We had such a great time living in Singapore and traveling in Southeast Asia that we were reluctant to let it end. In fact, we seriously considered unshackling ourselves from our jobs and moving to Central or South America for a year. But, I killed that idea when I accepted another Silicon Valley job.
To make it up to Annie, I negotiated two weeks off for a trip to Mexico. The idea was to give us a sense of what we missed out on.
Our goal was to pick a town that wasn’t on the humid coast or overrun with English-speaking expats and to take Spanish classes for two weeks. Our first pick was Guadalajara.
Then, Annie forwarded me a breaking news story. It involved automatic gun fire and a grenade. Unfortunately, it all took place in a bar in a touristy part of Guadalajara. OK, maybe Guadalajara could be a little too “caliente” for us.
We took an easy direct flight on Volaris Airlines and spent one night in Guadalajara. Although we only grabbed dinner in and did our own little walking tour in the morning, we thought was great (sans gun fire). We then took a cushy, four-hour bus ride to Guanajuato – our backup plan.
Guanajuato is a colonial town, in the mountains (6,500ft), with a university and a population of about 120K. Without over-exaggerating, it was perfect! It was straight out of a high school Spanish book – students and old people gathering and greeting each other on the street, wandering mariachi bands, small tortilla shops pumping out fresh tortillas, and beautiful plazas and colonial buildings. Really, it was hard to believe.
Click on the picture below to see a short (5mins) movie of our Guanajuato trip!
Song in the movie: Home
We signed-up for four hours of daily Spanish lesions at Escuela Mexicana, which was a great school. We stayed in an apartment that was only 3 minutes away. But we often cut this down to 2 minutes by sprinting down the stairs because we were late to our first class. We loved the school, but you had to make sure that you requested the right teachers.
At the end of our first day, Matt, a student from Minnesota, invited us out to dinner with the other “young” people. They became our insta-crew of friends and boy did they make us miss a lot of sleep. If it weren’t for Gina, James, Matt, and Nikki, we would be fluent in Spanish by now.
The majority of students were US or Canadian retirees, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that they were atypical retirees. Regardless of the fact that they 20 to 40 years older than us, they all had a strong zest for life and adventure. We had just as much fun hanging out, chatting, and drinking with the “older” crowd as we did with Gen Xers.
The two weeks flew by, but, in our typical squeeze-as-much-as- possible-in style of travel, we managed to do a lot: a few hikes to nearby peaks, day trips to San Miguel and the temples of Peralta, a salsa lesson, and lots of dancing with the locals.
We surprised ourselves and, on two different nights, partied past 4am. Juan Carlos, an amazing teacher and a pied-piper of the dance clubs, warned us that the clubs were lame before 1am. I’m not sure I agree with his assessment, but we did have a blast. Although, I think Annie and I could have skipped being showered in beer and alcohol from inebriated amigos.
Quote from James after he was dancing with us for a bit: “You guys are great…you dance like you don’t care.” That’s right, we don’t, but I bet we look amazing.
So, we returned to Silicon Valley with a better grasp of Spanish, a better appreciation of bad versus good tequila, and inspired by adventurous retirees.
Thumbs up to the following:
Volaris Airlines – we had low expectations for this discount, Mexican (or Spanish) airline, but they did a great job and had plenty of legroom. We would definitely consider using them again.
Primara Plus – Great cushy bus service between Guadalajara and Guanajuato. It was clean, on-time, and the bus terminal had an airport-like feeling.
Juan Carlos, Gabby, Edith, Paola – great teachers at Escuela Mexicana.