Note to self: In unfamiliar places, follow the advice of waiters. Their words are often better targeted than those of bus drivers.
Case in point: Day trip excursion to Tijuana, Mexico.
After crossing the US – Mexico border for the first time on foot, we got lost trying to get to the ‘Centro’ (Downtown).
Informational websites describe the process of walking to Downtown Tijuana, while turning down the dozens of taxi drivers, very easy. There is only one rule to observe: ‘Follow the people.’
But they forgot to mention the area around the border is desolated if you cross early in the morning or that there are several land crossings, some better positioned than others.
Ok, there were signs. However, I didn’t feel like walking on elevated interchanges without pedestrian lanes.
The only feasible (and cheap) solution was to jump on a bus going to the ‘Centro.’
“Where you guys want to be dropped?” asked the bus driver while turning his head toward us. My husband and I looked at each other. We had no idea where we were or where we wanted to go. Hmm, Downtown is kinda big (take a look at a map).
The driver asked the same question again since he was not going to make his entire route to drop the 5 people (including us) in the bus.
“What is the name of the street where all visitors go?” I asked in hopes of getting oriented.
“Avenida Revolucion,” he answered. “Drop us there,” I replied.
In a matter of minutes, we made it to our intended stop. The driver had parting advice for us. “Walk in that direction and you are going to find restaurants and stores. Keep going north to visit the girls.” He wasn’t referring to underage females but to ladies making a living by giving pleasure to visitors.
Drops of wisdom to start the day (this is a sarcastic sentence).
Logic dictates this is not something you recommend to a man accompanied by his wife.
Anyway, hours and tons of laughs later, we were walking towards the Zona Rio in search of the Mercado Hidalgo.
The waiter at the restaurant where we had breakfast suggested a visit to the fish market before moving on to the other side of town. This was advice I was willing to follow. We never found the fish market but spotted the Mercado Hidalgo on a city map.
Markets are at the top of my list every time I visit a new place. Entrance is free of charge, they are lively and provide a cultural experience hard to surpass.
Even gritty, shady, boring cities, can be elevated to a superior level if it posses quality markets. Mercado Hidalgo seems to be one of those places where the essence of Tijuana (and many other parts of Mexico) is concentrated. The excellence and variety of its offerings make it a must visit for all those in search of fragrant aromas, delicious flavors and vivid color. Oh, and there is a bonus, the people you meet.
This is a market not so frequenting by visitors who prefer to stay in downtown (or following the recommendation of the bus driver). However, it is a hidden gem that deserves a visit.
Enjoy the photos!
What is your favorite photo?