Guadalajara, Mexico

Photo: Grupo Habita
Photo: Grupo Habita

The first day sets the entire tone of a trip. From your arrival at the airport to the greeting you receive at your hotel to the food you eat as you start exploring, the first 24 hours are vital. Will you love the location? Do you feel at home? Would you dream of returning?

It’s your first time visiting Guadalajara. The capital of Jalisco, located east of Puerto Vallarta, is Mexico’s second-largest city. It’s also gaining a reputation as being the cultural center of the country. With that in mind, you fly south. Your airplane descends over Parque Nacional Barranca de Huentitán’s gorgeous green canyon before landing a few minutes early. The ride from the airport to the notoriously congested city is quicker than you expected. Plus Lafayette, your neighborhood for the next few days, is immediately welcoming with tree-lined streets, 20th-century mansions, and lots of small cafés.

As soon as you arrive at Casa Fayette, a recently opened hotel, you know you’ll at least be comfortable in Guadalajara. The lobby is set in an Art Deco mansion from the 1940s. You peak in the restaurant, which has a tropical feel with green walls and leaf-printed chairs, and the Patio Bar, with its retro vibe, before moving to the second building to find your room. It feels completely modern with crisp white sheets and colored-glass panels leading to the spacious bathroom. While a small pool, white-cushioned sun loungers and umbrellas, and a bar await you on the rooftop.

Photo: Restaurante Alcalde
Photo: Restaurante Alcalde

But you can’t stay cocooned at Casa Fayette the whole time. After eating a snack, sipping a cocktail, and relaxing by the pool, it’s time to see more of Guadalajara. Plus, it’s almost dinnertime. Pass Glorieta de La Minerva, a large statue of the Roman goddess, as you head toward Alcalde, one of the hippest restaurants in the city. The casual, open-air space is decorated with natural logs and live trees on the outside. The simplicity continues inside with simple wooden tables, white brick walls, local artwork, and bright decorations.

The food shocks you though. You knew that Alcalde serves seasonal, fusion cuisine. You expected the Mexican ingredients to shine. But you weren’t prepared for the elevated techniques and the artful plating that are immediately evident. Roasted tuna and beef tartare are the first courses that the chef delivers to the table. The tuna is served with guacamole, olive emulsion, and radish, while the tartare has smoked tomato juice and pickled vegetables. After a perfectly timed pause, smoked octopus and duck arrive. The octopus is prepared risotto style, and dried shrimp, chile morita, and eucalyptus accompany the marinated duck. The night ends on a refreshing note: a coconut parfait paired with raspberry ice cream, elderberry juice, and cilantro.

Mexico’s second city made a good, make that great, first impression. You love the city, you feel at home, and you already plan on returning to Guadalajara.

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