Tag Archives: Mexico

La Paz – Part 2

We decided to check out the other side of Cabo. La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, a Mexican state on the Baja California Peninsula. It’s known for its seafront Malecón promenade with fabulous beaches within driving distance. Many bars and restaurants overlook the water. In the city center, the 19th-century Nuestra Señora de La Paz Cathedral dominates the shady Velasco. The town felt very cool.

When we were there, the World Cup was happening. Mexico was losing to Argentina. I guess it ultimately felt ok because Argentina won the whole thing. But the mood was relaxed and fun. I couldn’t imagine a similar scene in England. Edgy, a hint of trouble and of course England would lose and that would set off a whole new ball game.

The beaches were nice, even the town beaches were manageable, and the water was swimmable. Famous for the whale sharks that populate the area from winter through spring. They are the largest fish in the world. Thankfully, they eat plankton! Sadly, oil refineries sat in the distance. A feature of Mexico in general.

And then there was this amazing beach. Playa Balandra. You need a car to easily get there and even though it’s a public beach, it has restricted times for entry. Once capacity is met, the barrier goes down. Early in the morning is better. They’re pretty strict but we managed to get on two days in a row. So, we hadn’t the fuss! It’s just a remarkable shallow bay. When the tide is out, it’s almost impossible to swim. You just can walk forever and cross the bay. The sand is white, the water turquoise and the mountains around stunning. There is wild cactus dotted everywhere and you can rent canoes from a local guy who sits mid-point in the sea, tide permitting.

It reminded me of cricket games with my dad along the shore. I have never seen such a beautiful shallow bay with such an extraordinary tide. Wonderful for kids. For the intrepid surfers there are a couple of beaches with perfect surf conditions nearby. But, for me, this was a beach like no other. Easy to get to on Volaris (Mexico’s budget air carrier) and the rates are low compared to Cabo. My only regret was not seeing a whale shark. Maybe 40-foot sharks that are harmless are still better seen on You Tube!

La Paz, Mexico

A bridge too far….Travel brings all kinds of wonder. I have been to San Diego many times. Our son lives there with his family. Love the place. Recently we traveled to Mexico. An amazing town on the sea of Cortez. La Paz. Down in the Baja peninsular. To get there we had to connect through Tijuana airport. And so our adventure began. An Uber to Tijuana “CBX” was the first stage of the journey. CBX refers to a secure zone that connects USA to Mexico and vices versa. The ride took about 20 minutes. Historically called the Tijuana Cross border Terminal.  It is located in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego. It opened in 2015. The CBX  resides on USA soil but the airport and main terminal building is on Mexican soil.  It’s the only truly bi-national airport in the world. We checked in on the USA side of the border, had our bags tagged and then walked along a 400 foot tunnel(cost is $16 or $30 round trip) and dropped our bags on the Mexico side. Once on the Mexico side, the terminal building is amazing. Quite new. Lots of places to shop and to eat. Clearing immigration was easy and as soon as we had cleared we were inside an airport terminal that looked even more swanky than Terminal 5 at Heathrow! It was so smooth and quite funny following signs in the tunnel to Mexico! Once inside Mexico the airline fares are much less expensive than  the USA side. At times 25% of USA fares.

Parking is between $20 and $23 a day. We took an Uber and left the car at the house. The main draw of CBX is that it is fast and efficient and a great way to access Mexico’s vast country using Mexican carriers.  

And lastly, its worth doing because it’s an adventure!

Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones

The Beauty of Sayulita

What a pleasant surprise to discover that just 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta is a cool, laidback, surfer’s town called Sayulita.

Famous for its beach break, Sayulita has a guaranteed supply of mixed level waves, perfect for the amateur and pro together.

It feels that Puerto Vallarta has been attacked by the overdevelopment syndrome, but Sayulita, with its year-round population of around 2,000, has remained relatively unscathed.

It was first discovered in the 1960’s and was (and still is) a surfer’s paradise.  The beach is a beautiful, huge crescent shape intersected by a river that seems to emanate from the jungle.  Grazing by the river by an old plank bridge are horses and donkeys.

This is a town where the beach is the magnet.  The beach is stacked in the center with surfboards, surf shops, and surf schools.  You can rent everything from paddle boards to boogie boards.  I sat under a very civilized umbrella easily rentable from Don Pedro – a restaurant come beach set-up where you can get fantastic grilled octopus and seared tuna.

Frankly, my idea of fun on a beach is to find a place like Don Pedro that sells umbrellas and lounge chairs and where I can get incredibly fresh and delicious seafood with a drink while watching other people do what I cannot do, namely surf and paddle board!  So I watched expert surfers, beginner surfers (who wore beginner’s t-shirts), paddle boarders, body surfers, and just regular splashed types like me.  At the far ends of the beach the fishermen and the pelicans went looking for their dinner.  I’ve never seen so many pelicans diving in between surfboards in my life.

There are numerous tiny seaside accommodation places and at the end of the beach is a very nice, but not glitzy, hotel called Villa Amor which is where I stayed.  Rooms range between $175-$300 per night for a one bedroom in high season.  Sayulita is loaded with fantastic restaurants, taquerias, and a whole slew of funky bars that stayed open way after midnight.  The crowd was mixed, cool, and very fit looking.  Surfers usually are.

I love this place.  The tiny shopping streets that stray off of the beach, the groovy restaurants, the mix of locals, old hippies, and newcomers.  The beach had a freer feel to it.

