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In the Belly of Baja
By Misty Tosh

Rancho La Puerta - Fun, Food and Fitness

By Misty Tosh
@bigsweettooth

Border towns are not generally known as sanctuaries for harried travellers, but in the case of award- winning destination resort/spa Rancho la Puerta, the typical conceptions about these usually dusty towns Rancho La Puerta Kitchen are simply thrown to the wind. Here are a few enticing ways to experience this age-old wonderland just across the border in Tecate. No matter which path you choose, there will be no regrets...only visions of future bookings for much longer amounts of time!

1. Afternoon Cooking Workshop at La Cocina Que Canta Cooking School - Price: $95 per person

A few times a week, Executive Chef Denise Roa offers up a cooking demonstration on the grounds of the cooking school, and if you can grab a slot at the Salsa y Salsa class, you will be in for a super treat. Mixing fresh, homemade salsas with the spirit of super sassy salsa dance lessons is brilliant, especially if you’ve sampled a little sangria during the al fresco cooking demos. The class includes lots of good wines, a feast of good food (imagine giant vats of fresh caught Rancho La Puerta Chef seafood paella made with quinoa, piles of char-grilled vegetables, and just picked strawberry studded field green salads), and hours of dance lessons with the house dance sensation, Manuel. Everyone is fueled by the good food, the setting sun, and the light buzz and the infectious charm of this splendid pairing – salsa and salsa, indeed. This class alone will inspire students to return to Mexico time and time again – much like the visitors at the ranch do year after year. It’s a soul pilgrimage not to be missed.

2. Saturdays at the Ranch at La Cocina Que Canta Cooking School - Price: $300 per person; 7:30 am – 8 pm

This six-acre organic farm and cooking school is a dream-like mecca for like-minded foodies (it means “the kitchen that sings”). It’s the light-dappled farm you fantasize of having, but just can’t for lack of time, energy or money. No worries, though, Executive Chef Denise Roa has you Rancho La Puerta Salsa Class covered so you can day play in her best dream ever come alive. If you are a guest at the ranch for the week, you will be able to a la carte sign up for cooking classes with visiting chefs, take part in hands on fresh ingredient workshops, enjoy exquisite farm to table dinners, and partake in leisurely farm tours...but if you only have one day available out of your normal life in the US, you can hop on a bus in San Diego on a Saturday morning and spend the next 12 hours eating, inspiring, hiking, cooking, photographing, exercising, laughing and becoming a ranch warrior. Once you pass through receptions doors, you are given a spa locker to dump your stuff and can immediately join up with others for a big healthy breakfast. The typical Saturday could include a 4 mile hike through steep canyons, a dip in the hot tub, a therapeutic massage or facial, a relaxing tai chi class, a pole dance learning session, a bit of reading under the massive shade tree, a plunge into the pool, a cooking lesson at the farm and a bit of that amazing tinted wine from Valle de Guadalupe – all before you hop back on the bus cross the border and head home. The days are jammed full of activities – but only if you want them to be. Make a Saturday at the Ranch Day 1 in your new life plan – which for me is figure out how to live the ranch life every day, no matter where I’m at in the world.

Rancho La Puerta Room

1. Full Week Immersion – Saturday to Saturday - Price starts at $3650, all meals included

Most folks commit to this 7-night/8-day program for the simple reason that it’s literally a guarantee. The bottom line is, if you take the plethora of exercise classes (over 50 choices are on offer per day), eat the farm fresh meals (no meat or dairy are allowed), join a few of the workshops (think photography and writing), rock the morning hikes (the 7-mile switchback trail to Mt Kuchumaa is a killer way to see the sunrise), and stay off your phone and computer as much as possible (there are only a handful of wi-fi hotspots on the grounds)...well, you will leave the ranch a new person. Weight loss, new friends, fresh ideas, and stronger habits will have you skipping to the bus to head back across the border to San Diego (the USA pit stop where all pickups and drop offs happen) as a super sparkly version of the bedraggled person you probably were before you arrived in paradise. Most everyone is an early bird and hits the hay in their charming casita (call ahead to make sure the front desk leaves your fireplace ready to be lit) right after the evening bingo game or jazz quartet show. And what really blew me away was that the Rancho La Puerta Table place was packed to capacity, yet outside of meals and classes, you barely see a soul - the tree soaked grounds are just that spacious. Plan on walking miles and miles a day and they even include a handy pedometer in your welcome package – so you can rack up the steps to wellness and stay mega inspired to keep on moving. There’s also a lovely new wine bar & coffeehouse - local artists showcase their wares there and you can purchase a whole new dining room set complete with stemware before you depart (Sure! Add it to my room bill!). The cozy, and often visited wine bar, features all local Baja vino; just don’t let the tasting derail you from a week of brand new beginnings! The Ranch also recently started offering mini breaks – 3 or 4-day retreats starting mid-week for those who can’t scoot away for a full week. Prices start at $1850.

Visit the Rancho La Puerta website

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