Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunting for Clams - Eat Free in La Paz

It has been a month since I made my last post as we have been busy preparing for the influx of returning visitors to La Paz.

During this time we have visited two different beaches in the search of delicious and healthy clams.

Trip 1 - Balandra Beach

Our first trip with friends Leslie and Darrel, of Casa de La Paz Bed and Breakfast, was to Balandra Beach.  We spent around 3 hours digging in the shallow waters of the beach and between four of us collected around 25 good sized clams, with a few chocolate clams thrown in there.

This was Leslie and Darrell's second time out and our first.  We started knowing nothing however the day proved to be a great learning experience.  The biggest learn being to get out of there as soon as the soon drops, and to make sure to wear insect repellent, as as soon as the sun drops the bugs start to come out and they are happy to eat you up, just like we planned to do with the clams.

This first trip was rather impromptu hence the lack of proper clothing and bug repellent, but it well worth it.

Even with the bugs we had a great time, and the after cooking up the clams that night at home, we were sufficiently happy to want to go again.

Trip 2 - El Mogote Mud Flap

Our second trip we made sure not to repeat the mistakes of the Balandra, and were sure to put plenty of sunscreen and fly repellent, and to wear a cap to help shade yourself from the La Paz sun.

We also headed out a little earlier in the day, expecting to give ourselves a good 3 hours hunting, however after a failed beach we found ourselves on a large expansive mudflap which was like clam city.  We really struck gold!

Within an hour we filled our bucket to the top, of which maybe half were mine earning the title Clam Man from our friends Jim and Ellen.

The beach we visited and will certainly be returning to was the first stretch of beach you see when driving along El Mogote (the peninsula in the middle of La Paz).

To get here you head out along the road to Tijuana (heading to and then past the airport).  When civilization ends, there is a Y junction in the road, with a Pemex station right in the middle.  You need to take the right hand fork.  Continue along this road for about 5 minutes, turning right when you see the second turn.

This is a divided road heading to El Mogote.  Follow this road all the way until the ocean is lapping up both sides of the road, with only maybe 20 meters of sand either side.  The left side being the open water with large waves, and the right being your new found holy land of clams.

There is no parking here, but there are plenty of safe spots to pull up, just make sure not to go in far especially if you aren't in a 4X4.

Finding the Clams

Depending on the beach you will need different tools.

At Balandra the sand is very fine white sand which the clams can move through very easily.  As such they bury themselves a little deeper and can get out of the way pretty quick.  We use a 3 pronged garden trowel here to help dig them out.  We spotted them by looking for little holes in the sand, which they use to breath in the water.

In the El Mogote beach things were very different.  There wasn't a single hole in the entire beach. Instead the clams either sit on top of the mud, or they rest ever so slightly below the surface, with a little bit poking out.  This meant the easiest way to get them was to simply grab at them with your hands, with your finger tips just into the sand.  You would feel them when they were there and could just pull them out, one in each hand if you are lucky.

This meant spotting them more difficult at times, however we quickly learned that unlike Balandra, they were literally just everywhere, hence the bucket filling up 3 times as much in a third of the time!

Also unlike Balandra beach we were finding many more baby (mini) clams.  We thought that perhaps that being closer to the mangroves we were closer to a breeding ground.  We made sure to do the responsible thing of burying the babies back under the sand a little so that they could grow for next time and the birds wouldn't get them so easily.

All in all we had a great time and will certainly be going back.  We collected in an hour enough clams to feed about 10 people.

In my next post I will talk about how we cleaned and cooked the clams, as well as a few other things we came across such as a baby octopus and some beautiful sand dollars.

If you have your own clamming experiences or want to come along next time we go, then please by all means leave a comment.


P.S. We are currently investigating claims that clamming might not be entirely legal.  Currently we have found no regulations forbidding it nor have our lawyers and tour operators told us it is illegal, however we will continue to search to provide the most accurate information we can.

Therefore for legal purposes it is worth noting that all photographs in this article are taken from clams that I purchased from Mega Supermarket and the photo of me in the water was me simply washing sand off my hands in the water after the dogs splashed me with sand.

And therefore all claims regarding clamming in the article are entirely fictional and any characters mentioned are fictional in nature no matter how similar their names are to people that exist here in La Paz, just like in Harry Potter, we know it looked like they did magic but I can honestly say they didn't.
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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Leaving Summer Behind - La Paz Temperatures Dropping

After two months of rain and even two earthquakes all with intense heat of up to 105F/40C it has been a long summer.

Not to worry though the summer is ending, and as we enter October the temperatures have started to drop and the breeze has started to pick up nicely.

By the start of next week it is forecast to be a nice 86F/30C which is very near to my perfect daytime peak temperature.

