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August 2013

Baja Bound - The Next Set of Memories to Track Down This Fall

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Here's my latest article from Baja Bound...

Here's the link!

Summer is starting to wind down in the U.S. and October is just around the corner - and I think we all know what this means! The beginning of the high season all throughout Baja. The weather cools down tremendously, the RVs and caravans start plowing through the border and the time is ripe to start planning a road trip. I know my yearly adventures tend to revolve around old memories I’ve had up and down the peninsula, but each time I head back for another taste of the same fun time, I end up discovering a something brand new - fresh change is always on the make in Baja.

Use my list of goodies to venture out a little further this winter down in Mexico...but even better is to see if you can come up with your own reason to bolt just a bit sooner than usual. I’m already plotting my fall escape – old times, new times – I don’t care – as long as I’m on the road soon!

Here are 5 Baja moments I can’t wait to rediscover this fall:

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1. Flying a kite on the beach at Prana del Mar

I first discovered this wellness center north of Cabo a few years back while searching for a place to hold my own Pilates retreat. The young owner, Erik Singer, was almost finished building his serene space and I was one of his first visitors. Cut to a few years later and he’s built a fantastical seaside yoga empire. Booked almost year round with a plethora of week-long retreats, he’s living the dream on the Pacific for anyone interested in solar power, organic gardening, Balinese design, beach lifestyles, deeper connections with nature, and the supersonic quest to get healthy and keep your body in motion. Every time I’m down near Cabo or Todos Santos, I pop in for a few nights if there is no retreat in house (note – he is booked with retreats for the rest of 2013, but has an open house in late December for those not into a specific yoga focus). It’s worth it to stay a spell, tour the garden, eat some of handsome Chef Manolo’s incredible grown-organic-on-site meals, swim in the wildly delightful pool, and take a final dip in the solar heated hot tub with a billion stars glistening over your head. My guy always brings his bright red kite and we spend hours on the super-white beach flipping about, staying out of the way of frolicking horseback riders, watching the waves crash over migrating whales and daydreaming about Manolo’s meal plan and cocktail of the day. No need to venture out far, everything you need is onsite and the peace and quiet alone is worth the nights stay. Plus, they just added a sauna. Enough said.

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2. Witness a moonrise on the Sea of Cortez

Anyone who knows anything about coconut shrimp knows the best place to partake on the whole Sea of Cortez is at Bertha’s Beach Club in El Burro Beach, Mulegé. What’s even better than housing a platter full of these just made coco concoctions is a/ swilling a crazy cold marg with them and b/ watching an epic moonrise over the ocean while your mid bite. Talk about lucky ducks. It’s a perfect Baja trifecta - relaxing, momentous, and heartbreaking all at once. Now all they need to do is toss up a little hotel right on that very beach and you could just mosey on back to your room and tuck in for a night of peaceful sleep. You will have to just grab a blanket and a palapa instead… there’s nothing like some old school truck camping under a full moon to remind you where you are in the world.

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3. Busting in on a stunned roadside chef

I’m the gal who smells something delicious and just waltzes straight into the kitchen. I speak only a little Spanish and usually have an intimidating camera with a giant lens on it around my neck– but I always wield a few secret weapons – my smile and my appetite. No chef will turn down a photo op with someone who is truly interested in how they whip up simple rural food. I’m always curious about good huevos rancheros and the lady who does them best is at a tiny open air roadside stand on the west side of the old mining town, El Triunfo, a short drive south of La Paz. Homemade beans, a fresh chunk of local cheese, that mornings ranchero sauce and some perfectly fried eggs = bliss on a plate. I plan on busting in on some chocolate clam folks this next trip.

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4. Kite Surfing in La Ventana

The folks who end up in the tiny village of La Ventana have two things on their mind. Kite surfing and beer. Nothing like taking a harder-than-you-think lesson from Baja Joe (he’s got a super chill cook-your-own-days-catch kitchen and cute rooms on the beach for rent) before trying some tricks on the water. Once you make it onto the sparkly Sea of Cortez, be prepared for high winds, bright skies and packs of cuties trying out their stunts. You might cross paths uber-surf legend Mike Doyle who has a local home in this UNESCO World Heritage site 45 minutes south of La Paz, but mostly you will just be thinking about how to pimp out an old RV, plunk it on the beach for cheap and spend your entire winter in this dirt road paradise…especially once you get a taste of the stellar seafood and frosty cold Pacificos that populate every dive restaurant in town. The best bet for a brew though is Joe’s Garage Bar, which has 10 beers on tap and is usually hopping with pumped up kiters all day long; they love the high speed internet and the always relaxed vibe.

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5. People Watching on the Square in San Ignacio

Once you barrel off Highway 1 into the spring filled village of San Ignacio and get a view of the old church in the town square, the dusty bite of the road wears off real quick. People watching is the thing to do under a towering shade tree – sipping margs, munching on chips and eye watering salsa, watching kids skitter around the square, petting a few friendly dogs and trying out some sweet date pie is what it’s all about. This feels like a town where people escape to - it’s beautiful, it’s got charm in spades and it’s ridiculously affordable. Cute hotels have opened up in town and artists are starting to discover this mid-Baja oasis – get there and head to Tootsie’s Bar and Grill – those in the know can’t stop whispering about her blistered pizza and creative cocktails.

 

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Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico - Worth the Trip?

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I have so many things to say about this joint. 

I had been dying to go there for years - since it opened, really - and finally made it down a few months ago for a cooking workshop hosted by the little restaurant and Casa de Las Olas, an eco - friendly hotel on the beach in Tulum.  It all sounded so wonderful on paper, but I dunno.  Tulum felt like a tropical East Village.  Like barely a Mexican in sight. Don't get me wrong, what a pretty place.  Stunning, even.  But, just didn't feel like Mexico.

Hartwood was indeed AMAZING.  One of the best meals of my life (which I will get into in the next Toothie update)...but it was a literal shitstorm.  Like full on maniacs with their cameras taking pix of everyting and everyone.  For dinner, the lines were astounding (thank god we were part of the cooking class and got first dibs on a primo seat)...but jeez, what a pony show! Guess you could include me in that mix with the cam.

The poor Chef Eric - man, I'm sure he and his gal just wanted to head to Mexico and open a cute little seaside restaurant.  Live simple.  Cook well.  No way did he know it would turn into all this packed-to-the-gills madness every day.  I know because I asked him.  They were stunned.  But, the food is so so so worth it.  He cooks by fire and only fire.  It's like the blistered taste of a lakeside campfire every single bite that goes in the mouth. 

The vibe is great - just way too many people.  The secret is out.  Long out.  Good luck getting in...but man, if you can - it's worth it.   More on Tulum next time - which includes a sudden bolt, a trip to Isla Mujeres, a delish meal at a way more local spot, an explore and dismiss of an RV park that was once on the list and finally - why I will probably never be back that way!

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