Saturday, June 29, 2019

La Mejor Parte

Of all the beautiful things I saw in Cabo, the rock formations of El Arco are my favorite.

Not entirely sure if my question was polite, I decided to ask anyway.

"Martín, what about Mexico makes you most proud?"

Then, in the darkness, I leaned forward to hear his response.

Portrait or landscape? I can never decide. 

We were driving home from Flora Farms, a good forty minutes away from our hotel, and our cab driver, Martín, had been politely silent for all of the outbound trip and now the first few minutes of the journey home. 

But my tongue was loosened by the drunken beauty of the evening, and I wanted to hear more from the people who belong to Mexico, to better understand what it means to be a Mexican. 

Darkness had long since settled in, and as we rode on under the stars, Martín began to talk.

"Of all the beautiful things in Mexico, I am most proud of our people's hospitality. People from all around the world come here to visit Cabo and other cities in Mexico, and we want everyone to feel welcome and cared for."

His words made a melody in my heart. What a lovely thought, that a country's greatest gift could live in the hearts of its people.

I told Martín about all the kind and generous people I had met during my stay:

our poolside waiter, Luis, who cracked jokes and encouraged my wobbly Spanish banter with him

the sweet woman from housekeeping who came to clean up the handfuls of sand carelessly spilled from my swim suit onto the bathroom floor, who spoke not a squeak of English but painstakingly swept up every single grain

Erika, the concierge, who seemingly juggled six guests' different requests at once with a charming smile and not so much as a single hair out of place.

And I told Martín about the Mexican-Americans who put a new roof on my house a few years back. As they hammered away, they sang Mexican folk songs in rousing choruses and brought along a microwave to heat up their wives' good Mexican cooking in my back yard at lunchtime. 

He smiled at my stories. 
I couldn't see his face but I could hear his soft chuckles as he drove on in the dark.

Then Martín told me about his wife, who books reservations for local Airbnbs and tends to the family, and his two children, a girl and a boy. His daughter, he explained, is madly in love with Shawn Mendes. A few years ago, he and she were en route to Mexico City to see the pop star in concert when an earthquake happened. Their plane was rerouted and the concert cancelled; his daughter was devastated. But more recently, Martín bought tickets for the two of them to have breakfast at a publicity event with Shawn, and his daughter was able to pose for a picture with him. Martín proudly showed us the pic on his phone - Shawn looking handsome beyond words and his daughter beautifully composed for a girl standing in the arm of her idol.

The ride back to Pueblo Bonito passed in a snap, and too soon, I was climbing out of the van and saying goodbye to Martin. 

"Come back to Cabo soon," Martín smiled. " I hope I will be of service to you again."

And I knew, in that instant, that my time with Martín had been the very best part of my trip to Cabo. 

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Friday, June 28, 2019

La Comida En Flora Farms

^ What if you stumbled one evening into a pastoral dream of a farm, tucked deep into the Mexican countryside

^ Where luscious mangoes hung overhead

^ Little girls whispered secrets amidst the purple bougainvilleas

^ And a series of walkways and twinkling lights overhead drew you further and deeper into the magic. 

^ And then, what if you came upon a storybook farmer's fields?

^ Herbs and vegetables - tomatoes, radishes, carrots, peas, beans - growing in orderly rows in the unrelenting Mexican sunshine

^ And the miracle of these lush green jewels thriving in the desert sent shivers down your spine. 

* * * * *

^ In the distance, you suddenly hear muted voices, laughter, the tinkling of silver against plates. 

^ Now you begin to search in earnest for a way in, and you discover doorways. 

Doorways that lead to tables

^ Tables full of people - families, children, grandparents, couples, large groups and small - all eating their dinner outside in the pale light of evening. 

^ But where is your table? As the sun fades from the sky, you circle around the building, past the pink hibiscus, to find the front door, 

^  At the front door, they are expecting you. Just a few minutes, you are told, while your table is prepared. So you look around and discover a precious place to wait, until it's your turn to come in and be seated.

^ And as you sit down at your table, you lay your camera aside. No more photos are needed. You are here at Flora Farms to eat dinner, and there is nothing more to do than enjoy a lovely meal. 

* * * * *

My dinner at Flora Farms

Crushed watermelon and basil virgin cocktail
Seasonal salad of field greens, raw vegetables with lemon vinaigrette
Catch of the day with sauteed vegetables and thyme-infused fish broth
Lemon and lavender cake

Every bite was a dream.

