Back from Baja

Ten days away was lovely. Sun, sand, sleeping in. Really good food. Seeing old friends, and making some new ones.

This was our third trip to southern Baja, staying at the same little place in Todos Santos. It is so relaxing, inexpensive, quiet and exactly what we crave in travel. Being back means we quickly settled into our routine (tortillas from the lady down the street, fish tacos, flan from Miguel’s, hanging out with the dogs and playing games) but added some new things too. We dug out the old hand press juicer and went through 44 lbs of oranges making juice in a week. We took a whole day to drive around the ENTIRE southern cape region and explored some beautiful new areas. A new restaurant was a dinner favorite and we had 4 great surf days on more advanced boards!

It was a lovely trip, and just what we needed as a last hurrah before coming home to garden and paint the house all summer.

A few photographic highlights:

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Travel Essentials

We love to travel, particularly to places with beaches, good food, fun activities and sunshine. Since Matt and I met, we have crammed in a massive amount of travel and gotten good at streamlining our essentials. Yes, I still overpack EVERY time…but am getting better I swear!

This past weekend I finally finished unpacking from our winter trip to Belize. The dirty laundry had been done, so this was truly a good look at the unused (ie: overpacked!) list of items we hauled with us. I have been meaning to do this post for awhile since a few people ask me what my favorite travel items are. We leave for Todos Santos (our favorite secret getaway in Baja!) for surf trip in a few weeks so packing is on my mind! I also just got two new things that I had to share. So here goes:

1. A good swimsuit (or two!) I used to pack 8+ suits for a beach vacation. I loved the fun prints and mixing and matching and all the variety. However, this all changed when we started surfing. Function, or ability to stay on quickly became top priority so I have been on the search for the perfect suit. Goodbye cute VS suits. My favorite surf suit top was this cross back bikini top from Rip Curl but it came in limited colors and I wanted more than just black. Then recently I stumbled upon a women owned (!) made in the USA (!) competition brand (ie: stays put!) swim suit company called Jolyn…and am in LOVE with their cross back tops! Designed for beach volleyball you know these things stay put, and are made very well with high quality materials. Two will be coming to Todos Santos with me, and the rest of my swimsuits are getting donated. There is no going back.

PRINTED TRIANGLE TOPS

2. Sunscreen: We love the mineral sunscreens by Alba Botanical. They stay put, work well and are not overly scented. SPF 45+ please!

Kids  Mineral  Broad Spectrum SPF 30

3. Nalgene bottles are always in tow.

4. Small coin purse. I always end up with a TON of loose coins so this guy is a lifesaver.

5. Camera(s). Right now we are borrowing my parent’s Panasonic Lumix underwater camera. They have the TS4 model and it has been awesome. Great underwater pictures, and the ability to WASH it after a day getting salty/sunscreeny/dirty etc…so valuable. I love my DSLR but at the beach the salt spray is too much. I usually bring it on the trip too, but it is taken out less regularly than the Lumix. Finally, the trusty iPhone5. This little camera is great for quick shots, particularly in low light or those cool panoramic shots.

6. Coconut Oil. Now this may sounds weird but hear me out on this one. Packing/traveling light is all about multipurpose essentials and coconut oil is the ultimate multitasker. We usually pick up a jar at the grocery store when we land and use up the whole thing in a week. (or bring one with us if we are checking a bag…but that is rare these days). What do we use it for? After sun lotion, hair conditioner, shaving cream, cooking (great for fish, plantains, pork, chicken etc!), baking (instead of vegetable oil)…the list goes on. Seriously a great staple.

7. iPad and card reader. As much as I love taking photos when I travel I am always aware of how quickly they could disappear. Theft (of a camera or memory cards), loss, water damage, husband accidentally deleting photos on the camera…not worth the risk. We back up ALL our photos daily by downloading them onto our iPad with a card reader. Then we have duplicates on cards.

8. Bandanna. Another multitasker. Head sun protection (really critical now that I have bangs), washcloth, ice pack, napkin…

9. Rainbow flip flops. 4 years in and still going strong. Matt and I wear them all summer long and LIVE in them on vacation.

Single Layer Premier Leather with Arch Support

10. Smart bags: daypack, beach bag, cooler bag. The beach bag must be easy to pack, fold, wash etc. An insulated cooler bag is great for getting groceries home in hot weather. And good for keeping beers cold at the beach. We use one from Trader Joe’s.

Summer Finale: Surfing with Seals

Leaves are starting to turn. That was the first observation we made as the pack mini cooper zipped down the Washington coast. Fall is in the air. This was definitely an end of summer trip.

Matt and I took five glorious days to adventure the Oregon Coast. Camping, road tripping and most of all: surfing! After two great trips to Todos Santos we were ready to legitimize ourselves as surfers and tackle local, cold water.

Months ago we picked the week, and then managed to snag 4 nights at Nehalem Bay State park for camping. Those reservations fill up WAY in advance! We loaded the car, crossed our fingers for good weather and waves and set off.

