May 31, 2017

West Baja California Sur Peninsula

The last leg of our Baja California Sur trip was spent on the Pacific Coast. We stayed in El Pescadero, but started our day in Todos Santos. Both are about an hour's drive north of Cabo San Lucas. They sit in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains with rich farmland where a plethora of produce flourishes.

Todos Santos is the more popular of the two. It has recently had a tourist boom thanks to upscale restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops. Hotel California is at its hub, it was made famous by the Eagles song, but has no ties. Though, the band did file suit a few weeks after our trip for trademark infringement and they're seeking damages. It'll be interesting to see what comes of it.

We grabbed breakfast at the highly rated La Esquina, it is situated in a lovely setting, but the niceties stop there. Service and the food were subpar; my chilaquiles were littered with egg shells and the acidity was overkill. Frank fared a bit better. Still, it was a bummer.

Next we took a ride out to raw land near the beach. The area is primitive with gates in the middle of the desert to mark the dirt road. It is mostly untouched with a few lots being cleared for those with big dreams. It'll be interesting to return in a year or two and see how it's changed.

We decided to check out the beach. However, the sand was much to deep to risk taking the jeep so we were left to drudge through the sand under the hot sun. The beaches in Todos Santos are like most on the Pacific coast, which are not safe swimming due to the undertow, riptide and steep drop offs. There wasn't a soul around. The waves were fierce and echoed for what seemed like miles. It was a much longer hike than I anticipated. But we made it.

We dawdled long enough that we were able to check in so we made our way to our Airbnb in El Pescadero. What a wonderful find in this sleepy village! The owner lives on site and rents out multiple rooms. She has carved out quite a paradise near the sea, for her, and her lucky guests. We were especially fortunate since no other rooms were booked; we had the shared spaces all to ourselves. We positively adored the rooftop terrace. It was equipped with a kitchen and bath, plus offered a shady living room area. It won't come as a surprise, but we spent a great deal of time there. The view was simply stunning and I'll never tire of sound of waves crashing on shore.

Our host recommended Hierbabuena for dinner. We loved it so much we ate there twice. Farm to table? So, yesteryear! In these parts they bring the table to the farm. Literally, you dine where your veggies are grown. It's beautiful, fresh and mighty delicious. The first night we feasted on hummus, chile relleno and the catch of the day with veggies, and we shared a chocolate tarte for dessert. The tuna was really fantastic! The following night, we started with guacamole and butternut squash soup and finished with eggplant parmesan and veggie calzone. The veggies are so fresh and delicious we didn't miss the meat one bit.

The sun setting over the Pacific was such a treat since we started the day by watching it rise over the Sea of Cortez. Now, we can cross that one off the bucket list.

The next day we took the dirt coastal road to Cerritos. It was quite misty from the marine layer, but scenic. We had brunch at the Cerritos Inn & Restaurant. It wouldn't be a trip to Mexico without meeting a dog that wanted to be friends (that day, we met two). Our omelet and enchiladas were tasty, the view was lovely. However, I was chilled from the dampness in the air. I didn't care to linger long. The weather was similar to Southern California. A bit too wet and cool for my liking. I needed full sun to keep warm.

We stopped for coffee at Baja Beans. It's a local gathering spot. A couple times a week a market is hosted there and it draws a good crowd. Sipping on my iced coffee I couldn't help but wonder if I was in SoCal or Mexico? The feels were just the same.

One last sunset slips into the sea as the moon quietly rises. It was our final night in Baja California Sur. I felt a flutter in my gut. It was a familiar feeling, I felt it before ages ago on trip to Las Vegas. I recall it as it were yesterday... We stood in darkness with neon illuminating the sky, and, it was then, Frank and I vowed that one day Las Vegas would be home. This night under the moonlit sky, toes deep in the sand and my skin damp from the ocean mist - that flutter, I knew it meant I felt right at home in Baja Sur.

May 25, 2017

Oodle Noodle

Flamingo Road just outside of Chinatown has become a noodle nirvana. Whatever your preference there's a good chance you'll find it in the mile stretch between the Palms and Jones Blvd. The newest noodle in the neighborhood can be had at Oodle Noodle. This space was formerly an Izakaya serving small plates. The concept has been revamped and the focus is now a freshly made udon noodle bar.

Truth be told, my experience is extremely limited when it comes to udon. But, that's just what led me to Oodle Noodle. One of life's greatest joys is being introduced to various cultures through food. Maybe, I speak for myself, but I really love eating my way through the world. I'm so fortunate to live in a place that is such a melting pot that something new is always just around the corner.

Back to Oodle Noodle, they have lunch specials that offer combinations at a few price points depending on your selection. Frankly, I was a little overwhelmed by the options, I wanted to try it all, but had little knowledge of what any of it was. The waitress was obliging and steered me toward a few suggestions. I was grateful.

