Monday, 30 November 2015

Guadalajara: Monday

It turns out it takes a long time to get to Guadalajara. Even for those who do know ‘the way to San José ?’. I’m not sure if it is my longest journey but it is definitely Top 3. On the way out, after sitting cosy in Hay Castle with mulled wine, we fight through the rain and dark to the car and Richard drives us to Heathrow for our late Sunday overnight flight. On the way through security my bag is searched as it is always searched at airports. I look really dodgy apparently, or I should stop making quips about drug smuggling on blogs, but otherwise we pass through without hitch, luck out with three seats to the two of us, and, after discovering there’s nothing we can eat on the long plane journey as our special meals (dietary requirement divas that we are) weren’t booked we instead opt to sleep until a view appears. We sleep a lot. 

It’s a 12.5 hour journey to Mexico City. There we stand in queues in the terminus for two hours before boarding to fly the 1.5 hour flight to Guadalajara. Incidentally a large, sweating man in his fifties and crease chinos pushes through the queue citing a flight he must get in half an hour, and we later find him one row ahead of us in the second lot of queuing later. But perhaps he got breakfast or whiskey or something. It was probably a wise move as we find ourself stuck on the plane for a further two hours (fog) before we take off. As the fog clears and we arrive into Guadalajara airport, Mexico appears to be made up of tiny stacks of coloured gift boxes while Californian Christmas music plays on the tannoy. Santa’s gone surfing and the snowmen aren’t that cool anymore. 

Airport exit is surprisingly simple and we take our tired selves to the taxi stand where another queue snakes but is efficiently dealt with. I need more coffee but the sunshine and blue skies have already got me smiling and I question how so many of the other local young women look so polished in their high heels and ripped jeans and sleek hair. My hair, hair that is used to Welsh rain, doesn’t tend to travel to hot places well. I’m clammy and frizzy and overloaded with luggage and I’m hungry too. 

At the hostel being late works to our advantage, our rooms are almost ready to check in to… we sit, type in the wifi password and message loved ones... then shower and change...

I only recently discovered the Poinsettias hail from Mexico. One lives on the roof terrace of the B&B, another lives in my house in Splott.

...and finally head out to explore our square mile of the city. We’re hunting for food and landmarks to navigate by over the week, and cash points, the nearest shop for water, any promising looking places to eat. We’ve landed in Studentville. It is safe and sleepy. Heading out on Monday afternoon there’s a corner bar we mistake for a cafe. Once seated we discover there’s only hamburgers and pitchers of beer and lots of students, the odd lone older man hogging a pitcher to himself with a straw. 

Students can be petulant everywhere, one pouty boy at the bar is raising an eye and a smirk in our pale direction but another girl is friendly… there’s no coffee to be had but we manage water for us both and a tequila for me, it is tequila country, and this is our travel recovery day off…and it is good, smooth, nothing like the throat-stripping crap they serve in UK dives,  and then we head out via the cashpoint and water bottle fill up stop of the 7-ll to the old town. The architecture is a ramshackle mix of elegant monuments and modern blocks and shacks in fruity shades - electric fan shops, lacemakers, haberdasheries, Chinese restaurants, saloon bars, hairdressers, niche markets. A muddle of merchandise and merchants spill out onto the street like the drunk students from that Vancouver Wings bar. The street we weave along is one full of shops selling christmas trees and wool, women crowding at the wool counters of shops, women gathering to knit in chairs in the streets, the original yarn bombers. Men sit in the shade of trees on benches playing draughts with beer bottle tops and kids walk past with ice cream as big as their face, licking the pink syrupy swirls with pinker tongues.

Our timing is bad, the vegetarian restaurant (Ki’tzen) we’ve made a beeline for is closing as we arrive, and the budget  nearby second choice Alta Fibra is hard (for us) to find and not especially appetising but we fill up anyway as a large dinner and drink only costs £2. There’s a lentil burger, some rice, beans, tortillas (all cold) and a sweet yoghurty drink a bit like lassi. We do find the Cathedral first though and sit a little while under a tree to admire the view and the fountains, the first of many fountains we’ll see on our trip, the rest mainly illuminated with green and magenta spotlights by night. 

Worn out horses pulling ornate carts pass tourists around the sights, and then rest at the side of the square. We stick to travelling on feet, get a little lost but find our landmarks and Rebecca’s sense of direction returns and we head back to the hostel aiming to read but defeated by jetlag instead sleep some more.

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