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Ensenada, Ensenada, Mexico

101_0068Louise Speaks:   Another stop on our Baja cruise is Ensenada Mexico.  Now again, since101_0076 I have been on this cruise many times before, and I lived just outside of San Diego, I have experienced many times before, but Thelma has never been here.   Ensenada  is a coastal city,  the third largest city in Baja California.  Ensenada is just 78 miles south of San Diego on the Baja Peninsula.  It is locally referred to as La Cenicienta del Pacífico, “The Cinderella of the Pacific.”  And if you visit the Ensenada coastline you’d know why.  The only thing I could compare it to would be some of the richest coastlines in northern California like Big Sur or Monterrey.  I spoke at great lengths with our tour guide about  coastal beach living.  I was told that when you hear of people spending at least a million dollars for a small beach house in California, you can get a mini mansion in Ensenada for about $25,000.  Makes one think about moving to Mexico.  In fact many people working in San Diego, make that 78 mile trip everyday so they can live on the beautiful coast of Ensenada while earning the American dollar in California.

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centro_cultural_20415The cruise lines are pretty good about having you in port long enough that you can take enough excursions to really get a feel for the port.  During the morning we were given a tour of the Riveria Culture Center, formerly the Hotel Playa Ensenada.  The Hotel is now  used as a culture center and a popular venue for major events.   The main objectives of this center are to preserve the cultural, historical, artistic, archaeological and architectural heritage of the state.  The city wants to  encourage the citizens to promote,  foster and spread their cultural values and strengthen the fine arts.  They are hoping to develop social communication as well as every activity that favors the spiritual and intellectual harmony among the citizens.  I took my grand daughter here many years ago for a folk lore celebration where folk dancers in their native costumes entertained us while we had an authentic Mexican lunch.100_2462

20170125_101154Its history dates back to 1930, when it opened under the name, Hotel Playa Ensenada; very popular for its lavish décor and casino. Our guide was very informative of the decor especially  the chandeleirs.  The rooms and buildings that made up this beautiful recreational complex, of Californian and Neo-Mudéjar style, are now two event venues: a theatre and a bar.  Today the lavish bar offered Margarita tasting as part of the tour, and they were very tasty Margarita’s .  The Margarita  is claimed to have been invented in several different places and at several different times.  However, Ensenada takes  claim  that it was invented right here at the Hotel Riviera del Pacífico for Marjorie King Plant at the time when she was the joint owner.  Margarita is a Spanish version of the name Marjorie.  Our guide had a very interesting explanation of this find, but you’re going to have to go to Ensenada yourself to hear the story.

In the patio outside the bar, local venders were selling their goods.  Many of them were making their goods right in front of us.  To see them crocheting, or doing basket weaving, or painting plates, you could see how talented these people are.  The prices were so reasonable, you just wanted to tell them to charge more.  No two items were the same, and the colors were brilliant.  What a fun stop and did I mention how good the Margarita’s were?

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fish-ringFrom the cultural center we took a Coastline tour along the Gold Coast, that pretty much showed us all Ensenada has to offer.  One of our stops was the Fishing Farms, where they use  breeding rings for the blue fin tuna.  We were high up on a cliff, so we could easily see the fish rings below.  The practice of catching blue fin tuna and hauling them inshore to be fattened in a pen was developed during the 90’s.  Turns out the blue fin tuna has been fished for in Ensenada  for many, many years. Before, instead of taking the fish and bringing it to the farm and feeding it, they used to catch the tuna, load them on the boat, and take the fish to the cannery.  But since 1997, they tow the live fish in the net in a very smooth way, bring them close to the shoreline, and then keep them there for a month, or up to four or five months. During that time, they feed the fish sardines.  They don’t use any artificial feed.  They feed the tuna sardines that are caught in local waters close by the shoreline.  They actually use fresh sardines,  They catch the sardines today and give them to the tuna tomorrow…now that’s pretty fresh.  You are able to see the fish rings from the coastal area, and there are hundreds of them.  Most of the tunas are headed to Japan, where they will become sushi.  When an order comes in from Japan, the divers take the fish, alive,  from the pen one by one.  They then sacrifice the tuna on the boat one by one using a Japanese technique that guarantees that the flesh is not damaged.  They then bring the tuna from the fish farms to the port  in Ensenada.  From the port they go to the plant.  At the plant, they clean the tuna, pack the tuna, and put the filleted tuna in a box.  From the plant, the boxes are  trucked to Los Angeles, and from Los Angeles are shipped to Japan by air.  In Japan, the tuna is auctioned on the Japanese market.  From the time you kill the fish until the time it is in the auction market in Japan and to the consumer, is only about 72 hours.

