Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flora Farms, Capella Pedregal, Avalon Salon, California Ranch Market & the unforgettable Hacienda Beach Club

For the last dinner before my family left Cabo, I made a reservation at Flora Farms. Their restaurant/patio area is huge and we weren't scheduled until 8pm, so when we got there a little after 7 I thought it'd be no problem to get seated fairly quickly. Wrong! Word has definitely spread about this gem tucked into the mountains of San Jose del Cabo. It was packed! Even the bar had no available seats to pass the time. Luckily, after walking around the farm a bit, we found a sofa and chairs outside the bar area and sipped $20 freshly squeezed juices and margaritas.

The special of the day was a fried chicken family style with the typical southern comforts- collard greens, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and slaw...oh and carrot cake as dessert which we ended up forgetting to take home:(. My mom ordered the special knowing we'd probably take 1/2 her food, my brother got the double cut lamb chop, and I got a salad with grilled snapper. (I know, I know, but I haven't been eating my usual truckload of vegetables and this is a FARM so...).

As always, the dishes were full of freshly grown and picked flavor, and we devoured every single
morsel of food.

Pictured is one of the farm dogs named "flor" or "flower"...fitting, huh? LOL.

After my family left, I needed to relax and recharge to fully absorb my new life in Cabo now that the bit of vacation mindset had vanished. Naturally, I called Capella Pedregal Hotel to schedule a manicure. Capella is owned by a Mexican family and is one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in Cabo. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean just past the marina, it is nestled in the mountains- literally as there's a tunnel you go through before arriving at the main entrance- with a grandeur that is unparalleled.

It was on my urgent list of places to visit and out of all the other fine hotels and resorts with a spa on grounds, this one had the most impressive and comprehensive menu of services.

If you can't experience Capella as a hotel guest, I urge you to book something at the spa to get hours of pampering at this wonderful place.

Once you valet, you're escorted down to the Auriga Spa, checked in, and taken on a tour of the locker room, co-ed relaxation pools, and then given a little quiet time before your specialist greets you.

I got there right at my appointment time so enjoyed the jacuzzi, steam room, ice room, and shower after my nails were done. But you can allow time before yours to get all these "necessities" in:).

The Auriga Spa reminded me a lot of the spa at La Amada Resort in Cancun- where I spent a month of vacation post Ironman Cozumel in 2010 as my dad was living there. It's from a Spanish company and the concept and design is very similar.

At Auriga everything is based on the phases of the moon and aligning the customer with that energy. All of their products are organic when possible and as my manicurist explained, the scrubs she used on my hands and arms were by a company (can't believe I forgot the name!) whose founder was in a terrible accident and he was completely restored by some Asian healers so his products were made in honor of them. In the locker, you have chlorophyl water and "digestive" teas, hors deouvres, and fresh fruit.

The manicure was fabulous, and the young lady, Paola from Guadalajara, became an instant friend. I will be back at some point for a pedicure when the time to unwind is loud and clear.

Continuing on the beauty theme:) grand aunt booked me a haircut and highlights yesterday because when she saw me at dinner the other night she gasped "sweetheart you are a natural blonde, you can't have that almost black hair with green lines from all that swimming you do!". I love her honesty and sassiness.

I've noticed more and more as the days in Cabo pass, that I'm actually living in SoCal, so it was no surprise to walk into Avalon full of young, hip Americans, and have them rival my favorite salon in Beverly Hills: Fringe.

Jessica did a fantastic job with my broom like, crayola disaster hair. She informed me that ketchup or tomato sauce/paste takes out the green from pools, and I was skeptical at first but she was right!!
Avalon is right in the heart of Cabo, and even if you weren't planning on getting your hair done here, you might as well look fabulous!

In the evening, I joined my great aunt and her husband for a movie and dinner. That's how I roll on a Friday night;)

We went to see Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie and it was awesome! I love her, and Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite Disney movies. They did a great job in adding to, or clearing up, the story, and using modern film technology to bring this fascinating fairy tale to life.

We then took a short trip to the California Organic Market- where you can find all the essential "Whole Foods" items albeit a very marked up price. I only grabbed some baked Kettle Chips, but spotted Tamari sauce, organic milk and yogurt, Amy's frozen foods, some favorite cereals, etc.

With no rush we drove a few blocks down to the Hacienda Beach Club for dinner. It is one of the oldest hotels in Cabo right next to the Marina past Medano Beach. The ocean is calm more often than not and they had looong bouey lines for swimming that immediately caught my eye (I'm going today of course). The Hacienda lives up to its name with Spanish influences and a spread that differentiates it from the other hotels in Cabo.

The view from the dining area is UNREAL, and for some reason their varied and chef quality cuisine has maintained extremely reasonable prices compared to the competition. It was clear I had a new place on my list of musts for when friends and family are in town.

