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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Chapala, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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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. These towns are a little more affordable and a lot more authentically Mexican, without the noticeable Gringo influence.

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.

Restaurants are at both ends of the malecon.

A place to sit and people watch

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. 

Across the street from these benches is the famous Braniff Building (or Casa Braniff) built in 1906, now Restaurant Cazadores.

Fishermen tribute

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 their nets.

 

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.

It is 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 other end of the malecon which reaches all the way to the 'old' Post Office building almost a kilometer down the walkway.

Restaurants and hotels run the full length of this side of the peaceful passageway.

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.

The Adventurer's Guide to Chapala Living, 2nd Edition - Order here!

A place for families to gather

Clean, safe 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.

Everyone benefits.

The Beer Garden anchors one corner

The Beer Garden with a Lakeside view. A great place to sip a beer and listen to music.

The main street and the Cathedral is to the right of this photo.

Beaches to sit on and enjoy

This photo 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.

Further down the beach are some sand volleyball pits.

A fuller view of the beach area

Dropping back 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 photo.

Google map of Christiania Park

From this 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. The 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.

This aerial 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 low shot

The six tennis courts in the Cristiania Park are in constant use. They are well-maintained and are considered to be the best in the area.

For sporty expats, these courts are a major draw and a good place to meet other expats and Mexican locals.

Maintenance of the volley ball courts

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 make friendships and meet people from the other towns around Chapala.

Chapala Plaza

Another 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!

Chicken Milanesa

A favorite meal easily obtained at  restaurants at the Plaza is Chicken Milanesa served with rice, refried beans, toasted tortillas and salad. Currently, this goes for P70, about $4USD.

 

Fresh bolios and other styles of bread

Delicious, 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, a couple of farmacias and several butcher shops are also located here.

Mexican flags and more to buy!

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 background.

Handsome young men

The MacCleod 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.

Lovers walk hand in hand, children and couples are dancing, and babies are pushed in their prams.

Chapala Cathedral

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 devout parishioners.

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 was in the back, but 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 museum

This yellow and white building has been renovated and was the office building 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

Horses and 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 young

This little 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 into town.

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 horses!

It's a very relaxed atmosphere.

An authentic old cantina

This cantina is still here, but has changed its front facade. The old fashioned saloon doors, typical of many of the bars located in Chapala, are gone. Now there are modern top-to-bottom, full glass doors like a "proper" restaurant-bar.

These swinging doors at the entrance were just like the ones in the Western movies. This was not a prop or a movie set, this was for real! The painted sign advertised quality tequila, and the Mexican flag was above the door, behind the open air slats.

This building 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 were only a few paces away. Now they, too, are gone.

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 these cantina swinging doors proudly displayed in our first days of living here - is disappearing, being replaced by a stylish, more contemporary mode of living.

For more stories about Mexico, click here

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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