Monthly Archives: December 2016

La Paz

We spent the holidays in La Paz, Thanksgiving – Christmas, all docked at Marina Cortez. We are getting ready to cast off again to sail north and explore the Sea of Cortez. Before we go, we’d like to share our delight in the sights, sounds, and people of La Paz.

La Paz means literally the City of Peace and how aptly named it is. Michael & I have relaxed into an easy groove here. 

Cruiser Community

Marina Cortez, is one of several marinas in La Paz. There is an active cruiser community here, with many full time live aboards at the various marinas. We sometimes listen to the cruiser’s net, broadcast on VHF 22A with volunteer hosts. The net is an open forum, where all cruisers can call in with announcements & questions. We listen to hear about local events and services, to welcome the arrival of new boats and to hear of those departing usually to venture to local islands or to cross to the mainland. We get weather forecasts and even mail call from the marinas, with each marina reporting on which cruiser has mail waiting for them. You can trade parts for “coconuts” or get the word on the looming coromuel or dart game. Club Cruceros is a cruiser organization, which holds daily coffee hour at the Club House at Marina de La Paz. The Club House is a hub where members can check out DVDs and books from the library,  or join a yoga session or one of the other ongoing classes offered.  Michael is taking the Celestial Navigation class. Can’t wait to practice what he has learned when we get back to the Sea!  Cruisers are integrated into the La Paz community, and we’re a part of that.


Music can be heard everywhere often with competing harmonies and rhythms. We like the Románticos the best. We listen to the beautiful voices crooning of “corazon” & “amor” and “dolor” and we get the meaning. One night we were lured to the neighbor’s boat, so attracted by the songs we couldn’t help but listen to. Michael inquired to the name of the album and so it was that we learned about the group “Mana” as well as the taste of various tequilas. In contrast to the Spanish love songs, we hear way too much 80’s music blasted here. From restaurants, boats, everywhere— there’s the sound of familiar American songs from an era long ago. Larga Vida  “Journey” aqui!  When the sun goes down, the volume gets louder and the beat faster. People dance until the middle of the night way past boat midnight (9:00 pm). I have trouble sleeping some nights even with earplugs. Still the spirit is to be admired.

The People

As noted, the Mexican people here can celebrate into the wee hours of the morning any day of the week mind you. We often wonder how they can get up for work, but work they do. We’ve witnessed a restaurant being built in weeks right here at the Marina, with workers grinding tile by moonlight. The other night when we returned late from a Christmas concert, we were surprised to spot a diver in the water cleaning the bottom of a water taxi at midnight. The people are friendly & helpful. Even the drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks on the Malecon, a courtesy forgotten back home where speed and autos rule the road. but I digress… It’s Christmas!

Feliz Navidad

Like home, the Christmas decorations went up promptly after Thanksgiving along with the Christmas street markets with stalls of people selling stuff, like a huge flea market, up and down blocks surrounding or leading to the Cathedral. The Club Cruceros supports many charities around Christmas & throughout the year. They raffled a quilt made by the “cruiser quilter’s club”, with ticket proceeds benefiting a shelter for battered women & children. They collect supplies for weekly visits to the senior center and provide Christmas gift bags for children. I signed up to shop for one of these gift bags for a 5 year old niña, Lea Michelle. Michael & I had fun shopping in local stores to collect a few things for the gift. We found crayolas and a “Frozen”coloring book; a Princess and the Lion book, a stuffed dog/puppet, a Whale T-shirt, barrettes with ribbons, and some sweets. We shopped, while practicing our Spanish with the help of google translate and some very helpful shopkeepers who were eager to practice their English with us too. We put up our lights on December 15. Footloose lights up the marina I’d say! We joined mass at Catedral Nuestro Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) and visited another beautiful church Santuario Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe).  We celebrated Christmas dinner with our friends Tod and Donna of Single D and George and Carol of Circadian. Our friends brought special dishes to share, including Tod’s amazing Pistachio soup and Carol’s smoked trout dip.  The prime rib roast just barely fit in our boat oven, but Michael cooked it to perfection! 

The Malecon and Neighboring Streets

Almost every day begins and ends with a walk on the Malecon. The Malecon is a promenade along the waterfront stretching for miles between Marina de la Paz and Marina Costa Baja. People stroll, jog, skate, and bike along the path. We appreciate the sculptures along the path with one of our favorites being  El Viejo y el Mar.

 The surrounding streets are all named to commemorate the date of some revolution or of a hero who fought for one. The history is in the pavement. You get your exercise walking up the streets, paved with uneven stairs & cracked concrete. Balance and a careful eye are required. Along the way, you find a quaint restaurant or a book store or gallery intermixed with homes or construction projects in various stages of incompletion. I search out the markets and there are many. We go to the large markets (Mega or Chedurai) to stock up on provisions, but enjoy the smaller markets for our weekly meal plan. Two of my favorites are Mercado Bravo and the Farmers Market open Tuesday & Saturday. We can build a meal around one of the fresh ingredients found at the market. Last night I made a salad fresh with local lettuces, green beans, and tomatoes; I then sautéed “opu squash” simply with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper, per the market farmer’s suggestion, and served atop some rice with cilantro & lime. Delicioso!  I can’t wait to experiment with mole sauce!

