Our second and final harbour was Ensenada, Mexico. It was a short cruise. Some people were still afraid of the swine flu and stayed on board, which didn’t really protect them because the rest of us could bring it back on board.
According to Cruise Critic,
Ensenada, known as Baja’s “Love Boat” port, is no longer a sleepy resort town. Each year, some 4.5 million visitors descend on this seaside city 68 miles from the border, joining 325,000 residents. Fishing, processing and shipping have made Ensenada Mexico’s second busiest port.
It’s quite a change from 1542 when Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the sheltered bay in his quest for the mythical Northwest Passage, or sixty years later, when Sebastian Vizcaino named the area Ensenada de Todos los Santos after All Saints’ Day. Over the centuries, many have left their mark here, from Spanish missionaries and Russian settlers to gold miners and gamblers.
I didn’t see the French people mentioned above, but as soon as I disembarked I headed straight for a restaurant recommended by my brother, who is never wrong about these things. In spite of being wary, I trusted him and became only the second diner at Ca Rey Sol. My dining companion across the room appeared to be some local dignitary and was fawned over tremendously.
The restaurant is the oldest French restaurant in Mexico and has been family owned since 1947. The vegetables come from the little family farm and the crazy pastries are made in house.
The menu boasts everything from Escargots de Bourgogne, Caesar Salad tossed tableside, Lobster Thermidor, and Chateaubriand Bouquetiere for Two. In addition to these classics, they offer original creations like Shrimp Medallion Doña Pepita (An original creation of fresh butterflied Gulf shrimp topped with capers and white wine sauce) and Duck aux “Beaux Arts” (a new specialty, with fresh fruits of the season).
I tried out a prix fixe menu that started with an appetizer platter of a simple square of cheese, a puff pastry baton, and then the most stunning quail egg covered in a rich homemade mayonnaise.
The soup, a cream of yellow pepper, was so rich and delicious I sat there for a moment stunned. It was served in a giant, old-school tureen I never thought I would finish. But of course I did.
I ordered the chicken chipotle cooked with brandy and port wine. The chicken was tender and succulent. It was very much like a mole, but the ingredients would have broken all of the rules. Outlaw mole!
The pastries were a tough choice. A strange marriage of rich French pastries and the denser, sweeter Mexican pastries, I wanted to eat them all.
Naturally I chose the most extreme. It turned out to have a lovely mocha cream and was covered with chocolate and a little dulce de leche.
The big attraction outside of Ensenada is La Bufadora (sometimes called Buffalo Snort), which is one of only three such blowholes in the world (some say it’s the second largest one). The natural cliff formation causes geysers up to 30 feet high. I had budgeted myself with only cash so I wouldn’t go all crazy. I had seen signs for the trip to La Bufadora at ten dollars each. So I had gone a little wild at Ca Rey Sol and I had 20 dollars left.
The “tour guides” who were actually barkers there to shuttle you onto taxis now demanded 30 dollars. They said the 10 dollar fee was for groups of three or more. Well, nobody else wanted to go to La Bufadora. I tried my best haggling tricks, but these guys were tough. They were fat and happy and were not inclined to do anybody a favor.
At one point I actually made a strange deal involving gassing up a taxi but when we got to the gas station I realized he was pulling a fast one. I got out and walked back to town alone, which totally freaked him out. Now he was willing to make a deal for 20 bucks, but he was so sneaky I decided I’d rather not drive into the middle of nowhere with someone sneaky and weird.
So then I went into the leather shop and met an American ex-pat with a tiny little dog in his arms. He offered to take me to La Bufadora in his private car. He seemed nice enough, but he had a tiny little dog, which made me suspicious. And I had met him in the leather shop.
But thanks to YouTube, we can see La Bufadora anyways. This ad for Aqua Adventures kayaking provides a unique view and some cool porn movie music in the background. It looks fun, but maybe they shouldn’t show overturned kayaks in the video.
These guys are way more interested in the street performers and shopping, but they get the money shot. Huarache sandals too…
So there’s your 30 bucks. I wandered around town, and it was your usual shops full of tourist crap and brightly painted Spring Break bars trying to get you as wasted as possible as quickly as possible.
I wandered until I was on the outskirts of town and found what I was looking for – the creepy taqueria. Sometimes the most rustic places are also the best places.
I can’t tell you how to find it. It is on the big loop that surrounds Ensenada. Go to the middle of nowhere and there it is. I had eaten a huge lunch, but I wanted to try a fish taco before returning to the ship. This place delivered.
Plus they had wandering mariachis! My entire bill for a drink and two tacos was three dollars. I was able to tip two dollars, which tickled the cook/server pink, and give the mariachis 5 bucks to play my favorite song. Yes, I am going to collect a million versions of La Barca del Oro on video.
It was quite a ways back to the Malecon (maricon, teehee), but I got back safely, tummy full and happy.
El Rey Sol: Av. López Mateos 1000, Centro, Ensenada, Baja California Norte
Phone: 646/178-2351 646/178-2351