We love a good party. And traveling. So when we were invited to a birthday celebration in Puerto Vallarta we of course accepted and took the opportunity to combine it with a few days of touristing in Guadalajara.
We were able to take a flight directly out of La Paz to Guadalajara where we would stay overnight before taking a bus to PV. We booked the cutest little hotel in the historical downtown area, directly opposite a square with not one but two Colonial churches! You can imagine my excitement! The hotel was built in the old Spanish style of rooms around the outside of an open square, and each room had its own little balcony to look down into the courtyard below. My excitement got the better of me and on hearing the church bells ringing, I had to dash across the street for a quick look before heading out to dinner, followed by an early bedtime as our bus trip to PV would take most of the next day.
It was lucky we were up and about early in the morning. We were taking an Uber to the bus station and ordinarily that wouldn't be worthy of comment at all, but in this case the address took us way out of town to an industrial area with no bus station in sight. I should add here that unlike the major tourist and border towns, English was not spoken much at all in Guadalajara. This really tested our Spanish, in a good way I might add, but when confronted with an industrial wasteland instead of the expected bus station, despite googling the address and finding it the same as where we were, our resources were stretched to the limit and we had no idea how to find where we were supposed to be. After a few minutes of google translate and gesturing, our driver seemed to have a light bulb moment, dropped a U-ey and started driving at breakneck speed in the completely opposite direction. As it was rush hour traffic was horrendous but 20 minutes later we were at the bus station with a few minutes to spare before our bus was leaving. We have no idea what the deal was with the address but we were very thankful the driver figured out where we needed to be!
A word of advice. Never sit in the seats up front behind the driver on a bus in Mexico. We thought these would be great seats because of the large window in front that we could see out of. The scenery as we got out of the city was lovely. The road followed the valley floor, we were surrounded by rolling green hills, agricultural fields and the small villages we pulled into from time to time to pick up more passengers were pretty and quaint. But then we had to cross the mountains. The road became very narrow and wound around the mountains, there were no barriers and huge drops off the side, and there was absolutely no slowing down, the bus just careened on as is normal in Mexico. To make matters worse we could see what was coming. Semi trucks barreling towards us, their loads swaying as they overtook slower vehicles. Our driver was overtaking semi's on blind corners. Semi's overtaking us just to be overtaken again when we caught up with them a bit later. We saw it all and we thought we were going to die. We talked about how we hadn't made a will and we should have. We discussed taking a plane back to Guadalajara if we made it to PV because the prospect of sitting through the sheer terror of this again was unthinkable. We closed our eyes and held hands. Obviously we made it, but it was the longest 6 hours of our lives.
I think most of you probably know our neighbors in Maple Valley were the absolute best, in every way possible. With thirteen years of redneck drinks on the driveway, Halloween parties, birthday celebrations, evening gatherings at the mail box with wine in hand, late night reconnaissance missions, “family” dinner on Sunday nights, annual “watching the Christmas Tree being trimmed while we sit back and drink wine” traditions, book club (which was really a wine club with an incidental book mentioned in passing), not to mention our patient and kind quieter neighbors who so graciously put up with our shenanigans over the years, you can imagine how sad we were to leave everyone when we moved on to the boat. So there was no way we were going to miss Jaimie's birthday in PV with the Metcalfs!
We were the first to arrive at the resort and we knew the others weren't too far behind us. Jaimie had no idea we would be there and as Daz is a master of hiding in plain sight we got a rum and coke for the birthday girl, a couple of double G&T's for us and then sat in the lobby, a veritable hive of activity, surreptitiously reading newspapers and looking at the artwork on the walls as we kept an eye on the entrance for their arrival. We didn't have to wait too long and we watched as they trailed in, luggage in tow and a few airplane drinks under the belt, to line up at check in. With that we walked up behind Jaimie and handed her the drink – the look on her face was priceless! It's so much fun to pull off surprises! I wish we had a picture but we were so caught up in the moment we forgot to take one!
How wonderful it was to hang out with these lovely people again, just like the old days back in Maple Valley! That evening we had drinks in the little bar at the hotel and who should walk in but Jaimie's dear parents, Nick and Patti, who were also in PV but staying at a hotel nearby. We didn't know they would be there too, so that was a lovely surprise for us!
Our days were spent chilling by the pool, eating lots of wonderful Mexican food, consuming way too many drinks, and in the evening we'd go to dinner. Just like old times! The beach was lovely, although Troy had a bit of an altercation with a sea urchin and ended up in Urgent care for treatment. We had a fabulous evening at an Argentinian steakhouse with Nick and Patti too. We find these steakhouses all over Mexico and they've quickly become our favourite.
All too soon our little vacation with dear friends was over and we were packing up and heading out, the Pens and Mets to Washington while Daz and I were going back to Guadalajara. Unfortunately we couldn't get any flights to GDL without transiting via some place at the back end of Argadargada or some such for 18 hours, so it was back on the terror bus for us.
This time we were smarter and took seats back further. A movie was playing and that helped take our mind off the possible carnage approaching on the mountain passes. We stopped at different villages this time and vendors would get on to sell snacks and drinks to the passengers. One of them was selling potato chips, and he would squirt a healthy amount of hot sauce on them, followed by a good squeeze of lime juice. We were intrigued but too afraid to try them – they're serious with their hot sauces around here, they're definitely not for the faint of heart! A lovely older Mexican man wearing a caballero hat was sitting opposite us and he purchased some. He didn't speak a word of English but he told us they were called Papaitas and he was insistent on sharing them with us. They were so delicious and he was so kind to us, as we have overwhelmingly found the Mexican people to be.
We arrived back in Guadalajara unscathed physically but mentally scarred for life, and made our way to our hotel for the next few days. Just across the square from our previous hotel, The Hotel Morales was built as a home in 1888 and was originally named La Casa Verea. It came into the Morales family at the turn of the century and was considerably expanded and refurbished into a luxury hotel by Luis Morales over the ensuing years. His passion for bullfighting saw the hotel become the place to be for everyone who was anyone in the bullfighting world during the 1930's, and traditionally the Toro's were carried on the shoulders of the audience from El Progreso (the bullring) to the hotel bar to celebrate long into the evening. Many pictures of this time can be seen in the hotel bar today.
Pictures © Hotel Morales
With the bullring demolished (thankfully), the deterioration of downtown and the death of Don Luis in the 1960's, Hotel Morales was sold and then abandoned for the next 30 years. Fortunately it's been restored now and it's just so gloriously beautiful, with it's courtyard and the rooms around it in that very Spanish style. It's like stepping back in time to another era.
We were excited to explore the city over the next few days. Well...probably me more than Daz, although he's too sweet to say so. There was going to be a lot of churches and museums!