Our first destination in mainland Mexico turned out to be a great success. We had a blast in Puerto Vallarta and some of the beaches north of the city. Next, with our plans completely open, we decided to take our route inland for the first time on our trip. The destination, Guadalajara, with a little stop off in the lovely town of Tequila first.
Funny story, I had no idea that there was a town of Tequila in Mexico, and that it was the birthplace of the liquor. I guess I never really thought about it. I mean, it certainly makes a lot of sense, but I just thought Tequila got its name from something else, like what it was made from or something. Turns out it’s a great little town to visit, and it happened to be right on our path to Guadalajara.
As we approached the town through the rolling hills that made up the countryside, we began to see fields upon fields of blue agave farms. Thousands of acres of these plants surrounded the city. The village itself was sort of unique in that the roads were all cobblestone. Very tight streets lead to the center of town where the main plaza was surrounded by shops, the cathedral, and multiple tequila manufacturers. We got in and grabbed a bite to eat, and wouldn’t ya know it, both the new friends we made in Puerto Vallarta, Patricia and Akin, and our friends we met in Baja, Charlie & Nela, were landing in Tequila that day through their own travels. We eventually all met up in the plaza and decided to take a tequila tour with one of the boutique brands.
The company we decided to take the tour with was called La Cofradia. Beyond their own brand, they make tequila for other brands to bottle such as Casa Nobles. They advertise themselves as organic, one of the only ones to do so in the town. That being the case, Lindsey and her new organic loving friend Patricia were all about it. Turned out to be a great decision.
Since it was a smaller boutique company, we ended up getting a private tour for the six of us. Their facility was small and just on the edge of town. When you pulled in you saw agave fields with a slew of giant wooden barrels that were rooms you could rent. It was cool learning about the history of tequila and how it’s made. Fun fact, “real” tequila is only tequila made with 100% blue agave. You will find some tequila out there that is labeled as tequila but isn’t 100% blue agave, it’s not the good stuff. Another fun fact, all tequila is clear at first and will become gold or darker if it is aged in wood barrels. These are your Reposado and Anejo tequilas. Any tequila that hasn’t been aged in a barrel and is still gold, such as Cuervo Gold, is dyed that color for marketing sake. One last fun fact, proper tequila is made solely from the agave plant and water. There are no other ingredients added at all, just agave syrup from the plant and water.
After going through the factory and learning how it was made, we were brought into the tasting room for some samples of their different varietals. Our guide walked us through everything (which was about 4 shots worth) and then showed us the restaurant where we could grab a bite to eat or purchase more drinks if so desired. After he left us, we rerouted ourselves back into the tasting room where the six of us were left alone with the 3 bottles of tequila our guide had been pouring out of. Needless to say, we took advantage of the situation and proceeded to finish the Anejo and Resposado bottles, and left only a few shots of the Blanco behind. When in Rome….
That night we ended up parking on the street just outside of the center of town with Charlie & Nela. A little noisy but with a solid buzz on, we had no problem passing out. As you can imagine, the next morning we woke up with a bit of a hangover, but we brushed ourselves off and set coarse for Guadalajara.
Our destination in Guadalajara, or GDL for short, was a spot we found with the help of our friends on the iOverlander app. Up until GDL we had not utilized this app. We were aware of it, but since our Baja guidebook had been so successful, we hadn’t really used it. Turns out, its pretty amazing for what we are doing and has been a massive help throughout mainland Mexico. In GDL, we weren’t finding many options for truck camping within the city, but luckily the app pointed us to a parking lot that ended up working out nicely. It was a smaller lot used by locals who work in the area, but also a handful of travelers come through and stay. It was bare bones as of amenities, but had a bathroom and security so we were satisfied.
We got into town before noon and decided to take a bit of time to rest/lick our wounds from the night before in Tequila. We had planned to meet Charlie & Nela at this lot and spend a few days together in GDL. After a little recharge, our friends arrived and we set out to the city to explore. Our first destination was the Mercado San Juan de Dios to get some of this GDL food everyone had told us about. The market was huge, packed with food vendors as well as all sorts of stands selling every sort of Mexican trinket you could imagine. It’s the largest indoor market in Latin America. We got ourselves some chile rellenos and they did not disappoint. Lindsey, in fact, will testify they were the best she has ever had.
After drowning our hangovers in fried food, we set out walking through the city’s historic center. I must say, I didn’t really know what to expect out of GDL. Based on the Mexican cities I had been to prior, I was picturing it to be a bit dustier, and a little more run down. Turns out its quite nice, or at least it has its nice areas. The historic center was bursting with beautiful cathedrals, many museums, clean plazas filled with sculptures and fountains, and even modern buildings mixed in. I felt as though I was in a European city. We walked for what felt like a few hours, taking in the sights and getting a feel for the place.
