A Horseback Riding Adventure at the Hacienda La Alegría

My family and I visited the Hacienda La Alegría, located outside of Quito, Ecuador in Aloag. The wonderful couple that owns the Hacienda host people from all over the world and take them on horseback riding tours of varying lengths throughout the Andes Mountains or the cloud forest. It’s also a nice place to stay if you just want some peace and quiet away from the city. The Hacienda is a working farm that raises horses, cattle, llamas, rabbits, and chickens.

The food that is prepared here is amazing. The cook prepares three-course meals which are nutritious and flavorful. A huge favorite with my children are the excellent soups that start almost every meal.

My children have been taking horseback riding lessons in anticipation of this trip so that they would be comfortable and confident while riding. We were excited to take short trail rides around the area to see the countryside, and I knew that my children were probably not ready for a day trip or more. But spending our mornings riding with friends and our afternoons petting rabbits, bottle feeding calves, riding llamas (who doesn’t love llamas?), and hiking through caves to see some bats was definitely a good way to spend part of our Ecuadorian vacation.

Follow Hacienda La Alegria on Facebook to see posts about the amazing rides they take and the majestic landscapes they see on those rides.

The Middle of the World

We visited the “Middle of the World,” located in Quito, Ecuador. At the 0° latitude line, there are supposed to be some interesting scientific phenomenon that occur. As a former middle school science teacher, I was excited to see those demonstrations. However, we discovered that there is some discrepancy about where the “Middle of the World” is actually located.

There are two tourist destinations claiming to be located at the 0° latitude line. Logically speaking, there are an indefinite number of points along that line that can be visited by anyone, but there are two well-known spots that tourists can easily find and visit. The first location, Mitad del Mundo, is where people historically thought the 0° latitude line was. There is a large monument there to pinpoint the spot.

Mitad del Mundo monument
The inaccurate, but historical site of the Middle of the World. Photo by Angela Grier.

The second location, Museo de Sitio Intiñan (Inti-ñan Museum), is the actual place where GPS says it is located. We decided to visit the Museo de Sitio Intiñan, the actual location, where all of the strange phenomenon are said to occur.

Museo de Intiñan
The Intiñan Museum at the GPS-accurate location of the Middle of the World. Photo by Angela Grier

We took a short, guided tour in English through the museum property. We learned about the head-shrinking natives that live in the rainforest and that they stopped shrinking human heads only about 70 years ago. Nowadays, they only shrink animal heads. Fun fact: the size of your closed fist is the size your head would be if it was shrunk.

We visited some reconstructed rainforest homes that showed how these natives lived, complete with a cuy paddock inside (cuy are Guinea pigs and they eat them).

Reconstructed rainforest home
Reconstructed rainforest hut. Photo by Angela Grier

We saw symbolic totems from countries all over Central and South America as we walked to the 0° latitude line.

When we reached the painted red line at zero latitude, there were interesting science demonstrations set up for the groups of tourists that were visiting. We saw the sundial that is used at the equator and how it is different from our traditional sundials.

We conducted an experiment to balance an egg on a nail (which I managed to do and earn my Egg Master Certificate!). We tried walking on the red line with our eyes closed (which turned out to be very difficult). We watched water fall straight down a drain on the equator line, and swirl down in opposite directions on the north and south side of the line (I’m not sure that was a very “scientific” demonstration of the Coriolis Effect, but it definitely looked cool). Our tour guide also tried to demonstrate how much “weaker” a person is while standing on the line versus standing off of the line. My daughter was impressed by that one.

I know I used a lot of quotation marks in this post, but I wanted to emphasize that one should use some skepticism regarding the “scientific” nature of the demonstrations on the zero latitude line. The Middle of the World was definitely a great cultural and learning experience for both children and adults, and visiting that imaginary line that my kids can see on a globe was definitely a cool experience for them. All in all, it was well worth visiting for a couple hours while we were staying in Quito.

An Adventure in Quito, Ecuador

After living in León for over a year, we decided to get on a plane and travel to Quito, Ecuador to visit a friend. Our first day in Quito was extremely exciting! Not only are we on a new continent, we are also in the southern hemisphere for the first time. Our kids are thrilled with this fun, geographic part of our adventure.

Our first day, we decided to tour the Basilica. It was definitely not what I expected.

They were having Sunday services when we arrived but we quietly climbed up to the giant rosette stained glass and looked down, hoping not to disturb the service.

