We’re now in Mexico! On Sunday we made the 65-mile trip from San Diego to Ensenada.
As soon as we tied up in the marina, a steady stream of other cruisers stopped by to say “hi” and chat. It was such a pleasant surprise to be greeted right away, swap plans to head south, and hear tips from people who have already spent several seasons in Mexico. And the cats were receiving pets within minutes. Seriously, they have no shame.
Checking in to Mexico the next morning was a breeze, thanks to the extremely helpful marina staff. (For those familiar, we chose Cruiseport Marina to be close to the city center.) They drove us to the the port captain’s office, waited in line for us, and directed us through each step. Six-month tourist visas—check!
The highlight of our Ensenada stop was that we happened to be here during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a major country-wide holiday to remember and celebrate those who have passed away. In San Francisco, the Mission District celebrates Day of the Dead with gusto, so we were curious to experience the holiday in Mexico.
Earlier in the week, we stopped in a local gallery known for their skeleton figurines (Catrinas), skulls, and other Day of the Dead-inspired art. During the holiday, the tradition is that the spirits of the dead have permission to visit their relatives and friends, and to enjoy their favorite foods and other treats from their life on earth.
To help the spirits find their way back to earth, families set up elaborate altars in their homes. The gallery owner set up an altar in her store to educate visitors. It was so detailed and colorful, and she allowed me to take a photo:
You can see the framed photos of her relatives. Maybe you can make out some of their favorite things like wine, coca-cola or cigars, but all the items there have a special meaning. She graciously walked us through the significance of nearly everything, but for example:
- On the floor, the dog skeletons guide the spirit to earth with candles to light the way.
- The cross on the floor is made from salt, meant to preserve the spirit until it returns to the next world.
- The marigolds and paper flowers represent life and decorate the path for the spirit back to earth.
The skeletons and skulls are to show that despite people’s differences, we are all skeletons underneath. They are decorative and whimsical to portray the holiday as loving and warm—and to represent the Mexican culture of not fearing the dead.
On the Day of the Dead itself, we set out to a local cemetery to see more first-hand. The cemetery entrance was lined with vendors selling candy, flowers, churros, and other sweets. Visitors could enjoy these treats themselves or use them to adorn the graves.
Inside, the cemetery was full of people. Every single grave was decorated with colorful flowers and other symbols of the holiday. Music was everywhere: a dozen groups, playing all styles of music, were scattered throughout the cemetery. Families gathered with food. In one corner, a mass was taking place.
We didn’t want to take many photos, but could not resist a couple snaps to remember the experience.
And, we had to sample the food of the holiday, pan de muerto (bread of the dead). We found some during our first trip to a grocery store in Mexico. We observed that in the bakery you take one of these metal trays and tongs, choose what you want, and then they put it in a bag for you. I think we fit right in… not!
What’s not to like about a buttery, chewy roll covered in sugar? The decoration on top is meant to be bones, but that didn’t scare us from devouring the bread the next morning with our coffee. And I may have bought another loaf at the cemetery. Maybe.
Although the city doesn’t have much charm (it is actually a cruise ship destination, for some reason), John and I have been able to enjoy our greatest pleasure of traveling: walking a ton and planning routes around eating and drinking coffee. The fresh seafood has been incredible! Tacos, tostadas, stuffed peppers, pasta, and carpaccio with marlin, tuna, crab, octopus, clams, and more. We are already in love with the food and we’re barely across the border. And thankfully, we’ve so far indulged without any sign of “consequences”.
I’m not big on food pictures, since they never seem to truly capture the enjoyment (at least mine don’t). But we did catch the chef at 240 Grill grilling octopus for the next day’s lunch while he chatted with us.
We still have plenty of boat-related projects, but our to-do list has become much more manageable and we are finally able to enjoy the slower pace we’ve been hoping for with this lifestyle. Yesterday I sat in the cockpit to drink my morning coffee for the first time since we left. Lady Guinny was happy to join me.
That is, after she finished prowling the deck.
And since I can’t favor one child over the other, here is Sir Purrs-A-Lot trying to keep an eye on John while he works on our pre-passage checklist.
Today we continue our journey south, with a planned stop at Turtle Bay, in our longest passage yet. With few places to stop while we sail down the Baja peninsula to Cabo, we’ll be covering about 700 miles in the next 10 or so days. Hope we have enough provisions!