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Trip Report : Guadalajara and Zacatecas, January 2006

Trip Report : Guadalajara and Zacatecas, January 2006

Old Feb 14th, 2006, 04:33 PM
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Trip Report : Guadalajara and Zacatecas, January 2006

Trip Report: Guadalajara and Zacatecas, January 2006

We just spent a week in Guadalajara and Zacatecas. The weather was perfect, with just a few passing rain clouds. Here�s the report.

We flew from SF to LA to Guadalajara, with a two hour layover in LAX. On the return trip we had a 6 hour layover. The main carrier was Alaska, but the US legs were on American. Our return layover was perfect for us because we could see a relative during that time. For anyone without connection in LA it would be a pain. We arrived in Guadalajara at 6 a.m., took a taxi to the hotel. They had the room ready, so we immediately took a two hour nap.

I give prices in US dollars, assuming that $1 = 10 pesos.

Money: We used ATMs and paid for everything in cash. Tthe first one we used did not charge a fee. When we tried the card in another ATM, we were denied access. The paragraph was too long and too briefly on the screen for me to read completely, but I gather that a foreign card was denied. Since it was Scotiabank, I used my BofA ATM card with success, and I believe without fee because Scotiabank and BofA belong to the same consortium even though the screen asked me to OK a 75 cents fee for withdrawing money.

Taxi information: prices seem to be fairly fixed when going to and from the airport or bus stations. US $20 with tip from the airport, $18 with tip to the airport. I think that the differential has to do with the fee taxis must pay to the airport for waiting there. There was a similar differential to and from the central bus stations in both cities, although I think that we were slightly overcharged from the Guadalajara bus station. Prices are so low that it is not worth worrying about. Within the city and to Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, the rides were metered. Taxis are ubiquitous and can be hailed from anywhere. In Zacatecas, taxi stands appear to be the norm; the taxis have no meters but are supposed to charge a standard fee according to a zone system.

Hotels: We used Fordor�s recommendations. We stayed at the Hotel San Francisco Plaza which is on a little square within four blocks of the main square between the cathedral and the cultural center. A walk up the street led us to the Degollado theater. The hotel is an old-fashioned one, �colonial� looking, although I suspect that it is a building from the first half of the 20th century. It has no AC and sound insulation is nonexistent. It is built around several inner courtyards so that our first room had its door off one of the courtyards and its window giving out to the other. The courtyards are covered but not sealed, and one can hear the muffled street noises (buses in Guadalajara are very noisy). The door to the room has bottom louvers for air circulation so we always heard the fountain in the courtyard below. We had a room with a king-size bed, the sink in the room and an attached bathroom with toilet and shower. The shower had been recently retiled, but the drain and the shower head were the old ones; it worked fine. Price: $52. We would stay there again if we decided to go to Guadalajara, but if you want to read in bed or write at the desk, bring your own reading light; the lighting was very poor. The desk is manned 24 hours a day, so our 5:00 a.m. departure on the last day did not present any problems for paying or getting a taxi.

In Zacatecas we stayed for two nights at the Posada de la Moneda, which had an ideal location. However, the room was much more worn, much smaller, with a mattress that was hard because all the springs had collapsed. All this was minimally acceptable, we are not very fussy, but it turned out that the hot water was nonexistent. It ran at room temperature, insufficient for a shower. Price: $50. We would not stay there again. Fodor�s should drop the Posada de la Moneda from its listing.

Both hotels were listed on web sites for the respective cities.

http://www.allmexicohotels.com/hotel...o.php?idCd=199 and http://www.allmexicohotels.com/hotel...o.php?idCd=617

and both gave the possibility of reserving on line one way or another. But neither confirmed my reservation, so after a week I had a friend who speaks Spanish call them.

As has been our experience in previous years, the hotels leave bottled water in the room which we used for brushing teeth.