A walk with Michael almost always ends with a treat. A favorite lunch spot discovered on one of our Malecon strolls is Sabor Malta.  We love the Molcajete, served hot in a stone bowl called a “molcajete” thus the name, along with an ice cold Bohemia Clara in a frosty mug.  Coffee Ice cream at Le Fuente is not to be missed. Look for the polka-dotted tree. We even enjoyed lox & bagels at Bagel Shop y La Galería walking home from the cathedral. Never tasted smoked marlin before!  Dinner at Il Rustico  on the patio on a warm night was lovely with fresh Margherita pizza, thin crust baked in the pizza oven, Insalata Ale, Penne all’arrabiata and a rich red wine from the prominent and growing Guadalupe wine region.

We found Trocodero by accident walking home late after a Christmas concert. A father & son team run this long standing establishment. We sat down and quickly became acquainted with the table of cruisers next to us. They recommended we try the duck taco appetizers, which were amazing drizzled with a tart vinegary dressing. The cruisers turned out to be Laird & Glenda of Winterlude. They first came to La Paz years ago and have since cruised further through Central and South America, the South Pacific and even as far as New Zealand. They recently returned to La Paz where they signed a two-year lease at Costa Baja, because as Laird put it, “there’s something very special about this place, La Paz and the Sea of Cortez, that pulls you back and makes you want for more. In many ways, there’s no place we’ve been that’s any better.”

Beautiful Heron Overlooking the Marina

Beautiful Heron Overlooking the Marina

Mariachis at Marisco’s

We are at Marina Cortez, a marina in the center of town.  Leave the gate and turn left and the Malecón awaits, about 3 miles of sidewalk 30 feet wide.  Evenings and weekends are filled with people taking a walk, riding their bikes, or jogging along the shore.  Turn right and Mexico awaits, tire stores, banks, restaurants, the hardware store, the new MEGA, a Walmart arranged along a busy street with the world’s worst sidewalk.  From our central location we know that Mexicans love their music.  The guys on the boat next door play music at high volume or late into the night.  Somewhere out in the town a Mexican dance club plays music till 5 AM.

We’ve heard from others that Mariscos is a great place for seafood.  So tonight is the night.  We walk through the local neighborhoods and then up onto the main drag, about 10 blocks and there is Marisco’s, a cinder block structure with walls about 4 feet high painted bright yellow under a high thatched roof.  The roof looks new perhaps replaced after Hurricane Odile.  The tables are filled with Mexicans; we are the only gringos. We order beers, 25 pesos instead of 60 on the Malecón.  As we consider the menu, 2 mariachis walk through kind of bedraggled, the bass looks like it’s made of red cardboard.  They plink and plunk a few notes trying to get a taker, but give up in 5 minutes and leave. The waiter talks us into a starter of chips and guacamole.

Two guys walk in.  A man wearing a vest and blue shirt, he is ruggedly handsome with perfect teeth, and close cropped beard he moves with the confidence of a man who is certain of his place in the world. His companion, a tall slender man with a shaved head wears a black shirt, levis and dusty cowboy boots.  As soon as I see them, I have this slightly itchy feeling.

A black forerunner suddenly pulls away from the curb, everyone in the restaurant looks over their shoulder, the guy in the front seat is hanging out of the window, but a young girl playing with her iPad in the back seat makes the whole thing seem less threatening.

I have this feeling that I’m in a situation I don’t understand.  Lisa and I share a seafood cocktail. A new group of mariachis walk in.  These guys with blue shirts immediately strike up a conversation with the two guys.   The restaurant is thinning out and it’s not even 6 o’clock yet.

Two of the mariachis are obviously brothers. Both are on the chubby side, they wear ray ban eyeglasses that look as though they have never been cleaned. The bigger one is playing a battered tuba, painted black with brass scrollwork shining through, the other has an accordion. A tall slender young man in a tight fitting tee-shirt plays the guitar. He has a great voice.  Lisa and I order a plate of grilled shrimp and another beer.

The guy in the vest is running the show.  He tells them what to play and sings along.  He orders beers, perhaps ten in a bucket of ice.  As the songs go on he notices us listening and toasts between tables by raising his beer.  After a few songs the mariachis are getting tighter.  The tuba player has a flourish. I didn’t know you could do that with a tuba.  The music goes on for about 45 minutes. After a while the Mariachis get beers from the bucket and the vest brings us a couple of beers. His English is perfect….. our Spanish isn’t.

The vest wants the Mariachis to play a song for us, but we are of course completely unfamiliar.  I walk over to their table.  The vest is Jose, I tell him that while I have certainly heard mariachis before, It has always been this group of guys cruising between tables singing love songs for couples and this is completely different.  The music is creating this image of campesinos singing around the fire, unrestrained, musical.

Jose laughs..”We are not gay”.  I’m American, from a little town near Porterville, I have a recycling business.   I’m considering retiring down here… (He’s about 30).  My wife cheated on me so I’m getting a divorce and considering what do next.  This guy is the brother of the “president”… I think he means governor. He asks what I think of La Paz, (nice).  Cabo (noisy).  He is thinking about starting a business importing clothing into Mexico… then he tells me he loves driving around in Mexico, because he looks like a drug dealer….. Hunh?.   Jose and the bald guy go through check points easily.  They get great service in restaurants, “did you notice the guy coming over to open the beers in the bucket?”

Then he tells me about 4 times not to worry, La Paz is safe….  He has my back, what?  What just happened? We walk back through the dark streets being careful not to fall into any potholes.

Pictures from the Malecón