Saturday, October 11, 2008
The flight into Cabo was barely 2 hours, and pretty cheap. In spite of its proximity, visions of drunken frat boys on Spring Break benders have always kept me away. An invitation from ASUPMATOMA, a group that rescues baby sea turtles, gave me faith that more is happening in Baja than guys in sombreros pouring tequila in your mouth and spinning you around.
Upon arriving at the airport, I had some trouble finding my ride. I finally found Pepe, and together we hunted down Carol, a fellow journalist. Carol is easygoing and quick to laugh. But she is still a New Yorker; so there is a sense that when it comes down to it, she can handle whatever comes her way. I took a liking to her immediately.
Pepe, our driver
On the ride down, I asked Pepe if he wouldn't mind stopping at a taqueria. I was famished. It was definitely "authentic". The horchata was cold, and the fish tacos, made from pargo, a red snapper, were delicious. They only use one tortilla, not the double-tortilla common to Los Angeles taquerias.
Total Suicide Food
It was about a 20-minute drive from the airport, barring any emergency taco stops
Waiting for us at the hotel was Rachel, our PR contact. She definitely kept everything running smoothly. The pool was gorgeous ! Our rooms were gorgeous ! Definitely stay at La Finisterra if you are heading to Cabo.
The view from my balcony
There were hawks flying around at eye level
Oh, they do have the world's biggest moths in Baja. Unless this was a baby hawk or another hallucination. (I imagine Hunter S Thompson attacking it with a tennis racket) This here's bat country!
On our first evening out, our host, Rene, invited us out for dinner. He had an air of old world courtliness about him. He holds himself proudly, like a matador. He was accompanied by Elizabeth, the group's Biologist, who was monolingual, and unfortunately I speak very little Spanish - very badly. I speak just enough to order food, find the bathroom, and start a fight. Definitely not enough to discuss anything scientific. But Elizabeth was good-natured and seemed to find us amusing.
Everyone was discussing wine. I think no one wanted to be the first one to drink alcohol - or up the host's bill. I finally broke down and admitted I could use a beer. Rene perked up and asked if we'd like to try beer a different way, so a few more people joined in.
They squeezed 2 or 3 limes in a glass, added a little salt, a little sparkling water, and then a Bohemia. It was a little like a shandy, or a beer mojito.
Carol and I soon discovered we made a good team, because I am a compulsive talker, and she is a compulsive note-taker. It is hard to do both and eat a meal at the same time.
I was seated across from Lisa, who is that person you dream about becoming when you grow up. Years of working with National Geographic have given her James Bond-like experiences few of us will ever experience. Her opening sentence might be, "When you are in zero gravity..." or "Walking along the bottom of the sea..." But she is as matter-of-fact about it as you or I would be recounting the plot of a movie we just saw. There is no braggadoccio, only a vague sense of wonder.
The restaurant, Romeo and Juliet, was mid-scale Italian. The atmosphere was warm and slightly romantic, but the menu was not too pricy. There were no Mexican-Italian "fusion" dishes which would have fascinated me - just straight-up Italian. The Caesar salad was intense but delicious. It was invented in Baja, after all.
My gnocchi was heavenly
I tried a bite of "fileto pesce a la mugnaia" fish in a white wine and lemon caper butter sauce with olives, which was delicious.
Chris, who is Rachel's husband, offered me a bite of his lasagne and I think he scored. That was the best damned lasagne. It was all meat, no ricotta or white sauce, and handmade pasta. It might even be better than mine, and I make a mean lasagne.
During dinner, the bulk of the conversation involved turtles, naturally. Rene explained that when the turtles lay their eggs they go into a trance and don't even know you are there. He said in general the turtles were tranquilo and he almost wished they were a little more aggressive.
In the first of many inappropriate and unusual outbursts, I exclaimed, "We could train them!"
Chris said, "We could fit them with laser beams!" and I knew I had a partner in my insanity.
I said, "We could attach jet packs so they could fly, and with the lasers, hell, they'd be like Gamera!
After awhile conversation led to the enormous size of some of the turtles. The elusive leatherback can grow to the size of a VW bug. I blurted, "Can I ride one? Oh my God! I want to ride one! That is totally going on my bucket list."
Chris laughed at me, "Bucket list!"
We received a lesson in the correct pronunciation of ASUPMATOMA. I confessed that I kept thinking of it as "Asuptomania". Chris said he just calls it "Hakuna Matata".
The dessert tray was too tempting to pass up, but nobody wanted to be responsible for actually ordering dessert. So I ordered a Tres Leches and a bunch of forks, and Lisa followed up with an order of chocolate flan for the table. Tres Leches is one of those dishes with a short window. If it doesn't sit long enough the cake isn't saturated - too long, and it gets mushy very quickly. This restaurant had it just right, and the cake was pure heaven. It was finished with a little swirl of mango and another of raspberry coulis.
Later, when a small group of us were discussing the "Dolphin Adventure" in Cabo, and the morality of swimming with captive dolphins, someone said, "I heard they don't like it. I heard they (pause) bite you."
Chris said, "They do worse than that."
I knew what everyone was dancing around, so in spite of being completely sober I said, "I heard they try to "force themselves" on you."
Chris said, "Umm, yeah. That."
I said, "That's OK. Being assaulted by a dolphin is also on my bucket list."
Is this the sign for the bathroom?
I was secretly relieved that there were a few people with my terrible sense of humor. But in spite of the randy banter, it was a pleasant and relaxed evening, and we couldn't have hoped for nicer hosts or better ambiance. Back at the hotel I explored a little bit.
I sat up on the hill overlooking the city drinking a margarita on the rocks.
a stray cat jumped into my lap. I sat there petting it, looking at the city lights and felt more content than I had in a very long time. Then something spooked the cat and it ran off, knocking over my margarita.
I grabbed my swimsuit and headed for the beautiful pool.