Sunday, May 19, 2013

Loreto Bay Retrospective 2012 - 2013

By definition, the subject of this Blog is about my life here in Loreto (hence the name) and so the time has come to finish this season’s series of posts, as I prepare to leave my home here in the Baja and embark on my summer schedule of travel in my “home away from home”, my Travel Trailer which has been stored for the winter just north of the US border.

Looking back over the past 8 months, in many ways this has been the best winter I have spent here in Loreto since I first purchased the “chalk on sand” which was to become my home here almost 10 years ago.  During that time I have watched the completion of over 600 homes, in spite of the precarious Real Estate market throughout North America, from which the original Developer of Loreto Bay was an early casualty.  What followed were several dark years of uncertainty when the future of our development very much hung in the balance. 

One of the early positive steps was the decision by about 120 Homeowners with unfinished homes in the second phase of the project to proceed with completing their homes independently, at a higher cost than had been originally quoted by the now defunct Developer.  This added about twenty percent to the then current total of finished homes and was a big vote of confidence in the future of the community.  The next significant event was the arrival of Homex, a large Mexican residential construction company that purchased most of the remaining assets of the original Developer and the ensuing announcement of their plans to build a new project, projected to be 800 homes adjacent to Loreto Bay.

Then a little over two years ago the members of our Home Owners Association voted almost unanimously in favor of an infrastructure completion program, a two year project to finish important aspects of the development that had been left incomplete since the departure of the original Developer.  This was a huge vote of confidence by the community in the completion of the vision that we had bought into in the first place.  It includes some important maintenance and upgrades to essential services as well as adding two Community Pools to the original one, completing flagstone paving along half of the Paseo and adding street lighting along with even more extensive landscaping of common areas.

This entire two year completion program, which is due to be finished by the end of this year, is on schedule and under the $2 million dollar budget, which has been collected through a special assessment to our monthly HOA fees, and represents a tangible investment by the Homeowners in the future of their Community.  But in addition to the “bricks and mortar” that this project represents, in my mind it will be viewed in the future as an even more important step forward in the history of Loreto Bay – the point that we as Homeowners fully realized that we were responsible for ourselves and the community where we had purchased homes, and we were no longer dependent on a “Developer Daddy” to take care of us!

As those of you who have been following these posts over the past winter know, this Season has had other highlights – many of which I have written about here – from the lavish Food and Wine Festival to impromptu get-togethers for a pot-luck dinner.  Since, in the day, Loreto Bay was originally marketed mainly to pre-retirement Baby Boomers, many of those Homeowners still have not retired yet, although every season there are more people spending more time here as they finally reach their “golden years” and are able to join their friends and neighbors here for more than a few stolen weeks out of a busy working year.

As more Homeowners reach retirement and can spend months here instead of weeks, the Community grows and becomes more vibrant and diverse as the mosaic of their interests and passions are added to those who are already here to make this an increasingly colorful and dynamic place.  With the promised increase in airline access to Loreto starting in November, we anticipate that it will become easier to book more convenient flights here next winter, than it has been in over four years.  The significance of this improved access is that in recent years most of the available seats have been booked far in advance by residents in Loreto Bay and the surrounding area, leaving few seats available for Visitors to come to Loreto for the first time, if they did not plan sufficiently far ahead.

With increased tourism will come a much needed improvement in business for the Hotels, Restaurants and other services in the town of Loreto and that will have a major impact on employment and prosperity in and around Loreto.  Incidentally, it also follows that this anticipated increase of Visitors to Loreto will also have a “trickle down” affect on the Real Estate business in Loreto generally and Loreto Bay specifically, as an increasing number of people will be introduced to the special nature of this beautiful place and choose to make it where they will find their retirement home.

As I write this, another important step in the progress of Loreto Bay is about to begin.  Work should restart this summer on the completion of the two Posada buildings that have been sitting unfinished near the center of the Community for over 4 years.  With two main floors of commercial space and a total of 44 condo apartments, most of which were sold prior to the start of construction, the eventual completion of these two four storey buildings will be another landmark in the evolution of Loreto Bay and transform what has been an eyesore for years into a focal point, while adding another 10% to the number of homes in the Founders Neighborhood.

So as I wind down the best Season so far, here in Loreto Bay, and look forward with cautious optimism to next season and an increasingly thriving community within a resurging town, I am reminded of a somewhat dark comment I have used here in recent years; “the difference between pioneers and settlers is the arrows sticking in their backs”!  Having lived here since the early days of the development, and having been involved in the Real Estate market for most of those years, I have seen an amazing transition from the early “heady” days when the vision began, through the uncertainty about the future, to the slow but steady progress back from the brink, and now the air of optimism and growing enthusiasm about what lies ahead!

Taking a moment at the end of another Season to reflect on where we have come from and appreciate where we are heading – that is certainly one of the most important parts of “Living Loreto”!

