contact us

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

After a trip to visit Finca Altozano in the Guadalupe Valley, we returned via Tecate and passed one of the many pottery stands along Highway 3. Pottery in Baja is one of those things that you assume has no real origin and is somehow magically made.
Anytime I find people who are creating things by hand in our rational, industrial and highly mechanized and computerized economy, I am filled with admiration (which is why I have interviewed so many custom surfboard craftsmen).

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

But as we stopped to check out the pottery of Leño Contreras of Alfareria Contreras (Carr. Tecate-Ens 15 1/2 -Cerro Azul, Tecate), I realized that the art of turning clay from the hills into pottery is more than likely a dying tradition and is representative of long-standing cultural traditions that are pre-Hispanic in origin throughout Mexico and the Southwest.

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

“We’ve been here since the early 1980s,” said Leño. “We gather the clay in the hills. In order to fire our kilns, we used to gather dead trees from a nearby forest, but the Forest Service stopped that. Now we buy recycled wood that is collected from the factories in Tijuana.”

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

“The widening and improvement of the Highway has brought us more tourists, as has the tourism of the Guadalupe Valley. A few years ago when the economy was bad, things were not good. Now we’re doing better.”

Emily and I purchased some luna and sol wall hangings for our backyard. Now we have a nice reminder of our visit with Leño.

Alfareria Contreras is on Highway 3 (Km 15 1/2) just about 10-15 minutes south of Tecate on the highway to Ensenada.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, completeevent calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us atinfo@baja.com.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Possibly Related Posts:


Tecate: Northern Baja’s Pueblo Magico

Tecate: Northern Baja’s Pueblo Magico

 dsc_00511

On June 6, 2012, the city of Tecate, Baja California, Mexico was designated a “Pueblo Magico”, or “Magical Village” by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism. Tecate is the 83rd city in Mexico to receive this honor, and only 1 of 3 in all of Baja, California to have been named (including Loreto and Todos Santos). Your gringo and the good folks at Baja.com wanted to know what made Tecate worthy of this national honor, so mom and I headed about 45 minutes east of San Diego on I-94 to the Tecate border to get the story (BTW, this is a beautiful drive through San Diego’s East County backcountry, which makes the trip worth it in and of itself).

Tecate is the latest town to receive the Mexican government’s “Pueblo Magico” designation.

Tecate is the latest town to receive the Mexican government’s “Pueblo Magico” designation.

Pre-History: The Kumiai and the Tecate Community Museum

About 1,500 years ago, Tecate and the surrounding mountains were occupied by the Kumiai Indians (I had an “ah-HAH!” moment when I connected them with former San Diego county prehistoric residents, the Kumeyaay). There are a number of reminders of their lives just outside of Tecate, such as El Vallectio in La Rumorosa (about 35 minutes on the 2D Toll Road from Tecate toward Mexicali). A number of rock paintings adorn the walls and caves of this site as well as others in the area.

dsc_0090

The Kumiai Indians occupied the Tecate area about 1500 years ago.

The Kumiai believed that the towering peak of Cuchuma by Tecate was ruled by spirits. The mountain overlooks the town and is one of its most dominant geographic features. It is definitely an enduring image as you wait on the road leading toward it…which also happens to be the border wait.

cuchuma-then-and-now

Mount Cuchuma in 1951 and during our border wait. No wall in 1951.

For more information on Tecate’s history, you can visit the relatively new (built in 2010) Tecate Community Museum. Your gringo had the pleasure of being greeted by the director of the museum, and given a personal tour of the property and its exhibits by a friendly and informative guide.

dsc_0085

The Tecate Community Museum.

In addition to containing tools, artwork and dioramas of Kumiai life within a kiva-style structure, the grounds also contain a Kumiai dwelling post-Spanish invasion, a typical Tecate home circa 1900, and a contemporary building that contains exhibits highlighting the history of the San Diego-Tijuana-Tecate-Arizona railway and the town’s most famous business and landmark, the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, makers of Tecate beer.

dsc_0098

A post Spanish invasion Kumiai dwelling at the Tecate Community Museum.

dsc_0094

Kumiai handcrafts at the Tecate Community Museum.

Inside a typical 1900-era Tecate home. The Tecate Community Museum.

Inside a typical 1900-era Tecate home. The Tecate Community Museum.

dsc_0128

Part of the Tecate Community Museum’s Tecate Beer history exhibit.

