Golf + Travel = Passion

Continued from Ladies Who Golf….Ryann O’Toole (age 29) talks about what she loves most about traveling and how she keeps focused on good and bad days.

California native Ryann O'Toole. She holds the course record at Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with a 66.
California native Ryann O’Toole. She holds the course record at Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with a 66.

Which countries did you play in during the past year (2015)?

I played in the Bahamas, Canada, France, Malaysia, China and Japan.

What do you enjoy most about travel?

The best thing about traveling is experiencing the vast variety of culture in each country. Being submerged into that country’s culture for a week is so much fun. I love meeting new people, trying different foods and exploring the reasons for what makes that place so special. Every destination seems to have a reason why people have chosen to live there and I love getting to see exactly what that is!

Do you get enough time to go out and explore the local culture? 

I would never say we get enough time, but not many sports get to stay in a place for a week. I’ll take the time I can get and make the most of it. Aside from the obvious tourist destinations,  I think exploring the local food and restaurants is the best way to view a culture.

What have been some of your most insightful moments of 2015? 

Some of my most insightful moments of 2015 include understanding the real value of one golf shot at a time, learning to be happy with slow and steady growth, and that with each day comes with new feels, thoughts, challenges and outcomes. It is vital for a player to stay in the moment and keep the mind present and focused on the shot at hand. I see this as the key to scoring low rounds, or keeping bad days of play under control. I finally became content with this process and watching myself slowly get better week by week. What helped was seeing the consistency increase each day. Low rounds were happening more often, and on not-so-good days I kept under control. My coach Jorge Parada really helped me understand this process.

A good example is a moment from the 2015 CME Group Tour Championship. On hole 9 in my second round, I was five under and playing solid and very steady. I carded a nine on a par 4, costing me to go from five under to even par. All the great work I had done, all the momentum I was building was gone in one hole! This truly tested my ability to stay focused on the shot at hand. When I made the turn and teed up on hole 10, I knew in order to keep my round going I had to focus back into the moment. I managed to stay focused and was able to shoot two under on the back nine. Although I was not happy with the overall score of the round, I was able to recover and keep myself in the race.

I also found in 2015 that each event your body feels different, not only each event, but each day. Not every day is going to be perfect and with that comes acceptance. The best players are the ones who can go out on the course and make the most of the playing ability they have that day. They find a way to get the job done, regardless of how they feel. This is the true test of any athlete who competes day in and day out and wants to win.

When you are on Tour, how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle really boils down to self-discipline and asking yourself how badly you want to become the best. On the road it is easy to look at a menu and pick the less healthy choice, or say yes to dessert. I work hard in the gym and enjoy the feeling of being healthy, so for me it isn’t hard to stay healthy on the road. The LPGA makes sure to provide us with healthy breakfast and lunch options each week as well. The LPGA is also great with providing a gym trailer that follows us around from week to week. It just takes time to create a routine and keep up healthy habits when you travel on the road.

What do you like most about golf?

I love golf for everything it gives me. The Competition, camaraderie, ability to travel and see the world and meeting people everywhere we go is an amazing experience. It is a lifelong sport that I can play until the day I stop walking. There is nothing about golf that I don’t like.

Besides golf, what are your other passions?

When I am not golfing, you can find me at the beach. I love to surf so when I take vacations, it is to places I can surf. Golfing is my passion, but surfing is my hobby. It is the one place where I can mentally check out and allow myself to get fully consumed with that current moment. Alone in the water, it is a place where I have absolutely no control and that feeling is euphoric.

Do you play for any charities? If so which ones, and why?

Yes, I play for PHIT America. It is an organization that’s setup to bring awareness to the obesity problem we have in the United States. The goal is to main provide knowledge and information for the public to learn what is good and bad for their bodies.

Click here to read part 3 of this post.

If you are inspired to play golf around the world, join Go Eat Give’s 3rd annual charity golf fundraiser on November 7, 2016 at Laurel Springs golf club in Suwanee, Georgia.

