Tequila, Wildfires, Cortez Adventures, All Day Swims - Baja Rules Again

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Just back from a truly epic Baja roadtrip from LA to Loreto and back.

1st night - hotel on fire.  drink margs, help as much as we can...and ultimately head further south.   what are the chances it would be OUR HOTEL in the middle of nowhere that the fires gravitated toward?  

2nd night - arrive at our lovely house on the beach in Loreto.  this is for sure the way to go forever - house rentals.  luxe ones at that.  

3rd night and onward - snorkel out at the islands, drink body weight in tequila, shoot a few tv show ideas, and read a handful of spy thrillers wtih couple of serial killer and civil rights mysteries thrown in for good measure.  generally just enjoy, slow down, eat, brainstorm, take pleasure.

this is our backyard, people.  you can drive.  back again soon, promise.

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I Mean Seriously, Who Serves Free Crab Legs Like Bread

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Of course, it's my peeps down in Baja!

Did a shortie trip a few weeks ago for a new show and don't you know I was dirt roadin', hard scopin', big LURKIN', and always on the make for some new good eats.  Discovered a super tiny village over by Baja Fox Sutdios that was the epicenter of fresh seafood coming out of the Pacific.  CANNOT believe I've never veered right down that dirt road.  WTF?

Each little spot/shack was know for something particular - BBQ fish, giant lobster, chocolate clams...and it all literally just came off the boat.  Unloading was happening right when we rolled through.  Margs first up (these folks ain't out of limes, mind you) - and the best little wooden board rolled out with a smooth rock for crushing the crab legs that are just straight up free with the chips and salsa.  Never did I expect that one!  

Crazy shenanigans on the make down that way - and I just got my pix sorted, so more to come in the next couple few.  Baja - soundtrack to my life.   I never could have written that one back in the day.

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Italy Down South - Just Below Tecate, Baja

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I've never been a gal who was into super fancy food.  I'm more into the overall make-up of a place.  Homegrown ingredients.  Smiling hosts.  Owners bangin' around in the kitchen and the front of the house - serving food, bussing tables, making drinks and chatting with the customers.  It's how I'd do it at least, all with a nice chilled glass of something delish in hand. 

La Manzana Verde is this exact spot.  I've flown past it a billion times on the way to and from points further away - and never stopped - what a shame.  I just love the whole joint.  The canned veggies lining the shelf, the chaos of being a one-man shop, the old guy wobbling around out in the backyard, the fresh herbs beside the al fresco tables, the time it takes to make pizza from scratch, the laugh a minute vibe - just all of it. 

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The idea of pulling up a chair to the bar, having a glass of local red, and really just tossin' on an apron to lend a hand - all while practicing my Spanish really just makes me happy way deep down in my soul.  Dog's welcome.

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We even took the pizza to go and had it that night once we were back home cozed down on the FLO.  Probably a 2-lb cheese fest, but it was just so fresh, so full of love, so tasty - why not bring happiness with you?

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Unexpected Baja, for the Curious Kind

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Unexpected Baja, for the Curious Kind...

Here is the link for a Baja Bound that I forgot to post...and since we're on Baja :)

Intrepid wanderers have flocked to Baja for centuries and who can blame them? Dirt roads that meander off to stellar oceanside fish shacks; seaside palapas for less than $10; simple folks found living off-grid existences with multi-million dollar views; and unspoiled Steinbeckian adventures around most corners are just a couple of the reasons why. I discover something miraculous each and very trip I take – no matter if it’s just a north, south or mid-peninsula jaunt - and I always get a fresh blast of Baja energy from the folks (and restaurants) I manage to happen across in my adventures.

The common thread that weaves me up and down Highway 1 usually has to do with my tummy but sometimes it can be a unique film shoot, a wondrous whale watching excursion, or simply, nothing more than a fierce margarita jones. If you get in your wheels and head south right now, here are some things you might happen across. And, if you trail blaze far enough, you will probably trump these! Trust me, its all out there if you roam far enough.

