Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara is not a pretty city in the conventional way but it has a lot to offer visitors. The city is large and sprawling. And in the four days that I was there with two friends, I did not get to see nearly as much of it as I would have hoped but that means I have lots of exploring to do when I return.

 

We stayed at an Airbnb near Parque Alcalde. The apartment was very nice and had a balcony which we took full advantage first thing in the mornings and then again in the afternoons when we needed a rest from wandering the city streets. I cannot recommend this Airbnb host enough. He was so accommodating, helpful, and gave us some great information on the city. And he has multiple properties in Guadalajara to choose from.
We had originally planned to stay near Avenida Chapultepec Norte and thus found bars and restaurants to check out in that neighborhood. We dined at El Sacromonte and I would highly recommend it. I had steak in a delicious sauce for around $250MXN.  We also wondered down the way and split a bottle of wine at Romea. It was very chic and a bit on the expensive side (our bottle of wine cost $730MXN) but a nice treat to sit outside on a nice evening and enjoy some delicious wine. Later during our long weekend, we went to Pigs Pearls in the same neighborhood. We needed a break from traditional Mexican food and grabbed burgers. Lunch (a burger and a glass of wine) was perfect change of pace and only cost $85MXN.
We definitely ate a lot of food while we were in Guadalajara and it seems as though the street food was easier to find at night than during the day. Much like anywhere else, I would recommend if you’re eating street food find vendors that are busy with locals, saddle up, and eat everything. We did eat in the mercado in the city center one day for lunch and it was delicious. Also, we are here during Lent in the Catholic faith and there were a lot more fish options than I would have thought we’d find. Hopefully this is not just during the Lenten season but is all year round.
Usually when I sit down at any sort of food vendor in which prices are not listed, I ask what the prices are. But I found in Guadalajara that when I didn’t ask first, all of the prices were perfectly acceptable and I never had any issues with people over charging me. This might be because I speak enough Spanish to order food and ask questions. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. And while a lot of people here do speak English, I think that it was easier for everyone when I used my small amounts of Spanish.
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This torta ahogada (the drowned torta) included pork, cabbage, onions, and a tart tomato sauce.
We also ate at a little place called Casa Mitote which serves Oaxacan dishes. It was so delicious and were so glad that we caught them on a night when they were actually opened.
We attended a performance by the Jalisco Philharmonic while we were in town. The music was just lovely and tickets were very affordable. We had wonderful seats in the center of the theater for $220MXN each.
We also visited Tlaquepaque on a Saturday which was a nice break from the city. It was also a great place to shop for locally-made crafts. Some of the items that we found here were very similar to other items we found in Oaxaca but at cheaper prices.
Few locals had amazing things to say about taxi drivers so we opted to use Uber when we needed to get around the city and could not walk the distance. We took one from our Airbnb to the city center and it cost about for $2USD one way. There are currently two train lines that serve parts of Guadalajara but since we were not here very long and we tend to walk a lot of places, we did not take advantage of the public transportation.
I also visited the Panteon de Mexquitan cemetery one afternoon. The architecture and stone work of the mausoleums was beautiful though some where in sad states of repair. I really enjoyed wandering the quiet paths and reflecting on this cities history and its people.

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Guadalajara, Mexico

Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico

We went to Chiapa de Corzo to wander around the square and to take a boat tour of Sumidero Canyon. We also took some time to go into the market and eat some delicious food. Choose any stall that is busy but know that a) most stalls only serve one kind of food (tacos, tamales, caldos, etc.) and that b) Spanish is a must. But you’ll save yourself a lot of money by eating in the market than going to the restaurants near the river. A plate of three tacos cost about $20 MXN whereas the menu del dia at the restaurants on the river cost about $65 MXN.
 
Sumidero Canyon
The tour of the canyon is well worth the $160 MXN and takes about two hours but know that information is only given in Spanish. It seems as though there is only one tour company that runs these tours. We found a booth on the square but you can also go directly to the river to purchase tickets.
 
