This article is from the July 2001 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Talpa de Allende

by Georgia Stasi 

Georgia Stasi is a native-born Californian hailing from Big Sur. She has traveled extensively in Europe – and lived there for several years. These days, between visits to Mexico, she lives in Tampa where she enjoys hours spent with her grandson, Tyler.  

Talpa de Allende...a small, typical Mexican town whose charm is her people. For those who wish to know the real Mexico and true Mexicans, this is where you will find both. The “locals” are the friendliest of any I have encountered. Talpa’s elevation is about 4,000 feet, giving her a climate of perpetual springtime. Finding your way to Talpa is relatively simple – from Puerto Vallarta, there is a daily air service, my choice being Taxi de la Bahia (322-110-90). Looking out at the breathtaking scenery, this 15 to 20 minute flight seems almost too brief. For the brave-hearted, you may prefer the four-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta on the gravel road (until the new highway is completed). Otherwise, from Guadalajara, a three-hour drive on a paved highway will get you to your destination.  

Talpa is a religious center. Our Lady of the Rosary is one of three “little sisters,” the other two being the Virgin of Zapopan and the Virgin of San Juan de Lago. The Virgin of Talpa is the patron saint of three states – Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit. Throughout the year, tens of thousands of her pilgrims journey to Talpa during four fiestas. The largest of the fiestas is in March and the most colorful is in September. 

Once in Talpa, my personal choice of places to stay is the Hacienda Jacaranda which is run by my long-time friends of 45 years, Bill Worth and Guy Lawlor (who, long ago, had a guest ranch in Mendocino, California, for sixteen years). Words can hardly describe the Hacienda and its beautiful location. From the moment they pick you at up Talpa International Airport (airport? this is an airport?) to make your way two miles to the Hacienda, you will be treated to such beautiful sights as clouds of butterflies (mariposas) flitting in the arroyo. Depending on the time of year the drive to the Hacienda treats the visitor to a vibrant wildflower display which complements the orange, red, purple and salmon-colored brush. 

At the Hacienda the beautiful grounds and wonderful accommodations are surpassed only by Guy’s cooking (he’s a gourmet chef). Inside, the Hacienda has several beautiful guest rooms, though one in particular I like to consider my “own.” It is exquisitely decorated and has an indescribable view from the bed where one can lie and, when dark (but only in July and August), watch the fireflies decorate the huge ficus trees outside the second-story bedroom window. This very special treat is exceeded only perhaps by taking a walk outside of the room, down a long corridor to stand on the terrace, and marveling at a field and hillside illuminated by these tiny, amazing creatures. Every evening Guy walks me to my room where we stand in awe of the fields aglow – a truly breathtaking sight.  

Here are some of the wonderful picnics we have taken, courtesy of Bill and Guy, who have lived in Talpa for 18 years and know it like the back of their hand.     

ARANJUEZ – about 40 minutes from Talpa. (This trip can be taken on horseback, which Bill and Guy can arrange.) Take a half-mile hike through meadow and open forest, cross a couple of streams, and suddenly you’ll hear it before you see it...the most spectacular waterfall I’ve ever seen (outside of Niagara Falls). You will see 80 feet of water rushing and tumbling into a clear, cold pool where you can swim. A few in our group ventured above this fall and discovered yet another, almost as big. And they also found a cross, a memorial to a fallen revolutionary war hero. We spent several hours in Aranjuez, lounging on a fallen tree, grilling food, taking hikes into the woods, napping...all while listening to the roar of the waterfall. This is a “must” picnic trip. Even as I write this, I am looking forward to returning with a friend whom I am fetching from Puerto Vallarta and bringing to Talpa. I am sure he will love Aranjuez as much as I do.  

CUAMIL – or, as we call it, “The Angel.” This picnic requires about an hour of driving and not much hiking. Soon after our arrival Guy asked me to cover my eyes and then he led me to what I soon discovered was the edge of a small cliff. I found myself standing by the side of a rushing river, and the vista took my breath away. What I saw was the side of a mountain with a huge angel that had been carved from its steam vents and cinder cone. Colors of copper, gold, and brown form her wings, and if you look hard to the top left, you will find her head in profile. Cappy Ortega, the owner of the property, told us he sculpted The Angel himself. This is a wonderful spot to spend the entire day. You will find a covered picnic area with table and benches. There are park benches overlooking the view, or, if you choose, steps down to a rope crossing the river, put there so you can get to the other side without being swept away. 