And speaking of beer…

Tecate: The Baja State Beer

From Loreto to San Felipe to Tijuana, Baja’s favorite beer always seems to be Tecate. The brand is represented all over the peninsula and even has it’s own chain of convenience stores. Tecate beer’s story dates back to the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery’s founding in 1890.

dsc_0079

The Tecate Brewery looms large in Tecate’s skyline and it’s history.

During the Mexican revolution of 1910, the brewery was seized by members of the party opposed by the ownership’s support of a rival politician, but was eventually returned. The brewery experienced several changes of ownership in subsequent years, was run by Modelo for the past couple of decades, and is now owned by Heineken.

dsc_0123

An old ad for Cerveza Tecate at the Tecate Community Museum.

The beer brewed specifically in Tecate (vs. the Modelo brewery in Monterrey, what we get in the US) is made with local spring waters, and rumored to be much better than the version sold stateside. After a couple of cold ones on a 90 degree day, your Gringo says “SALUD” to that!

dsc_00501

A cold Tecate on a hot day, with chips and salsa.

Parque Hidalgo. Peace. Shade. Music. Tacos

At the center of life in Tecate is the zocalo and town gathering spot, Parque Hidalgo. Your gringo has visited Tecate in the past JUST to have lunch on a Sunday afternoon at an outdoor table in front of several family-owned and run taquerias who offer excellent food at “…this check must be a mistake, it’s only that much?” prices, along with friendly, pleasant service. Your gringo and his madré took a seat at Lolos Restaurant and dined on tacos and chilaquiles. It was so good, the next day, we went back and had breakfast there (highly recommend the queso and chorizo omelet. YUM!).

dsc_00561

Lolos Restaurant, Parque Hidalgo, Tecate.

Troubadours with guitars, accordions and upright basses roam the square, gently soliciting tables for tunes in the Northern Mexican style (or “Norteño”), typically in trios, sometimes in pairs. Gringo tip: $5 seems to be an acceptable price for a tune or two, no matter where you are in Mexico. Always worth it!

dsc_00582

Roving musicians entertain diners in Parque Hidalgo.

dsc_0058

Local musicians enjoy a game of checkers in Parque Hidalgo.

 On weekends, there are a number of vendors on the square selling Mexican arts and crafts, clothing and other artisanal items.

Local artisans weave bracelets in Parque Hidalgo.

Local artisans weave bracelets in Parque Hidalgo.

Getting Out of Town

Besides the beer, Tecate may be best known by those north of the border for Rancho La Puerta, a nature and health retreat that has attracted many, including the rich and famous. But your gringo also discovered that there are a LOT of other ranchos on highways 2 and 3 just outside of Tecate that offer lodging, nature, spa treatments and general relaxation to visitors for a range of prices. We visited Rancho Tecate, who offer spacious grounds, rustic yet modern rooms, and a restaurant.

dsc_00251

Rancho Tecate, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.

dsc_00201

Rancho Tecate, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.

There are also a number of spring-fed swimming pools (albercas) and soaking pools (developed and natural) available for visitors to enjoy surrounded by Baja’s natural beauty, just outside of town.

Tecate is well-known for it’s clay pottery, crafted from the terra firma in the area. Just south of town along Highway 3 are a number of colorful roadside pottery shops offering pots, sculpture and other handmade pieces, all made of clay. Mom picked up a very nice and BIG birdbath for a mere $23 (letting me know that she saw a similar one at Home Depot in Carlsbad for $140).

dsc_00311

Clay pots, sculpture, birdbaths and other items are affordable and beautiful!

Gateway to Baja’s Wine Country

Tecate is also the northern gateway to Baja’s Wine Country, Valle de Guadalupe, just 45 miles south of town. We stopped at L.A. Cetto to buy a couple of bottles, and also at Don Juan’s in Valle de las Palmas to pick up an very tasty bottle of Meritage we’d enjoyed during our meal at Asao in town the night before (more on that in the next section). An overnight stay in Tecate affords you access to the wine country and all it has to offer. Oh, and did I mention it’s a BEAUTIFUL drive.

dsc_00261

Less than 50 miles north of Tecate lies Baja’s fabulous wine country.

 

Quaint Country Town is a Foodie’s Delight

There are many excellent family-style restaurants to be had in Tecate, where you can enjoy a fresh, delicious meal served to you for just a few pesos (Tecate, not being as touristed as the Baja coastal areas, has much lower prices as a result). However, two colleagues “in the know” insisted that we HAD to dine at Asao, Tecate’s addition to Baja Norte’s burgeoning Baja-Med cuisine scene.

dsc_0152

Welcome to Asao. One of Baja Norte’s premier restaurants.