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More stories about my food gardens, farm-to-table dining, and those lovely home-grown tomatoes:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

El Jardin Me Hace Sonrier

During our days in sunny Cabo, the pool and the beach areas are popping.
 People come and go throughout the day, taking meals, whooshing off to other activities, returning later for a much needed cooling off in the water.

Others, like my daughters and me, stake out our chairs early and stay all day, sunning ourselves amidst happy piles of novels, cameras, cover-ups, buckets of ice water, and the ubiquitous bottle of sunscreen. 

Waiters balance heavy trays as they navigate the traffic, cruising round the pool, down the stairs, and across the hot sand to make sure that every guest is properly refreshed.

Even the lizards crawl out from their hidey holes and bask in the middle of the hot walkways.

But as the late afternoon sun slowly sinks behind the west wing of the hotel, the buzz slowly fades. Imperceptibly at first, then in waves and swells, we all call our kids in from the water, pack up our belongings, and head back to our rooms for showers, actual clothes, and an adventure out for dinner.

At this lovely time of day, my daughters and I have fallen into a happy tradition. Once we are feeling fresh and clean, we slip out to a secret garden in the golden light of evening. 

I suppose it's not actually a secret garden. There are no walls or hidden doorways. Certainly the staff is spending plenty of time keeping it up. But the other guests do not seem to know this precious place exists, so we always have it all to ourselves. 

So step with me out from the cool of the covered walkway along the back of the building, look across the open space, and be prepared for what is about to burst into view. 

^ Bougainvillea. Big, bodacious, bougainvillea in hot pink. Look how the blossoms glow with the low rays of the sun. This giant planting of the tropical classic is the star of the secret garden; see how it stretches along the full length of the wide, white wall to the north. In some places, the tendrils stretch up beyond the structure to wave in the blue sky above. See the pink translucent petals against the sunlight sky? Amazing. 

^ Now look close. Zero in on an individual blossom, undulating waves of pink petals complete with a white wide-eyed center. Decide for yourself which sight you prefer: the masses of vines billowing across the white wall and stretching out into the deep blue sky, or the brilliant pink waves of each perfect flower. 

I can never choose. 

Now, turn your back to the bougainvillea, if you dare, and look south along the back of the building. Tucked into corners and niches all along the exterior walkways, planted in immaculate beds of carefully raked sand, see the gardens full of cacti and succulents.

^ Blue agave, majestic and serene.

^ Barrel cactus, geometric and covered with not-so-sharp spines. Dare you to touch them.

^ Isn't it amazing how the simple and serene pink blossoms of the desert rose hold their own against the riotous bougainvillea? They're both pink flowers, it's true, but there's a place in my heart for each one. 

^ While each plant is gorgeous in its own right, it's the vignettes of plant, stone, and that crazy raked sand that sweep me off my feet. 

^ This is not a caterpillar. Just a very weird cacti sort of something that looks rad against the radiating leaves of the spiky plant beyond. 

^ Is this particular blue agave more or less perfect that the other half dozen we've seen? I can't tell; can you? Let's just take a million pics of each one and figure it out later.

^ Uhh what. Is this from an episode of Stranger Things? It frightens me so hurry, let's move on.

^ And here, at the end of cacti plantings, we come to the last delight of the secret garden. A euphorbia milii, also know as crown of thorns, which I fell in love with at first sight in my adventures around Malaysia. The soft and rounded petals, the subtly shaded coral pink, the generous green leaves - everything about this lovely makes me smile. 

And that, I think, is the perfect purpose of our secret garden. In the soft sunlight of the ending day, this beautiful place makes me smile. 

* * * * *

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bonita En Rosa

I have a well-documented obsession with pink buildings:

not to mention the Glossier mostly-pink pop-up stores in Chicago and Seattle.

But this pretty-in-pink princess may just take the cake. 

^ Officially known as the Pueblo Bonito Rose, she is the sister resort and next-door neighbor to our all-white lodgings, known as the Blanco. We could visit the sparkling turquoise pool here, or take our meals in the pink-shaded courtyards, but honestly, we have never really gotten around to that. 

^ The main reason we walk over here to the Rose is to use the ATM. What a delicious mash-up of practicality and utter romance. 

