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.

Sleeping in Ancient Caves: Matera, Italy

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Our last stop before Rome was the ancient town of Matera. This is one of the oldest cities in the world and was used as a backdrop for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I had randomly seen a picture of it while googling Puglia and decided we needed to go here. It’s not technically in Puglia but it’s only a short 1.5 hour train ride from Bari, which is the only way to get there unless you are driving. This is probably why we seemed to have the whole town to ourselves besides one lovely Japanese woman that was also staying at our hotel. What’s interesting about this town is that up until the mid-1900’s people lived in the caves that line the sides of the canyon. These caves, or sassi, have normal looking stone structures externally so it’s hard to even see them. Our hotel, L’Hotel in Pietra, was constructed inside a 13th century cave-church. It had 9 rooms built into the caves which go deep into the side of the canyon. The owner said it took 4 years to renovate. It was a magical place to stay.

Matera is just starting to see more tourism and more inns and small hotels are being built in the sassi, but it’s slow going and very expensive. There were a ton of empty caves we saw while walking up and down the labyrinthine stairways. The museums inside the caves were small and run by locals. It seems the city itself does not have a hand in running these museums which I guess is good and bad as they definitely need some work. The food here was excellent and we managed to have a few amazing meals with a view like no other. We also burned off this pizza in about 5 seconds walking up and down the endless stairs. One thing we didn’t get to do was hike across the ravine to view the city from the other side of the canyon. We were unfortunately too hungover.

L’Hotel in Pietra— AMAZING!!

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Amazing views.

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We had one killer sunset on our last night.

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Along with some PIZZA! and wine from Matera.

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