From the USA to México

Palacio Municipal de Guadalajara

Santa Marta, Colombia, was going to be my next stop. That was if I didn’t go visit my fabulous friends in Thailand. I had places to stay picked out. I learned all about things to do in the area. I was determined. Then I looked at the weather. I’ve recently been to Portugal with its gorgeous room-temp all the time. Then I was in Seattle as it settled into its deep-dark-damp winter. The Santa Marta area of Colombia is all hot-hot tropics. You have to work your way up to that type of heat.

Where to?

So where to go? I had heard about this gorgeous lake on the Pacific side of México with an adorable town with tons of English-speaking expats. You fly into Guadalajara and bus it to Ajijic on the shores of Lake Chapala. Only problem was that I couldn’t find a place to stay on such short notice, right before Día de los muertos. Now, if you google one of the best places to be for Day of the Dead, you get Guadalajara. Interesting.

Hiking trail near Seattle
While I will miss the gorgeous lush forests of Washington, it’s time to hit the road to warmer adventures!

Plus, my in-laws have two different friends whose families live near Guadalajara and they both just love the area. The temp is perfect as it’s at an elevation similar to Denver (about a mile high). There is a ton to do and lots of cool architecture. The flight is direct and cheap and only five hours. I would have boots on the ground to go check out Ajijic for myself. And I can stay in México for six months with my US passport.

Now where to stay in Guadalajara? The city is massive. Second biggest in all of México. There are all these different neighborhoods to stay in, each with its own charm. I read numerous recommendations for the Colonia Americana neighborhood. In reality, I couldn’t afford to rent anything in that area, with all its skyscrapers. I’m afraid of heights, anyway. I chose this adorable studio with an amazingly green and tropical courtyard in the working class area of the city a short distance away. Very walkable.

To Guadalajara!

Apartment booked. Flight booked. Now to pack. It really takes me several days to pack. This time I got these nifty packing cubes to help with organizing. Those things are amazing and I actually ended up with more space in my luggage than ever before. I still have to pay attention to weight so I don’t get charged more at the airline ticket counter. It’s less expensive to have two bags than one overweight bag.

Street art of skeleton
Check out this amazing street art near my apartment. It makes me excited for Day of the Dead celebrations!

Okay, here’s the thing. I got a really cheap (direct) flight… that just happens to be overnight. Why do I do this to myself!?! It was lovely to wake up the morning of my flight and relax with the in-laws all day. Pack some last-minute items. Meander to the airport at 6:30pm (thanks for the ride, pops-in-law!). Seattle traffic could cause the trip to be 30 minutes or four hours. Best to leave early. This meant I had to wait for quite a while until the check-in counter opened, but it’s worth it.

By this time, half the security lines are closed for the night. Check-in is at the south terminal but the only TSA pre-check line open is at north. Lucky for me, the restaurant I want to go to is right after security. Now it’s time to take full advantage of the expensive travel card I have. Free meal of delicious phở and then it’s off to a lounge in central. I’m walking all over this airport. They just redid their international terminal, and it looks really pretty.

Gazebo in front of Guadalajara Cathedral
So much amazing architecture here. This is the Guadalajara Cathedral.

Please don’t sit by me!

I’m exhausted. My usual bedtime is before 10pm and the flight is loading well after my bedtime. I watch in horror as baby after baby gets carried onto the plane. Please keep moving. This poor family with one baby and an unhappy toddler end up right in front of me. It was going to be a long flight. Smart of me to bring noise-canceling headphones. I popped those suckers in my ears the second the screaming started without even bothering plugging them into a device.

And there was screaming up and down the plane for the entire five hours. Family members were switching out with the parents, trying to help out. Everyone was very supportive, but it was a long night for everyone onboard. The kids finally fell asleep… just in time to miss the plane landing. Then those poor parents had to wake them up again to get them off the plane. Not happy campers! I am once again very satisfied with my childless choice.

Off the plane onto the tarmac, take a bus to baggage claim, and wait for luggage to arrive. Things then got a little interesting. I saw other people from my flight waiting at one baggage carousel, so I went to wait with them there. But then, this nice lady (who was definitely on my flight) let me know that our luggage was coming out on a different carousel. No signs on either location. I have trackers, so I know all my luggage is in Guadalajara. I’ll just watch both. Low and behold, they were coming out of both. Whatever it takes.

Lady Gremlin street art
Greta from Gremlins! This is on one of the cemetery walls.

Push the button!

Now it’s time to get into this huge line for customs. I had slept through the flight attendants handing out customs forms, so I had to go hunt down one of those. No fruits, nuts, soil, meat, or live animals. I brought in some wonderful huckleberry jam that a friend gave me, but the online form said that was okay.

México has this fun system where you push a button to exit customs. Get a green light and welcome to México! Get a red light and the customs agents pull everything out of your bag to search it. It eliminates bias from the agents. However, it’s very stressful pushing that button. Luckily I got a green! The poor guy, one lane over, looked all sad and dejected when he came up red. Sorry, buddy! I’m in! Now I need an ATM and breakfast.