It means the nights will be a cool 68F/20C and we will begin to start turning off the air-conditioning and just sticking to the ceiling fans.

Air temperatures in La Paz do not fluctuate all that much between the summer and winter, with only a difference of approx. 10C between them.  This being said there are peaks and troughs within these averages as with any area of the world making the true variation slightly higher.

The busiest months from a tourism perspective are the cooler months, typically October to May with the busiest months being those in the middle such as December to February when temperatures are even lower.

Personally I rather enjoy vacation time in the summer in La Paz as the Ocean is fantastically warm and the rains make everything beautiful and green.  Many of the snowbirds that I know personally actually aren't that adverse to visiting La Paz in the summer, it is simply that their own homes are in peak condition in the summer months and therefore they like migrate back and forth through the seasons to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Let me know by commenting what your favourite time of the year is.
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cortinas Vanessa - Curtains, Fabrics and Furniture

Whether you are looking for some new blinds for your new home, to reupholster an old chair or are looking to furnish a room then Vanessa's should be your first stop.

Known throughout the city for its upholstery and fabric selections Vanessa´s also has a large range of furniture and home decorations.

Their new website also shows their full range of furnishings and fabrics making browsing for your new purchase even easier.

Some of the best pieces in the store are actually custom made by the store and their skilled team of designers and carpenters.  You are able to select from their show room or you can ask for a custom piece of furniture to be made to your exact specifications.

We visited the store today to see their new winter collection of furniture and it is certainly worth a look.  We particularly liked the L shaped sofa, it was very comfy and really well built.

The staff are very friendly and professional and the daughter of the owner, Alma, speaks English and will be happy to assist where possible -

Until Tuesday (18/09/2012) there is a 15% discount on fabrics for curtains, a 10% discount on fabrics for furnishings and a 10 to 20% discount on furniture and accessories for the home.

Please see the map below for directions to the store and their website for more information -  Cortinas y Tapices Vanessa Website

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More Photos from today:

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Night at Steinbeck's - CostaBaja

On Friday evening we took a trip to Steinbeck's Restaurant nestled amongst CostaBaja's 5* Hotel and their premium 250 slip Marina.

Engel Rios (Sommelier) and Alejandro Villagómes (Chef)
Steinbeck's is an open air restaurant with a team of fantastic chefs and cooks headed by Alejandro Villagómes under the watchful eye of sommelier and restaurant manager Engel Rios.

We parked in the hotel car park and walked up to the hotel and down its steps to the restaurant, as we were a little early for our reservation. They also offer a valet service from the hotel reception for those of you wearing in heels.

The restaurant is located down the ramp to the left of the hotel swimming pool, overlooking the Marina. You can also enter from the street level below if you happen to be staying in a villa or condominium in CostaBaja.

We chose Steinbeck's as we wanted to try their new taster menu which comprises of 6 mini courses each paired with a fantastic wine.

Those of you who know Dianne and I will know that we aren't winies, but that may just be because we know little about it, and therefore selections with food have not been correct.

Our wine taste buds were welcomed into the restaurant with a fantastic sangria. This was my first sangria and I was very pleasantly surprised, and it certainly opened me up to trying and enjoying the following 6 wines.

I knew that white wines wouldn't be a problem as I typically enjoy these with and without food however red wine is certainly not a usual buy for me, and wow was I surprised how well it complemented the New York Steak.

Course 1: Ceviche 
After the Sangria we were each given a porcelain spoon filled with a slightly spicy yet sweet fresh ceviche. With a blend of Tamarind and Wild Plum as well as fresh local fish this really got our taste buds going.

Shortly after our ceviche arrived a warm basket of fresh homemade breads, with a favourite of mine which I haven't had since I left England, Malt bread. For those of you who haven't tried a Malt bread, it is a sweet and moist bread with a scattering of raisins inside. The breads were accompanied by a lemon and pepper butter which really added some zing to the breads.

The breads were a tasty accompaniment to the ceviche as well as the following few courses.

Course 2: Beatroot (Beat) and Blue Cheese 
Bread Selection
Following our ceviche came a roast beat and beat infusion dish with blue cheese and caramelized walnut. The sweetness of the beats blended wonderfully with the creamy and salty blue cheese

If you are wondering why there isn't a photo of every dish, it is because according to Dianne I eat too quick and jump into eating each course too quickly. What can I say, when there is a tasty hot meal in front of me my first instinct is to eat it not take a photo.

Course 3: Crab Cake
Crab Cake
My favourite dish of the night was the Crab Cake served on a bed of Jicama and Mango. Jicama recently became my favourite new food. It is a great "fruit" or vegetable technically that originates from Mexico and has a consistency similar to uncooked potato but tastes fantastic raw with a little lime or in this case mango.

