Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - August is a good time to check out the tianguis (flea market) in Tonalá. Although everyone thinks Tonalá is in Guadalajara, it's actually a municipality of Jalisco, bordered by Juanacatlán, Tlaquepaque, Zapotlanejo, El Salto and Guadalajara, and it's a great escape from the summer heat in Puerto Vallarta.
The tianguis includes everything from pottery to antique furniture and is open only on Thursdays and Sundays. There is a minimum of 4000 craftsmen and vendors to choose from, especially during the Christmas holidays when tourism is high, but summer is a good time to head for cooler climes.
In darkened doorways, glassblowers form goblets, bowls, chandeliers and tiny dollhouse items. Paper flowers materialize from ingenious hands; all colors, shapes and sizes. Objects made from tin and brass, and the famous Mexican cartonería (colorfully painted dolls, animals, clowns and toys) is everywhere. The selection of woodworking and furniture is overwhelming and must be given a complete day to itself for proper selection.
Since pre-Hispanic times, Tonalá has been widely known as a popular ceramics center and even boasts its very own design, the Flor de Tonalá (Tonalá flower), which can be found on bowls, vases, platters and other ceramic pieces.
Tonalá is not just for shopping. Before heading back to Puerto Vallarta, one should see the exhibition hall and the museum at the Puebla-Museo. An astonishing collection of antique and contemporary ceramics is not to be missed, nor is the miniatures collection.
Another essential stop is the Capilla de la Cruz (Chapel of the White Cross) where the first mass was presented by Franciscan monks; and the Santiago Apostal Parish, built in 1830 and one of the oldest standing churches in the country.
Tonalá has some very nice small hotels but they fill up fast during tourist season. We usually stay close by in Tlaquepaque, where the night streets are quiet and there is an abundance of places to stay. Guadalajara is where we reside when we plan to do a bit more partying and stay out late. It's the Tonalá sunrise that we don't want to miss.
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