Asao is a foodie’s delight and sources local produce, cheeses, meats, wines and other ingredients to blend a menu as delicious and fresh as it is creative. I arrived early to check out the property atop a hill near the border wall and make reservations for that evening. I was given a tour by the general manager, who emphasized the fantastic collection of Mexican art displayed throughout the restaurant, which included Kumiai crafts as well as art from all over the country.

dsc_0147

Tree of Life with Artisañas. Asao Restaurant, Tecate.

The view of Tecate from Asao’s dining patio. Fantastic.

The view of Tecate from Asao’s dining patio. Fantastic.

Mom and I ate on the patio later in the evening. The view of the town from here is expansive and impressive, as was our appetizer of smoked meats and locally-sourced cheeses, my rib-eye in dried chiles crust with coffee sauce, and mom’s shrimp with a rich mole and hibiscus flower. For desert, we split a creme brûlée with tamarind and orange. Our meal was accompanied by a bottle of Don Juan Vineyard’s Meritage, one of many Valle de Guadalupe wines offered on Asao’s wine list.

dsc_0167

Shrimp with Hibiscus and Mole, locally sourced from Ensenada. Asao, Tecate.

Asao’s classy, open dining room.

Asao’s classy, open dining room.

 

Psst…Tecate has the Easiest Border Wait. Saying Adios to the Pueblo Magico.

If you’re driving across the border, the Tecate wait is typically much shorter than the wait at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa to get back to the USA. On the July 4th weekend (in tandem with Baja Norte’s weekend election), we waited about 2 hours to get to the main gate. Your gringo has enjoyed much shorter border waits of one hour and even one car here in the past.

Even the border wait is entertaining in Tecate.

Even the border wait is entertaining in Tecate.

Mom and I enjoyed some CCR on the stereo as well as nieves (ice cream) and the talents of several local musicians just outside our car window. As we waited out the border line, we reflected on our visit to Mexico’s newest Pueblo Magico and promised to return!

Planning a trip to Tecate? Contact a travel agent at Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels, vacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

Possibly Related Posts:


Rancho La Puerta and La Cocina que Canta

Rancho La Puerta and La Cocina que Canta: Can sustainable and healthy actually translate into Chocolate Coconut Flan?  Ask Kristin Díaz de Sandi.

Written for Baja.com by Kristin Díaz de Sandi of Life & Food.

Kristin Díaz de Sandi’s Life & Food blog, created in conjunction with her husband Antonio, has helped drive recognition of the gastronomic resurgence of Baja California.  She and Antonio have merged efforts with colleagues Bill Esparza and Jason Thomas Fritz to create Club Tengo Hambre, a roving supper club, that explores food and wine cuisine in Baja.

Tecate, was recently accredited as a “Magical Town” by the ministry of Tourism of the Federal Government. This is the first town in Baja California to be credited with this distinction. It is because of places like Rancho La Puerta and its La Cocina que Canta, that really let you embrace that magical atmosphere. We couldn’t have asked for better weather while taking a tour of Rancho La Puerta’s property and its cooking school, “La Cocina que Canta.”  The name comes from the two California Live Oak trees on property that originally formed an arch-like door “La Puerta.” Currently there is only one still living, and it is just beautiful.

 

La Cocina que Canta Rancho La Puerta Tecate

The Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa property was first founded by Professor Edmond and Deborah Szekely in 1940. Today the museum on the grounds is actually where they lived for the first 10 years. You have the opportunity to step inside and take a look at all of their accolades on the walls, as well as view their small living space. People used to come to the ranch to listen to the professor and camp out in tents. Eventually, Deborah actually got her hand on some large storage containers in the nearby town of Campo and turned those into guest rooms.

La Cocina que Canta Rancho La Puerta Tecate

La Cocina que Canta Rancho la Puerta Tecate

Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa encourages its guests to book a seven-night stay in order to fully experience and immerse themselves into all of the fitness and various activities that are offered. For those who cannot take that full week off, they do also offer both three and four night stays, as well. There are three separate health centers, four pools, and outdoor activities such as their Reflexology spiral, and Labyrinth walking meditation area. There is a lot of walking, whether you are just heading to your room from the dining hall, or exploring the grounds on your own. Do not forget to pack comfortable and athletic shoes. That reflexology spiral was looking awfully tempting to me, by the end of our tour.