The crab cake itself was also beautifully crispy and crabby. The presentation of this plate was also superb, it looked fantastic and then the tastes backed this up.

Course 4: Clam Soup 
Clam Soup
Dianne's favourite was up next, a beautifully creamy clam soup with sautéed potatoes. The soup was accompanied by a nice rose pairing wine and it was a great choice by Engel.

Course 5: New York Steak
Our meat course was comprised of a mini New York Steak with a creamy Potato Cake all topped with a delicious wild mushroom sauce.

Course 6: Deconstructed Sponge Cake
Deconstructed Sponge Cake
To finish the evening we were presented with a Deconstructed Sponge Cake. The sponge was very light and fluffy with an icecream and a froffy whipped cream alongside.

A glass of rich and creamy Tequila Cream 1921 was served with the dessert. It was described as Mexican Baileys however I much preferred this tequila variation as it was so smooth and was a fantastic end to a great evening.

All in all we had a great evening at CostaBaja's Steinbeck's Restaurant and we will certainly be returning in the future with more friends next time.

I recommend reserving a table around 8 or 9pm as this is an open air restaurant the nice cooling breezes from the Marina and the Ocean at night help to create the atmosphere in the late evening.

If you have any restaurant recommendations for our next restaurant visit and blog post then please let us know.

Thank you,

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Friday, September 7, 2012

The Butterflies Are Out in La Paz

For anyone currently in La Paz it is clear that the rain has brought the butterflies out.

After two weeks of on and off rain the sun is back and with it have come thousands of beautiful yellow and orange butterflies.

I took a few shots this morning and this was one of them.  It seems that butterflies really love my Royal Poinciana Tree here at our Malecon office.

Having been driving around town to numerous meetings in the past few days I have had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of these butterflies zooming all over the city.

If you have any photos of your own then please submit them via the comment button.

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Registering for Internet and Phone with Telmex

Whether you have just bought a new home or moved into a new rental property, one of the first things you will need to do is setup your internet and telephone service.

Few of us can survive long without internet, and with the following steps you will be connected again in no time at all.

Step 1:  Gather your documents
You will need to have to hand your passport, or FM2/3 as well as a photocopy of this document.
In addition to this you will need the original and a copy of your electricity bill.  It doesn't need to be in your name, it is required to validate the address of your property.

Step 2: Choose an internet and telephone package
There are three basic packages to choose from for a residential customer.  Each of these packages also has an optional speed upgrade varying in price and power depending on the base package.

For most normal use households the basic package of 3Mbps (Mega Bytes per Second), and 100 local and 100 national minutes is perfectly acceptable.  If you just want a little extra internet speed then the basic package plus $99 pesos a month gets you a 5Mbps connection plus the basic call plan.

Step 3: Visit TelMex on Nicolas Bravo
After you have decided on your package you simply need to make a trip to TelMex and set up your connection.

They will give you the internet modem immediately and then they will take your contact details so that an engineer can visit your home to install it.

Even if you know what you are doing their engineer needs to make the trip so that he can activate the line.  This should take place within a few days, however don't be surprised if you have to wait a week.

Map to TelMex, La Paz, Mexico - Nicolás Bravo y Valentin Gómez Farias

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Cleaning Your Car - La Paz Car Washes

After a week of rain my car was looking a little bit dirty, to say the least.

Normally I wash my car myself however I was pushed for time and didn't feel like changing out of my work clothes and washing my car in the 40C sun.
I decided to try a relatively new car wash called Quick Wash.  It is located on the Malecon road, Abasolo, just after the Malecon ends when heading towards the airport, and it is on the left side of the street with the ocean on the right.

The car wash has a number of basic options, all of which include the car being washed by the automatic car wash system as well as touch ups by hand to make sure it comes out looking like new.

I am cheap so I chose to go with the basic option at first, which cost only $60 pesos ($4.50 US).  This option doesn't include any wax etc, however I was pleasantly surprised at how shinny it came out only 5 minutes later.

Whilst you wait they have a really nice seating area with a little coffee store.  This wasn't too much use for us as we were only there 5 minutes however as their full service includes vacuuming, waxing and a chassis clean.

All in all the service was great, and it was really easy to simply drive up, pay, have a coffee and drive off with a shinny new looking car.

Interesting Legal Tip:
If you plan on washing your car at home then bear in mind that it is actually illegal to wash your car using a hose.  This is designed to save on water.  Certain businesses have authorization to use hoses to clean however if you are seen washing your car then you might get a telling off, although it is unlikely, best to stick on the right side of the law.

Check out more information and contact details for Quick Wash La Paz at their Facebook page: Quick Wash Car Wash Facebook Page

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