Encuentro Guadalupe

I have been living in San Diego for 3 years and this was my first time driving into Mexico. The military does a really good job of brainwashing you into thinking you will be immediately kidnapped and held for ransom upon crossing the border in Tijuana. This is obviously not the case and I took way too long figuring this out. This week it was finally time to adventure down south.

Valle de Guadalupe is a perfect day/single night trip from San Diego. Guadalupe is the Temecula of Baja, a town full of vineyards and farm-to-table restaurants. It’s safe and only 2 hours from San Diego. We stayed at Encuentro Guadalupe, which is an eco-friendly hotel consisting of tiny pods built on the hillside. The pool and hot tub make this place the perfect destination for relaxation. I consider myself a hot tub connoisseur, and this place did not disappoint. We had it to ourselves for an hour during the amazing desert sunset. Each room also has a patio with a chiminea that the staff will come and light for you. It was a little too chilly for us, but we can’t wait to come back and sit by the fire and drink some local wine.

The rooms are simple and comfortable with floor to ceiling views of the surrounding hills and vineyards. We wanted to eat dinner at Laja, which was highly recommended, but it was closed for the off-season. We ended up eating at Finca Altozano, which is right down the road from Laja. The food was delicious but it was entirely outdoors and without heating lamps. By the end of dinner my feet were ice blocks- not surprising considering it was 40 degrees. The wine helped distract me from the fact that my face couldn’t move anymore. During the summer this place would be ideal.

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Welcome Sangria

Welcome Sangria

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Lobby

Lobby

Breakfast

Breakfast

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Encuentro Guadalupe is not an easy place to get a reservation. We got one very last minute (the day before) by reserving through booking.com. This is a good way to get a last minute room. Prices start at $380 including tax. It’s expensive but worth the experience!

Tips:

-The driving is simple. Cross the border on 5 South through the San Ysidro crossing. Follow the signs for Ensenada/Rosarito. Once you go through the toll booth in Ensenada follow the exit towards Tecate/Highway 3. Encuentro Guadalupe is right on Highway 3 just east of Guadalupe, you can’t miss it. About 20 minutes from Ensenada.

-Don’t forget toll money. They accept pesos and dollars. You will need about $10 each way. They give change.

-Stop for lobster in Puerto Nuevo or Rosarito.

Safari Park

On top of having a Little Italy in San Diego we are lucky enough to also have a Little Africa, aka the San Diego Safari Park. I have somehow been to the San Diego Zoo about 4 dozen times and have not made it to the Park until recently. Probably because it’s kinda far away and a little more expensive (anything is more expensive than free, so thanks for the free admission for active duty military, oh generous zoo-people!) but I finally made it and it was pretty dang cool. I missed out on watching the cheetah run by at a million miles per hour, which my Dad was pretty upset about, but I did get licked by both a giraffe AND a rhinoceros. So, overall a win.

I mostly took pictures of the giraffes and rhinos but they had all kinds of animals here. Two of my favorites were the fruit bats and the lemurs. I have always had a love for bats after living in Minnesota when I was little. Every once in awhile one would find it’s way into our house from the attic and my mom would run around the house chasing it with a tennis racket while my sister and I would try and steer it out front door using blankets as flags. I don’t remember that ever working because we would usually have to nurse the little guys out of their trauma-induced coma post tennis racket-whacking. They were so cute, like little winged mice.

There were lots of baby everythings including gorillas, rhinos and giraffes. Our guide said that the safari park mainly serves as a breeding facility, so that means babies all year round. The park is separated into two parts; the zoo part and the safari part. You can walk through the zoo all day long but the safari part, where all the big asian and african animals are, is limited to vehicle safaris only. And of course, the vehicle safaris cost extra. It’s definitely not a cheap day but I think it’s very worth it. If you don’t plan on doing a safari or the cheetah run I think the SD Zoo is a better option.

