One of the nice things about being in Tijuana (other than the people) was location. Just north of the border is sunny San Diego, but there is a whole world south all the way down to Los Cabos. While venturing that far (1000 miles) would certainly not be on my daily to-do list, traveling as far as Ensenada and the towns in between were part of my regular regime when visiting TJ. The towns of Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada & nearby wine country are 1/2 hour, 3/4 hour and 1-1/2 hour drives respectively, and great places to show visitors what this wonderful area has to offer.
First stop Rosarito – This is the place where US college students traditionally partied hardy for Spring-Break and the like at this great little beach town. Unfortunately, with the travel warnings of narco-nonsense over the past few years, parting down had dramatically decreased soon after we arrived. Saddened by this fact, and that institutions such as Papas & Beer have suffered financially, we did out best to help the local economy by drinking as many margaritas as we could whenever we were nearby.
Pottery shopping was my favorite thing to do in Rosarito (despite the urge to get on the mechanical bull after a few margaritas). The main drag is lined with vendor after vendor of all sorts of pottery and glassware — “Talavera” being my colorful favorite…..Heading just a little bit south of Rosarito, you pass Baja Film Studios. How can you not stop by and check out the place where the Titanic and and Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed, just to name a few. Baja Studios is a huge facility with some of the world’s largest filming water tanks. During our time in TJ, we had the opportunity to do a little behind-the-scene tour during the filming of “Little Boy”, set to be released this Christmas. My only regret was not making it down there recently to meet Robert Redford who just spend several months shooting a movie.
Next stop Puerto Nuevo – For a town only 4 blocks square, there is quite a bit packed in. Primarily a lobster fishing village, there are dozens of restaurants with fabulous ocean views serving up some of the best grub around. My favorite was Villa Ortega’s where you can not only order lobster, but great ceviche, grilled fish, garlic shrimp and the Diplomat’s personal favorite — a heart-stopping, cholesterol bomb known as Shrimp Papagayo…..
Large shrimp stuffed with snow crab and a cotija and fresco cheese blend, then wrapped with hickory smoked bacon and flash-fried crispy. topped with chipotle cream sauce and served with rice, charro beans and a fresh hand made flour tortilla
The day was never complete without a bit of souvenir shopping. The street vendors, so eager for a sale would offer up home-made Tequila shots to vie for business. The hygiene freak in me was not happy about imbibing from a shot glass that has seen one too many mouths. My step-son Jeremy once pointed out that alcohol is a great disinfectant — so shots with my favorite proprietor, Guillermo, we had. Really, how could anyone “regatear” (to haggle) without such a custom.
There is so much beautiful coastal scenery along this route. Having a little natural hydration along the way is a fun way to meet and chat with the locals. I learned quickly (as I am not a heavy drinker) that it is best to stick with just the Coco and leave out the “LOCO”.
Un poco mas Sur (a little more south) Ensenata – Where cruise ships still dock, where Diplomatic ship receptions are held, where you can get the best raw shellfish around, and where a valley of wineries awaits you just a few miles west. Over a 3 year period, I participated in all of these activities and more.
One of my favorite memories was a day I spent with Steve & my sister at the LA Cetto vineyards for a “Festival de la Palla y el Vino”. No matter that it was the hottest day of the year — about 25 degrees hotter than average! We bought hats and joined the hundreds of people present to watch a series of bulls get slaughtered in a very graphic way, while feasting on paella & wine. Diplo-dog would be flat-out appalled! I too abhor cruelty to animals so this was a tough one for me, especially as we were seated front & center as guests of honor. Accepting cultural differences as every good Diplomat’s wife (or person for that matter) should, I was still none too amused to learn that I might wind up with the just severed ceremonial ear or tail to take home with me. To my husbands disappointment – this did not come to pass. I must have a guardian angel after all!
This region is filled with so many wonderful colors, sights and smells, and yet I feel as if I have only wetted the appetite here trying to capture the essence with just a few images. I experimented with a “collage” format, and as such would be remiss not to credit how I came about this. I stumbled upon a photographer by the name of Audrey who blogs about photography tips for Moms. Within her blog called Live Snap Love is a feature about creative photo display, where she references a series of bloggers and websites that offer free collage templates. One is the CoffeeShop Blog and the other is GingerPixel from which I used to edit my photos today. I thank them for their photographic wisdom and all the free downloads to which I am most grateful. Please do them the honors of checking out their pages.