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Monday, February 13, 2017

Old Memories, Fresh Tears: Ensenada, Mexico - Part 2



Missed Part 1? You can view it at this link: Ensenada, Mexico - Part 1

The morning is chilly and the tide high. Even though our room faces the estuary, we can see big rollers breaking on the sandbar that is now submerged. A cup of coffee to warm our bones and then it’s off to explore downtown Ensenada.


The drive into town is uneventful and traffic is mercifully light. Since the tourist boom has drastically subsided here in this Baja bay town, the main tourist zone is quiet and we have our pick of curbside parking along Avenida Lopez Mateos…the main drag the most visitors are familiar with.

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Parking is free for two hours…some vendors along the street will also protect your spot for longer if you buy something.


A few cruise ships still spend a day in port here and a big Princess boat is docked but has yet to disgorge its load. Shops along the street are slowly coming to life as we start off at nine in the morning.

It’s been over a quarter century since I’ve walked this block. Back then, it was like any other shopping street in any Mexican town. Functional, not really pretty, with aggressive vendors vying for our businesss.


There’s been a makeover in the intervening years. Pretty pavers widen the sidewalks. Restaurants have European outdoor dining areas every block. Coffee bars, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, boutiques, and ice cream parlors now share space with the curio shops, pharmacies, bars, and liquor stores of old.

You can still find some pretty wild nightlife here when the sun goes down at staples like Hussongs, Papas and Beer, and lesser known watering holes like El Pescador.

Right now, we’re looking for a place for breakfast. Of course, I used to know a great coffee shop at the northern end of the street but when we get there, the old hotel…coffee shop and all…is closed, the building empty, waiting for someone with money to bring it back to life.

We passed a bar on the way that was serving breakfast…let’s backtrack and eat there.
Restaurant Garibaldi looks like you’d expect a bar to look like first thing in the morning. Empty, quiet, with staff slowly cleaning up to get ready for another day. We’d like some coffee but the machine is broken. Letty settles for some hot chocolate while Tim and I have Mexican Cokes.

Side note…if you’ve never had the Mexican version of Coke, you need to try it. Much sharper taste than the American version, which uses corn syrup instead of cane sugar like they do down here. It’s available in the states…usually at Mexican restaurants or Latino supermarkets.


We all get chilaquiles. Mine with over easy eggs on top, Letty with scrambled, and Tim with just cheese. As we sit facing the morning sun out the big open doors, we feast on these incredibly delicious fried tortilla strip covered in a red chile sauce and fresh eggs along with refried beans the likes of which we just can’t get at home. No coffee, but it’s as close to a perfect Mexican breakfast as I can think of…outside of the time we ate our morning meal literally over the waves in Puerto Vallarta a few years ago.

Our server shows me their cage of parakeets up against the wall. 14 of the colorful little birds flit around giving us background cheeps to our meal. He points out a blue one and tells me that’s a bad one.

“We just had a baby bird and he killed it.”

On that note, we finish up and stroll down Lopez Mateos. A gentleman comes up and tugs at our sleeve. He wants to know how much batteries cost for Tim’s wheelchair in the U.S.

It seems he’s got a friend with no legs and his chair is running out of juice. We tell him the price…around $400 each…and suddenly those Mexican prices don’t sound so bad to him.

We chat a few minutes and my wife gets an idea. She spent a year here, around forty years ago, living here as a child. She asks the man how we’d get to her old neighborhood. He gives us directions.

With that knowledge, it’s back to the van…which is now blocked by some paintings the artist in the gallery we parked in front of put on a display on the sidewalk. No problem, the gent…who speaks better English than I do…tells us he’ll move it and, by the way, why don’t you stroll some more and he’ll keep our spot and watch the van for us.


We take him up on it and shop a little more where my wife finds a nice blouse at a boutique and we find a Thrifty ice cream parlor.

Back at the van, we load up, and the artist is a true gentleman…does not expect anything in return for watching our car for us. In fact, Letty is remarking about how unaggressive the vendors here are now…truly, it’s not the same bazaar atmosphere that used to rule here…and still does in border towns like Tijuana.


Relying on my wife’s memory of the directions, we find Boulevard Reforma…the biggest street in town…and hang a left until we see the “la ley”…the Ley supermarket the man told us to look for. Up Bronce where we look for Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo, the church in my wife’s old neighborhood, and turn right.


As her throat tightens and tears appear on her cheeks, we find a park and then realize this is where she used to live. Forty years ago, this was in the country. Now, it is completely urbanized…just another block in town. We take a few pics and shoot some video. The family back home will surely want to see what the old ‘hood looks like now.

With that, we head back down the hill, along Reforma to look for an ATM to get some cash. We also take advantage of the “Americanization” of the town and stop in the local Costco to grab some snacks and local wine…which is very good by the way…for later tonight. Then it’s back to our room at Estero Beach to take a little break before the next chapter of this trip, which is coming soon.

Stay tuned!

Darryl
Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
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