When it comes to Mexico, most people that we know go to one or another all inclusive beach hotel on the coast somewhere. They sometimes venture into the local town, usually eat in their hotel at the all you can eat buffet, and finally go home. They very seldom experience the “real” Mexico.
We never made it to the coast – the cities and towns we visited included Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Morelia, Patzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende – not all of these places are strictly speaking unknown, but it very unusual for families with little kids to choose a route such as this. And that is exactly what we did.
We had many reasons – to see, experience and taste a real Mexico. To try and put some of our basic Spanish to use. To visit the great colonial cities that we had read so much about. And to stay off the tourist track if possible. We would also be travelling on public transport – mainly the buses, and we would be doing this on our own, without any guide or group.
We knew very little about Mexico actually – we had never been there before and the reason that we wanted to go, believe it or not, was our recent visit to Disney World, where we saw the Fake Mexico at Epcot, and wondered what the real Mexico would be like.
We flew into Guadalajara and made our way to the artist suburb of Tlapepaque.
This is one of the hardest to pronounce place names I have ever come across ( actually, its not that bad – Zulu place names are way more complicated). Tlapepaque is a a small suburb/village/town on the outskirts of Guadalajara a that is famed for its arts and craft. The place is jam packed with stores selling the most incredible handcrafts, and certainly when we were there, we seemed to be the only tourists wandering around. We stayed in a small B&B, not far from the main square – during the three nights we were there, every night seemed like a different fiesta. The square was full of people of all ages dancing, fire crackers going off, mariachi bands. We still seemed to be the only tourists.
It was great for kids – quite noisy due to the exploding firecrackers, but unbridled happiness in the streets is something one doesn’t come across that often. We were introduced to our first real Mexican food – chiles rellenos, ( a huge stuffed chile, with meat, not cheese, with three sauces the colors of the Mexican flag), flat iron steak, and of course real margaritas. We also encountered huitlacoche, which is a fungus that grows on corn – strange, but really delicious. We saw nothing of the Tex Mex food one sees so often in the States.
We also visited Guadalajara – fine looking buildings and monuments, but frankly, it was much more fun being in Tlapepaque.
It was time to move on, and our first encounter with long distance Mexican buses!
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