The Romantic Gringo

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Guadalajara, Mexico

The biggest draw to Guadalajara is the food. R.G. ate better here than she ever did in Mexico City, thanks to the excellent recom- mendations of David Baird and Lynne Bairstow in their Frommer's Mexico 2005 guide. (R.G. has a friend who is an editor at Frommer's and gives her free guides. R.G.'s glad she does have this friend, because otherwise she would have never consulted such a booshie guidebook.) R.G.'s willing to go out on a limb here and declare the best food in Mexico to be the morsels she devoured at La Fonda de la Noche (see picture in introductory post). La Fonda de la Noche offers incredibly delicious Durangoan cuisine at very easy prices; pretty, retro '40s decor; and charming, early Twentieth-century, Mexican background music. The owners, artist Carlos Ibarra and his childhood friend Raul, are wicked cool. R.G. could go on raving, but she'll stop now.

La Fonda de San Miguel is another fonda with fine, fine eating in a lovely atmosphere. R.G. doubts you'll be able to maneuver partying with the owners hours after the place has closed, but the restaurant is located in the beautiful colonial courtyard of a converted convent (see third photo, with stars hanging from the ceiling; photos before and after are of Posada Regis) and the food is tops.

Unlike in many Mexican locales, R.G. did not traipse around Guadalajara wishing she could stay in all the gems of yesteryear. She pretty much nailed her accommodations on the first try, which were in the converted, 1850, French-style mansion, Posada Regis. As a single-family mansion, Posada Regis must have been very strange. The layout does not make any sense for a house. For a hotel, the arrangement of rooms around a central courtyard, like spokes of a wheel, is very nice. For $35, R.G. luxuriated in a huge, well-appointed, corner room with private bathroom and shower, which her photos do no justice. Also magnificient is the aforementioned covered courtyard outside the private hall attached to her room. Corona, while not terrible, is not the quiet, little street R.G. covets. As a result, she was able to detect street noise from her bed, a situation about which she was not 100% crazy. That withstanding, Posada Regis is a charmer.

Posada Regis, 171 Corona, ph. 01 (33) 3614-8633, 3613-3026, or 01 (800) 734-4746,,

La Fonda de la Noche, 251 Calle de Jesus, ph. 33-3827-0917.

La Fonda de San Miguel, 25 Donato Guerra, ph. 33-3613-0809

Cuernavaca, Mexico

In May of '05, R.G. had to go to Cuernavaca to do research for a dissertation chapter she's writing on Under the Volcano. Hence, she felt behooved to stay in Bajo el Volcan, the hotel converted from Malcolm Lowry's home and setting of Under the Volcano. Because the staff was so absurdly nice, R.G. feels somewhat uncomfortable dissing the place. But the over-renovation was tragic, and the price was a whopping $95 or something. R.G. cannot recommend it.

In contrast, for $30 she could have stayed at the Hotel Juarez, 19 Netzahualcoyotl, ph. 777-314-0219. She marched in snapping photos, and no one blinked an eye. That's the kind of nonservice R.G. appreciates. She doesn't like staff watching her every move. Anyway, unlike many shabby chic hotels, Hotel Juarez has made a half-assed effort to decorate their rooms and the results are commendable. Each room is different. Of the open rooms on the second floor, this one was R.G.'s favorite. And as you can see, the Hotel Juarez also has this low-rent pool! Pools of any caliber are very unusual in this kind of old hotel. R.G. can't imagine what would take her back to Cuernavaca--the town, while pretty, features hordes of yahoos--but if something did, she would stay here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mexico City, Mexico