The height from there is dizzying. We thought that was all there was to see but my friend said, “Wait, there’s more. Let’s go higher.” And so we continued to climb up.

We walked across a rickety, wooden walkway that looked like it was not made to hold the numbers of tourists that were walking across it. Falling from there, I thought, would probably not kill me though.

When we reached the other side of this rickety bridge, there was a tall ladder that we climbed that led outside onto the base of one of the Basilica spires. At this point, we were very high and the view was spectacular. But my friend said, “Let’s go higher.” And sure enough, there was a set of steep ladders that had no safety bars to catch you if you slipped and fell backwards, that led up to the top of the spire.

As we started climbing, I tried not to notice the parts of the ladder where rust had eaten holes through it. I also tried not to notice that the small platform where we switched to another ladder seemed to shift under my feet as though it was not attached to anything. But we made it to the top and the view from there was breathtaking.

The city was spread out below us. The mountains surrounding Quito still dwarfed the Basilica, but we could see so much of the city from where we stood. As the spire became more crowded, we decided it was time to climb back down. How do you not look down when you have to see the rung of the ladder as you descend? Unfortunately, looking down was the only safe thing to do. We eventually made it back down all of the steep ladders and back into solid ground. But it was an exhilarating experience climbing that high without the safety features we expect in the US. The places we visited afterwards were very tame in comparison, but no less beautiful.

There was a cathedral where the entire inside was covered in gold leaf. We’ve never seen anything so shiny. We visited a museum that showed us the history of Quito and my children really enjoyed their permanent exhibits.

We walked around La Ronda and then ended our day at the market near our hotel where we bought beautiful blankets with llamas for only $20 apiece.

Overall, our first day in Quito was a wonder. We are looking forward to seeing what else the city and region has to offer as we continue to explore.

An Archaeological and Anthropological Adventure at Cañada de la Virgen

We have visited the pyramids at the Cañada de la Virgen site several times. It is one of our favorite places to take visitors when they come to see us for two reasons: because of its close proximity to León (where we live); and because of the impressive large pyramid that we can climb. It is definitely a favorite for our children to visit because they like to pretend that they are mountain goats as they navigate the steep, narrow steps of the pyramid.

In our past visits, we have always used the Spanish-speaking tour guides provided by the government. The cost of these guides is included in the price of the tour. The guides we have had have done a great job of explaining things and, after visiting a few times, our understanding of what they are saying in Spanish has drastically improved. However, we decided that when we visited the pyramids with my non-Spanish-speaking sister and her family, they would enjoy the experience more with an English-speaking guide.

 

On one of our previous visits, we had overheard a dynamic, knowledgeable man giving a tour to a couple of people in English. What we could hear was impressive and we were interested in procuring him as our guide. This man,  Alberto Aveleyra with the Artisans of Time Cultural Project, is an anthropologist who is actively conducting research at the Cañada de la Virgen site, among others. He uses the funds from the tours he gives to help offset the costs of his research. This sounded exciting to me because not only would we be able to understand the entire tour at Cañada de la Virgen and be free to ask questions in English, we could also support local research in the area that contributes to the understanding of this region’s cultural heritage.

We had several children in our group of fifteen ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school, thus the range in attention span of the kids was vastly different. Alberto did a wonderful job of engaging the adults in our group as well as the kids. He was very knowledgeable of the site and was able to answer so many of our questions for which the other tour guides we have had could not. It was interesting to listen to the scientific speculation about what happened to those ancient peoples, why they used the materials they did, or what the purpose was of so many of the things we saw. We really appreciated his complete and thoughtful insights and explanations throughout the entire tour. His vast wealth of knowledge made this the most exciting tour that we have had at this site and it greatly enriched our understanding of the culture and the area we were visiting. Additionally, it was incredibly fun to watch how captivated our children were by the things he was describing. He was able to make history come alive with his stories, and the visuals that he brought with him made it easy for all of us to understand. The kids (and adults) were full of questions and his patience with answering these questions seemed limitless.

