A Nights Stay In Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

 Horses on the beach_Ajijic

After 24 hours in Jocotepec,  I headed east along the north shore of Lake Chapala.  Twenty five minutes later I was in Ajijic, a town with a name so fun to say, how could you not want to visit,  A-He-Heek.

Students on the Malecon

The pronunciation is still the same but originally the town name was spelled, Axixic.  Which means “the place where the water springs forth” Derived from the Nauatl language that was spoken by the Aztec’s that thrived here before the Spaniards arrived.  But that was five hundred years ago and things have changed.  Now this town is one of the largest American and Canadian ex-pat communities in the world and after 24 hours here I understand why.


Ajijic is small, only about three miles long and sits right on the north shore of the giant Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake.  This colorful little town is just twenty-five minutes from a major international airport and an hour from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.


So what does that mean?  Let me spell it out for you.  If you are an American living in Ajijic you get the benefits of coble stone roads in a laid back, slow paced Mexican town with good restaurants and friendly people and near perfect weather.  If you want to swim in metropolitan culture, like plays, operas, museums and top notch restaurants, you’re only an hour away by car from Guadalajara.   And a flight back to Tijuana takes just two hours and fifteen minutes.  Which means it would take me longer to drive from Santa Barbara back to my home in San Diego than it would to get home from this beautiful little Mexican, lakeside town.   And remember the American dollar still goes far here.

Ajijic Street 2

I reached out via email before I arrived and received a response from Michael Eager suggesting that I stay at his hotel, La Nueva Posada and late in the afternoon I arrived at this gem of a hotel and checked in.  I was anxious to walk around and check out the town but first I took in the view from the balcony of my room and let me heart rate slow down even further.

Suite Balcony_Ajijic


Swiming Pool_Posada_Ajijic

Balcony Room_Posada_Ajijic

My accommodation was perfect, second floor looking over the trees to the lake.  The space was big, not some little European style room.  This spot had a comfortable king sized bed with room to stretch out, flat screen TV, table and chairs, dresser and a nice big bathroom.  Loved it, after five minutes I was already trying to figure out how to extend my stay.

Posada_ Suite

I took an aimless walk out of the hotel and up the street to the plaza, about four blocks away in the center of town.  I sat there for a few minutes and watched the world go by.  It was Tuesday and things were pretty slow but that’s what I expected and what I wanted.  After a brief walk around town it was easy to sum up Aijijic; boutique shops, art galleries, quaint restaurants, slow pace and lots of smiles.


I didn’t have an agenda and it felt great.  I did want to talk to some locals though and get there take on this sought after retirement destination.   So I poked my head into Lake Chapala Real Estate and organized a lunch/beer/margarita date with Thomas Hellyer, one of the agents working in the office.

I met up with Thomas at La Una Restaurant near the center of town and asked the questions that were burning in my mind.  How did you end up here?  Why did you end up here?  What keeps you here?

In the interest of brevity and with the understanding of the short attention span of most blog readers, let me condense his answers.  Thomas is from Oregon, he studied Spanish in Guadalajara, married a beautiful Mexican girl, moved back to Oregon and nine years later returned to Ajijic.  Why?  My thoughts exactly.  Here’s the “WHY” Because the cost of living, the pace of village life with no freeways and he gets to spend time raising his three kids in a safe environment– actually spending time with them instead of trading all of his time for money to survive as we do in the USA.  And here is the shocker that I heard more than once, “I feel like I have more freedom here,” he says.  Meeting Thomas was great and although I already had a fondness for Mexico the meeting with he and his friends only made my convictions stronger.   And let me go back to one more expense thing that many of you will appreciate.  His last child was born C-Section. They were able to pick the hospital in Guadalajara, the doctor, the anesthesiologist and everything was top notch and went perfectly, the cost $2000 US dollars.

