Guadalajara is the Mexico's second largest city and has masses of traffic to prove it. If the smog in the city isn't enough to choke you, the fumes as you drive along in a cab might do the trick. I remained indoors at the hotel on at least one my evenings due to a flaming, fume-induced migraine. On a more positive note, these repellent taxis are abundant, and their fares reasonable, making travel in the city very easy. I found that even when the rates are cheap, if you ask, they may actually get cheaper. It's best to have some idea of the distance you will be going and negotiate the rate before getting in the cab.
Poverty is common, like in all big cities. At stop lights you can easily have your windows cleaned and purchase candies from four-year-old children who run in the traffic to earn their dues.
It's a city where the typical tourist might feel a bit intimidated by the vast, grim looking streets. The dismal appearance however, is just a facade concealing the (something) world that is Guadalajara. Hidden behind decrepit walls are remarkably beautiful restaurants like Santo Coyote, with open-air courtyards surrounded by waterfalls. Their mojitos that are sure to bring you happiness.
Amazing old buildings have been transformed into boutiques and restaurants, lending a historic appreciation to your dining and shopping experience.
To get to know Guadalara better, get to know the locals, known as Tapatios. They can show you places to really experience life outside of the hotel, like El Callejon de los Rumberos (Dance Alley), where salsa sets the tone. Though a 6' 4" gringo stands out like a sore thumb in a salsa club, all was well, and my ambitious attempt to step quickly enough brought surprising praise from people that actually have rhythm.
My short five day stay, filled mostly with boring work in a hotel lobby, left me yearning for more experiences of the city. I'd recommend, if your Spanish is as limited as mine, traveling with a local, or at least a fluent Spanish speaker. Just remember--don't drink the water... drink the tequila.
Guadalajara is certainly worth a visit, to experience a true taste of Mexico and see a great historic town south of the border.
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