It was Super Bowl weekend in America so a group of us decided to escape the football madness and drive to nearby Mexican border town, Tijuana, for two days. While many destinations are still off limits due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Mexico is still “open for fun”.
We left Los Angeles and two hours later were at the border. The guards on both sides were courteous and efficient and within minutes we had crossed over and were speeding past the factory outlets selling your favorite brands such as Puma, Ray Bans and Nike at a reduced price. We kept going, knowing we would never have made it to Tijuana had we stopped to ‘have a quick look’ and had soon arrived on Tijuana’s main street …Avenida Revolucion.
This was my first trip to Mexico so other than tequila and burritos I had no inkling as to what to expect.The street was a bustling hive of activity with shop owners and restaurateurs all competing for your dollars. We thought we had escaped Super Bowl fever but strangely the Mexicans were also gripped by this euphoria. Undeterred we made our way down the street, stopped often by over enthusiastic store owners trying to persuade you to buy their wares (if you are in need of a sales course, I suggest you visit your Mexican neighbors).
At one leather store the owner proudly proclaimed his leather jackets were fireproof and to prove it took out a cigarette lighter and lit the jacket. True to his word the jacket did not burn. Some of our group succumbed to his pitch (not me though – I’m a vegetarian) and he was a happy man when we left.
It was late afternoon when we finally made it to a tavern, grateful to sit down in the air-conditioned restaurant. Within minutes the table was laden with tacos, burritos and the classic prohibition salad. The portions were fresh and generous, each could have been a meal on their own.
Over the years, Tijuana has transformed its image from a shopper’s paradise and party town to a cultural destination, whose cuisine could rival any culinary destination worldwide.
The mood in the tavern grew progressively more festive the closer it came to Super Bowl kickoff and in case anyone was still not in a party mood the owner, and a partner in crime, came around holding a whistle and a tea towel. The partner carried a bottle of tequila and a shooter glass. Puzzled, we watched the manager select his first victim. He tied the towel around the man’s eyes and, blowing his whistle, shook his head, then yanked open his mouth and poured the tequila shot down, all the while shaking his head. Amidst the laughter and cheering, the manager and accomplice moved onto their next victim (not that they needed any encouragement).
Kickoff commenced , sometimes you just can’t fight fate, so we sat back, caught up in the atmosphere and watched, as the seemingly intelligent males around us became animated hooligans.
The night ended with the band playing traditional Mexican and American songs while we danced the night away.
The next morning, after a somewhat healthier breakfast at a local café, we headed for a dose of culture.
I was surprised to learn that Tijuana is the second largest city in Mexico and has been named an upcoming cultural center with more than fifty million people crossing the border from San Diego each year.
We found ourselves at the Tijuana cultural center, which resembles a massive balloon that’s landed on a flight of concrete steps. There we were given an overall history of Mexico and its early inhabitants. The theater takes you on an ocean life, wildlife and safari journey. We walked past the small aquarium to the botanical garden where, after the festivities of the previous day, we were able to relax and unwind before driving back home.
Tijuana is much more than a party town and caters to singles, couples and families. From its art exhibitions to food and cultural experiences it offers something for everyone’s travel album.