Just a quick day trip to Shaver Lake, about an hour outside of Fresno.
Sr. Elizondo and I spent five days in Guadalajara which I think is the perfect amount of time. We stayed at Hotel de Mendoza in the historic district.
This budget friendly hotel fits right in with the historic vibe and has a friendly helpful staff. The best thing about this hotel is the location, as it’s right in the center of the touristic historic center.
The historic center is beautiful, with different government buildings and churches that are breathtaking.
Tlaquepaque is an artist town that cannot be missed when visiting Guadalajara. It’s touristy for sure, but who can resist the bright colors, beautiful crafts, and great food.
Next up was a visit to Lake Chapala, about 45 minutes outside Guadalajara. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico and it has the largest expat community of Americans outside of the U.S. This is a charming town and I immediately saw the appeal of living here. BTW: Chapala weather is considered springtime all year.
Lastly, one day had to be a throw away due to illness. What we missed would be a Tequila Tour. The state of Jalisco is the home of Tequila and there are many tequila tours of the distilleries and agave fields to choose from.
Tips for Visiting Guadalajara
- Use the historic district as your base. Much of what you want to see in Guadalajara is in walking distance from here. And if not, the tour buses are based out of this area.
- 2 full days exploring the historic district is plenty. Be sure to eat at La Chata (if you´re willing to wait in line!) Farther down that same street, on the same side and on the corner is a taco place called Las Faroles. Sr. Elizondo loved these tacos. Lastly, the café at the historic theater bldg has a good breakfast and delicious (strong) coffee.
- 1 full day in Tlaquepaque (shopping day!) We took a tour bus, but I’m sure an Uber would not be expensive as it’s not that far outside the center.
- We took a tour to Lake Chapala, but I would have liked to stay longer. I would recommend 1 full day to enjoy the town and go for a boat ride on the lake. The tour we took included a stop at the ranch of Vicente Fernandez for a picture with him and a visit to his western store. This stop took up a majority of our tour (not happy). If you are not a fan of this singer and it’s not important to have a picture with him, I suggest you find a tour to Lake Chapala without this on the itinerary. Or better yet, find your own transportation and explore Chapala on your own.
It’s always awesome when you find a good restaurant. Sunday Sr. Elizondo and I decided to have lunch in Santiago at L’Anfora. I’m so happy we did. It had a great vibe with a very attentive staff. We had a bottle of LA Cetto Nebbiolo 2013 which was a smooth red vino, caprese salad with focaccia, pastas, and flan. We enjoyed all of them! And after, with tummies extended from full capacity, we walked through the plaza planning our next visit.
Parras, Coahuila is home to the oldest, continuously running winery in the Americas called Casa Madero (est. 1597). The winery offers a tour and wine tasting by appointment, and the hacienda on site is a popular venue for weddings. This was my second time to Casa Madero, so we did not do their wine tour again. This visit was more about enjoying the hacienda and the wedding we were attending.
Currently, there are 14 wineries in Parras, mostly family owned. We had the opportunity to visit Don Leo Winery. This winery is obviously more modern, with a tour including a short ride through the vineyard and seeing buffalo that the owner has brought onto the property. The tasting was given by the oeneologist, and the wines (Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cab Sav/Shiraz) were served with a small plate of meats and cheeses. Surprisingly, my favorite wine was their Chardonnay.
Parras is an up and coming wine area, without the established feel of Guadalupe or California wine areas. However, in August Parras celebrates with their annual Feria de la Uva (Grape Festival). The Rivero Gonzalez winery (know for their rosés) has their own Cosecha Magica festival; which after reading about it, is now on my “Must Go” list.
I’m getting ready to say good-bye to California and return to Monterrey Mexico. I was able to spend some time on the central coast: Cambria, Pismo, Morro Bay, and drove Highway 1 through Big Sur. For many who have never been to California, I’m sure images of Los Angeles and San Diego beaches are flashing through your mind. However, the central coast is nothing like it. The central coast has a much more small town, cozy, laid back vibe. One strip towns of shops and restaurants, cool breezes and chilly evenings in the summer. The stunning scenery of the ocean and redwoods are amazing.
