PictureGrand Canyon National Park North Rim
I watched a movie tonight  called "Trading Christmas", a 2011 made for TV family  film starring Faith Ford and Tom Cavanagh   . Another one this time of year, that has been shown since 2006, is "The Holiday"  starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz.  Both movies start off with a similar story line about 2 people who decide to 
swap houses for the holidays. 

We experienced our own house swap recently, when we traded our own Casa Esquina for a condo in Kanab, Utah. I know what you're thinking..."WHERE is Kanab, Utah?"and then "WHY Kanab, Utah?!"

PictureThe view of Angel Canyon from Best Friends Restaurant
My daughter was soon going to be celebrating her milestone 18th birthday, and I wanted to give her something special. She casually mentioned to me one day that volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was on her bucket list. The Rescue Center had been made famous over 4 seasons of the National Geographic's series "Dogtown". I sent some emails to the staff at Best Friend's asking about volunteer opportunities, some inquiries on area condos via VRBO and Flipkey, and researched flights using airline points. 

Everything fell into place quickly, and when condo owner Tyler West, replied with "Are you interested in a trade?", I was  even more excited. A house swap made this fantastic bucket list gift, an affordable reality.

PictureBryce Canyon memories taken from the back of a horse
Kanab, is located near the borders of Arizona and Utah, and is very centrally located to some of the most beautiful scenic National Parks in the US; Zion, Grand Canyon North Rim, Bryce Canyon, and Lake Powell. This very quaint town is billed as the Greatest  Earth on Show (and they aren't kidding!). It also has quite a history of movie locations for Classic Westerns. 

Our first night in town, as we strolled the main street, we laughed as the Oscar Wiener-mobile drove by, moments later the chimes at the Mormon church rang the 8 pm bells welcoming us to Utah. We enjoyed dinner at "Calvin T's Barbeque" while listening to a gentleman belt out some old country tunes. Our table incidentally was across the room from some stuffed raccoons playing poker! This town has a lot of personality packed into a little package! 

The closest international airport is Las Vegas, which conveniently gave us an excuse to do a little shopping and take in a show. Las Vegas provided an almost comical and certainly shocking contrast to our time in Kanab and the National Parks. 

Our adventure included riding mules down into the Grand Canyon and horses in Bryce Canyon, a 100 mile boat cruise to the Rainbow Arch, touring the Antelope Slot Canyons, and hiking in Zion. The highlight of our holiday was volunteering at Best Friends working with the dogs and horses for a couple days. We ran out of time,  and didn't get to go sledding down the sand hills in Pink Dunes State Park but we had to leave something for next time!

At the end of every busy day, we had our "home away from home", Tyler's comfortable 3 bedroom condo, where we could settle into evening Netflix movies with our feet up. We would enjoy breakfast at home and pack sandwiches for our daily adventures (except for the volunteer days where we enjoyed the most amazing vegetarian 5.00 buffet lunches). The Kanab area had a great selection of  family diners, providing home style cooking at reasonable prices.

Unlike the movies based on the house swap theme, Tyler and I chose different dates to swap our vacation homes, making it completely convenient for both of us. We completed our travels at the end of August just before my daughter headed off to University, and Tyler chose to travel to Cabo this past December week, which provided him a perfect escape from the early winter chills of Salt Lake City.. 

This swap worked out perfectly and I would certainly consider similar arrangements another time. As a matter of fact my new years resolution will include advertising Casa Esquina on homeexchange.com to see what our next adventure might bring!

Karen Barnert loves to stay in other vacation homes almost as much as she loves staying at her own Casa Esquina...almost! 
For more info on Tyler's Kanab Condo: http://www.vrbo.com/381855, For more info on Best Friends Animal  Sanctuary www.bestfriends.org
If there is one restaurant  that makes my mouth water at the sheer thought of dining there, 
Asi Y Asado is THAT PLACE! 

Guy Fieri would have to agree, since he recently filmed an episode of "Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives" at this barbeque restaurant. A travel channel show "Bikini's and Boardwalks" also recently filmed here. It is worth a stop, to see what all the fuss is about!

The exterior is unassuming, and certainly the hardest part of getting here may be finding a parking spot! It is located at KM 3.8, on the Service road heading east of Cabo san Lucas, between the Go Cart track and Office Depot, across the highway from Costco, and about a 5 minute drive from Casa Esquina.

