Last Wednesday (7/23) was Carmina's and my third anniversary. Since our lives revolve around our families, with varying members coming and going, birthday and graduation parties, master degree studies, boyfriends spending weekends, user group meetings, running errands...you get the picture, Carmina and I *rarely* have time to spend alone together. So when we got married, we promised ourselves, that the first weekend after July 23 would be our own alone time. A time to go away to somewhere we've never been. A time to be alone. A time to get to know each other again. A time to give the love engine a few strokes and tend to the flames.
This year we decided our destination would be Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. While we had said, a place neither of us had been, we decided my trip during the early 80's didn't count. Sort of like robbing a bank 30 years ago, is beyond the statute of limitations.
So onto the interwebs to find a place in Baja to go. Search, search, search.... Bingo! Hotel Coral in Ensenada. Book it, ask for the vacation time, start planing, start dreaming.
Saturday morning comes, and we decided the night before to leave no later than 7:30 am. Willie asks us if we're going to leave any "emergency money". I ask him "why?" "In case I want to go to the movies." Darn kids. The trip down is uneventful. We get to Tijuana to run a few errands and I get the normal text message from Sprint..."welcome to Mexico. Feel free to make as many calls as you want, just make sure to press 011 before to authorize us to take every cent you will ever earn." We continue on down to Ensenada, but this time Carmina wants to take the Toll Roads the entire trip, not the usual browsing along every nook and cranny of the "libre" highway. Listening to our iPod collection we're having a great time. Windows down, music blaring, cool breezes, interesting sites, a highway worker straddling the center divider painting, we get to Hotel Coral, just as "Hip City" from Down to the Bone starts playing.
This hotel is awesome, just effing awesome! It reminds us of a fancy hotel in the Orange County beach areas, complete with circular driveway, doormen, fancy tiled entrance way, courteous staff. Check in is fine, and the room is all the the web site claims it to be. Before we head up, we stop by the concierge desk to ask around about what to do. We had noticed a lot of people dressed nicely and realize a wedding is about to take place. As we walk up to the desk, the concierge stands with a box of something and corsages, starting to walk away. But he sees us, sets his stuff down and tends to us. It's not until way later we realize he was tending to the wedding party, but stopped to help us out. Nice.
After settling into the room, we decide to head out for our first adventure, La Bufadora. Ensenada is an inlet of the Pacific. La Bufadora is at the end of a peninsula on the other side of the bay. If we were birds, we could fly there in 10 minutes. Instead we need to drive. Oh well, we're here for the adventure, so off we go. Lots of farmland with the typical roadside stands offering elote, honey, uvas, tamales, carnitas, etc.
What a change. La Bufadora is now a big tourist trap. Lots of stands selling junk...fake silver jewlery, fake cuban cigars, switchblades stamped with "made in china"... sigh. Carmina and I make our way down to the site, and there are tons of people standing around watching, some hanging out under the "do not climb on the rocks sign"
We head back to the hotel, enjoying the countryside along the way. After a stop at the mega mercado for snacks and tequila, we get back to our room to relax, drink and celebrate our time together and our time alone.
Later that night, the room phone rings. The conversation goes like this:
Me (groggy) - "hello?"
Phone voice - "Good night, sir"
Me (confused) - "good night, thank you"
Phone voice - "Your pizza is here"
Wow what service in Ensenada. The call to wish you good night, and give you a pizza. All that was needed was to be tucked in. :)
Here's some pictures of the first day at La Bufadora.
La Bufadora, "the blowhole"
The next day we decided to wander around and explore Ensenada
During our wanderings in Ensenada, we came across the city museum. After spending a bit of time looking around, we started chatting with the lady working the counter. Asking what else was there to do, she recommended Guadalupe, the Mexican Wine Country. "C'mon, I say to myself, Mexican Wine". Not that I'm a wine snob, for Pete's sake, it's Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's for me, but I wouldn't have put "wine country" and "Mexico" together. So, seeing as we love adventures in strange lands, we make plans to head out the next morning.
The drive is great, and soon we arrive at the entrance of Vina Ruta.
The air is clear and cool. The sky is a blue which makes your eyes hurt, and driving down the "Vina Ruta" we're amazed at the number of small vineyards and olive groves in the area. So totally amazing. Every 1/4 mile is a turn off to a small winery and we have a hard time deciding where to stop.
Apparently a hundred years ago a group of Russians settled in the valley. We stop at another museum across the street from a small cafe with wine tasting. Ok, here goes our first sip of Mexican wine. "umm, nah, I don't think so". It is way too sweet, thick, with a nasty, gnarly aftertaste. So, the wine sucks but the area is beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.
But, we're on an adventure and with all the other wineries and vineyards, there has to be something better. Driving and driving and driving we see a big white building up on a hill. As we get closer, a sign "Monte Xanic Vineyards" directs us off the road. This looks interesting and we drive through hundreds of acres of vines making our way to the big white building. We follow the signs pointing us to the wine tasting room and end up in the cask room (I guess that's what its called).
The fee for tasting their eight wines is eight dollars. I guess if you have to pay, then it must be good. Luis, behind the counter, starts us out with the whites. Actually they aren't too bad, and Carmina, not a wine drinker, likes them. As we move on to the reds, things start to get interesting. I don't know how to describe wine, nor do I know how to judge it, other than either "it's good", or "yuck". But with these reds, I have to add a new one. "GTFO! OMG! WOW!" These wines are smooth, with a buttery feel, a dry aftertaste, and absolutely the best Cabernet I have tasted. And not a bad price either, $13.00.
Talking with Luis he asks if we saw the picnic setup by the lake. Every Sunday, the chef from town comes to cook and server people. Since its been a long day, we head down to eat and see what is what.
This aren't street tacos. This is actual gourmet food. Sitting on a picnic table. By a lake with a cool breeze. With my beautiful wife.
What a way to celebrate three years with the love of my life.