I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guidebook specifically on Guadalajara and the surrounding area. There are plenty of such books on the Lake Chapala region, serving the many tourists, retirees and ex-pats who find their way down here. But I just don’t recall seeing a specific English text on Mexico’s second largest city. If I’m right – and a quick look through the offerings in amazon.com indicates that I am – then here’s a welcome addition to the growing library of Mexican guidebooks. And it’s a good one.
It covers all the information you would expect, like motels, hotels, bed & breakfasts, restaurants, shopping, money exchange locations, tourist highlights and how to get from one place to another. In addition, there’s an abundance of information on such items as bus fares, rental cars, walking and jogging routes, exercise gyms, language courses and even where to get rolls of film processed. Surprisingly, the only topic that doesn’t seem to be covered is the location of internet cafes or places where you can sit down at a keyboard and check your e-mail, which is something we always like to do when we’re on the road. However, they seem to be easy enough to find here. I know of at least four within a five minute walk of where I live in Ajijic.
I think you can rely on this author’s advice when he gives you a recommendation. Bruce Whipperman has obviously checked things in a very thorough way. When he tells you about motels and restaurants, I believe you can rest assured that he’s visited them and at least has “eye-balled” the rooms that he’s recommending.
The same thoroughness applies to his descriptions of the various tourist attractions in the city. Just to take one of many examples….when writing about Tlaquepaque he doesn’t just cover the shopping and the crafts and the principal attractions such as churches and museums and monuments. You are also given more detailed advice. When you visit, say, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Soledad you are told: “If you have time, see if the sacristan (the keeper of the church) is around. Ask him to show you inside the sacristy behind the altar, offer a donation. Inside you’ll find the more precious paintings, including the noted Jesus Visiting the Home of Mary and Martha in Bethany, dating from 1685.” There’s lots of that sort of commentary here.
Other interesting features throughout the book are the many, many sidebars or short articles on a broad variety of topics. Here you can read about Jose Clemente Orozco, the famed Mexican muralist and where his work can be found in Guadalajara. Or you can find out about Lake Chapala and its current problems. And there’s Jorge Negrete, the Singing Cowboy of Mexican film or Sister Inez de la Cruz, a most unusual nun. There are dozens of these specialized stories throughout the book.
Whipperman is a former physics teacher who took up travel writing and photography full time after a trip to Kenya. On one occasion, more than a decade ago, when stranded in Ethiopia, he began writing and launched his new career. Since then he has produced scores of articles on places such as Bali, the Gobi desert, Japan, Nepal and other locations. He does his own photography, too, and there are lots of his photos in this Guadalajara volume. Yet another good feature is that there are lots of maps.
You’ll find good coverage, too, of a number of attractive destinations outside the city – such as Tequila, the Lake Chapala area, San Juan de Los Lagos and the Chimulco and Rio Caliente spas. The author’s enthusiasm is a key factor in Guadalajara. Indeed, Bruce Whipperman makes this reviewer want to get in the car and take off for a day’s run or an overnight stay in some nearby hacienda.
A feature that I found interesting and useful at the end of the book, in addition to the usual glossary of Spanish terms and expressions, was a list of both Suggested Reading and Internet Resources. The Suggested Reading is a fairly comprehensive list of the better books on history, culture, art, architecture, crafts, flora, fauna, people and culture. It even includes interesting fiction about Mexico. The Internet Resources covered a host of web sites on different areas of the country including information on such topics as Elderhostels and wheelchair travel.
In my humble O: I think it’s obvious that I liked this one. Need I say that it now has a place on the permanent shelf.
Moon Handbooks – Guadalajara
By Bruce Whipperman
Avalon Publishing dona300 pages. Paperback. 2002.
Available from Amazon Books: Paperback