Ethical and Delicious Wildlife Friendly Chocolates

As you begin to stock your pantries with chocolates and candies, pay attention to the list of ingredients listed on the package. Depending on the brand and quality of a chocolate, it may be a product that is harmful to your body, as well as the environment.
However, there is a chocolate brand that we like, as it surpasses all expectations of quality ingredients, refined taste, and global standards. Nuubia is a new ethical chocolate shop based in San Francisco that goes far beyond Fair Trade.
san francisco chocolates
Nuubia hand-makes specialty confections from humanely sourced ingredients, without using either palm oil or GMOs. Founder Alexandra Saunders was born in Java, Indonesia and has dedicated to life to conservation (cultivating palms for their oil is highly destructive of the environment so Nuubia has found a way to make ganache without the use of palm oil). Just few weeks ago, Alexandra Saunders was an Honoree at Pongo Environmental Awards. 
Nuubia is the first chocolatier to not only refuse to use palm oil, but to insure that what they make has no negative impact on the rainforests of the world. The company is also working to launch the Chocolate Wildlife Project which provides farmers with a viable source of income. For example, Nuubia purchases their chocolate and ingredients directly from farmers who learn to produce sustainable, habitat-friendly crops.
nuubia chocolates

With Indonesia being the world’s 3rd largest exporter of palm oil, the production of palm oil has devastated the natural habitats of the animals and orangutans that inhabit the area. Founder, Alexandra Saunders took a personal interest in orangutan conservation when she lived in Indonesia and studied them in graduate school at UC Berkeley. It was through this passion that Nuubia created the Chocolate Wildlife Project, which provides small farmers living on the edges of Orangutan habitat with a viable source of income to abstain from destructive farming practices.

Some standout chocolates include fresh squeezed lime juice with vanilla bonbons, Caramelized Hazelnut Spread Sauce, that can rival just about any Nutella out there, and finally Johnny Walker Black Espresso Ganache Half Spheres! So when a box of chocolates is under the tree, you know that no orangutans were harmed to make your chocolate and that your treat can be enjoyed guilt free.
Not to mention the OMG Candy Bar was awarded “Best Foods in the U.S.” by Esquire Magazine. Layers of hazelnut praline, sea salt caramel, rice crisps and dark chocolate come together in harmony to create the perfect mood-altering balance. The chocolatier at Nuubia is Lionel Clement in 2011 he was named Chocolatier of the Year by Pastry Live.
Best Foods in the U.S
Nuubia also offers a heart shaped chocolate special (for pick up only), filled with more chocolate bonbons. This is the ultimate sweetheart gift for any special occasion.
nuubia choclate heart valentines day

In February 2015, Nuubia San Francisco opened its first flagship retail space in the newly built “Market on Market” inside the Twitter building, bringing fine chocolates, confections, natural spreads, macarons, hand crafted ice creams and seasonal specials to the city. Either take a selection of these handmade items home, or stay and enjoy a chocolaty treat with freshly brewed latte in-store while sitting at Nuubia’s Chocolate Counter. The chocolates can be purchased at their San Francisco location, or ordered online. They are very well packed with an ice pack and delivered within a couple of days directly from the store.

Nuubia San Francisco
1355 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 660-2030

10 Ridiculously Cool Things That You Didn’t Know About Death Valley

Cold? If yes, sorry to hear that, but it seems like a perfect time to read about the hottest place in the country. While Austin Adventures has been traveling to Antarctica for some time now, in three short months, it will celebrate the departure of its inaugural trip to California’s Death Valley.

This national park is known for its superlatives (hottest, lowest, driest, etc.) but you may also be surprised to find out that you can play a round of golf at the aptly-named Furnace Creek. See below for some surprising facts about the area…

Death Valley Badwater Sign

1. 20 Years of Till Death Do Us Part! In 1994, Congress made this section of the Mojave Desert a national park.

2. Largest in the Lower 48. Measuring in at a whopping more than 3.4 million acres, Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous U.S.

3. Record-Holder for More Than 100 Years. The highest recorded temperature in Death Valley is 134 degrees Fahrenheit which was measured in July, 1913 and is the highest recorded temperature in the Western Hemisphere.

