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Cabo San Lucas and the East Cape


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It's been awhile since my last post. We are very happy here in La Paz and enjoying living like locals. Last night we were marveling at how far we've come from those first days of uncertainty and wariness. It truly is a wonderful town and somewhere we would definitely come back to in the future. It is the most authentic Mexican city in Baja.

But we recently spent the weekend down in Cabo San Lucas, definitely not an "authentic" city!
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We'd been wanting to get down to check out what everyone around here calls "Crazy Town" for awhile and finally made reservations and went. It's a very fun town with tons of bars, shops, restaurants, and a great beach.
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On our way down we stopped off for lunch in Todos Santos. This is a town on the Pacific coast that's famous for its shops and classic Mexican architecture.
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Also for being the home of the Hotel California.
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As you can imagine, it's a big tourist attraction. They were having a festival the day we stopped so there were a lot of Mexicans in town but I think on most days it would feel overrun with Gringos. We stopped into the Gringo restaurant across from the hotel, thinking it might be fun to eat there and people watch.
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But when we saw they wanted $12 US for a margarita, we thought "we can by an entire bottle of tequila for that" and moved on to the local fish taco stand and had lunch for $50 pesos (about $2.50 US) and finished off with fresh, hot churros and a sweet plantain, both covered in sweet crema for $80 pesos. Yep more than the tacos.
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A small digression here on the price of things in Baja Sur. Food is by far the most expensive thing here. Especially fresh food as it is all trucked in or brought from the mainland by ferry. It's not too hard to spend about $30 US on dinner at the nicer places (still cheap). Of course there are the local stands and restaurants where a taco is $20-60 pesos. Good but not very healthy! Beer, wine, and liquor are cheap, too. A beer is typically about $35 pesos ($1.50 US). But the most amazing thing is that both Scott and I needed to visit the doctor recently for simple things so we went to the doctor next door to our pharmacy. For a basic office visit and a prescription, it out $45 pesos. Yep, about $3 US. Unbelievable!

Anyway, further down towards Cabo we stopped off at a beach to see the giant waves that were being churned up by the hurricane hitting up north.
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They were awesome and fearsome! Definitely no swimming there!

Cabo San Lucas

Most of the action in Cabo is centered on or near the large marina. The marina is surrounded by bar/restaurants of every kind although the selections are pretty standard. American or some form of Mexican with a heavy emphasis on the freshest seafood. Speaking of American, this place is really just an extension of the U.S. Dollars are the most prevalent currency. In fact, you have to ask to pay in pesos for most things. At a few places though you do actually get a steep discount if you know what you're doing. They will have the price in dollars and pesos but they aren't equivalent; the pesos price is much less! That's right, don't rip off the locals!

We stayed at a lovely little hotel with a pool set amid a lush garden that was up the hill away from the crowds. It was a great place to come back to and chill out and they served a great breakfast every day.
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Away from the marina, there are quieter streets with nicer, more laid back restaurants and beautifully maintained historic buildings and homes. It's a fun place to wander but really coming to Cabo is all about the "Spring Break for Adults" atmosphere and we did have a ton of fun.

The highlight of the trip was a sunset sail out to the rock arch they call the Arco.
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We even saw some sea lions.
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On our way back to La Paz, we took the long route home that goes up through the mountains and along the East Cape. We wanted to explore this area because we will be renting a house there in January and having family and friends down to visit.

East Cape

Our first stop was at San Jose del Cabo. Cabo San Lucas' sister city. It's a more "authentic" town but just as touristy in it's central area. It is much prettier though with most of the central historic district restored and turned into shops and art galleries. It reminded us a bit of Todos Santos but nicer.
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From there we drove into the mountains and across the Tropic of Cancer at which they have built a lovely little building and monument. It includes a beautiful outdoor chapel.
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Next, it was on to La Ribera and Los Barriles. Two towns on the Sea of Cortez south of La Paz that are known for fishing and wind surfing. La Ribera is smaller with only one paved road and a few restaurants. It will be a very quiet, authentic Mexican town for us and our visitors. Although we hear during the winter it picks up with lots of kite surfers in town. Los Barriles is bigger with more bars and restaurants and is only 10 minutes away so easy to escape to for more action.

