Around 35 years ago I walked over the border from California to Tijuana. I had been in San Diego on a press trip and had a free afternoon/evening. My main stop was at Hong Kong (not the city but the “gentlemen’s club’). The Zona Norte was among the largest red-light districts in North America. Without getting graphic it was for sex, drugs and rock & roll.
When I was invited to spend 2 ½ days in Tijuana by an old friend who has a business there I accepted his invitation. Teloro is the largest solar business for the Hispanic market in California. WOW! Has the city changed? Hi rise condos, many facing the Pacific Ocean. American’s who work in the San Diego area, which is only 15 miles away, often purchase these condos for a fraction of the US prices and commute to work.
The day before my tour I was driven to the Guadalupe Wine Region about a two-hour drive from Tijuana. Visited Mexico’s largest winery- LA Cetto with one million case production. I have seen their wines in shops in the US. I called ahead and asked to meet with the wine maker. Upon arrival I was told he was out to lunch. No problem, so I went into the tasting room. Neither tasting sheets nor a brochure about the winery? Tasted a half-dozen of their wines, which were excellent. The winery was closing soon and I again asked if the winemaker could give me a few minutes for an interview. I was told he “was busy with other matters”. Not very good PR.
The following is a brief outline of my 9-hour tour conducted by Juan Saldara, liaison director for Tijuana. We met at Friendship Park along the border wall on the beach.
Rosarito Beach- 10 miles from the US border. It used to be a suburb of Tijuana and now it is an independent city. During prohibition well-healed Americans would cross the border to buy alcohol. Also, the drinking age in Mexico is 18, not 21 as in the US. Quiet and clean with condos overlooking the water.
Municipal Institute of Art & Culture- Known as IMAC. Their mission statement- Generate, procure and articulate the processes and activities related to the rescue, promotion, and dissemination of the cultural and artistic heritage of the municipality, stimulating and supporting the organization and strengthening of society to contribute to the improvement of their quality of life. It features the city gallery and historic archives.
Tijuana Cultural Center- CECUT- In the Zona Rio district that opened in 1982. Has more than one million visitors a year. It features the unique Californias Museum and the modern El Cubo exhibit, a major attraction in the Omnimax cinema known as Las Bola (the ball) that uses a 360-degree projector to surround guests with a panoramic image. Wish we had time to see it in action.
Playas de Tijuana- Many homes face the water. That is where I stayed for two nights.
Avenida Revolucion- Zona Central with 1,000 shops, jewelry, leather, pottery, glass etc. Native American crafts are sold everywhere (along highways etc.).
El Popo Market- Food, gifts, souvenirs etc.
Plaza Rio Tijuana- Open air shopping center
Cathedral de Guadalupe- Went inside for a short visit
Medical, Dental & Wellness Tourism- 500,000 medical tourists a year come to Tijuana for medical procedures at very low cost.
Farmacias- Many scattered around the city with brand name & generic prescriptions available at below US prices.
Casa de la Cultura- In 1929 it opened as a school with musicals and children classes.
Mullme Museo de la Luche Libre Mexicana- I have watched Mexican wrestling for years on TV. A great collection for fans & non-fans alike.
A two part lunch- Caesar’s Restaurant where Caesar salad was invented followed by Verde Y Crema Restaurant where Chef Zoe Villarreal prepared a multi multi course meal. Their kitchen is too small so there is a food truck parked outside that is used to prepare appetizers. Patio like setting with murals outside.
La Caja Galeria- Arturo Rodriguez is the director. They are celebrating their 18th year and have expanded into 4,300 square feet of adjacent gallery space. What I loved about their not for profit operation was the teaching painting to blind & disabled people as well as youngsters. They even have space for one artist to live in the gallery.
Enoteca Salinas- Tasted with the owner Gilbert Salinas & munched on his extensive cheese collection.
Ron is a Professor at the International School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he built the Ron Kapon Wine Library. He also teaches at Hudson County Community College's Culinary Center. You can read Ron in Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Tasters Guild Journal, Wine Country Intern. Mag, Real Travel Adventures, Allways Traveller, The Fifty Best, NATJA, Fab Senior Travel, Nightlife Magazine, Resident Magazine, Travel Writers Assoc. & Local Wine Events