P.S. In conclusion for this season, I would like to express my sincere thanks for the continued and growing support by you, the Readers of this Blog.  Since the modest beginnings near the end of 2008, my Blog has reached a loyal following that literally reaches around the world, and this season has been the most successful so far, based on the number of hits each week. 

While I sometimes feel the burden of obligation to come up with another topic for my weekly posting, once I actually begin the writing process, this has become one of my favorite pastimes over the past five years and I have you to thank for helping me learn what writing skills I have developed over that time.  Sometime this summer Living Loreto will pass the 100,000 hit level (yes, people continue to read these pages even when I am not posting new material) and while I am looking forward to a hiatus from writing over the summer, I pledge to resume these jottings again in the Fall when I return again to “Living Loreto”!            

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Farewell to Dali . . .

The subject of this week’s Blog is the departure of a popular and important aspect of our lifestyle here in Loreto – recently Jose Luis and Beatriz, the proprietors of Dali Delikatessan, announced that they would be closing their food store this month after eight years of providing specialty meats and other hard to find ingredients to the community.  During that time their store has grown from modest beginnings to become a “staple” for many of the ex-pats that have come to rely on them for the makings of many delicious meals that have added much to the enjoyment of our lifestyle here.

This past week I met with both of them at the Wine Bar here in Loreto Bay to talk about their experiences running the business, how they came to Loreto and what their plans are for the future.  Although it was obviously a sad occasion for me, as I have been a regular and enthusiastic customer of theirs over the years, it was also an opportunity to spend some time getting to know them better than the brief visits we often had when I dropped into their store to pick up the special things like Angus beef steaks and New Zealand lamb or cheddar cheese and my favorite coffee beans.

I remember meeting them soon after they opened their first small location downtown, not much more than the proverbial “hole in the wall”, located near the town square in Loreto.  In those days they had just begun the transition from a wholesale restaurant supplier of mainly frozen meats, and they were starting to sell retail to individuals.  In those days the store had a couple of shelving units stocked mainly with large commercial sized containers of condiments and other ingredients and in the back they had a large walk-in cooler/freezer where they stored their inventory of meats.

In those early days I remember the sense of excitement going to the original store and discovering the recent additions to their stock, an experience that would be hard to understand for anyone not familiar with the then current state of the other food stores in Loreto – which were limited at best and unappetizing at worst.  I had to quickly relearn the art of grocery shopping Loreto style, and came to refer to it as “hunting and gathering” as opposed to the selection and plenty that I was used to in the supermarkets where I had come from.

While one often headed to town with a shopping list of sorts, it was only an optimistic starting point, because unlike buying groceries in typical North American supermarkets, you wound up purchasing what you could find – not necessarily what you had started out looking for.  And while from the beginning Dali was far more reliable for their basic meats and other ingredients week in and week out, the excitement came from finding a new item that they were carrying which often opened new options for meals that had been unobtainable here before.

Those early days six or seven years ago also marked the beginning of another major contributor to the improvement of home prepared food here, the Sunday Market where vendors, many from out of town, set up stalls near the arroyo and sold their wares, including five or six that brought in fresh fruits and vegetables - a welcome improvement to the limited selection and poor quality that was then common in the established local stores.  But it was the reliable supply of excellent quality meats that quickly established Dali as an important source of the main meal ingredients for many of the growing numbers of ex-pats who were living, or passing through Loreto.

Although upwards of 70% of their business came from this loyal clientele, the remainder of the local Mexican customers were critically important to a viable year-round business because it was this smaller group of permanent residents that kept the business in operation when the majority of their winter season customers left for six or more months during the long hot summers.  Although Beatriz and Jose Luis expressed few regrets about their eight years of business in Loreto, I think they were disappointed that they did not get more support from a larger local Mexican clientele.  But they were resigned to the cultural reality that for the same reasons they were so popular with their ex-pat customers looking for a “taste of home”, the large majority of local residents were not familiar with many of the cuts of meat and other products they sold, coupled with the misperception that the foods they sold were more expensive.

Over the years Dali developed another strong following in a niche market, which will play an important role in the future evolution of their business, although that future unfortunately will not be here in Loreto.  When the yachting community discovered Dali and their vacuum packed, flash frozen meats they became enthusiastic customers and word travelled fast among the many live aboard cruisers that frequent the spectacular sailing grounds of the Sea of Cortez.  A layover in Loreto, or nearby Puerto Escondido, almost always meant a provisioning run to Dali, where the yachters would stock up, sometimes in very large quantities, on their quality meats and other hard to find ingredients like sushi rice and bulk herbs and spices. 