The menu is simple...written on the wall in English and Spanish.  Prices are very reasonable (35 pesos for a taco). Corn on the cob or grilled green onions are a great side to your meal. Tacos, Empanadas, and Wraps are all a hit with Gringos and locals alike. 

While any meal here is great washed down with a cold Pacifico, they also have a great selection of non-alcoholic refreshing beverages....Jamaica (hibiscus sweet tea), Horchata ( a sweet spiced rice milk), and Cucumber and peppermint waters (with free refills). 

The fresh condiment bar is one of my favorite features of this restaurant. Each sauce is clearly marked with a temperature guide to help you choose toppings to suit your taste. Beware of the temptation of the fried onions with the habanero bits...a little goes a long way!!

On my last trip we stopped to eat here FIVE times...a first meal after an airport pick-up with hungry guests, again on our way home from a shopping trip, again after a day hanging around the pool when no one wanted to cook, a quick lunch on our way to the beach, and "just one more stop please, before we leave Cabo"! 

To say we love Asi y Asado is probably an understatement, and anytime is a good time to stop here!

Karen Barnert loves the cuisine of Baja California Sur. Asi Y Asado Parilla is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.  Phone: 624 105 9500, COL EL TEZAL, KM.3.8 CARRETERA TRANSPENINSULAR CABO SAN LUCAS-SAN JOSE DEL CABO
An hour north of Casa Esquina, up scenic Highway 1, at mile 69, along the pacific coast lies a stretch of beach called Cerritos. Most every day it's a quiet beach frequented most by surfers and expats that live in the area. On Sunday however the beach comes to life...with the sound of music.  

 Venture off the highway, travel down a dusty, bumpy road to Cerritos Beach Club for a Sunday afternoon you won't soon forget. One friend describes Cerrito's as her 
                            "Heaven on Earth".


Daline Jones and Diego Ramirez are celebrating 7 years of performing their jazz stylings at Cerritos. "I loved them them on our very first trip to Cabo, and now plan our flights to make sure there is always a free Sunday to make the trip up towards El Pescadero". 

During whale season, you might even see a few Greys bobbing in the surf to the music, which may be Jazz, Soul, Latin or Pop.  Performances are 2-5 pm. Get there early for a good table. 

Kick off your sandals, settle your toes in the soft sand, sit back and enjoy or get up and dance.


You can pack your own beach chairs, umbrellas and even cooler if you wish but the waiters will provide service right to the water's edge. There are also many loungers and umbrellas in the restaurant vicinity for use by restaurant patrons. However, sitting between the stage and the surf will not allow optimum enjoyment of the music. 

For the best experience, I recommend planning for lunch at Cerritos Beach Club. The new menu is greatly improved with a good variety of choices from Ceviche to Hamburgers. Drinks will run you 4.50 for a beer and 8.00 for cocktails. The chili dog and beer combo at 5 bucks is budget friendly. They also have their own brand of tequila, that I have been told is pretty good, and is served ice-cold.

If you're looking for something for the kids to do, while you hang out at the beach bar, Mario's Surf School provides 1 or 2 hour lessons. Private lessons are available starting at  60.00 per student. Great instruction and attention will ensure the kids will be at least standing on the boards before the lesson is over, and be sound asleep in the car on the ride home! Send Mario an email a few days ahead to secure your reservation. The beach here provides pretty reliable waves. 

Don't forget to pack the boogie boards as well. You'll see every age group here playing in the waves. It's nice to be able to go out quite a ways and still be able to touch bottom, 

For the ultimate relaxation, a beach massage can fit the bill. There were at least 7 massage tables set up on our  last visit and they were all busy. 

Or perhaps a peaceful walk down the couple mile stretch of beach, past the surfers, the fisherman, the kiters and the kids is what your heart desires. 

Donkeys and cows frequent the highway so hit the road before it gets dark. Have your waiter stamp your parking pass and it's customary to tip the parking attendant.
On the drive home you can try to figure out how to change your flights so you can do it all again next week. 

Karen Barnert never tires of Sunday's at Cerrito's.  You can also catch Daline and Diego at Medano Beach at Cascada's on Tuesday evenings, or The Office on Fridays. For surf lessons www.mariosurfschool.com For off season updates on entertainment schedules www.ceritosbcs.com
I've loved sailing since I was a teen at summer camp, when I learned the all the basic how-tos on a 13 foot Sunfish. However, life had gotten in the way, as it often does, and I had forgotten how exhilarating it was to glide across the water, sails full and the late afternoon sun warming my skin.

