The Washington Times - September 25, 2008, 11:38PM

By Francisco Collazo, Special to Donne Tempo Magazine

Guadalajara, Mexico (September 24, 2008)…Although the name “Guadalajara” is derived from Arabic— Wad-Al Hayara, which means Valley of Strength or Stone River—this city is as Mexican as its famous “drowned sándwiches” and its joyful music. Its calm and charm, along with its diverse gastronomy, are just some of the attractions this city offers.

Guadalajara, capital of the estate of Jalisco, is full of history, and anecdotes about the city are even older than the conquest by the Spaniards. Its a city that has been the setting for many important events, including those of international importance. In fact, it will be the site of the Panamerican Games in 2011, putting Mexico in front of the eyes of the world. Guadalajara’s clean and ample streets have an air of the grand avenues of old European cities, and along with the friendly locals, welcome visitors in a special way.

                                  (Photo by Francisco Collazo)

In the past, the city was thinly populated, more a big village which people in surrounding areas came to visit. Today, Guadalajara is a destination in its own right, an important stop for curious world travelers, not the least reason being Guadalajara’s constant development in the areas of information technology.

Guadalajara is Mexico’s Silicon Valley, and it is growing at a rapid and even pressured rate. For this reason, lots of expats and foreign companies from the world over have come here, many relocating permanently.

This city is its people and the people make the city. One can easily see how much interest there is in improving the infrastructure—it’s visible on every street corner: bookstores, cafes, restaurants, live music joints, and all other types of businesses have sprung up everywhere to accommodate Guadalajara’s residents and visitors.

The city boasts restaurants of every type: Greek, Japanese, Indian, Argentinean, and many others. Its hotels and convention center are exceptionally comfortable, offering excellent service and great quality for different tastes and budgets. Regardless of where you stay, the people of Guadalajara intend to offer the best of their repertoire: music, food, safety, and an exciting scene.

Guadalajara street musician (Photo by Francisco Collazo)
During our recent visit to this city, we could see and appreciate all of Guadalajara’s charms firsthand. In four days we accumulated a number of unforgettable experiences, thanks to the warmth and hospitality of the people of Guadalajara.

The world-class gastronomy, the agreeable weather, and a tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage all gave our visit a touch of class.

And as if all this wasn’t enough, Guadalajara is located just one hour from the town of Tequila—yes, Tequila, where the landscape is dotted with agave plantations, source of the famous tequilas made in Mexico. In this town, you can visit internationally recognized tequila producers such as Jose Cuervo, Sauza, and Cofradia, among others.

Guadalajara is the birthplace of mariachi music and fancy rope tricks known as “charro,” performed by men in colorful suits and wide brimmed hats, pistols strapped to their sides. It’s an image that’s been immortalized in films, stories, and legends.

A monument dedicated to charro is located in the center of the historic district, right at the crossroads of the city’s most important avenues. The smooth notes of music drift across every street corner. A visit to the city is a visit to the beating heart of Mexico.

Arriving here a stranger, I leave a friend, filled with pleasant memories. I hope to return for another visit to this beautiful city and its friendly people.

Guadalajara is an important cultural center with a rich tradition. The cities that offer true hospitality are few, but I learned that the people of Guadalajara truly put into practice the ideal that’s inscribed in the city’s famed arches: “A pleasant stay is a guarantee of your return.”

We arrive at the end of our visit and already begin planning our return. We leave without tears in our eyes, but our hearts full and content, singing the famous song, “Ay Jalisco, no te rajes!”

Guadalajara 411
By Julie Schwietert Collazo

Where to Stay:

The Hotel Ganz lobby (Photo courtesy of Hotel Ganz)

Villa Ganz:
López Cotilla #1739
Col. Lafayette 44140
Guadalajara, Jal., 52 33 31201416 / 018008132333

You won’t find a more charming and friendly inn than Villa Ganz. A member of the Mexico Boutique Hotels network, Villa Ganz is a nine room inn located in a restored villa where the owners have spared no expense to ensure that every design detail intended for the guest’s pleasure and comfort is taken into consideration.

The rooms are spacious—large enough to legitimately be called studio apartments—the garden is an instant stress reliever, and the staff is exceptionally courteous and knowledgeable, trained personally by co-owner Sally Rangel, a native born Guadalajaran.

Be sure to stick around for the lighting of the candles at 8 PM each evening, and for an incomparably romantic experience, request the personal chef service and dining on the terrace or in the garden. Aside from all its interior charm, Villa Ganz is in an ideal location; it’s a short walk (5 minutes or less) to banks, restaurants, bars, a gym (which is complimentary with your stay), and other services and sites.

Where to Eat:

Cocina 88
1342 Av. Vallarta
Guadalajara, México
(333) 827.5996

Cocina 88, located in an upscale residential neighborhood, is an enormous restaurant in a restored mansion, but the size does not detract at all from the intimate warmth and hospitality with which you’ll be received. The restaurant specializes in the freshest meat, seafood, and vegetables, and guests are treated to a full culinary experience, touring the wine cellar and the meat and fish display before settling in to order and dine on dishes from Guadalajara’s most delicious menu. What’s particularly appreciated about Cocina 88 is its value: though the restaurant is undeniably upper-end, its prices are affordable for nearly any budget.

El Sacromonte
Pedro Moreno 1398
Guadalajara, México
(333) 825-5447

El Sacromonte is a long-time favorite of locals and tourists alike, and with good reason. Also located inside a restored home, El Sacromonte emphasizes its Mexican roots by taking classical Mexican dishes and updating them with surprising details. Rose petal quesadillas with a strawberry glaze? Don’t cringe; they’re delicious! Be sure to try the sulky, smoky chipotle-roquefort soup.

What to Do:

*Wander Guadalajara’s historic city center, where architecture buffs will be particularly charmed by the design details on the city’s government buildings.

*Take a carriage ride: For $20, you’ll enjoy a ride around the city in a horse-drawn carriage.

*Tour Tequila: Villa Ganz will be happy to organize a trip for you to visit Tequila. Be sure to take your camera: the scenery is gorgeous!