Here's a quick clip of the beach at La Ribera. Towards the end you'll see the water tower that our house is just in front of.

From there we made our way back up into the mountains to the small town of El Triunfo. This is a very special place we definitely want to go back to and spend an overnight. At one point in its heyday as a mining town is was the largest town in Baja Sur. It fell on hard times after the mine closed and was almost a ghost town until a few people decided to renovate the old buildings and make it a tourist stop. The restorations are wonderful, including the old smoke stack that was reputedly designed by Gustave Eiffel.
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On an interesting side note, much of the restoration is being paid for by Christy Walton. She's a member of the Walmart Waltons and lives in Baja Sur. In addition to funding the restoration of El Triunfo, she apparently paid for all of the sculptures along La Paz's malecon! She owns a lot of property in La Paz and elsewhere but from all reports is very benevolent and a strong environmentalist.

Anyway, there is a great restaurant and apparently a bar that does paella every Sunday. A local rancher has opened a few casitas, there are two museums, and the ruins of the mine can be toured. Expect more on this gem in a future post.
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That's all for now. Be sure to follow us @arrradventures for more frequent updates.

Posted by mrb430 08:54 Archived in Mexico Tagged cabo la_paz_bcs Comments (0)

Public Art in La Paz


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One of the amazing things about Mexico in general is how colorful it is and La Paz is no exception. Many things make it so colorful, the blues of the water, the greens and browns of the desert, all of the amazing flowers, the vibrant colors of clothing and textiles, and the ubiquitous pottery and tile. One of our favorite, though, is the street art.

Murals

There are many formal and informal murals around La Paz. In fact, the paint store here, Comex (think Sherwin Williams), has sponsored murals all over the older parts of the downtown (Centro). Here are a few of our favorites.

All of these were sponsored by Comex.
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It really reminds me of all of the murals in Philadelphia that were so much a part of that city's personality.

These are more informal, just on walls or businesses.
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"Murals" as Advertising and Signage

All over the city, businesses paint their walls rather than buy signage. It makes the streets amazingly colorful. Many are just functional but others are really funny.
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And people paint their houses...
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And many restaurants decorate with murals inside, too.
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Sculpture

In a recent post I showed you some of the sculpture on the Malecon but if you didn't catch that one here they are again.
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We recently heard that a Walmart heiress paid for all of the sculptures along the Malecon. If true, it's one (more for some of us) reason to love Walmart.

Here are a few other cool ones we've run across.
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This one is made completely out of organic material.
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And it's just everywhere. On walls...
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and on iron window grates...
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No detail seems too small to decorate.

Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @arrradentures for more photos.

Posted by mrb430 16:48 Archived in USA Tagged la_paz_bcs Comments (1)

Feeling at Home in La Paz


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We have begun our second month in La Paz and it feels like home. We know our way around, have a few favorite restaurants and beaches. We know where to shop and we are learning the language. It's a wonderful city. The people are so friendly and helpful and it feels very safe and comfortable.

The Malecon

Our days start with our walk along the Malecon. My favorite part of this other than the waterfront views are the statues that dot the way. Here are two of my favorites.

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The first is Jacques Cousteau. He spent a lot of time in the Sea of Cortez and dubbed it "the aquarium of the world".

Language School

Next, three days a week, it's off to language school, which is held in a converted home. It's a beautiful place to learn and study.
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Scott is doing well picking up the basics and I am enjoying an hour of conversation and an hour of private lessons. I am feeling pretty confident in basic communication at this point so I am excited for the progress I will be able to make in our remaining three months in La Paz! I'm finding that just trying to speak, even if it comes out "Spanglish" goes a really long way. And it's very nice to see the difference in treatment you get when you do speak some Spanish. People are really willing to be patient and to help you learn. and they aren't afraid to correct you!

