Ensenada Mexico was the final port of call on my cruise vacation last month (before arriving back at San Pedro harbor near Los Angeles. This small town along the coast of Mexico is located about 70 miles south of Tijuana, and it provided a distinctly different experience than Catalina Island, which we visited just one day prior.
The last time I was in Mexico, I must have been about eight years old, so needless to say, my exposure to Mexican culture and the Spanish language came largely through American television. Ensenada is a fair bit more advanced than I was expecting — a lot of people were driving cars, albeit mostly older models — but it was still quite dirty and the main tourist shopping strip felt like one big flea market. Royal Caribbean “recommended” a few stores, primarily places to buy gold and sterling silver, and these establishments looked a lot more American-ized. As such, they were also the most expensive.
Wandering around, I was most interested in places that sold little Mexican handcrafted trinkets. I even ended up buying some Mexican jumping beans (I think they were a dollar), just for kicks. What I really wanted to buy, but never did for fear of it falling apart in my luggage, was a Day of the Dead figurine.
Anyways, after spending the morning wandering through the various shops — some guys tried to sell me slingshots and brass knuckles, but I’d imagine that I’d have a hard time getting through security getting back on the cruise ship — Susanne and I had a quick lunch, and then it was time for our afternoon excursion.
Hopping on a chartered bus, we took a forty minute (or so) ride through the Mexican countryside before arriving at some location in the middle of nowhere. This was my first time riding an all terrain vehicle (ATV), and let me tell you, it was easily the most fun I had on my entire trip. Tearing through the dusty desert roads, roaring through a turn at a speed that’s probably a little too fast for my own good, and then fish-tailing ever so slightly before recovering for the long straightaway… it was an absolute blast and I would definitely do it again. Too bad it cost so much more to go ATVing around these parts compared to the price I paid to do the same in Mexico.
Our ATV ride through the desert wasn’t just mindless meandering. We arrived at a winery about 2/3 of the way through the trip, taking a tour of the facilities and talking to the owner about the process. All in all, he said it took nearly a decade before he was able to sell his first bottle of wine, simply because the steps needed to grow the grapes, process them, ferment the juices, etc. takes so bloody long. I also didn’t know that the wood barrels used to store the wine were not only a one-time deal, but they cost upwards of $1,000 a piece. That’s American dollars, folks. Our tour of the winery concluded with a wine tasting… nothing like getting just a little drunk before heading back out on our ATVs.
I know, I look like an absolute doofus, but I couldn’t help myself. Several street peddlers in Ensenada were selling these things, as well as knockoff Von Dutch caps and the like. They had masks that mimicked those of Nacho Libre, La Parka, and other characters, but the one that really caught my eye — and the one that I ended up buying — was Rey Mysterio, Jr. They had an assortment of colors too, just like real-life Rey, but I liked this one the best. It was only ten bucks, so I figured why not…Now if someone could only explain this store window display…