The north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico is one
of the premier retirement destinations for North Americans.
We have been living here
off and on since 1993, and there have been many changes
to what used to be a sleepy town of 40,000. For the most part, those changes
have been good ones.
Take a look!
Chapala lake, a major draw
The lake is up to its
previous high levels, the beaches are clean, and the pleasure
boats make a tranquil photo. The town continues to grow and in
general, become more upscale.
As Chapala be comes more
modern, some prefer the old, sleepy ways and have moved to towns
across the lake.
The pier is to the left
In the dry years, the
end of the pier was in about 3 feet of water. Although shallow,
Lake Chapala is 48 miles long and 22 miles
wide. You can see the southern
side of the lake here easily. The wrought iron arch reads: Chapala,
Little Corner of Love. This is the center of the malecon
with a beautiful fountain and iron benches to the left out
of the photo.
A place to sit and people
Here you see a little garden
area of the malecon with some wrought iron benches to sit
down and relax. The malecon is a place for the public to
wander down by the lake and purchase food or trinkets from the local
vendors. Freshly made ice cream is a favorite treat! Fishing
boats are a mainstay of the scenery here at Lake Chapala.
On weekends, the place rocks
with lots of tourists, traveling minstrels, balloons, bubbles
and more. There is a modern skate board area just to the left of
the photo which is very active with the young showing off their
skate boarding skills.
This is the
fountain at the entrance of the malecon which is in the center
of the walkways that lead in both directions. Fishing has been a
livelihood for residents of Chapala for decades. These statues
are a tribute to the fishermen pulling in their daily catch with
Colorful boats on the lake
Many festively painted
boats line up at this tiny pier. The lirio, a type of water
hyacinth donated to the people of Chapala decades ago, has been
cut back to manageable levels and no longer consumes the surface
area of the lake.
something to be continuously managed.
Nice even walkways with
lush tropical plants
Sidewalks and and sitting areas with trees and lights have been
put into place by previous Presidentes of the city. This is the
end of the malecon which reaches all the way to the 'old' Post
Office building almost a kilometer down the walkway.
In the mornings, people run
the full length of the malecon, or walk it with their
dogs. Sometimes you will see a person on a unicycle practicing
his balanced riding.
A place for families to
and attractive areas for families to walk and delight in the
Lake view of their town. With the influx of expat money, the
city of Chapala has made substantial city improvements.
The Beer Garden anchors
Garden with a Lakeside view. A great place to sip a beer and
listen to music.
Beaches to sit on and
shows you the
cleaned beaches in front of the walking area of the malecon. There used to be little restaurant shacks here on
the beach, with the lirio choking the lake. Now it's wide open
and inviting. The Beer Garden is out of the photo on the right.
Children love to play on the beach and swim in the water.
A fuller view of the beach
from onto the pier, another view of the beach area. This gives
you a better look at the Beer Garden on the right side of the
Google map of Christiania
Google Earth photo you can see the whole of Cristiania Park in
Chapala, walking distance from the malecon. The
original 4 tennis courts are in the middle left of the picture.
two tennis courts that Billy built are at the center upper
right. At the apex of the trees in the center of the photo you
can also see the
2 sand volley ball courts that Billy had built
as well. The large land mass in the center is the futbol field,
and of course, the swimming pools are to the right.
view of the park shows about 30% of its total land area. It's a
very popular family destination on weekends for fairs, music,
food and fun. Many people choose here to do their daily morning
walks since it is such a beautiful, tranquil environment. The park is used on a daily basis from people all
over the area.
Tennis player getting a
tennis courts in the Cristiania Park are in constant use. They
are well maintained and are considered to be the best in the
For sporty expats, these
courts are a major draw and a good place to meet other expats
and Mexican locals.
Maintenance of the volley
Here is a closer look
at the two volley
ball courts that Billy had built in the days we used to live
here more permanently. They are rototilled regularly to keep the
sand in good condition for the players who have scheduled games
in the mornings.