Centro Historico in Mexico City is a goldmine for the Romantic Gringo. Many hotels meet her exacting requirements. One of these is Hotel Zamora at 50 Avenida Cinqo de Mayo, ph. 5512-8245. (She had wanted to stay at the Hotel Canada across the street, because that's where Geoffrey and Yvonne Firmin stay in Under the Volcano. But she just couldn't. The decor was some kind of hideous '80s floral nightmare that she could not countenance, try as she might.) Very old and quite charming, Hotel Zamora stands about a block and a half northwest of the Zocalo. Doesn't have an elevator, so you have to be able to lug your luggage up at least one flight of stairs. Bathroom and shower in room, and as R.G. remembers it's basically like having a toilet in your shower. Lovely mattress. Spartan decor, just the way R.G. likes it, and wooden beams on the ceiling. R.G.'s room was small but servicable, and the crazy-high ceilings gave her a spiritual lift. Corner rooms may be larger, as is usually the case. Get a room on the little alleyway to ensure peace, when you open your big windows. There's a little balcony out there for smoking or for communicating with suitors, as the case may be. R.G. thinks she paid $14 or something for a double bed on the second floor, which is actually the third floor. Hotel Zamora is family-run, and they are good, leave-you-to your-own-business people. R.G. will be visiting them again.

Another excellent choice for the romantic traveler is Hotel Montecarlo, 69 Uruguay, ph. 5518-1418, two and a half blocks southeast of the Zocalo. A 400-yr-old converted monastery, Hotel Montecarlo was the hotel of choice for D.H. Lawrence when he was in Mexico writing The Plumed Serpent. Unfortunately, R.G. didn't take photos when she stayed there in July of '04, so you have to take her word for the ambience of faded grandeur. If memory serves, there is both a huge, sexy staircase and an elevator. Because she knew this discussion would be well beyond her Spanish, R.G. handed the concierge a note in Spanish that said something like, "If it is at all possible, may I have the room that D.H. Lawrence stayed in?", and he did not miss a beat in handing her the keys to a very large, charming room facing the street, on the second floor. R.G. would be interested to hear if similar requests result in the same room. But even if they don't, and it turns out that concierge was playing her like a fiddle, the big windows, high ceilings, private bathroom and shower, healthy double mattress and effortless Deco appointments were well worth the $18 she forked over.

The Romantic Gringo Makes Her First On-Line Appearance

The Romantic Gringo recieved her nom de plume in Guadalajara in May '05. She was sitting in one of the city's best restaurants, La Fonda de la Noche (photo on left) with the owner, Carlos Ibarra, complaining about the nonexistence of 2nd class buses to Mexico City. "First class buses are terrible," she insisted, "They play ridiculously loud American movies and air condition the hell out of you." "What?" Carlos asked in disbelief, adding, sensibly, "The movies make the trip go faster." "Not for me," R.G. retorted, "The windows don't open, and lots of times there's a curtain in the middle of the window. I want to see the Mexican countryside: That's the whole point of a bus trip!" "What a romantic gringo!" Carlos declared, laughing.

R.G. saw immediately that a romantic gringo was indeed what she was. Her traveling tastes are anti-bourgeois to the point of being unintelligible to the general public. For example, she abhors renovation. Wall-to-wall carpeting and TVs in hotel rooms make her cringe. This reverse snobbery frustrates others and subsequently herself in travelsite chat rooms. And while R.G. devours travel guides, often traveling with three at a time, she can't find the kinds of rooms she wants listed--or if they're in there, the descriptions obscure the goodness. All-important photos rarely attend, and R.G. needs to see photos.

Hence, R.G. has started this blog so that other romantic travelers of a certain idiosyncratic temperment might share her finds. She doesn't travel often, so the updates will be infrequent. The scope of her travels is small and repetitive: these days, Mexico is a favorite as is Paris. And she isn't interested in winning any popularity contests. People are welcome to think she's an ass, but she doesn't want to fight with them about it. To that end, she will list upfront her general desires in a hotel room, in no particular order:

1. Character
2. Charm
3. Age
4. History
5. Quiet street location
6. Unstudied decor
7. Frugal rates

For those seven graces, R.G. will put up with curfews and tromps down the hall for a shower. She will even withstand a lumpy mattress, although she does not like a lumpy mattress. She doesn't require any service at all, beyond basic, intelligent interactions with the staff. Her tastes are not everyone's; this blog has a very limited target audience. If you are a like-minded romantic traveler (no need to be gringo, of course; R.G. is not prejudiced), please share your discoveries. Homogenized traveling is taking over, and we need to give these old gems our (albeit limited) financial support.

Happy travels of faded grandeur,

The Romantic Gringo