Sometimes when you’re traveling you make some really great morning plans and then you end up closing down the bar and eating tacos out of your purse on a curb while waiting for your Uber and those awesome morning plans start to look a lot less appealing.
Such was the case with our trip to Tecate. Jessica and I had made plans to day trip south of the border during my time in San Diego and scheduled a noon tour at the Tecate Brewery. The alarm rang way too early and way too loudly, but I somehow pulled myself out of bed, deliriously packed a bag, and slumped into the passenger seat as Jessica navigated us through San Diego County for what turned out to be one of the weirdest day trips ever.
Touring the Tecate Brewery
The whole reason we chose to visit Tecate as opposed to Tijuana was a chance to visit the Tecate Brewery, which brews not only its namesake beer but also Dos Equis, Bohemia, Sol, and Superior. After having to stop a few times on the way, we found ourselves running and little late and walk-jogged the 3/4 of a mile from the border to the brewery where we found our guide and tour group waiting for us.
The free 30 minute tour began with a short video and then continued on into the brewery. Our guide explained the history of Tecate beer, from its small beginnings to eventually being bought by Heineken International in 2010. Unfortunately photography was not allowed on the tour, but we made our way through each step of the brewing process and ended up back in the beer garden where we were each given a free beer. Well, everyone except me. I chose to chug water and catch up on some sleep.
(For more information about the brewery tour, including contact information to make a booking, check out this site.)
As lovely as the beer garden was, I needed to eat. (And get away from anything alcohol related.) It was time for tacos. We asked the bartender for a recommendation and without hesitation he said “Los Amigos”. I’m not sure if his immediate response was because it’s the best tacqueria in town or the only place in town, but off we went.
The speciality at Los Amigos, like most places in the region, is carne asada. We had this marinated, charred beef in both a taco and quesadilla. The tacos were bigger than anything I’d seen south of the border, but with fresh guacamole and some extra spicy hot sauce, they were just what I needed. Washed down with a big glass of homemade horchata and I was ready to explore.
The Tiny Town of Tecate
Tijuana is the Mexican border town that gets the majority of the visitors and the majority of the press. Tecate is less hedonistic city for American border jumpers and more sleepy border town filled with Mexican cowboys listening to mariachi music in old Ford pickups.
As partying was the last thing on our minds, we weren’t sad to find the town of Tecate a lot calmer than we’d expected. We were surprised, though, to find that there was about zero to see. The town’s main square was completely boarded up and under construction and after a few quick laps of the downtown we realized we had kind of seen it all and walked back to the border.
Walking Across the Tecate Port of Entry
I grew up 30 miles from an international border. I’ve walked between countries before. But despite of all this, walking between Mexico and the United States felt kind of bizarre. To get to the border from San Diego you drive through a bunch of winding mountain roads and end up in this tiny rundown town comprised of a few parking lots, trailers, a junk yard, and a gas station that appears to have not been remodeled since the 60s.
We parked in one of these lots, walked about 500 feet to the border, walked through a metal detector, and bam- we were in Mexico. No passport control. Nothing.
On the way back we knew to expect a slightly more serious endeavor only to find it pretty much deserted. While most border crossings prohibit photography, there was no around so we snapped a few pics. And took a selfie.
Inside the actual building, there were 2 people in front of us in line, a far cry from the hours of waiting I’ve heard about to cross from Tijuana. When the border control agent asked me what I was going in Mexico I stammered out a “uhhh, I came here to eat tacos” and laughed. She seemed pleased with that answer and then spent some time talking to me about writer living in the city before wishing us a pleasant day. If you’ve ever entered the United States, as either a citizen or foreign national, you know that this sort of friendliness in and of itself is rare.
Back on American soil, we climbed back into the car for a short nap before making our way back into San Diego and laughing about what a strange it had been.
What has been your strangest travel experience?