Then it's off to the gym to lift some weights and do some yoga.

Shopping

Some days we need to shop and that is an adventure in and of itself. There are so many different kinds of stores. Of course there's a Walmart, as I mentioned but we don't really go there. The biggest store is the Soriana, which competes with Walmart. It's a really funny place because like Walmart they sell everything from Home Goods to Clothes to Food but they also sell motorcycles, scooters, and tires!
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Then there's the Ley, which is sort of medium-sized and mostly groceries. Next in size in our local Arambura, which is just a small market but has the basics including wine, beer, and alcohol and is close enough to walk to. Then there are the markets. There are two larger markets with many individual stalls. Mostly fish, meat, vegetables, and prepared food stalls.
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And finally there are the individual specialty stores that pretty much sell one thing. In this store's case spices and peppers!
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It's amazing how inexpensive some of these places are. Yesterday, we bought fresh corn tortillas from the Tortilleria (tortilla store). We bought a stack about an inch thick for about 7 cents! Handmade!

Restaurants

Like shopping, there are so many different options from large and fancy to neighborhood to small open air stands on the sidewalk to just a person in front of a store with a pot of tamales. We try to be very careful when eating at the smaller places as sanitation and cleanliness are issues, we've both had bouts of Montezuma's Revenge, but as long as you stick to food that is cooked it's really delicious. If we want fresh fruit or vegetables, we eat them at home. except, of course, at the nicer places and those on the Malecon that are run by Americans or Europeans. The fish and shell fish are, of course, specialties. I love the whole fried fish.
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Scott loves the tuna!
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And we're both big fans of the ceviche, sashimi, and coconut shrimp!
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But we've also found a great corner Italian place with handmade pasta and ravioli.
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And the best pizza! There are a large number of brick oven pizza places here but this is the best one! Crispy, slightly charred crust and the best toppings.
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I'm cooking a fair amount and really loving the fresh peppers, avocados, and fruit, not to mention the handmade sausages and breads, from the farmers market. I'm trying to cook like a local so we eat a lot of tortillas, chicken, and beans. I haven't quite mastered not putting cheese on my tacos, apparently that's sooooo gringo, but some things don't need to change. After all, we are gringos!

Tiempo Libre (Free Time)

When we're not busy with all of this you can usually find us at the beach or pool drinking something refreshing - like a cold beer, rum in a fresh coconut or a golden margarita.
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These were from our favorite beach, Tecolote.

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And these are over at La Ventana.

More adventures to come. Headed to Cabo San Lucas next weekend for a long weekend to check out "crazy town".

Make sure to follow us @arrradventures on Instagram for more frequent updates.

Posted by mrb430 09:51 Archived in Mexico Tagged la_paz_bcs Comments (2)

Life in La Paz as Fall Begins


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It's been awhile since an update I realize. We've been busy settling in and truthfully I'm trying to make the switch from travel blogger to resident correspondent! The truth is I'd make a lousy photo journalist. I notice all the weird and beautiful things around us but I NEVER remember to take a picture. I'm trying to get better at it so I can record these things for us to remember and to share with you. But there's a balance between living like a local and snapping pictures constantly like a tourist!

THE RAINY SEASON

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Anyway, as fall begins everywhere else, we are settled into the "rainy season" here. We had a big storm come through, I guess technically a tropical depression, last week and another one seems to be threatening but everyone says this will be the last. Apparently by October it's pretty well over. These rains are intense. They remind us of the rain in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It lasted about 36 hours and the streets and arroyos run like rivers. There are no storm drains here so the roads are the only conduits. Our Spanish-language school was canceled because the teachers couldn't get to school. So we had a "rain day".

