Villa Ganz – Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico :: Hotel Review

I am not a big fan of bed and breakfasts. The forced intimacy, the preponderance of armchair doilies and “adorable” toilet roll covers, the fact that the bed and the breakfast both invariably suffer…it all combines to create awkwardness and disappointment. Imagine my surprise when I walk into Villa Ganz  in Guadalajara. Yes, it felt like walking into someone’s house—but what a house!

The restored 20th century mansion greets you with a sweeping staircase and sunlight washing across the tiled floor through vast windows and doors at the far end of the first floor.

There’s romance. There’s class. There’s not a doilie in sight! This is my kind of bed and breakfast and that’s thanks to co-owner Sally Rangel who knew she wanted to create a bed and breakfast, just not that kind of bed and breakfast.

My room is one of the most private. Located up its own set of stairs off a lush garden it has a private outdoor sitting area with a couch, tables and copious quantities of candles.  Inside, the room is a bit dark due to very small windows. However, a skylight over the bathroom sink adds illumination and also creates very flattering light at the mirror over the sink.  The shower is outfitted with a regular shower head as well as a rain shower head with a charmingly old-school chain pull.

Sally has poured her heart into the look and feel of Villa Ganz, amassing an impressive collection of antiques and art pieces that give each of the 10 suites their own distinct personality and noteworthy surprises can be found behind every door. There’s a delicately scalloped sink, a vaulted brick ceiling, an antique claw foot tub, hand painted tile. Not to be missed is the Grand Master suite with its own indoor hammock hung in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the garden. Even smaller rooms on the first floor that open directly onto the garden feel spacious and private.  

Filled with thriving lawns, trees, flowers and vines the sprawling garden is so established it  seems to have been there as long as the mansion itself. The outdoor areas at Villa Ganz are used day and night. Continental breakfast is served on tables on and around the lawn and nightly wine and snacks are best enjoyed in the covered outdoor sitting area, complete with a massive fireplace for chilly evenings—also an excellent location for a romantic dinner.

Villa Ganz is located near downtown Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, which is currently gearing up and sprucing up in preparation to host the Pam American Games in 2011. Guadalajara claims to be the birthplace of both charreada (Mexican rodeo which was around long before the US version) and mariachi music. But for my money, the city’s greatest contribution is a ubiquitous dish called a torta ahogada—literally “swimming sandwich.”

Made by filling a fresh baked roll with cubes of roast pork then covering it in sweet homemade tomato sauce (not unlike thin tomato soup) plus as much hot sauce as you can handle, this is a must eat. (If the charms of Guadalajara tempt you to stay longer, the owners of Villa Ganz also own two other properties with apartment-like accommodations for longer, even homier stays.)

Rates start at $200 including a continental breakfast and wine and snacks in the evening. Reserve two nights or more at Villa Ganz through Mexico Boutique Hotels and a full breakfast will be included. 

Villa Ganz
1739 López Cotilla
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Mexico
Phone: 52 33 3120 1416

www.villaganz.com

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Winter Rocky Mountain Style – Eldora, Colorado

It was only October 1, but in Eldora, Colorado, at nearly 9,000 feet (3,000 meters) in the Rocky Mountains directly below the Continental Divide, winter can and will come early. But that doesn’t have to get in the way of the fun.

October 1st - A snowy and windy morning in Eldora, CO. At least we have our friend Marcas wonderful cabin to hunker down in.

October 1st arrived with a snowy and windy morning in Eldora,  At least we have our friend Marca’s wonderful Valhalla cabin to stay warm in.

Winter comes early in Eldora (but that doesn’t stop us)

During a week of Rocky Mountain Bliss at our friend Marca’s Valhalla cabin in Eldora, Colorado we enjoyed extreme golf cart off-roading (those things are tougher than they look), speed hiking through three different seasons in a single afternoon, hot tub soaking, 50 mph wind (okay, we didn’t enjoy that so much), an old musical favorite (Galactic played live at the Fox theater in Boulder where we were charged a TicketBastard style surcharge even though we bought our tickets at the venue’s box office), and a brand new musical discovery.

Marca’s friend Stephanie tipped us off to a now-defunct business called the Caribou Ranch recording studio in the nearby  ghost town of Caribou. Before a fire ruined the studio in 1985, Caribou Ranch enjoyed more than a decade of star studded years. A short list of the dozens of diverse mega artists who recorded mega albums there includes Joe Walsh, Sheena Easton, Chicago, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Zappa, Rod Stewart and Supetramp. Oh, and John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Stevie Wonder who drove a car around the ranch between recording sessions.

It’s estimated that music produced and recorded at the ranch sold more than 100 million copies combined. Whether these are your favorite artists or not, you’ve heard the work they did in dinky, tiny, inspiring Caribou.

Aspens in peak color before winter descends in Colorado.

A hike before hunkering down

On a warm and sunny day we took advantage of the weather, and the knowledge that a big winter storm was coming, to hike up to Diamond Lake, a glorious alpine lake beneath the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area at an elevation of 11,000 feet (3,300 meters).

A view of the Continental Divide and Arapahoe Pass on our (sunny) hike up to Diamond Lake yesterday.

A view of the Continental Divide and Arapahoe Pass during our hike up to Diamond Lake.