There were several really cool things that we learned during our tour. First of all, the people that visited Cañada de la Virgen walked through the canyons to get there. There are a lot of canyons that wind through the countryside, hidden from sight, and it’s mind-boggling to think about how they made that trip. The second interesting fact that we learned was that the remains found in the largest pyramid at Cañada de la Virgen pre-dates the pyramid by hundreds of years. Alberto had a photograph with an image rendered that could give an approximation of the appearance of the man whose remains were found there. The third most memorable fact that we learned was that as we looked out over the landscape, in the areas where there were large clusters of trees, there were probably the remains of some kind of structure still existing there. There are many potential archaeological sites that exist just in that small region alone. Mexico owns the rights to explore and research those sites, no matter who the owner of the property may be. A final piece of interesting information that we learned was that we visited the site on a very important day of the year that marked the change in seasons – the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season. The structures at the pyramid are aligned in a way that the sun shines right through an opening on that day at sunrise. We, of course, missed seeing that, but Alberto had photographs that showed the phenomenon happening. 

There were many more things that we learned that day that have stuck with me since we went on that tour. It has made us much more eager to get out and travel to more archaeological sites and continue learning more about the culture and how the native Mexicans lived prior to the Spanish conquest.

Placard found at Cañada de la Virgen
Placard found at Cañada de la Virgen in English and Spanish. Photo by Angela Grier

Everyone in our group really enjoyed the tour and the children were so interested that they continued to discuss some of the things they had learned even after we left the site. I highly, highly recommend using Alberto Aveleyra if you are interested in learning about the history and culture of this beautiful region. We will definitely ask him to lead a tour with us again the next time we take guests to Cañada de la Virgen. I know this post reads like an advertisement, but we had the most amazing experience and I had to share it with everyone. If you have the opportunity, this is one tour that should not be missed. Check out the short video clip below for a sample of the kind of engaging, story-telling that our children especially enjoyed. 

Cost of the tour: 950 pesos per person

What this includes: An approximate 5-hour tour, the cost of a ticket to enter the site, and a ride to Cañada de la Virgen from San Miguel de Allende. 

What you will get: An in-depth look at the peoples that once populated the region and a better understanding of their culture and beliefs. An expert guide with intimate knowledge of those peoples and how they might have used Cañada de la Virgen.  An incredible teacher with a passion for sharing that knowledge and preserving the heritage and culture of the region. 

Contact Information:

Phone: +52 1 415 100 0947

Email: artisansoftime@gmail.com

Website: www.artisansoftime.mx

 

A Misadventure – Dealing with the Local Mexican Police

After living in León, Guanajuato for eight months and enjoying a relatively care-free lifestyle with few worries (unless you happen to be one of my children and it’s exam time again), I have had my first negative experience. Negative is a relative term here. Neither my children nor my husband and I were harmed during the course of my misadventure. However, the whole situation left me feeling very frustrated and angry.

My husband was invited out to dinner with coworkers one night. Because we only have one vehicle, and I use it to transport our children to all of their activities, he asked us to pick him up after the dinner was over, around 7:30 pm. 

The sun had set around 7 pm and rush-hour traffic in León at that time of day is very heavy. I missed reading a sign that indicated no U-turns until 8 PM. I queued up in the long line of cars for the U-turn (I was one of many that did not see the sign) and waited for the light to change. I then noticed what looked like an accident in the line ahead of me, so like some of the cars in front of me, I edged back out into the traffic flow to go around it and cut back over into the lane for U-turns without seeing the sign with the U-turn times. As I sat at the red light, a police officer walked up to our car. I rolled down my window and he asked for my license. I gave him my US license and thus began a 30-minute “discussion” where he spoke only Spanish and I spoke mostly English. My Spanish vocabulary at the time did not include any words that would help me understand what the officer was trying to explain. He, however, kept looking at me with significant looks and waggling his eyebrows indicating that he wanted something more. It must be part of a universal language because I understood him without understanding the words. Because he kept insisting my license was invalid, he refused to return it.  There was an officer on the other side of the street who kept the light from turning green. My husband had given up waiting for me at the restaurant, saw where I was on our location tracker, and walked down to see what was going on. However, because the traffic was so heavy, he could not cross the street to get to us. The officer would not allow me to call anyone for help with translating and continued to explain that the only way to get out of this situation was with a bribe (eyebrow waggle). Essentially, my children and I were held hostage until I finally paid the man the amount of money he wanted and then, miraculously, the light turned green and we could go.

 

The entire experience was extremely frustrating. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was targeted and profiled and the police officers exploited me because they knew I was a foreign citizen. My lack of Spanish did not discourage the man and he was apparently in no rush to get out of there. My children, on the other hand, were exhausted from a long day at school and my husband was stranded on the side of the road in the dark.

 

Based on my frustrating experience, I have a few suggestions to offer on how to handle being pulled over.

