Departing from Sacramento for SAN via LAX on an early Saturday morning, the short American Airlines flight touched down in sunny San Diego, with travel to beautiful Santa Fe Station made easy by the city trolley. Reuniting with my awesome travel partner, we took the trolley to San Ysidro, crossing the border into Tjuana, México by the pedestrian entry.
Read here about the new pedestrian entry between the US and Mexico
Our first stop was Playas de Tijuana for delicious artisan pizza from Horno 320 and a walk along the cliffside malecón towards the border line. Curious to try the chatarra of Baja-California, we shared some Tostilocos: a wild concoction of Tostitos, peanuts, cubed cheese, onion, jicama, salsa and salty-sweet dried pieces of tamarindo known as chacachaca. Tostilocos are inexplicably not so good for your body, but really great for your soul. ¡K rrriccoo!
Sunday was a trip from TJ to San Diego, where All-Star 2016 MLB festivies were in full (bat) swing. Finding coffee in Horton Park Plaza, watching a yoga group perform two-person asanas, and finally walking to Bub’s in the Ballpark district for food and drinks, the day concluded with an incredible reunion with a high-school friend from 30 years ago.
Monday my travel partner and I ventured out to find a favorite hidden restaurant, only to (sadly) discover it was closed. The alternative, Alma Verde, with its cold pressed juices and vegan dishes was an excellent choice, and a welcome surprise to this first-time visit in Tijuana.
A squash au gratin appetizer, followed by a minty quinoa salad with crusty bread and cayenne-pepper limonada was the perfect fresh combination for an early afternoon dinner. Next, we visited the impressive galleries and sculpture gardens of the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT), featuring the only IMAX cinema in Tijuana, known as La Bola (“The Ball”).
Tuesday was a day trip adventure through Baja-California, with a few stops along the picturesque coast. Driving from Tijuana to Rosarita and Ensenanda, we stopped for coffee and a walk along the waterfront, posing for obligatory photos under the famous giant bandera: a landmark for cruise ships and tourists.
Continuing on to not find Bufadora but instead proceed directly to Valle de Guadalupe, we arrived to a tour of La Chetto winery, one of the oldest and largest in México. After the tour, our guide Rodrigo educated our group on the varieties of wines available by the vineyard, and poured hefty glasses for our group to taste. ¡Fine Wine in México, hijole!
Lunch was an indulgent meal at picturesque restaurant Latitud 32, including Yucatan-inspired mixed ceviche and Mackerel-stuffed Papadzules, as we took in the beautiful view of the Vinos El Cielo vineyard and surrounding mountains.
Before heading home, we visited La Casa Doña Lupe, an environmentally-conscious vineyard, restaurant and farm, where we sampled several cheeses, dips and jellies before settling on a platano-chocolate marmalade and an apple-habanero spread.
A visit to Tijuana seems incomplete without a walk along Avenida Revolucion and the predictable photo mounted on Mexican mythological creature, the Zonkey, or Zebra Burro. This wide, centuries-old street lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, and discotecas ends at the Monumental Arch, created in 2000 to welcome visitors to Zona Centro. After snapping several silly shots with Paco and his tacky accoutrements, we found our way into a small group of modern eateries offering specialty tacos, Asian bowls and Italian fusion.
For the last evening out in TJ, a visit to Plaza Fiesta revealed the hipster side of Tijuana, with clusters of bars and drinkeries, less busy on a weekday night than its regular packed weekends. Winding our way through, we landed at Puerto El Sauzal, sampling a few fine craft beers before settling on the flavorful Pescador Blonde Wheat and hefty Del Puerto Brown Porter. Rounding out our night: a midnight snack of quesadillas and tacos at Restaurante Mexicanos, a legendary 24-hour diner.
Wrapping up this adventure, it’s easy to say that a visit this reputable Mexican city was an amazing surprise. While it seems possible to find the cliché town depicted in films like La Bamba, with tequila-swilling, mustached hombres in giant somberos and skinny dogs howling to foul guitars, it feels as if the old Tijuana is quickly being usurped by new versatile culture. Boasting impressive international events, remarkable fusion dining and an array of diverse nightlife, the July issue of Volaris magazine may be correct, with Tijuana a top contender as the next cosmopolitan mecca.