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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Bye By LA; Bye Bye Chi

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Ok, so I guess sunny old Los Angeles has worked its way back into my system. I've eaten juicy ropa vieja at a cute little Cuban joint in El Segundo. I've scarfed some tasty Persian over by UCLA.  I've killed a platter of fish tacos in a dive in Santa Monica.  Somehow on this jaunt out, I've found all the good stuff.

And, here's what's jacked.  I flew back in to Chicago yesterday to grab my truck so I could have my wheels down on this shoot in Kentucky and guess what.  My beloved city seemed so dang grubby. Literally, when I was hauling out of town in MAD, MAD rush hour traffic, I just could not stop thinking about the beach, about Mexico, about Baja and about all the glorious things in life that you usually escape from reality to discover. 

Sars to letcha know, I wanna do all that good stuff in my downtime.  No more let me get thru life in the city these next few months.  It's all about blissful DOWN TIME.  And, that about to be taking place in somewhere REAL, REAL tropical.

You know what I'm sayin?
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Heading South of the Border, then West...it all makes me smile

Img_3185Not to take the focus off my Indo trip, but I just want to touch on a pressing question that folks have been emailing me about--What about the boat in the Caribbean?  Well, just before I scrammed to Bali and Lombok, I took a shortie trip down to the Virgin Islands to look at a stunning sailboat tucked in a little cove in St. John.  Here's the deal--yes, the boat was amazing, and yes I had a decent time in the islands, but in the end, I opted to keep my dinero and continue my volunteering stints around-the-world.  It just felt right in my soul and now after the volunteer situation I just went through, I know I made the right choice.  Certain decisions just clicked into place on this past trip and life cleaned itself up a little for me in the process.  So, here is the new game plan.  I'm heading home to TN for the holidays and then in early Jan. I leave with my little travel trailer for my Central America expedition (volunteering in each country along the way).  When I return to Chi in the spring, I'm packing up and moving back out West to LA where I can enjoy sunshine and a small sailboat year round near the mighty Pacific.  I will continue to work in the industry as well as continue to write and produce eco-retreats (the Mexico PURE is just around the corner!), but I just cannot handle the cold another second!  I'm feeling pretty dang good about the plan, especially when I toss in all my feel-good-about-givin-back vibes coursing through my body.  LA is just a better homebase for me right now...a warmer one at that.  And, yes, I'm selling my 30' C & C and I will purchase a different but similar boat out West.  So blessed. In the meantime, take a good look at this Cabo Rico 36 for sale in St. John--just breathtaking.  But, seriously, I was beyond UNIMPRESSED with the Carib as a whole.  Another one off the list, that's for sure!  Okay, back to the Indo dispatches...
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My Magazine Subs Have Gotten Out of Control...

Img_2614_2I'm the gal who freaks if the magazine hits the newsstand before it arrives in my mailbox.  And, I'm also the chick who promptly calls customer service directly when I realize that atrocity and demand a month (or two) credit because I had no control when I saw it in the store and had to buy it on the spot, therefore infringing on my already paid for subscription.  But, I will admit...lately things have gone wild.   All my mags have taken over my tiny place and I'm in a major take-no-prisoners weed out stage.  Hell this pile in the photo barely even covers it...I had already raged thru half of them.  These last men stading are the toughies, though.  I use them as source material all the time and it's extremely difficult to let them go.  It literally makes me want to cry when I think of all the places within these pages that I need to go and explore; all the boat projects I need to tackle; all the yummy recipes I need to attempt.  I'm trying to be brave though, I'm trying....


Goin' back to Mexico--just 3 more days~

Img_1140In celebration of my upcoming trip back to my favorite little Mexican island, Isla Mujeres, I have been on a Mexican eating frenzy.  I've gotten a nasty addiction going for my corn tortillas fried in oil and stuffed with melted cheese (they have to be corn now for me, no more flour--it makes all the difference in the world).  I'm getting wild with the homemade guacamole and I have located the perfect tortillas chips (Xochitl).  Picking up fresh limes from the market down the street from my place takes my wishy-washy happiness to a whole new level and I cannot get enough of the smoky chipolte salsa I've been buying by the truck-load.  Sour cream is now just plain old nasty when compared to thick Mexican crema and I've still got my raging love affair with rum going.  Gotta say, I can't wait to get back to Isla, ride my bike and swill some drinks.  What would I do without Mexico?  Where would I be?  What would I obsess about?  What else is there?


