Scamps with Tails

I kneeled (knelt?) down to get a better camera angle on the little guy scooting up the bamboo post.  Next thing I heard was a lot of giggling from behind me and, glancing over my shoulder, saw the attendant grabbing a long prehensile tail and pulling.   Some little scamp had jumped up on my fanny pack and was unzipping one of the pockets!  If he’d been successful, he would surely have enjoyed my emergency-snack LaraBar!  There’s no doubt that those little fingers would have had the snack wrapper torn open in no time.

The Guadalajara Zoo is on par with the zoo I grew up visiting: Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC.  It is a smaller version of the San Diego Zoo, with trains to zip you from one end of the zoo to the other and an overhead SkyZoo, a cable ride with gondolas.  A highlight for me was the walk-through enclosure that housed a dozen nimble-fingered monkeys, neighbored by another walk-through enclosure that was home to an extended family of lemurs.  The day we visited was unusually warm so many of the animals were lulled by the heat to somnolence.  But not these little monkeys.

Guadalajara, like most of catholic Latin America, has a number of interesting and stunning cathedrals or temples as they are sometimes called.  A second highlight for us was the Expiatory Temple or Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, listed on TripAdvisor as the #1 must-visit.  Truly an amazing and breath-taking architectural achievement.

The Guadalajara Cathedral is on the main square in Guadalajara Centro; it also houses, in what may have been the monastery, a museum of sacred art.  Up a final set of stairs and opening from a small gallery dedicated to primitive art of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a door leads to the roof of the cathedral overlooking Centro from the pigeons’ viewpoint as well as a perspective from the foot of the smaller dome and steeple.

I stopped at a busy fruit and vegetable market to buy local fruit. Mangoes were fat as cantaloupes, the berries were picked not 1/2 hour away, and pineapples were fragrantly beckoning, and all at amazingly low prices compared to what we pay here for raspberries, blueberries and, lord knows, for fresh pineapple.  I couldn’t figure out the system, couldn’t read the signs and couldn’t ask for help.  All was in Spanish, of course.  I tentatively stepped up, caught the eye of one of the vendors, and pointed at what I wanted.  I can at least say uno and dos.  The vendor bagged my choices but instead of handing the bags to me to go pay, she gave me instead a little slip of paper with a stamped number.  I stepped to a window on the side of the market; or I should say I stepped into the crowd at the window on the side.  There seemed to be two lines and everyone but me knew which line to be in.  One and then another and then two more people noted my stamped number and tried to point me in the right direction — all in Spanish, of course.  Somehow just by the energy of their helpfulness, I ended up in the right line, got to the window and handed over my number.  That cashier retrieved my bag and told me what I owed; need I say…in Spanish, of course.  Previous experience led me to proffer a large bill and gratefully receive my change with my purchases.

Mangoes

I’m not complaining that many on the street and in the markets did not speak English, or very little.  I’ve traveled enough to know that English is not a forgone assumption and Americans shouldn’t expect that everyone should speak as we do, even though many American tourists do expect just that.  I was reminded that, before heading south of the border, I didn’t spend enough time  brushing up on my elementary Spanish from years-gone-by Adult Ed classes. And people everywhere — on the street, in the stores, at the markets — are willing to help and forgive if we at least have a set of basic phrases, mostly “Please” and “Thank You.” Plus, I know the Point and Pray method of cross cultural communication! Mi Español no es mui bien; lo siento, solo Englais.

Vibrant and Thriving on Lake Chapala, Mexico

Walking the dogs.Ajijic

Walking on the malecon, Ajijic

Fly into Guadalajara and take a 30 minute taxi ride for $420 MX pesos to towns that live alongside Lake Chapala: Chapala and Ajijic.  Find a little boutique hotel or rent a temporary home, don sturdy walking shoes and a wide-brimmed hat and start exploring.  Lakeside on the malecons is for people watching. Ajijic’s malecon is one of two town centers where everyone, local families and expats alike, get out to stroll, dog-walk, picnic and play.  Chapala makes room on its malecon for a couple of carnival-type rides and any number of vendors.  The town squares are shaded with huge trees, circled with cafes and graced with classic Spanish churches and chapels.

The lake is for fishing.  People with pop-bottle hand-lines hang off the end of the piers and walkways or fling nets from waist-deep. but they are clearly outfished by the egrets, herons and pelicans that stand on lake edge, pilings and boat rails or skim the lake surface with deep bills.

Ajijic, with its large expat community, is artistic and yummy.  Street art hints at the art, crafts and unique clothing waiting inside the gallery doors.  There are over 100 restaurants with cuisines representing most of the wider world, including Thai, Sushi, Italian and Spanish.

Finally, there’s nothing like ambling through the golden hour and sitting lakeside to watch the sun set over the water and the Sierra Madres.

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