4. A Year Without Rain. Death Valley is the driest place in the country. In 1929, not a single drop of rain was recorded.

Death Valley Dunes Sunset 2 5. How Low (on land) Can You Go? Death Valley is home to the country’s lowest point, Badwater Basin, which lies at 282 feet below sea level.

6. Notable Neighbor. Death Valley is only 80 miles from the highest point in the country, Mount Whitney, which tops out at an elevation of 14,505 feet. In other words, the lowest and highest points in the contiguous U.S. are less than 100 miles apart!

7. Lots of Life. Death Valley is home to more than 1000 species of plants (including 50 that are found nowhere else in the world), 300 species of birds, 51 species of mammals (including bighorn sheep and mountain lions), 36 species of reptiles and a handful of amphibian and fish species.

Scenic view of Death Valley sand dunes and mountains. 8. Humans Call it Home. Archaeologists have found evidence of human presence in Death Valley that dates back at least 9,000 years! The Timbisha Shoshone Native American Tribe has inhabited Death Valley for the past 1,000 years.

9. Golfers are Welcome! The Furnace Creek Golf Course at 214 feet below sea level is the world’s lowest golf course and golfers can play 18 holes year round (although the game is less popular in the height of summer).

10. February is Just Fine! The average high temperature in February is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 46 degrees Fahrenheit – a perfect range for an active adventure vacation! February is also typically the wettest month. On average, it sees .51 inches of rainfall.

Austin Adventures’ first Death Valley adventure vacation  departs on February 15, 2015!

~ By Katie Jackson on behalf of Austin Adventures

A Day Trip to Muir Woods

Located 45 minutes north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge is a place where you can find trees older than the USA itself. It’s called Muir Woods and it happens to be the home of thousands of ancient Red Wood trees. Not only is Muir Woods a national park, it is also a great hike for any outdoor enthusiast.

San Francisco Bridge

The hiking trails are good for beginner to advanced hikers and can take from 2 hours to a full day to complete. There are a few campsites on the property if your inner boy scout needs a nature fix. If you have the time and can handle the terrain the hike up to the hidden beer garden is absolutely the best thing you could do with your day.

Muri Woods Trail

The full day hike will take you through a variety of landscapes from the glorious red woods to fields of wildflowers. There are small creeks sprinkled through the trails and as you ascend you will be rewarded with extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains.

Hiking at Muir Woods

The beer garden or Nature Friends Tourist House is a nice break from the hike. It’s a hidden cabin isolated on the side of a mountain that can be accessed by driving, but the hike is much more enjoyable. As you sit among the other travelers playing popular 90’s board games and consuming beer on picnic blankets you will feel a bit of nostalgic euphoria.

Overlooking the Canopy

If you have some time in San Francisco – Muir Woods is highly recommended for all travelers alike. The welcome center has a variety of educational information and activities for all ages. If you enjoy adventure, the hiking is beautiful and the smell of evergreen with a shady canopy brings you into a state of instant serenity.

~ By Joy Hmielewski. Joy is an ex office worker with a love for adventure. A few years ago she picked up a camera and learned everything she could. She never wanted to spend her days in a cubical so she started a photography business and traveled anywhere she could go for cheap. She now travels extensively with a backpack and a small budget. Follow Joy on Facebook, Twitter @JoyDoesStuff and Instagram: @JoyDoesStuff

San Diego Dining Guide

San Diego is one of those cities where buzz words like “farm to table, organic, locally sourced” are norms, not novelties. Southern California chefs use mostly seasonal ingredients, unless they source the very best (such as New England scallops or Maine lobsters) from another region. This is, of course quite evident in the healthy and wholesome dishes available on the menus.

Here are the top five restaurants (not according to any formal standards or classification) that we tried. All of them have very different ambiances and located in different neighborhoods across San Diego. If you are a tourist in the city, you definitely want to account for some extra time exploring the areas before dinner.