The next day I had my sights set on a dish local to GDL called the Torta Ahogada, or sunken sandwich. You can find this in many cities throughout Mexico, but its origin is GDL. It’s a delicious torta made with fresh, savory carnitas (at least I chose carnitas), various toppings, placed in a bowl and smothered with red Ahogada sauce. Its not your standard red salsa, each place makes their version of the sauce and its delicious. Beyond that, its all about the bread. GDL was the first place I have been to since the northeast that made good bread. This dish, made with a fresh, proper French roll was unmatched. I couldn’t wait to be hungry again so I could try one somewhere else and find out whose is best.
That night we decided we would explore another part of town we had heard about called Tlaquepaque. Beyond being impossible to pronounce, the neighborhood is known for its pottery, crafts, as well as Mariachi’s. We were told it was a cool spot for nightlife so we figured it was a good Saturday night destination. It was too far to walk, so we decided to rent a couple of the street bikes and ride across town. It was a questionable decision, but since Charlie & Nela had done most of their travels via bicycle, their confidence was contagious and we went ahead with the plan. Turned out that the ride was a bit further than it had looked on the map, and went through some unsavory neighborhoods along the way. In retrospect, riding bikes through Guadalajara at night probably wasn’t the safest thing to be doing, but we made it with no issues and a hell of an experience.
When we got to Tlaquepaque food was the first thing on our minds so we found ourselves a street food stand close by. Here I got another chile relleno, this time cheese stuffed, wrapped in bacon and grilled instead of fried. I smothered it in toppings and enjoyed it in a taco, it was amazing! I ate most of it, and Lindsey had a bite or two, which is important to note for what happens later…
We set off after eating into the neighborhood which had a totally different look to it then the rest of the city. All the buildings were the same style and color and built together in a large grid. It was mostly filled with nice galleries and fine restaurants, along with a nice plaza decked out with Christmas decorations (it was Jan. 6th). The coolest part of the town was a giant Mariachi stage that was surrounded by a circle of restaurants and seating. Being a Saturday night, we got a treat of decked out, legit Mariachi’s playing a show (not just your typical group of 4 walking table to table…). We should have stayed there, but instead we found another bar that ended up being a Mexican “dance club”, blasting their music so loud you couldn’t hear yourself shout. We proceeded to get the Tlaquepaque version of a scorpion bowl, which was really a bowl of chopped fruit, juice and a glass of tequila. After getting ourselves good and buzzed, it was back on the bikes to ride across GDL at midnight… (retrospect…).
Later that night, it hit me. It was about 3:30am and I got slammed with the absolute worst case of the Mexican flu I have ever had. I’ve had my fair share of stomach bugs, but never one so violent. Every thirty minutes my body was forcing it out of me. I almost fainted on my way to the bathroom at one point. At about 8am, things started turning south for Lindsey as well. We thought she was in the clear, but it was a bit delayed for her. Her case wasn’t quite as intense as mine though, which is what leads me to believe it was the bacon wrapped relleno. My 5 bites to her 2 seemed to be about the ratio of the level our sickness, comparatively. The only other thing it could have been was the Mexican scorpion bowl, being that the fruit could have been suspect. Guess we will never truly know, but I certainly won’t forget that one!
Unfortunately, our illness took us completely out of commission for the entire day and then some. There was more of GDL yet to be explored, but once we gained enough strength to get out of bed 24+ hours later, we were ready to get out of the city and find a place to relax and recover. The city was great, we loved the time we were in good enough shape to explore it, and we won’t let the Mexican flu take that away from us! I would recommend GDL to anyone.
With the little strength I had, I navigated us out of the city to a small town just on the outskirts of GDL, called Villa Corona. I was looking for a place to relax and recover, and boy did I find it. The town of Villa Corona is situated alongside a small lake, and has its own little water park. We didn’t explore the town at all, instead we set up shop in a small RV park attached to the water park and stayed here for a couple days.
The water park consisted of 2 massive pools, along with 3 or 4 other smaller pools. It had 3 solid waterslides, a few kid areas, and even a lazy river. The coolest thing, all the water came from underground hot springs that fed the park. They completely drained the pools everyday and filled them with fresh hot spring water each morning. Even the waterslides were running with hot spring water. Staying at the RV park came with access into the park, and even allowed you access to the pools first thing in the morning before the park opened to the public. Hot spring waterslides and giant hot spring swimming pools, I’ll take 5.
With hot showers, laundry, and hot pools to relax in, Villa Corona’s water park turned out to be a life saver. Our recovery from the Mexican flu experience took pretty much the entire week. Without the proper accommodations, it would have been a nightmare living out of the truck.
We spent a few days picking up the pieces and decided it was time to get back to the ocean. From here, our next stop was to be La Manzanilla, and the state of Colima. Stay tuned!