Guadalajara – Where the Taxi Driver is King

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When I planned on visiting Guadalajara, I did so because a lot of my students come from Jalisco (the state of Guadalajara).  This time, unlike before my trip to Guanajuato, I did not confer with my instructors to see if they had any suggestions about what to see there.  I also wanted to visit the Distroller store there.  Wheat and I took an ETN bus from Morelia.  After two unmemorable movies dubbed in Spanish, and three and a half hours on the road, we finally arrived.  ETN is the highest class of bus that I am aware of in Mexico, and it was a very nice trip.  I sat next to a windo so that I could look at the countryside.

The state of Jalisco is relatively flat, but you can almost always see a mountain or two in the distance. There are mostly low brush and bushes, but everything is green.  Almost every ranch or farm seems to have at least one field of agave.  Maybe it’s the law: after all, this is where tequila comes from!  Oh, and not far from Guadalajara, you cross a deep gorge with a river far below.  That was neat.

Anyway, we collected our bags and headed for the exit to the Central de Autobuses.  I looked around for a taquilla, which is a stand that monitors the rates that you are charged when you take a taxi.  You tell the receptionist where you are going, they determine what zone it is in, and they give you a price based on the distance to the zone you asked for.  You pay that person and are handed a receipt that you hand to the taxi driver.  I assume that he keeps these and turns them in at the end of the day to get paid.  Morelia has this system, as well as Benito Juarez airport in Mexico City.

In Guadalajara, there is no taquilla.  So, when you venture out, fresh off the bus, you are pretty much at the mercy of the taxistas.  We were approached by a taxi driver, and we asked how much it would cost to go to our hotel in El Centro.  He said 130 pesos!  I had asked a security guard beforehand how much it usually costs to go to El Centro, and he said 40 pesos.  At least that’s what I thought he said!  Anyway, we were stuck paying a fare that exceeded all taxi fares we had paid so far – even in Mexico City!

Let me explain that, in Morelia, it doesn’t cost more than 30 or 35 pesos to go anywhere.  In Guanajuato, it was a little bit more than that, but not by much.  So when I heard this quote, I was instantly suspicious.  Still, I went ahead and paid, chalking it up to the “gringo entry tax” for the first taxi ride in a city.  when we got to the hotel, the first thing I asked the bellman was how much it usually costs to go to the bus station.  He said about 90 pesos.

Ah HA!  This was not helping me with my trust issues.

That night, I used the internet to scout out a place to eat.  I found on a couple of message boards that a place called Casa Bariachi was highly recommended.  So, we went out and got the bellman to hail a cab.  The cost to go to Bariachi was 50 pesos.  When we left the restaurant and hailed another taxi, we were told that the price to get BACK to the hoteli (the same distance) would be 70 pesos.  I argued that it had only cost 50 pesos to get there and he explained that the rates go up after 10PM. Oh…  I also noticed that Bariachi’s gives each taxi driver the equivalent of 20 pesos in voucher form every time they arrive or leave from there.  Paranoid, I wondered if we should have paid 20 pesos less, but when I asked the driver what that was for, he just said “es para mi.” (It’s for me)

All I can say is that taxi rates are extremely variable.  Yes, Guadalajara is a very big city.  Wheat said that it was like visiting Los Angeles.  I thought it reminded me a bit of Houston, except with less traffic.  We paid about $70 USD total in cab fare the whole weekend.  I also deduced that there is a whole “sitio” (taxi station) that operates our of the bus stations, and their prices a just going to be at least 20 pesos more than coming from anywhere else.

Okay, I’m finished with my taxi rant – although it may come up again in future entries.

Now, for the positive stuff.  I chose the Hotel Morales on Travelocity and had paid for it ahead of time.  It is a really nice hotel – it is in an old building, but the furnishings are very understated in shades of brown, gray and white.  There was music in the lobby when we went down to check our e-mail (as usual, the lobby really was the only place to get good wireless reception.).  Our room was vast and was decorated in the same austere manner as the lobby.  And – I was so excited – there was air conditioning!!!  I immediately put that to use.  Wheat checked out how many cable channels were offered on the television.

I have to also give kudos to Casa Bariachi.  We ordered nachos (which were not heated – they took chips and piled refried beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and crumbled cheese on top of them) and they were very good.  I ordered the limonada, which is made from limes, not lemons.  It was really great, but my acid reflux that night told me that I had overdone it with the acids.  We ordered one of the specialties of the house:  Camarones in molcajete.  The waiter brought out this large plate with a molcajete (which is generally used to grind things up in, like for mole) filled to the rim with shrimp, nopales, cheese, and a broth that bubbled for ten minutes after it arrived at our table.  It was really good – we ate the shrimp in tortillas, with nopales and cheese added.

The only drawback to Casa Bariachi is that it is very dimly lit.  I already have to wear reading glasses now, so I was not happy when I also had to go and stand directly under a light to choose from the menu.  Of course, when the waiter brings you the bill, he uses a small flashlight to help you see where to sign.   I suggest you bring a flashlight.

Casa Bariachi is famous for it’s floor show – they seemed to have a warm-up troupe of one singer (male) and two couples who performed folkloric dances in full dress.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, a mariachi group showed up, but we were too tired to stay and enjoy them.

When we got back to the hotel, we went to bed – I cranked up the A/C and snuggled under the covers.  I almost could have spent the whole weekend there, but I am glad we didn’t.  The next morning, we went down to breakfast.  It was not complimentary, like at our other hotels, but it was reasonably priced.  I had two fried eggs and they came with chilaquiles rojos and beans on the side.  wheat had the pancakes.  We were also served a plate of fruit and another of toast.  It was enough to tide us over for a while.

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