Guadalajara B&B, tours

This item appears on page 30 of the August 2011 issue.

My wife, Sandy, and I are snowbirds who spend the winters in Puerto Vallarta. Each year we explore a different part of Mexico, and in March ’11 we made a six-day, five-night trip to the Guadalajara area.

We stayed at the bed-and-breakfast Casa Armonia (Reforma 43, Tlaquepaque, Centro, Jalisco, Mexico; phone, in Mexico, 01 [33] 3563 3218 or 3219 or, in US or Canada, 266/973-0128). It’s located one block from the city’s main plaza and Calle Juarez, one of Tlaquepaque’s main shopping streets.

The bright, friendly young owner, Victor Hugo Cueto Valencia, also owns the tour company Gdl Mexico Tours (same phone as Casa Armonia).

About five years ago, Victor purchased two adjoining old houses and remodeled the interiors while retaining much of the exteriors to reflect the neighborhood’s historic style. The result is a hotel of five spacious rooms built around a beautiful patio with a swimming pool and spa.

Each room is furnished in traditional rural style, with tiled floors and large canopied beds, armoires and desks of dark wood. By contrast, the decor is bright and colorful. Amenities include a large, well-lighted bath and shower area; cable TV with 200-plus channels, many in English, and free Internet. The cost, with breakfast, was $110 per night.

Breakfast, on the patio, included fresh-cut fruit and a different entrée each day.

We were impressed by the warmth and friendliness of Victor and his staff. During our tour of Guadalajara’s historical city center ($100 for four people), we decided we wanted to attend a performance of the Guadalajara Symphony. That necessitated a trip, a few nights later, from Tlaquepaque to Guadalajara during the Friday evening rush hour. Victor insisted on driving us both ways, and he even made an evening of it downtown with his friends while we attended the concert.

We took five tours from Victor’s company, all conducted by Victor or his assistant, Alex, both of whom are knowledgeable and speak English well.

Example — the six-hour “Ancient Guachimontones” tour of Indian pyramids ($150 for four people), during which we had a relaxing lunch of frog legs at a beautiful restaurant on Lake La Vega.

Another — the four-hour “Lake Chapala and Ajijic” tour included a boat ride around Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. In addition, we had time to shop in Ajijic, a beautiful village popular with North American expats. The cost of $150 for four people did not include the boat rental of $20 or the price of lunch.

A final thought about Tlaquepaque — many tourists see it as, essentially, one big shopping mart. It certainly provides many opportunities to shop, but it is so much more. Particularly in the area around Casa Armonia, it has the air of a country town, with an accessible central plaza that is attractive and enjoyable.

Providing numerous dining opportunities, from Continental cuisine to down-home Mexican cooking, Tlaquepaque offers a compact, less hectic setting than downtown Guadalajara, and the delightful Casa Armonia is at the heart of it all.

Mequon, WI