So much for my schedule. I knew it was going to be a fluid trip, I just didn’t know how fluid. First I killed time in Cabo San Lucas waiting for a casita to become available at the new Rancho Pescadero Resort near Todos Santos, Mexico in order to spend a few more days in paradise. As luck would have it, I threw my hip and knee out in a Yoga session and was barely able to go up and down stairs. My next planned destination, Copper Canyon, would have to wait. There was no way I was going to do the extensive hiking I had planned in the canyon.
Additionally, the weather has turned unseasonably cold here in Baja, dropping into the 50’s at night. I brought long sleeve shirts, a sweater, hiking boots, heavy socks, and even mittens, but I don’t have a coat with me and if it’s cold in Baja it’s going to be freezing at Copper Canyon, up in the mountains on the Mexican mainland.
No worries, though. I have no concrete reservations so I just revised my schedule. The owners of Rancho Pescadero hooked me up with the local chiropractor, a genius named Mark who worked on me twice and relieved a lot of the pain. Since I need to let the knee and hip rest a few days before trying strenuous activity, I hopped a bus back to La Paz and checked into the Lorimar Hotel. It’s very basic and not the cleanest, but for $22 a night with a comfortable bed and free wifi, I’m not complaining. I found a broom last night and once I swept the floor it was perfectly acceptable.
The Lorimar is just off the Malecon and only a few blocks from el Centro, the central town square, so I spent the afternoon and evening wandering around town. Although there are many American and Canadian expats here, La Paz has retained its charm and culture. At its core, the Cathedral of Our Lady of La Paz watches over Velasco Garden, where men have their shoes shined and mothers treat their children to helados – frozen deserts sold by push-cart vendors. The cathedral, which dates back to 1861, was built with a peaked roof called “dos aguas” – two waters – and no towers. In 1910 the left tower was built and ten years later, the right tower was added. If you look closely you can spot the differences inn construction. The varying stone color and size, the mortar work, and the two different bells arrangements all lend a peculiar grace to the church.
The cathedral’s interior is deceptively simple at first glance, until you look up and realize that the ceiling is crafted from wood strips that have been painstakingly bowed and fitted together to create an elaborate barreled design. I rested on one of the simple wooden pews and watch the ebb and flow of the church, so much a part of Mexican life. An elderly woman with toddler in hand entered from a door near the front and paused at the altar, showing the youngster how to cross herself and bow. Another woman sat in the front pew and began praying aloud. With its series of stunning stained glass windows, wood-carved stations of the cross, and a precious sculpture of the Virgin Mother and infant child that was being hand cleaned by a worker in preparation for Semana Santa (Easter Week), Our Lady of La Paz is one of the most serene cathedrals I have ever visited.
A bustling commercial area radiates from the central square, offering most any kind of merchandise desired. From the giant mercado to the smaller stores where penny candy can still be bought in bulk and glass Coca Cola bottles returned for deposit are stacked up in crates on the sidewalk, La Paz offers an authentic Mexican experience. I encountered no salesmen hawking timeshare sales and no boat captains pushing glass-bottom boat rides. Indeed, I want to go to Espiritu Santu Island to swim with the sea lions while I am here, and it took me all day to find a tour operator through which I could book the trip.
Everyone I met was kind and friendly. Three young shoeshine entrepreneurs in Velasco Park were equally as welcoming and willing to have their photos taken as the three senior gentlemen seated on nearby park benches. One woman with fire-engine red hair even stepped outside her hair salon, took me by the hand, and walked me down the street to show me where to find a particular store. La Paz’s Malecon, the broad promenade so prevalent in every seaside Mexican town, is sparkling clean and safe, making it the perfect place for an evening stroll after an authentic Mexican dinner. And I have discovered what may be the most authentic, most delicious, best priced restaurant in all of Mexico, but that’s a subject for my next post.