After regulated Cuba, it was strange to jump into a city fueled by capitalism. The streets were full of delicious things to eat and there were way more than four different vegetables. We found a hostel (Hostel Home) in the Roma district close to a metro station. Our layover was for about 30 hours so we had time to see some new things. Four years before we had flown into Mexico City from Tijuana for a long weekend, we had checked out the most famous tourist sites in the city and the pyramids of Teotihuacan on that trip. This time we would just eat and do a lot of walking through the city. Making your way though the neighborhoods you never knew what you will come upon. Maybe such wonderful things as the most delicious gorditas ever right around the corner from the hostel!
There was a large political demonstration in a neighborhood park nearby. Every few minutes there was canon fire in response to the speeches that echoed through all of the downtown area. We got as close as a few blocks, then our ears couldn’t take the explosions. All the locals saw it as pretty normal.
There were some very good vegetarian options in the city. We found a super busy vegan taco cart called Por Siempre. We got some “pastor” tacos with some kind of homemade fake meat and grilled pineapple. The flavors were strong and delicious; the texture perfect! The best part was the toppings bar with salsas, potatoes, beans, and grilled onions and such. The cart blared metal music and had a spot to park your bicycle– super hip.
Another place we ate was called Vege Taco in the Coyoacan neighborhood. This small restaurant had a three course lunch option of salad, soup, tacos, and a healthy drink for around 100 pesos ($5).
Coyoacan is a beautiful, artsy neighborhood with an amazing crafts market. There was something new and exciting around every corner and I couldn’t taste half the things that I wanted. It would take years to do a proper eating tour. We also found the same amazing coffee roastery we went to last time, Cafe El Jarocho.
Back in the Roma area we found another taco restaurant (we walk a bunch then eat a bunch) and had second lunch. This is when I officially decided that pineapple was a very underrated taco topping.
Later on we stumbled into a bar in the Roma after walking a long ways.
I’m pretty sure the skulls where real. Couldn’t convince myself otherwise.
We woke up at the crack of dawn without getting much sleep because we were so excited to finally put our backpacks back on and do some adventuring!
I feel like I’m finally doing what I am meant to do again! It’s been a long year and half of helping other people travel (my job is Assistant Manager at a hostel), feeling a little bit more bored by the routine of it every day. I’m happiest when I have a light pack on my back and a plane ticket in my hand!
There is now a pedestrian bridge (Cross Border Express) from the San Diego side of the border into the Tijuana International Airport. The cost is $15 per person, but it’s super convenient as opposed to crossing on foot and having to take a Mexican taxi to the airport. I slip in and out of sleep on the flight from Tijuana to Chihuahua, catching glimpses of the turquoise-blue passage over the Sea of Cortez, then dry, craggy, cardboard-brown mountains jutting violently out of the flat, barren desert.
Chihuahua at first glance seems like the Wild West of Mexico. Lots of men wearing owboy hats and giant belt buckles, very few gringos. We had to use an ATM to withdraw pesos because there was not even a “casa de cambio” in the airport.
Chihuahua is close to Juarez and the landscape reminded me of the scary, violent scenes from “Sicario” as we rode into town on a taxi. I think it’s much safer, although not very touristy. Our friend from here warned us to stay in the main tourist town of the Copper Canyon (Cañon del Cobre), Creel, and not spend any nights in the small villages, as that’s where we could get kidnapped. Creepy.
Our taxi quickly dropped us off at the office of Autotransportes Turisticos de Noroeste. The ticket saleslady said something about our trip being slow but our Spanish was not up to par enough to understand why at that moment. On the bus, the city ended quickly and we rolled through open desert with mountains in the near distance. About an hour outside the city at the first toll plaza we saw the protest. People and trucks were blocking the highway in both directions. Apparently the price of fuel had been raised 20% overnight and everyone was mad. We had to wait about an hour before they let our bus through. The bus was slow and we had to wait at another roadblock; the mountains got bigger and trees started replacing the cacti as we got higher. It looked a lot like northern Arizona.
After roughly seven hours (should have only taken 4.5) we rolled into Creel, a cold and sleepy town after dark. Hotel Temescal was welcoming and warm, with super-cute Chihuahua pups to play with! Some authentic food at Restaurante Veronica was exactly what we needed. Zach got “El Norteño”, a cast-iron skilled of beef, cheese, and veggies, a traditional local dish.
We dropped into bed early, happy to have made it through our first big travel day and ready for more adventures!
Let the honeymoon road trip begin!
Before this trip we had only been to one town in Baja California. Slimy and shady, Tijuana is a close stop for some cheap food and drinks but not very exciting unless you’re into drugs and hookers. Ensenada was surprisingly different. We crossed into Mexico at Tecaté where we didn’t even need to wait in line, nor talk to anyone about coming into the country. We drove through the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s only wine region. The vino there was AMAZING. We first stopped at Vinos Lechuza, whose owner, Ray Magnusen, Zach had met through work in San Diego. After we had a whole tasting of Lechuza’s magnificent wines, Ray gave us a whole second round straight out of his aging barrels, showed us around the area a little bit, and took us to Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman’s new popup restaurant right across the road. Deckman’s setup was amazing and totally changed our views on what gourmet dining can look like!
That evening we made our way to Ensenada town, only a 15-20min drive from the Ruta del Vino. The city has everything you need but isn’t super big and obnoxious. We ate some awesome tacos and tasted more vino. It was a nice spot to walk around and, to say again, awesomely different from Tijuana.
We only spent one night, but since its so close to our home in San Diego, we hope to make it down to Ensenada again for a weekend in the near future. Stay tuned for tales of the rest of our Baja California Adventure!