So, I’ve just returned from what was apparently my second trip to Mexico ever — I say apparently because according to my dad, I went to Mexico when I was two, and returned “all sunburned and constipated.” Oh, dads — always there to remind you that you were once as helpless as a sea cucumber and about as intelligent as one too.

At any rate, the Lees included me in their unorthodox Christmas plans of going south of the border, which I found delightful.

At the border, we stopped off to buy Mexican car insurance at a drive-thru insurance place. I don’t really understand how it is that drive-thru insurance is more legitimate than Geico in Mexico, but I suppose one has to make allowances for cultural differences.

After that, we entered Mexico through the extremely stringent border crossing (unmanned toll plaza for cars, revolving gates for pedestrians.)

Even if you didn’t have a huge sign letting you know you had left the country, you’d know from the surroundings as soon as you set foot in Mexico. I was actually really surprised by the immediate and apparent poverty when we crossed the border. Of course, China is also very poor in many areas, but their poverty and Mexican poverty are markedly different. In Mexico, poverty is linked with drugs, crime and large swaths of unemployed folks, whereas China’s poverty is mostly rural, and doesn’t seem to really breed crime. It was pretty interesting to drive through Tiajuana and see the similarities and differences it had to other third world countries I’ve been.

Thankfully, TJ wasn’t our destination — we were headed to Newport, a small lobster village between Rosarita and Ensenada. We arrived at our villa quickly, and it was just lovely! It was right on the edge of the sea cliff, with uninterrupted ocean views where we could watch pelicans, seagulls and dolphins to our hearts’ content.

Shortly after we arrived, we walked to the two-block town for dinner, which was the town’s signature lobster tacos. It was, of course, delicious, and after downing tacos, tortilla soup, chips, beans, rice and margaritas, we retired to relax, sans internet.

The next morning was Christmas. Though the Lees aren’t big Christmas celebrators, I in truth love Christmas and felt a little homesick. So, I fashioned myself a little tree and gave Jeff his presents.

I didn’t have too much time to bemoan the loss of a “real” Christmas though, because we had a busy day of nothing to do.

We wandered into town to peruse the little trinket stalls, and bought some candies at the liquor store. For future reference, don’t eat Jose Cuervo tequila chocolates if you’ve drunk Jose Cuervo before. You will have flashbacks, and for most of us, tequila is a memory we’d rather forget. In fairness, Jeff’s mom thought they were tasty, but consider yourself warned.

The town, though small, was really quirky. I don’t know what sharks and fans have to do with each other, but this was the only statue in town. Did you know that if they stop moving, sharks will die? Something to do with needing air to run through their gills, and I guess that’s kind of like air running through fan blades. Yeah, the statue makes total sense.

This was some graffiti in the town, and I thought it was kind of cute. Can’t you just imagine some thug painting that for his little brother?

Also, this is the logo for the liquor store in town — a man whose beer belly is so large, he has to carry it in a wheel barrow. Seems more American than Mexican to me.

After we exhausted the entertainment value of the town, Jeff, Dave and I walked back to the hotel along the beach, which was adventurous. The town and surrounding areas on set on a cliff that at the lowest point is 20 feet above the beach, so we had to climb down like mountain goats to actually reach the beach. Then, we had a long walk on very slippery, perfectly round, ankle-twisting stones.

All the rocks were perfectly round, great for skipping.

The beach didn’t have too much trash on it, and at least this trash looked like it could be in the MOMA.

Because the beach is so difficult to reach, I found tons of gorgeous sea shells to take home. It was pretty awesome.

After we got home we drove to Ensenada, which was filled with other white people and lots of things to buy. We had a tasty lunch, bought some things, and visited the fish market, which was remarkably odorous. Then we drove home, ready for more dinner and relaxing.

It was a short stay in paradise, but definitely worth the drive. I wish I could wake up to this view every day!