Saturday, January 9, 2016

La Paz - December 20 to January 5

We have been relaxing in Marina La Paz for a couple weeks. Life is good here.  Most days the temperatures reach the high 20s and the nights are cool enough that you feel toasty and warm under a duvet.  We’ve seen a spit of rain, and a few cloudy, cool windy days but for the most part, the living is easy.
Wedged in behind a huge catamaran and a tiny 27 foot Brent boat from Nanaimo at Marina La Paz
View from Ka'sala - all hours of the day and night fisherman of all ages tried their luck on this pier a stone's throw away. 
Close by are huge grocery stores that have everything the sailor needs. Although the Canadian/American shopper can’t find all the products they are used to at home, there is enough available to make you feel you’ve got the bases covered.

One of my favourite grocery stores:  Arrumburo
There is a well supplied marine chandlery across the street and a boatyard beside us.  We are situated downtown La Paz, and the miles long, tiled and sculpture enhanced malecon stretches far into the distance.

One of many sculptures along the malecon - "virtual" Marina Cortez
Farther down the malecon looking to the virtual marina 
There are restaurants and cafes serving delicious food everywhere - catering to Mexicans and Nord Americanos alike.  We’ve sampled carne asada (bbq’d beef tacos), camarones (shrimp), mesquite grilled filet of beef, cappuccino, almond butter stuffed croissants, pan rustico integral, lots of Pacifico and even an IPA or two from the Baja Brewing Company.

Dinner with Joanneke and Jan at the steakhouse (Jan photo)
We’ve been able to balance the food consumption with bicycle rides and long walks.  The town itself seems prosperous and the poverty we have sometimes seen in other parts of this country does not seem evident. We have never once been panhandled - in complete contrast to Victoria, B.C. where you can't walk down the main street without being accosted by street beggars.  Life is very good here and it is very hard to leave.

Bicycling to the end of the malecon overlooking the entrance to the La Paz harbour
The scenery and landscape around this area is breathtaking.  One day we drove to the end of the road to Playa Tecolote on the southern side of the Lorenzo Channel in a friend's car.

This photo and the one above are typical of the landscape and the incredible cloud patterns we saw regularly

Photogrpher Joanneke on the playa looking over the Lorenzo Channel with Espiritu Santo in the distance.
Good times aboard Witte Raaf
We arrived a few days before Christmas and the holiday spirit was in the air everywhere.  An enormous Christmas tree graced the malecon and many shops and restaurants were decorated for the season.

Shorts for Christmas - gotta love it!
However, a big difference I noticed was that Christmas is not all about presents here and the incessant holiday tunes do not blare out of every shop you pass.  In fact, many Mexicans do their modest gift giving on January 6 – Epiphany, when the 3 kings arrived at the baby Jesus’ stable.

Colourful pinata shop - choose one, go inside and choose what little gifts you want to go inside
 Many houses have crèches in their windows and yards and there are massive displays of the manger scene in parks, plazas and churches.

an example taken from the internet
Soon after we arrived we were talking to a cruising family.  Their six year old daughter was fascinated by these crèches, but was horrified to discover the baby Jesus had been “stolen” from the mangers.

Baby Jesus dolls for sale at the local mercado - ready to go for Christmas Day
What she didn’t know was that part of Christmas ritual here is to place the baby in the cradle after midnight on Christmas Eve – that’s when He was born – right?

Post Christmas Creche to the left at the front of the cathedral in Todos Santos 
We were thrilled to attend Our Lady of Peace, the historic Roman Catholic cathedral built on the site of the original Jesuit mission in the late 19th century, on Christmas Eve.  This beautiful twin towered iglecia is built from rough hewn, rose coloured blocks.

Christmas Eve - Jan to the right
 Inside are simple white washed walls and stained glass.  It was packed with worshippers and the entire service was conducted by clergy in beautifully spoken Spanish.  Traditional hymns were sung accompanied by a small band and choir.  No one had service books but everyone participated.

Inside our Lady of Peace
On Christmas Day our visitor, Michael, arrived from Los Angeles.  He is a member of the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey and he had been very good to the crews of Witte Raaf and Ka’sala when they visited his club.  Like Santa Claus, he came bearing gifts for the boats and the people.  (Thank you, Michael!)

Michael aka "Luigi"
Joanneke and I spent the three days leading up to Christmas preparing a Dutch Indonesian Rijstaffel – well, Joanneke did and I learned from her as we made over 12 dishes with all their accompaniments.  We were joined by Randy and Ruth from Velic for the feast.  They literally pulled into the marina a couple hours before after spending the previous 8 days completing their passage down the Baja from Ensenada.  It was quite a party on Witte Raaf!

Doug, Ruth, Randy and Lyneita in front of the Christmas feast aboard Witte Raaf (Joanneke photo)
And there were Christmas presents!  Joanneke had made me a gorgeous shell necklace that I absolutely love.  Doug was the recipient of a sporting La Paz T shirt depicting the famous whale sharks found here.  Our thanks go to these good friends of ours for making Christmas so special.

beautifully crafted shell necklace (Joanneke photo)
One of my greatest pleasures here has been attending a Zumba class four mornings a week.  Joanneke had discovered this class when she was last here and was keen to introduce me to it.  Although not the same as my Zumba class at home - which is more dance based - the Mexican version did not disappoint.

After Zumba we hug and chat - this room is where the class takes place - brutal in summer with no air conditioning, but quite pleasant in winter
 Several instructors share the load making the workout varied and intense.  The music is mostly in Spanish with great rhythm and beat.  During the hour we can be found doing the samba, kick boxing, salsa, push-ups and calisthenics, then cooling down with stretching and yoga.

Joanneke, instructor Sara and I
The ladies who run the class are cheerful, energetic and purposeful – you can’t get away with a thing – and I’m learning a lot of Spanish!  Unos! Dos! Tres!  Arumba!  (or is it Tequila!)

After Zumba on Christmas Eve Day - even the kiddies participated!

After zumba brunch aboard Lisa's catamaran - learning about each other despite language barriers
One day when Michael was visiting we drove in his rental car to Todos Santos on the western side of the Baja. This small town has gained a reputation for being an expat artist's colony.  There were some lovely art galleries and a few noteworthy shops, but mostly we saw a lot of Mexican kitsch.

Beautiful mozaic tile entrance to an art gallery

The Right Stuff
We did see busloads of tourists most of whom were drawn to Hotel California - despite the fact Don Henley who wrote the famous Eagles song has stated it is not THE Hotel California.  We were drawn too - to the beautiful building and lovely restaurant garden behind.

Delicious seafood chile rellenos lunch at the Hotel California
This very talented fellow played instrumental guitar non-stop for at least 3 hours.

Our lunch at the Hotel California also marked our 33rd wedding anniversary!  We've been fortunate to have had so many adventures together.
We left La Paz on January 5 for Mazatlan where good family friends, Sid and Angie, will be on winter holiday from snowy Canada.  We are looking forward to seeing them and staying in Marina Mazatlan where we spent a month while cruising here five years ago.

To the love of my life:  May we share many more journies together.
(Joanneke photo)

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