Welcome to my place . . . Guadalajara, Mexico
'There’s a real connection between the Irish and Mexicans, which makes it easy to feel at home'
Louise Quinn from Nenagh in Co Tipperary fell in love with Mexico when she first visited at the age of 10. Twenty years later she returned and fell in love again, this time with a local boy, and decided to make it her home.
“It’s such an amazing country and while it may seem a world away from Ireland, we have much in common,” she says. “There’s a real connection between the Irish and Mexicans, which makes it such an easy place to feel at home.” Quinn has lived in Guadalajara for almost five years, and teaches English there “while trying to improve” her Spanish.
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Mexico?
What I love so much about my adopted home is the fact that it has so many diverse and varied places to visit. I just want to take people everywhere all at once. But if I had to choose, then it has to be the beaches, any one of them. I have yet to be disappointed by any beach I’ve visited either on the west coast or on the Caribbean side but my favourite of all is Isla Mujeres – Women Island. It’s like a little piece of paradise. A short boat ride from Cancun, and you feel a million miles away from everywhere. It’s such a quaint town, with lots of quirky shops and delightful restaurants and the water is so inviting. It’s also not too far from where you can find Mexico’s best gem – Cenotes. These are secret underground natural pools, to dive into or just swim in the most beautiful turquoise water you will find. You won’t want to leave.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .
There is a popular avenue in Guadalajara, where I live, that’s called Chapultepec Avenue. I just love going there and people watching, wandering round the street markets, and having a few beers. Here you can see street performers, join in an outdoor salsa class, listen to music or try the street tacos. It’s so alive and there’s a great mix of all ages.
Another place in my city is Tlaquepaque. Not only does it have such beautiful historic streets, full of interesting shops, to roam through, but in the centre you can find live mariachi bands, and it’s a great place to enjoy some authentic Mexican culture on a warm evening. And when you want to get out of the city, then Tequila, home to Mexico’s national drink, is a must. If you don’t want to spend money on a tour of the factories, just stroll around and take in the culture of the region, and learn about the history of tequila; it’s a great day out.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Mexico?
That has to be one of the hardest questions to answer as there are too many places from which to choose. My dad is coming for a visit soon and I plan to take him to so many places that he’s sure to come back a few stone heavier.
If you want a very informal setting, the markets are the best as you can see the food being prepared and it’s fascinating just taking in all the sounds and smells. However, for something a bit more formal, I love going to a restaurant called San Coyote. The surroundings are beautiful and really authentic, and once you sit down, you feel you are in another world. There’s usually a mariachi band or some traditional dancers to entertain you during your meal, which is literally a feast. Buffet style, you can have a mixture of Mexican food alongside some international choices. It’s the perfect place to try a little bit of everything. You just need to come with a large appetite.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Mexico’s place in history?
Strolling round downtown Mexico city, you get a great sense of the history of the country. From its architecture and monuments, to parks and museums, you can see traces of every historic period. But to really get a feel for Mexico’s rich history, you have to visit the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. Just outside the capital, they’re absolutely breathtaking. To see these pyramids, standing so tall and surrounded by what was once Mesoamerica’s greatest city, you can’t help but just stare in awe. To climb them is a must, albeit a good workout. The view from the top makes it totally worth it. Dotted around the country are similar magnificent displays of Mayan and Aztec history, all equally as spectacular. Just thinking about the workmanship and blood, sweat and tears that went in to constructing them, makes them all the more impressive.
What should visitors save room in their suitcases for after a visit to Mexico?
You had better keep plenty of space for all the traditional crafts that you will most certainly pick up during your travels. Everything is so beautifully made and so unique. Whether it’s something for your home, your sweet tooth or a new outfit, you can find everything in the tons of markets in each city. I bought some unique sandals a few years ago and people are always commenting on them. They are like nothing you can find anywhere else. I’m forever coming home with little bits and pieces and my families’ homes are full of beautiful treasures. And, of course, those who enjoy a glass of wine or a shot of tequila have a huge range of brands from which to choose. I definitely recommend coming with a half empty suitcase.
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