Tequila Tasting in Jalisco
Originally published on January 19, 2017.
Hellooooo and happy 2017! This is the year I really want to reconnect with the Under the Rosemary family. I'm always caught off guard when I run into familiar faces from high school who say, "I just love your blog!" (True story, the last time it happened was a month ago at a pho restaurant.) And then a little wave of guilt washes up because I've neglected publishing the ideas I've had swarming in my head for so long.
I'm emerging into a better headspace this month and I hope to grasp onto that momentum. I thank you for patience, kindness and ask that in 2017 you keep me accountable. If things start to get a little quiet around here, just nudge me. It'll likely be a nudge in a better direction.
Now that I've gotten my greetings for the year out in the universe, I'll finally delve into an adventure I've been longing to share. During the last two weeks of December, I flew to Jalisco, Mexico to spend the holidays with my relatives. While I find tranquility in the small rancho where my family lives, it also leaves me restless. With only two weeks in another country, I don't want to spend it cooped up in one place. That's why my sister and I booked a three day stay in Guadalajara. Let's get into the sights and tequila tastings.
Exchange Rate as of January 19, 2017: 1 U.S. Dollar = 21.91 Mexican Pesos
Where We Stayed:
Tip: Try booking the hotel through a site like Orbitz or Expedia. Orbitz recently had a special where a room was only $34 USD a night as opposed to $54 USD found on the hotel's website.
Hotel Malibu is located in Zapopan, which is a few miles away from Guadalajara's historic center. At the time we booked our hotel, it cost roughly $43 USD per night. The hotel is a few feet away from the Gran Plaza Fashion Mall, which houses so many name brand stores that it has gained recognition as a local landmark. Since we arrived to the hotel a few hours early, we killed a few hours browsing stores and adopting a new pair of Converse shoes.
During my stay at Hotel Malibu, I was so impressed by the staff. The concierge team was so accommodating and the bellboys were always up for a chat. Hotel Malibu offers a breakfast buffet for $100 pesos (roughly less than $5) with fruits, breads, as well as a grill dishing out omelettes and sopes. If you glance outside the restaurant's windows, then you'll catch a view of the gorgeous pool and communal seating area. I spent one of my nights curled up with a magazine in a lawn chair looking out at the stars... mainly for a few hours of peace, but also because I hadn't packed any swimming clothes. The following night, however, I rummaged through and found a pair of shorts (a gift from my sister who bought it at the Gran Plaza Fashion Mall) and hopped into the pool. I should also mention that I did so in 50 degree weather, so I woke up a bit congested the next day but with no regrets.
Tequila Tasting in Tequila, Jalisco
$350 pesos or roughly $16 USD
One of the perks of staying at Hotel Malibu was its affiliation with Tequila Grand Tours. This tour group offers various packages to visit popular cities bordering Guadalajara, like Tonola and Tlaquepaque and other scenic spots. We picked the "Tequila, Mariachi and Agave Field" package where we learned all about the tequila making process through mini lectures and tastings. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the station where the tour departs via bus. Our first stop was at the Tres Mujeres distillery. We were given a tour of their long, winding cellar stocked with barrels of tequila. Our noses were wrapped in the sweet agave scents and I was living for it.
After touring the distillery, we were then transported to one of the fields belonging to the tequila makers where we were greeted with mariachi. We then all huddled around to try the tequilas whose flavors differed with their aging process and also tried rompope. We were given half an hour to walk off our mini buzz in the picturesque agave fields and stock up on tequila purchases. Lunch was hosted at a nearby buffet with a beautiful view of the countryside. The cost of our lunch was not included with our tour ticket so if you're looking to save a few pesos, then I would recommend packing something instead.
Following our lunch, our final stop was in Tequila's historic district for a tour of the Jose Cuervo factory, La Rojeña. Tours were available in English and Spanish. We walked past the agave ovens and had the opportunity to taste the dried agave and sample more tequila. On our way out, many were held up in the gift shops, but my eyes were on the cantarito stands throughout the town. I saw so many stands on our way to the factory and even more people roaming the streets with a cantarito in their hands. Cantaritos literally translate to small clay pots, but its what you fill them with that drive people crazy. The drinks are a mix of tequila, grapefruit soda, salt, and the juice of freshly squeezed oranges, grapefruits and limes. So fresh, so light, so good.
Other Places to Visit:
Centro Historico de Guadalajara y Mercado San Juan de Dios
One of the places I ran out of time to visit was the historic center or Guadalajara, which is ironic since I wasn't that far from it. The only place near the centro I did visit was the San Juan de Dios market because I was on the hunt for huaraches. Luckily, I had visited the centro 2 years ago so it didn't feel like a total loss, but I still want to go back. I absolutely love the architecture and visiting its gorgeous cathedral. This time around I had a full day of museum trips planned, but it kind of got thrown out the window to accommodate a more spontaneous adventure.
Lago de Chapala & Tonola
On our last full day in the Guadalajara area, we got lucky. As we walked outside, a taxi driver trusted heavily by the staff at the hotel was parked outside. Off the bat, he seemed very talkative and won us over (we remained cautious though, as a good traveler should). He shared stories about his time working in the U.S. and shared tidbits about his life meeting different faces everyday. After learning our stay in Guadalajara was short he drove us to Chapala Lake and the artisan hub of Tonola. He waited for us as we shopped and explored the towns.
To be honest though, I would recommend exploring these cities with a tour group instead if you're not feeling as bold. Especially for solo travelers, visiting these areas with a group can best help you navigate places that are safe and welcoming to non-locals. Depending on your pace, traveling with a group can also help you knock out more sites in one day.
I personally enjoyed the tour experience because it was led by people who knew where they were going and whose priority was our well-being. It also helped familiarize myself with new parts of Guadalajara that I would feel comfortable returning to on my own. I can definitely say that of my time of Tequila where I longed for more time in its historic district, and if you were to drop me off there now then I could figure my way around without needing to ask for directions.
One thing to note was that the hotel only permits certain taxis to park outside, usually if they're from the sitio seguro or "safe site." These taxis will typically charge a base rate depending on the area of the city you wish to go to. The taxi we had was not part of the sitio seguro, but it's worth noting once more that we were extremely lucky in that aspect.
The cheaper option would be to take public transportation, with some of the nicer buses charging a mere $7 pesos per rider.