Beatriz gave an example of one such customer who, upon finding some hard to come by ingredient placed a phone call, while she was in the store, to a friend of hers who was located in Mexico City and apparently had been searching for the same thing – without success – in that city of 20 million people, and here it was in Loreto!  With that sort of spectacular example, it should not be hard to understand why Dali is going to be re-locating to La Paz, with a much larger sailing community as well as a population over ten times the size of Loreto.

They plan to open a new store, probably within walking distance of at least one of the two main marinas located there and build their business on a more sustainable basis catering to the much larger numbers of potential customers, albeit in a much more competitive market than here in Loreto.  While they have come slowly to this decision, and with real regrets for the many friends and customers they will leave behind, they also will miss the quiet beauty that they have come to love as their home in Loreto over the past eight years. 

But, the numbers don’t lie, and while their business has remained steady over the years that they have been operating in their much expanded second store, they are realistic enough to understand that a business that is not growing is in fact shrinking.  And so they have made the hard decision that they must make their move now, from relative strength, and not wait another year, or two (or more) for Loreto to grow and eventually allow them to continue to grow with it.

In writing this Blog over the past five seasons, I have always strived to put a positive perspective on the stories that I share with the readers every week, as my Mother used to say: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”!  So it is difficult for me to find a positive take-away from this week’s post on the departure of a much loved local business and the wonderful couple who I have seen grow and mature with the successful enterprise they have built over the same period of time that I have lived my adventure here.  But I am sure that there are new entrepreneurs waiting in the wings, who see the opportunity that Loreto promises in the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jose Luis and Beatriz have provided those others with a stellar example of how to begin and succeed with a new enterprise here.

Learning to say Via con Dios to friends who learned how to run a successful business, while I was learning how to live successfully in a new and very different home here in Mexico – that may be one of the most important lessons of “Living Loreto”.                            

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Loreto Food - A Guest Blog Perspective

As this season winds down and I begin to get ready to leave Loreto soon for the summer months I am pleased to be able to offer you, my dedicated readers, an infrequent alternative view of “Living Loreto”, this time from the perspective of another follower of my Blog who recently contacted me and offered to write a Guest Blog.

Eddie Shackleford is an Editor and Travel Writer who has visited Loreto and he brings us his enthusiastic commentary on the food experiences he had here.  I thought it would be interesting to add a different point of view on a topic that I haven’t written about (restaurant food in Loreto) for a couple of years. When I received Eddie’s draft of this Blog my first impression was that maybe he was a bit “over the top” in his enthusiasm – but then I decided perhaps I have become a bit jaded myself, and who was I to judge another person’s positive reaction.  Particularly when it is well written and coming from an experienced travel writer, so I hope you enjoy Eddie’s perspective as much as I appreciate a rare hiatus from my weekly postings.
Unique and Timeless Loreto
The picturesque Mexican city of Loreto has become an out-of-towner favorite because of its authentic historical charm and readily available modern amenities. Tourists visit for the year-round sun and the call of the sea, and keep coming back for the friendly and familiar atmosphere along with the delicious local cuisine.

Loreto has held a level of importance in Baja California for centuries. It was the first Spanish settlement in the Baja, and it remains a favorite of travelers because Loreto has managed to preserve the romantically historic buildings and streets while adding the modern touches and worldly flair that make for great vacations.

Some time ago, the government began to bill Loreto as the newest Mexican resort town. They invested heavily in local development, wooing in visitors with a new airport and golf course. Luckily for travelers, it has never become the overcrowded cookie-cutter resort mecca that it could have been. Instead, it is a town that has the perfect balance between an ancient fishing village and a modern vacation destination. The ease of travel provided by the local airport makes Loreto an attraction to those buying second homes as well as those who may be just visiting. It only takes a few hours to get to Loreto from Los Angeles by air, so many find Loreto the perfect place to simply step off the plane into paradise.

The local tourism interests have taken great care to keep an eye to conservation, which means tourists will hopefully have access to a preserved abundance of beautiful landscape for generations to come. One of the biggest draws of the area is the marine conservation area in the beautiful bay where travelers can snorkel and dive to see an amazing bounty of aquatic life in unsullied waters.

The sparkling Sea of Cortez off the shores of Loreto also provides visitors the experience of swimming with dolphins or enjoying world-class whale watching. The most popular ocean activity for visitors by far however is deep sea fishing. Many adventure companies provide both gear and guided fishing trips. The best part of ocean fishing in Loreto is that many of the locally famous and delicious restaurants will prepare your fish in their kitchen right before your eyes.

Character of Loreto's Local Food Scene

There are really no rules when it comes to the Loreto food scene. Many in the local restaurant business that have made their permanent homes in Loreto hail from diverse international locales so the flair of the food is different in each restaurant. The owners range from those raised on the food in local Loreto kitchens to those with professional culinary training from Mexico City, San Diego or Europe.

