Mexico is one country that doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s Bucket list.
Wendy and Tom from Big Yellow Suitcase can change that perception.
Their November “tour de force” was based in the delightful village of Ajijic (pronounced Ah-hee-heek) on the shores of Lake Chapala. Lake Chapala is about 30 minutes’ drive from the airport at Guadalajara. We stayed in the delightful Hotel La Nueva Posada on the shores of Lake Chapala.
When I tell friends about travelling to Mexico, they all ask about security and the bad reputation for drug running. Ajijic is in the state of Jalisco (pronounced Halisco), which is called “the true Mexico” and is remote from the security risk areas. Paula and I felt quite safe walking around Ajijic at night going to and from restaurants.
Ajijic has a strong arts culture. The purpose of the tour was to experience the vibrant art experience and immerse ourselves in the culture. That we did. There were tours of houses steeped in local art work, a photography tour, a visit to the Lake Chapala Society open day and a guided walk around the street art of Ajijic.
The tour culminated in the Maestros del Arte Fair, which is the annual “Feria” for some 80 artisans who come to the town of Lake Chapala to exhibit and sell their ceramics, textiles, artworks, silverware and craftwork. The fair was held in the grounds of the Lake Chapala Yacht Club and we were entertained by a female Mariachi band, resplendent in their silver buttoned black outfits.
For the foodies, there are choices for eating out from street food to good quality restaurants with variety ranging from international dishes to Mexican influenced cuisine; notwithstanding the Hotel La Nueva Posada has very good breakfasts and evening meals. The tour included dinner at Viva Mexico, where the philanthropic owner Agustin treated us to traditional Mexican food and the sounds of a Mariachi band. There were other dining events in some spectacular locations, organised with panache by Wendy and Tom. Some of the group tried their hand at a Mexican cooking class under the guidance of Linda, who is renowned for her Mole.
For the shoppers, the trip to the very quaint Tlaquepaque near Guadalajara was worthwhile. After a cultural briefing by host Stan on the different Mexican ceramic styles, we walked to the village centre, where there are shops-a-plenty. Don’t miss the renowned sculptor and silversmith Sergio Bustamante, whose artworks we had seen in the beautiful grounds of the Jose Cuervo distillery in Tequila, following a visit to an Agave plantation and an impressive tour of the tequila distillery.
The finale in Guadalajara was a walking tour of the city and a spectacular performance of Bizet’s Carmen at the opulently appointed Guadalajara Opera House. The performance was excellent on so many levels.
I was impressed with those expatriates who live in Ajijic and who contribute to the local community by supporting people with disabilities, helping disadvantaged people and supporting youth art and culture. I was also impressed with the local people who we met, who were proud of their country, their culture and what they did in life.
Don’t miss an opportunity to see more of Mexico while you are there. Paula and I went by a very modern bus to Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende and wished we had stayed longer. My tip is to take a Mexican Spanish pocket book, which you can buy at Dymocks for $15, for when Tom is not around to translate.
I’d like to thank Wendy and Tom for organising this first-time Mexican cultural experience for such a diverse group of experienced travellers.
Did Big Yellow Suitcase change my perception of Mexico? Absolutely!
Allambie Heights, NSW