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Tequila, Art and Mariachis: Experiencing the Real Mexico in Guadalajara

guadalajara street

Guadalajara was never on my travel wish list for Mexico, I admit it. The blank spots I’ve been wanting to fill on my Mexico map are places like San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Copper Canyon and the beaches on the West Coast – Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, and San Pancho, all of which I’ve been wanting to visit since reading about them on a bunch of travel blogs a few years ago, when several bloggers based themselves there for their winter escape.guadalajara airport sunsetAnd that’s exactly how I ended up in Guadalajara: Its proximity to said beaches. I was looking for a place to fly to that had easy access to the coast, and which seemed worth exploring. Guadalajara sounded interesting enough: the cultural capital of Latin America in 2005, a university town, a city with art museums and a historic city center, and a city with several Jose Clemente Orozco murals, one of the famous Mexican muralists whose art I adore. What more could I ask for? A great flight deal ($109 from LA, booked only three days in advance) sealed the deal.guadalajara street art wall hummingbirdMy instinct had once again brought me to the right place. From my very first stroll through the historic center, I was much reminded of Mexico City – and you all know how much I love Mexico’s capital.guadalajara fountainMost streets of the historic center with its beautiful well-preserved, colorful Spanish-colonial buildings were lined with trees, there was more street art than I expected – and it was among the best I’ve seen in all of Mexico, and the museums were indeed as world-class as the travel guides promised.Street Art GuadalajaraI had only two nights booked in Guadalajara, but I quickly decided to make a week out of it. Three days in a city of over four million people were just not enough.guadalajara colonial buildingGuadalajara is actually made up of three cities: Guadalajara, Zapopan and Tlaquepaque. The historic center with its imposing cathedral in the center was where I spent most of my time, and the four plazas that surround the cathedral, laid out in the form of a cross, make Guadalajara’s center one of the prettiest in the entire country. After dark is when the plazas really come to life, with food stalls setting up, entire families gathering and having a snack, and young couples making out on the benches everywhere.Guadalajara Jalisco MexicoThe cathedral itself is well worth a visit, a massive structure which took 50 years to complete (construction started in the 1560s) and whose architecture is an interesting mix of Gothic, Neoclassical and Palladian styles. The gothic twin spires in particular give the cathedral a unique look – the third set of towers built after the two previous ones fell during earthquakes.Guadalajara Mexico JaliscoEven though the historic center and the surrounding neighborhoods are walkable, I was happy when I discovered the city had a shared bike system, Mi Bici. I downloaded the app to see where the stations were, paid 80 Pesos (US$3.92) for a 24-hour rental with free rentals for up to 30 minutes, which is common for most bicycle shares I’ve used, and off I went. (I later discovered that a 3-day rental for MXN$160/US$7.84 would have been a better deal, but I think it’s still very cheap).Guadalajara ArtI biked around the center, took the bike over to the Plazuela De Los Mariachis, a little square that is dedicated to one of the city’s most famous inventions – Mariachi music originates in Guadalajara. Similar to Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, several mariachi bands were hanging around here, possibly waiting to play for potential customers who are looking for a mariachi band for a wedding or another event, but also to serenade customers who were eating in the restaurants around the plaza (for a tip, of course).Guadalajara Jalisco1I also biked over to Avenida Chapultepec, a wide boulevard lined with restaurants and bars, an area that didn’t seem like much during the day but which came to life at night when Guadalajara’s students and twenty-somethings filled the trendy bars in and around Avenida Chapultepec, as I’d learn a few days later when a group from our hostel made our way over there on a Friday night for some drinks. Of course I found here, like everywhere in Mexico these days, some excellent local