“Exceeded Expectations!”

is how I would rate my entire trip to Mexicali.  After making several previous trips to different parts of Mexico over the years – I had a lot of preconceived notions about Mexicali.  But despite being a large border city; I encountered few, if any of the tourist stereotypes that I expected (from visits to Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, and other tourist towns).  Instead of being treated like a ‘mark’ or a rich gringo, everyone I encountered went out of their way to be helpful, friendly and polite.  Strangers on the street offered directions – hotel staff gave friendly advice, and all of the medical receptionists I spoke with were exceedingly kind (which is not always the case.)  Much of the time, people on the street, in restaurants, and other locations assisted us in English.  Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise – that my husband commented on several times.

Of course, some of the stereotypes about border towns were true; such as the occasional whiff of open sewer, poorly maintained sidewalks and pedestrian walkways but there were crosswalks at many corners and drivers did seem to yield to pedestrians.  Traffic was fairly smooth and uncongested in Zona Central.  Stoplights were present and functional, but the streets were not particularly well-lit at night, so I would advise taking the usual ‘big-city’ precautions.

The border crossings were easy (took about fifteen minutes to come back across to Calexico), and it seemed like even the American border patrol were more pleasant than usual.  (Unfortunately, I found in the past that they do look at you a bit sideways in Orlando after several months in Colombia).

I don’t usually recommend hotels and such (since I’m not ‘Trip Advisor’, after all) but in this case – I would like to recommend the Hotel del Norte for several reasons.  It’s a modest but attractive establishment, reasonably priced with friendly staff but more importantly, it’s one of few appropriate hotels in Zona Central, where most of the medical offices and hospitals are located.

There are quite a few gorgeous, and luxurious properties in Mexicali but most of them are located farther across town.  The Hotel del Norte is literally just steps away from the border on Francisco Maduro, which was very convenient for my needs. (I prefer to be in walking distance of the areas I am touring/ interviewing in.)  So – over time – as I move across town in my interviewing process, I get to see and know more parts of the city I am writing about.  I stayed in four different hotels while writing the first Cartagena book, for example.

I’ll bring you more news on my next visit..

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