What a change: From Vallarta’s tourist-packed Malecón to Ajijic’s quaint cobblestoned streets and lazy pace in just a few hours. The Mexican charm of Lake Chapala and its people is far removed from Mexico’s international beach resorts.
After four days of reminiscing with old friends and dining at our favorite beachside restaurants in my former Mexican hometown, Felice and I hopped on an ETN bus in PV and headed for Ajijic to see new friends.
Maria O’Connor blogged about Mexico’s bus system last month but it was our first time on ETN, one of the country’s top first class bus companies. The trip was just under six hours but stress free and luxurious. If you haven’t tried Mexico’s first class busses, you have a treat in store for you. And, our fare was just US$66 for two, far less than flying or renting a car.
We settled in the wonderful B&B Casa Tres Leones, just a few blocks from Ajijic’s main plaza but located high enough on the hillside for a nice view of the lake and relative quiet. Hosts Emil and Alix – Australians who fell in love with Ajijic long ago – were perfect hosts during our stay in the B&B’s Lovers room, a very large, terraced old hacienda-styled room with a lovely view of the lake and Ajijic.
Lake Chapala is a retirement haven for American and Canadian expats who find the cost of living, climate and beauty of the area hard to beat. We agree. We met several couples at the B&B who were closing on properties to claim their slice of paradise.
Expats have been trickling down to the lake for decades but the pace seems to be accelerating as baby boomers begin exploring their options. We met several of them at the home of John McWilliams and Earl French. John was featured in our Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico series in February. We sat on their terrace sipping wine and watching the sun set over the lake as we talked with these aspiring expats about their exploration of a new life along the lake. It doesn’t take much exposure to the local lifestyle to create true believers.
Diane Pearl also showed us her wonderful boutique, which is located on Colon, Ajijic’s main shopping street, just a few blocks from the town’s main square and cathedral. Diane also was featured recently in our Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico series. If you’re in Ajijic, Diane’s shop is a must stop for beautiful jewelry, artisan handicrafts and much more.
Between trips to shopping havens Tonalá and Tlaquepaque and the colonial landmarks and Mexican art found in the historic district of Guadalajara, we were able to squeeze in an interview with David Huff, a longtime resident of Ajijic. Following the interview, David and his wife Catherine treated us to a delicious lunch at their favorite lakeside restaurant in Chapala. Look for David’s interesting story about living in Ajijic in May.
Ajijic continues to charm. As we sat on our terrace in the dimming light of a balmy evening watching the lights of the village twinkle on, we completely understood why so many expats have found their bliss along Lake Chapala. Maybe you will, too.