 

La Cocina que Canta Rancho La Puerta Tecate Baja Mexico

The dining hall at the ranch has established times for your three meals a-day. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, while dinner has table service. The menu offered is vegetarian, with the exception of fish occasionally being offered. All of the organic produce is grown on their six-acre farm named Rancho Tres Estrellas. Salvador Tinajero is the head gardener that maintains the farm as it flourishes, and provides all of the guests with its bounty. There are hikes and tours offered daily letting you discover the absolute beauty of this farm for yourself. La Cocina que Canta is the cooking school that is set right in the heart of Rancho Tres Estrellas. Before it actually became a school in 2007, there was just a small farm kitchen in its place. Now, the 4,500 square food hacienda-style center offers weekly culinary classes to their guests. Guest teaching chefs are brought in from all around the world to teach at this school. The interiors are just stunning. This is the kind of kitchen that I dream about. An expansive chopping block, colorful details and traditional cook-ware pieces fill the space. There is a set of carved spoons on the wall that I could not help but just stare at.

 

La Cocina que Canta Restaurant Rancho La Puerta Tecate Baja

La Cocina que Canta Rancho Tecate Baja Mexico

We met with Executive Chef Denise Roa, who gave us a personal tour of the farm, and prepared a delicious lunch for us. She has lived in Tecate for the past year and a half, and could not stop boasting about how happy she is. I mean, you could see it for yourself, she was glowing!  She gives a lot of the credit to Mount Cuchuma, which you can see from all directions. It’s true, there is something about that mountain that is so special, I felt as if I was taking fresh full breaths of air all day long. As we walked the farm, we tasted strawberries, and she pointed out all of the gorgeous produce surrounding us. She stressed about how much her life has changed eating incredibly fresh produce, and wholesome foods. You don’t have to tell me twice, I am right there with you. We even got to visit their on site chicken coop, which houses 89 chickens at the moment. They each lay one egg a day, for the school’s use. You can’t get any fresher than that. After all the talk about food, and taunting us with a couple of strawberries, it was time to sit down at the large wooden dining table and enjoy lunch.

 

We were presented with a vegetarian Paella, that she actually made from faro instead of rice, corn tamales with mole, a garden salad, and black beans. Oh, and how could I forget the chocolate coconut flan with fresh persimmons. The tamal with mole and the flan tied as my favorites for the day. It was hard to decide between the two, both rich and loaded with flavor.

If you are in the need of some serious relaxation, or just a change from your normal routine, Rancho La Puerta is awaiting your arrival. The scenery is so serene, and truly breathtaking.

Want to find out more about cuisine in Baja California?  Read about it here!

Kristin and Antonio blog at Life & Food and you can follow them on Twitter at @lifefoodblog and Facebook.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Possibly Related Posts:


Asao Restaurant in Tecate: Fresh, Local Gastronomy

Asao Restaurant
Written for Baja.com by Kristin Díaz de Sandi of Life & Food.

Kristin Díaz de Sandi’s Life & Food blog, created in conjunction with her husband Antonio, has helped drive recognition of the gastronomic resurgence of Baja California.  She and Antonio have merged efforts with colleagues Bill Esparza and Jason Thomas Fritz to create Club Tengo Hambre, a roving supper club, that explores food and wine cuisine in Baja.  

Enjoy the unique flavors and dishes made with fresh and local ingredients in Tecate, Baja California.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

Asao translates to “comer” or to eat in Kumiai. Such a small word, with so much meaning, and more than fitting for the name of a restaurant. This beautiful restaurant is located in Tecate, and shares the property with their smaller restaurant called Bistro Med, and the up and coming Santuario Diegueño Hotel. The entire property, is absolutely gorgeous, and is so perfect for a small getaway. The hotel is expected to be fully accessible to the public within the next three months.