La Luna Tapas_Ajijic

La Luna Tapas(2)_Ajijic

After lunch I spent some time exploring the Malecon down at the water’s edge.  Interestingly every town along the north shore of Lake Chapala seems to have a really fun little skate park and no one in it.  If you have kids into skateboarding and you are looking for a safe place for them to have a ball with out $100 admission fee to some ridiculous American theme park where you stand in lines most of the day, bring them to the north shore of Chapala.

Skate Park Bowl

Skate Park_1

I was able to walk back from the Malecon along the beach to my hotel.  About a mile along a trail and the only traffic was two horses that graciously pulled over and let me pass.  Rush hour in Ajijic was a breeze.

After a nice little siesta I woke up energized, got dressed and hit the town hard.  I sprung out of the hotel lobby like a pent up coon hound just looking for excitement.  Only problem was, it was Tuesday night in a sleepy little Mexican village and my ramped up energy slid back down to the village pace.  I asked around for a good bar to visit and was pointed north, just across the main road.

El Bar Company is located on the main road and is pretty huge.  I felt comfortable like I was back in San Diego at a big sports bar.  Only three people in the bar and one of them was me.  A guy sat at the main bar and chatted in English to the bartender.  I found a spot at a big open window that looked out over the street and what do I spy with my eyes across the street,  street tacos with a big crowd, must be good.

Taco Stand_Ajijic

I finished my drink and strolled on over and powered down a few $.45US tacos, exchanged pleasantries with the people at the taco stand and wondered back through the dimly lit streets of Ajijic to my hotel room and fell peacefully asleep, fat and happy.

I knew eventually I would catch up with Mike Eager, the owner of la Nueva Posada and I did the next morning over coffee in the hotel restaurant.  The restaurant at La Nueva Posada has an elegant, colonial style to it with really friendly service and great food.  There are two seating areas, inside or on the patio shaded by the leaves and branches of a rubber tree with a view of Lake Chapala.

Grass Patio_Posada_Ajijic

La Nueva Posada Plate

Restaurant Entrance
Michael sat with me over breakfast and shared a pretty thorough and enthusiastic overview of life in the town of Ajijic which only made my desire to extend my stay even stronger.

His parents were from Ontario, Canada and came to Ajijic for the first time 40 years ago on a “Second Honeymoon” and basically never left. His father Morley was an accomplished businessman and brought those skills along with his wife, Judy.  Shortly after the couple arrived they took over management of La Posada (old Posada), one of the only hotels in town at the time.  Years later as business expanded they built the New La Nueva Posada from the ground up.  The two planted roots and the small lakeside town quickly became home.  This Canadian couple literally put this small Mexican village on the radar for thousands of Americans and Canadians looking for an affordable place to vacation and retire.

Michael was eighteen years old when his parents moved to the area and now with 3 children of his own he is like the pleasant Godfather of the town.  Everyone speaks highly of him and his demeanor shows through in the interactions with his employees and guests.  As we talked people passed by, some with just a smile and a hello and others with a question which he always seem to take the time to answer thoroughly.

Our meeting came to an end and I walked away with that feeling that once again I had ended up in the right place at the right time talking to the right person.  And although there was so much more I wanted to ask and see I had to pack and make my way back to San Diego.

A night’s stay in Ajijic was exactly what I expected it to be, perfect.  Perhaps a longer stay would reveal something different but based on conversation with business owners and locals, I doubt it.

Side notes-

La Nueva posada has 19 suites on three levels with a small pool and facilities large enough to accommodate a really fun wedding or other gathering.  A full hot breakfast is included in the price of your stay.  The hotel is a hub in the community and is a meeting place for many of the groups like Ajijic Writers Club, Hash House Harriers, Airforce Association 904 Wing and many more.


Michael Eagar and his family have been helping Americans and Canadians buy property and acclimate to the area for 40 years.  If you are interested in property in or around Ajijic contact Eager & Asociados


If you want more information on Ajijic real estate, talk to Thomas Hellyer at Lake Chapala Real Estate.


For more information and about the area, events, community programs or to connect with ex-pats check out The Lake Chapala Society


I highly recommend a meal at Restaurante La Una.