Today, I'm feeling wiped out from the last couple weeks and the solid training I've managed. Instead of doing a long ride today, I'm leaving that for tomorrow and heading to the Saturday Organic Market in San Jose for its last weekend until November. I went last week and the vendors have already started to fade out, however I did find some raw coconut butter, awesome body cream from Baja Body Deli, and organic pork and chicken tamales- making sure to jot down the lady's number as she still makes and delivers to locals year round. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Puerto Los Cabos & A Day at Diamante (Athlete Utopia)

Life in Cabo makes you forget what day of the week it is, but before my family left yesterday afternoon, we continued having a ball at the seemingly endless attractions in this part of Baja.

One night, my parents were exhausted and decided to stay home so my brother and I ventured out to dinner alone and I took him to The Container in Puerto Los Cabos. It's a restaurant literally built in/from a ship container with incredible views of the PLC Marina, and though right off of the main street from downtown San Jose, it feels remote and extremely serene.

We both had a perfectly cooked snapper on a bed of rice and sautéed vegetables with a subtle Cabernet. Afterwards, we took a walk to look at all the boats and noticed the dolphins jumping slightly out of the water adjacent the Marina. It's the pools that belong to Dolphin Encounter, where during the day tourists or whoever can "swim" with the dolphins. Having swum in the wild in Hawaii numerous times with dolphins, and experienced the structured "swimming" at a similar facility to this in Cancun, I'd rather leave it to my slim chances in open water where I can really connect with these animals in their true environment.

Daniel of course immediately noticed that the only thing keeping us out of the dolphin pools was a tiny rope. "C'mon!" he urged me, "There's no one around". I love these animals and there really was not a soul in sight so I followed him. We laid down and splashed the water a bit but they weren't showing us any interest, so we moved on to the next pool. After a few minutes, 3-5 dolphins came right up to us, stuck their cute little heads out and let us pet them :)!!!!! Best. Night. Ever.

Thankfully, because it's Mexico, once we were spotted by a security guy, who btw was on the phone talking about some girl to a friend, he casually came up to us and said "um you guys can't be here" and proceeded with his phone call. My brother apologized and told him they're our favorite animal, and he humorously responded "I'm kind of sick of them, I see them every day". I love how in the US this would've probably been considered trespassing and/or gotten us some misdemeanor. 

After our play date with Flipper, we went straight to bed as we had a long day at Diamante in store the next day. 

The Diamante development, located off Highway 19 a few minutes from Cabo heading toward Todos Santos, is a majestic 1500 acre property with 1.5 miles of Pacific coastline. It features the newly designed Tiger Woods El Cardonal golf course, along with the Davis Love III Dunes Course, multi million dollar beach estates, villas, the 10 acre saltwater lagoon, a hotel in the works, tennis courts, baseball field, soccer field, and state of the art fitness center. 
We met with the head of Sales for Diamante, and he took us through all of the construction, residence options, and toured us around the incredible grounds. Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at their 24/7 cafe, and played for hours in the lagoon and sand pit- paddle boarding, swimming, beach volleyball, soccer, drinks at the pool bar....epic. 

As an athlete, my eyes and mind were LIT. This project, in addition to events like Ironman Los Cabos, the Cabo Half Marathon in February, the already famous surfing community, and the booming interest in SUP, are paving an incredibly exciting road for Cabo becoming a sports mecca. 

In other posts I've talked about how perfect Highway 19 is for cycling, and although the main Highway 1 that lines the Corridor from San Jose to Cabo has more cars, with a few yellow "respect bicycles" or "share the road" signs, Cabo's caring and respectful people will make this a prime destination for athletes to train.

My plan is to get involved with the Secretary of Tourism and help promote health and an active lifestyle to the People of Los Cabos. With the increasing number of Americans and Canadians- many of them outdoors lovers- coming to buy property in Cabo, this sporting culture goes hand in hand with the tourism that drives the economy of Baja Sur.

I'm in the process of talking to several resorts to partner with me in hosting a training camp for pros and age groupers, whereby they'd get a discounted all inclusive hotel fee, access to the resort's gym, sagged, safe, and uninterrupted bike rides, trail and road runs, pool and plenty of open water swimming, and the priceless opportunity to spread the message of sport to the local community.

If you're interested, I'll be announcing something on FB, Twitter, and my blog when the time to sign up comes, and feel free to comment here or message me on FB.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Medano & Pelicano Beach, endless Spring Break, getting a Drivers License, and the San Jose Art Walk

Medano Beach is THE tourist spot in Cabo San Lucas. Its beautiful, calm waters with buoyed out sections for swimming, and various locals renting anything from wave runners to banana boats to that little jet pack that lets you shoot in and out of the water like a dolphin, along with fishing rentals, and boats taking you over to Lover's and Pelicano Beach for rock jumping and snorkeling, make it the ultimate playground.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, it also lends itself to an endless Spring Break environment, with very drunk foreigners doing things you don't really want to watch, but kinda do- from their own one man/woman show, to partaking in the stage "contests" the locals happily and creatively put together to give them even more of an opportunity to shake their head during the next day's hangover. Some of these people are way past their high school and college years, which is kind of sad.

