Monday, August 18, 2008

Recipe for a Relaxing Summer Holiday

Start with a long four day weekend. Add to that some scrumptious home cooked Mexican food and delicious local beverages. Mix in some leisurely sports and an ample amount of time lounging on a beautiful isolated beach. Oh and the secret ingredient (or should I say un-ingredient) absolutely no cell phone service and no clocks.

Aside from two visits to Tijuana in my youth this was my first real visit into Mexico. Prior to my departure I was told many frightening tales of Mexican holidays gone awry and presented with several reasons why traveling to Mexico might not be the safest way to spend my summer holiday. But passing this atop a mountain enroute to Ensenada made me feel much better.

Really a place with an enormous stature of Jesus can’t possibly be that bad. Our first stop was half way to our final destination for lunch at a place called La Fonda.

The ocean view at this sea side restaurant was gorgeous, the drinks strong, and the food delish. I originally ordered a scrumptious sounding fish dish but when it came it was breaded and fried (a double gluten whammy) so I passed it off for others to enjoy and ended up making a plate consisting of tasty bits of everyone else’s food instead.

After lunch we headed further south for the last leg of our journey to place called Club de Cazadores de La Grulla. This private hunt club/resort sits along the edge of the Estuary of Todos Santos Bay and dates back to the 1920’s. The beautiful adobe clubhouse is built in mission style architecture and consists of several suites and bedrooms, a huge sala, dining room with adjoining kitchen and a library full of books and old pictures of members past and present on holiday there (including one of Clark Gable one hunting season).

There were lots of leisurely games to be played such as bocce ball, paddle tennis, horse shoes, shuffleboard and croquet.

I have always loved croquet but surprisingly I found I was even more skilled at bocce ball (must be that Italian heritage kicking in).

Most recently at the club they have planted grapes and started a lovely little vineyard.

Almost all of our meals were eaten together at the long family style table in the dining room. Every morning I had warm corn tortillas, refried beans, fresh fruit and coffee.

I had forgotten how much I loved beans for breakfast! In London I used to frequently start my day with a breakfast of beans on toast. Beans with tortilla is a delicious gluten free version of my old British breakfast favorite.

In addition to hanging out at the clubhouse we also spent the late mornings and early afternoons at the club beach house located 4 miles from the clubhouse at Estero Beach.

The isolated sandy shore was the perfect place for sea shell collecting and catnaps in the sunshine. There were also kayaks and boards if you were water sporting inclined.

One afternoon the kitchen staff came to the beach house and prepared lunch there. Carne asada and onions grilled outdoors over a fire pit.

Even non red meat eating me tried some and found it to be quite scrumptious. I actually ate red meat three times on this trip! In addition to the delicious beach house lunch I also had some thinly sliced steak at dinner one night and crunchy tacos with shredded beef for lunch one day.

Another afternoon we spent a few hours at La Bufadora.

Where we marveled at the blowhole and were careful not to fall in the ocean.

Had a few drinks at Habana Banana.

Did some shopping/haggling.

I found a cute hat and dress, dad got a couple tablecloths, Chris got a statue of a turtle, and Steve bought a mask.

The night of our final dinner we had mariachis come play at our cocktail hour in the sala (my favorite, yay!).

Followed by a traditional Mexican dinner by lantern light in the dining room.

We had guacamole salad to start, cheesy enchiladas and super spicy make you sweat with one bite chile rellenos for the main entrée, beans and rice on the side, and sweet and custardy flan for dessert.

Everything was amazingly delicious, I particularly enjoyed the extraordinarily spicy chiles. I have always loved the way different foods can affect your senses, sometimes like the chiles in dramatic ways.

Not having a clock or cell phone made the experience all the more pleasant. Staying up as late or sleeping in as much as my body told me to and not having to worry about missed calls or emails was incredibly refreshing.

I also surprisingly enjoyed not cooking for a few days. It was a pleasant change of pace to not have to make plans for food and meals at all and instead just eat whatever delicious dish that was prepared. I will admit that by the 2nd day there I came pretty close to going to the kitchen staff and asking if I could watch and/or help prepare one of the meals with them but my Spanish is so rubbish now and I was not sure I could explain my intention of joining them in the kitchen properly so I opted to stay in the dining room and enjoy the fruits of their labor instead.

After one last delicious breakfast we started our trip back to San Diego. The drive back was quick and smooth except for the 2 ½ hour traffic jam crossing the border. Luckily there were lots of different vendors passing by the windows for people watching to help pass the time. I resisted all the impulse buys but did end up giving 10 pesos to a tiny little boy that kept juggling in front of and tapping on my window. I was also tempted to buy something from this man with all the flags but took a picture of him instead.

Happily Mexico turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable and safe place to vacation. Delicious food, good company, and beautiful scenery the perfect recipe for a splendid summer holiday in my book.


Lisa Robertson Gleason said...

Can you give me more info on La Grulla.
Stayed there many summers (mid 1960's) with my grandparents - the McGrews.
Would love to share with my family!

lisa gleason said...

Me again. Can you email me. Love to ask a few questions about La Grulla. I have such fond memories.