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Birch Aquarium

My Dad just recently came for a visit which means I get to hit up all my favorite San Diego sites fo’ free! Lucky for me he loves animal stuff so we usually go to the SD Zoo or the Safari Park. This time we had a free afternoon and we also got to hit up the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. I brought my new camera so I could mess around with it and was surprised at how bad I am at working the damn thing. Immediately went home and signed up for a photography class. For every one of the pictures below I took about 30 more trying to focus or get a sea horse to pose for me (very difficult indeed.)

As for the aquarium, I was surprised at how small it was. But for all its space constraints it really does pack a good sea animal punch. There are loads of jellies, sea horses and SEA DRAGONS. I didn’t know there were such things. I kept calling them sea “drag queens” because they are just so much more flashy than your typical sea horse. I loved them, and they loved me.

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SDZoo

The best thing about living in San Diego is hands down the Zoo. Not fish tacos, not the beach, and definitely not SeaWorld (see Blackfish!) The San Diego Zoo is arguably the best zoo in the world and I live 7 minutes away from it. Not only that, I get in for free because I am in the military. I want to slap myself in the face I feel so lucky!! I take full advantage and during the winter months will usually go about once a week and hang out with my faves….the polar bears, orangutans and the mini hippos. I only really like the mini hippos because they let monkeys live with them and all the monkeys do all day long is abuse these silly hippos. Like they literally spend all day jumping on them and picking their noses, it’s so funny.

This time I got to bring my new camera with my fancy new lens. Still don’t really know what I’m doing yet but here are some shots.

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This monkey was cracking me up. I wish I could have captured all his faces, he kept raising his eyebrows at me. We had a straight up eyebrow raising war.

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I felt like a paparazzi following around this Cheetah on her walk. The people kept telling me to back up but I wanted to ride her like that movie about White Castle. She was huge!

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Flamingos….so pretty minus the jaundice eyes.

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Next time there will be some baby panda action.

Black’s Beach

I don’t know how I have lived in San Diego for over a year and I have never been to this beach. It’s beautiful and hard enough to get to that it’s basically empty, at least on a weekday. The water was warmer here than Coronado or Ocean Beach (not really sure why) but I spent a good 45 minutes swimming in the crystal clear waves. It was a perfect beach day….

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On the way down there is a side trail that takes you up to this cliff with panoramic views of the La Jolla coast. All to myself….

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The view hiking down through the sandstone cliffs.

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Black’s Beach is also the local nudist beach so watching a few guys run by naked took some getting used to. Still plenty of beach that you can have a full football field between you and the nudies.

These will be the last of my crap iPhone pics, finally got the Sony NEX-6 which is charging up for use right this second! Good news!

Hess Brewing

On the way home from a busy 12 hour ER shift today I was invited to go to the new Hess Brewing tasting room in North Park, San Diego. This is my hood so I’ve driven by it a million times and watched its progress. I have been patiently waiting to see the end result. I actually didn’t realize it was even open yet because from the front it just looks like a bunch of giant steel beer brewing kegs (…scientific name?) Like anywhere in the rest of the country North Park has seen a recent influx of these craft beer start-ups including Thorn Street Brewery and BottleCraft. Each one seems to bring something a little different.

To forewarn you, I’m not even a craft beer fan. Or a beer fan in general. When a bartender asks me what kind of beer I want I lead in with “I really like beer that tastes more like water….Bud Light is my favorite. Do you have anything like that?” Then I get a pathetic look from the bartender and sip on my Pilsner that is probably even too bitter for my tastes. Despite my preference for wine and Coors Light, I really do like hitting up these places. Hess Brewing is no different. You walk in through all the giant kegs and there is a big open space filled with happy beer-drinking people playing Yahtzee while their dogs lay at their feet waiting for me to pet them. The staff are all lovely and from what my beer loving friends tell me the beer is quite tasty. There was a food truck on the back end of the space and a table full of board games for people on first dates that need a distraction. They also sold some pretty sweet t-shirts. If you buy a flight ($15) you get this cool little poker chip that you can trade in for a Hess glass. The beer names also reminded me of Harry Potter spells which is….cool.

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My lone Pilsner.

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My Hogwarts poker chip.

Hess Brewing Co. is on the corner of Grim and University in North Park.