While in town, we saw a ruin of some sort up on a hill near the church (which is on another hill) overlooking Chiapa de Corzo. It’s well worth the short walk uphill for the ruin and the views of the area.
Hilltop ruins
 
To get to Chiapa de Corzo from Tuxtla, you must take an autobus to an area called Soriano (I think it’s one of the bus depots but I’m not sure). At Soriano, on the roadside, there will be colectivo drivers hollering for passengers going to different destinations that are close-by. The cost was $12 MXN each way.
Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico

Barcelona, Spain

Recently, my friend Katie and I traveled to Barcelona. When we travel together, we tend to focus mostly on wandering around, eating, and drinking. Here are some of our finds and a few tips.

We stumbled across a great little tapas bar in Barri Gotic called La Cala del Vermut, Carrer de les Magdalenes, 6. It’s not far from the Cathedral de Barcelona, but it’s tucked away enough that the tourist crowds can’t find it. We had a small lunch of a few tapas and a drink which cost about €6 per person. The staff was very friendly, answered our questions, and tolerated my poor Spanish.

La Bodegueta, Rambla de Catalunya, 100 is a delightful little tapas place usually full with patrons. It’s too small for standing so grab a table and order something wonderful from the menu. We really liked the Manchego cheese, the tiny pimientos de Padrón (grilled peppers) and the pan tomàquet (bread rubbed with tomato and garlic, then drizzled with olive oil). We ate here twice and both times the bill was under €10 a person.

Taktika Berri, Carrer de Valencia, 169 is a great pinxtos bar. At €1.45 per pinxtos, it can get expensive if you eat a lot but you can also try a handful of great items and keep it under budget. The general rule is to let the bartenders serve you unless its very crowded; then you can take what you’d like for yourself. Also, remember that when you are ready to pay, your toothpicks will be counted (usually at the register) and you will need to tell the bartender who many drinks you had. It will all be tallied up. Side note: It seemed that most people did not tip at pintxos bars. I’m not sure if it was because you kind of serve yourself, although they are filling your drinks and bringing around new pinxtos. We decided to tip when we felt that the service was exceptional.

We didn’t only eat and drink, if that’s what you are thinking so far. We also took a bike tour of the city (bad idea), went into the Cathedral de Barcelona (which is free before 12:45 p.m. and supposedly free after 5:00 p.m.), and we made the pilgrimage to La Sagrada Familia. Do not wait in line to get into Gaudi’s church. Tickets are available online via Ticketmaster (for a fee) or you can buy them at one of the many yellow ServiCaixa ATMs and skip the fee. The machines are tricky and don’t seem to work with all credit and debit cards, so try more than one card, pick a date and time, and skip the line at La Sagrada Familia.
We also made more than one trip to La Boqueria, the large market just off La Rambla. It’s a good place to buy produce, cheeses, and ready made snacks, but it is also over-run. Watch your bags while you are there.
Barcelona, Spain

New York City, United States

I recently spent a few days in New York. I wanted to wander the city but also see some of the major sites.

I went to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. Now, I made the mistake of thinking that since summer had not started, that I would have no problem walking up, buying a ticket, and getting on the first ferry to the islands. Boy was I wrong. So, I recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time so you won’t have to wait in the same line as the rest of us poor schmos who waited in line for a full hour before getting on a ferry. Reserving tickets is no more expensive. You just have to know what day and time you will be there to use your tickets.

I also went to see a play on Broadway. Instead of paying full price, visit http://www.tdf.org for discounted theater tickets. One of the ticket booths is on the South Street Seaport. There is another ticket office in Time Square but I recommend avoiding that booth along with the area at all costs. It’s way too crowded. There will be a board with all of the shows that offer discounted tickets. There will also be people you can ask questions of and get descriptions on what the plays are about. Get there early, at least 30 minutes before the booth opens to try and ensure you get tickets to the show of your choice. See the website for more information.

Last, but not least, I went to New York to eat. I highly recommend checking out the food trucks in the city. Food trucks are not the same as the street food vendors. Food trucks are usually trendier foods with better ingredients (think braised beef tacos with pickled onions). But, since they are competing with the food vendors and nearby restaurants, their prices are very affordable. This is a great way to eat something tasty and keep your costs down. It’s also a nice way to enjoy all of the public parks New York has to offer. Assuming the weather is good, you can sit outside and enjoy the view while eating delicious food. If you have a smartphone, look into downloading one of the many food truck apps that are available. Also, you can follow most of these food trucks on Twitter.

New York City, United States