Diamond Lake, a beautiful Alpine Lake, nearly 11,000 feet up, beneath the Vontinantal Divide.

Diamond Lake is a beautiful alpine lake at nearly 11,000 feet / 3,300 meters just beneath the Continental Divide.

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Blues & Brews Music Festival Day 3 – Telluride, Colorado

Day 3 of the Blues & Brews music festival in Telluride, Colorado got started off to a good start with a hearty breakfast at the Telluride Elk’s Lodge which has a funky long bar, a stage (where a singer/songwriter serenaded diners), and enormous stuffed elk heads all over the place. Then it was onward for more music including Bonnie Raitt, The Lee Boys, Super Chikan, and much more.

The Lee Boys kick off Sunday with some sacred steel.

The Lee Boys kicked off Day 3 of the Blues & Brews music festival in Telluride with some slammin’ sacred steel.

Most of Sunday was a bright sunny day at the festival.

Most of Day 3 was sunny.

Day 3 of the Blues & Brews music festival in Telluride

Almost every musician at the festival made it a point to mention that Telluride is, by far, the most beautiful stage setting they’ve ever played at. Many whipped out cameras to capture the scene from the stage for themselves. Ryan from Umphrey’s McGee went one better and pulled out his Flip video camera during a break between songs.

One not so popular side effect of playing Telluride is the altitude (over 8,700 feet or 2,650 meters) which makes the air thin and the performing hard. Oxygen tanks were supplied backstage and plenty of musicians used them to get through their sets.

From Clarcksdale, Mississippi, Super Chickan and the Fighting Cocks.

Super Chickan and the Fighting Cocks (his all-girl band) brought the Delta Blues straight from Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Check out our video of Super Chickan and the Fighting Cocks, below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3heMYOJAoGM[/youtube]

The festival had a fun kids area with various games and rides like the bungi jump.

The festival had a fun kids’ area with various games and rides like the bungee jump.

Sunday brought a sunnier Mardi Gras parade.

A sunny Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras parade.

Ruthie Foster.

Ruthie Foster.

 After a sunny day, a nasty 10 minute wind and hail storm blew in just as Bonnie Raitt's set begain.

After sun for most of the day a nasty 10 minute wind and hail storm blew in just as Bonnie Raitt’s set began.

After 3 days of sun, rain, hail, mud and music, this crew was not going to stop dancing for Bonnie Raitt & Taj Mahal.

After three days of sun, rain, and hail this crew was not going to stop dancing to Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal (dubbed Bontaj Roulet) no matter what the weather threw at them.

Pretty in Pink enjoying the mud.

A festival pro in the making.

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Blues & Brews Music Festival Day 2 – Telluride, Colorado

It never down-poured and the glorious Colorado sunshine always returned, but we did get enough of the wet stuff to make some quality mud pits to dance barefoot in which just added to the fun of Day 2 of the annual Blues & Brews music festival in Telluride, Colorado. Seeing Buddy Guy, Anders Osborne, Umphrey’s McGee, and much more music also helped.

The second day started off a bit rainy, but that didn't stop people from getting down in the mud.

Day 2 started out sunny, but it didn’t last, much to the delight of these happy mud dancers.

Day 2 of the Blues & Brews music festival in Telluride

Day 2 was extra wet for another reason: it was the day the festival held the Grand Tasting. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (from Chico, CA where Karen grew up) was the festival’s anchor brewery but on Day 2 more than 50 microbrews tented up and poured their stuff for a very eager crowd. Once properly lubricated, we were treated to yet another day of kickass music.

Vieux Farka Toure, direct from Mali.

Vieux Farka Toure, direct from Mali, helped warm up the crowd.

Some of our New Orleans favorites -- Anders Osbourne, Kirk Joseph and Simon Lott.

Some of our New Orleans favorites including Anders Osborne on guitar, Kirk Joseph on sousaphone and Simon Lott working the drums.

What better way to add complement some New Orleand music than a Mardi Gras parade.

What better way to complement some New Orleans music than with a Mardi Gras style parade through the crowd during Anders’ set?

Anders Osbourne and Kirk Joseph.

Anders “Grizzly” Osborne (LOVE the facial hair) and Kirk Joseph.

Enjoying the New Orleans jamming of Anders Osbourne.

Enjoying the New Orleans jamming of Anders Osborne.

Looks like Anders is having a good time.

Anders having as much fun as the crowed.

Enjoying Anders Osbourne.

The crowd enjoying Anders Osborne, except for that guy on the left who looks like he’s asleep on the rail.

Ryan Stasik, Jake Cinninger and Kris Myers of Umphrey's McGee.

Ryan Stasik, Jake Cinninger and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee.

Ryan Stasik of Umphrey's Mcgee showing his 'nasty' face.

Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee brought his nasty face.

The one and only Buddy Guy.

The one, the only Buddy Guy. 

Do not miss our video of Buddy Guy in performance, below.

Anders Osbourne and Kirk Joseph played a blistering night show at the historic Sheridan Opera House.

Anders Osborne and Kirk Joseph played a blistering night show (along with Simon Lott) at the historic Sheridan Opera House.

Kirk Joseph at the Sheridan Opera House.

Kirk Joseph at the Sheridan Opera House.

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