La Paz: The reality of the rubber band effect
La Paz: The reality of the rubber band effect
Local cruisers often talk about the “La Paz rubber band effect”, which means that after you leave La Paz, you will always come back. It’s true that there are a lot of things to love. It has a more relaxed and understated vibe than Los Cabos. There aren’t many giant resorts, which means that there aren’t vendors trying to sell you blankets, hats, sunglasses, and snacks everywhere you go. The food is great. The cruising community is well-established and a great way to network and get local advice. We had a good group of young cruiser friends to hang out with. The people are incredibly friendly. There’s really very little to not love.
We spent our time split between two marinas: Marina Fonatur and Marina de la Paz. When we first arrived, Marina de la Paz didn’t have space, so we booked a month at Marina Fonatur. The Marina was clean and had a pool and good group of cruisers. There’s not much near Marina Fonatur, but we could walk to the Liverpool Shopping Mall, Walmart, and a few restaurants. Our final two weeks in La Paz were spent at Marina de la Paz, which is centrally located and easily the most popular of the marinas. Marina de la Paz is home to the Club Cruceros clubhouse and has a very active community of sailors.
Our six weeks in La Paz flew by. I typically spent my days working, and Philippe threw himself into an intensive Spanish studying regime (Duolingo, Spanish podcasts, Spanish TV shows, Spanish news articles, etc). We listened to the morning net almost every single morning (8am on channel 22a). While sometimes long and once or twice a bit heated, it offered a wealth of information about the surrounding community. Club Cruceros also hosted a few great parties and events that Philippe and I participated in (morning coffee hours and yoga, Christmas Bazaar, celestial navigation classes, maintenance and repair seminars).
In the evenings, Philippe and I would make the trek to El Nopal Spanish Academy, where we took two hours of classes Monday through Friday. We had two wonderful teachers, Marcela and Ahena, and the personalized sessions were incredibly helpful. The school also hosted a traditional Mexican Posada, which is similar to a Christmas Party. There are songs, food, and a piñata, which Philippe took a solid crack at. We are still far from fluent (or even conversational) speakers, but we can get by much easier after our time at El Nopal. Philippe and I have very different styles of speaking. I am slow and calculated. Marcela told me that I have almost no accent, and my pronunciation is often quite good for a beginner. I need to think about things before I speak, though, and I am more hesitant to try to carry on a conversation. Even with my hesitancy, I have managed a few silly mistakes. Once, an Uber driver expressed surprise that we live so far from our families, to which I casually replied “No hay problema, tenemos un avión”, which translates to “It’s not a problem, we have a plane” (what I meant to say, of course, is that we take a plane). Even more humorously, I once asked a server in a restaurant for “una paja” – a straw for my drink. She gave me a funny look and walked away, but eventually came back and asked me to repeat my request. I did. After a few moments a lightbulb went off and she said, “oh! un popote”. We looked up the word “paja” and learned that it can, innocently, mean straw like thatch. In some countries, however, it can also mean masturbation. Philippe and Keith, I am pretty sure, will never let me live this one down.
Philippe, not surprisingly, throws himself into a Spanish conversation with very little hesitation. Marcela says he has a strong French accent, and his pronunciation can be iffy. But his fearlessness is an asset, and even though his Spanish isn’t perfect, most people can figure out what he’s talking about. He can carry on a conversation easier than I can, but sometimes his sentences will be met with a confused stare (at our best moments, I know exactly what he was trying to say and can jump in with the correct word or pronunciation). As usual, we make a good team.
Philippe and I don’t have any immediate plans at this point, but it’s hard to imagine that we would ever pass through the Sea of Cortez again without stopping by La Paz.
La Paz Details
Cell phone connectivity – Cell connectivity was pretty good everywhere we went. I would get some spotty service as far out as Balandra Bay, and most of the areas in town were fine for my Verizon phone.
Wi-Fi – Internet at Marina Fonatur was fine when we used our booster. Occasionally we would have some spottiness, but nothing terrible. At Marina de la Paz, they have Wi-Fi and hard-wired ethernet internet at the docks. We couldn’t get the ethernet to work, but it’s not clear if the problem was one of our cables or the hard-wired system itself. Other people spoke highly of it. The Wi-Fi could also be a bit spotty, but our slip was pretty far out. It was never much of a concern, because the Marina is close to Club Cruceros (which offers reliable internet to members) and several coffee shops.
Restaurants – So many good ones! For simple Mexican food and good dessert, we loved Campestre, which was near Marina Fonatur. Our favorite menu items were the alitas (chicken wings), Aztec soup, and key lime pie. In town, we really enjoyed Nim and Las Tres Virgenes for nice evenings out. They are on the pricier side, but for standard US prices you can get a really fantastic meal.
Coffee – I can’t recommend Doce Cuarenta enough. The shop is beautiful, the staff is friendly, the coffee is good. I always love a place where I can settle in to do some work with an affogato.
Sights – We did a Whale Shark tour with Buceo Carey and had a great experience. The price was mid-range, the wetsuits were in great condition, and the guides were very friendly and knowledgeable. We also enjoyed seeing a movie in Spanish at the fancy theater, Platino. With big comfortable seats and seat-side service (snacks, meals, and alcohol), the price for both our snacks and movie tickets only came out to about $11.
Getting around – Uber was established in La Paz one week before we arrived. It was a little hit or miss for the first week or so (sometimes, it would take 15 minutes for a car to arrive), but after that it seemed to pick up steam and worked pretty smoothly. A 20-minute Uber ride would generally cost around 60 pesos. Taxis come quickly, but are more expensive than Uber. The buses are incredibly cheap and convenient, but it’s impossible to find a schedule listed anywhere. A little word-of-mouth research can go a long way in helping you to find the right route.