Easy does it in Jocotepec

Sunrise Jocotepec

Nearly a decade ago I was told of a place with perfect weather and a community that was said to be the largest accumulation of American expats in the world.  For many years since I have been flying in and out of Guadalajara confined by a time schedule that never allowed me to take the short trip south to visit this destination.  But last week’s trip was different and after saying goodbye to my group at the Guadalajara International Airport I drove thirty minutes south and ended up on the north shore of Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala.

The surface area of Lake Chapala is nearly three times greater than Lake Tahoe and the towns on the shores surrounding the lake are filled with fascinating history.  There are towns known for manufacturing Huarache sandals.  Towns known for  berry farming and even an island that was one of the last strong holds defending against the Spanish invasion in the early 1800’s.  Isla del Presido was originally called Isla Mezcala and became a prison many years later because of its isolation in the middle of the lake and its geographical isolation similar to Alcatraz. The prison no longer exists and is now become a remote tourist attraction.

Map of GDL and Chapala

The side trip to Lake Chapala was a little spontaneous and I didn’t do a great deal of research about this region. I decided that morning that I would let my intentions be known to a random list of emails and let the universe guide me in the right direction.  I only had two days to explore and my only criteria was to start in the small town of Jocotepec.

Joco Map

The expat population is spread out over 30 Kilometers across the north shore of the lake.  The town of Chapala is a direct shot from the airport by car and Ajijic is the first town to the west.  Ajijic (pronounced A-He-Heek) is the largest concentration of Americans and Canadians living in the ideal climate that the region provides.  Going west you drive on a paved two lane road through San Juan Cosala passing restaurants and small hotels built along the waters edge that reminded me of the roads along the shores of Pacific Ocean coastal towns.

I had made arrangements to stay at Los Dos, a bed and breakfast run by Phyllis Rauch just less than a mile from the center of town.  Along with her late husband Georg Rauch, the two moved to this region in the 1970’s and carved out an incredible and simplistic oasis in the hill side over looking Jocotepec.

Painted sign Los Dos Entrance

Immediately upon arrival to Los Dos B&B I was aware that Phyllis had a love for gardening.  Succulents, trees and vines with flowers cover the property. Random trays of young plants were scattered around the grounds waiting for their placement in the fertile soil. Los Dos expands over an acre (4000 square meters) with a nice size pool and a communal area that gives both a sense of space and privacy.  It is a beautiful forty year work in progress. Through the leaves and flowers of the trees there are views of the west end of Lake Chapala from several vantage points around the property.

Los Dos Casita    View from Los Dos

Los Dos has four units for rent with accommodation for families, couples and singles looking for a little peace and quiet off the beaten path. I stayed in the Aerie Deluxe Casita.  There was a fresh pitcher of aqua fresca waiting for me when I came through the door, a nice touch.  The ground floor is a fully equipped kitchen and the bedroom takes up the top floor with a king sized bed, a desk and closet space.  I loved the balcony and the peaceful view.  I sat there for thirty minutes just taking it all in.  Immediately I knew I was going to like this place.

Airie Kitchen Aerie bedroom

Suite Kitchen Suite Bedroom

The town center is just a twenty minute walk down the hill through narrow cobble stone streets.  Small block houses that are always active with locals going about daily life line the streets. The town is very small, about two square miles and just like other old Mexican towns it is built around the town’s plaza and the main church.  The church is made of local canterra stone with a color I have never seen in a building thus far in Mexico.  Rocks of really obscure deep red and pink is the best way I can describe the color

Joco Church Joco church close up

It was Monday evening when I arrived in Jocotepec and the plaza was alive with kids and families all socializing in the square.  A loud, well-practiced Banda band made up of what looked like college students churned the energy and I thoroughly enjoyed being the only gringo in the town plaza listening to the free concert as the day ended and the light faded.

