Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers forsook the azure waters of
the islands for the fountains and traffic circles of Guadalajara.
Here is her report:
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- It's Mexico's second-largest city after
Mexico City. It contains colonial homes, baroque churches, markets,
mariachis, monuments and a surprising number of shoe stores.
Yet Guadalajara is not a destination that often pops up on tour
packages or FIT itineraries, although it should. I spent three days
here this spring and could have spent more.
The Centro Historico, featuring four plazas laid out in the
shape of a cross, was my starting point. Plaza Tapatia, Plaza de la
Liberacion, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de los Laureles surround the
cathedral, the heart of the old city.
This is people-watching bliss, especially along Plaza Tapatia,
whose seven-block-long promenade is Guadalajara's gathering place
day and night. Vendors sell everything from candy to canaries.
On Sundays, Plaza de la Liberacion is the setting for dressed-up
families parading up and down after church services.
Plaza de Armas is Guadalajara's traditional square, where free
concerts of Jaliscan (from the state of Jalisco) music take place
on Thursday and Sunday evenings -- as they have done continuously
Planted with Indian laurel trees, Plaza de los Laureles is a
nice place to rest the mind and body between excursions.
Anchoring the four plazas is the cathedral, whose twin 200-foot
towers, emblazoned with yellow and blue tiles, are a conspicuous
and famous landmark.
Begun in 1558 and consecrated in 1616, the structure is almost
as old as the city itself, and remains one of its top
In fact, Guadalajara's churches in general seem to draw crowds.
The city center alone has 14 churches along with the cathedral.
Even more plentiful are monuments and buildings, whose
architectural styles run the gamut from baroque to colonial.
The Regional Museum of Guadalajara near the cathedral is quite cool
-- literally. Its thick stone walls function like air conditioners
on hot days.
The exhibits of the charros (Mexican cowboys) and a fiberglass
replica of a 1,700-pound meteorite discovered near the city in 1792
Other highlights of my visit:Mercado Libertad (Liberty Market) near Calzada Independencia is
an enormous maze of vendor stalls under one roof.
Haggling is permitted for everything from fruits and vegetables
to tortilla presses and herbal potions.
Anyone who is squeamish should avoid some of the food stalls,
such as those selling tripe stew and calves' heads.Plazuela de los Mariachis, near the Mercado, is known for the
mariachi bands that play day and night.
Cafes and restaurants line the plaza, and bands stroll, strum
and offer a song to their customers for a price.Casa de las Artesanias de Jalisco, located near the Parque Agua
Azul 20 blocks from the center of town, contains more handicrafts
than I'd ever seen in one place.
This excursion set me back many pesos, but both the quality and
quantity could not be beat. It's open daily and admission is
free.Tlaquepaque (teh-lack-ee-pack-ee), about eight miles southeast
of town, is home to high-quality and distinctively hand-painted
pottery, tiles, blown glass, furniture and carved wood.
Many shops and galleries are housed in refurbished old mansions
with thick stone walls and iron gates.
Prices are high, haggling is a no-no and most shops close for
siesta between 2 and 4 p.m.Just before Tlaquepaque is Tonala (toh-nah-lah), another
pottery center with lower prices and less flair.
The best days to visit are Thursdays and Sundays, when the
open-air market takes place. Items are spread out on the sidewalks,
and street entertainers mingle with shoppers.
Some of the glass-blowers invite visitors to watch them at work
in their studios behind the shops.
There is a bus (No. 275) that departs regularly for Tlaquepaque
and Tonala from Guadalajara's historic center. The trip takes about