 

  1. If you get pulled over, your US driver’s license is valid for driving around Mexico. They are lying if they tell you otherwise.
  2. Do not give them your license. Only crack the window enough to speak to the officer, be polite, but do not give him/her anything.
  3. Ask for the ticket ( called a multa) and insist on getting it.
  4. If you want to call for help, they cannot prevent you from making a phone call. We are allowed to call for translation assistance or consular assistance if necessary.
  5. Avoid situations like this by not driving in unfamiliar places at night. Take an Uber or licensed taxi instead.
  6. Do not carry a lot of cash with you. If you insist on paying with a credit card and not cash, they cannot receive a bribe that way.
  7. Bear in mind, these suggestions are really only appropriate for the local, municipal police. We have been told that they are the less reliable or trustworthy out of all levels of police in Mexico, probably because they are the most underpaid. If you are pulled over by federal police or higher for any reason, your best bet is to comply with what they tell you. They are much less likely to ask for a bribe.

 

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. Good luck and safe travels through Mexico!

Adventures in the Wild Places of Mexico: Comanja de Corona

We were invited to tag along with some friends on a day trip into the Sierra de Lobos, a mountain range that is adjacent to Leon and extends north into Jalisco. That spontaneous invitation also included another set of friends who were happy to get out of the city for the day. Within minutes of departing from our home, we left the pavement and drove down a beat-up dirt road that looked like it didn’t go anywhere except to the surrounding farms. We never imagined where that road would lead us.

As we followed the lead car in our minivan, we forded a couple of small rivers that, thankfully, were not very deep where we needed to cross. The dirt road was very narrow in most places, and meandered through small towns and collections of houses. After about 30 minutes of bumping along the road, we found pavement again and, while the road was not in great shape, it was better than the dirt road. We continued to wind our way through the dry mountains where the views of the scrub around us and the city behind us were spectacular.

Eventually, we found the small town of Comanja de Corona. The streets and the buildings were quaint and characteristic of the small villages we have seen when traveling across Mexico. We wound through the town and then out the other side, following signs for a hotel, campground, and spa called Echological. As we approached, a giant, monolithic rock hill became visible. The name of this monolith is Peña de la Bufa. It dwarfed the countryside around it. My children were impressed and very excited about climbing to the top. When we arrived, the small hotel parking lot was quiet and calm. We had packed our lunches and decided to leave everything in the cars in favor of immediately getting out and hiking to the top of the giant rock structure. In order to access the rock hill, we had to cross onto private property. The man that opened the gate and admitted us charged us 10 pesos (50 cents US) for each adult. He said children were free. Once inside the property, there were a few nice Australian shepherds running around and requesting attention from everyone. The farm looked well kept and the men were very nice and welcoming.

We started our climb and realized quickly that while it was not a difficult hike to the top, the footing was precarious because there was so much loose rock. The view from the top was beautiful. This is the highest point for miles, so it was easy to see the landscape and the other small farms that dotted the countryside. Our children (and the adults) enjoyed scaling every inch of the rock hill. It was a great deal of fun to explore the area. I think the kids could have stayed out there playing and jumping around the rocks for hours.

But we eventually descended back into the farmyard where an adorable Australian shepherd puppy was waiting and starving for attention. To say that our children were enchanted would be an understatement. We all had a difficult time leaving. We enjoyed conversing with the farm hands while the kids played with the puppy and the dogs.

When it was finally time for us to leave, the puppy also made his escape under the fence and ran after us. Sadly, we had to return him. The hike back to the hotel was easy and very scenic. When we returned to Echological, we retrieved our coolers and claimed one of the tarp-covered areas next to the river. It was nice and cool in the shade and there was plenty of room for the kids to run around and play.

After lunch, there was a lot to explore in the area. The hotel inside served tea and coffee (café olla, specifically, made with piloncillo and cinnamon, and served in a clay mug). They also had hand-crafted jewelry for sale. Several salon services are offered at this hotel/campground such as massage, a jacuzzi, and a steam room (called a Temazcal). For people that are staying at Echological or visitors without a picnic lunch, the hotel offers a substantial breakfast buffet until 12 PM as well as La Comida later in the afternoon.

My friend and I decided to go horseback riding for a half hour while the children and our husbands took turns rowing the boat around the river. It had been several years since I had last ridden a horse. Unfortunately, the horse I chose seemed to know this and, for the first 5 minutes of our ride, did the opposite of everything I wanted him to do. However, I rose to the challenge successfully and did not get thrown off of the horse or scraped up on the thorny bushes and cacti bordering the road, thank goodness. I do not recommend horseback riding here unless the person has some experience. The horses are not acquiescent to the demands of inexperienced riders.

