Tuesday, December 16, 2008
There's a saying among the expats and natives here in La Paz that once you visit, you'll be back. I know for us, that has been true. There is something very earthy and charming about this other city by the bay.
While Bahia de La Paz is showing the effects of population growth over the past 36 years (pre-highway), it's still the jewel of the city front, with the broad Malecon serving as its setting. Palm trees, public art and wrought iron benches further enhance this public promenade. Whether it's during the Corumel cooled summer evenings or on a brisk winter night, the sunsets from the Malecon are spectacular sights to behold.
Across the street from the two-mile stretch of the Malecon, the city of La Paz marches up the hills from it's tree shaded beginnings, to the hustle of the downtown and to the tranquility of the town square nestled between the Mision de Nuestra Senora del Pilar de La Paz Airapi and the Teatro Juarez.
Sprinkled in between shops and restaurants are cozy little casas, as well as lush gardens hiding some of the larger homes. Culinary choices range from street vendors to white-linen elegant dining. Sushi, Chinese, French, Italian, traditional Mexican and outstanding seafood fare all can be found in town.
No Mexican city would be complete without its colorful and abundant traditional mercados. There are two in downtown La Paz, each located within a block of one another. There is the Madero Market which, in addition to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood carries shoes, clothes, guitars and toys. The Mercado Nicolas Bravo supplements its fresh fare with a variety of counter eateries, where you can enjoy anything from fresh juice to hearty menudo and other more traditional Mexican dishes. These are the original mainstay grocery shopping centers of old Mexico, predating Conosupo, CCC, Soriana and certainly the Wal-Mart snd Sam's Club stores of today. Prices in the mercados are low, quality is generally high, selection is good and usually reflects the local growing seasons. It's an experience that travelers to La Paz should not miss, whether you plan to shop or not.
The people of La Paz form the real treasure of this City. They're friendly, honest and helpful. With the population growth over the years, and the influx of mainland workers for developments, such as the one on El Mogote, and the weak economy, there has been a rise in petty theft and crime. La Paz still continues to be a very safe city to visit, where people will go out of their way to help you.
Christmas brings another dimension to the city. Church bells being rung during the mornings and evenings. A week prior to Christmas week there is the celebration of Nuestra Dama de Guadalupe, culminating in a fiesta at the church on Cinco de Febrero with singing, music and food. During the week leading up to Christmas all the shops around the central plaza and down the hill towards 16 de Septembre, set up tents on the streets and display their goods. The only traffic allowed on these blocks is pedestrian. Food, clothes, toys, sporting goods, jewelery, watches and furniture are all represented within these few blocks of shopping.
Noche Buena or Christmas Eve, is punctuated with church bells and fireworks. For the sailing community, there is a potluck gathering at Club Cruceros, at Marina de La Paz, and everyone brings an appetizer or desert to share. It's open to the entire cruising community of La Paz. This year, over 100 cruisers were in attendance. Being the neophytes that we are, we're often in awe of the cruising resumes of some of the neighbors we have the opportunity to meet.
A Swiss couple from Washington, who have their Mason 43 side tied in front of our slip is but one example. Peter and Denise are currently sailing their third sailboat on an open ended cruise. They're considering either a trip to Europe or onto Australia. Their previous cruising experiences include Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and Australia. Their sailing experience is but one example of the people in attendance.
Christmas dawned quietly for us. We slept in until 07:30. We wished each other a Merry Christmas, Kathie made a pot of coffee and we settled in to listen to the 08:00 La Paz cruisers net. The sky is clear blue and sunny with just a whisper of a breeze. The day should develop into a quiet, warm desert day. Our plans include having Christmas dinner at Club Marlin just north of town and otherwise having a quiet, peaceful day together.
We'll be picking up Christine Seisun and her college friends from the airport Saturday afternoon. We'll be relinquishing both the Vanagon and Casa Margaritas. We will also have to begin making plans for our Gulf crossing and picking a good weather window to make our escape from the lovely city of La Paz. Provisioning, filling our propane tank, water tanks and fuel cans will need to be done as we prepare to depart. We will begin sending SPOT messages after we leave the marina and may have to anchor out to wait for a good weather window to start our crossing.