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It’s nice to come back to places one has been to before and liked a lot. Or not? On the one hand, good memories might the revived and relived, favourite spots visited again, old friends caught up with, new friends made. On the other, everything might go wrong that second time round, nice places might not be this nice after all, old friends might turn out to be nothing but acquaintances, and good old days most certainly cannot be relived. What about the places one did not like too much or even at all? That was Guadalajara for me. And yet I came back – and I don’t regret.
I did not like Guadalajara the first time I saw it. A series of unfortunate events focused and hit me right there. The couchsurfer I was supposed to be staying with turned out to be a slightly unsettling individual. I followed my gut instinct and moved. The city was almost completely empty – it was the week preceding Easter, it’s a week off for most Mexicans – so they all went to the beach for a week-worth of a party. The hostel I ended up staying at was almost completely empty as well. It had a figure of Holy Mary in every room that I’ve seen. When I did not come back one night, the owners gave me judgemental looks. I missed the most spectacular of the Holy Week celebrations because I misunderstood the itinerary. One good thing did happen to me this first time I went to Guadalajara – I made a friend. He fell ill though and we couldn’t hang out as much as we’d have liked to. As I got on a taxi to the bus station, for the first time in Mexico I was happy to be leaving.
And yet here I am in Guadalajara again, and I’m noticing things I did not notice before. It’s cheap, so much cheaper that Vallarta. I can afford fairly long uber rides. The hostel I’m staying at has just enough people in it. There are bookshops on every other corner. It’s a fine representative of the New World with the pieces of beautiful colonial architecture scattered all across it. It has a peculiar, hipster-sarcastic vibe to it which I do greatly enjoy.
At the same time, Guadalajara looks like Mexico’s neglected child. It’s enough to walk a couple of blocks away from its very centre to find not-really-cared for buildings with the paint peeling off their facades; yet another colonial jewel, which could brightly shine if only someone took the time to polish it. There are streets where the wind is tossing plastic bags and old papers, where bars don’t close until 8 am, with the last clients singing their drunk serenades to their heartless amores who left with others, and where the pavements are taken up by impromptu markets, with impromptu vendors willing to sell just about any piece of plastic.
This time the city is full of people and I almost got mugged the very night I got here when a passerby on a busy junction took a way too vivid interest in my backpack. A mysterious pain in my side made me seek an emergency doctor’s appointment. I hang out with the friend I made the first time I’ve been here, and every time he made me laugh, the pain in my side reminded me of the existence of a mysterious inner organ. And yet, I did like Guadalajara this time.
It’s a stupid place – Victor told me the first time we met – but I love it.
Victor, the Guadalajaran friend of mine, is currently very busy opening a bookshop. If you happen to be in Guadalajara, make sure to pop by and purchase some books and coffee – Victor has an excellent taste in both: click! If you’d like some regular updates and reading material recommendations from me, find me on facebook and instagram. If you liked this entry, you might also like other things I’ve written about Mexico so far: click!
Are there any places you needed to visit twice to like them? Let me know in the comments below.