And so phase three begins: Mexico. Our first stop is Mexico's second city, Guadalajara.
We're staying in the historical centre. It's very much an old colonial town with a strong Spanish influence so we spent our first day wandering around and soaking it all up. It was a Sunday and all the families were out and about - a welcome cultural shift from the deserted streets of LA.
The highlight of our initial day's exploring was undoubtedly the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, especially José Clemente Orozco mural in the main hall.
That night I also fulfilled a lifelong dream and went to a Lucha Libre match. We were in the fourth row so had a great view, albeit precarious. Every now and then a wrestler would find himself stunned and outside the ring so an opponent would launch himself off the ropes from the ring above to collect him on the way down. That generally meant taking out the first two to three rows of chairs which everyone but us was wise to and quickly scarped when they saw a stunned wrestler near by.
The crowd was almost as entertaining as the wrestling as well. Hurling abuse, mercilessly mocking. If a wrestler found themselves outside the ring they could be sure that someone would be getting up in their face and letting them know about how they got the arses handed to them. Knowing who to cheer for was always pretty straight forward figuring out who was the 'face' and who was the 'heel' (wikipedia tells me in Lucha Libre they are called 'caras' and 'rudos').
The next day we made out way out to Tlaquepaque - a really pretty outer suburb of Guadalajara with pedestrianised streets and lots of nice restaurants and shops to browse through.
In one of the squares a group of indigenous performers were busking. They climbed a pole that must have been a good ten meters high then they all fell backwards (ropes attached) and all spiralled down head first.
Guadalajara is the home of the Mariachi (one of the most famous Mariachi songs is Guadalajara! Guadalajara!) and there's a square in Tlaquepaque that is supposed to be the best place for it. So we hung around until dinner time hoping they would start up, at which point we'd find a nearby restaurant to dine in and soak up some Mariachi atmosphere. But despite there being plenty of appropriately attired men around, no one played a note, so we just got some delicious street food for a fraction of the price and made our way home.
The following day we took a tour to the nearby town of Tequila which included going out to the Agave fields and being shown around the Jose Cuervo distillery.
Interesting things I learnt about Tequila:
- it's an appellation like Cognac or champagne is, but there are quite a few states of Mexico that can make it so it's not quite as specific.
- It must be made from Agave which is not a Cactus
- Proper Tequila should be 100% Agave - no additional sugars. They do make them with additional sugars but they are strictly mixing Tequilas.
- If it's got a worm, it's not Tequila, it's probably Mescal
- It's 100% organic - they actually pulp diseased Agave plants and use them as fertiliser.
Our last day in Guadalajara was spent in the trendy suburbs of Colonia Americana with it's Art Deco appartements and fancy bars and Chapultepec - also with fancy bars and restaurants. We hopped from coffee shop to bar and so on for a few hours before ending up at Tikkun, a restaurant the does an impressive modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine which was absolutely top notch.
And so concluded our first stop on our Mexican adventure. Many many thanks once again to all the amazing recommendations Danny sent through. Muchas Gracias!