Today’s guest is CEO of the second fastest growing PR firm in the United States and their travel clients include Visit Oslo, Visit Norway, Visit Bergen, EVA Air And Telluride to name just a few.
But first I wanted to share a bit about a recent media trip I participated in and why group press trips are a great way to gain insight to what is working for other writers. I recently went on a group trip to Baja Mexico where we explored Tijuana, Las Playas de Tijuana and Rosarito. Juan Saldana from Descubre Tijuana organized a jam packed couple days for a group of San Diego travel writers that included the two leaders of the San Diego chapter of travel massive – Elaine Masters – who was also my guest on Eps # 13 and founder of the blog Trip Wellness and Katherine Belarmino, founder of the blog Travel the World and a co-founder of the Passports and Cocktails blog. We also had wine writer, Bill Eyer of the Cuvee Corner blog as well as Penny Williams, my mom, editor and contributor to Dave’s Travel Corner on the trip.
So, today I wanted to share some great pieces of advice, tips and generally interesting information I learned from the motley crew I just had the pleasure of traveling with as well as some of the experiences we had on the trip.
For those of you who haven’t been to Tijuana, Rosarito and nearby Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe — ever or in a long time you might be surprised to learn that it is quickly becoming known as a culinary and wine destination. Baja Med cuisine which was trademarked by Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero and his contemporary, the Med-Mex maestro chef Javier Plascencia, who has appeared as a guest judge on “the taste” as well as up and coming chefs like Roberto Alcocer of Malva are creating some phenomenal food.
We started our adventure south of the border exploring the Tijuana Cultural Center – which includes several galleries and also houses plays, concerts, opera’s ballet, an Imax theater, a small aquarium and gardens. If you ever want to get a handle on Mexican culture and art – this is the place to visit.
We then headed to the famous Avenida Revolución and our first stop was El Museo to try snake tequila. Now, this was a huge barrel – think water jug – the kind you have in the office break room, but this one was filled with tequila – and at the bottom were several snakes – either no longer alive or passed out from the tequila.
Supposedly this has medicinal and healing properties. Either way, we all felt pretty good as we ventured off to explore Plaza Santa Cecilia, one of the oldest streets in Tijuana housing many street vendors, restaurants and where they have free entertainment. We arrived just in time for a beautiful rendition of the Mexican hat dance.
We then explored several open air markets with everything from huge wheels of Mexican cheese, to nuts, cactus, dried chilis and beans, herbs, candy and all kinds of other treasures.
For lunch we headed to Cesaers’s. The restaurant famous for creating the beloved salad dating back to 1927 and now owned by the Placentia family. We had bone marrow served with habenaro and beef gravy on an empanada, the famous table side ceaser and a choice of entrée – I went with a main course of grilled salmon and we were served crepes with ice cream for dessert. Cesaer’s offers a high end dining experience with photos adorning every inch of wall space with family photos of the original owner Cesare Cardini and celebrities from Abbott & Costello, Cantinflas from “Around the World in 80 Days”, Rita Hayworth and many, many more.
We then headed to El Trompo – TJs version of a hands on interactive science and technology museum for kids and then to G Salinas Vinos – a shop carrying wine, craft beer and mescal from Mexico. We tasted a 100% Chardonnay from Flor de Burma and a Cab-merlot blend from Valle de Guadalupe from the Fusione winery and had a great time chatting with the son of the shop owner.
Wine tasting was followed by a trip to Caliente race track – where we got to see a few greyhound races.
We also had dinner at Mujeres Divinas, where we met their new chef Erick Saenz who is also a celebrity judge on episodes of Top Chef (my favorite show ever or at least recently!). We also tried the Caliente tequila – which we didn’t realize until the next day when Katherine googled it ………..
– and since we are all adults and I can tell you that it looks as though after a first distillation of 18 months, this añejo Tequila rests an additional five years distilled with the penises of 7 animals, including bull, bear, deer, rattlesnake, wild boar and others. The bottle itself is definitely phallic, but who would have thought? Katherine is doing some more research to confirm this, but let’s just say this might bring a new definition to the term penis breath.
Okay—that was day 1…. Day two started with breakfast at La Tradicion in Plaza Cecilia with, Martin Munoz the president of the Tijuana restaurant chamber and the owner of La Tradicion – which is “La Casa del Molcajete”.
We were lucky enough to enjoy it for breakfast – its a lava bowl filled with chorizo, steak, chicken, shrimp, cactus, onions and cheese all stewing in a bubbling sauce and topped with cilantro and avocado. It’s served with fresh warm tortillas, beans, rice and guacamole. This is now my second time trying this amazing dish and is truly my new favorite Mexican specialty.
After lunch we took a tour around the gastronomic section of Tijuana and a residential area called Chipultapec – which sits next to the TJ country club – and we got wowed by the houses of the Tijuana rich and famous.
We then headed to Las Playas de Tijuana which was both a photography haven and sad experience rolled into one. Las Playas runs the border between Mexico and the US. The border fence runs east to west and into the pacific ocean – with Las Playas de Tijuana on one side and Imperial Beach on the other. Families gather at the fence to talk to their loved ones – family members who aren’t allowed to leave Mexico legally on one side and those living in the US on the other. While they are just inches from each other – with only the fence separating them but still able to reach thru the bars of the fence to touch hands.
