As one hits a certain crossroads in life, an unruly wanderlust type perspective starts to take the place of the day-to-day reality that makes up most folks existence. For me, it’s been that way since my mom joined the army and I became a world traveler at the tender age of ten…and it’s continued to rule my every waking moment. Baja has fueled that desire since the first time I crossed the border in Tijuana and has always been a place where I could ever so quickly disappear to this day. A place where I could jump in my truck at a moments notice and just hightail it across the border to seek out another life, perhaps the one I was meant to be living.
All the daydreams I’ve ever had in all these many years, I’ve seen manifested into some thing solid and real down in the Baja. Here are a few of my dreams - come true by others – which I return time and time again. And, it’s all happening right now in one manageable peninsula.
DREAM: Open a seafood shack on the beach, all while living in an RV onsite
WHERE IT’S HAPPENING: Bahia Concepcion, Playa Santispac Restaurant
There may be no better beaches in all of Baja than those that make up the coves of Bahia Concepcion. Slam-on-the-brakes blue waters, balmy days spent kayaking and SUP’ing with all of Steinbeck’s oceanic creatures, and a hardscrabble life that is made legend if you can rough it with the best of them. And, all just 10 seconds off Highway 1. Those intrepid souls who brave a palapa build, set up an RV and cheers the daily sunset are heros in my book because for me, it means I can slip down a margarita with no rules, sample multiple seafood dishes for under $10, and play with dogs and puppies til the sun comes up. Never would I have thought a rickety shack of a restaurant would turn out white cheese smothered fish in aluminum foil that would blow my mind, nor would I have anticipated piles of fresh limes in such a remote spot, but such is life in places like this. Semi-permanent dwellers are on the make, slinging up rough-hewn decks to complement their 5th wheels and who can blame them with views like these. Fresh lemon deliveries for their own personal lobster fests are what dreams are made of. These ‘locals’ are so dang friendly; they even let you borrow their kayaks for a quick spin around their playground - the Sea of Cortez. Just don’t ask to take the wheel of their old-school Land Rovers…these guys have taken the good life seriously and set themselves up right. A person needs wheels like these to traverse down dirt roads...and on this tidy beach, all dirt paths lead to a cold one at a breezy seaside restaurant.
DREAM: Putter around a wee Italian cafe with ingredients plucked from my own tableside garden
WHERE IT’S HAPPENING: Valle de Guadalupe, La Manzana Verde
A simple spot, with a simple motto (live, love, eat) – that’s La Manzana Verde to me. It’s the kind of establishment that I’d quit my job for and head on down to volunteer at, laugh at, and become a real Italian chef at. The kind of kitchen maestro that understands life is all about finding joy in every moment, in every customer, in every plate that is adorned with local (most grown onsite) ingredients. That might seem a little plain to some, but having that spin on life as an ethos is what every person strives to achieve (and possibly get paid to do). The lovely red wine is made by the owner's daughter, the organic herbs and greens are picked on site, the frappes and fresh baguettes are mouthwatering and the crispy cheese smothered pizza is smoldering, especially if you’re about to cross the Tecate border and have no hopes for good grub for hours. Dogs are welcome and a few house pups run about happily greeting passerbys, and if you have a bit too much wine, the owner will kindly invite you to stay. There. And, careful, it might turn into forever. When it comes to Italian, it’s a family affair; and, you’re family the minute you walk in, especially if you are willing to practice English with the staff!
DREAM: Create a hotel hot spot with attached farm-to-table style restaurant
WHERE IT’S HAPPENING: Todos Santos, La Santena Restaurant and Cantina
Managing to craft a stellar boutique hotel with an attached above par restaurant is next to impossible in old Mexican towns like Todos Santos, especially if one is playing the "affordable" ticket. But, if you build it, they will come. The hotel is stark yet adorable, nicely doable at the $100 mark, and super dog friendly; it even has a small palm tree fringed pool in the center courtyard. But, what really shines in this surf town dream is the sparkly sidewalk restaurant facing a sleepy road in the center of town. The stroll friendly location draws folks in for cocktail hour and the breeze at the outdoor seating always seems to be one shade above perfect. To add to the chuck-it-all food fantasy, there’s a rooftop garden where they grown their own herbs, the cheese and greens are all local, and even the locals rave about the tortilla soup. And, you can never go wrong with charred flank steak, steamy cactus and grilled onions. The only thing slightly off about this brave set up is making sure you train the wait staff properly; these friendly kids seemed a little too into idle chitchat vs. making sure everyone has a fresh drink. Ah, the plight of a south-of-the- border entrepreneur.
Links and information:
Playa Santispac Restaurant - KM 113.5, no phone.
La Manzana Verde - Federal highway # 3 in the Francisco Zarco town crossing. Phone: (646) 155 2021
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