1. 1500 Ocean at Hotel Del Coronado. Located at the historic property where the famous Marilyn Monroe movie, Some Like It Hot was filmed, Hotel Del Coronado is must-see for any visitor to San Diego. Coronado Island is a short ride from downtown by way of ferry or drive across the bridge. Stay at the hotel if your wallet allows, but at least go for date night dinner to 1500 Ocean. Outdoor fireplaces, cool ocean breeze, classy interiors, make for an intimate ambiance. Enjoy delicately prepared bounties from the kitchen such as this melt-in-your-mouth yellowfin tuna sashimi with jalapeño and avocado mousse, tooth-picked by a dainty tangerine radish. Entree of perfectly grilled sea scallops with a medley of grapes, almonds, capers, green beans, Thai basil and pickled lemons is far from a “simple” recipe. For desert, don’t shy away from the molten chocolate cake with poached cherries, toasted almonds, and vanilla ice cream. Your taste buds will thank you! 1500 Ocean has a great selection of wines and cocktails as well. Make your reservation after sunset you can get a chance to stroll along the beach.

Yellowfin tuna sashimi with avocado mousse at 1500 Ocean

2. PrepKitchen in Little Italy. Not an Italian restaurant as suggested by its location. This is the latest globally inspired creation by the Whisk n Ladle group, which has three acclaimed locations across San Diego. The hip and trendy PrepKitchen believes in a lot of flavor, and simple presentations. Their original idea of selling food prepped and ready to go did not take off as clients demanded the sit-down restaurant experience. With an extensive handcrafted drinks menu , seasonally evolving dishes, and a variety of tapas, PrepKitchen is the watering hole/ late night hang out restaurant that is also popular with the locals.

Roasted beet, goat cheese & spinach salad at PrepKitchen

Warm chocolate Budino, Strawberry-rhubar crostata and Goat cheese torte

3. Cody’s in La Jolla is a cozy spot by the water, only walking distance from the seals. Hit any time of the day and get a table at the open air patio or the stylish interior. The food at Cody’s is fresh and delicious. Try the French toast for breakfast, and  lobster rolls for lunch. Even the pancakes are the most scrumptious you will ever have.

French toast with California strawberries

4. Amaya’s at Grand del Mar resort features a distinctive menu with Mediterranean influences. Set in a gorgeous countryside setting with Italian inspired architectures, a visit to Grand del Mar is worth alone the trip. Carefully appointed suites, infinity pools, manicured gardens, award winning spa, wooded quiet scenery and top notch service are some other reasons to stay overnight. Chef Matthew Sramek presents an array of tempting appetizers, pastas and risotto, and savory entrees, such as Grilled Garlic Prawns with a pistachio and sweet pepper romesco and Rotisserie Veal Chop with gratin of asparagus and prosciutto.

Poached Shrimp with garlic crostini

Peanut butter candy bar with banana gelato

5. NINE-TEN at the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla is a popular destination among the local fashionable crowd and foodies in-the-know. Led by award-winning Chef Jason Knibb and Pastry Chef Rachel King, the restaurant offers the perfect combination of sophistication and casual elegance along downtown La Jolla’s historic Prospect Street. Evolving California Cuisine emphasizes a market-driven, farm-to-table philosophy with locally made cheeses, artisnal breads and an award winning wine cellar. Every dish is created with extra attention to wow the diners with visual and textual finesse.  Looks too good to eat?

Beet salad at Nine Ten Restaurant La Jolla

Halibut with vegetables at Nine-Ten Restaurant San Diego

Nine Ten Restaurant La Jolla San Diego

More on what to see and eat in San Diego

Some Like It Hot at The Del Coronado

Regarded by critics as one of the finest American movies ever made, Some Like It Hot continues to delight audiences 50 years after it debuted in 1959; in fact, the American Film Institute named it No. 1 on their list of the 100 best comedies of all time.

