Wow what a roller coaster this day has been!
Early this morning we crossed the border into Mexican waters. And oh how lovely it is to be here.
As we were pulling in this morning, I was drinking coffee on the lido waiting for the dining room to open. At first look, Ensenada reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara. Spanish colonial architecture built onto a hill with huge green mountains rising behind it. Ensenada also has some excellent wineries behind those mountains, but I’m not going there.
I had booked a day tour called “Best of Ensenada: La Bufadora”.
First Impressions and Finding the Tour Group
This tour seemed like a great way to see the highlights of the region on a budget without having to worry about figuring out public transport in Spanish, given that my Spanish speaking isn’t very good (yet! it’s a work in progress).
And this is my last day aboard the Majestic Princess! It should be nice and relaxing.
Our tour was scheduled right for the beginning of the day, 8:45am. They let us off the ship at about 8:15, and so we had plenty of time to figure out where we were supposed to be.
Thankfully, that was a lot easier than yesterday’s attempt. We apparently weren’t supposed to go through customs first, but that is what a couple of us did, and so we had to go back through to get to the meeting point. It was completely smooth sailing after that, though, since the guide came around to everyone who was off the ship asking if we were on this specific excursion- you couldn’t get left behind if you tried!
Riviera del Pacifico
We got onto a coach bus to start the driving portion of the tour. Since the Riviera del Pacifico is so close by, we quickly learned about how and why the hotel was built.
This hotel and casino, originally called Playa Ensenada served as both a place to go dancing for locals and a favorite escape for those seeking to avoid the prohibition laws in the states, even spurring on the rumor that El Capone was captured here!
Our tour guide told us that as fantastic of a story as this is, it’s just not true.
The hotel is extravagant as it gets, with decorations from all over the world. Spanish lanterns, Persian rugs, and Italian stained glass, it’s a hotel like no other. One socialite, Marjorie King Plant loved it so much that she bought it and renamed it Riviera del Pacifico. And that’s where history was made.
Because the bartender who worked there was in love with her, he made her a special drink and named it after her. Can you guess what it is?
Yep! It’s the margarita.
The most iconic drink in the world was created at the Riviera del Pacifico’s Bar Andaluz here in Ensenada. It truly is the greatest love story of all time.
Our guide asked if today was anyone’s birthday or anniversary. Surprisingly, it was not. She said, “come on, I can’t drink a double shot margarita at work, who wants one?”
I’ve never been able to answer a question so confidently in my entire life.
Since my hand was I guess the first one up, I was promised a double shot margarita. On the rocks, just like the original recipe. Hell yeah! Let’s get to this casino!
Today, it’s used as a sort of cultural center. They host festivals and dances here these days, and our guide took tons of art classes here as a kid. As such, kids were scrambling all over the place. It’s so cool that this piece of history is still in use by the community.
First, we took a look at the mission map of the Californias.
I was a little confused at first, but learned that in addition to being a united state, “the Californias” also describes a geographic region. There’s California, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. All along the mission map on this wall, you can see each mission, or church set up by the Spaniards when they colonized the region. Fun fact: every town with “San” or “Santa” in the name in the Californias has a mission!
Next we went to the ballroom. Some of the lamps are originals, and all of the hand-painted tiles and ceiling paintings are too! I just loved the ceiling paintings, they are painted just like the ceramic tiles you see in Baja, but much bigger.
In this ballroom, they’ve held dances for forever. Back in the day, though, only married couples could dance together. So how did you meet a lover?
Well, the men and the women would dance in separate groups, and it goes like this:
If you catch the eye of a potential lover, you’ve got to make salacious eye contact. Then, the fella will take the carnation in his pocket and throw it at your feet. If you, the lady of this scenario, are interested, you’ll pick it up. If not, you stomp on it! Can you believe that? I thought that was hilarious. At least the answer is always abundantly clear.
Next we filed into the famed bar where the best vacation drink ever was created. Our guide walked us through making the margarita using the original recipe, on the rocks, with a double shot of golden tequila of course. She called me over and had me give it a try. I can say, it was absolutely fantastic- the real deal.
Everyone got a margarita with the tour, but since mine was the example, it wage huge, strong, and poured into a fancy glass. I feel so lucky to have been chosen for the demonstration since I don’t normally get picked for stuff like that. It definitely took me to Tipsy Town, though!
The Drive to La Bufadora
Next, we made the longish drive to La Bufadora (the sea geyser), about 50 minutes.
We passed by lots of farms on the way. Apparently, Ensenada residents do a lot of the farming for big chains like Walmart.
When we made it to the coast, I noticed some weird man-made rings in the middle of the ocean. Our guide told us that these are circular nets are used to farm Blue Tuna using a Japanese technique that keeps the fish as stress-free as possible when they are harvested. Because apparently stress changes the flavor of the fish, who knew!
