Mike Madriaga 9:30 a.m., Nov. 23
Baby Steps in Baja
My first road trip to Mexico makes my wine and food dreams come true, satisfies my fish taco addiction.
Let’s address this right up front. Crime there is out of control. Gang violence is so rampant that children follow acid yellow street signs to school to avoid being ambushed. But enough about Chicago.*
I’ve traveled to several countries in Central and South America, and whenever I tell friends where I’m headed, the response is typically either “That’s awesome!” or “Are you insane?”. I’ve never felt unsafe, whether I’m bar hopping in Medellin or tearing down a dirt road on a bicycle at midnight along the Rio de la Plata.
I wasn’t born adventurous. I can barely make it over the Coronado Bay Bridge even as a passenger. But to use a very tired cliché, the Internet is your friend. And like any vacation, a little planning will usually get you through the annoying parts pretty quickly.
My personal travel agent and husband, John, found a great two bedroom, two-bath condo for rent in Le Mision area of Baja. It was about halfway between Rosarito and Ensenada, a short distance off Route 1. Reasonably priced, gated, quiet, good amenities, pet friendly, spectacular view. Perfect jumping off point for lobsters in Puerto Nuevo, wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe, or lunch at the fish market in Ensenada. We booked two weeks, got our paperwork in order, and packed up the car.
Crossing the border at Tijuana was easier than navigating security at almost any US airport, even with our cat. No shoe removal required. Coming back through at Tecate, we spent maybe 10-15 minutes because we declared some Mexican limes. They’re not on the banned list, but citrus always gets an inspection. Information about which border crossing has the least traffic at any given time is readily available, so why waste precious vacation time sitting in line for hours?
Our escapes revolve around eating, drinking, scenery and culture. Instead of buying gifts for each other at birthdays, holidays and anniversaries, we save for travel. Our photos are of markets, local people, animals, food and landscapes; neither of us is in more than a handful. I usually consider myself semi-knowledgeable about food when I travel, but I wasn’t at all prepared for the culinary adventures I had in Baja.
First stop, Puerto Nuevo.
*Source: The New York Times
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