craft beers on the menu.guadalajara streetThe bike came in especially handy when I wanted to visit the Museo de Arte Zapopan, a modern art museum which is located in the Zapopan part of town. It was a welcome excuse for me to check out that part of town, which I might not have gone to otherwise, because it was pretty far from the historic center, where I was staying.guadalajara zapopan art museumThe museum turned out to be one of those contemporary art museums that made me think several times ‘Really? This is art?’, and it was much smaller than I expected, but the architecture in Zapopan and the striking Basilica Nuestra Señora de Zapopan, which dates back to 1730, made up for the slightly disappointing museum (which luckily had free admission. I would’ve regretted paying for it, I think).zapopanI much preferred the Museo de las Artes de la Universidad (MUSA) in the center of Guadalajara, which didn’t only win me over with some impressive pieces of art, but also with its auditorium, in which Orozco had painted both the walls behind the stage as well as the inside of the auditorium’s dome. Both murals depict, typical for Orozco, social injustice and resistance against the system.guadalajara orozco mural musaAnother art space in Guadalajara that shouldn’t be missed is the Hospicio Cabañas, one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Americas, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Orozco painted the domed chapel of the 19th-century neoclassical hospice complex – 57 frescoes cover the walls and the ceilings. It is one of his masterpieces.guadalajara orozco muralBut art in Guadalajara doesn’t stop there: In recent years, Guadalajara has become more and more of a hub for young artists from all parts of Mexico and beyond. Art galleries have been popping up around town, and a residency and alternative cultural education organization supported by the State of Jalisco’s Ministry of Culture and the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, PAOS (Programa Anual de Open Studios), has been attracting artists from all over the world. The program offers a month-long residency at the Museo Taller Jose Clemente Orozco, the former residence and workshop of the late Mexican muralist.guadalajara art museumAnd then there’s the street art which fills entire building walls and doors. Even on the colonial houses the art never appears disruptive, but rather adds to the crumbling facades. I stumbled upon a new great piece every day on my wanderings around town, one of the best murals was right outside the MUSA Art Museum:MUSA MuralWhile I didn’t fall in love with any of the foods I tried in Guadalajara (and admittedly, sometimes struggling to find a vegetarian option on the meat-focused menus), I thought the tortas ahogadas, which translate to ‘drowned sandwiches’ – and they are in fact drowned, in sauce – were quite delicious, albeit messy to eat. They are usually stuffed with meat but I found several places that offered vegetarian versions . Guadalajara’s most famous dish is Birria, a stew that is made of goat meat, roast chiles and spices – if you’re a foodie and would like to try it, check out one of the birrierias in town.guadalajara carGuadalajara doesn’t have a typical drink, but it is so close to the town from which Mexico’s most famous drink originates that almost everybody visiting Guadalajara takes at least a day trip there: Tequila. Of course you can also get it in every single bar in Guadalajara, but after seeing photos of vast fields filled with blue agave plants in a travel article a while back, I wanted to see the little town for myself, and most importantly: take a distillery tour.tequila agave plantI am not the biggest fan of tequila (the thought of tequila usually brings back memories of too many tequila shots in my early 20s, complete with licking salt off my hands and finishing the shot with sucking on a slice of lemon), but I thought that a distillery tour and a tasting of some higher end tequilas might change my mind.tequila shopA few other people from the hostel also wanted to visit Tequila, and so we decided to head there together on what turned out to be a pretty rainy Saturday. Saturday is the only day that the Tequila Express runs, a train that goes from Guadalajara to Tequila, solely for tourists, complete with mariachi bands, tequila and some snacks. However, once we saw the hefty price tag (MXN$1,200 US$59), read some lukewarm reviews and found out that we wouldn’t even get to