Finca Altozano steak

1. Food by Fire
Set deep in the country, Finca Altozano is worth the somewhat bumpy trek it takes to get there – even if it’s just for a convivial dinnerand then a scram back home to the USA. It’s simply put one of the best meals you will ever have in your life. Part wine tasting room, part outdoor dining room, it’s all a piece of something called char-grilled perfection. They’ve expanded since last season – and all for the better. Menus are now offered in English, they’ve created a long wine bottle flanked path to the pigpen and organic garden, and there is now a tiny indoor bar. It’s just a brilliant take on fine dining in a rural environment – vibrant flavors mixed with earthy wines with a hit of rock and roll on the stereo. The open kitchen has a fire roaring at all times, and the scent of juicy steak and crisped octopus wafting through the sleepy valley is enough to drive one mad. Dogs are allowed off leash (big bonus for me and Minka) and the price is always right (2 bottles of wine and half the menu for 3 people about $125). Though is might seem silly, please do order the pasta. It’s a frighteningly delicious veggie option on the meat heavy menu, and just so good, we had to order another one. I’ve never felt more content with my crazy eating excursions than after a meal here.

LESSON LEARNED: Fire is God’s gift to the taste buds.

2. Mexican Taco Logistics
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I’m a TV producer and recently, we we’re filming some tribal activity down in Santa Caterina. Tribes, you say? I know! Who knew there were still old-school tribes living down in Baja? They might not be wearing the traditional garb (bark skirts and raccoon skin loin cloths), but they are most definitely keeping the traditions alive. Raul Sandoval still carves bow and arrows from native trees, he still knows how to source desert foods from cactus (prickly pear) and he most definitely still knows how to track down desert animals with spears and throwing sticks (rodents and rabbits). Every day after filming him and our hosts doing their tribal thing, we would head back to our hotel in a neighboring village, Valle de la Trinidad, and hunt down some tacos. Now, street food in Baja is always a winner in my book – especially when they have all the accoutrements to go along with the meal. The first time we ordered tacos to go, I asked Horacio (our fixer from Ensenada who works for the Baja conservation organization Terra Peninsular) if they would be able to pack us up a few of the condiments and he just giggled and said, “Of course…it’s Mexican taco logistics!” I gazed on as they charred up batches of carne, whipped up more salsa on the fly, and rapid fire slung together bags full of cukes, crema, cilantro, limes, onions and beans. What a joy to witness one smiling vendor and his posse make tacos fast food style in the middle of the cold desert on a dirt road to nowhere. The crew devoured every single bite of food each night with wild abandon…along with some of that delicious Russian wine from Valle de Guadalupe, Bibayoff. I know! Who knew there were Russians in wine valley in Baja?

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LESSON LEARNED: Never doubt the ingenuity of the Mexican folk.

3. A Legend in his Land Rover
Once upon a time, I was out and about doing a bit of whale watching in a lagoon near San Ignacio (PS - the migration season will be starting up again soon) and I saw, from a distance, a slew of identical trucks on the edge of the water…that all happened to have a tent on the roof. I couldn’t wait to get back to shore and assess the home away from homes. Turns out the owner of one truck was a nice gentleman named Bob and we exchanged emails and such…after he gave me a tour of his truck with a bed on top. Well, when I say Bob, I mean THE Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars(Google it, you will be stunned at the musicians that rave about his next-level guitars). We’ve stayed pals since then and turns out, he and his buddies have been traversing the back roads of Baja for years - all with identical Land Rovers that have been Film Shoot

tricked out with mega tires, extra fuel tanks, tidy pre-fab kitchens in the trunks and sleeping quarters on top. This is so they can off-road down sandy dunes, catching fish as they go and cooking feasts on a nightly basis (and if one breaks down, they all have the same parts and they are easier to fix). In the aftermath of that meeting, Bob invited me down to his HQ near San Diego and whipped me up a pan full of chicken paella off the back of his truck. What sealed the deal of one of the best meals ever was the cooler full of ice-old Dos Equis with lime squirts that went along with each bite. Who knew a friendship could be started all because we both own Land Rovers. I need one of them beds on top and my truck pimped out with a custom made kitchen in the trunk. Amazing what people can dream up.

