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From The HelmsMistress: Roadtrip: Tequila, Tonalá and Guadalajara

Time to play catch-up.  Rather than write about haul-out and repairs (that will undoubtedly show up in a future post), we thought we’d roll back the clock to pre-COVID times and write about a side road trip that we highly recommend as a break from the coastline. (Story and Photos are Pre-Covid)

 

ROAD TRIP!  Tequila, Tonalá and Guadalajara

Despite our love of the ocean and coastline, we also love a good road trip and had been missing this aspect of our former land lubber lifestyle.  With Grandma and Grandpa coming to town and a storm on the horizon, we asked if they’d like to go drink tequila IN Tequila rather than spend the rainy days cooped up on the boat, to which they said….”si”!

Now, of my many noteworthy skills, trusty navigator is nowhere in the top ranks.  Despite this, I continue to be given the assignment.  We found that just as your electronic ocean going charts are not entirely accurate, the same goes for your land based ones, especially in Mexico.  After a lush mountainous drive, a few side trips (ever heard of El Capomo?) and attempts at navigational questions in Spanglish, we were on the main toll road which was nicely paved, free of traffic and smooth to drive on, even in the rain.

One of my navigational errors…cute little town with nice people

Tequila

First stop…TEQUILA!  Beyond the drink, the town is one of Mexico’s Pueblo Mágicos for is unique characteristics, rich culture and historic heritage.  The town square is where it all happens.  We arrived on Superbowl Sunday and the town square was packed even in the rain (likely because it was Sunday, pretty sure it had nothing having to do with the Superbowl).  The sounds of a chirimia (small drum and flute) draw our attention to the sky as the Voladores get ready to launch.  This Mesoamerican ritual has been performed for centuries originally believed to serve the purpose of agricultural fertility.  Four men sit perched high above the crowds on a pole, then fall backwards attached by ropes around their waists and rotate gracefully to the ground while the music continues to play.  This was an amazing sight to see.

Voladores floating down from the sky

Looking around town, you clearly need a sombrero (think stylish felt hat, not Speedy Gonzalez or Three Amigos style – yes I just dated myself), a jarrito (clay cup likely filled with a mixture of fresh squeezed citrus juice and tequila – a cantarito) and a tequila barrel to ride around town in to complete your Tequila experience.  We did 2 of the 3 and passed on the hats –there’s always next time.

Arriving in our classy tequila barrel, we toured Casa Orendain and learned about the hand-made process for making tequila that still exists today.  We also were able to sample some of their finest spirits and now our 8 year-old can tell you how to properly sip tequila – wins all around!  Turns out my college years deceived me as a shot is NOT the preferred method for imbibing this liquor…who knew?

 

We were painfully reminded that since adopting a life as warm weather cruisers, we were ill prepared for the cooler temperatures and downpour that Tequila had to offer in early February, but layered up as efficiently as we could.  As we left the quaint town, we were struck by the miles of beautiful blue agave fields that cover this region, a sight we couldn’t fully appreciate in the rain on our drive in.  The good news is the world is not running out of tequila anytime soon – Salud!

Beautiful blue agave fields stretch for miles outside Tequila

Tonalá

Based on a hotel recommendation, we found ourselves in this quaint town outside of Guadalajara and were so lucky we did.  If a wide selection in local artisanal crafts is what you are looking for, this is the place, in fact – prepare to be overwhelmed.  Ceramics, glassware, beaded jaguar heads, paintings, jewelry, lifesize statues of the Saints, fabrics, tiles and decorative sinks – they’ve got it all!  What struck me most was being able to see the crafts being made and speaking with the artists.  This made the experience so worth the trip.  Colorful napkins – bought them, tiles that will eventually be put use to some project in my forever home – got them too, colorful ceramic toilet – passed on that one, but was very tempted…the kids were dragging me out of stores – “No more mom!”  We thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets and used Tonalá as our home base to travel into the second largest metropolitan city in the country, Guadalajara, for sight-seeing.

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is a beautiful, historic city with much more to offer than what we could appreciate during our single day visit.  Grandma and Grandpa French recalled taking the horse-drawn carriage years ago and this turned out to be a great way for us to tour the city and appreciate the intricate architecture and overall layout of the city.  The Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady (Guadalajara Cathedral) was on our short list of historic sites to visit.  Though an earlier version was built in the 1500s, the present structure was consecrated in 1716.   Mass had already begun so we stood in awe of its majestic beauty and history for some moments and respectfully moved on.  Before we left, we were able to see Santa Inocencia (St. Innocence) who as the story goes, was a young girl who was killed by her father after converting to Catholicism in the 1700s (variations of the story exist, but she is known as a martyr for Catholicism).  Today, her mummified remains preserved in wax and dressed in a ceremonial white gown are laid to rest within this grand cathedral to symbolize love for the Eucharist.  Santa Inocencia gained recent interest when a tourist caught video of her opening her eyes. Truth or miracle?  You be the judge.

 

With little time to explore, we knew we could not miss seeing the World Heritage Site, the Hospicio Cabañas.  The building served many functions over the span of two centuries, most notably that of hospital, orphanage and almshouse.  It continues to intrigue visitors whether because of its longstanding humanitarian missions, vast size and architecture that spans four city blocks.

Outside the Hospicio Cabañas

The highlight was the fascinating ceiling murals painted by José Clemente Orozco in the 1930s.  We think the only way to fully take in the art is lying down and taking in the amazing ceiling murals.  We stood staring up at the vibrant colors and vivid images for what seemed like hours – it’s truly a stunning sight.

 

After the girls had enough of the “old buildings” we found a restaurant to refuel our weary wanderers.  They must’ve known we were coming because they sat us in the back right next to….a jumpy-jump…inside the restaurant – perfect!  Now the kids were happy!  It’s not that taking in the sights wasn’t fun for them, it’s just that we appreciate historic beautiful buildings while the kids much prefer terrorizing eachother on a jumpy-jump – I can compromise!

If you are up for the trip, the drive was beautiful and smooth.  The toll roads were reasonably priced and easy to navigate (despite my detours) and the cultural experiences were just what we were looking for.  It was a nice change of pace from our typical coastal and seagoing surroundings – I highly recommend the visit!


Our story is late because we’ve been working non-stop on upgrades to Tulum.  Best way to enjoy our writing, photos and stories is to FOLLOW our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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