Travel in Mexico: We traveled by bus, having discovered a few years ago that first class buses are comfortable and reliable. But to go to Zacatecas we went by second class bus ($21). The bathroom was not useable because it lacked a light, the seats were quite worn. But the legroom was adequate: more than in economy flights. They offer no food, but every so often allow vendors to hop on the bus to sell food, which we did not buy. I did buy a couple of bags of peanuts as a snack during one of the stops. The movies were Home Alone and Home Alone II, both dubbed. The trip lasted five hours. Coming back we used ETN ($32), which is a first class bus. The seats are wider (only three seats across rather than four), the leg room ample. The person in front can recline fully without disturbing you. The lunch they gave use (ham and cheese on white gluey bread) was terrible, we only ate the chips and drank the bottled water they provided. The movies were not dubbed, but subtitled, as they had been a few years ago--so this may be an essential difference between first and second class buses. They also are significantly better: Hurricane Carter a few years ago and Door to Door on this trip, although Little Black Book, the second movie on the return trip is forgettable. The bathroom area is larger and cleaner. The sound comes through headsets rather than being broadcast through speakers as in the second class bus. The trip was just as long. At one point the driver stopped the bus and reminded us that no smoking was allowed. My Spanish is practically non-existent, but between fumar and baños, I suspected that someone had been smoking in the bathroom and that there is a smoke alarm that warns the driver that this is happening. There would have been no other reason for him to stop at that point.

Shopping: The only purchases we made were of two fruit rolls in Zacatecas and a CD of traditional mariachi music (all strings, no brass) in the store inside the Degollado theater. The theater store is good because it has a limited selection--the CD we picked up is produced by the Secretaria de Cultura Jalisco, which in my mind authenticates the style of music. We did visit the Instituto de Artesiana Jalisciense recommended by Fodor�s and found a reproduction or imitation pre-Columbian figure that we really tempted us. It was cheap for what it was ($52 for a female figure about 20 inches high and just as wide--we checked the price about five times, thinking that our eyes were deceiving us), but decided that shipping would be a problem and we did not have a proper space for it in our house. We were tempted by a very elegant pewter tray, thought that it would be a perfect wedding gift or house-warming gift, but could not see such an event in our near future. The store also had some beautiful ceramic vases, probably quite expensive as they had a non tocar sign. The institute is quite a ways from downtown, and I would recommend a bus or taxi to get there, although we walked both ways.

We went to Tlaquepaque, but the stores really did not tempt us, although some viewing was interesting. We then went to Tonalá to see the Bernabe shop and the shop that used to be Jorge Wilmot's studio. 20 years or so ago we purchased two Bernabe ceramics. The style was completely different and so were the prices--it might have been a different member of the family. At any rate, except for the seconds, the current prices were out of our range: $1500 for a medium size ceramic pot. The former Wilmot studio now houses an uninteresting exporter.

Zacatecas is a silver mining town, so some silver is on sale there. We saw a sample of their pottery in Guadalajara, did not see any in Zacatecas itself, but we did not look very hard. Their fabric specialties are lace and fine linens, which do not interest us. We did buy the fruit rolls from the store recommended in Fodor's: Güichito.

Food: We pretty much followed Fodor's 2006 recommendations with a few exceptions. We ate in the Libertad Market, which is not advised. But we were careful as we ordered only well-cooked items: a goat-meat taco and a soup with goat meet in it. I would not eat at the stands around the market (there are flies and especially yellow jackets on the periphery, particularly around the sweets stands) but have no qualms about eating meats at the inside stands. For the sake of open disclosure, my wife did come down with the turista on our return flight six days later, but I did not, and we shared all the food. The only thing we did not share was the water (she did not have any at the stand) because I drank beer, and although the water was bottled, if the waiter came with a glass filled with ice and we said no ice, he simply emptied the glass and poured the bottled water in it.

In Tlaquepaque we ate at a restaurant called the Restaurant Sin Nombre, which supposedly had interesting cooking (Spanish nouvelle, pre-Hispanic and modern Mexican cuisine). It was thus described in the tourist map distributed by the Alliance Française in Guadalajara. It did not live up to its reputation. The menu was standard fare, very limited, and the building looked very run down; it had seen better days. But it is out of the way from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist street.