LESSON LEARNED: Always ask for a tour.

4. A Kick-Ass Margarita
I usually hit up La Fonda for a lobster and some margs when I’m cruising down the highway, but this past trip, I decided to try something different. I simply wanted a FOR REAL margarita without having to tell the bartender to skip the sweet and sour and boy, did I find it. There’s a joint just north of La Fonda called The Lighthouse- same insane view but a world away from the rustic vibe of La Fonda. It’s more of a sports and karaoke bar (not my thing at all), but the margs are some of the best I’ve had in Baja. Sinfully frozen to perfection, the gal behind the bar needed no instruction on how to whip up a proper marg. I was also interested to hear from the owner that they have not only a traditional Mexican menu, they also turn out vegetarian takes on the classics. A whole separate section of the menu highlights veggie options (try the Chiles en Nogado) and if you are on the make for a new life in Mexico, the place is for sale. Now, if you made this seaside haven more like Finca Altazano (keep the margs, of course), you’d have a stone cold goldmine on your hands.

LESSON LEARNED: Stray from the norm and you just might find something better.

Finca Altozano: Turn on the dirt road at Kilometer 83 on Route 3 in the Guadalupe Valley (at the sign for Laja). Continue on this road until you see the archway for the restaurant about a mile down on the right.

The Lighthouse: KM 58, south of Rosarito

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How a Road Trip Comes to Be...

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Thing is, Baja is just so, so, so easy.

A pal just got back from San Fran - first words?  It's FREEZING up there.  I just got back from mainland Mexico - first words from others - "Wow, you are so tan."  Difference is - cold vs hot at this time of year is crucial to my happiness.  Even in LA, it's can get chilly, especially come nighttime on a boat.  And, I just don't dig the cold - I will never say that enough.

I was driving down PCH the other day to my fave gas station that I head to when I have a jones to hit the road to Baja but simply cannot...and I noticed that Dockweiler was empty of most Rv's.  Probably all headed south to AZ or Mexico cause that's what I'd do when the temp dips below 60.  

So, I got all fired up - back on the Baja train again..it just haunts me cause like I said, it's so easy.  So very easy to load up Minka, pack a bag, hop in the truck and just go.  In a few hours, you're across the border with a marg in hand and a killer lobster lunch.  The possibilities are endless...and no real reservations need to be made.

Every glance off the side of the road = a new possibility for exploration, like the funky trailer park I discovered on the beach just an hour south of the border.  We didn't stay there (we were headed all the way to Todos), but man, the spy thriller than could be written in one of these tiny little shacks.  Fog rolling in, distant bark of a dog, not a soul around.  EEEEEE!!!!

Time to re-up my Mexico truck insurance cause I feel a bolt on the make. EEEEEE!!!  But, I'm gonna try very hard to reign it in...there is business to be done here on the homefront and I'm diggin' it so Baja will have to wait, but soon...very soon, my outlaw friend!

In other news - I will post some great times from Casa de Mita that I had last week (Madison the pup is doing AMAZING), and some other things on the make...PLUS finally about to move on to a new slate of projects after being stone cold obsessed with these 2 shows we produced last winter finally being wrapped up this week, which means we pitch soon!  Super duper excited about both of them and can't wait to put them to bed and clear up some brain space.

I have also discovered the most amazing home delivery CSA called Farm Box LA and I've been making all kinds of good stuff from their amazing produce selection. I can't get over how awesome it is to have everything delivered on a Sunday - I no longer have to leave home...which is kinda scary, but wonderful all at once!  More on that soon, as well - cause this CSA is worthy of a full writeup.

Meanwhile, it's time to oder Indian.   Akbar is just calling my name on this bone chilling eve.

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Flora Farm - The Trip of a Lifetime for Foodies in Baja

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Here's the latest from this months issue of Baja Bound!  