see the town itself, only a distillery, we opted for the more economical way to get there: taking the bus.tequila rutaWhat was supposed to be a 90-minute trip turned into a two hour journey, and when we finally reached Tequila, we were starving. We decided to get some food before finding out how to hop on a distillery tour, of which there are many in the little town, including well-known tequila producers such as Sauza, Tequila Herradura, Jose Cuervo, Cofradia and the El Llano Distillery.tequila jalisco mexicoSeveral touts approached us, trying to sell us their tour, and we finally agreed to join one that left an hour later, which cost MXN$180 (just under US$9), leaving us enough time to grab lunch, and maybe see a little bit more of Tequila.tequila mexicoStrolling through the streets of the village made me wish I would’ve come for an overnight stay. Tourists were roaming the streets now, which were lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. Tequila itself is beautiful, but I think I would’ve enjoyed the village more after the crowds had left and the tequila barrel-shaped vehicles that brought visitors to the distilleries had also left for the day, enjoying a quiet evening on one of the benches in the town square.tequila barrel carWith its colorful Mexican houses, an 18th century stone church and leafy plazas it deserved being included in the list of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, towns around the country that offer visitors a ‘magical’ experience because of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance.tequila jaliscoThanks to Tequila’s significance in producing Mexico’s most famous export, Tequila and the surrounding area have also been given UNESCO World Heritage Site status. For most people, a day trip is probably enough, but I would’ve also added an extra day to check out another distillery, because there are so many in and around Tequila, which is why the region also likes to promote itself as the ‘Tequila Trail’ – think Mexico’s answer to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.tequila agave fieldOn this visit though, there was only time for one. The tour we’d been sold was for the Orendain Distillery, a family-run, award-winning tequila producer which was founded by Don Edwardo Orendain Gonzalez in 1926. It was fascinating to learn more about the production of tequila, a drink I knew literally nothing about, other than that it is produced from the agave plant. But which part of it?tequila orendain distilleryDuring the tour, we learned that tequila is made from the piña, the heart of the agave, which, once the spikey leaves have been removed, indeed looks like an oversized piña (Spanish for pineapple). It takes 8 to 10 years until the agave can be harvested though – the tequila business sure is a long-term investment. The companies who were smart enough to extend their Blue Agave fields a decade , however, are now the ones that benefit from the growing popularity of high-end tequilas inside and outside of Mexico.tequila orendain ovensDistilleries here proudly serve ‘100% agave’ tequila – this is what you should look out for, if you, like me, have bad memories of tequila-related headaches, because the 100% pure tequilas don’t cause hangovers, if enjoyed in moderation.tequila tequila shopThe tour of the distillery was highly informative and shows visitors pretty much the entire process of tequila making: first, the piñas are roasted in an oven, then, the sugar is extracted and fermented for 7 to 12 days, and lastly, the tequila is distilled (usually twice), which means ferments are separated by heat and steam pressure.tequila orendain fermentationThere are three different types of tequila: Blanco (bottled immediately upon distillation), Reposado (aged for at least two months), Añejo (aged for at least a year, but less than three) and sometimes there is a fourth one, Extra Añejo (over-aged). We get to try the main three types during our tasting and are surprised how different the tequila tastes from the mediocre stuff we’ve previously tried. Especially the Añejo, which is smooth and tastes more complex.tequilaWe are in good spirits as we walk through the pouring rain back to the bus station to catch a bus back to Guadalajara, and we all agree: coming to Tequila was eye-opening in many ways. The three of us agreed that we’d all been converted to Tequila drinkers, each of us carrying a small bottle in our bags, to enjoy back home.tequila orendain tequilas

