30. Guadalajara, Mexico - 12 Hours in A Love Hotel

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April 18, 2007

As we approached the outskirts of Guadalajara - Mexico´s second largest city with somewhere between four and eight million people, depending on which guidebook you read - the traffic on the four-lane highway started to get thick, the sun began to wane and our stress levels started to increase.

The fact that the campsite was difficult to find only added to the tension and soon we were at each other´s throats.

After the tears of one of the team members dissipated, we opted for the newish/clean-looking Hotel Marquis on the side of Highway 15. Across from a Wal-Mart and 7/Eleven, it was advertising rooms for $32.

For those more worldly than us, the warning bells would have started to go off when they noticed that:

  • the motel had no office to speak of - rather, we spoke to the attendant through a microphone, as if we were at McDonald´s drive thru
  • the attendant wanted cash up-front and didn´t give a rat´s ass about our name
  • the room had its own attached garage but no front door, and
  • the lighting in the room was so dim that Old Man Gowe could barely read his book as he relaxed in the sunken bedroom

No, this was all lost on us as we congratulated ourselves for stumbling upon such a reasonably priced, modern motel with secure parking for the van.

It was only when we turned on the TV and were bombarded with channel after channel of (free) porn that we started to put two and two together.

And we were left with little doubt once we noticed that we could order condoms from the room service menu, and that there were fliers on the bedside tables advertising sex toys.

It turns out that in Mexico there is more that separates "motels" and "hotels" then where you park your car.

Given this, and the fact that we were told in the morning that $32 had in fact only bought us 12 hours of room time, we headed to the campsite which, as it turns out, was only about half a kilometre down the highway, albeit at the end of a side road tucked behind a residential development.

The problem with camping at San Jose Del Tajo Trailer Park Resort, one of the few camping options near Guadalajara, is that takes a dizzying hour on the crammed, overheated public bus (replete with buskers) to reach "el centro historico" and thus it isn't very convenient.

We spent our only day in the city marveling at the Catedral Metropolitan, the stately Teatro Degollado, and the active Mercado Libertad.

Our favourite attraction, though, was the Instituto Cultural Cabanas. Built between 1805-1810 and an orphanage until 1980, the Instituto's clean lines, sandy-coloured stone walls, plain wooden benches and peek-a-boo courtyards, perfectly embody the spare and calming architectural design that Mexican is famous for.

The Instituto also provided us with our introduction to the works of one of Mexico's famed muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco. To me, his paintings - included the well known El Hombre de Fuego - evoke Soviet-era propaganda posters in their boldness while capturing dark, other-world scenarios that could be taken from a dungeons & dragons game.

Key Facts & Figures:

-Hotel Marquis: $32/12 hours
-San Jose Del Tajo Trailer Park Resort: $16/night
-Instituto Cultural Cabanas: $1/person
-USA Today: $4