We decided to leave later on in the afternoon once our children showed signs of exhaustion. We packed up our belongings and our tired children and headed out. On the way home, we stopped at a small bakery in the town of Comanja de Corona to buy sweet bread. It was wonderful, soft, and fresh out of the oven. It put everyone in a great mood for the return trip through the mountains. It was a lovely day spent with friends! Next time, we will stay at the hotel to see what it is like.

Once again, we were shown just how amazing Mexico can be when we leave behind our fear and explore places that are off the beaten path. Thanks for reading!

Shopping Adventures in Tonala

One of my favorite places to shop here in Mexico is Tonala. It is well known for its blown glass and metal sculptures…and for its Sunday market! Tonala is a small suburb on the east side of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, approximately 2 hours from Leon. The Sunday market in Tonala is a grand shopping adventure. I will share my tips, tricks, and experiences here so that if you ever have a chance to wander through the Tonala Sunday Market, you have some idea of what to expect.

Parking Tips:

During my first trip to Tonala, I went during the Buen Fin weekend, which is similar to Black Friday in the US. Parking was very difficult to find that day and I would recommend arriving early – maybe before 9:30 AM – in order to find a good place to park and shop the Buen Fin deals.  On my subsequent trips to Tonala, parking was not an issue. My favorite parking place is easy to find on Google Maps and it is the first one right off of the main road (on google maps, it is called Naztlin), but they fill up fast. They make you pay 40 pesos (US$2) in advance no matter how long you are parked, but it is worth the price. As is always the case in Mexico, when you park, do not leave valuables in your car. It is always advisable that if you have to leave bags in your car, they should be out of sight. An alternative type of parking lot in Tonala will provide a paper on which you list the items left in your car. These tend to be the really small parking lots where you have to leave your vehicle key. Essentially, they keep an eye on the vehicle and your belongings, plus they have the vehicle key so that they can fit more vehicles in the parking lot. You use this at your own risk, but I have not had any trouble from the parking lots that do it this way. Simply make sure that everything in your vehicle is still there before you leave, and don’t leave anything valuable (electronics, jewelry, money).

Finding the best prices in the shortest amount of time:

The market is an overwhelming display of items, with vendors crammed together under tarps and crowding the sidewalks that line both sides of the main road as well as many of the side streets that branch off. One of the first things I noticed is that the permanent shops along the main road typically have higher prices than the street vendors that are lined up along the sidewalks. However, the permanent shops have a much larger selection of items to choose from than the vendors in the market. With this in mind, I recommend winding through the tarp-covered walkways first to check out the things they have on display and check prices, and then circling back around to look at the permanent shops on the way back. Another thing I noticed is that the shops and vendors further from the main road also have better prices. I highly recommend walking on those side streets too, because you never know what you may find. There is more to see here than there is time to see it, even in the three visits I have made to this market. One thing to keep in mind though – for anyone that does not like the literal press of humanity against their body, walking through the vendors and through the crowded, tarp-covered walkways might be a horrific experience. It is a tight fit and the forward movement is often slow and requires much maneuvering around and between people. For this reason, I also do not recommend trying to push a stroller or wheelchair through the main street of this market. It is not very handicap accessible and there are several places where the sidewalk changes height all of a sudden, causing people to stumble and almost fall – which they would if there weren’t so many people in the way.

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The way I have described this so far, I know, probably does not make this market sound very appealing. However, the things I have seen and found and the prices they charge make the entire experience very worthwhile. And if you are looking for “authentic” Mexico, this is a great place to find it.

Examples of great prices:

  1. Large, colorful, blown-glass hearts are 40 pesos (US$2) each from a nice vendor in a tiny, corner shop located off of the main market street.
  2. A vendor in a shop a few streets away (business card in the photos) from the main street of the market sells large, heavy-duty, blown-glass pitcher and tumbler sets for 350 pesos (about US$17).

Tips to increase your shopping enjoyment:

There are so many interesting, colorful, and unique items and artwork that can be found in the Tonala market. I am constantly amazed by all of the different things I see every time I go. In addition, every time I go shopping, I find more beautiful things that I want to buy than I can possibly carry (or fit in my house). To make this part of the shopping experience easier, take large bags, that can be comfortably carried on a shoulder or back, in which to carry purchases. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, based on my own experience.

