I’ve been making the occasional weekend trip to Baja ever since I moved to SoCal just over nine years ago, during which time the area has undergone massive changes. The once barren hillsides of the scenic road from Tijuana to Ensenada are quickly filling with shoddily constructed, homogeneously designed stucco buildings that often never get completed, mostly due to financial reasons. Rosarito has experienced a gentrification (as much as can be experienced in Mexico), with jazz bars and French bistros now dotting the main thoroughfare of Benito Juárez Boulevard, and nearby wineries now making a splash on menus just north of the border. The frat-friendly bars, complete with popper-peddling waiters and buckets of Coronitas, maintain their stronghold, but with Trump properties now setting up shop in nearby Punta Bandera, Rosarito stands to undergo a resurgence like none before.
So I was glad to get a glimpse of Rosarito over the New Year’s weekend, before it becomes all Disney-fied and the ubiquitous sidewalk potholes become a thing of the past. I’m going to enjoy the beachside town in all its seedy glory for as long as I can before The Donald’s influence spills over his property lines and down into town. My friends and I took in the sea air at Los Pelicanos over margaritas and ice-cold Bohemias, the beach teeming with locals, tourists on horseback, and wild dogs chasing each other in the surf.
The next night, in nearby Puerto Nuevo, a tiny town renowned for its lobsters, I scarfed down a quesadilla while my seafood-loving pals cracked open a clawless crustacean. (Pacific lobsters lack the large boxing-glove mitts of their Atlantic cousins.) We’d hightailed it down the toll road (cuota) while there was still light in order to get a shot of the Naked Lady House, as Tabitha so eloquently refers to it. If only this property could get listed on MLS — I can only imagine how they’d deal with the photo, which MySpace deemed too racy and deleted from Tab’s page. (How would they react if someone posted a pic next to Michelangelo’s David?) What you can’t see in this shot is the pool area that circles the crotch. I’ll be sure to get back down when the house is completed.
For New Year’s Eve, we ventured back into Rosarito, only to find stalwart party establishments such as Papas and Beer (which has lots of beer, but, to my dismay, no papas) closed. (Note to Rosarito Travel Board: WTF?) So while the boys stopped to buy some Cubans, Tab and I headed to the bar just beyond, where we spotted a sign for a rather tempting and (in the U.S., at least) verboten beverage: absinthe. I’d conveniently repressed my experience with the Green Fairy in Prague, and so convinced my cohorts to order a shot apiece. Within seconds I recalled why I’d forever sworn off wormwood, and not just because of the noxious licorice taste. But Tab saw fit to knock back a few more of the bile-green shots, and even accepted a drink of rattlesnake-soaked tequila (which I dubbed “carcass juice”) from two strangers at the end of the bar. (How many problems can you spot in that scenario?) No surprise that Tab — having already knocked back two margaritas, a red wine, a crappy martini, and some beer — felt a might bit ill a while later. Instead of a visit from the Green Fairy, she found herself visiting the porcelain throne for the better part of an hour, while Dick Clark slurred his way into ’07.
And thus the New Year was ushered in. Next month I plan to return so I can visit a few old faves I didn’t get to hit, as well as spend more time at Foxploration. In what other country would the highlight of a theme park be a pair of trained rats? Just another reason why Mexican kitsch should never die.
Heading to Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas in two weeks. Any suggestions?