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101_0059While on our morning tour we stopped for a quaint lunch at La Fonda’s.  A cute grass hut restaurant right of the gold coast of Ensenada.  There were homes on each side of the restaurant because in Mexico, when you have property you can do what you choose with that property.  So this home is now a restaurant and a small motel…but the views were unbelievable.  While waiting for lunch and taking in the view, our tour guide was just a book of knowledge telling us all Ensenada has to offer.  I think he was recruiting for new residents.  Reading the menu was quite fascinating when you think of the money exchange.  We ordered a taco dinner and on the menu it lists a price of 160 Pesos….seems expensive for a taco dinner, but in actuality that is less than $8.00.

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100_2490We made it back to the ship, just in time to board the bus for our afternoon excursion to La Bufadora, “The Blow Hole“.   This is probably the most popular attraction in Ensenada.  La Bufadora is about 17 miles south of Ensenada all along the southern coastline of Baja.  Driving to the Blow Hole, you will see many of the agricultural fields and the cardboard homes the workers live in.  It is a chance to see the poorer side of Ensenada in comparison to the richer side we saw this morning as we drove along the Gold Coast.  La Bufadora is a marine geyser  or blowhole located on the Punta Banda Peninsula.  The spout of sea water is the result of air, trapped in a sea cave, exploding upwards.  Air is forced into the cave by wave action and is released when the water recedes.  This interaction not only creates the spout, but a thunderous noise as well. like Boof, hence the name La Bufadora.   The phenomena repeats every minute or so with its volume depending on the strength of the waves.  La Bufadora is one of the largest blowholes in North America, often shooting upwards more than 100 feet  above sea level.  The exhibit hall roof top is approximately 80 feet above sea level and the blowhole frequently sprays above it.  We didn’t see any sprays quite that tall, but it was still pretty tall.

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100_2480As you walk to the blow hole you pass 100s of venders selling their goods.  Here you will find anything from leather, to silver, from blankets to clothing.  You will also find nuts, and dried fruit, and even margarittas and cuban cigars.  The vendors are shouting back and forth along the streets trying to earn your business.  Our tour guide was pointing out to us where we would get the best deal…and who was selling the real silver etc.  I’m sure she gets a cut for recommending certain venders, but she truly was a sales person.  Thelma bought silver and nuts and there was quite a selection for both.

101_0099At the corner where the bus was parked is a taco stand.  Not just any taco stand but the one everyone was talking about.  When I was here years ago, this taco stand was being run out of a van.  Prior to arriving in Ensenada I told people make sure you get a taco from the van right where the buses park.  That business out of a van, is now a large building, with about 8 workers and a patio outside with about 10 picnic tables.  I knew the tacos were good, but this young gal has really made a business for herself.  So of course we had to help the cause and order two large plates to take back to the bus.  The tacos are just as good as they always were.  I guess next time we come by she’ll be in a two story restaurant with indoor seating.

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Although we are only 17 miles from Ensenada it was a good hour drive back to the ship.  Now we are in rush hour traffic for Ensenada but we made it back to the ship in time for sail off.  Today was a fun day.  There are many excursions to choose from, but I was trying to show Thelma as much of Ensenada as possible.   I think Thelma got a good taste of Ensenada, and saw some interesting things along the way.  It had been a few years since I have been on tours in Ensenada because usually I just stay on the ship, but today was fun seeing old stuff and seeing Thelma enjoy the new sites.  Next time we come though, we might just stay on the ship and drink.

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Baja Mexico Cruise, Long Beach, CA

20170126_082435Louise Speaks:  We decided to take a short Mexican Baja Cruise so that Thelma can visit Catalina Island and Ensenada Mexico.  I have been on this cruise many times and even with different cruise lines but it was a first for Thelma.  We did a few stops on the way to the dock and I blogged about them separately and spent the night in Long Beach so we wouldn’t miss the boat.  We didn’t do much in Long Beach as it was raining but we did drive around the city and went out  for a steak dinner.  We figured we had already started our trip so we were going to have a great dinner and start our trip off with a bang.