Our campsite was good. What you would expect from an RV filled state park, but it did have hot showers, running water and was a quick 5 minute walk to the beach. We were blessed with dry weather, and even two days of sunshine.

The beach walk from our site was beautiful. Miles of fine grained sand, waves and treasures to find. We had fun running from the tide changes, taking photos and dipping our toes in the freezing cold Pacific. We were planning to surf in this? Are you nuts?!

Surfing was spectacular. The first day we rented two beginner boards like what we were familiar with from Mexico. We hiked in to Short Sands beach at Oswald West State Park and bundled up in our wet suits. Fully covered except for our faces, we were totally comfortable in the water. Not even a goose bump! We tackled the waves on our beginner boards and by the second day had leveled up to a REAL epoxy hard top board. Surfers we can legitimately say we are!

There were even seals playing in the surf with us. It was incredible. We are totally hooked.

Dinners were grilled melts with tomato soup. Smore’s for dinner. We hiked out to the beach for breakfast picnics on a sand dune.

On our surf recovery day we ventured along the coast to find a lighthouse, some new beaches, more supplies and ice cream at the Tillamook factory.

Oregon, you are a stunner. We will be back for more surf soon.

Details:

Camped at: Nehalem Bay State Park

Surf rentals: Cleanline Surf (Cannon Beach)

Surf beach: Short Sands

Road Trip to La Paz

part 6 of our trip to Todos Santos, part one starts HERE

As much as we wanted to surf the last day, we knew that our sore muscles would not last more than a few waves. We decided to travel a little further and explore the other side of the Baja Peninsula by taking a  day trip to La Paz and scout out beaches on the Sea of Cortez.

The 50 miles of driving passed quickly, and we found ourselves surrounded by the traffic that comes with a city. Our first stop? You guessed it: MEGA! We were craving those empanadas that we had from the bakery on our first day, and figured they would make cheap, easy beach food. After finding our way to MEGA, we cruised along the waterfront strip, eventually making our way out of town along sculptured sandstone bluffs. Matt had read in guidebook about some potential snorkeling at Las Conchas, so we found public beach access and tried it out. The beach was pretty unspectacular, and the snorkeling not worth our time, so we loaded back up in the car and drove further out of town. Our goal was to find a massively long beach at the end of the road.

Our journey took us past the port (that was a surprise to come around a curve to) and through massive cactus studded hills. Very barren, but stunning wilderness. As the gas tank inched closer and closer to empty, we finally came to the beach…totally worth the drive.

Tecolotewas a looonnngggg white sand beach, studded with beach palapas and locals. We were some of the only gringos there. We set up camp in the middle of a quiet section and headed off into the turquoise blue water. The Sea of Cortez is a little warmer than the Pacific, so we made our way out to a little sandbar and hung out in the sea just talking and planning out possible future surf trips. Tecolote was an interesting beach to walk, as it had lots of shells and shell parts and cool rocks to inspect and pick up. We made the most of our last full day by soaking up the sun, and eventually heading back across Baja to Todos Santos.

Todos Santos is known for it’s artisan ice cream, and we knew that we had not had enough of it yet, so we planned to stop for some pre-dinner cones. Turns out that this was not in the universes grander plan for us, as we went on a wild goose chase first to the ice cream place (oops, we needed more pesos), to the ATM (I really stress out about ATMs and taking out money so this was not fun and my patience was running low), back to the ice cream shop only to arrive mere seconds after a school group of about 20 kids walked in. Zero patience left. We left, and checked out another ice cream place, but were not too thrilled about their flavors (or their stingy scoop size), so we went home. After cleaning up, mixing some drinks and watching the most stunning sunset of the trip, we were both in better spirits. We decided to venture out for dinner to celebrate our last night of vacation…and it seemed easier since we were pretty much out of food.

Dinner was great. We found a place with a combinacion Mexicana that had all of Matt’s favorite dishes on one plate: enchilada, chili relleno, and tamales. We ordered margaritas and tortilla soup, and left feeling stuffed and happy.

Playa de las Palmas (aka: San Pedrito)

part 2 of our trip to Todos Santos, part one starts HERE

On our first morning in Todos Santos we woke up to fog blanketing the beaches to the West. Clearly it would burn off later that afternoon, but the fog gave us an extra excuse to slow down and enjoy our morning at the Rancho. We cooked up a wonderful breakfast of eggs and sausage with avocados and fresh fruit. We ate at our outdoor table by the pool, the reality of vacation setting in.

We decided to check out town and pick up tortillas and some fish for dinner, then head out to the beach. We drove into town and parked our car, then took on discovering Todos Santos by foot. It did not take too long to find everything we were looking for: views of the iconic church and town square, an ATM, the fish market, local produce stands. It was great. We were not really that interested in souvenirs, so past by most of those places in favor of groceries and getting to the beach.

After selecting some fresh snapper for dinner, and picking up fresh flour tortillas, we dropped them at the Rancho and headed to the closest swimming beach: Las Palmas.

