Sunday Funday in Tijuana

Vale had a late night for a baby, so she slept in a little. When she woke up, we stopped by the lounge on the 10th floor to get some free breakfast. We had refried beans, scrambled eggs, grilled cactus, and a pork stew with cactus. The scrambled eggs were standard hotel-style scrambled eggs. The stew was pretty unique; the meat was tender and flavorful, and the cactus wasn’t particularly distinctive – reminiscent of green peppers when they’re stewed. The grilled cactus had a bite to it in the outside and was a little slimy in the inside; it was pretty good, slathered in habanero salsa, but then again, what isn’t? We took advantage of the unlimited coffee and paired it with some Mexican pastries. We also tried some “green juice,” made from cilantro, cactus, celery, and other green stuff that now slip the mind. Whatever it was, it was crisp, light, and refreshing.

 

After breakfast, we hung out in the room a little, and then made plans for lunch. We decided to walk to our destination, and on our way to lunch, we stopped by a grocery store to get some supplies. Jenn bought some gummy bears, which were of a different flavor/texture than the gummy bear brands in the United States. (Mexican gummy bears are different! I swear! I had to try them!) Vale fortunately feel asleep for her first nap by the time we finished getting candy, water, and Tums.

Upon leaving the grocery store, Jenn was unable to resist the mango cart guy even though we were literally on our way to lunch across the street. She got a fresh mango “con todo,” which ended up being mango sprinkled with tajin and lime juice, topped with what tasted identical to Chinese dried/preserved plums and hawthorn berries, then finished off with some unidentified red syrup (after consultation with Google, it appears to be Chamoy). The verdict: it was good, but mangoes are better alone, in pure form, which she suspected to begin with, but her curiosity got the better of her. Still, it was fun to try.

 

We had lunch at a seafood place called Lionfish. We started the meal with a big, iced, pitcher of Horchata to help drown the heat. Frank ordered a Long Island Ice Tea that went very light on the Coke and heavy on the booze (off to as good start). We began to suspect this place was seriously legit when we became aware the waiter did not speak English. Based on the prices, and the fact this was a nicer, sit-down restaurant, we made assumptions about the portions, and all three of us ended up ordering way more food than we could eat. For instance, Jenn assumed the $139 peso ($7) ceviche was going to come in a small bowl or cocktail glass, not a foot-long plate. This is obviously not a basis for complaint, of course. The ceviche, fresh, acidic, and tossed with Serrano peppers, was heavenly.

 

Similarly, the house tuna tostada (raw, topped with fried, crisp onions) was also twice the size she thought it would be. The tuna was fresh and yummy, though probably the least interesting item to come to our table. Frank’s shrimp ceviche sampler also blew him away. It was a sampler big enough for multiple people, and came with four fat ass shrimp in each of the different flavors. Frank’s final judgment: mango came in last, Verde was the best. Jenn tried the Verde and thought it was excellent, but preferred her fish ceviche.

Jenn also ordered a Malibu taco, which featured grilled octopus, topped with a house pesto sauce and avocado. She doesn’t typically love pesto, but she loves octopus and this taco brought its A-game. While all the $1.50 street tacos hit the spot in a comfort food way, this perfectly grilled octopus in a warm tortilla, topped with fresh avocado, was a new and unique experience for the weekend. As amazing as all the above was, Frank thought the salmon tacos, to his surprise, were the best dish of the meal.

 

Everyone was ready to explode after lunch, and we ditched the previous plans to grab a beer at the trendy, outdoor, food plaza next door. It had a playground too, but Vale was sleeping anyway.

We took an Uber and returned to Avenida Revolucion to do some shopping. The shop people were a bit too eager/aggressive and we didn’t see anything we wanted badly enough (no cool Mexican soccer jerseys), so we didn’t linger at the shops long. After our stomachs settled (a little), we browsed for a craft beer place. We went to a couple of places unsuccessfully. One place clearly advertised “cerveza artesenal” but told me they had Bohemia, Dos Equis, the usual on tap. When I asked about cerveza artesenal, the bartender answered in the affirmative, and led me to a back/side room with a glass refrigerated display case of beer. It was unclear if the refrigerator was working or not, as the lights were off, and the bartender took some time fiddling with switches to try to get the thing to turn on. I appreciated her effort, but I was losing interest by this time, especially since I peeked in the fridge and even through the darkness was able to identify a bottle of Affligem. I was hoping to drink some local Mexican craft beer, not a Belgian from a broken fridge. Especially in 90 degree weather. She was very friendly about it, but we had to take our leave.

We ended up at Cine Tonala, and Jenn ordered a 70 IBU IPA by Insurgente Brewing. She couldn’t read half the beer descriptions and had to rely on names of hops and IBU ratings. Frank started with a margarita, followed with two beautiful house cocktails made from berries.

 

We enjoyed our drinks on the patio, where Vale had a fun time eating saltine crackers, and stomping around in her jelly sandals (she seemed to finally tolerate shoes, somewhat), and took some selfies. Our brief trip was quickly coming to an end, and Jenn mused that if it weren’t for the onerous border crossing (and perhaps that pesky murder rate), she’d like to come a lot more frequently.

After the afternoon drinks, we made our way back to the hotel, packed up, showered, and checked out. Kyle and Frank had one more drink in the lobby (a Mexican Schwarzbier and another Long Island), and then we Ubered to the border. The government website gave us the very precise estimate of the border wait time – between 10 and 60 minutes – so we were a bit nervous about whether walking across the border was going to be worth it after all. Below, Vale is pictured at the line to get through immigration, looking less than thrilled. Who would be, in such a drab, hideous, bureaucratic, and prison-like experience? Jenn temporarily put aside her distaste for borders and The Man, because she was distracted by the small package of brown sugar bread cakes she bought for $2 right before getting in line. Vale was less impressed with the bread; she took a few bites, but most of it ended up in pieces all over the car seat.

 

Fortunately, the walking process was pretty quick on the way back into the United States. For once, and so very shockingly, a government “service” was on the short end of the wait estimate (unlike say, the DMV). Standing in line to get from the Mexican side to immigration took about 15 minutes. Adding on walking time to the border line, stopping for 3 more tacos and brown sugar bread, walking from immigration to the parking lot, and a stop at McDonald’s for a cheeseburger and ice coffee once in the US side, we hit a total of about 45 minutes. Still better than four hours in a car.

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