Practical Information

Where to Stay in Guadalajara

I first stayed at a B&B, which I didn’t love, and decided to move to a hostel with great reviews that I had found on Booking.com. I made the right decision: Hostal De Maria, in a converted old mansion, was in an excellent location in Plaza Colón. It has private rooms as well as dorms, a beautiful colonial-style courtyard, lovely colorful decorations and breakfast is included. Double rooms are US$20, a bed in a 6-bed dorm is US$9.guadalajara church

Where to Eat in Guadalajara

  • El Sazon de la Comadre – Large selection of Mexican breakfasts
  • Finca Riveroll – Fabulous little specialty coffee shop (serves sandwiches, pastries and breakfast)
  • La Lupita Cantina – Great Mexican food, and in the evening it turns more into a bar.
  • Chai – A coffee shop chain that serves also Western food (mainly sandwiches). Big variety of delicious chai creations.
  • Alta Fibra – Best value-for-money for a vegetarian lunch – Three courses including a drink for MXN$55 (US$2.69)
  • El Gato Café – Small cozy café near the MUSA which also serves tasty cakes and other food.
  • La Bottega – If you love coffee, you have to stop at La Bottega, where I had the best coffee in Guadalajara. A small independent coffee shop that uses Mexican coffee beans.

huevos rancheros

Where to Drink in Guadalajara

The Guadalajara Pub Crawl, which combines a narrated tour of the city with samples of the most popular drinks of the region and an introduction to some cool bars is something I would check out next time I’m in town. Since this tour only runs on Fridays and I had already made plans for that night, I couldn’t take this tour during this trip.guadalajara street art

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Polaroid Of The Week: The Lush Mountains Of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week mexico puerto vallartaTo be completely honest: I didn’t want to spend my last few days in Mexico in Puerto Vallarta. I wanted to stay in San Pancho or in Sayulita, which are both smaller beach towns north of Puerto Vallarta, and where I had spent my birthday. But because the season was just about to start in San Pancho most cafes were still opening at unreliable hours (if it all), and I needed wifi to get work done. In Sayulita, there were a few places I knew I could work at (with okay wifi, but still not great speeds) but struggled to find decent accommodation. Since I had several deadlines looming over me, I decided to do what seemed the most reasonable: to return to Puerto Vallarta, which I knew had a much bigger selection of available accommodation and great wifi. As much as I loved the vibe in the smaller beach towns, sometimes the digital nomad has to put work first, especially after a slow month in November.

And after a couple of days back in Puerto Vallarta I realized how much I actually liked the town that had seemed like a big resort town at first. Yes, there are casinos, golf clubs and cruise ships. Yes, there are giant all-inclusive resorts. But there’s also the Old Town, the Zona Romantica, with cobblestone streets, with ornate churches and bright pink bougainvillea trees that form a perfect contrast to the whitewashed colonial houses. And then there’s the dramatic backdrop: the lush green jungle-covered mountains that hug the Bahía de Banderas, the bay alongside which Puerto Vallarta stretches. I loved my morning runs on the Malecon, the wide promenade, which is lined with stunning bronze sculptures, and my explorations of the neighborhoods up in the hills, which offer jawdroppingly beautiful views over the city and the bay. I loved the variety of cafes and restaurants and gay bars (albeit almost all of them being heavily men-focused) and even a microbrewery, and that on Playa de los Muertos, the southernmost beach of Puerto Vallarta, you can dine right in the sand.

While Sayulita and San Pancho were smaller and more laid-back and I could still find completely deserted beaches there, I came to appreciate Puerto Vallarta in the end and boarded my flight knowing that I’d be back one day.

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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: November 2016 Edition

november-2016

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me. 

Where I’ve been

I started the month with a few days in Los Angeles, which were not in my travel plans at all… followed by a full four weeks on Mexico. Which, well, also wasn’t part of my original plan, but in hindsight, I couldn’t have asked for a better turn of events, leading me to Puerto Vallarta eventually, where I am writing this now. You might remember from last month’s round-up that I was basically stranded in the U.S. after my trip to Istanbul fell through… read on to find out how I ended up in Mexico instead.November 2016I flew into Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, where I spent a week, including a day trip to Tequila, and headed west from there to spend some time exploring the most popular towns along the popular Riviera Nayarit: Sayulita, San Pancho and Puerto Vallarta.

I had originally toyed with the idea of also visiting Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende, two towns north of Mexico City, but I quickly scrapped these plans – I didn’t want to travel too much and rush around, knowing I’d be having a limited amount of time because I would be flying back to California in early December. And even though I felt like I wasn’t moving around all that much, I ended up sleeping in 11 different beds over 30 days, meaning I was moving to a new places roughly every three days (that said, I moved places within cities several times, ending up sleeping in four different places in Puerto Vallarta, for example.)november collage

Life Lately

Sigh. It’s been quite a month. Donald Trump is president-elect. I got sick twice. I turned 36. It could’ve been such a great month, enjoying Mexico.. but, you can’t escape reality. Even when you’re in beautiful surroundings. While I was completely bummed out about the canceled trip to Istanbul at the end of last month, I got over that disappointment pretty quickly. As soon as I hit the ‘Purchase’ button for my ticket to Mexico, I was giddy with excitement. And now, after a month in the sun, I think this was a much better way to spend November than in Istanbul, where it would’ve been equally as cold as it had been in Seattle.

