The kids are very keen on a day in Mexico. I'm a bit more apprehensive. I've always been driven around by someone with local knowledge.
The plan is simple: get a tram to the border, then get a taxi into the centre of Tijuana.
We walk down to the Santa Fe Depot tram stop. The tickets are only $2.50. Not bad for a ride that takes 45 minutes. On the way we get glimpses of several US Navy ships. This really is a huge naval base.
As we get off the tram, I notice a change place selling pesos at 20 to the dollar. Which seems a pretty good rate. So, I change $100. At least I'll have some local dosh when we arrive.
Crossing the border is a piece of piss. before we know it, we're outside picking up a taxi. We have them take us to Cesar's on Revolucion, the main drag. Because I know a brewery, Norte, is just around the corner.
When we turn that corner, what we see is a multistorey car park.
"I remember this place," Alexei says, "it's the one with the entrance that's almost impossible to find."
Damn. I remember thinking last time that I'd never have found the entrance without a guide. And I'm not going to try now.
"Is there another brewery nearby?" I ask.
"Yes, just past Cesar's the other way."
So that's where we head. I recognise the place. It's Mamut, located on the first floor. We take seats on the balcony, where there's a nice breeze.
Most of the beers are off. About all they have are a Hazy Pale Ale and a Hazy Rye IPA. I go for the latter, the kids the former. They cost 80 pesos - that's $4. About half the price of the USA.
Hazy Rye IPA, 7%, 57 IBU
It certainly is hazy. But only 80 pesos. Quite bitter for a sludge bomb.
The waitress really struggles with our order. Despite most of the beers being off. She brings us two Hazy Rye IPAs. Andrew doesn’t seem to mind drinking the stronger beer.
I notice a mention of mezcal on the menu.
"Can we have 3 mezcals?" I ask the waitress. She explains that they only sell it after 16:00. It's currently ten to four. She brings over the mezcal menu. We order one each. At $3.50 a pop, they're pretty cheap. And full of burny, smoky goodness. What size is that measure? 40 cl? 50 cl? Good value, whatever the size.
We talk a bit about Germany. “Berlin is Germany’s Amsterdam.” I declare. Much to the bemusement of the kids.
A pickup full of heavily-armed soldiers pulls up outside. The soldiers pile off and disappear down an alleyway. I start to take a photo, but the kids say: “Don’t do that, Dad. They might get pissed off.”
It is sort of reassuring, the heavy police presence. Probably why the streets, at least in this part of the centre, seem safe.
We're thinking about food. But Mamut only does typical brewpub fare. I want proper Mexican. We head to another brewpub on the main drag, Teorema.
The streets are a good bit cleaner than downtown LA. And much less pissy-smelling. They still have those weird donkeys painted as zebra, mind. What is the deal with that? What’s the point?
Tijuana is full of chemists, all aimed at US citizens.
“It’s very sad that they can’t afford their medicines in the US.” Andrew says sympathetically.
“Shall I see if I can get some Temazepam?”
“No, Dad! Really, no!”
“Is that a maybe?”
“No! Be serious, Dad.”
“Where’s your sense of humour, Andrew?”
“You don’t joke about that stuff. Just shut up about it.”
“I guess it would end up like Breaking Bad, with everyone dead.”
“They don’t all end up dead.”
“Don’t they? That’s not how I remember it”
“Jeezus, Dad. Your brain really is turning into mush.”
We were here last time, as well. It's a very minimal Scandi-looking sort of place. There aren’t a great number of customers. Just us and another young trendy looking bloke in the corner. We only just outnumber the staff.
I opt for the strongest beer on the menu.
Public Hop White IPA, 6.5% ABV
It’s OK. Fairly bitter.
The kids have an Irish Red. I don’t tell them it’s a bollocky made-up style. Why spoil their fun?
We only have the one. We’re getting peckish. And noticed a proper Mexican place on the way here. So that’s where we go. El Perico, it's called.
The young waitress is very shy when she approaches us. She seems intimidated by our English-speaking. I try to be nice to her as we order margaritas.
The menu is very long. I’m not quite sure what everything is and order a burrito. The kids opt for quesadilla supreme.
The food is dead good. Very fresh and tasty. We get a second round of margaritas. The waitress seems more relaxed now.
Time for another brewery. As Lexxie is the one with a map on his phone, we’re relying on him. Luckily, there are plenty of brewpubs in this part of town. Like, just around the corner there’s one. No more than a couple of hundred metres. Kaminari.
We’re there in minutes. It’s very dark inside. And there’s a group doing a mezcal tasting. We settle in towards the back
What do we do? Order ourselves some beers. An IPA for me, of course. One of the staff wanders over and asks if we’d like to try some of the mezcal. Why not? We’re on holiday, after all.
When we settle up, we pay two bills. One for the beer and one for the mezcal. It seems that this place, called Mestizo, housed two businesses: a brewery and a mezcal bar. I’m not complaining, as I quite like both beer and mezcal.
Time is pressing. It’s already 7 PM. It’s going to take at least two hours to get back to San Diego. We need to start heading for the border.
As there’s a liquor store literally next door, we drop by there for some take-home tequila.
“Don’t buy any of that not for human consumption alcohol again on the border, Dad.”
“Why not? My eyesight got back to normal after a couple of days. Just about.”
Tequila bought, we grab a cab and speed to the border. Where, unsurprisingly, there’s a long queue.
The masses of red tail lights look quite magical with the sun setting behind them. And help ease the pain of queueing.
As we approach the control point, we hear someone singing the US national anthem. When we get inside, we see there’s a besuited religious nutter waving a bible in people’s faces and shouting about sin.
It’s not going down well with the crowd. A woman in her sixties yells “Shut up!” A young woman behind us has a go at him, too.
One of the border guards has a word with him, but lets him continue. He’s a regular, it seems. And evidently harmless. I wonder if they would be so tolerant were the nutter not white?
We jump on a tram and are off almost immediately. Andrew wants to pick up some more beer and time is pressing. He remembers that San Diego stops outsales at 10 PM. It’s ten to when we roll into our tram stop.
By the time we get to Riteaid, it’s just chiming ten. No more beer tonight. Just as well they bought two twelve packs yesterday.
Tonight, it’s the exotic beat of tequila dancing me to sleep.
Carrillo Puerto y o Tercera 8161,
Av. Revolución 1332,
Taqueria El Perico
Av. Revolución 1388-1230,
Mestizo Tasting Room
Flores Magón 8297,
Flores Magón no. 602,