Friday, February 13, 2015

Baja Life


El Pescadero is on the Pacific. The wild Pacific. There are only a few beaches in Baja Sur that are advisable to swim in--and one of them, Cerritos, is a short walk from our place. The water is clear and shallow for a long way out.

Still, some days the waves are too high, fast and furious for swimming. And there can be a strong current. When the big waves come, they are amazing to watch. They shoot straight up then pause--like a still-shot--before crashing down.

On those days, we play Frisbee or kick back watching the daring surfers. We can usually wade in a bit to get cooled off. Or we just come back to the villas and swim in the pool.

"The Villas" sounds so lah-dee-dah. But it ain't no fancy resort. Yet it's quite charming. To get here requires driving a ways down a bumpy dirt road. If you have a problem with dust, Baja is not your place. Yes, it's beachy and feels tropical, but it's also the desert. Dramatic, dry, sublime.

Baja California Sur sunset (credit)

The Villas property includes an open-air restaurant (that usually opens around 4 or 5), pool, Jacuzzi (that's usually hot) and palapa, under which yoga classes are taught. The residences include a three-story tower housing large condos surrounded by bungalows, studios with palapa roofs, and one-, two- and three-bedroom casitas. 

Our casita, a one-bedroom, is 800 square feet of indoor space (double that outdoors). With the sliding glass doors and rooftop patio, it's very much indoor/outdoor living. We can take an indoor shower or an outdoor shower; the latter waters our palm tree.

Some people live here full time. Some vacation here. Some rent out their places. This means we are always meeting travelers, which we dig. The regulars are mainly Canadians and Americans who, like us, have sought out another way to do this thing called life.

The dwellings are close to each other, and because our windows and sliding glass doors are usually open, at times we hear others' conversations or music. It's communal living, where people drop by for a conversation or drink.

As I mentioned in my last post, living here works best when you flow. You either go crazy or learn to be patient with the laid-back mañana vibe. Making international phone calls with internet apps can be spotty. Mexican cell phones are cheap, but I still haven't figured out how to use the voice mail! Water has to be trucked in, and sometimes we have to go a half day without water. But that's nothing compared to what can happen to others in Mexico--including the small town of Todos Santos ten miles away--whose water and electricity go out more regularly.

Americans living here have to detox from the I-expect-it-all-yesterday-and-fast approach.

Streets of Todos Santos (credit)

It's sweet to have the Pueblo Magico of Todos Santos nearby. That's where I go to take my Spanish classes. My teacher is a young woman with a vibrant nature. She's a divorced, single mother and is writing a memoir about what that's like in Mexico. She has us discuss Spanish readings about Mexican history, the most recent being a biography of Miguel Hidalgo. He sparked the fight for Mexico's independence from Spain, working to end the oppression of indigenous peoples.

We do some grocery shopping in Todos Santos. We can buy a surprising array of relatively inexpensive stuff at local markets. And there are stands that sell organic produce. Meat, fish and poultry tend to taste very good--maybe fewer hormones? Maybe more local? For larger shopping excursions, we head to Cabo, an hour away, where there are box stores and big supermarkets. We are now experts at "the big buy" every couple of weeks, loading perishables into an ice chest for the drive home.

Dave with the horses that wander around Playa Las Palmas.
We often grill meats and veggies, wrapping them in fresh corn tortillas; we buy a thick, hot stack for a few cents at the tortillarilla downtown. I've been into making coleslaw, finely chopping green and purple cabbage, tomato, cucumber, pepper--whatever's in the veggie bin--and soaking it in oil and vinegar (balsamic and apple cider), sprinkling it with pepper and onion salt. I make other green salads and just did a potato salad, thrilled that I found pitted black olives and pickles at the store! You can never be sure that an item you love will be there next time. So when we finally found peanut butter without added sugar, we piled our cart high.

Talk about fresh fish: our friends make ceviche at the beach.

We mostly eat at home, but sometimes we get an oven-fired pizza, pasta and salad at the villa's restaurant, Pizza Napoli. The pizza is European style with thin crust, savory sauce and thinly-sliced toppings. Dave loves it. (But being a weirdo, I mean lactose intolerant, he orders it without cheese. I'm a cheese fiend, the only chink in the armor of our amour). I like the Greek salad and spaghetti carbonera. Prices are good (about $6 for a medium pizza), especially since the two other restaurants within walking distance are pricey. Then again, they are right on the beach.

Todos Santos has a crazy number of great restaurants. Chefs from all over come here. They aren't super cheap, but they are less expensive than comparable restaurants in the states. Our favorite is Tre Galline (Caffe Todos Santos during the day). It's Italian but in the true European sense: beautiful salads, steak in a salt crust, freshest of fresh fish, that kind of thing. It's magical eating dinner on the outdoor cobblestone patio amidst dark trees draped in twinkling lights.

Mac with Euva, the owner of Mixtica, an eclectic Todos Santos boutique.
There are many more restaurants we have yet to try that people tell us are fabulous. Our favorite place to eat is Bahia: a collection of six plastic tables on the sidewalk outside a pescaderia (fish market). There we get super-fresh fish tacos in soft tortillas and smoked marlin tostadas for just a few bucks. Out. Of. This. World.

que rico!
We also enjoy indulging now and then in pan dulce, sweet baked goods. My favorite panaderia in Todos Santos is in the front room of the baker's house. Kids and the grandma hang out in the living room or on the porch when you go in and pick out a few bakery items.

Todos Santos has lots of art galleries; every month there's an art walk. And there's a yearly music festival in January, spearheaded by Peter Buck, of R.E.M., who's a local. The festival is at the famous Hotel California on the outdoor patio, where we rocked out to the Old 97s with my sister and a friend of ours who just happened to be here from L.A.

Sisters at the music festival.

There are a lot of writers here too, and several writing conferences. I recently dropped in on one of the events, a talk open to the public at Casa Dracula. It earned its name because its former owner was a cruel sugar cane magnate who "sucked the blood" from his workers. Or maybe because of the bats that flew around the abandoned building before it was reclaimed and reopened.

Cerritos moon

There are also numerous opportunities to volunteer for the community, for example at the Palapa Society and Hogar del Niño, an orphanage. I have new friends who do everything from teach English, play music, hang out with the kids, and make food for these organizations.

For some reason, Baja has incredible sunsets. At night, there are a lot of stars, and the moon seems extra bright. When I wake up in the middle of the night, crickets and crashing waves serenade me back to sleep.

Maybe we are crazy to think of leaving here mid-April to wander around, as is our way, for months on end. Especially now that a cat named Mango has entered our life. She's kind of a communal cat, having gravitated to this side of the villas due to conflicts with another cat. And she likes our patio because we are one of the few casitas without a dog. Plus, Dave feeds her. We know she'd be fine without us. But a cat makes a house a home. Are the nomads home?


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