The disappointment I couldn’t shake off all month however: the U.S. election results (see Lowlights below). I tried to make myself feel better in so many ways: I started reading a page turner. I went to the beach. I socialized. I spent hours chatting with my closest friends and family. I hugged puppies. And kitties. I ate tacos. Drank margaritas. Ate more tacos. But the news and social media were a constant reminder of what had happened and gloomy headlines made me realize that even though I was in Mexico, this was a reality that was still there.

But let’s look at the highlights of the month – and luckily, the highlights outweighed the lowlights by far in November!November in Mexico

Highlights

Los Angeles.. again!

After I was in a bit of a funk when I spent nearly a month in the LA area in September, I was in high spirits when I arrived this time around. I was only supposed to have a layover in LAX, and fly straight to Istanbul from there, but after my trip to Turkey had been canceled only two days earlier, I decided to still use my ticket from Seattle to LA and figure out things from there. It was an excellent decision, because I arrived in LA during a heat wave and after basically shivering for the entire month in Seattle, I was more than ready for some hot weather. Being in 90F weather made me so happy. I also happened to be in town for a party my friends Jen and Chris threw at their house, I was able to reconnect with a friend I gotten into a little argument with in September, and I checked off a couple of neighborhoods off of my LA exploration list that I’d never been to: Highland Park and Mount Washington, which is up in the San Rafael Hills overlooking the city.Los Angeles november2016

Returning to Mexico

Well, you might think the ‘returning to..’ was a theme this month, but I was actually traveling to places in Mexico that were completely new to me. It was during a morning stroll around LA’s Highland Park neighborhood, which is largely Hispanic, that I decided on a whim to purchase a ticket to Mexico. Now it would’ve been easy to go to Mexico City or another place I already knew, but I decided it was time to see a new place. During my month in Mexico this past March / April I had only visited a couple of new places (Cuetzalan and El Tajin), but there’s so much of the country I haven’t seen yet. And that’s how I ended up buying a ticket to Guadalajara, and it felt absolutely amazing to be back in Mexico when I meandered through the beautiful historic town center, picking up fresh fruit from a street vendor, and enjoying chilaquiles for breakfast.  I just love this country, and it is one of those places where I can fall into a routine again easily, feeling at home straight away.Mexico November 2016

Beach life in the Riviera Nayarit

I just love beach life. There, I said it. Even though I’m a city girl through and through, sometimes all I need is a dose of beach life to make me feel better. You might remember that I was struggling a little bit in Seattle because of how cold and rainy it was – well, a few days on a beach is apparently all I need to feel alive again. I’ve already touched on my not very exciting routine of beach runs, ocean dips, SUP sessions and sunset beers in last week’s Polaroid, but I want to say it again: I love beach life, and I felt the same way during my time in Long Beach in September.Mexico Beach Life

Birthday splurge in Puerto Vallarta

Being a freelancer means I am constantly hustling for business, trying to make ends meet, and this means: I am traveling on a budget most of the time. The times that I decide to splurge on a truly nice place to stay are rare, and my birthday this month was the perfect excuse for a little extravaganza. I had a visitor from the States, and so we didn’t only splurge on a fancy apartment in Puerto Vallarta, but also on nice meals during which I actually focused on the meal instead of working through it. The same goes for cocktails (which I wouldn’t drink by myself) and hours spent away from my laptop. When I wasn’t traveling solo this month, I felt like I was taking in every moment much more consciously, and particularly those that made my birthday so special: rooftop cocktails, SUPing in the ocean, jungle hikes, and setting working hours, because I have to admit that I can easily spend all day long in front of my laptop when I’m by myself, and that includes a whole bunch of ‘wasting time on the internet’, which would be better spent with a book on the beach.Birthday in Mexico

