With a passport in hand, some Mexican liability insurance & an elementary knowledge of Spanish, you can experience your own slice of Mexico. Luckily, as Southern California dwellers, our neighboring country of Mexico can be only a sweet 2 hour drive south where we can suddenly be transported into a world of culture, color, beaches, vineyards, valleys & street food!!! Baja California is a little peninsula of Mexico bordering San Diego that stretches from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas & it is paradise. On this particular trip, we stayed in the coastal town of La Mision which is 25 minutes South of Rosarito & 25 minutes North of Ensenada which allowed us to experience an authentic & quieter side of Mexico with some festive neighboring towns above & below us. It was a quick weekend of just 3 days, but boy did we jam in some fun & food!
Our first stop on the Road through Baja was in Rosarito for some quick shopping & lunch. There are really only 2 main roads in Baja that run mostly parallel to each other: the Free Road & the Toll Road & they run either along the coast &/or through the valley. So off the Free Road in Rosarito is an amazing Tequila shop & convenience store (not pictured) called Mercado del Mar which is a must go for some exotic tequilas. I never thought I'd enjoy sipping on any shape or form of tequila until we got some wonderful suggestions from Señor Blas, the proprietor, who carries so many wonderful tequilas that you won't find in the states. We also tried to haggle some beautiful hand painted Talavera bowls at a beautiful Mexican Talavera Shop a few doors up.
Then we stopped a few yards down & across the street to a very very lovely & yummy restaurant called Tapanco Steakhouse. The food is fresh & delicious, but we couldn't get enough of the personal salad bar. They have the most amazing dressings from tequila vinaigrette, guava to avocado cilantro & homemade ranch, the combinations are endless! (pictures below)
(Seafood platter & lamb (below) I'd pass on the lamb next time but the Mexico seafood was definitely on point! They also make fresh salsa at your table tailored to your requests!
the upstairs balcony at Tapanco (below).
Some fine Baja living right here.
We stayed at in a garden suite of a wonderful Airbnb called Casa de Los Arcoiris. It is run by the loveliest & most helpful lady & dog rescuer, Cathy. Her place is well appointed with amenities, wonderfully located & on a private beach.
For dinner, we drove 15 minutes North to Puerto Nuevo where they are known for their fresh seafood & style of lobster for great prices! There are a lot of novelty shops & bars, it's a festive little area though tourism may seem relatively dead . We went to a very big restaurant overlooking the ocean called Ortega's where we got free margaritas & some great lobster, Puerto Nuevo style, lightly fried then grilled. For $23USD, you can get a medium size lobster. Not bad but there are places that were advertising it for much less if you're okay with the small whole-in-the-wallers in the not-so-festive alleys.
The next morning we went on the free road starting into the valleys around La Mision to some amazing Mexican home cooking at Paola's Restaurant, which is really more of a home kitchen but all the locals eat there & it's awesome. There is no menu, just whatever they happen to be cooking for the day, so we went with a classic Menudo & Chorizo and Eggs with all the fixings. & of course, fresh tortillas!!! Did we mention every single restaurant makes their own fresh tortillas, I am beyond sad that this experience does not exist at all the Mexican restaurants in the states.
Right outside of Paola's is a wonderful Tamale Lady that is there only on Saturdays & Sundays. The corn is so juicy & flavorful, I never knew this is what Tamales were really like! And for $1.00 each and your choice of chicken or jalapeño/cheese and red or green sauce, we you can't help but buy a bunch home for the family.
After breakfast we took the toll road deeper into the valley about 30-40 minutes East & landed in the Valle de Guadalupe, Wine Country! There are sooo many wonderful & beautiful wineries, but we only had time to visit one as we were on just a quick weekend getaway.
We did a wine tasting at Vena Cava, who's passionate proprietor, Phil, makes some very lovely reds, rose & whites. The wineries 'caves' are made from recycled boats & the views of the valley are peaceful & vast. Architecturally, we were quite impressed and the wine too was amazing. We didn't get a chance to try to food from the lunch truck but the people there all had great things to say about it.
There's a picnic area overlooking the valley for you to eat should you choose to. Definitely a must revisit and luncheon for us the next time we're there.
We then drove back to La Mision to do some horseback riding through the valley to the beach with La Mision Equestrians & their horse whispering rancher & guide, Villa.
Villa takes amazing care of his horses & you can tell that they love & trust him. We met at a restaurant called Magana's (great for Margaritas & western food before or after your ride) at the base of the valley as the ranch is higher up in the valley. When we arrived, the horses were not even tied to the docking post, they were just waiting patiently & freely for us. After the ride, the horses simply follow Villa back up the valley & he allows them to roam freely & feed themselves throughout the night. The ride for 2 awesome hours was only $35 & you can go at whatever pace you feel comfortable from walking to trotting to galloping! We felt really connected to Villa through our conversations and learned a bunch from him so are very excited to return in the near future.
5 minutes south on the toll road from Maganas--still being in La Mision--is an amazing taco stand called Tacos Richi. They grill all of their meats on charcoal which has a wonderful smokey flavor & the tortillas & fixings are fresh & so flavorful! It was so good that we were compelled to come back the following day around brunch time but sadly they were closed.
On our last day before heading home, we went South to Ensenada for some shopping & their famous Ensenada style fish tacos! The streets & shops are so festive & fun and I wish we had more time to enjoy the breezy coastal city.
On the corner of Juarez & Gastellum is an "Original Fish Tacos" stand with some of the best Ensenada style fish & shrimp tacos! & it's not an Ensenada fish taco without a grilled jalapeño!
Baja was easily one of the the easiest & loveliest weekend getaways we've ever done! The prices are so reasonable, the beaches are vast, the valleys are high, the people are sweet & the food is great. We're super lucky & stoked to realize how accessible this cultural destination is to us & plan to have many more quick trips in the future with friends & family. There are so many things to do, & taking ATV's out in the Cantamar sand dunes is definitely on the list for the next trip!!!
Lastly, despite all the scary things we've heard about Mexico over the past 5 years, Daniel & I have been there 10 times between the two of us. With a bit of risk involve, the adventure is all the merrier and our tip for all those interested in going is to simply be respectful of your surroundings, especially to other people, and you'll have nothing to fear. Just make eye contact, smile warmly, and nod your head. Have fun and please let us know if you have any tips and suggestions for our next trips as well us sharing pictures of your trip on our Facebook page! www.facebook.com/ilovebadorganics
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