What it has meant is a greening up of the desert, much more humidity, and a few more bugs. It is still in the 90's every day and with the humidity it is really unbearable during the afternoon. It hits its peak about 5:00 when it is just unbelievable. Even for us heat lovers, it's too much. For the first time in my life, I'm actually waiting for it to get a bit cooler. It's made Sunday Funday a challenge because we had found two great bars to watch football right along the Malecon but they are both outdoors.
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After almost expiring in the heat on Sunday, we had to find an alternative for Monday night. Mind you it starts at 6:00 p.m. here so it's still light and very hot. And thank goodness for the hotel bar! There is a very fancy hotel about four blocks from us so, being us, we went in and asked if they have a t.v., check, A/C, check, so off we went. Turns out it was like any hotel bar anywhere. Good, friendly service, bar nuts but also olives, a few tourists - though Mexican, and a few locals. This being Mexico, we killed the sound so the locals could sing a few ballads to the bar.
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AUTHENTICITY

And that leads me to this thought. I think one aspect of La Paz that we are totally enamored with is the authenticity of this place as a Mexican city. Sure there are a few expats and a few tourists, but not many. That may change this winter but for now it's blissfully free of Americans (no offense ha!). There are a few American chains out in the main shopping mall area but not anywhere else. The people speak Spanish and with few exceptions, expect you to try to as well. It can be a cacophony of unfamiliar sights and sounds at times but that's what we wanted - to live in another country.

One of the cool things in this regard are the local festivals and events. September 16th was Mexican Independence Day and there was a big party complete with fireworks, a parade, and fly overs. With the exception of the parade, we saw it all from our our balcony!
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It was really cool how everyone decorated for it. Even our local grocery store, the Arambura, dressed up their bull! Yes they have a bull on their roof.
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Last weekend there was a concert sponsored by a Baja motorcycle club. It was down on the Malecon and we just stumbled onto it.
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FURRY FRIENDS

There are definitely days I miss Cadeau, though I know she is better off where she is than suffering here in the heat with us. But I have been blessed with the company of two furry friends at our apartment. They come each night to say hi - well it might be because I feed them chicken and beef - but nevertheless less they bring me joy. There is "Dado del Pie" (toe-biter). So named because she can't resist a quick bite on the toe before she hurries away. She's aloof and has a hard time warming up and coming over but she's a beautiful cat.
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Notice the defensive toe curl here!
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Then there's Pequiño Hombre (little man). He's a little guy, friendly and warm and fearless, and I think maybe Dado del Pie's son because even though she's bigger she defers to him and let's him have more food.
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Well that's it for now. Have to hit the beach! It's our day off from language school.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @arrradventures for more frequent updates!

Posted by mrb430 07:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged la_paz_bcs Comments (0)

Settling into La Paz


View 2018 on mrb430's travel map.

On September 1st we arrived in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico for an extended stay. We will be in La Paz until December 29th and are looking forward to trying out a different mode of travel. The last five months have been a whirlwind; the next four will be a light breeze off the ocean.

As I've mentioned before, our goal is to travel the world slowly, staying in places for weeks and months even. Well, this is our first chance to try out that plan and see how we like it. We're looking forward to this new adventure.

MAKING IT HOME

So what does settling in look and feel like?
Well first you get yourself an apartment. Ours is a sweet little one bedroom a half block from the Malecon, the walkway that runs along the Sea of Cortez here in La Paz. Being us, we had to have a porch to sit on for coffee and cocktails.
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When we got here it was bare so first stop Home Depot for some plants to brighten things up. Yes they have Home Depot in La Paz!

And serendipitously, La Paz actually faces almost West so we get fabulous sunsets from the Malecon.
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We can see the water from the deck if we lean way out but we have a great view of it from the bedroom.
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Not a great photo but in person you look right through the riot of flowers and windmills outside the window down to the blue water.