The only thing you will find in every restaurant in Loreto is that there are no boundaries. There is no barrier between the kitchen and the table since the chef will likely be the one talking to you about your food and crafting delicious meals to your exact taste. There are also no barriers between land and sea since you may even be able to see the clams you are about to eat be delivered by the person who dug them up that day. In some cases, the restaurant you visit is also your destination for the day. La Picazon is a locally famous restaurant 10 km north of town that is located on the beach and patrons can collect shells or take a quick jaunt on a kayak between courses.
Fresh and unique food made with love and attention is not just talk in Loreto. Everything is fresh.  Each pastry, tortilla, or loaf of bread was made that morning. In Loreto the “catch of the day” means exactly that, the fish served on your plate probably was caught that morning!


It’s not hard to find locally sourced food prepared in traditional Baja style. What’s most

surprising about Loreto is the quality and diversity of foreign food options. The pulled pork, waffles and sushi are just as expertly prepared with fresh quality ingredients as the Mexican cuisine. Many restaurants import delicious additions to the local fare such as craft beer and Argentinean beef.

There is never any hurry in Loreto eating establishments. Many offer the luxury of casual elegance, while others have the heart and soul that can only be found in a “hole-in-the-wall”. What they share in common is that they are places to gather and savor the great food and company of this city that time forgot. As you probably gather, one of my favorite experiences while I was in Loreto was eating the food!

Unique Foods of Loreto

On a drive through Baja California you can expect to find any number of restaurants serving fish

tacos and the like, and more than likely each one will have fish that is more delicious than the last.  Of course Loreto has fish tacos, and they will not disappoint you. But what Loreto does best is the fusion of all styles of North American and Mediterranean cuisine. You may expect to eat the best Mexican food you’ve ever had - and you will, but you may also find the best hamburger or vegetable lasagna here as well.

Huarache is a favorite of both visitors and locals. The fried masa (corn) base is covered with any number of toppings including salsa, cilantro, potatoes and meat finished off with queso fresco or fresh cheese. Other popular Mexican dishes in Loreto for visitors to sample include fried stuffed potatoes called papas rellenos and seasoned skirt steak called arracherra.

Any pescado or fish menu item will be sure to please, especially the mahi-mahi that locals call dorado. It is quite the unique Loreto experience to come back from a fishing trip and be able to ask a restaurant to cook your catch. Many restaurants will cook up the fish you bring them in several diverse, unique and delicious styles.


A few restaurants in Loreto only serve breakfast and lunch, and any of those would be a traveler’s best bet for a scrumptious morning feast. Visitors will be delighted to find international favorites like French toast or waffles or a classic egg and sausage spread.

A few local favorites can be found on breakfast menus, like traditional Mexican huevos rancheros or
even a surprisingly delicious cactus smoothie. What makes a Loreto morning meal special however is the abundance of fresh quality ingredients and the care taken in the preparation of each plate. Juice was squeezed fresh this morning and comes in a staggering assortment of sweet fruity flavors. The bread for your French toast probably came out of the oven only a few hours ago. Your coffee and fresh pastries may just be the best you’ve ever had.


Lunch is also an adventure. Those hungry for their midday meal may delight in the abundance of fresh and surprisingly delicious sandwiches and salads available at cafes and delis. A driving tour may bring travelers to pubs or saloons off the beaten path, where they can enjoy an ice cold beer with a hamburger or BLT worth writing home about.


A stroll around the town´s central square reveals a plethora of heavenly dinner options. Whatever type of food you are craving, whether it is Italian, Mexican or American, will be prepared beautifully and will be served with signature local hospitality. Many families cap off each sun-soaked day of their visit with a refreshing ice cream cone from the best ice cream parlor in town which can be found within a block of the square.


The flavor of international fusion does not stop at Loreto’s food. Taverns and pubs carry imported wine and craft brews paired as well as local favorites. It is not difficult to find a spot to watch the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez with your favorite drink in hand. The food served at Loreto’s pubs is not just an afterthought. Much of the best food in the city is served either as entrees or tapas-style small plates with items like world-class sashimi to accompany your libation.


Many resort towns present only what foreigners want to see while neglecting to preserve their heritage in a misguided attempt to please their Visitors. Loreto is not like that. In every aspect, it welcomes and blends new cultures with its own while preserving its ancient history and charming atmosphere. The food in Loreto has blended the traditional cuisines of locals and visitors together to become something novel, fresh and truly unique.

 Bio: Eddie Duncan Shackleford is a Senior Editor for Direct2TV and loves to research and          write topics on tourism and travel. To gain a unique experience, Eddie travels to different places so that he can write interesting content about them. Eddie D. Shackleford can be followed on twitter at: @Eddie20Ford


Seeing a familiar place through a Visitors eyes, brings new insights and appreciations that even the most enthusiastic Resident can become “jaded” with over time.  Enjoying that fresh perspective from another point of view is a relatively new experience for those of us who are “Living Loreto”.