^ And the best time to do that is in late afternoon, when the western sun sets these pink walls to glowing, and each facet of the cleverly deigned building is cast in rose-colored relief to the others. 

6 She becomes a study in lines, angles, planes, and shapes, all radiating subtle variations of rosy light, complemented by lush tropical greenery, curving and arcing in its own elegant geometry. 

^ I do get quite caught up in her elegant appearance. Funny though, I don't want to stay here. The thought rarely even crosses my mind.

^ It's enough to walk by her every other day or so, to drink in her exotic beauty, and to admire her pink charm. 

^ My daughters admire her too. I can't imagine how anyone could resist her sweet charms. 

^ And when we return to the Blanco, our pristinely white home-away-from-home, we stop by the flamingo pool to admire our own smaller version of pretty in pink. 

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Me Gusta Nadar

I love to swim.

Let's be honest. I spend most of my time in Mexico in the pool.

I love swimming in the ocean, too. Probably even more so. But that is more of an event. 

Swimming in the pool is an all-day way of life for me. 


Standing under the waterfall. 
Half-walking, half-hanging onto a floatie shared with a daughter.
Kicking around while holding the ledge of the pool and talking to daughters who are out of the pool.
Sitting in the water.
Sitting on the steps into the water. 

And on and on it goes. 

^ Much of my day is spent looking up at the undersides of the umbrellas, the wings of mother birds who want to protect me from the sun. But they don't do me much good in the pool, and despite my best intentions and 70 SPF, I am usually sunburned by the end of the day.

^ I'm obsessed with floaties and always looking out for the next best thing. These alligators are designed to hover above the water and looked super cute floating around the pool on their own, or caught up in prolonged wrestling matches with their eight-ish and ten-ish-year-old owners. 

^ It takes a lot to get me out of the water and back into the fierce Mexican sun. And by a lot, I mean a plate of fish tacos and an icy drink. Cabo is the birthplace of the fish taco and I am religiously devoted to them. My second-born and I each devoured a plateful every day by noon, and on our fourth day, our delightful, efficient, and oftentimes hilarious pool waiter named Luis observed, "You sure like to eat fish tacos."

Yes. Yes, I do, Luis. I love to eat your freaking delicious fish tacos.

Almost as much as I like to swim.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Vamos A Mexico!

Another Streicher daughter is having a landmark birthday this month, so we're off to Cabo to celebrate!

Now, I understand. Visiting a resort town in Mexico is not the same thing as visiting Mexico. 

Not by a long shot. 

Wrapped in the artificial cocoon of unlimited food and beverages, attentive service, and poolside lounging, my eyes are blind to the true daily life of the Mexican people.

At the same time, there is no denying that:

my first night's dinner of local tequila and lime in my margarita, and catch-of-the-day fish tacos, 
the playful half-Spanish half-English banter with my waiter, and
the sweet cooling breezes drifting in off the water where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez,

are all uniquely and soul-satisfyingly Mexican. 

So while I'm here in Cabo, two thousand miles south of Seattle in this seaside city awash with dazzling sunlight, I will treat myself to the luxuries laid out for visiting Americans. And I will watch, too, for the glimpses of the genuine hearts of the Mexican people, who are here to watch after me during my stay.

^ Salud to a week-long birthday celebration!

^ A round of appetizers? Yes. They are almost as delicious as the coloruful serapes that decorate the table. 

^ Cinnamon sprinkled deep-fried churros were standard fare at every cultural feasting day in my high school Spanish class, and I feel a lovely sense of life coming full circle when I nibble on the genuine article at my Mexican dinner table. Son muy deliciosos. 

^ After dinner, we strolled down the steps and across the soft coral sand to stand on la playa where the breakers roll in. Across the way is Land's End, the rock formation that marks the southernmost tip of Baja California Sur

^ Refreshingly cool water tickles my toes, and a brisa fresca blows through my hair and soothes my soul. Shortly after taking this photo, I jumped in for a swim. 

* * * * *

Just an hour or two after arriving, I feel the weariness of the long trip south slide away, to be replaced with a simple calm. Not sure if that is just a factor of 24/7 free room service at my fingertips, or if perhaps the Mexican simpatico mindset is already taking hold.  

Either way is fine with me. 

We've gone to Mexico, and Mexico is a good place to be. 

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