Parque Alcalde
Is that a giraffe!?! The water is very murky but I did see some turtles at Parque Alcalde by my apartment. They have fun statues as well.

After walking around that airport forever, I finally found a few ATMs. It’s nice to start out with the local currency and my international bank card gives a much better rate (even with ATM fees) than any of the money exchange places. Including my bank in the States. Time for breakfast. I was worried I wouldn’t find a place open at 6am, but I got lucky and it was delicious. It also helped me hang out until 7:30am when I could check into my apartment. It’s so early!

Is that a farmer’s market!?!

Breakfast was delightful, in spite of my slightly upset stomach. I don’t travel well, but at least I remembered to take some Dramamine before the flight. Now to go call a ride-share and find this apartment. The ride took about 40 minutes and only cost $20. Not bad. As we pulled into my new neighborhood, I noticed a giant Sunday market happening, with the street completely closed down for the event. Yes! I’m in!

The owner of the building let me know that if the apartment wasn’t ready, I could leave my bags with Señor Raymundo (the property manager) and return later in the day. Lucky for me, on arrival, he led me straight to my room. But I thought my new place was upstairs? All the pictures indicate a second-floor apartment. Downstairs isn’t that bad, but the windows aren’t as nice and I would like to be closer to the gorgeous garden deck on the second floor.

Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo Sacramento
This is Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo Sacramento. I studied this type of architecture in college. So cool to see it in real life!

I contacted the owner just to make sure I wasn’t in the wrong place before I started unpacking. She assured me I was in the right room, but the person who had rented a room upstairs for all of November had just canceled. I could have that room if I wanted. How cool is that!?! Señor Raymundo helped me move all my stuff up the stairs and I am very happy I switched.

Metal dishes?

This place has a microwave! Downstairs did not. Unfortunately, I discovered that all the dishes are metal. I guess most of the apartments have toaster ovens instead of a microwave. I think a guest must have bought it and left it. That’s interesting. The owner was so nice and said she would send new dishes, plus a fan and a blender. I don’t use A/C, so a fan is necessary and I do really like fruity blended cocktails!

Street art of woman in cat hat
I just can’t get over how good the street art is. This is one of my favorites!

There is no washer and dryer in the unit, but you can pay Señor Raymundo for ‘tokens’ to use the laundry in the shared laundry room. Turns out the ‘tokens’ are just USD quarters. How funny is that!?! I gave all mine to my in-laws just before I left the States. Shoot. Now I have to buy a couple for like a buck fifty. Not to worry. I’m saving so much money on rent (about $700/month), I can afford it. Plus, the place comes with included weekly cleanings, so I get clean sheets and towels delivered each week. Nice!

The Sunday market was amazing! I got so much food and fresh vegetables, and it only cost about US$5. That’s less than what I would pay in the States for only two bell peppers. I definitely got more than that, including a couple of incredible looking bell peppers. Got to make some Haitian cabbage slaw (pikliz)! I also ventured to a grocery store to stock up on all the essentials (and Tequila!). That’s one really hard thing about moving so much. You have to re-stock condiments and oils and alcohol at each new location.


One thing I don’t have to stock up on is coffee. See, the friend who gave me the delightful huckleberry jam also gave me a bag of coffee. Now this coffee has been places! They grew it in Oaxaca, México, which is not that far from where I am now. Then those beans traveled to Tillamook, Oregon, in the USA, where they were delightfully roasted.

Statue in Tlaquepaque
This statue is in the fun neighborhood of Tlaquepaque. Had to take a light-rail to get to this one.

My friend purchased them in Tillamook, traveled them up the Pacific coast to Seattle, where she gave them to me. Then on they went to a lovely town about half an hour east of there where I ground the whole beans. After that, I packed that wonderful bag of coffee into my luggage and transported it back to México in Guadalajara. I enjoyed it immensely using the new French-press in my new apartment. That is some delicious coffee. Thanks, Friend!

I’m enjoying Guadalajara thus far. It’s really dry here, which is interesting. It makes this tropical location feel cooler. Plus, it is cooler because of the high elevation. The apartment is small but functional. No TV, but I went 20 years without a TV before starting these adventures, so no worries there. I have a laptop for videos. I’m figuring out the bus system and recently used it to day trip to Lake Chapala. Stay tuned for that adventure!

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  1. Lydia C lives in Ajijic. She was a lab assistant in hemeonc and the lab. She retired there and has a beautiful house with a pool.

    Bill & I visited her when we went to Guad years ago.

    1. Ajijic is a very pretty town. I took a day trip there last week and had a good time. It would be a nice place to retire. There are so many social things to do there.

  2. Wonderful you got there OK and are settling in. You probably know you left Seattle about the right time. Fall/winter has really settled in.

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