In Zacatecas we ate in an Italian restaurant across the street from the tourist office on Avenida Hildago. The food was very good, including home-made fettucine. We also had a salad there after we spoke with the owner for a recommended antipasta. He had a limited seclection, all of which included uncooked vegetables, but he swore that the salad was well washed.

We also ate in a fast food establishment located on Av. Hildago in the same building as the Posada de la Moneda. The food is Mexican, freshly prepared, and ideal for a quick lunch or dinner--we had opera tickets for that night.

We followed the Fodor's recommendations, or attempted to whenever possible:

In Guadalajara La Rinconada was OK; my steak was very good, but my wife felt that her fish filet en papillote stuffed with shrimp was too bland, and the guacamole was like baby food. The dessert turned out to be some type of custard in a plastic cup that is sold everywhere in the central market. I do not recommend it.

Tacos Providencia del Centro does not exist anymore.

Birriería las 9 Esquinas is as described. Unfortunately they did not have lamb that night. But its goat was very good.

We went twice to La Fonda de San Miguel. The molcajete is to be recommended, especially the beef version. I had stuffed peppers that were at room temperature, which I did not expect, but it had to be normal because the accompanying grilled vegetables on the same plate were properly heated--the waiter confirmed this.

In Zacatecas we went to La Cuija. It is very good, in a very nice setting, but the wine is forgettable. The owner of the Italian restaurant claimed that there are good wines in Mexico--his came from Baja--but there were transportation problems.

The Café y Neveria Acrópolis is to be recommended for its breakfast and Turkish coffee. We did not try anything but breakfast and an afternoon coffee.

So what did we do if not shopping?

We did a lot of sightseeing and museum visiting. In Guadalajara, one must visit the various sites containing the Orozco murals, particularly the Governor's Palace and the Cultural Center (which I still refer to as the Orphanage). This latter compound is interesting in itself, in the process of renovations, and eventually will make a lovely set of galleries. The central building is the old library whose ceilings and walls are covered with Orozco murals. We wandered through the Libertad market which is not the main food market. My impression that the main food market is on the west side of the center and that we saw it from the bus while going to the Minerva district. We visited the Degollado Theatre, which is impressive in its construction, but the visit was somewhat disappointing in its limitation. One gets to see more of the building when visiting the theater in Guanajuato, but the entry to the Degollado is free. I mention above that this is where we picked up a CD of traditional mariachi music. We made a distance mistake and went too far to see the Templo Expiatorio, which gave us the opportunity to see the Minerva district to some degree. While interesting, I feel that a tour with a resident would be a far better experience. The Templo and the museum (Museo de las Artes de la Universidad de Guadalajara) behind it are worth visiting, the museum more for its architecture (and an interesting mural in its auditorium) than for its art, but the time given by Fodor's is far more than needed--one hour for both, unless there is an interesting exhibit in the museum. We wanted to see the Portillo house, but it was closed due to cleaning of the glass covering of its central patio. The Museo Regional de Guadalajara had some nice pre-Columbian items, but most of its later collection was closed to the public, partly because there was a large exhibit of Chinese reproductions.

In Tlaquepaque we visited two museums and the cultural center. Both the Museo Regional de la Cerámica and the Museo del Premio Nacional de la Cerámica Pantaleon Pandura are well worth a visit. The first one divides its exhibits by type of pottery, while the second contains contemporary items of incredible quality. A visit to these two museums covers the high art of Mexican pottery making. The second museum is wrapped around what used to be the chapel of a hospital, and the hospital has been converted into a cultural center. But the entrance to the cultural center is not the same as the entrance to the museum. The cultural center is still a work in progress, but is worth a visit to see what a late 19th century hospital was like in its layout. There was clearly an attempt at having light and airiness in all the wards, and the hospital was built in a grid with little patios dividing the different wards.

