This weekend, rather than lounging by the pool or celebrating the fourth with fireworks, we spent the holiday in Mexico. Yes, this was not exactly a patriotic spot, but our visit proved to be a fun-filled getaway nonetheless.
Destinations like Cozumel or Mexico City or Oaxaca probably top the list of Mexico's tourist sites. So, when I discovered that our weekend cruise stopped in Ensenada, I wasn't expecting a transformative travel experience---I was wrong.
Ensenada, like its neighbor Tijuana is in the literal and metaphorical armpit of Mexico. These border cities lack Mayan cultural sites, crystalline warm Gulf waters and visually-compelling cathedrals. All of the reasons visitors head to the Yucatan or the big cities of Mexico are absent in Ensenada.
I had been to Ensenada before, so I had low expectations on this trip. Ultimately, however, I left the sleepy fishing village pleasantly delighted with my afternoon visit.
After a tour of the local fish market, a lunch of tacos al pastor on fresh, warm corn tortillas and a stop at a candy store for some goat-milk caramels (cajeta), I had tasted my way through the city. I came, I saw, I devoured.
How then as a tourist, do you find the good in the Ensenadas of the world? How do you turn an ordinary stop into an extraordinary afternoon?
Here are a few of my travel tips:
- Eat where the locals eat, shop where they shop. Avoid the places with tourist buses and whistle-tooting, tequila-shooting gringos out front.
- Travel without a plan. Allow yourself to wander. Discover what's around the next corner.
- Be open minded. Sometimes the most unassuming destinations can offer the friendliest people or the tastiest local treats.
- Find joy in the ordinary. Take in the scents that are different from your own home. People watch. Sit and enjoy.
Photos by moi. Mexico, July 2010.