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scanned-image-2Our stay in Long Beach was met with rain and more rain.  We were hoping for a sunny100_9975 cruise, but this is January so the weather is unpredictable.  We had brought such cute clothes for the cruise and here it is cold and wet.  But me being stubborn as I am, I am wearing the clothes I brought.  We had breakfast at the hotel, and then loaded the car and headed to the ship.  We found the parking garage and got in line.  At least the cruiselines had the loading area covered, so we stayed dry…but it was img_1155100_2372cold.  We had a noon check in, so we didn’t have to stand in line too long.  Check in went fairly smoothly and we were on the deck having lunch before we knew it.  As with any cruise line, there is never a shortage of food.  So we tried a bit of everything, but we sampled the dessert bar more than anything else.  It was still raining outside, so we weren’t able to explore the outer decks, just the inside decks.  The Carnival Imagination is a fairly large ship with over 2600 passengers…that’s a lot of people.  Our room was ready and we were sad because we had the third bed for Martha, who had to cancel the cruise at the last minute.  We asked to have her bed removed so that would give us more room in the cabin.

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100_9980We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, eating and drinking and doing a whole lot of 20170125_193410people watching.  We picked up  our excursion tickets so we are set for  the week.  Sail Away was at 4:00 and it was still raining, so we had to have our sail away party in the large Atrium.  People really didn’t seem to mind.  It was warm and dry and very colorful with the 7 stories of lights and the music blaring.  Definitely a party ship. Tomorrow we were to be in Catalina, but the waters are so rough that the captain announced that we were changing the itinerary a bit.  So tomorrow is going to be our day at sea and we will hit Catalina the day after. That’s actually good news so that we might actually have a sunny day in Catalina.  From the party it was time for dinner where we met 5 of our table guest…3 Philippina gals and a mother and daughter on a birthday celebration trip.  The other chairs were empty.  After dinner was the usually entertainment show in the lounge and then we went to the adult comedy show.  We were in our cabin and ready for bed by 1:00 a.m.

100_9985Monday is our day at sea.  We headed down to breakfast and the boat was rocking andimg_1193 rolling.  So much so that I was barely able to eat breakfast.  I did manage a few bites, but told Thelma this was not going to work, so we headed back to our cabin.  It was just  a few minutes before I was in the bathroom hugging the porcelain bowl.  This happened several times throughout the day.  By the time dinner came around I was hungry and we decided to give dinner an attempt.  I ordered, but I just couldn’t make myself eat.  I had ginger ale and was just grateful that I was able to be up and about.  We met the other three gals at our table,..3 more phillipinas…lol.  What a fun group.  After dinner we went to the show in the lounge and then once again to the adult comedy show.  As the evening came to an end, I was feeling better and was looking forward to spending tomorrow in Catalina.

scanned-image-0Tuesday morning we were up early as we had excursions booked for the day.  The ship 100_2381cannot dock right in Catalina, you must take a tender to shore.  Since we had booked excursions, we were one of the first ones off the ship.   As we were walking down main street in Avalon, and the shops were opening up, one of the sales gal was telling us that today was the first time the shops had been open in 4 days.  There were sand bags everywhere and she said they had had 16 foot waves…that’s a high wave for Catalina.  With the waters being that rough, that explains why half the ship was sick yesterday….me included.

We had a great day Catalina.  We had a full morning of guided tours and excursions.  We had the rest of the day for lunch and exploring the quaint shops.  The sun did come out and we did not have rain.  I blogged about our Catalina adventures separatrely so please take the time to read about our day on Catalina Island.  I am so glad the captain changed our itinerary.  Not only would nothing have been opened yesterday, all our excursions would have been cancelled.  I just love Catalina Island and can’t come here enough.  I think I’ll bring Thelma back in the summer though, so we can enjoy the beach.

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Wednesday is our day in Ensenada, Mexico.  This was suppose to be our day at sea but101_0068 because of the change in itinerary we are in Ensenada today.  It is beautiful out.  The sun is shining and it is warm.  I also blogged about Ensenada separately so make sure you read that blog as well.  We booked two excursions in Ensenada, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and these two excursions gave us a pretty good idea of life in Ensenada.  The coastline here is just beautiful, almost better than any coastline in California.  The weather is perfect, and Ensenada has all the comforts of home including Starbucks, McDonalds and Costco.  We also had lunch in Ensenada…twice…because you just can’t go to Ensenada and not have tacos.

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101_0112Thursday morning we docked back in Long Beach and it was time to go home.  The weather was nice and not raining, but it did look like rain was in the future.  Our plan was to tour the Queen Mary as it is docked right next to the cruise ship but we decided against it.  I really want to see the Princess Diana Exhibit and it is closed until the Spring, so I guess we have to come back.  Since we did not tour Queen Mary. and now we have time, we decided to go through the Joshua Tree National Forest instead. I also blogged about that separately….so more reading for you.

We made it home late and unloaded the car as we only had a few days to get ready for our next trip.  This time of year is busy for us and there is at least one trip a month…sometimes more.  So we hope you are enjoying traveling with us as we see the world., one page at a time.