Filmed in 1958, the United Artists movie was shot on location at the Hotel del Coronado, Southern California’s landmark Pacific resort. The Del’s iconic Victorian architecture made it the perfect backdrop for the film’s 1929 setting, along with acting icons Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

Marilyn Monroe at the Del Coronado

Says author and scholar Laurence Maslon, who released Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion in September 2009 during the 50th anniversary celebration at the Hotel del Coronado (published by Collins Design, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers in the US and Anova Books in the UK), “There have been a lot of movies shot on a lot of locations, but only a few marriages of celluloid and place can be considered truly legendary. Chief among those magical moments is the sight of Marilyn Monroe cavorting on the beautiful beach at the footsteps of the Hotel del Coronado.”


The Prohibition-era story follows the exploits of Lemmon and Curtis, out-of-work Chicago musicians who accidentally witness a gangland slaying. Making a run for their lives, the men disguise themselves as women and join an all-girl band traveling by train to Florida. Here, a ukulele-strumming singer, played by Monroe, catches the eyes of both men, but it is Curtis’ character who assumes still another identity – an unlucky-in-love millionaire – to successfully woo and win Monroe.

Lemmon’s cross-dressed character, meanwhile, is vigorously pursued by a bona fide millionaire, played by Joe E. Brown. The hilarious gender-shifting romantic romp is played out at California’s famed Hotel del Coronado, which director Billy Wilder found to be the perfect substitute for Florida in the Roaring Twenties.

Sunshine … California-Style

At least one Floridian was less than happy about Wilder’s decision to shoot the movie in San Diego. Miami Mayor Robert King High reportedly said it was “a sacrilege” to let Southern California play the role of Florida’s “Sunshine State.” This sour criticism was ably met by Coronado’s mayor, who wired back, “Some like it hot, but not as hot as Miami in September.” The mayor’s rebuttal also referenced Florida’s gnats, mosquitoes and hurricanes, none of which plagued the temperate island of Coronado.

Marilyn Monroe & Tony Curtis

An “Uproariously Improbable Set”

Like all American resorts, the Hotel del Coronado had endured some tough years during the Depression and World War II, but it was this period of benign neglect that helped preserve the resort, making it the perfect setting for Wilder’s 1929 story, which he co-wrote with I.A. Diamond. Said Wilder, “We looked far and wide, but this was the only place we could find that hadn’t changed in thirty years. People who have never see this beautiful hotel will never believe we didn’t make these scenes on a movie lot. It’s like the past come to life.”

Although at least one critic didn’t believe the hotel was real, describing The Del as “an uproariously improbable set.” The hotel’s 1888 Queen Anne Revival-style architecture does tend toward the fanciful, with rambling white clapboard, lazy verandas and red-turreted roofs, which an earlier writer had characterized as a cross between an ornate wedding cake and a well-trimmed ship.

Although only exterior scenes were filmed at hotel, the interior scenes do look very Del-like (right down to the placement of the lobby elevator and stairs). This probably explains why so many Some Like It Hot devotees – even after seeing the Hotel del Coronado for themselves – absolutely refuse to believe that the movie’s interior scenes were not filmed at The Del.

Favored by the Fans, Overlooked by the Oscars

The movie was a box office success, grossing over $8 million initially and earning several million more over the next few years – somewhere between $10 and $15 million.

Monroe’s financial deal – she received between $100,000 and $300,000, as well as 10 percent of the film’s gross profits – was a very lucrative arrangement in its day, and Some Like It Hot turned out to be her most profitable venture.

The movie was also a critical success. Variety called it the biggest hit of 1959; Monroe received a Golden Globe for her performance, as did Jack Lemmon. The film itself also won a Golden Globe for “best comedy.”

In spite of its financial success and public accolades, the film received only one minor Academy Award for “Best Black and White Costume Design.” Today it is thought that Some Like It Hot was just too risqué for 1959, when the big winner that year was Ben-Hur (also in the running for various Academy Awards were the likes of Diary of Anne Frank, Room at the Top, Pillow Talk and Porgy and Bess).

The Some Like It Hot story line is racy, and Monroe’s costumes are incredibly revealing, even by today’s standards (though, according to Wilder, Marilyn was not interested in fashion … as long as the costumes revealed “something,” she was satisfied). Ahead of its time perhaps, present-day reviewers marvel that the movie still comes across as such a wholesome film; this was Monroe’s forte: she was sexy, but childlike.