Lowlights

Post election blues

The biggest lowlight of the month has been the election, without a doubt. Even though id predicted the outcome exactly as it happened, discussing it with friends of mine already back in Europe this past summer, once the results were confirmed, I couldn’t stop crying for two days straight. Two days straight. I don’t even remember the last time I cried that hard. I was sobbing uncontrollably in a Starbucks in Guadalajara, causing a scene. It wasn’t pretty. In case you’re wondering why this affects me, as a German, to such an extent, here’s a hint, but I have a detailed post coming up on that topic early next year, just in time for my 7-year quitversary (I wrote about my 5-year quitversary here) in which I will finally shine light on the big changes ahead of me that I’ve been hinting on for a few months now. (And if you belong to my inner circle of newsletter subscribers or Snapchat followers, you know what I’m talking about).

Mexico Sunsets
At least the sunsets were pretty…

Anyway, back to the post-election blues. Luckily I know what to do in situations like this: do something that makes me happy. In this case, it was giving the green light to a visitor from the States to come down to Mexico (which I had been on the fence about), surround myself with other people (I moved from a deserted B&B to a social hostel), and get my ass to a beach. In all honesty though, I am still shaken to the core by the outcome of the election and it took me days to get a full night’s sleep after 8 November. After the first few days of resignation, sadness and disappointment, I am now trying to be more optimistic about everything but I have to admit that I am still struggling to come to terms with it.

Mexico arrival day

dani solo travelThe day I arrived in Mexico, I nearly had a panic attack. I was so busy the day leading up to my departure from LA that I didn’t even have time to think about all the things that popped into my head during my plane ride to Guadalajara:

  1. OMG I haven’t traveled solo in months
  2. OMG I haven’t traveled outside the save havens of Europe and the US since April (and back then I didn’t travel alone in Mexico!)
  3. OMG I never traveled in Mexico by myself.
  4. OMG I didn’t put cash on my debit card, so I can’t use an ATM upon arrival.
  5. OMG what if I forgot all my Spanish?!

Full on panic mode! Luckily, as so often, everything fell into place as soon as I arrived in Guadalajara. I found 87 pesos in my change purse from my last visit to Mexico – just enough to get me into the city on the public bus, my Spanish came back to me as soon as I had to ask for directions to the bus into town, luckily traveling by myself is something I’m pretty good at, and, well, Mexico is one of the easiest countries to travel in, no matter if solo or as a couple.

Being sick on the road

This month I got sick twice: I had stomach issues on my first day in Mexico (I assume from some fresh fruit I had picked up) which led me to spend more time in the bathroom over the next couple of days than I was comfortable with, and then I got a cold just in time for my birthday on Sunday. I am still battling my cold (that’s the disadvantage of staying in fancy hotels with AC – I am sure it was the drastic difference in temperature between the chilled room and the 90F heat outside that made me sick) and once again I was reminded that being sick on the road sucks.

Mexico life
When I wasn’t sick, life was pretty sweet though..

Slow business

Luckily the peso / dollar exchange rate was in my favor this month, making Mexico even cheaper than it had been during my last visit in the spring. Because I didn’t earn a lot of money in November, which was quite disappointing. It definitely helped that I was in an inexpensive country, where I usually didn’t spend more than $35 a day (except for my week of birthday splurges).

pinnacle pool sunset
Slow business did not stop me from splurging on a hotel with a gorgeous infinity pool for a few days…

Other happenings

snapchat
The instant feedback on Snapchat is amazing.