The walkway up to the restaurant is lined with olive trees, which are readily being picked and tossed into buckets. There was a nice breeze blowing, so the mid-90 degree weather did not even faze us. Upon entering the restaurant, my eyes didn’t know whether to be drawn to the right or the left. On the right is their beautiful open kitchen behind a huge glass window, and to the left the floor to ceiling glass windows lead out to the beautiful view, and outdoor seating. We met Chef Roberto Alcocer, who was about to present us with a tasting of the restaurant’s menu, and some of it’s most recent items.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The evening started off with an amuse bouche of a crostini topped with smoked oyster cream and sprouts. A wonderful crunch with a subtle smokiness and fresh sprouts.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The first course, was one of my favorites of the meal. Such a simple presentation of Avocado al vapor topped with a cold avocado ball rolled in dried beans. The wedge of avocado was in a warm tomato and basil broth. The textures of this dish were just phenomenal. Cold and warm together, and all of the flavors together actually reminded me of a Caprese salad, with the avocado and its texture very similar to that of fresh mozzarella.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The second course was their version of an ensalada de nopales. The nopales are cured in salt, which actually gives them a “cooked” flavor. That combined with minced onions, tomato, queso fresco, and a smear of the lemon puree, is so bright and bursting with flavor, and once again there are such wonderful textures.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The third course, Pulpo al grill with chorizo and Guajillo paper on top of black bean puree. Octopus has to be one of my all time favorites, and with salty chorizo, creamy beans, and a slight heat from the chile, it really was a delicious dish.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The fourth course, an enchilada made with wheat flour and stuffed with shredded duck, then covered in a Jamaica mole. I had never tasted Jamaica mole before this dish. It has such distinct flavors to it, with a nice overall acidity.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The fifth and final savory course, Cornish Game hen in Barbacoa.  The barbacoa is made Southern Mexico style. An avocado leaf is used during the preparation. Nice and bold flavors, but they didn’t take over the tender meat of the hen.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico

The final course, was a last hoorah to mango season. The mango dessert shared the plate with fresh cubes of cooked mango, white chocolate syrup, and Salvia flowers. The texture of the dessert was in between that of flan, and panna cotta. It was unique in itself, and I couldn’t help but let my spoon lead me to finish up every last bite.

Asao Restaurant Tecate Baja California Mexico
Asao Restaurante Tecate Baja California Mexico

Just a short drive from the Tecate border, Asao Restaurante will delight your senses with the cuisine that characterizes Baja California.

Want to find out more about cuisine in Baja California?  Read about it here!

Kristin and Antonio blog at Life & Food and you can follow them on Twitter at @lifefoodblog and Facebook.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Possibly Related Posts:


44th Tecate SCORE BAJA 500 begins this Friday

By Michele Joyce

Off-road driving has long been the stuff of Baja lore. They say that a man called Outdoor Franklin was the first to drive from Tijuana to Santa Rosalia, back when off-road driving was the only way to travel through the area. By the 1940s, adventurers and sports drivers in pickups and Jeeps coming down from California were common on the peninsula. Even after the Transpeninsular was completed in 1973, a vast network of unpaved roads covered much of Baja.

In fact, only a year later, in 1974, the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 was officially born (though it had been organized under the banner of the NORRA organization for a few years prior).  The race is half the length of the Baja 1000, but more than half as fun. It begins and ends in Ensenada (in front of the Riviera del Pacifico—once an exclusive resort, now a cultural center on Boulevard Costero in the heart of the city). This is the place to be if you want to be part of the fun.

This year, the race is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. on Friday June 1, led by a near-record 40 SCORE Trophy Trucks, the marquee SCORE racing division of high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks. Included in this group will be the last nine race winners and a total of 11 of 18 former race winners.

Entries are accepted as late as the morning of the race and have so far come in from 34 countries including the United States, Mexico, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Spain. A total of more than 275 total entries are expected, competing in 36 Pro and 7 Sportsman categories for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs.

The rugged 450-mile course runs clockwise, first east to Ojos Negros, down near San Felipe, then west to the Pacific Ocean below San Vicente and back northeast through Santo Tomas on the way back to Ojos Negros and finally Ensenada.

There will be four official stop points, where all vehicles will be required to stop—at race mile 88.56 (Santa Catarina), race mile 219.72 (South San Matias Wash), race mile 314.13 (Northwest of Colonet near the Pacific Ocean) and race mile 402.90 (West of Ojos Negros)—as well as 52 virtual checkpoints.

All vehicles also will be required to run International Rally Consultants tracking devices, so that spectators can follow the race live at www.racetheworld.net. Live race coverage will also be available at www.dirtnewz.com and www.race-dezert.com. You can view photos and more details in the Baja.com directory.

Michele has lived in, and traveled extensively in Mexico, and has written about it for magazines including Conde Nast Traveler and travel guides like Fodor’s, Berlitz, and Insight Guides.