Joco Banda Band

Joco Street food

My request for a place to eat with veggies on the menu lead me to a restaurant just off the town square called El Rincon de Frida’s.  The front door is surrounded with limbs and leaves of a small tree and a light illuminates a tiny sign marking the entrance.  The restaurant is not very big, in fact it’s about the size of a small café or coffee shop in the US but what it lacks in space it makes up for in decor, ambiance and style.  The young owner German Gonzales opened the doors four years ago after spending time in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He returned to his home town and brought a gastronomical flare he learned in the north to this small Mexican village and it works well, very well, I loved the place.  The food presentation matches the style he has achieved in the small space and half of the eight tables were filled with low lighting and conversation.

Frida entrance

frida wall

Dr Please

I had ham and potato soup, a fresh greens salad with goat cheese, apples and generous pieces of perfectly cooked chicken and a large fresh strawberry margarita and it was all delicious.  The meal filled me up, in fact I shouldn’t have finished everything but it was so damn good.  Total cost – with tip, $9.00 US!

Frida Dinner

I wondered back across the cobble stone streets and though my belly was full the smell of chorizo and onions simmering on a street corner could not be passed.  I walked in an olfactory trance and against better judgment I ordered one more item of food to dance across my taste buds. One small street taco filled with chorizo, onions, cilantro and fresh pico de gallo.  I stood there eating my three bite $.65US taco, conversing with the family members running the show, positively glowing with happiness.  I stopped for a quick shot of tequila across the street at Piedritas Restaurant and Bar, had a brief chat with the bartender and then made my way back through town.

Joco Street Taco

By now the clock had moved with nearly unnoticeable pace to 10:30 PM and I made my way through the grid of narrow streets back towards Los Dos.  I smiled as I passed a group of teenagers talking and laughing in conversation standing in the door way of one of the small stone built homes. I was smiling because there were two horses standing idle with full saddle and bridal waiting for the owners that were no doubt part of the group of boys.  I thought how different and cool it must be to ride your horse to a friend’s house for the evening.  I made it up the hill and through the gates of Los Dos, landed in a nice big comfortable bed and fell asleep quickly watching the sheer white drapes dance in the light breeze.  The temperature was perfect and at that moment so was my life.

I woke the next morning completely refreshed.  The blue light of day was just starting to pierce the gray sky, I dressed quickly and headed down to the Malecon (beachfront boardwalk).  Five minutes later I was in the parking lot and surprised at how many people had arrived before me and were exercising in the coolness of the dawn.  Groups of people, two’s, three’s and five’s were moving and walking.  Crude, simple but efficient exercise equipment like rowing machines, stationary bicycles and sit up benches were lined up in the grass.  I was still the only gringo in town and was greeted by every person on the path with a smile and a “Buenos dias.”

Joco Spin Bike

Exercise equipment Poco

Joco Skate park

At the Jocotepec malecon there is a soccer field with well manicured grass complete with stadium style lights.  Just outside the chain linked fence that surrounds the soccer field is a park with at least a dozen simple BBQ’s made of local stone and it was obvious a big soccer match here would draw a great crowd.  At the other end of the field, just outside the fence is a children’s playground and all the swings, slides and climbing towers end in a pool of six inches of water.  I would love to see this area during an event in full swing, it must be like Disneyland and one of the happiest places on earth.

Joco Water Playground

Jocotepec Lake Man

I had a 9:30 AM appointment with Phyllis Rauch back at Los Dos and made my way back up the hill through the small matchbox house neighborhood and cleaned up for breakfast.  I was graciously invited into her house and was greeted with smiles from Phyllis and her right hand woman Mari (pronounced Mar-ee).  We ended up at a table on the spacious veranda overlooking the property and further across the lake to the southern mountains.  My favorite fruit, papaya, pineapple and mango was prepared and waiting with granola, yogurt toast and fresh coffee.  Phyllis sat down with one of her four dogs on her lap and I started with a question that must have been asked a hundred times previously.  “So how did you end up in Jocotepec?”