Zacatecas is a very nice colonial town, although a good deal of the attractive architecture is actually from between 1880 and 1910. It actually is twinned with Gaudalupe, so that the city has grown enormously (see beginning and ending photos--the web site is given at the end of the report). We stayed exclusively in the core of the colonial city. In Zacatecas we visited the Governor's Palace, with a nice mural/frieze ensemble. We also visited the two museums established by the Coronel brothers. Both are worth a visit, although the Rafael Coronel museum is just incredible. It is located in the ruins of a monastery, so that one enters through Hubert Robert type ruins. The masks themselves (hundreds if not several thousand) are in galleries that have been rebuilt. It is a must. The Pedro Coronel museum is actually Zacatecas' fine arts museum which contains a variety of items. But it is the modern art collection of Pedro Coronel which is the most interesting part of the museum. There also was a room of his art, and we decided that we liked his sculptures much better. We took the Teleférico across the town, which was a nice ride, and an easy way to get back down the mountain. We took it from the Cerro de la Bufa to the other side and walked down to the Pedro Coronel museum. A walk down the Cerro de la Bufa would be much longer.

Music: Zacatecas had a lot of music for the two nights we were there. On the square opposite the opera house there was an orchestral band concert on one evening, playing traditional Mexican music as well as compositions such as the Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave. The percussionists and brass were obviously having a grand time of it. The clarinetists had a more difficult time with with grace note passages that were transcriptions of string passages. The next night there was a folk dance performance on the same plaza, but with canned music. We also ran into the wandering street musicians who play traditional music, stop on little plazas so that couples can dance, with someone pouring free mezcal for the onlookers who are invited to join the parade. The next night we heard them through the wall of the opera house while we were attending a performance of the Magic Flute on Mozart's birthday. The audience was a wide mix of the local population, with toddlers crying every so often and the bored older children running in the hallways behind the auditorium, not realizing that the wooden floors reverberate throughout the building. The strings were bad, the winds OK, and somehow the percussionist was not able to create thunder when necessary--the conductor worked very hard to keep the whole thing together. The soloists were quite decent in terms of singing, but only Monastatos really knew how to act. Tamino and Pamina just sort of crumpled to the stage when they had to faint, although this was one of the rare Paminas I have seen who had some stage presence. Papageno did not really hold up his comic side of the story. The choruses were weak. The three boys (actually sopranos who sang with no vibrato to imitate boys' voices) were fine in the first act, but obviously felt and were very weak in the second--they even held their score in front of them while singing. It was sung in German with Spanish supertitles, but the German was not comprehensible. The dialogues were in Spanish. But for a reserved seating of $10 ($5 open seating) who could complain?

That just about covers our week in Mexico. For pictures, go to:


Michael is online now  
Old Feb 14th, 2006, 05:48 PM
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Thanks for a great report. Hard to believe The Hotel San Francisco's up to 52 USD.I remember when it was 10 USD (I'm getting old LOL). Only suggestion I would make is next time or for any others going take the direct on Mexicana out of both Oakland & SFO. It's but a little over 4 hour flight on a far better airline then Alaska, much nicer staff, free meals & booze! Plus a far better safety record.
Stewbear is offline  
Old Feb 14th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Our flight was dependent on cost. Mexicana was much more expensive.
Michael is online now  
Old Mar 13th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Hi: I have to go to Tlazazalca on business. Someone is suppose to meet me at Morelia. Any idea of how I can get the ETN bus schedule I have tried site but I can't get anything up. Thanks
PS would fly to Guadalajara and bus from there.
JoanneH is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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These are the scheduled runs I foudn between Guadalajara and Morelia:


07:00 13:00 16:00 19:00

Horarios sujetos a cambios sin previo aviso.

Other bus lines may also have runs between these two towns.
Michael is online now  
Old Mar 14th, 2006, 01:05 AM
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Great report. When would you like to do a similar for the other colonial cities?
Most 1st/exec MX bus schedules/fares can be had online.
M (TA local SMdA, Gto.)
mikemo is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2006, 08:27 AM
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when I get there. I've previously posted the Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende, Querétaro photos, but never wrote a report.

Michael is online now  
Old Mar 14th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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Thanks for the photo link.
You can see my house at www.miradorhomes.com
It's the featured and virtual tour place.
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Old Mar 14th, 2006, 03:28 PM
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thanks so much
JoanneH is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 02:23 PM
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I moved my pictures to the Mexico collection:

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