vegetariano Zanahoria.  And if we were in a mood to explore we would wander around the streets of our neighborhood or the historic center, where we would find hole-in-the-wall sandwich shops that served torta ahogadas, sit-down historic restaurants that served pozole or birria, or street vendors that served everything from hamburguesas to tacos to freshly roasted corn-on-the-cob slathered with mayo, sprinkled with queso fresco (a crumbly cheese), sprayed with margarine and then topped with a dash of salt and chili (still haven’t tried that but I plan to and will share photos with you when I do).  Unfortunately we couldn’t really find many street vendors in the historical center selling anything but meat-based meals so when we hit food-coma after a few hours of searching for vegetarian options we would often find ourselves sitting in the Chai restaurant on Juarez street where they served fairly-affordable and decently-sized portions of international fare.  We only wish we would have discovered the fabulous vegetarian restaurant El Jardin Buffet Nutricional Vegetariano, located just around the corner from the hostel on La Paz street, earlier in our stay.

Kai in Casa Villasanta Kitchen, Guadalajara

Kai using the kitchen at Casa Villasanta.

Dinner at Casa Villasanta, Guadalajara

Kai’s always making us something that’s delicious and healthy.

Bulk Peppers, Guadalajara

Picking up sandwiches, Guadalajara

Grabbing a quick bite at a sandwich shop.

Nieve (Ice), Flavored & Handmade, Guadalajara

Always room for Nieve (water-based ice cream made with natural fruits and other fresh ingredients).

San Juan de Dios Market, Guadalajara

A Restaurant in the Mercado San Juan de Dios.

La Pandaderia Bakery, Guadalajara

Visiting our favorite neighborhood bakery, La Panaderia

La panaderia Bakery, a favorite in Guadalajara

We might have been attracted to them because of their sign.

In our next post, Guadalajara (Part 2), we’ll share a story of serendipity, will talk about the amazing bicycle culture in the city and will share a video of our ride with thousands of other cyclists.


6 comments to Guadalajara (Part 1) :: In the Heart of the City

  • Jeremy

    It is sooooo good to hear from you guys! I enjoyed the update a lot, even though it is near lunch time for me here and you talked a lot about some yummy stuff. Has this delayed stay helped you re-align your plans for travel through the equator and southern regions? I imagine that at the time you guys start distance riding again you should find favorable seasonable weather.

  • Wow, what a wonderful place. I love the old tree roots bursting through concrete and the Teatro Degollado looks magical 🙂

    • It was wonderful Anna, the trees are a testament to how well nature tries to break through our human scaffolding. Check out the Teatro if you’re ever there, although I would suggest tickets on a lower floor – it was hard to see some things up there!

  • LInda H

    Hey Kai and Sheila,
    Thinking about you today. I haven’t heard from you in awhile, and wondered how you’re doing!!

  • lance kozlowski

    Funny to find this almost 3 years after your trip. I am a Wisconsinite and have lived in GDL since 2006 due to marriage. It’s great to see the way you encountered and appreciated the city… your way of travel is grass-roots heroic. Now that the novelty has worn off, I am not so charmed with GDL, and hope to find a way to move back to the US eventually… but it’s fun for me to see how someone new to town views it and reminds me of things that drew me to begin with… besides my wonderful wife! If you ever make it back to town, please look me up. Great that you had the energy to write of your trials and triumphs and feelings… and pretty good photos besides. Kudos!

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