Snapchat love

I don’t really know in which section to put it, but I want to mention my Snapchat community briefly – this medium has brought me so much closer to my those following my raw, unfiltered journey on their phones. (For those of you who don’t use Snapchat, it’s an app that lets you record 10-second clips of anything you see / do and keeps it live for 24 hours. After that, it’s gone forever). And especially this month, I was so appreciative of all the supportive messages I received, not only for my birthday, but also when I was feeling really down after election day. So much empathy, outpouring of love and uplifting words from complete strangers still blow me away. Thanks to everyone following me and interacting with me – I love the instant feedback to everything I’m doing. (If you want to follow my adventures in real time, add me on Snapchat: Mariposa2711)

What’s next for me

I’ve already mentioned that I am on my way to sunny California.. for the third time this year! After a long weekend in LA I will be heading north, however – and that’s a first for this year, and a first in over six years, to be completely honest. The only time I visited the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma north of San Francisco was in 2010, and when the opportunity arose to revisit Sonoma, and the town of Santa Rosa, where I spent barely any time back then, I didn’t have to think long. After that, I will finally return to New York – but not for long. I had originally planned to spend the winter in South East Asia and already secured a housesit in Vietnam (which, you may remember, was on my travel wish list for this year), but urgent matters are calling me to Germany. You know that this must have been something super urgent, if it gets me to return to Germany in the death of winter (More on that soon, I promise).November travels

I will now be spending the Holidays with my family instead of a kitty, and while I am not a big fan of winter, I do appreciate Christmas markets, baking cookies, drinking Gluhwein, and see my nephew’s and nieces’ eyes light up when they see the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. I only spent one Christmas at home since 2007, which was in 2014, and still have fond memories of it, so I am not too upset about this sudden change of plans… and Vietnam will have to wait a little longer.

I am not sure yet what I’ll be doing for New Year’s Eve – knowing myself, I might end up going on a last-minute trip, so who knows where the last round-up of 2016 will come from…
November 2016 travels

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Polaroid Of The Week: Agave Fields In Tequila, Mexico

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week mexico tequila jaliscoWhen I mapped out my Mexico trip and tried to decide which city to fly into, it basically came down to one decision: Flying straight to the coast or visit a new city first. And as much as I was ready for some beach time, my curiosity to explore another Mexican city won. And Guadalajara won for three reasons: It is known to be cultural and artsy, it is relatively close to the Pacific coast, and it is only 70 kilometers from Tequila. A travel writer I follow on Snapchat had just gone there and her snaps from Tequila looked so gorgeous that I wanted to see the agave fields for myself, and visit a couple of tequila distilleries – even though I am not a big tequila fan (I have a margarita every now and again, but straight up tequila wouldn’t necessarily be my drink of choice).

And so I found myself on a bus to Tequila on my very last day in Guadalajara, excited for agave fields and for an education about Mexico’s national spirit, one that, admittedly, I knew very little about. While the day trip didn’t exactly turn on the way I was hoping for (rain instead of blue skies, too many hours spent on a bus, bad planning), I immediately fell in love with the little village of Tequila. I could feel that we weren’t far anymore when agave fields started to line the street on both sides, with their distinctive green-bluish leaves.

The village itself is one of Mexico’s fifty or so Pueblos Magicos, Magic Villages – a title that Tequila well deserves. Colorful colonial houses, cobble stone streets, colonial churches, and tree-lined plazas where street vendors try to tempt you with fresh roasted corn or with ice cream. I instantly wished I would have come for longer than a few hours on a day trip. The highlight was, of course, visiting a tequila distillery, where we were shown the entire process of tequila making. Starting with the big piles of the piñas, the agaves’ round centers, which are thrown on a conveyor belt – the first step of the actual tequila production. We got to see the milling and fermentation, the distillation and finally the bottling. And of course we were not leaving before everyone had tasted the different kinds of tequila produced here: Blanco (bottled immediately upon distillation), Reposado (aged for at least two months), Añejo (aged for at least a year, but less than three) and Extra Añejo (over-aged).

As I said: the day trip to Tequila could’ve been planned better, but yet: I am so glad I went. In fact, it made me add a road trip following Jalisco’s entire Tequila Trail to my travel wish list.

P.S. You can follow my journey in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711

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