Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 55: Tijuana

All photos of Old Town and Tijuana available on Flickr.

Mary and I got another early start on the day while Erik slept. After leaving the hotel shortly after 7 AM I initially envied Erik's position, but it turned out to be a nice little morning of walking around Old Town and revisiting Mission Beach on another gorgeous San Diego day. Old Town is part of the original settlement of San Diego, and it kind of has a "Colonial Williamsburg meets Santa Fe" feel to it. It is full of old saloon, apothecaries, general stores, and the like, and was quite interesting to walk around in. The beach was packed once again. Mary did some more work on her tan while I just sat next to her, staring at the crashing waves, and still in fear of ever removing my shirt again after getting second degree burns in Puerto Vallarta two months ago.

Around 12:30 we made it back to the hotel and met up with Erik to head to TJ. We picked up the blue line trolley at the Amtrak station, which is actually a pretty cool little historic preservation project in and of itself. It was $5 round trip and about 45 minutes each way - not bad at all. The trolley let us off in San Ysidro, and after one of us asked the obligatory "Hey, where's Mexico?" question, we headed over the bridge to Tijuana. We were met by border patrol upon our crossing, which consisted of a metal gate and a rent-a-cop reading a magazine on a folding chair, which made us feel really safe.

TJ is a pretty special little town - or at least, we thought it was little. We learned from the cab driver who took us into downtown that it is actually a city of over 4,000,000 people. After already visiting three cities in Mexico, I kind of knew what to expect. Tons of little souvenir stands that all sell the same 12 items, tons of jewelry stores teeming with silver and turqoise goods, shady bars that have happy hour all day, and a few cool churches here and there. Things unique to Tijuana included donkeys on display on the street. Whereas in America we have ceramic representative animals in every city, such as the crabs in Baltimore or the cows in Milwaukee, TJ actually employed the use of live mules, painted in zebra stripes for some reason ("zonkeys"). There were also many cool Aztec statues strewn about the city. I really thought the city would be a lot dirtier, all things considered and from the stories I've heard, but it really was not that bad except for the food vendor area of the city, where boxes of day-old meats and fruits covered in bees, flies, and maggots were set up all around. The gauntlet of insects was not even the worst part; the smell was incredibly putrid. We spent about two hours walking around and concluded the day with some tequila shots at a local bar while waiting for our return cab trip home. A quick stop back at the border to pick up a TJ hat for my brother and we walked through the line back into the states. Compared to walking into Mexico, security was CRAZY here - they actually looked at your ID and had a scanner for backpacks and purses. I was pretty disappointed in myself that I didn't bring any Cuban cigars with me, because I clearly would not have been caught unless I was actually smoking it in line.

We got back into San Diego around 8 and grabbed some dinner downtown at a Rock Bottom. Tomorrow is our last day in California before we head back east on Sunday morning.

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