It was a very emotional and overwhelming sight juxtaposed with the beach itself, lively with vendors selling fresh coconuts, raw fish, churros and ice cream. There is a mix of partially run down or falling down buildings and then you’ll stumble upon a modern high end restaurant and of course it’s main claim to fame is it’s still operating bull ring at the sea.
For lunch we headed to Rosarito – the once thriving spring break seaside town that is now in the midst of a revival. It’s also the unofficial capital of wood furniture. It you live close enough, have a truck and need quality furniture at a fraction of the price or want it custom built – this is the place to come. In fact it’s where most of the so cal furniture stores by their high end craftsman wood furniture they sell. Hotels such as the Rosarito beach hotel have been not only updated but have built new towers and restaurants with baja med and California cuisine are becoming the buzz. We headed to Sussana’s – in Pueblo Plaza. Sussana’s has been operating for 11 years and is owned by an American expat … you guessed it – Susanne.
The restaurant is beautiful and homey – decorated with the local Rosarito built furniture but it’s the food that needs to be celebrated! Lunch began with a round of scratch margarita’s and a jalapeno- cream cheese wonton topped with a jalepeno honey glaze – think very elevated jalepeno popper! Next course was tortilla soup or a choice of salad – I opted for asparagus salad – a bed of mixed greens tossed in homemade balsamic mustard vinegrette with sliced strawberries, pear, tomato and topped with grilled asparagus, feta cheese and pine nuts. For our second course we had a choice of straweberry salmon, cilantro shrimp pesto, blue cheese fettucini alfredo, grilled pork chop or what I opted for – lemon dill poached sole in a dill butter sauce that if you didn’t know it, you’d have thought it was lobster.
And we ended our meal sharing her famous chocolate cake served with van ice cream and homemade flan.
Okay – the best meal I’ve ever had in Rosarito (and if you know how many times I visited there in my college days) you’ll know this actually means something…. But it was a restaurant worth taking a journey for! Live in San diego or plan to visit SD? Go!!
And if you are ever in Rosarito and in the mood for a murder mystery dinner – Sussana’ hosts one in the cellar of the restaurant. I can’t wait to go back for one of these dinners!
And our journey in Mexico ended with a final stop as when we headed back to Tijuana. Katherine was looking for a 3rd interesting alcohol for her article she’d be writing for passports and cocktails – and after snake tequila and tequila distilled with animal penises it wasn’t necessarily an easy task. But Juan brought us to one of the oldest bars in TJ – Dandy Del Sol which Opened in 1857 to try a variety of mezcal – which is sort of like Tequila but it’s made from Agave usually in Oaxaca and often has a worm in the bottom of the bottle.
Really, is there any other way to end a trip to Tijuana? Well, I’m sure there was, but this was our grand finale south of the border.
And to what I learned from my fellow travel writers. Tons of Photography tips from Bill – starting with the importance of looking into an auto ISO setting for my camera and to learn more about while balance for low light photography. He also shared his favorite phone app — camera plus which – allows you to save photos without taking up space until they are saved into your camera roll and has a Clarity filter allowing you to take better quality photos & Bill says is the best $2 he’s ever spent on an app. He also talked about how putting his photos on Flickr has brought him inquires and sales for his photos. Side note – Bill says to make sure to join the communities on Flicker. He also says to always shoot in raw mode, use lightroom for editing and in edit mode do a print screen of the photo so the image you use on your website looks great but it too low quality for anyone to use or be able if they want to to increase the size.
There was also a lot of talk about properly tagging photos including always naming photos correctly in the program you edit in as well as alt descriptions with country, city and description for best search results.
Katherine who works a full time job and still seems to travel more than most of us in the group had tons of great suggestions from using flipboard to track articles and how to quickly get on public boards on Pinterest. Her trick was to take the URL of the pinterest group and subtract the board name and it leaves you with the original person who started the public board. Then follow this person and re-pin a bunch of their photos and photos in the group – to show you’ll be a good asset to the group board and get invited to join. Being a part of a community board is one of best ways to get traffic from Pinterest.
Katherine also told me about Triberr which is triberr.com which based on their about page says it exists to help bloggers with the 3 most important things we need to survive….
- & Money
I just signed up and am really excited to learn more about it!
Elaine shared the facebook groups she has been focused on to grow her traffic – which are part-time travel bloggers, part-time travel bloggers social media group and travel bloggers network. She said these three groups have helped with traffic and networking.
Penny is the queen of podcasts. She is a devotee of my business coach, Michael O’neal and his solopreneur hour – which she has decided is her all time favorite podcast. Want to know about the top entrepreneur podcasts out there? – not only can she rattle off the best of best to listen to like Lewis Howes, Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas and Michael Hyatt – but she can tell you specific episodes to listen to for for just about any topic or business issue you are facing. Seriously.
Of course there was also the usual – sharing of previous press trips and upcoming trips and exchanging of media contacts.
Have a question about our trip to Tijuana or Rosarito? Or want to know more about any of the tips I learned on my trip? Please tweet me @writetotravel and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
And now……….. to today’s interview!