CHAPALA, THE WAY I SEE IT....
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
Chapala, Mexico is a small colonial town of about 30,000 people, forty-five kilometers south of Guadalajara. Located, 20* 17’ north of the Equator, and 1549 meters in elevation, annual temperatures remain between 5* to 28*C. The temperate climate, and its proximity to Guadalajara International Airport, makes Chapala a favorite amongst expatriates, mostly US and Canadian.
The largest lake in Mexico is here, Lake Chapala, providing numerous boating and sightseeing activities. However, in the eight years I have been traveling here, the lake has drastically been reduced due to the water extraction from Guadalajara. Still, on weekends, the waterfront is bursting with colorful choices, including many street vendors, restaurants and live music.
CHURCH, DOWNTOWN CHAPALA
People watching is one of my favorite pastimes, as many wealthy Mexicans come to Chapala from Guadalajara. The ladies are dressed to the “nines”, being escorted arm in arm by their man.
The town is over five hundred years old, with the plaza and church the focal points of the main square. The plaza is a mecca of food stalls and restaurants that operate daily. Fresh whole roasted chickens can be seen slowly turning on their spits as well as carnitas, tacos, and freshly made ice cream. Carnitas is similar to a pot roast, except that it is made from pork, slowly cooked until the meat falls from the bone. It is a local delight, which is added to tomatoes, onions and chilies for a main course. The ice cream is freshly made with coconut, strawberries, or vanilla, and is a must treat in the afternoon.
In the center of the plaza, a large gazebo provides a stage for local musicians and young lovers well into the night. On any given day, you can sit at the plaza and sooner or later you will see many of your friends, doing their shopping, running errands, or looking for you!
Off the plaza on the main street is the financial district with banks, money exchange houses, real-estate offices, and travel agencies. Also, the municipal offices are found here, located in the historic El Nido Hotel.
Continuing on the main street, upscale restaurants and bars can be found. Further on, within walking distance of the plaza, are seafood restaurants, where generous amounts of margaritas are supplied with your food order. Smoked marlin tacos, seafood cocktails, and shrimp dishes anyway you want them prepared, are only a few of the choices.
Behind the plaza, to the East, is mostly residential, and well worth a walking tour. In fact, soon you will arrive at the entrance to Cristiania Park, a definite must see. If you’re a tennis player, this is the place to be. With their six well-maintained courts, it is easy to find a game at any level of play. Two sand pit volleyball courts, a football field, basketball court, and pool make up only a small portion of this large park. Families pack the park on weekends, utilizing the many bar-b-que areas and recreational activities for the kids.
LOCAL RESTAURANT ON THE PLAZA
Chapala leaves me wondering if this is what Paris might have been like in the 1920’s. Even today, the number of telephones is limited, and peopleconstantly gather on corners, in doorways, or just about anywhere to catch up on local gossip or politics.
The friendliness of the locals is refreshing, as everyone, young or old, will say good morning, afternoon, or evening in passing. Small children playing and blocking a sidewalk quickly respond with courtesy and politeness when asked if you may pass through them.
CHURROS...A LOCAL FAVORITE
Nightlife once again brings people out into the streets, strolling through the plaza, or on their way to some predetermined destination. With the banks and shops closed, there are few cars on the streets, as walking is the preferred transportation.
Around nine-thirty or ten p.m. the Cenadurias, neighborhood restaurants, fill up with locals mostly in search of pozole...
Pozole, or what I call a Mexican bouillabaisse, (no offense, France) is served in a bowl, with shredded pork, cabbage, onions hominy, and chicken stock. lBack outside for a stroll, and finishing off the meal, I buy a churro, a type of a sweet donut.
The men’s bars with saloon style swinging doors and suggestive pictures are alive and well, with local characters drinking and singing to a solo guitarist. I can almost picture Hemingway ordering a fundador or tequila and discussing the day’s events.
MY FAVORITE CANTINA
In between songs or when the conversations have quieted, often times you can hear the sounds of horses’ shoes, clopping down on the cobblestone streets reminding yourself exactly where you are…..Chapala, Mexico.
ED. Note: With a strong Peso and continuing inflation, Mexico is not the bargain it used to be. Furnished houses in Chapala go for $300 - $500 US Dollars. In neighboring Ajijic, prices are higher.
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About the Authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.
Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.