I am not a fan of crowds, but luckily at this time of the year it doesn't feel like a total rave, so it's actually quite entertaining to just sit down at any of the restaurants along the beach and get a free show as you eat.

When we arrived my brother and I planned on renting wave runners to visit the famous Arch by Pelicano & Lovers Beach. Over the years, due to safety, they've reduced access to the Arch other than via boat rental. So we decided to get a cheap little boat taking us to Pelicano Beach where we would spend an hour and a half (more than enough IMO), snorkeling and jumping off rock formations, and walking/swimming/hiking rocks over to the adjacent beach and also to the Pacific side where the sea gets a lot more blue and scary. It was awesome!!

My brother took some really cool pics and videos with his go pro, we swam a ton, and at one point this guy came out with huge oysters (which they were shucking and serving as fresh as they can get right there on the beach) and a baby octopus fell out of his net! We got to hold the little guy- such a cool feeling!- and then put it back in the water, where it literally disappeared at the blink of an eye. I saw something on Discovery Channel recently that said Octopi are one of the most sensitive/loving creatures! :)! I'd get a pet octopus tomorrow if I could. Confession: I also love to eat them which makes me feel like an awful person.

When our boat guy came back, he took us and a couple from LA over to the Arch, and a big rock that had a ton of seals.

Back on land, we found my parents who had not realized exactly where we were and decided to bring down from the car bags with our valuables - sunglasses, quite a bit of cash, clean/dry clothes, etc so they didn't get in the water at all, and had instead eaten some clams and oysters while getting overly entertained by Mango Deck's "pop a balloon on the other person" contest. I was dying, DYING, of laughter at my mom's comments and faces about what those girls were doing. My dad was kind of just sitting in disbelief- careful of what he could potentially comment, LOL.

Daniel and I were starving so we made them sit through some more Pit Bull and Kesha, and this time we actually got a very cool breakdance by some local dudes that were LEGIT. One guy was doing some sick moves with a chair in his legs!

It had been a long day and back at home we spent the evening just lounging around.

Yesterday it had rained all night (shocker!) and sporadically continued throughout the day so my mom and I agreed it was the perfect time to go get my IFE which is essentially Mexico's main ID and voting card, and which I need to register in the MLS and to get my drivers license. We drove to San Jose and were humorously surprised to find that the IFE office looked like this: I love a little town :)

After surviving the nightmare that is any type of government process in the US- Social Security, DMV, Passports, you name it...I couldn't have been more grateful to walk in with my passport, proof of address, a witness (my mom), and birth certificate, and walk out with my IFE in 10mins.

Even better was the drivers license- you go in, with your IFE, blood type, and national civil registry code, pay a small fee and you're a licensed driver! 10mins. I can already hear my American friends "but that's why driving in Mexico is dangerous" and blah blah blah. Frankly, no. It can be dangerous and intimidating because of a cultural characteristic of Mexicans: they/we are accustomed to not yielding to anyone and all traffic signs are merely taken as suggestions rather than law. The mindset is I'm on the road to get where I want and I won't tolerate others that are day dreaming or simply getting in my way. But it's more of a case in a packed city like Mexico City. Here, people aren't aggressive drivers like that- and it's fantastic how they actually know how to properly use the left lane! I could argue that Mexicans are great drivers, with very tuned reflexes- think of a NY taxi;)

What was funny was realizing how I don't really fit in anywhere. In the US the DMV and such were always a headache because I'd get grilled about how I am in the country, "let me look you up in the homeland security system", etc etc and the questioning as if I were on trial would take hours. In Mexico, at 26 I've never been registered in anything nor had a voters card, and I don't look obviously Mexican so even with my passport right in front of their face they were like "are you a foreigner?" "why have you never had an IFE or DL?". I feel like neither of them ever believe me.

Anyhow, with the rain lowering the temperature, we enjoyed the evening at the weekly San Jose Art Walk. I much prefer San Jose over Cabo. It is the old/historic town and while it can still be touristy, it lacks the night club, marina, spring break scene that Cabo has, which makes it more peaceful and cultural. My great aunt and her husband joined us and we walked the little streets and visited a few of the art galleries and jewelry shops- many btw, owned by Americans who now call Cabo/San Jose their home- and then had a lovely dinner. My ideal night out. Tuesdays they have tastings, and Saturdays local every day of the week San Jose brings something new and lively for locals and visitors alike.

As soon as the sun came up this morning, I headed out for a ride, and again saw a few others out on their bikes, including the guy from the Specialized bike shop in San Jose who was headed for a swim with two friends at Palmilla Beach.

We went to Palmilla Thursday but they told us there's a bunch of Man O' War jelly fish this time of year, so we didn't get in. However, we got to see fishermen filleting what I think were needlefish, and these cute pelicans were waiting in military formation to get a bite!

Today may be the day to take the family to Puerto Los Cabos and a lunch or early dinner at Flora Farms!