Although this is the Monroe film most shown on television today, the actress reportedly never liked her performance.

~ Story and photos courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego. 

Book your stay at The Del now with TripAdvisor

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San Diego’s Obsession With The Beet Salad

During my recent visit to San Diego for the Travel and Adventure Show, I dined at some of the most reputable restaurants in the city. I was delighted to find that many of the places cooked with fresh, high quality, farm to table ingredients that included locally sourced vegetables and meat.

San Diego is blessed with temperate climate, abundant sunshine and varied topography that allows for a variety of foods to grow year-round. Beets are in season during the winter and spring, although the chefs I inquired told me, “San Diego folks ask for it year round” and every restaurant is unofficially required to have beets on their menu. Apparently, the locals complain when they don’t see “beet salad.” Nothing wrong with that since beets are one of the healthiest vegetables out there. They are rich in antioxidants, folic acid, fiber, anti-inflammatory properties and cancer-fighting agents.

Trust me, after 5 days of noticing the beet salad at every venue, I started to think that all the chefs in San Diego area must have received some sort of a memo about it. Here are some of the variations I discovered…

Hotel del Coronado‘s flagship ocean front seafood restaurant, 1500 Ocean served homemade burrata (Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream), with heirloom beets and valencia oranges, tossed in Temecula (a city in California) balsamic.

beet salad with goat cheese
beet salad with goat cheese

Prep Kitchen in Little Italy’s version included fresh baby spinach, satsuma (Japanese mandarin), avocado, goat cheese, whole pistachios, with a gentle dressing of balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted more like a salad with beet as an important ingredient hiding below the spinach leaves.

Amaya, the Mediterranean restaurant at Grand Del Mar, took a slight twist on the classic recipe. Their Roasted Beet Salad was a simple concoction of pickled shallots, tangerine, goat cheese, molasses-candied walnuts and mache (French name of the edible salad green Valerianella locusta).

My favorite was this elegant creation by Chef Jason Knibb of Nine-Ten Restaurant, located at at Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla. Red and yellow baby beets were adorned with a light goat cheese pudding, shaved fennel, smoked oranges, drizzled with citrusy beet vinaigrette, and sprinkled with pistachio and cacao crumble. I would have never thought of using cacao dust for garnish but its an ingenious idea. The dish was a symphony for all the senses.

nine ten la jolla

The chefs in San Diego have inspired me to cook Beet Salad at home more often. Here is a simple recipe that I have created using all that my tastebuds have guided me from this trip.

Easy Beet Salad Recipe:

Soak the beets in water with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, then scrub them well. Cut them into quarters and boil in water for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked but not too tender. If a sharp knife can go through easily, the beets are good enough to use in salad. Drain water and cool. You can also use them raw if you like.

In a large bowl, combine any greens (Boston lettuce, Bibb lettuce, Baby spinach), with fresh chopped oranges, diced avocados, crumbled goat cheese and roasted pistachios. Add good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, toss gently and serve immediately.

Driving Into Mexico, by Accident!

The beautiful city of San Diego, California is located only a few miles north of the Mexico border. In fact, I was driving on Interstate 5 and noticed highway signs that read “Mexico exit is coming up.” My plan was to drive to the end of the US border, park my car at San Ysidro and walk over to Mexico. It is much faster and convenient to go this way especially if you are doing a day trip. There is a pedestrian bridge that one can take into Tijuana, the first town, an important financial and industrial center of Mexico, and the largest city on the Baja California Peninsula. After arrival, buses and taxis are available that take you into the center of town which is bustling with shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, the exit on I-5 that I was suppose to take had no sign stating that “this is where you need to get off to park your car if you are going to Mexico” so, I accidently drove into the border.