Possibly Related Posts:


Life on the Plaza in Tecate

By Carla White

In winter, it can be chilly under the large shade trees that surround this quaint, authentic plaza in Parque Hidalgo, Tecate; so, why not enjoy it by going to Lalo’s restaurant and getting a steaming hot coffee or chocolate drink?  In spring, summer and autumn, this small zocalo buzzes with activity and life, and these are the best times to settle under an umbrella at an outdoor café and observe life as it strolls, bounces, or skateboards by.

A bustling day at the Plaza

The plaza is the central part of town and, no matter which direction you are coming from, it is hard to miss.  The tourism office is located on this main square (near Lalo’s) and there you can pick up all kinds of brochures and information about local activities.

From your special vantage point, you can watch as the famous Balloon Man strolls through the square (usually with a pack of children trailing after him), calling out his balloon song.  You can surreptitiously observe the comings and goings at the Bar Turistico Diana—better yet, why not slink into the dark little tavern and check out the bawdy babe who is ensconced in Bar Diana’s interesting art collection?  With a shot of tequila to warm you, you can return to the town square and perhaps be lucky enough to stumble across the also-famous Doughnut Man, who sells hot and tasty churros.  You might even try joining in on one of the boisterous games of dominoes that are always part of mainstream life at Tecate’s plaza.

Perhaps one of Tecate’s greatest charms is its friendliness and, for those (especially Americans) who are reticent about chatting up the locals, the plaza is a welcoming relief.  Learn a few words of Spanish (Hola – Hi, Buenos dias – Good morning, Buen Provecho – sort of like saying ‘enjoy your meal’ but it is something that Mexicans always say as they are leaving a restaurant) and you will make friends.  The dominoes gang is particularly effusive and the guys especially enjoy tipping a tile to the ladies.

Sunday is the best day of the week to visit the zocalo.  The rich smell of carne asada tacos perfumes the air.  Markets pop up and there are often community events occurring. Mariachis stroll the plaza.  Sometimes, even children’s choirs sing there, and how magical the tinkle of little voices is when they blend with the calls of vendors and the sounds that emanate from booths and tables throughout the square.

What is the word: Colorful?  Exhilarating? Authentic?  Traditional?  The experience of Tecate Plaza can be any of these things, but above all, it is fun. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Possibly Related Posts:


Tecate—the ‘Heart of Baja’

By Carla White

It is quite simply one of the most ‘visitable’ towns in Baja, CaliforniaTecate. The ‘Heart of Baja’, Tecate is at the border between San Diego County and Baja California.  Just 35 minutes from Tijuana, 45 minutes from San Diego and 90 minutes from Mexicali, the town that was founded in 1892 exudes the character of a quaint Mexican hamlet. It also offers a ‘northern door’ to Mexico’s wine country in Baja, which – in the Valle de Guadalupe – is just a couple of hours drive from the border.

Rancho Tecate

Tecate is often referred to as being ‘mystical’, a place where native peoples came to revere the region’s famous Mount Cachuma.  At an elevation of approximately 1,775 feet (541 m) above sea level and its proximity to the ocean (less than an hour to the west), the city maintains a year-round temperate climate. The region enjoys an estimated 340 days-a-year of sunshine! Ringed by hills that often become snow-tipped in winter, romantic Tecate enjoys clear starry nights almost every night.  On very cold winter evenings, there will be frost and it rains enough in the area for a thick ground cover of shrubs to grow…but for the most part, this beautiful jewel of a town is hospitable in any season.

Arguably one of Baja’s most charming and accessible towns, Tecate is tranquil and at the same time fun; rustic yet boasting modern comforts and luxuries:  Tecate has something for everyone, from nature lovers to spa aficionados.  Heck, all in one day you could do yoga at one of the world’s top-rated spas (Rancho La Puerta), eat an elegant late afternoon lunch at one of Mexico’s most acclaimed restaurants (Asao) and share a cocktail at a local haunt with a local legend/author (Daniel Reveles).  How cool is that? You could spend a day here or just as easily, a week or more.  And given the fact that its quiet border crossing (perhaps the most quiet of any that offer quick access to major metropolitan areas) into the US is rarely busy, why not?

How to get to Tecate?  From San Diego, take Highway 94 east.

From Tijuana, Take the toll road (“cuota”) that parallels Mexico Highway 2, 30 miles east. Highway 2 then leads east about 80 miles to Mexicali by way of the notorious “Rumorosa Grade”.

From Ensenada take Mexico Highway 3 east. The highway is two lanes and is about a 75 minute drive to the border crossing.

 

Possibly Related Posts: