Sunday, January 25, 2015

Inland adventures; return to Tequila and Tlaquepaque

We were reminded of the joys of inland trips, off the sailboats, sailing along, oops, we mean, driving along open highways in search of more experiences across Mexico.  We were happy that our friends Robin and Kathryn Weber, from S/V Agave Azul*, were eager to also return to the Tequila region of the State of Jalisco. 

*Note: With the last name of Weber, which is one of the primary tequila plants (Weber Agave), their sailboat is appropriately named Agave Azul,  

Last year they had helped introduce us into the finer points of tequila by suggesting several places to go.  We had also met them on the water during the Banderas Bay Regatta, and found a lot in common.

We only had three days and nights.  In addition to visiting favorite tequila distilleries and searching for some very elusive boutique brands, we decided it would be interesting to add a day of shopping and exploring in the suburbs of Guadalajara, called Tlaquepaque. Rob readily agreed to the Tlaquepaque side trip simply because it's a great name to pronounce.  We divided up our trip planning tasks, grabbed a rental car from the airport and headed out on the open road.  Road Trip!!

Fields of Agave Azul plants, the origin of Tequila, signify the entrance to Tequila Region

Gran Orendain: one of the Tequila destinations on the "list"
Tours of distilleries can be elusive.  Despite a lot of head shaking and No's, we ended up on a delightful tour at Gran Orendain by a gentleman who clearly loved the industry and job.  Of course the tour was in Spanish, which ensured we gave him all our attention!

Pinas ready to be cooked in the ovens and autoclaves

The Pina is the base of the Agave Azul plant, after the stalks have been carefully chopped off by the Jimador.  They are harvested after 7-11 years, and easily weigh more than 80 lbs each.  

The old way to crush the cooked pinas.
While many of the distilleries have transitioned to somewhat modern technology, they keep their old fashioned methods on display.
Horse drawn carriage in the streets

Metal Art work made from horseshoes depicting a Jimador (worker in the Tequila fields) and horse

Rob in the oven!

old and new distillers

View of Tequila downtown Cathedral square with pony rides for sale
There are very few gringo tourists here, mostly Mexican tourists all enjoying themselves.  The church bells start ringing by 6AM, and continue throughout the day.  It was very pleasant to sit in the plaza at the end of each day.

Rob was on a quest for a handmade wooden barrel, an authentic way to store tequila.  We stopped at the first place below and tried valiantly to communicate with the young man that we wanted to buy one.  He was very friendly but insistent that his barrels were not ready for sale.  He suggested we go up the road on our search.

Fabrica de Barrilles: Handmade Barrels

The search was over, and Shindig now has more unique treasures to store.  LOL.

The man below is named Misael.  We met him last year at the Guard Shack, aka Tasting Room, of the favorite Miravalle tequileria.  He is still hosting the tasting, but has cleaned up a bit, and is also NOT carrying a gun.  The plastic cups are much smaller now, too, which makes sense.
Some of the distilleries were known for their extensive grounds. The below, Tres Mujeres, had facilities for banquets, an elaborate tunnel system with underground tasting rooms and shops. It felt very similar to some of the Napa Valley wineries.

Strolling thru the caves at the Tres Mujeres Tequila Distillery

A dusty piano, just waiting, to be played
Dos Mujeres at Tres Mujeres 

After our stay in Tequila, we drove into Guadalajara for a day and night.  Rob's driving and the Weber enhanced navigation system with iPhones and cell service, helped us find our way to the shopping district of Tlaquepaque.

A model and a photo shoot

Ahogadas are a specialty street food in Guadalajara area, Muy Picante!  (SPICY)

DANZA DE LOS VOLADORES (Dance of the Flyers)
A spectacular pole dance ceremony which includes a dance, climbing to top of 30 m pole and descent to the ground. 

Dancer nears the ground after the slow, spinning descent from the top. 
A festive statue made by Rodo Padilla, contemporary local artist

Perhaps the largest Tequila and bottle collection in Jalisco
Our hotel was the Quinta Don San Jose, a beautiful boutique hotel in Tlaquepaque.  In addition to the pretty grounds, it offered onsite the friendliest staff, festive happy hour and romantic Italian restaurant.

The bartender below was happy to discuss our Tequila trip.

Street Mariachi performers
Guadalajara is a center for Mariachi music and costumes

Some of the shopping finds: glassware is also a regional specialty 

Great Road Trip, Let's do it again next year! 

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