TOLEDO – our next outing, a green, peaceful getaway. We traveled a dirt road up into the mountains (an adventure unto itself!) to visit my godson’s (Cesar) grandmother at her home. Later we proceeded to a nearby stream. This is a beautiful area where we had our most elegant picnic with linen tablecloths and napkins spread on the ground, candelabra and wine glasses. The stream held giant boulders with the smoothest of patinas formed by years of flowing, rippling water.  

CHARCO DE TAMBOR (Pool of the Drum) was our last picnic. You can drive there, but we made the hike through open forest, crossing several streams. Once there, you come across another waterfall (though not as spectacular as the one at Aranjuez). There is a large pool fed by still more falls up above – and one can walk to the top to drink in the view of all below. For me, the most memorable experience of the trip to Charco de Tambor was the rain on the walk back. This was an absolute joy. I had forgotten how clean and fresh rain smells. There I was – rain-drenched, water dripping over and down everywhere, and I couldn’t have been happier. And this was all because of the simple, pure fragrance of rain.  

In spite of what you may think, picnics are not all we do to while away our pleasant hours in Talpa de Allende. Going into town every day is a must. Doing the daily shopping with Guy is an experience I would not miss. In town you will see young men making huaraches while you buy your plane ticket for Puerto Vallarta. You watch fascinated as J.J. works his splendid horses in front of the plaza which houses the church (J.J. is known as the “horse whisperer” of Talpa!). Fresh, hot rolls can be bought from the bread boy, who carries a huge basket of rolls on his head, as you stop and chat with people. Often, we go to Alfredo’s El Campanario, a restaurant/bar which is upstairs from the plaza. There we eat, drink and people watch – and, on special days, we enjoy an unobstructed view of the Virgin Walk. This is a fiesta not to be missed. The street around the plaza is cordoned off and the ground is decorated with flower petals in beautiful designs of purple, orange and yellow over which the Virgin is carried. If you are fortunate enough to be in Talpa on September 10th or October 7th, be sure to witness the fiesta – and Alfredo’s is the place for a front-row seat. They serve typical Mexican fare, but their menu also includes hamburgers, seafood and mixed drinks. If you want a gorgeous view and a restaurant which is just a little different, I recommend Casa Grande on Vista Panoramica, up the hill from downtown. My favorite dish is served there (with cheerful service) – Camarones Ajo (garlic shrimp). They also offer a choice of steak, seafood and Mexican fare. This is a family owned and operated place, and my standing joke is that I want Casa Grande as my home. This is a beautiful place with Mexican tiled tables, dishes and bathrooms – and it’s the cleanest I’ve seen in any country (and, rest assured, I’ve been in a few). This is a restaurant well worth a visit – or two.  

There are many other accommodations and restaurants in and around town and other pursuits to follow, but the ones I’ve described are my favorites, my particular choices, the ones which best reflect the unspoiled beauty, warmth and charm of Talpa de Allende. These places are why Talpa caught my heart and reels me back at every opportunity.  

Meanwhile, back at the Hacienda Jacaranda – grab a drink and go for a swim in the 60 foot solar-heated pool. Perhaps you would rather wait until evening to relax in the hot tub and look out at the lights of Talpa. The Hacienda has two lakes you might want to visit and take in a tranquil hour or two for relaxation before heading out to enjoy another day in Talpa. One of the lakes is stocked with fish and lies within groves of limes, lemons, oranges and avocados that Bill and Guy planted themselves. Years ago, when I first came here, sleep did not come easily. Those of us who are city-dwellers will find this haven a treasure – with stars and fireflies and silence so deafening it hurts the ears.  

If you wish to reach Bill and Guy, call 011-523-447-7366 or fax them at 011-523-385-0669.