When I climbed aboard Cabo Sailing's boat, Synergy, it reminded me of exactly how much I love sailing. Originally, I booked the tour because of the substantial two-for-one savings I recieved through Los Cabos passport. But once on deck, I realized that I would have gladly paid full price for the experience.
That evening, there were only 10 guests on board the 42-foot boat, which can accommodate up to 18 people, including the crew. Our group was 8 so It meant we had a nearly private tour without having to pay the private tour price. 

We were welcomed on the Synergy by the deckhand, Israel, and our skipper Ramon. We were encouraged to board barefoot. This not only helps to keep the boat clean, but also provides better traction if you want to walk from the bow to the stern. Naturally it immediately tells your mind to relax. 

Our group quickly settled into the sundeck loungers and the seating area under the awning of the cockpit. We were given a brief orientation, and then we got to the good stuff: cocktails, wine and beer. We passed the yachts in the marina and glided towards the open bay under a surprisingly quiet motor. A trip down below gave me a sense of how luxurious a sailboat could be. There were two fully-furnished sleeping cabins, each with a head (toilet) and shower. Surrounded by the rich wood tones of mahogany is the main salon,  and a chef's galley where Israel prepared a perfect light snack of smoked meats and cheeses.

We passed by Lover's Beach and paused near Los Arcos for the obligatory tourist photos in front of the famous rock formations. We greeted seals and slid past Scooby-Doo Rock. We heard waves crash against Divorce Beach as we passed Land's End. And as we came to Solmar Beach and the exclusive community of Pedregal, the sails puffed with wind. the motor turned off and we were under the power of nature. I looked up and saw the most glorious red sunset ever. "Can this trip not end? Can we freeze this moment? Can we just keep going to Hawaii?" we begged Ramon as the sun melted into the sea.

As we turned and headed for home, we spotted the Synergy's sister boat, the Mistral, skippered by Ulysses. The race was on! We all cheered loudly as we pulled slightly ahead---there was no doubt in our minds we won the race! However, as we approached the arches again, a small pod of whales appeared. "Change of Plans!" exclaims Ramon. We followed the pod for a short time and enjoyed some incredible Kodak moments.

As dusk enveloped us, we headed back towards the marina with the music cranked LOUD! REALLY LOUD! We all started singing along, as if we were rockstars and Ramon was the band leader with his intense, passionate voice.

Maybe it's the rum punch, maybe it's the sea air, or maybe this energy is what sailing is all about! I love sailing, I really do!!

Karen Barnert travels to Los Cabos often and takes a sunset cruise every time!!! The disclaimer on this story...it's a compilation of a couple trips...maybe it's the sea air...maybe it's the rum punch...or maybe it's how great times in Cabo just start to blend together!!!
For more info about Cabo Sailing Adventures www.cabosailing.com
 and for the Los Cabos Passport Saving Card www.loscabospassport.com
PS. If you go ask Ramone for his autograph, the Rock Star we know he is!!!



On my first trip to Cabo
, after a few hot October hours playing tourista, we had to pause to quench the thirst. It was noon-ish...5'O'Clock somewhere we joked.

Our girl's "Book Club" getaway, took a pit stop at Baja Cantina Marina. Not Marguerita drinkers and trying to steer clear of heavy creamy calorie laden cocktails, we asked the waiter for suggestions. "I recommend a frozen drink with mint, honeydew melon and Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum. It's called a HoneyDew." he said confidently. Feeling adventurous, and partial to rum, we ordered a round.

From the first sip, we were hooked! As we drank, we tried to unravel the complexities of the flavors. My friend Brenda, with her bartending background and the rest of us with our drinking background, surely could replicate this at home. A stop at Walmart for a honeydew melon and mint and we were ready to master this cocktail. Toss it in the blender, with some rum and ice and we had this wierd green (dare I say rather revolting) smoothie that did not come close to the original.

Back to Baja Cantina for another taste test. Ohhhh, it must be Melon liqueur in this drink, we reasoned. A stop at La Europea and 45.00 later we were sure we had what we needed. We agreed that we MUST use "Captain Morgan's" brand Spiced Rum, not the cheap stuff we were trying to shortcut with. While a splash of 7-UP made the drink bearable, it still wasn't right, and certainly was NOT a "Honeydew".