I thought there must be a place to park at the border crossing, or at least I can turn around somewhere. But no, an unmanned check post said “Welcome to Mexico!” and there I was. Nobody checked for identification or stamped my passport but I’m sure there were cameras all around.

crossing US border into Mexico

The moment I crossed international borders, my GPS went out of service and cell phone switched to roaming. I didn’t bother to print any maps of Tijuana beforehand since I wasn’t planning to arrive there by car. I had not notified my car rental company that I was going to take it to Mexico. Neither did I have a phone number to call in case of an emergency.

Here I was in Tijuana, supposedly one of the most dangerous places in North America. People later warned me that its famous for kidnappings, gangs and drugs.

There were well maintained highways and people seemed to be following some laws. Exit names were nicely labelled, although very confusing and inconsistent. I wasn’t sure where I was suppose to go even though I wanted to see the city. So I just kept on driving wherever the roads took me, which in this case was to Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico.

Rosarito, located only 30 minutes south of Tijuana, seemed like a quiet beach town with lots of newly developed homes. There were margarita and taco shacks dotted all along the ocean which was waiting to alive once the sun went down. A few tacky souvenir shops sold shot-glasses, sombreros and t-shirts. It didn’t take very long to drive through the stretch of the main street, which was also heavily guarded by Mexican police.

Rosarito beach Baja California

I stopped at a gas station to pick up a map, only to realize I didn’t have any Mexican Pesos. The lady at the cash register accepted my US Dollars but returned the change back in Pesos. There was no prior understanding of the prevailing currency exchange rate as I got the “take it or leave it” look from her.

Thankfully, I was able to find my way back into the city (mostly through trial and error) and see the main attractions of Tijuana. By this time, I gained enough confidence to park my car and step out. I visited Tijuana Cultural Center, Avenida Revolucion, Amigos del Artes, churches, food markets, shops and plazas. Downtown area was overwhelming with lots of cars, pedestrians, street hawkers and everyone trying to sell me something. It didn’t feel unsafe, although someone who is not use to traveling in third world countries may perceive otherwise. In any case, Tijuana was not the sort of place I would like to spend more than a couple of hours at.

Amigos del Artes Tijuana

After paying the parking attendant with the rest of the Pesos I had, I made my way back north towards USA. The 6-lans drive-through immigration was perhaps the most chaotic border patrol I have ever seen. Separate lines for US citizens, permanent residents and visitors were non existent. There were no signs for wait times, documentation or anything whatsoever. The lanes kept shrinking, so we had to merge every few minutes. Then there were street hawkers who set up shop in the middle of the highway, making it a marketplace. It was easy to do so since we were virtually in a “parking lot” situation for many hours.

Mexico immigration crossing

The Mexican vendors walked around selling everything from souvenirs, furnishings, cold drinks, fast food to puppies and medicines. There were men wearing t-shirts identifying themselves as “pharmacy” who sold antibiotics without prescriptions, ladies taking orders for fresh tacos and burritos, handicapped citizens begging for money, young men washing cars without permission hoping for tips, and kids running around collecting anything American tourists would give them. It was a grave sight while I waited 2.5 hours in line to cross the border.

puppies sold at Mexico immigration crossing


medication sold at Mexico immigration crossing

Once I reached the immigration counter, the office asked me what I went to Mexico for, and I explained the whole situation of “driving there by accident.” He didn’t seem amused, as if this happens all the time. Truly, next time I will be careful not to blink while driving, or end up in Tijuana. The officer looked at my passport, inspected my car, asked a few questions and allowed me to re-enter California.

South Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide

South Lake Tahoe is the largest city along Lake Tahoe. With skiing, boating, biking, blackjack, ice skating, swimming, shopping and bar hopping, South Lake Tahoe is a bustling town that offers something for all ages. Continue reading “South Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide”

First look at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of those magical places that will make you believe in love at first sight. The largest Alpine lake in North America is only 3 hours drive from San Francisco, near the California/ Nevada border. Lake Tahoe is also the second deepest lake in North America (at 1645 feet or 501 meters). Picture coming down the ski slopes only under water! A beautiful drive through the winding mountains dotted with tall pine trees brings you to a blue water oasis surrounded by snow everywhere. Continue reading “First look at Lake Tahoe”