A Guadalajara Vacation
Guadalajara, Mexico, is an increasingly popular destination for
North American package vacationers. It’s not immediately obvious why, however.
It’s certainly a beautiful city of parks, fountains and wonderful old
buildings. But isn’t it a little, well… quiet? Aren’t package vacations
supposed to be about pools and beaches?
Not at all. The source of the city’s appeal is its
quintessential Mexican-ness. Mexico city is a thronged, choking twenty-first
century super-metropolis. Many of the coastal cities are just huge beach
resorts. Guadalajara is still big – it has three million inhabitants – but it
is more relaxed, and distinctly more beautiful. It is a taste of Mexico the way
Mexico used to be.
vacation package to Guadalajara and you’re taking a direct trip to
tequila country (the town of Tequila itself is just down the road, and the city
is surrounded by distilleries. You’ll also be hard pressed to get away from the
fantastically good Mariachi bands – traditional Mexican combos that can be
heard playing at more or less all public events from major religious ceremonies
to the rodeos that take place every Sunday afternoon.
Cathedral at Night
You could spend virtually a whole week exploring Guadalajara’s historic center.
The city was founded around 1500, and some of the buildings are almost 500
years old. The Cathedral, on the Plaza de los Laureles, is a golden-spired
baroque fantasy that wouldn’t look out of place looming over a middle-eastern
bazaar. Inside it’s like so many southern European and Latin American
cathedrals – a cool haven of peace, quiet and spirituality, away from the
sometimes intense heat of the midday outside.
If your idea of a great vacation is as much shopping as
possible, you’ve also come to the right city. Guadalajara has a huge range of
retail outlets. Probably the most fun – and the most authentically Mexican – is
the Mercato Libertad (‘Free Market’) which is supposed to be one of the largest
covered markets in the world. Once more, this is an area of the city that has
more of the feel of an oriental souk or bazaar than a Latin American commercial
center. Everything is available here from hand woven textiles to local
traditional clothing and tequilas.
For a more conventional, upscale shopping experience there a plenty of malls to
choose from. Guadalajara has as many shopping malls as you would expect to find
in a US city of comparable size, though some are possibly a little different
from what you’re used to back home. The Galeria del Calzado, for instance, is a
sixty-unit mall in which every single shop sells shoes. They do things
differently in Mexico.
If you’re a sporting type, then a Guadalajara vacation could be
ideal for you. Local golfers have a saying: “hardly a day goes by when you
cannot play golf in Guadalajara”. They’re referring, of course, to the
exceptional climate which ensures that nearly every day of the year is suitable
for hitting the greens. There are several excellent courses in the area,
although the only one that is close to the center of the city is the exclusive
Guadalajara Country Club. In principle it is a members-only club. However,
tactful enquiries in advance of your visit may secure you a couple of rounds –
and the course is certainly worth it. If you’re prepared to travel a little,
there are a number of excellent courses within easy reach. The El Palomar
course, for example, is brand new, and it’s setting high in the hills above the
city offers players some fantastic views as they hack around in the rough
looking for lost balls. Although booking time at the El Palomar or any of the
other out-of-town courses should be rather more straightforward than securing a
session at the Guadalajara Country Club, it’s still a good idea to book well in
advance. Also bear in mind that the primary market for these clubs is local
Mexicans, so the presence of staff who speak English is not guaranteed. As ever
when travelling abroad, knowing a few words and phrases of the local language
can be a huge advantage, in golfing and other situations.
Tennis, too, is very popular in this part of the world. Probably
the best place in town to play is the Club de Tenis Royal. Contrary to what the
name suggests, this establishment isn’t dedicated to the arcane game of Real
(or “Royal”) Tennis, but to the more conventional version of the game played
the world over. Play is on clay courts, and as with local golfing facilities,
it pays to book in advance.
Guadalajara is a great
vacation destination because it combines the best of ‘old world’ Mexico
with the most modern amenities and activities. There’s no philosophy of manaña
here – everyone works very hard at having fun!