Yes, those are toilets
You never know what you will find in Tonala. Photo by Angela Grier

Tips on finding food:

The food smells in Tonala are absolutely amazing! There are many places to get food in Tonala as you shop – from a sit-down restaurant inside a building, to a sit-down vendor cooking in the open air in the middle of the shopping alleys, to the street vendors selling food on the go. I have tried a few of each of these. I discovered my absolute favorite food in Tonala and it comes from street vendors that you find strewn throughout the market. The food is called a gordita and, in Tonala, it is filled with something sweet. I have had gorditas elsewhere, and they are delicious, but the gorditas in Tonala are different. They sell them plain but they also sell them with a variety of fillings – chocolate, cajeta, or vanilla cream. The dough is sweet, so even the plain ones are delicious. Hands down, this is the best food in Tonala, and every time I go, I buy a few bags. The best price for these is typically 10 pesos for 5 gorditas. Sometimes, I have seen vendors charge 15 or 20 pesos for 5 gorditas, but I typically skip those vendors and find the ones with a better price.

Tonala Market
Tejuino Vendor. Photo by Angela Grier

On my first visit to Tonala, I tried a beverage from a street vendor called tejuino. It has lime juice and fermented corn in it. It is delicious! This is a drink that is very popular in Jalisco state (which is where Tonala is located). I highly recommend trying this unique beverage.

Another fun street vendor, if you can find them, are the ones that sell street margaritas. The experience is really fun to watch and the margaritas are sweet. It is funny to watch them make the drinks because, since they are not supposed to sell alcohol on the street, they hide the tequila in a bottle of soft drink. They sell these very large margaritas for around 90-100 pesos each, but you can get some of your money back if you return the really cool clay mug it’s served in. (I never do that.) There is usually a small crowd of people around the vendor, watching and joking about the experience. I don’t know how sanitary the margarita-making station is, and I’m sure that the guys reuse the mugs that people bring back without washing them well, but if you think about it just a little, alcohol kills germs. As long as you don’t think about it too much, it’s a much more enjoyable experience. The last time we went to Tonala, we took my husband’s parents with us, and while their stomachs had not yet acclimated to the food, the street margaritas did not bother them. I think they enjoyed Tonala even more while enjoying the very large clay mug full of margarita.

One bit of advice that we were given when we first moved to Mexico was that if there are a lot of people waiting to eat at a place, then it probably has excellent food. While walking through the alleys of vendors, the amazing smells from all of the food vendors grilling meats and veggies are mouth-watering and most, if not all, of these places have crowds of people surrounding them. I have only eaten at one of the places, one street over from the main crush of people, and the food was delicious. Waiting for seating in the middle of a crowded alley of vendors is not something I really want to do, so I have not stopped at other places yet.

Tonala Market
Delicious tacos from a side street vendor. Photo by Angela Grier

While walking down a side street on my second trip to Tonala, I found a hidden restaurant called El Jardin (The Garden). The only reason I found it was because I heard a lot of birds chirping nearby and looked over to see an aviary. On the fence of the aviary, was the sign for the restaurant. We were hungry and decided to check it out. As we wound through a sidewalk between the aviary and building, we found ourselves in a little portico filled with tables. The staff is very friendly, they serve alcohol all day, and the food is delicious. It is now our go-to place to find respite from the crowds. There is also a restroom nearby that is free if you go from the restaurant. The only problem is that there are no toilet seats or toilet paper, so be prepared!

Overall tips:

Tonala is a beautiful place, filled with art in the most unexpected places. There is more to see than can be seen in one, two, or twenty visits. The Sunday market feels like it stretches on forever. If you find that you have bought too much but you have only made it through a small part of the market, the vendor that I have bought the glass pitcher and tumbler sets from will let you leave your purchases with them under the table, along with the box(es) of glassware purchased from them. I am sure they are not the only vendors willing to do that. If you are not comfortable with that idea, some of the parking lots will watch your car for you if you leave purchases in it and return to shop. By 3 PM, many street vendors start packing up their tables. The permanent shops stay open longer, but the market starts to disperse after 3 and if you saw something that you wanted to purchase, you need to get it before 3.

Sometimes, you may see large carts being wheeled through the streets by guys. They will carry your large purchases for you in these carts for a price. If you go shopping for furniture, this is definitely the best option for “carting” it around.

No matter what you decide to shop for in Tonala, you will likely go home with more than you expected. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for shopping in this wonderful town. Enjoy!