Scuba, Spanish, Sail, Swim, Snorkel: Everything's Turning up S's

Rscn2521This year, I want to finally tackle all the S's.  They seem to dominate my thoughts all winter long, so I'm going to finally learn Spanish (instead of just getting by on my combat Spanish);  I need to become a much,much better sailor...especially if I want to buy a sailboat in Mexico;  I really want to learn to scuba...but not here in Chicago...I want to learn in some remote, pulsatingly hot, tropical destination--like Little Corn Island, Nicaragua (I snorkeled there about a year ago and it was amazing--though I did almost die--but, the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world is there, so you know the diving is primo); I really, really need to become a proper swimmer (not just get by on the doggie paddle, underwater and back stroke); and snorkeling...well, I just want to do much more of that.  The sea is such a glorious world and I want to explore it as much as possible.  How to begin all this?  Well, I'm thinking I will practice my ghetto Spanish on the cafe con leche maker at La Unica this morning (mas limon, por favor?) before I head down to the sailing show at Navy Pier...where I will sit in on a handful of sailing seminars and dream and scheme about my next sailboat purchase.  Dude, it's -10 degrees...what do you expect??  Yes, that is a NEGATIVE 10 degrees. Wow.


The Untrampled Back Roads of South Africa~

Dscf2139One of the most stunning landscapes I've ever seen is dead in the center of South Africa near a tiny town called Harrismith.  When you drive thru the village, you'd think you were in a perfect town in Vermont on a hot summer day.  If you head off of Route 74, though, you will come upon an area that brings to life The Land of the Lost.  Rolling hills, green pastures, mammoth lakes, and magnificent sunsets. Twisting thru the winding roads feels like stepping back into history and when our crew stopped to shoot the brilliant orange sunset, we were totally alone.  No better time to blast the radio (ironically, the song "Tennessee" came on) and dance silly in the back valleys of South Africa.  Life does not get any lovelier and I cannot wait to head back over there next week.  Bye-bye winter, hello summer~~


What Fills Up Your Bookmarks?

141091845_5f01ba4ff3_mI just need to take a minute and rave about my favorite sites--the ones that I check in on a freakish number of times throughout the week.  Some get hit once a day, some are on the weekly chart and others get slammed about every half hour on the hour.  It's funny--if you dig thru someones history or their bookmarks, you could really tell what kind of person they are--or want to become (mine all seem to lean toward tropical escape). What is the hell did we ever do with out internet? Here we go--my Top 10:

1.  Gadling
This is my homepage and it is updated many times during the day with all sorts of tidbits on travel and adventure.  Very good stuff.

2.  Quality Peoples
This fella split from LA and headed to a small village north of Puerto Vallarta to surf and live the dream.  He's such a smart, witty writer and has the most AMAZING photos--which he takes all over during his escapades in Mexico.

3. Palapa in Yelapa
Love this site--another expat livin' the good life in one of my favorite villages in the world, Yelapa, Mexico.  I always check in on this site to see whats rollin' thru the community and who's setting up shop.

4.  Bali Blog
Another smart cookie who set up shop in Bali and updates his blog every day with all sorts of good intel on where to eat, stay, drink and play in the wondrous land of Indonesia. If you ever make it to Bali, I have three words for ya: You will DIE!

5. Epicurious
I check in on this site to try to quell some recipes for all the goodies I get in my weekly farm share--I mean, sometimes I am at a loss with what to do with green beans, Thai coconut and swiss chard

6.  101 Cookbooks
This chick has it down pat.  Beautiful photos, easy recipes, in depth writing and a killer way with words.  Bless her.

7. Baja Quest
Baja still has some of the cheapest property around and this site is updated pretty regularly with all sorts of real estate for sale.  Mulege has some especially great deals.

8. LTHForum
Update a million times a day, the foodies on this site have deep, untrampled details on eating in  Chicago.  They are very educated and you better know your stuff to post--trust me, someone will call you out.  They love getting little word wars going.

9. Go Abroad
This site literally makes me want to ditch it all and volunteer my way around the world.  They have a super comprehensive list of opportunities from teaching in Honduras to building homes in Thailand to saving sea turtles in Mexico.  Very inspirational and if I have all the dough in the world, I'd be rocking this life hardcore.

10. Craigslist
Nothing can beat the real estate ads on craigsy.  Not only can you see homes from all around the world (oftentimes for good prices), I've sold my sailboat on there and tracked down an apartment swith with a couple in Spain.  Brilliant.


Isla Mujeres, Mexico it is...

45611717isla7_1Finally, I have made a decision where me and my pal are headed...Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  It's a speck of an island off the coast of Mexico (on the Carib. side, which I have never been to in Mexico), and it's just 5 miles long.  We're staying at this super cute, Asian-inspired hotel (thanks Bali!) called Casa Ixchel which looks to be right up my alley...small, luxurious and on the beach. (There is nothing I despise more than big, resort style hotels that populate places like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Vegas and the like--which by the way, all those places are hell on earth to me.)  Who knew that finding a remote, ideal place could be such a time consuming process...there are so many places in the world that are not touched by massive tourism and they are getting harder to track down every single day.  I'm delighted by this trip--I haven't been to Mexico since last year, so bring on the margaritas!