Breakfast at Los Dos

Phyllis and her dog Phyllis and Mari

A young girl from a north eastern town in Ohio crossed paths with a charming and handsome artist from Austria with four decades of history that would sweep any women off her feet.  Phyllis was introduced to Georg Rauch in Vienna, Austria by his cousin and a love affair and a life of adventure ensued.  After a few years together the two were living in New York, living the life of the struggling artist, Phyllis a writer and Georg a painter/sculptor.  One day on a walk from 72nd street, where the couple lived, to Greenwich the two were discussing their financial predicament when the painter placed his hands on the young girls shoulders and with confidence and assurance he said “if we go to Mexico we will return with more money than we have now.”  The young girl was wrapped in the painter’s aura and believed in him for good reason.  Soon after the young girl from Ohio moved to Jocotepec and so did her heart and the simple lakeside town became home, unequivocally.

Phyllis and Georg First day at Los Dos

The couple was eventually able to buy a substantial piece of property from a friend and building began.  First a small house, then a small studio and Georg became absorbed in his painting inspired by the surroundings and the people of Jocotepec.  The couple befriended many of the townspeople and lived a simple life filled with experiences that most will only dream.  Through my conversation that morning I was well aware of the admiration Phyllis had for her Georg and that the painter thought the world of this woman.  After ten years the feeling of absence for her husband was evident and although years have moved through her body gracefully her mind is strong and her eyes remain blue and youthful.  If it is true that the eyes are the pathway to the soul her soul has never aged and remains playful and optimistic.

Our meeting lasted nearly 3 hours longer than I had scheduled but I was happy and intrigued to hear the details of her life and could have stayed longer asking more questions.  Phyllis’ story is about as romantic as it gets and I hope someday she turns her experiences into a novel just as her husband has done writing his memoirs as an unwilling soldier in Hitler’s army.  I’m 54 pages in now and it is fascinating, I highly recommend it.  The novel was recently picked up by one of the top publishers in the world Farrar, Strous and Giroux/Macmillan and given a  new title: Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hilter’s Army.  http://www.amazon.com/Unlikely-Warrior-Jewish-Soldier-Hitlers/dp/0374301425

Unlikely Warrior Cover

Our conversation ended and I was moving on.  For me, my brief overnight experience at Los Dos was one I won’t quickly forget, it was exactly the type of introduction and experience I had hoped for into this region.  I highly recommend a stay at Los Dos Bed & Breakfast and a conversation with Phyllis Rauch.

Los Dos Pan Image

Lencho Approved!

On to Ajijic…


For more information about Jocotepec and Los Dos Bed & Breakfast

visit http://www.LosDosMexico.com

Pool Wall

All pricing and information is current at the website.  Something to note is that Los Dos B&B is a member of Haciendas y Casonas de Jalisco. http://www.haciendasycasonas.com/en/  Jalisco’s most prestigious hotel association and if you are traveling with your pet you should know Los Dos B&B is extremely pet friendly and welcomes critters.


green and blue room

A quick word for those looking for boutique tourist shops, you won’t find many in Jocotepec but if that is what you are looking for the town of Ajijic is located just a short twenty minute drive from Los Dos.  If you are an artist or a writer looking for a peaceful place to exercise your mind and creativity, the environment that Phyllis and Georg have created will work well for you.  One of the first comments I made to Phyllis after touring the grounds was “if Hemingway would have found this place first he may have never settled in Key West.”

The studio where Georg Rauch created 30 years of paintings and sketches remains nearly untouched and his brushes and tools are still in the containers where he left them ten years ago.  If you are interested in acquiring paintings or drawings created by one of the world’s great impressionist painters, ask to take a tour of the studio.

Paint Brushes Easil paintings

Showing the paintings Studio Room

I absolutely recommend a meal at El Rincon de Frida.  Find more info at https://www.facebook.com/rincondefrida?pnref=lhc  Talk to German and tell him Lencho sent you!

Paint BrushesI will be leading  a tour to Lake Chapala that will include a visit to the Rauch Studio at the Los Dos B&B in the fall of this year.  If you are interested in more information about this tour please contact bajawinetoursandmore@gmail.com This will be a very unique and fun experience for all.