Heading Home via Ensenada

Ensenada waterfront After a wonderful day on the Ruta del Vino, we headed south to Ensenada for fish tacos! Even though it was early, we decided to forgo breakfast near the Airbnb for a small restaurant right in the fish market.

It wasn't too early for Margaritas though!


The old areas of Ensendada haven't really changed much. The harbor is still full of old fishing boats and the quay lined with vendors selling colorful sarapes, toys and leather goods. Walking through the fish market was a feast for the eyes, with fresh catch beautifully presented, and the sellers hawking their wares! Of course, as we were leaving and didn't have a cooler, we just looked and took pictures!

The streets are surprisingly clean, not something I remembered from the last time I was there. But the stores lining the downtown still gave Phil the opportunity to practice his bargaining skills! And whether we scored big time or not wasn't the issue, we just had fun and a lot of laughs!

But the fun stopped abruptly when, on the way out of town, we hit a HUGE pothole that flattened one of the run-flat tires! Fortunately we were right next to a petrol station where five other cars, also with damaged tires and rims had pulled in. Unfortunately, there was no tire outlet even within 100 miles that had the right tire so we limped north to San Diego and the BMW dealer, stopping every 10-15 miles at a gas station to give the tire some air. $400 later, and hours later we made it back to Studio City.

Despite the tire problem, that was one of the most memorable trips I have taken in a long time and I can't wait to go back, and spend more time exploring.

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Ruta del Vino Getaway Part 2

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The Grand Tour


PART 1 is ->here


Because we figured we'd be drinking all day, breakfast at La Fonda was the order of the day! And we shared it with the chickens! Well, not exactly! They were on the outside patio, while we sat inside where it was a bit warmer.

By 10, we were fed and ready and were pleasantly surprised to find our tour guide, Ava Nirvana Caro Perez waiting for us with a comfortable van and driver from Trans-turismo Ruta del Vino Valle de Guadalupe! Ava is a master sommelier and we had her to ourselves for the whole day.

Our driver took the old road that winds through the valleys and Ava, such a wealth of knowledge, regaled us with stories of the history, the local people...and of course the wine and the literally hundreds of wineries that have blossomed in the past decades. It seemed like every little side road in the valley had the Ruta del Vino emblem, indicating another winery.

Because Ava has personal relationships with the majority of the vineyard owners, we were, I feel, given special treatment at the three we visited. They were all so different, producing completely different styles of wine. I love wine, and way back in my youth, even took quite an extensive wine class in South Africa (personally, still my favorite wines) but I haven't retained enough of that information to be anything of an expert. So it was wonderful to have Ava telling us about the grapes and the complete wine-making process, from planting to drinking!

I took only my iPhone6+ and it did a wonderful job

Our first stop was Sol y Barro. The property is amazing, all the buildings and art work created by hand by Aime Desponds who has an intriguing history. Coming from Switzerland by way of Orange County, California, he has almost singlehandedly developed the winery buildings from the soil on his land, using the COB method of building. The walls are thick, keeping the interiors cool during the long hot summers. The raw walls of the windows show the layers of building material that are used, one on top of the other, drying in between each layer. His artwork is everywhere! Masks on the walls, glazed tiles around the doors.

And his greatest achievement is the wine! We tasted three, all of which were wonderful, one being the latest vintage that wasn't even labeled yet! When Ryan decided to buy a couple of bottles, the name and year were written on the bottle in gold marker! Talk about personal attention!

Checking out the sandbag construction at Alxmia Winery

Out next stop was a more corporate winery called Alximia. Driving up to it, in the distance it looked like a space ship resting on the hilltop. Once we arrived, we saw the eco-friendly construction - filled sandbags laid like bricks and then adobe spread over them. The interior is concrete with enormous spanned arches reaching skyward. Again, the wines were wonderful, we tasted three and Ryan bought one we love called Gaia, described as "The Goddess Earth: Regeneration of forgotten aromas, with a strong fruit balance." It's a lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah.

Next stop, Viña De Frannes. The history behind this vineyard is long and complicated, with land sales and family events that link Chateau Camou and Viña de Frannes. This is a spectacular 1,000 acres spread, with the tasting rooms in a classic mid-century building that somehow lends itself to the terrain.

A fabulous Argentinian lady named Sylvia poured and regaled us with wonderful stories of the area and families. And she told us of a tradition that I swear has changed my life - for the better!

The winery building are surrounded by gardens and in the gardens are red pepper trees. Sylvia told us that if you hug a pepper tree, you will release all the negativity and good things will happen! I leaped (well, not quite leaped but hurried) to the tree and hugged it mightily!

And since then, things and circumstances have changed dramatically!

Back to the wine tasting, Ryan once again bought a couple of bottles, we bid Sylvia adios and headed back to Alximia for a light supper before the drive back to La Mision and our Airbnb.

This is one day that will always be marked as Excellent and bring fond memories when I look at all the images stored on my new iPad Pro.

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Ruta del Vino Getaway Part 1

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How could Ruta del Vino be so unknown?

Wonderful Mexican colors

I hate to even think how many years ago, Randy and I would drive down to Baja California, crossing the border in Tecate, then wend our way down to San Felipe on lightly-traveled roads that wound through the Guadalupe Valley and a small ejido called Santo Tomas, where there was a tiny winery.

What a change a few decades can make!

Earlier in the year, Ryan had taken a trip south and raved about the area and all the wineries, so I was excited when he suggested we go for a couple of days after Christmas. I jumped at the chance to visit and find out for myself. So Ryan and friend, Phil from Tennessee, and I drove down to go wine tasting in that same area. On his earlier visit, he had hired a taxi to drive them around but considering there would be three of us, he chose to hire a guide! Great move!

The plan was to drive down from Hollywood, to arrive at our Airbnb at Rosarito mid-afternoon, spend some time on the beach and head out early the next morning, for a full day of wine-tasting.

Crossing the border between the U.S. And Mexico is always a stark reminder of the disparities between the two countries. On the U.S. Side, the infrastructure is modern; housing is structured; it's all first world. Cross the border and shanty houses cling to the hillsides, their walls barely hanging together. Streets are higgledy piggledy but surprisingly clean. Rules of the road are not always adhered to! Hence the need for additional car insurance.

Our Airbnb was delightful

But the area around Tijuana has developed a lot since I was last there in the early 1990s. Once out of the city and on the toll road heading south, the shoreline is lined with houses and high-rise hotels and condos, although many are sitting unfinished, stark gray skeleton silhouettes against a spectacular ocean view.

The toll road got us to our destination by about 3 and we checked into our charming Airbnb located in La Mision, down on a tiny dead-end side street, one of three apartments that Cathy runs. It's fully equipped, with everything anyone can need for a stay. She even sent up cookies and a cheese a plate to welcome us.

Of course, the first thing we did was head down to the beach. And down it is! I didn't count the steps, but there are a lot, but the climb is well-worth it. The beach is spectacular and as it was low tide, expansive. We walked to the tide pools to the south, passing a group of youngsters playing with fireworks, which are legal in Mexico. Big booms! Also legal are dogs on the beach, which was lovely to see. Dogs off leashes, running and playing unrestricted, ignoring or greeting others without conflict.

On the way back, we climbed up to a bar that is just a couple of doors down from our home for the few days. And celebrated with a real Mexican margarita while watching as the sun slipped lower and lower, creating one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen. Needless to say, I took far too many pictures.

Dinner was at a less-than-memorable restaurant, so much so I don't remember the name! But the wine was good, we were tired and ready to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the big day.


Part 2 ->

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