Morro Bay/Cambria/ Highway 1/Henry Miller Museum, Big Sur/ La Ventana Restaurant Big Sur
I just returned from 5 days in Chiapas and it was as beautiful as I imagined. Here is my recap, as well as my tips for traveling to this region. Our itinerary was 2 full days in Tuxtla and 3 full days in San Cristobal.
Let me start by saying Tuxtla is not a tourist town. There is really nothing to do there. However, it is a good base to visit Cañon del Sumidero and Chiapa de Corzo. Cañon del Sumidero is beautiful. We took a tour of the canyon from above and a 2 hour boat trip through the canyon. Definitely a sight to see, including the crocodiles!
The next day we went to Chiapa del Corzo. This is a small puebla of Indians and Mexicans with a tourist area of restaurants and Mexican goods. My advice is that if you are also visiting San Cristobal, visiting Chiapa del Corzo is not necessary.
The next tour we took was of a village of the Chamula Indians near to San Cristobal. The Chamula Indians do not appreciate photographs, so I have no pictures. I found these indigenous people fascinating. The tour was basically of their church. The church is catholic and they pray to Mary and the catholic saints, but with their own rites and rituals. Though it was brief, this visit was worth it.
The next village we visited on this tour is of the Zinacantán. These Indians are major producers of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In fact, many of their flowers are shipped to Canada and the USA. It’s a beautiful area because we are now in the highlands. I am not sure, but I believe we are around 6000 ft above sea level. Men, women, and children all work.
Again, this was a brief tour simply to a textile shop to purchase handmade goods. I would have liked to have spent more time here and walked around a bit.
Now, on to San Cristobal. This is a pueblo mágico meaning the façade of the buildings cannot be reconstructed to maintain their historic values. It is definitely a tourist area with a lot of restaurants and shopping, but I still felt a strong sense of the city itself. I saw very few Americans here. I had the sense more of the tourists come from Europe and South America.
In the center is the Diocesis de San Cristobal.
Walking up the 400 steps for San Cristobal views.
The last tour was of Lagos de Montebello. Gorgeous blue lakes and waterfalls.
The best meal I had was in Lum Restaurant. I highly recommend this place. The food was excellent.
My Chiapas recommendation recap:
- I would stay in San Cristobal for my entire visit. Or stay in Tuxtla for the Cañon del Sumidero tour only.
- I would also add Palenque to my visit, staying the night there.. It is very far from San Cristobal (though they do do day trips).
- I would skip Chiapa del Corzo tour.
- For me, 2-3 full days in San Cristobal is sufficient.
- For this April 5 full day trip, I recommend 2 pair of shorts/capris and tops for 3 tours. 2 pair jeans, tops for the town including 1 long sleeve shirt, and one lightweight jacket (I actually used a pashmina scarf). Sneakers for tours and walking shoes/sandals for the town. For whatever reason, it was in the 50’s temp at night, but it never felt that cold to me.
- Any hotel in the historic center of San Cristobal is within easy walking distance to the center with a lot of the restaurants and bars. Think of the Diocesis de San Cristobal as ground zero for all the “action”.
- The indigenous people are a huge part of visiting this area. I feel it is important to repay them by purchasing goods directly from them and the local artists in the area.
Fresno California in the Central Valley gets a bad wrap. Sure it doesn’t come compare to Southern California or the Bay Area, but it has some good qualities. And it’s my home town!
The Central Valley is an agriculture epicenter. You cannot beat the farmers markets Fresno offers.
Madera Wine Trail
No need to travel to get to wineries, they’re right around the corner.
The Tower District is an area of theater, breweries, tattoo parlors and vintage stores.
Old Town Clovis
Old Town maintains a western atmosphere with restaurants, bars, and a great place to go if you like shopping for antiques.
Lakes & Mountains
And if you like outdoor recreation and beauty, it’s less than an hour away.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is an easy day trip!
Fresno is not a vacation destination by any means. However, if you find yourself in the area there’s no need for dread. It’s not as bad as you think.