Public restrooms, I have learned, are few and far between in Mexico. So as excited as I was to finally arrive in Ajijic, an area known for attracting artists, writers, and a lot of retirees, I spent a good chunk of our allotted time searching for a restroom. Fortunately, the search led me through narrow cobblestone streets, past two churches, and finally to a brightly painted bar/cafe with a view of the action happening in the main square. Lo and behold, there was a gazebo in the plaza. The bar offered a free restroom, which believe it or not, is a big deal. And because I am a fan of the search, or just a glutton for punishment, I drank a Diet Coke, certainly setting myself up for a repeat hunt later in the day.
Rather than duck in and out of the boutiques and art galleries, Steve and I spent our (remaining) time, walking through the streets surrounding the plaza. Ajijic was alive with color. We didn’t need to step inside to see the beautiful artwork decorating the walls, homes, and storefronts in town. We did not make it to the lakefront on this visit. I like the idea of leaving something in each place to come back for another time. Or I just tell myself that so I do not get too disappointed about what I may have missed!
But if we had made it to the lake, we would have missed the man selling the candy! A lot of the candy in Mexico is made from fruit. Coconut, tamarind, and guava are ground and rolled into logs. The tamarind and guava have a sugar coating, while pistachio, chocolate, and other flavors may be added to the coconut. Hey, I am all for four to six servings of fruit a day. I went a little crazy when we discovered a hard candy made from jamaica. In fact, we bought the man out! The rest of our group was pretty excited about our find too, until another member returned with a cream made with peyote and marijuana. I was intrigued as well, but I smartly used the distraction to put my candy in my backpack. I am all for sharing up to point.
Our next stop was Tlaquepaque. It is a large city in its own right, but it is now part of the sprawl that Guadalajara has become. This area is best known for its glass, clay pottery, furniture, and mariachi music. High end stores line the busy streets. Near the main plaza (with two gazebos), men and women set up stalls full of leather goods, textiles, and other handcrafted souvenirs. Food carts sell elote, sweet potatoes, sugar cane juice, gorditas and ice cream. I may have purchased more candy.
We bypassed the carts and dined in a restaurant situated in Mariachi Plaza. The Guadalajara area is specifically known for a few culinary treats. Among them are: birria, a stew made from goat meat, and torta ahogada, a “drowned sandwich”, masterfully created one day from available leftovers, or so the legend goes. I decided I was going to try the birria. Steve immediately sent a text to Caleb, a true goat lover from the beginning of time, ratting me out. Unfortunately, once I began eating, visions of goats in pajamas and goats in yoga class flashed before my eyes. I think it was probably very good, but I just started thinking too much. Others at the table did not have my problem, and they helped me eat it.
While I was distracted by a store featuring handmade works centered on La Virgin de Guadalupe and La Lotería (possibly a new obsession), Steve wandered into a tequila store and basically, had his very own tequila tour! After a few samples, he happily (in more ways than one) walked out with his purchase.
It was time to return to our hotel, kind of. I just was still too hyped up to call it a day just yet. So once we were dropped off, unloaded the tequila in the hotel room, and used the restroom again, Steve and I set out for the four plazas and the Guadalajara marketplace, one of the largest markets in all of Latin America. Even though the Super Bowl was on, and even though we had already walked miles that day.
The football Gods must have been smiling down on Steve, as we were not in the market long when closing time came around. We lingered in the plazas for a bit, enjoying the musicians and artists and ice cream before finally heading back. We even made it in plenty of time to see the Eagles defeat the Patriots, which for Indianapolis Colts fans, was the perfect ending to a very full and wonderful day.