Our one quick drink leads to many more, and the boys are eager to show us some of the city’s queer nightlife. Despite it being just Thursday, California’s Bar seems to be the go-to spot for cheap Dos Equis and tequila, and we quickly become attractions when we show off our knowledge of Selena lyrics. We next visit BaBel which is a massive club on weekends, but the top-floor Manhattan-chic bar area called Terrazza BaBel, is just what we need before winding down for the evening.
The next morning, we transfer to Aloft Guadalajara Hotel, and it’s effortlessly cool. This go-to accommodation for Millennial chic is part playground, part bar, part club, and part just-like home. Their grab-and-go breakfast is ideal
as our guide is taking us to another neighborhood, Tlaquepaque.
Once a neighborhood where the wealthy went to vacation, Tlaquepaque is now a shopper’s and artist’s paradise, filled with stores stuffed to the gills with artsy treasures, perfect gifts for mom and dad, and art for serious collectors. We stop in the flagship store of the world-famous sculptor Sergio Bustamante, who is a Tapatío, and also visit an exquisite woodwork shop called Casa Pericos. We meander past nuns shopping for gorgeous beaded jewelry being made on the street and tour an outdoor pavilion that’s home to over a dozen beer restaurants as the sound of mariachi (which is also from here) sets the mood at the tables.
“Welcome to Tlaquepaque one of the most artistic districts,” openly gay hotelier Vincente Magaña tells us as we enter into the picture-perfect courtyard of La Villa de Ensueño, a boutique property that he is a part owner of. We sit in the sun-drenched courtyard with mojitos in hand, watch the hotel guests swim in the tempting waters of the lap pool, and admire the bright colors and seclusion of this dreamy spot. The hotel, which has been open for 19 years, is expected to open a first-rate spa soon.
“GDL is such a vibrant city,” Magaña tells us, “it has a lot to offer and that helps to create growth and with it comes evolution. We are now a wonderful city for everyone, with more opportunities to have a better life for gay people and for businesses,” he says.
Our next stop is to meet another gay entrepreneur, Alberto Huezo, who opened Maria Tamales two and a half years ago. He’s most famous for his rainbow tamales that he originally served for gay pride (the city currently has two competing celebrations). “Parents get it for their kids because they just like the rainbow,” he shyly tells us. Out comes an assortment of his famous tamales from two pleasant ladies from behind the counter who stuffed each tamale to the core with both savory and sweet fillings. “Guadalajara has definitely changed in the last few years…it’s a more inclusive city,” he shares. “The current government at a state and local level is more open and each day becomes more inclusive to the community regardless of it being a very traditional city with close ties to religion,” he adds. Upon leaving, he gives me a Maria Tamales cup and insists we photograph her in New York City—the hospitality here is wonderful.
That night we say our goodbyes to Guadalajara with a dinner at the truly spectacular Hueso. Inspired by bones, the restaurant is structurally reminiscent of the skeleton and is lined from wall to wall in nearly 10,000 bones, while the outside is said to resemble a patchwork of skin. The monochromatic interior is a visual feast with only diners’ dazzling outfits and the colorful array of delicious food standing out. With ultra-long tables, you sit with the who’s who of Guadalajara and spend a great deal of dinner discussing your fellow diners’ dynamics. Sipping Mexican wine (we have Vinos Pijoan) and toasting to a successful few days, we devour a squid-ink seafood dish, refresh with an autumn beet salad with ripened tomatoes and fresh flowers, and fall hard for the melt-in-your-mouth short rib braseada.
Big-city life deserves a big-city break, and that’s what many in the gay and lesbian community of Guadalajara do when they either drive the long, scenic route or fly to Puerto Vallarta. We arrive at Puerto Vallarta Airport and are picked up by gay-owned VIP Vallarta Transportation that whisks us to The Westin Resort and Spa, Puerto Vallarta.
I am immediately excited by my spacious room, and welcome the ocean breeze sweeping in through my cracked-open sliding doors that lead to my balcony. Pacific Ocean blues match the crystal-clear blue skies, as the sounds of vacation-goers splashing in the pool and tropical birds chirping are a far cry from the sounds of life in Guadalajara. VIP Vallarta picks me up again, and I’m off to visit the town for my first time. I’ve connected with a Canadian expat to give me the low-down.
Talbot Ross, the owner of Talbot Ross Weddings and Designs, began his love affair with Puerto Vallarta like many ex-pats. “It was for the typical vacation to seek out the relaxing calls of the beach, ocean, and warm tropical air,” he tells me as we walk along the world-famous El Malecon and admire the shimmering sunlight on the ocean and the iconic statues like the seahorse (‘Caballito’).
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Ross leisurely began to think of Puerto Vallarta as something more than a beach town, more than an LGBT party scene, and more than a one-time vacation. This occurred after slowly beginning to understand the community dynamics, the quality of life, and the overall approach to life people in this city have.
“There was a greater sense of being part of life and an open friendliness, to meeting people and to what the community was all about. There was time to say hello and to acknowledge the people around you and to do things spontaneously without having to check a schedule. It was like ‘be present in the moment.’”
We wander along and check out a converted lighthouse called Faro de la Calle Matamoros. As I taste the fresh sea air and admire the oh-so-picturesque view of the nearby villas and their impressive water views, we chat a bit more about his business here in Puerto Vallarta. From renting animals from a zoo to flying in you-name-it, Ross has seen it all when it comes to putting on out-of-this-world events in paradise for his diverse clientele. Through planning the reach-for-the-stars requests and the down-to-earth beach gatherings, Talbot has found it rewarding and a learning experience beginning a business here.
“For myself and for my business in the field of wedding and event coordination there have been many opportunities to provide and bring to PV a fresh and elegant design style to creating memorable moments in life,” he says. “This special place I now call home has become important to me because I have been able to make a difference. A small difference and a small imprint on those who are around me.”
As Ross leaves me to get busy planning a gay wedding for a client in the States, I check out the newest hot spot on the island, Mantamar Beach Club Bar & Grill. One of Saúl’s friends from Guadalajara hap- pens to be DJing a rather large day party, and it’s easy to get swept up in the fun as an extremely diverse collection of people sip on beach- side drinks. Even with all the excitement, I manage to eat chips and guacamole and black-pepper-crusted tuna before succumbing to a mojito and a chair by the pool overlooking the ocean.