May 3, 2017

Peace of my Heart

Have you ever heard the saying you must take adventures to know where you belong? I have art hung on the wall near my front door that reminds me of that everyday. For me, traveling is very intentional. It is something I must do. Some just know they were suited for parenthood. I, on the other hand, have deep desire to log miles near and far. I fall in love with places I've never been. I want to see the world. Taste it. Live it. Breathe it.

In my travels, I have found that there are places that fit like a smock; awkward, ugly and uncomfortable. Only a few are perfectly tailored; suited to your needs and interests. Most fall somewhere in between, but when you discover those rare gems, everything aligns like a properly placed puzzle piece. That's how it felt after arriving in La Paz. This capital city rests on the Sea of Cortez two hours north of Cabo San Lucas. It has a desert climate and averages 300 days of sun. The desert sun and the tranquil sea?! Needless to say, I quickly fell head over heels.

The Sea of Cortez separates the Baja California Peninsula from Mexico's mainland. It garners little attention, but it's thought to be one of the most diverse bodies of water on the planet. It has a rich ecosystem and it's home to the Vaquita, a desert porpoise, other marine mammals and migratory species like the Humpback, Gray, Killer and the largest, Blue Whale. Water temperatures range from 60 degrees in winter to 86 degrees in La Paz at the peak of summer.

La Paz, like other Coastal communities rely on commercial and sport fishing, but it's also an industrial hub servicing the Baja Peninsula via ferries from the mainland. The primary tourist attraction is Isla Espíritu Santo. This island is known as the crown jewel offering diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. It was the beaches north of La Paz that roped me in, but what won me over was its friendly locals and small town charm despite it being the largest city in Southern Baja. I was captivated by this city of peace.

Playa Balandra is the most popular of the beaches. It was bustling when we arrived so we continued on to Tecolote, which was more my speed.

There, we waded in the aquamarine waters and we were grateful for the soft white sand beneath our feet. Speaking of, nearby, at Tecolote Beach Club, you can dine with your toes in the sand. We recharged with cervezas, guacamole and enjoyed lunching on local crab.

We stayed at Hotel Blue just a few blocks from the recently completed Malecón. The pulse of the city revolves around this waterfront promenade where you can enjoy the tranquil waters bayside, special events or the festive nightlife at the bars and restaurants just across the street.

Hotel Blue is clean, modern and reasonably priced.

Additionally, it offers an amazing rooftop terrace.

Breakfast is served there each morning and happy hour is offered just before sunset. We spent hours taking in the scenic view, enjoying cocktails and cigars at each day's end. The perfect way to unwind. And those sunsets? Amazing doesn't begin to describe how marvelous the colors were. Wow. Just wow.

Only a short walk away is Il Rustico Trattoria Pizzeria where a taste of central Italy is served six nights a week. This small restaurant is surrounded by tropical gardens, but after one bite of our starter I was whisked away to the hills of Tuscany. The fresh arugula, salty prosciutto and creamy burrata conjured up memories of Siena. It was there I had the best Italian meal of my life. I must say il Rustico's Pappardelle al Ragu rivaled it. The simplicity of this dish is a thing of beauty and it was flawlessly executed. These ribbons of al dente noodles were graced with meaty ragu and sharp parmesan. That's it, perfection.

I could have eaten there every night. I wish I had, truth be told; even if we did have a nice dinner at Rancho Viejo. We couldn't resist the variety of street tacos with meats grilled streetside. Just look for the smoke and follow the scent wafting through the air.

Our first day, before checking into the hotel we grabbed a bite at the popular breakfast spot, Maria California. We enjoyed our omelet and chilaquiles.

I regret not exploring more of La Paz, but we had so much ground to cover in such a short time since this was a scouting trip more than anything. But we will return. However, soon it is, it is still much too far away.

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