Hotel California

Welcome to the Hotel California. Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico

Welcome to the Hotel California. Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico

We decided to get off the hotel property today, so we did a bit of research on nearby towns. There were two that sounded worthy of a road trip, and since we rented a car this visit, we thought, why not? Our first destination was Todos Santos, but to get there we had to drive through about 70 kilometers of road construction. Unfortunately there are discourteous drivers all over the world and this was no exception. We had been driving for more than an hour in the construction, and we could tell we were nearing the end when all of the sudden we come around a corner and a huge pickup is coming right towards us trying to pass an 18 wheeler UP HILL and AROUND A BLIND CURVE! We both had to slam on our brakes and, as this was a DIRT road, we were sliding off the side of the road. This guy then has the audacity to show us his non-ring finger. Seriously?

Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico

Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico

Todos Santos is home to the famed Hotel California, rumored to be the inspiration to the Eagles hit from 1977, although not true according to Don Henley. According to the history on their website (hotelcaliforniabaja.com), the hotel was founded in 1948 by a Chinese immigrant named Mr. Wong, and finished three years later. Mr. Wong lived in the 16-room hotel with his wife and seven daughters. Because he wanted the locals to believe he was Mexican, he changed his name to Don Antonio Tabasco. This did not have the desired effect, however, and instead he became known as “El Chino,” meaning “The Chinese Man” rather than Don Antonio Tabasco.

Large metal mariachi sculpture on the rooftop of the Hotel California. Todos Santos.

Large metal mariachi sculpture on the rooftop of the Hotel California. Todos Santos.

In the 1950’s, Mr. Wong brought ice from La Paz to Todos Santos for the first time, and had the only cold beer in town. Predictably, this made him very popular, so he opened a general store called La Popular.

We stopped in for lunch and ate at the gorgeous outdoor patio. We enjoyed grilled Yellowtail tuna with Cilantro lime salsa as well as duck tostadas with goat cheese. That along with the obligatory, but delicious, guacamole and salsas made for a well-chosen stop. Carl had a blended Hibiscus Margarita, while I opted for Cadillac on the rocks. I will tell you that it packed quite a punch!

Bev enjoying a Cadillac at the Hotel California.

Bev enjoying a Cadillac at the Hotel California.

Los Baños at the Hotel California.

Los Baños at the Hotel California.

Our server was rather surly throughout our meal, which was unfortunate since the food was divine. He only came around once we paid our check and tipped him. Carl then innocently asks if he gets tired of hearing the song, Hotel California (it was playing the minute we walked into the hotel). It was as if we opened the floodgates! “Oh, you have no idea!” “I have worked here for fifteen years. For FIF-TEEEN years I have to listen to that song!” “In my dreeeeaaaaams, I hear that song!” Wow, man, time to find another job…

True to form, Carl struck up a rather lengthy, broken English/Spanish conversation with one of the natives of Todos Santos. Agustín—a very friendly fellow—reminded Carl of the old fisherman, Santiago, in Hemmingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Carl's new friend, Agustín, a native of Todos Santos.

Carl's new friend, Agustín, a native of Todos Santos.

One of the numerous cows along Highway 1 on the drive from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo

One of the numerous cows along Highway 1 on the drive from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo

We decided to continue on to La Paz, as opposed to going back the way we came through the construction. There is a beautiful town square/plaza that we tried to find, but the city was busy as it was rush hour and, by this point, we were tired and wanted to get back to the hotel. We were in for an additional 2+ hours of driving, but instead of construction, it was cows. Yes, cows. Free-range cows on the side of the road that you had to keep diligently watching out for. The routine: you see a cow, put on your emergency flashers (letting those ahead and behind know there is a cow), slow way down until you are well past the cow (they are apparently known for darting in front of traffic). This went on the ENTIRE drive back to San Jose Del Cabo.


We did make a short stop in the little town of El Triunfo (The Triumph). Once a bustling town of 10,000 citizens during the height of the gold & silver rush, this now quiet little town of 200 residents was refreshingly authentic. We enjoyed walking the cobblestone streets, and exploring the wonderful old mission church. Curiously, the town has one museum, and it is an international piano museum—with a collection including Steinways, Baldwins, and even a very old Clavichord—the instrument on which Bach composed and played his music.

The mission church in the old mining town of El Triunfo.

The mission church in the old mining town of El Triunfo.

The entrance to the mission church. At this moment the flowers on the alter were naturally illuminated.

The entrance to the mission church. At this moment the flowers on the alter were naturally illuminated.

In addition to the “cow arcade,” our drive actually became a pinball game of sorts. You see, they have this other unusual phenomena with speed humps throughout the whole drive. Some marked, some not. Some that are indicated with a sign, but then the iconography sporadically changes, and there is NO hump in front of the car—just a car. Others with no sign, then YIKES, a hump! Some are painted yellow and others black making them virtually impossible to see until you are upon them.

So, it went something like this: Bev – “Carl – cow to the left!” “watch out, speed hump!” “watch out! Another speed hump” “Cows on right, speed, hump, speed hump!!!” GET MEEEEEEEE HOOOOOOOOOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The great part, until it got dark, was observing the amazing diversity of desert landscape to a lush tropical, mountainous environment. It was not what we expected in Mexico. All said and done, this 400 kilometer journey took about eight hours. We’re definitely taking advantage of the rental car!

Although this wasn’t my favorite vacation day, everything is an adventure and a memorable part of our journey, so, I will gladly embrace every moment, particularly since I was with my man.

Travel Tip of the Day: After arriving at your destination, I highly recommend taking the first 10-15 minutes—be it business or vacation—to completely unpack your suitcase, hang up your clothes, and lay our your toiletries. Although you might feel as if you want to jump right into your vacation, I’ve found my vacations seem longer when I perform this simple organizing task. Once you’re unpacked, all of your clothing and accompanied amenities are at the ready, whether you’re going out to dinner, snorkel, embark on a day tour, etc.

Adios!

Bev

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