Friday, February 24, 2017

Tequila Town, Jalisco MX or What is that smell?

It occurred to me that I travel with my nose while we were in Mexico this month. The smells of a country tells the story of how people live and what they eat or drink. That memory of smell actually can make or break the experience for me. As I grow older I am better at taking an odor that locals do not even think about. I have also learned to keep my mouth shut because it turns out natives don't like to be told that their town "stinks".

I suppose the first time I even experiences that feeling was when we were in Thailand over 10 years ago. The ever present smell of fish sauce lingered in the air everywhere we went. I have learned to appreciate what that sauce does for Thai food but it was not easy for me.

Gallery selling obsidian art and jewelry. 
When we were in Viet Nam we traveled south on an island called Pho Quoc to a port where the Vietnamese fish sauce is made. The essence of the rotting fish in the air was so strong I wanted to hold my nose. That sauce cannot be carried on airplanes with passengers leaving the island for fear it will break in the hold and the plane will have to be burned. It can only be exported commercially. It is that strong.

This last vacation we went to Mexico and stayed in a resort north of Puerto Vallarta. While we were there, we rented a car and drove the 4 hours through the Mexican countryside so we could visit Tequila Town, Jalisco MX. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Agave grew in fields on the ditch banks
and up to the edge of the road.
The little community brags about its numerous tequila producers that include Jose Cuervo.

We visited a small distillery just outside of town and received a tour of the facilities. They were not in production on that day so we walked into the room that housed the ovens, holding tanks and machinery need to crush the baked agave pina (after the leaves are removed from the plant resembles a pineapple hence the name).

Oven for roasting agave pinas.
But, in town that was not the case. The distilleries were cooking up a storm and the "aroma" of boiling or roasting agave permeated the air. It smelled a lot like beer being made and resembled the smell of burning beans in a pot!

We rented in a hotel on the square where our room cost us $45 for the night. We had no reservations. It was just a miracle we arrived on Thursday because on Friday Mexican families come to town by the hundreds and tour buses fill the streets. If you had told me the afternoon we arrived that that smell would ever go away I would have not believed you.

Square in front of the church was a gathering
place of stalls and public performances.
But sometime during the night the agave cooking/roasting was turned off and the air became crystal clear and smelled delightful. As we readied ourselves to depart, the town was filling with outdoor markets and the cobblestone streets were about to be flooded with people. Jewelry made from the obsidian left behind by ancient volcanoes was being sold in galleries and in the open air.

As we wandered the cobblestone streets we realized that we needed to return. This beautiful little treasure of a village needs to be savored again.

I am adding Tequila Town agave roasting to my list of smells. It ranks right up there with fish sauce and others I will not mention. Each holds a special memory for me.

So here I go...following my nose again. Have a wonderful day.

What triggers travel memories for you?


Trip Advisor suggested tours.


  1. Smells are supposed to be the biggest memory triggers. I lived in Bangkok, so I know exactly the smell you mean, although I associated it more with the incense that burns all over. Several years after I moved back to the States, I opened a box that I had packed in Thailand, using lots of newspaper for padding. As soon as I cut the tape and opened the box, that smell wafted up and I was immediately transported back to Bangkok.

    1. Suitcases, gifts and clothing bring it home with me. :)

  2. I hope you didn't pass us Guadalajara while you were in the neighborhood. I spent quite a bit of time there in my pre-retirement years. You gotta eat at the Guadalajara Grill. It is a swinging place where I go "popped" one year n my birthday. :)

    1. We drove to Tequila Town from Puerto Nuevo. Unfortunately Guadalajara was not possible this time. Later!

  3. I took lisinopril for a decade, and it changed the nature of smells for me, unfortunately. I can barely stand chemical smells of any kind, and natural smells are sometimes either absent or altered. I well remember, though, many years ago when I toured the Galapagos and learned how strong the smell of seals can be. Ugh! :-)

    1. Darn...the sense of smell is such a big part of my perception. As for the seal...that I do understand. Yuck!


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