Flora Farms - The Trip You Must Make in 2014

If there is one trip that should be on your radar in the upcoming months, it’s absolutely got to be to the magical estate that is Flora Farms. This dreamlike culinary institute is tucked way beyond the edge of a dirt road on the cusp of San Jose del Cabo and is truly a taste of the good life. Celebs and locals both rave about it...now I can finally say, I know why.

It was my 40th birthday and you better believe I was hell bent on spending it somewhere unreal. I’ve been reading about Flora Farms for a spell now – in my farm-to-table quest that takes me all over the back roads of Baja - but to be able to spend my big 4-0 birthday there was a treat that was to become legend in my soul. How often have you ever said that about a restaurant experience? It makes me realize how far I’ve come in all the years I’ve spent traipsing the Baja. If I want it, I go find it. And, the Baja allows it and serves it straight up. Period.

We arrived for lunch – which was cool by me. Fresh off the road from Loreto via an overnight in Todos Santos, this was to be a meal fit for kings before hauling back up to Loreto that same day. My dog was welcomed with friendly coos and a big bowl of water, along with some mega hard playtime with the scads of rescue dogs that race around the front grounds greeting everyone with huge toothy smiles and can-you-believe-I-hit-this-jackpot energy.

I did the Cinderella swirl the minute I walked into the open air seating area, mimicking the dogs knowing ‘tudes. Holy moly! Talk about a way of life; let me put it this way, in these words to all foodies (and non-foodies alike) out there. There will be no other experience in your culinary searches the world over that overwhelms like Flora does. None. 

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From the lush gardens (they grow everything on site), to the farm bar (finally, true mixology drinks in the lower sphere of Baja), to the catch-all farmers market (all produce picked that morning), to the straight-out-of-a-magazine design of the culinary cottages, to the open grounds (my dog went nuts when she saw her first turtle), to the set up of the cooking workshop in the middle of the gardens (I would like to spend the rest of my life right there, or at least have my ashes spread) - Flora Farms enchants from every angle. The owners, Patrick and Gloria Greene, have concocted a fantasy world for anyone that has ever had a dream about opening their own restaurant or enjoying a good meal. The inspiration alone is shocking and dramatically different than anything one might think they know about food (or the serving and preparation of) before walking in.

We started with piles of just baked bread that made the taste buds quiver. As much as we tried to stop eating the nut and herb filled chunks of bread, it was impossible. We were stuffed before we even finished the basket, but that didn’t deter us. Out came a bowl of cucumber and almond gazpacho that holds strong in the top handful of dishes I’ve ever had...anywhere in the world. Poured tableside in a bowl smeared with smoked paprika, this chilled soup is nothing like the Spanish version you might be used to on a hot summer day. Instead, it’s as if a rural king broke bread with a world-renowned chef and they turned out this doozy after a leisurely day of poking about the garden with a bit of chilled Rosé in hand.

Next flew out a mountain of crispy French fries alongside a luscious croque madame, done right with the best ingredients found in all of Baja (shaved ham, gooey gruyere, olive and nut bread). This butter soaked sandwich with a fried egg up top could fill up two people, easy. In the same breath, a fat hill of housemade pasta appeared. The simplest of ingredients (flecks of parmesan and herbs, shaved carrots, a speck of cream) managed to equal a mess of moans from both of our mouths. Full as we were, oh well. Bring more drinks!

The final hit was a birthday carrot cake that we couldn’t possibly down in that seating. Our bellies were stuffed, we had a long ride back to Loreto and Minka (our dog) couldn’t stop drooling. But, don’t you know – ‘round about La Paz, we pulled over and wolfed that cream cheese frosted sweet treat in the span of about 30 seconds. A two-bite each whammy…after all, you only turn 40 once…and I’m a farm girl (read Baja gypsy) at heart.

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A quick update from God Knows Where...

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Trust me, I have no idea why I can't post

something awesome every single day. 

