Guadalajara, Mexico

The city of Guadalajara rests in the central Mexican state of Jalisco. It was officially founded in 1542 in the Valley of Atemajac in order to protect lands captured by Spanish conquistadors. Since then it has grown to a large, modern city with a storied past. Walk by a seventeenth century church on your way to the light rail.

Wake early and cruise Guadalajara's historic downtown imagining the Metropolitan Cathedral or the Hospicio Cabañas as they would have been hundreds of years ago. Wait for the Hospicio Cabañas to open and get lost in the intriguing murals of José Clemente Orozco. Search for fresh fruit and bargain for locally made pottery at Mercado Libertad, one of Guadalajara's largest markets. Glimpse pre-Columbian Teuchitlan tradition with an exploration of the Aztec Guachimontones circular-stepped pyramids. Witness Mexico's national sport (it isn't soccer), the romantic Western riding and roping practice called charrerría.

Sample some local birria, a goat or lamb stew slow-cooked in a spicy sauce, while you relax on the patio of Birrieria de Nueve Esquinas. Find a busy street vendor and order another famous Guadalajara dish, the torta ahogada - or drowned sandwich. Dig into this tempting combination of pork stuffed into birote bread, covered with chili sauce, and served with onions, radishes, avocados, and more chili peppers.

Next Stop: Guadalajara

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