The Markets at La Bufadora
When we parked, I was surprised to see what looked like a busy street instead of a geyser. The road to La Bufadora is lined with stores where shopkeepers sell anything and everything. From fresh baked pastries, to pina coladas, to silver, to leather, to ceramics and more- there is no shortage of things to see and try.
You will get hassled to buy something, no way around that. However, everyone is going to insist you try a sample of their wares, so if you commit, you can definitely get buzzed on that alone. Our guide recommended we try everything, since she had and had never gotten sick.
And so as our group made our way down to the sea cliffs, I tried lots of sips of pina coladas, sips of margaritas with tajin, bites of churro, a piece of sweetbread, candied nuts, jackfruit, and nanches with tajin, salt, and chili syrup, among other things. Everything was absolutely amazing, except for the nanches which just weren’t really for me.
Our guide also took us into a couple of shops where her friends work to let them give a us sales pitch. I’m not looking to shop on this trip, but in the process, I did get to learn a bit about tequila and about how to use fire to spot real silver from fake.
Finally, we emerged from the shops and arrived at the viewing deck for La Bufadora.
La Bufadora means “The Blower”, and its claim to fame is that it’s one of the only three true sea geysers or “blowholes” in the world. One is in Hawaii, the other is in Australia.
Unlike land geyser such as Old Faithful, La Bufadora erupts sporadically every few seconds or minutes, and the size of its eruptions depends on the tide. We were lucky enough to be there during high tide, and so the “eruptions” were huge and frequent, nearing 100 feet high!
You could see when a wave entered the cove, then you could hear a whisper that would turn into a roar, growing in volume until BOOM!
Water hits the rounded sea cliffs and ricochets into the air, spraying the cliff side and everyone watching.
I couldn’t stop laughing each time the spray rained down on us, forming a shimmery rainbow in the air.
As the water trickles in little waterfalls down the cliffs, you can see the little creatures that benefit from La Bufadora’s activity. Mussels are growing all over the cliff, and if you look really closely, you can see urchins and anemones growing in the tide pools.
If you need a suggestion for a snack to enjoy while watching the eruptions, the stand selling jackfruit ice cream is a good choice.
We had an hour and a half at La Bufadora, but over an hour just flew by watching the eruptions. On the way out, I did buy a can of Tecate beer, since it’s canned in the next town over. Only 85 cents, that sure beats the California prices!
Back to Ensenada and the Ventana del Mar
On the drive back, I was just about falling asleep which is really weird given that I haven’t done a whole lot of moving today.
When we got back, we still had about 3 hours left in Ensenada. I thought about the various things to do, but given that I’m by myself, I just decided to stick to the areas close to the port. I know logically that it would’ve probably been fine regardless, but as a newbie that’s what I was most comfortable with.
Especially since I didn’t have my passport for this trip. That upped the stakes a bit.
I took a walk down the path to Ventana al Mar. It’s a really, really nice waterfront walk. There’s a lot of those big “ENSENADA” lettered blocks where you can take pictures, and also a park with a playground, kids train, and what looks like a botanical garden in the works.
The paths aren’t quite done, but it’s full of flowers, succulents, cacti, and agave plants. There also looks like a monument park in progress of being built, but it was completely fenced off.
Continuing on, there are lots of restaurants and places to get drinks. I particularly liked “El Mercado Negro”, ironically translating to “black market” selling crafts and freshly caught fish. So, so many types of fish are being sold here, which makes sense given that the dockyard is right there. Even as I was looking around, fishermen were bringing in nets and nets full of oysters.
At the end, there’s a monument dedicated to fishing and diving, and some cool views over the harbor. There’s also a wall of quotes from memorable fishermen in Spanish. It was a super nice place to walk, and definitely to shop if you want. It made my day in Ensenada feel nice and complete.
Back to the boat
When I got back on the ship, I got a couple of foods from the World Fresh Market place and Chopsticks Noodle Bar for a late lunch. Their broths are so good, full of umami and pure yumminess. Then I decided to go crazy and went to swirls for an ice cream cone. I was expecting typical cruise soft serve, but swirls chocolate ice cream was actually amazing. Super smooth and creamy. I may even go back after dinner for a second cone!
You can get toppings, after all 🙂
Now I’ve got major cruise blues. As we pulled away from port, I felt it majorly. I don’t know how I can bring myself to get off the ship, even with the latest possible debarkation time. They may have to drag me off the boat.
To comfort myself, I just think of it like this: the sadness you feel at the end of a trip is proportional to how enjoyable the trip was. And boy oh boy have I had the best time ever on the Majestic Princess! I’m more determined than ever to be a regular cruiser, maybe when I have a well-paying job!
But it’s not over yet 🙂
Even now, I’m having the best time just typing this post in the Hollywood conservatory with perfect views of the sunset over the ship’s bow. I think all ships should have an indoor sun room at the bow! It’s perfect for relaxing and working and watching the sea go by.
My dinner reservation at Concerto is coming up soon, though, and I’d better go to that. Then the variety show, and then, who knows? Will keep you posted.