Then it's off to find the Walmart, yes they have that too, for all the little things we want to make it feel like home but that weren't supplied. Nicer pillow for Scott, the kind of scrubbies we like in the kitchen, a juicer (but of course), and other small items. Have to find your local market for food, we have one four blocks away, the farmers market (Tuesdays and Saturdays three blocks away), the bakery, it's an amazing French bakery three blocks away, and the thrift store at which we found our French press for morning coffee. And now you have an equipped and stocked kitchen.
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Small but very functional. Of course you have to learn all the nuances of how things work in another country. How do you light the gas burners on the stove? Well there's a "sparker" button. How do you light the oven? Stick your lighter into the hole above the pilot. Oh and don't forget the plumbing is crazy here so hot is on the right in the kitchen sink (but not in the bathroom or shower?)!

Dirty clothes and no washer/dryer? The drop-off laundry is six blocks away. Two loads washed and folded for under $10 US.

Ok, we're all set. Now we just have to learn the language and for that we start school on Monday.

FINDING YOUR LOCAL

Football season has begun. The time of year that all day Sunday, along with Thursday and Monday nights, football dominates our lives. But we don't have cable! So, off we went to find where to watch American football. Luckily, La Paz has a fair number of expats so we have two good options. Both right on the Malecon within walking distance. There's Tailhunters - run by a woman from California and her Hawaiian husband. And there's Harker - run by Brian Harker and his lovely Mexican wife, who bakes the cheesecakes! As with most things here, they are multi-purpose joints. Tailhunter also runs fishing trips (you can bring your catch back to the restaurant to have it cooked) and Harker is a SUP shop and outfitter.

We've eaten amazing food for incredibly cheap prices but are yet to find our go to spot. We'll keep you posted on that.

FINDING THE BEACHES

While there are beaches along the Malecon, the water quality can be suspect during the rainy season so the main beaches are on the road south of town. There are four, each with their own appeal. The first, Playa Tesoro, is a quiet bay with mangroves and a small restaurant that will be perfect for a quick paddle (I may finally get to inflate the paddle boards we've hauled all this way!). The second is Playa Pichilingue, a bigger, more open bay with a few restaurants and chairs and umbrellas for rent. Then its Playa Balandra, reputedly the most beautiful but with no services. When we went by it was crowded with families. And finally, on the other side of a small point, is Playa Tecolote. It's a wide open beach facing out into the Sea rather than in a bay. It has gentle waves, beautiful sand, and a bunch of restaurants.
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This is the place we think we'll spend the most time. We can even drive out onto the beach to set up and then just walk down to the restaurants for something to eat.
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GETTING IN SHAPE

Five months on the road was not kind to either Scott or I in terms of keeping fit. After Florida, where we had such a promising start with our beach walks and yoga, our routines faltered. BUT, we've picked them back up again here. The Malecon is a five kilometer path that's wonderful to walk as it's all right along the sea front. But at this time of year, it's too hot unless you're up before the sunrise - 6:30 am! We've done it a few times but decided it wasn't going to work on a regular basis so we joined a gym. It's really nice and, more importantly, it's air conditioned!

THE WEATHER

And finally a word on the weather. We arrived earlier than we originally planned and we knew it would be hot but just how hot we weren't prepared for. July to September are the hottest months with highs close to 100 and high humidity. That means you leave the house to walk to the market and by the time you're back you're drenched in sweat. Mornings before 11:00 am are good and the evenings cool down. So we spend the middle of the day in air conditioning. Either at home or at the gym or the mall. Once it breaks, the weather will cool and it will be in the 80's and then the 70's for the rest of our stay.

And I must also mention that this is the "rainy" season. What that means in practice in La Paz is if a major storm comes in we might get rain. Because we are an the bay here, it keeps the afternoon storms pushed back into the mountains. We hit some rain storms coming back from the airport but we've only had one rain here so far.

You may recall our post about being rainmakers.
https://arrrblog.travellerspoint.com/68/

Well, the first night we were here we were talking with our landlord and he said: "It never rains in La Paz". Famous last words! The very next day it rained for the first time in a year! And it was a deluge. The streets were running with water like small rivers. So our track record is intact! Ha! Check out this short video for what it was like.

Don't forget to subscribe and check us out @Arrradentures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 08:46 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches la_paz_bcs Comments (0)

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