Now it is a good thing we asked about the beaches because there are two things you should know before heading to Todos Santos.

A)     Many beaches have very dangerous surf and are stunning, but not swimmable (this was true of the beach that we could walk to from Casa Rancho)

B)     All beaches require driving on a sand/dirt/rocky/washed out and unmarked roads

Yep. It was a good thing we got directions! We were speeding down highway 19 when we suddenly saw our “exit” at km post 57: a dirt road taking off through the desert. Yep, we missed it. Of course on highway 19 there are very few exits (or rules it seemed), so we drove another km or so, flipped a U turn into the other lane, drove back, flipped another U turn, and this time made our exit. The road was pretty bad, but my off-road driving confidence was growing…even if concern for the rental car was also growing as we bottomed out a few times and made it through a few hairy ruts. Eventually we made it to what appeared to be the parking lot, and we grabbed our beach stuff and headed through a grove of palm trees towards the sound of crashing waves.

Las Palmas was beautiful; exactly what you would picture of a deserted Baja beach. White sand, clear blue crashing waves, arid desert cliffs and an oasis-like grove of palm trees. We went straight for the middle and set up camp. There were fewer than 10 other people on the beach all day, with plenty of space to feel like it was all ours. We baked in the sun, swam, and ate a mango and avocado washed down with cold beers for lunch. Great day.

After navigating our way back through the washed out road, we stopped for ice cream in town then went home to get cleaned up and grill some fish. Fresh snapper tacos really hit the spot. As we ate dinner and played Carcassonne after sunset we planned our next day: surfing!

Late Summer Party in Ferndale (aka: Second Wedding Reception)

All these honeymoon posts (and work, and school and life!) have been slowing down my normal life posts! (and yes, the honeymoon posts are still coming). A few weekends ago Matt and I went up to Ferndale to see my parents, go crabbing, and have a second wedding reception. Now, when we say wedding reception what we really mean is a party using our leftover wine, champagne and decorations from the wedding! Nothing formal about this event!

We had a beautiful evening out at the beach feasting on crab with friends. Our friend Beth and her mom made it up too and we taught them the ways of crabbing from a canoe in the PNW. Nothing beats fresh crab on the beach.

The next day we feasted again (cake buffet, round 2 anyone?) and celebrated with a whole slew of friends from Whatcom County. Parties are so fun! Next one planned: cider pressing!

Honeymoon Day 8: Santa Margharita Ligure to Venice, via Camogli

Our train for Venice did not leave until after 3 PM, so we decided to find a random adventure rather than wander shops or lay on the beach for the first part of the day. At breakfast, our sweet but eccentric hotel owner recommended visiting the town of Camogli, located two train stops north of Santa Margharita. He said it was beautiful, the train ran frequently, and we could leave our luggage there so we went for it. The 15 minute train ride dropped us in the cutest seaside town we had been to yet. We were first greeted with the open air market…which only happens on the 3rd Thursday of the month. We felt very lucky to have come to town on the right day! The market was full of fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes, household goods…everyone in town seemed to be there getting basic supplies. Matt was on the lookout for some melon colored pants, and we found a pair, but they were way too big. Struck out. We did have luck finding a wine shop to fill our empty water bottle with tap wine though!

A winding street led us down to the harbor lined with brightly colored buildings, and we walked along the boardwalk behind the beach. This beach was wonderful. Long and wide, with large sections devoted to rentable umbrellas and locals alike. The swimming area was a boat free zone and the water was crystal clear azure. It was stunning. The whole town oozed charm, but not in a touristy or busy way. It felt relaxed and local. Nobody was speaking anything but Italian.

We got some wonderful focaccia and a spinach pastry for lunch, followed by gelato. Which was immediately followed by Italian ice. This slushy fruity frozen drink was far more popular in this town than gelato, so we had to try it. It was practically 100 degrees anyway so anything cold was instantly worth it!

We got back on the train (which was 15 minutes late) rushed to the hotel to collect bags (ie: more drenched with sweat), rushed back to the train for our train to Milan-Venice. We were looking forward to sitting in the nice air conditioned cabin and cooling down, but unfortunately the air conditioning in the train was barely working for our two hour trip.

As we approached Milan we were watching the clock tick away the minutes of our connection. We were running behind. Not good when you have a train to catch. When the doors opened we grabbed our bags and ran to the readerboard to find our platform. And station in Milan is big. Your platforms could be road most 5 minutes apart. Luckily we were pretty close and climbed aboard with about 1 minute to spare. And joy of joys…this car was air conditioned! And we had a row of 3 seats to ourselves! Wonderful!

We made a quick nighttime connection from Mestre to Santa Lucia station and easily made our way to our hotel, Ca San Rocco. We were both so crusted in dried sweat and train ickiness that showers were the first order of business. Then dinner. We were starving, but not willing to wander too far for food. We settled on a nice little cafe restaurant and got a nice porcini pasta and a veal cutlet. Very good. Then we crashed. Exhausted. And happy to have made all our connections to Venice. Luggage and all.