If the beach was a spectacular white coral sand beach like the one in Cancun, it would have been ruined years ago with high-rises and packaged tours.  This place never got there.  A fiercely strong local citizenry protected it and the beach was funky enough to not pull the developers in.  One of my favorite shops in Sayulita is Révolucion del Sueño which does an incredible trade with Zapata t-shirts made from beautiful soft cotton.  My only tip to travelers who discover this place, don’t tell too many people.

Sayulita flowers Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita sunset Peter Jones Pietro Place Sayulita water Pietro Place Peter Jones

Distrito Federal Pietro Place Peter Jones

Mexico Distrito Federal

Mexico Distrito Federal (D.F.) is the real deal. It’s a huge city; almost something like the sprawl of São Paulo in Brazil but actually totally cool and groovy.

Yes, there are a few sketchy spots and it is probably not a great idea to grab a taxi from the street, but if you follow some basic rules, this city is rich in sights, restaurants, and beautiful parks. It is actually a safe city with people walking around at night. Even Uber is everywhere and I got to practically Uber my way around the city. Oh, and one last thing….it really is a great deal. Even the street food is healthy and nutritious.

So, why the dead spot in Mexico tourism?

There are issues. Drug cartels are out there. There are bad spots and a lot of bad publicity, but everyone knows the places in Mexico to avoid. It is really just like anywhere else.

But I have fallen in love with this place. Mexico has amazing coastlines from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. There are ancient sites, pyramids, incredible colonial architecture, Frida, Diego and food. It’s not just tacos and guacamole but there is a serious cuisine scene around.

A three night stopover in Mexico City is a great way to scope out the city. It can easily be combined with either the Yucatan or the Pacific Coast or you could really just spend the weekend in D.F.

Spanish teachers really should consider coming back here for a number of reasons.

Firstly, crime is down, the air is clean, and the architecture and the city have been reworked. There are bike paths, a great Metro, and it’s a pedestrian friendly city. I stayed along the Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue running diagonally across the heart of the city, and during the weekend, it was virtually traffic free with only bikes and pedestrians. It’s awesome. Second, the neighborhoods are cool too. Plan on visiting Roma, Condesa, Centro Historico and Coyoacán where both Frida and Diego lived. The Zócalo is the main square in the center of the city and is 57,500 square meters big; one of the largest city squares in the world. While there, imagine Tiananmen Square – it is that big. The square is the home to the Cathedral, the National Palace and the colonial arcade. To the south of the city is Xochimilco which is famous for its miles of canals and lakes and the trajineras, the boats that drift like gondolas laden with tourists and vendors.

Third, there are so many museums and national sights to see. At Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum, you get to see Frida Kahlo’s genius firsthand. This was Frida’s home where her life both began and ended. She and her husband, famed painter Diego Rivera, are all around you. In addition, this is the neighborhood where Leon Trotsky lived in exile from the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. He had been befriended by Kahlo and Rivera.

Located in Xochililco is a true gem – Museo Dolores Olmedo. This was donated to the state after her death and the house and gardens are a spectacular – filled with peacocks and the famous hairless Mexican dogs. The museum has a collection of 140 Rivera pieces and a number of works by Kahlo and Angelina Beloff. It is accessible easily by Metro and is a must see.

Chapultepec Forest holds Mexico’s version of Versailles, the grand Chapultepec Castle. It is also close by to the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the world’s greatest art and artifacts museums.

Finally, there’s history and of course there are the pyramids outside of the city in the zone of the Teotihuacan. These are the largest pyramids outside of Egypt.

So my only question is, why not go to Mexico City? It’s got it all and it is at a price point that just makes sense.

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The Rosewood

The Rosewood

The Roswewood in San Miguel. A friend of mine had stayed at another Rosewood and liked the hotel a lot. This hotel is amazing. We had a great room with a view, Room 303 incidentally, that looked out across the church, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, this is the iconic sight of San Miguel. It looks Gaudi-esque and the beautiful sandstone gives off a magical hue at sunset when the sky is still incandescent blue. I could take all this in while sitting in my balcony outside the room! Two fireplaces and phenomenal food at whatever time, skyrocket this fairly recent addition to San Miguel’s hotel offerings, to the top.


Add the beautiful outdoor pool, actually long enough to do laps, the state-of-the-art gym, and the close proximity to everything and you have a pretty cool set up. It’s not cheap, but pick the right dates and you have a perfect location in a perfect place. The brunch at the weekends is off the charts. Heap loads of those delicious mushrooms that grow on decaying wet corn, slapped on to fabulously fresh-pressed tortillas with a dash of hot sauce were my favorites. It’s all good news on the menu and that’s even before you leave the hotel to explore the city.


San Miguel

The Road to San Miguel

The Road to San Miguel

A quick break. A time out. Mexico, in spite of all the bad press seems like a great place to head. San Miguel de Allende is where we headed. Even though it is a little complicated to get there, it’s the kind of place that makes you glad you made the effort. You know that sinking feeling you sometimes get when you have traveled forever and you get hotel nightmares and bad food as your welcome mat? Not here.

San Miguel Vista

San Miguel Vista

There are three ways to get to San Miguel: Mexico City, 4 hour drive and only worth it if you intend to spend a few days there. Not a bad idea as Mexico City is pretty cool. Leon, about 1 and a half hours away and recommended if you like bigger planes and if you want to pass by Guanajuato( the birthplace of Diego Rivera) or Queretero (the closest), 45 minutes, but accessible only by smaller planes(American Eagle essentially). We chose Queretero and because it’s such a small airport, and the planes are small, you have to check the bags…but at the gate! That is to say, no lost bags! Arrived and met by a limo guy from the hotel. Smooth and before you knew it we were heading down the cobbled streets in the beautifully hilly town of San Miguel. Checked into the Rosewood hotel in the center with stunning views and slept.