If you come to Chapala, you
must make a visit to Cristiania Park. It's a wonderful place to
favorite place to gather is the Plaza. Every Mexican town has
one and it usually consists of a gazebo, a market area and a
church. In the 'old days' when we lived here, few people had
telephones. If you wanted to know any local news, or when the
next fiesta or parade was happening, you'd go to the Plaza and
find out. This is where the 'taco telegraph' was a buzzin'!
On weekends there are bands
and dancing, sometimes free food and tequila!
meal easily obtained at restaurants in the Plaza is Chicken Milanesa served with rice, refried beans,
toasted tortillas and salad. Currently, this goes for P70, about
Fresh bolios and other
styles of bread
home made bread and pastries sold daily at the Plaza.
You can also purchase freshly
roasted whole chicken from several of the vendors on either side
of these bread baskets. Fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses,
yogurts, juice shops, restaurants and several butcher shops are
also located here.
Mexican flags and more to
This vendor has everything
you need for Mexican Independence Day, celebrated September 16th each
year. Flags, hats, and streamers for sale! The Plaza itself is in the
Handsome young men
Brothers. Ernie on the drums, and horn man Duncan sometimes play at
the Plaza on Sunday evenings. Families gather to listen to the
musicians from 8 to 10 pm.
hand in hand, children and couples are dancing, and babies are
pushed in their prams.
This is the
City of Chapala's Cathredral dedicated to San Francisco. It is a stately building
and is said to house relics of some of the first Franciscan
monks in the area. Notice
that the two steeples are of different sizes. We were told that
one had fallen down, but we don't know why - and when it was rebuilt
it wasn't made the same size as the matching steeple. We don't
know why about that either!
On Sundays, the Cathedral is packed with
Weddings, First Communions,
Baptisms and more are celebrated events here.
The Old Nido Hotel
This is the
current government building that houses the city offices. It used
to be the 'Old Nido Hotel' which served the guests and residents
of the area since the beginning of the 1900's. In fact, we have
stayed at the Nido Hotel ourselves and so have our relatives and
friends in years past. There's a lovely courtyard in the center
with the rooms all facing in to view it. Once a swimming pool in
the back, the city has since filled it in.
Over the years there are now
many hotels in Chapala to choose from.
Corner building is now a
and white building has been renovated and was the office
for the city in prior times. This used to be the one-and-only stoplight
in Chapala - the cross street where the Carreterra meets the
center of town. Now, there are several!
Modern, clean busses provide transport to the
area for P9 a trip, about $0.50 US cents.
You can hire a taxi to take
you to some of the other towns around the lake like San Antonio
or Ajijic for $3-$4USD.
Peering into the past
their riders are a familiar sight in the streets of Chapala. You
will see horses tied to lamp posts while waiting for their rider
to return from the saloon on the corner and there are iron rings
embedded into the concrete of the sidewalks to be utilized as a
parking space for this common mode of transportation.
Sometimes you will see
half-a-dozen horses with a few colts walking down the
cobblestone streets. There is no owner with them, but they know
where they are headed.
Children learn to ride
rider is all ready to go. Comfortable in his boots, jeans and
cowboy hat, he's probably been riding a horse since he was a
baby and sat in front of the saddle his father used while riding
Children are everywhere and
are brought to work by their parents. It's not uncommon to see a
baby on a woman's hip or another baby asleep in a baby carrier
in the corner. Children are taught to make change and to take
orders at the family restaurant.
Taking a walk
Here's a family of
loose horses walking the streets of Chapala. No one is really concerned about it, including the
It's a very relaxed
An authentic old cantina
This cantina is no longer
here. It was an old fashioned saloon and typical of many of the bars located
in Chapala. Notice the swinging doors at the entrance, just like the
ones in the Western movies. This is not a prop or a movie set,
this was for real! The painted sign advertises quality tequila,
and the Mexican flag is above the door, behind the open air
is so old and worn by the patrons that the floor, ceiling and
sides are all sagging! No worries about walking a straight line
going in or out of this place! The iron rings embedded into the
sidewalk to park your horse are only a few paces away.
Chapala is becoming more
modern and we see the changes happening right before our eyes.
Little by little, piece by piece the "old history" - like this
cantina which proudly served customers in our first days of
living here - is disappearing, being replaced by a stylish, more
contemporary mode of living.