Guadalajara, Lucha Libre, and the Best Steamed Goat You’ve Ever Had

We were still getting the hang of the bus system and, though I knew there must be cheaper options than what we were being quoted at ticket counters, travel agencies, and online, we couldn’t seem to find them. We didn’t quite need the level of flash we kept ending up with. From Guanajuato to Guadalajara, we booked a Primera Plus bus for 378 pesos each for the four-hour trip. This isn’t exorbitant, but still seemed a bit steep. The benefit of taking the more expensive (known as first-class) buses – aside from the comfort and the perks – is the safety they offer. They make very limited or no stops at all between their origin and their destination, and tend to take the shiny, well-maintained toll roads. Both of these facts severely limit the chances of anything bad (hijacking, robberies, etc.) happening to your bus, particularly at night. If you are travelling overnight, it is strongly recommended that you take a direct, first-class bus. We arrived at Nueva Central Camionera in Guadalajara and jumped onto a bus marked ‘Centro’ that we figured would take us close enough to our centrally located hostel. Guadalajara has two classes of city buses, the regular ones, which cost 7 MXN per trip, and the “TUR,” bright turquoise tourist buses at 12 MXN per trip. The TUR buses essentially have two classes as well – the old ones that are marginally better than the regular ones, due to a bit more space and exceptionally worn, but soft, seats (as opposed to hard plastic, which when you’re bouncing around in the back with a backpack over particularly uneven sections of road, is a bonus), and the new ones which look to be about the same level of comfy as the first class buses we’ve been taking from city to city, but that we never actually had occasion to ride on. Guadalajara is a decent-sized city, home to roughly 1.6 million people. People seem to love it, as friends of ours had recommended a stop there, we ran into a couple of people who were planning a move there, and general travel advice said good things. It didn’t thrill me, or particularly charm me, though. It may be one of those cities that hides its charms quite well, and once you begin discovering them, you become hooked. Perhaps we explored some of the wrong areas, and missed some of the best bits, but it didn’t captivate me. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time, as we certainly managed that. I tend to be quite suspect of recommendations in guidebooks, particularly for food (somewhat less-so for accommodation). This is primarily because I would very much like to avoid eating in a restaurant with a bunch of fifty-year-old Lonely Planet-toting North Americans. I would like to eat in a restaurant that is full of Mexican people. It’s like eating at a Chinese restaurant in Canada where no Chinese people would eat. It’s just wrong. The accommodation options I’ve got a bit more lenience towards. I assume that my hostel/hotel/B&B/campsite will be full of tourists. If you were a local you would not need said accommodation. But this time, we did it. Tim had found a listing for a restaurant that he wanted to try, and he seemed quite excited, so I figured we might as well give it a go. We’d been living primarily on street food for the last week, and a meal had rarely cost us more than 5 USD total, so I figured we deserved a proper meal. Birriería las Nueve Esquinas at Av Colón 384 is in a quaint little section of Guadalajara (though the walk there is a bit less quaint, and borders more on sketchy). When we sat down at one of the tables in the restaurant, it was about half Mexicans and half tourists, a ratio that seemed a bit high on the tourist scale, but still doable. The restaurant itself is exceptionally charming; you feel as though you are sitting in an overgrown extension of someone’s kitchen. All of the preparation goes on in front of your eyes, from making dough for tortillas to cooking meat. Then Tim told me that the specialty of the restaurant was their steamed goat. I think the only goat-related thing I’d eaten in the past was cheese, so why not. We ordered one of each of the specialties (their highlighted at the top of the menu, so even if you can’t read Spanish, it’s hard to mess it up), birria de chivo (the goat) and barbacoa de borrego (lamb) and waited to see what arrived. I don’t actually speak enough Spanish to get by most of the time, so it’s always a bit of a gamble what turns up on your table. What turned up? Well … I’m basically salivated retelling this. First, they start you off with corn chips, pickled onions, and two types of salsa. And then the rest of it starts to come. A basket of warm tortillas. Cilantro and onions. Anticipation builds. The meat. Each portion turned up in a traditional clay dish. The lamb was delicious. The goat probably even more so, mainly because of the juices that it had been cooked in. My favourite combination for a taco developed into a one of mostly lamb, a little bit of goat, all of the fixings, and then some extra goat juice poured over the top. It was actually ridiculous. Guadalajara had more to offer us than goat. Namely, lucha libre. Gold old Mexican wrestling. Well, fake wrestling, really. Lucha libre involves generally masked men, sometimes in teams, putting on an extravagant and quite acrobatic show of pretending to beat each other up while the crowd goes mental and hurls insults at the “bad guys.” I don’t think I’d wanted to know Spanish more at any other point than this, when a balcony full of kids chanted something in unison at the wrestlers, and a woman right behind us rarely touched her seat as she screamed at the boxing ring. Entertainment value = very high. Lucha Libre The next day took us to a suburb of Guadalajara called Tonalá. Tonalá is well known as an artisan area, and twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, a seemingly endless street market explodes in dozens of streets around the artisan shops and pottery warehouses. We wiled away a few hours, wandering through the stalls and snacking. The array of goods was outstanding, the quality of the workmanship often was as well. We made quick notes in our notebook of what was on offer, in case we ever had a house and needed to fill it with stuff. At exceptionally reasonable prices. You could aquire an entire set of traditional Mexican style crockery, hand-painted, for less than 20 USD. Pottery. Paintings. Barrel liquor cabinet. Warped canvas. Chairs. Tiles. The area and the market is apparently a haven for wholesale buyers from around the world, and I have no doubt as to why. Particularly in the pottery areas, which seemed to be generally operated as some sort of co-op or collective, buying in bulk was the only option. The dishes we had been eating out of around the area could be seen here, echoed thousands of times. Highly recommend, whether or not the street markets or on or not, as most of the best oodies are in the permanent shops anyways. As much as I had enjoyed the bustling cities of inland Mexico, it was on both Tim and my minds that we wanted to get out to the coast. We wanted beach and waves and sun, palm trees and drinking out of coconuts, hammocks and camping and surf. We wanted our own slice of a Mexican beach holiday, which we intended to chase from Puerto Vallarta all the way south, nearly to the border of Guatemala. Soon, we would go. But first, Tequila.

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