Maybe I'm a bit sophomoric, but I didn't want to embarrass either of us if I asked for bukkake. Yes, that's right. Let's not go there. Rather, bukkake udon is simply chilled noodles in broth. I tried the chicken karaage tartar bukkake udon ($8.80). Chicken karaage is like fried chicken. It was crispy, juicy and served with creamy tartar sauce on bed of greens that topped the noodles nested in the broth. The lemony flavor was light and brightened the dish. The noodles were fresh with just the right amount of chewiness. It was a good start. I'm interested to try more of the offerings.

May 24, 2017

East Baja California Sur Peninsula

From La Paz, we were well situated to experience the small villages that spread across the eastern Baja peninsula. Calm crystal clear water stretches for miles on the shores of the Sea of Cortez in this region. We took a day trip to explore Los Barriles, Punta Pescadero and Buena Vista. Not knowing what to expect, we were quite pleased with the condition of the roads - we covered many miles in Baja Sur and I only minded the dirt road in the east cape that leads to Cabo Plumo. Roads in and out of La Paz were better than most in the states and WAY better than those in California. Open range is more common than not, so keep your eyes peeled and be mindful in the dark or when visibility is low. We saw cows, horses, and goats; they could cause traffic to halt at a moment's notice.

Buena Vista and Los Barriles are two seaside villages that have strong expat communities. Things move slowly, here, even the cows. There are no big box stores so it's full of charm and it feels rather remote. Small restaurants and bars dot the coast and line the main drag. But it's mostly private residences and roaming livestock. The area is very friendly to off-road vehicles. Paradise for ATV and RZR fanatics; it would be the best way to get around. Aside from that, there wasn't too much I found alluring. Mostly because the beaches we saw in the area had more rocks than sand.

We continued on the rugged beach road and checked out the neighboring Punta Pescadero Paradise Hotel & Villas. This area is carved into the cliffs and the view was breathtaking. We wandered a bit before locating the restaurant to survey the grounds. The resort is serene and secluded. Like the restaurant and bar, the majority of the rooms face the sea. The beach area is on the smaller side, but completely cleared of rocks and reef can easily be seen from the outdoor patio. While waiting on our lunch, we struck up conversation with a couple from California that were return guests. They said the snorkeling is spectacular. Manta rays, whales, and dolphins are often sighted. I wouldn't mind returning and staying a night or two at the hotel. I hear when the roads are washed out, it is only accessible via the onsite private airstrip with flights from San Juan del Cabo. Our lunch was tasty, but long term the menu would grow tiresome and expensive. The fish carpaccio and chicken salad suited us just fine for our brief visit.

We stopped at one last beach area at the base of the cliff before heading back to La Paz. It too was too rocky for us to enjoy. But it was easy to see why the rocks were such a popular building material in Los Barriles.

What could have been done as another day trip, we made an overnighter by staying in La Ventana. It's location served as a prime spot to see the sunrise. We were wanting to cross off a bucket list item of seeing the sunrise on an east coast and watch it set on the west coast on the same day. This was an easy feat, since it is only 1.5 hours drive between La Ventana and El Pescadero. I chose an Airbnb that offered a roof top deck that was perfect for enjoying the sunrise. Peak season is from November to April when conditions are ideal of kite boarding. In fact, it is known as one of the top locations in the world for this sport. The season has just ended so it was rather sleepy during our stay. We had the place to ourselves despite having several rooms for rent. Fine by us, we enjoyed the solitude.

Lunch, this day, was at Marlin Azul. Everything is made fresh to order, the enchiladas I ordered were the best Mexican food I had during the trip. We pondered on returning for dinner, but opted to check out Central Playa, a dive bar that caters to kite boarders. They make everything in house and avoid any Mexican dishes so they don't infringe on local businesses in the area. We played shuffleboard on the longest table I've ever seen while we waited on our pizza.

La Ventana and El Sargento are popular destinations to purchase retirement homes, second homes, land, and investment properties on the cheap. The two towns span about five miles. The primary industry is fishing, there are a few restaurants & an OXXO, but only a handful of businesses in all. So, it's very low key. We took a self tour to view raw land we've seen online in El Sargento. It wasn't for us, but it's easy to see why others are enticed by it. The area beaches are pristine, but if I'm being picky I'd say the sand is too gritty. However, the view from punta arena de la ventana with island Cerralvo in the background is simply stunning.

The days are lazy in these parts and the nightlife is even more quiet. We spent a great deal of time soaking in the view from the rooftop deck. We were mystified by these dark patches in the water. Were they whales, schools of fish or manta rays? I'm still not sure. The patches were pronounced at dusk and dawn. I wished I had binoculars for a closer look.

After pondering those patches, a vibrant amber spread across the sky as the sun peeked over the horizon. Needless to say, the sunrise did not disappoint.

Shortly after we hit the road for adventures on the Pacific Coast.