Ensenada, come on down..it’s scarier in the “otro lado”and other rants;)
Welcome to Ensenada, town of good food, wine, beer and many unexpected things..over and over again this wonderful place never ceases to tickle my fancy..this fellow was wandering past our trailer window..quite the safari…then the exploding missle Saturday night over the water..always a treat here:)
The fear factor that comes from the “otro lado”, the other side as we say here is a real shame. San Diego feels just as dangerous to me as anywhere I have been in Baja, in fact more so, as the violence is random…when we were back there it felt slightly ill boding at times..so many street people in the parks..so much despair but of the crazy kind, not just poverty…fruit loops and such..mental illness is no joke, my family has dealt with it and not having any resources to help these folks, the ones that WANT help can be very frustrating..but you don’t feel that here in Ensenada. Maybe because family ties are still strong here. Yes there is your occasional whackadoodle but most often they are Americans, in the Walmart parking lots…you can pick them out..or the Expat that really doesn’t live here because he likes it, but because it’s cheap and after 20 years here still can’t go to Home Depot without a translator…they should go back;)
Here, as long as you avoid hanging out with the Cartels you are probably pretty safe. Common sense is a necessity here though..if you leave that behind..or you never came equipped..stay over there…8 years here..never been pulled over by the police, never been asked for a “mordida” (bribe) always been treated with respect by the military..what more can I say to convince you folks to give it a try? Watch me get a ticket today;)
The language issue always seems to be part of the fear factor but you know, with a smile and just trying with your pocket dictionary you will make a lot of friends..is the culture different, of course it is…but that is it’s charm…but changing, sadly, slowly, as the Walmarts, Costco’s and Home Depots take over…the malls will soon look all alike as well. After spending 3 months meandering about the “otro lado” the conformity of things was appalling..there were times I could have been anywhere..and nowhere, all the malls looked alike, the same fast food chains up and down the highways..it was a little bit scary, am I in suburban Reno, Nevada or San Diego, California…I couldn’t have told the two apart…”you will be assimilated” ran through my head over and over..that is why I love Baja:)..not the Borg.
That is not to say that Ensenada does not have it’s darker side, of course there are parts of every city you may not want to venture into..there’s a small red-light area full of cantinas and Motels by the hour..not far from the tourist strip I might add but it’s your choice to explore what you want to. You have to dodge the Viagra salesmen on the main tourist drag and evade the Chinese trinket (check those tags before you buy souvenirs and make sure you are supporting the Mexican artisans and not the Chinese ones..) salesman as well but it is all a part of Ensenada.
and then there is the food here.
If all you come to Ensenada for, is for the food you will not be dissapointed… from street food to some of Mexico’s best restaurants it has everything one could want. There are dozens of food blogs devoted just to this-Masaassassin is one of my favourites or hey-Rick Bayless-if you don’t own one of his Mexican cookbooks you should! This is not gringo-ized food with canned mushroom soup folks..blec…nor is it covered in melted yellow cheese, and there are no corn pieces or green pepper in the salsa folks!! That is just wrong! Yes, you can find that type of food in the tourist areas, that cater to the American tastes but it is not what Mexican food was ever meant to be…burritos are not giant overstuffed tortillas that you can hardly fit in your mouth but small, fresh flour tortillas with a smattering of delicious beans. You can get them along the roadside from women under shade tents who pull them from coolers still warm, or or at some of the stands they make them in front of you, rolling out the tortilla and rolling it in tinfoil to go.
..and chiliquiles, Mexican comfort food, are not nachos! What did you do to them America? They are fresh corn tortillas fried until they are crisp, not salted tortilla chips that become mush, drizzled (not soaked) in either a delicious red or green salsa (tomatoes, dried and or fresh chillies, onions, tomatillos, all roasted, often on a wood fired grill) lightly sprinkled with caso fresco, not monterey jack and freshly chopped onions and cilantro and acompanied by a pair of fried eggs…delicious..hold the olives please! and how is it can get a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice here for $2 and in California it comes out of container for twice the price..educate your taste buds America..fight back against mediocrity!
I’ve run into people in Canada and the USA that say they don’t like Mexican food, with good reason, they have never HAD good Mexican food. It would be like saying you don’t like Canadian food after getting poutine with grated cheese and not fresh curds, you Canadians will understand, or expecting a hamburger with real cheese and getting an edible oil product on it instead..yes..American cheese..what exactly is that?
Mexican food is supposed to be fresh! and you know when your with a group of Mexicans because the conversation always turns to food, they are passionate about it. We North of the border could learn allot from them, put away your packs of jello, boxed cereals, cake mixes and cans of Cambell whatever and use fresh ingredients, take the time to cook with your family..not just feed them but to nourish their souls…OK enough ranting..;) now I’m really hungry.
and I haven’t even begun to talk about the seafood..If you want to get the freshest fish to cook yourself, skip the touristy fish market where what you choose often gets swapped out for something older when you turn your back and go to De Garo where he hand picks everything, he can tell you if the fish is sushi grade or not and you can pick up the best local olive oil and other fresh produce from their ranch..in this same little mall you will encounter Hogaza Hogaza the home to sweets and the best sourdough bread in the city, as well as Mercados El Roble for their free range hormone/antibiotic free chicken and most other goodies you could want from the”otro lado”. Food is life..and I haven’t even begun to touch on the amazing local breweries and wineries.
So much food, so little time..I’m going to get something to eat, perhaps a couple of nice Carne Asada tacos, or adobada…perhaps some fresh grilled pulpo or a ceviche..so much to choose from…we’ll see…there are no shortages of places to eat well here in this wonderful city of Ensenada..see you soon:)