I've been all over the place this past year (Minka has been to Mexico 8 times for gods sake)...but it's like I'm in a vortex of some kind.  Damn near impossible to tear away from these 2 shows I'm editing...obsessing over...BUT the good news is, they are literally days away from being done and done and let's all say a little prayer that they GO OUT FRESH N SOLID in the new year!

Now - Loreto.  Stole down there not only for my 40th b-day but also to edit uninterrupted except for fish tacos, SUP'ing, Minka chasing kites, horrific amounts of maragaritas, loads of ceviche and and lots and lots of beach walks.  I just love it there, especially the houses in Loreto Bay.  It's like a little village in the Med but on the Sea of Cortez instead. 

I promise (and I know I say this every time) that I am going to get back HAWD on the tooth.  There is simply so much to share - tons of cool travel, secret scores, insane food, road trippin, doggie finds, etc...I just gotta get back to it!

I'm currently in TN after an epic food and dog adventure road trip thru every major storm the US has seen this winter season.  Finishing up the editing, drinking delish wines from the cool wine shop on the mountain, making lots of good food (Lisa's spaghetti is insane), watching Minka fall in love with my parents dog, and just simply enjoying finishing up these shows and getting ready for a road trip back out west. 

Let me just put it this way, I love the south and I finally made it to Fairhope, AL and Ocean Springs, MS - both of which are adorable and perfect coastal towns!

OK - back to work, but just a touch of Mex makes everyone's day!

:)

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Found: Best Bread in the World - Flora Farms

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Still dreaming about...

In the bread of all bread categories in the world, the very best one EVER is to be found at Flora Farms in San Juan del Sur, Baja - I just spent my birthday there and walked away more sauced up on the homemade life than ever before.  It's exactly what I needed to see & experience to remember all the things that make my heart shine.

Let me just say this bread - still warm from the oven - was a shock to my buds.  The crunch of walnut, the tang of olives, the blast of rosemary and the moistness that comes from olive oil made this bread a life-changer.  I must attempt to recreate it.  I must also attempt to land my hands on one of those culinary cottages they have for sale.  Man - it's like the FLO come alive in a garden in the middle of the desert in Mexico. Not to mention all the rescued dogs for Minka to play with.  She didn't want to leave.  Ane, neither did I.

LOVE THIS PLACE.

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Where to Begin After 2 Months Out?

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Might as well start with

the best fish tacos EVER on the new road to La Bufadora. 

How do I backtrack?  I used to be able to begin...again...and then I just got caught up. Life.

Well, I'm in one of my fave places in the world in Baja - on hard lockdown - but having a drink now and thinking about how it's time to share a bit.  So, here goes.

Shot 2 sizzles (sort of like a sales tape for TV) this past month - 2 totally different shows I hope/think will sell.  Editing now - this sort of thing takes MAD commitment and thought and creativity. Not many can relate - but those who can...I hope to see you soon.

Realized yesterday that I have been to Mexico 8 times since December 2012 and YET my Spanish is no better.  SHAME.  Also, realized my dog has been to Mexico more than most of my friends.  Wow.  Her Spanish is rock solid.

Well, damn.  What else? 

Lot's, but nothing - as all me and my fats say.  I really promise that I will get back to toothin'.  It's so hard to lay into a moment to get a post done - but now that I'm in MEX and gonna establish a real life routine, maybe it can come to be. 

My mom sends me pix of the PERFECT cornbread and amazingly fluffy cakes made in an AGA.  It makes me so, so happy.  I daydream about Mel and his funny way's that I long to replicate (he's my g/dad).  I try to every day be a little bit more like him - simple and sweet and real and happy and cozy and realiable and just plain wonderful.  Next to impossible to live up to.  But, I try. 

I have a billion pix that are great and tell a tale, but I'm smelling like Minka right about now and need to rinse and truly, begin...again...

Tacos\

BTW - at this moment, I am nowhere near the pix in this post and they really have nothing to do with anything except the fact that I LOVE MEXICO.

Also - here's the Sept post for my Baja Bound article. 

Click here:)


 

 


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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