Back to Baja Cantina. Again. We asked for the drink with the honeydew melon in it. The puzzled waiter said he wasn't sure but he would check with the bartender. The bartender looked over, waved and knew exactly what we wanted. We were becoming regulars! After the second round of contemplation, we had a revelation prior to ordering the third. "What if we asked the bartender to demonstrate how he made them?". His english was excellent, and he was delighted to give us a honeydew lesson. We tipped generously, and laughed at ourselves for not thinking to ask earlier! The lesson revealed, most importantly, that there was NO HONEYDEW at all in the recipe, and the secret ingredient is pickled ginger!

This drink has become special to us. Always reminding us of our time together in Cabo. 5 months later, in the throws of our Canadian winter, with over 900 kms. between us, our "Book Club" girls meet on-line via Skype. Hubby and I had put an offer to purchase Casa Esquina, and it was accepted. We are celebrating, Honeydews in hand.

Even though we have all mastered the recipe, nothing beats the ones served in the beautiful Marina setting (we've tried the ones at Baja Cantina Beach and were disappointed). Baja Cantina is a must stop, on every trip to Cabo. As we order our HoneyDew's, our waiter does a double-take and says "Welcome Back, Ladies". "Muchos Gracias" we say. 
"It's good to be home!"

Baja Cantina's HoneyDew Recipe

1.5 oz. Captain Morgan's rum
3 oz. lime mix
1/2-1 oz simple syrup (to taste)
a few pieces of sushi-type pickled ginger
approx. 6 fresh mint leaves
Blend with ice and top with a splash of soda
Karen Barnert enjoys her time with friends and values that special time of every vacation day called "Happy Hour".

Hang around Cabo San Lucas long enough and you might end up meeting one of the local personalities. He is a very lively fellow and can often be seen making friends in the Marina or sharing a meal off the back of a fishing boat. He has even been known to accept a pat on the head in trade for some fresh fish. Other times, you can see him lazing on his favourite rock at Land's End acting like The King of Los Arcos, "Pancho the Sea Lion".

He has become quite a celebrity in his own right.  You can google his name and come up with all sorts of videos, photos and TripAdvisor threads shared by locals and tourists from around the world. After all who can resist the charms of Pancho? He has become "almost free" local entertainment for young and old. In the words of one fisherman "He was a seal that got kicked out of Sea World, but learned all the right lessons". 

Indeed my hubby Mark has enjoyed the antics of Pancho, when the crafty sea lion hopped aboard their moving fishing vessel last November, returning from a day at sea. He quickly gobbled their leftover bait  and returned to swim in the surf. Probably long enough to hop on board the next fishing boat.

A fisherman may return to port empty handed, but a short visit from Pancho aboard that five hundred dollar fishing charter made it "worth it!" 
This video hit YouTube back in December of 2011. 
Now unfortunately, Pancho has become somewhat mischievious and resorted to downright robbery!

His large body, moves swiftly and effortlessy, as he pops out of the water and STEALS the fish right out of the hands of the fisherman! It happens so quickly, they don't even see it coming.

In the words of one of the good humored fisherman "That is too funny". "That is a crime" he says while laughing. 

This video was posted October 13, 2013.

While just last week one fisherman joked about Pancho's crime, yesterday Pancho's thievery became a real crime. Stealing a tournament fish valued at possibly 9000.00 USD!!!! Current video shows the fish, the fishermen, and it sounds like many witnesses (but I don't think it's admissable in a court of law...and let's face it...could you pick him out in a line-up??). 

There's a video on our  Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CasaEsquinaCabo.  

One thing for sure, the amusement could wear thin in a hurry as Pancho ups the ante. If this were to happen during the World Famous Bisbee Black and Blue tournament starting Oct. 23, 2013, then there would be a bounty on Poncho's hide. Last years fish netted the winning team 1.4 million dollars! A poncho interference would result in Wanted posters around Cabo town, and we would have to start a hurried "Save Pancho" campaign. In all seriousness, this might become a reality...word on the docks is that Pancho's father mysteriously disappeared after similar antics ended him up in hot water a few years back.

Stay tuned, but in the meantime if you're down by the marina...hold onto your wallet...there's a rebel seal in town....and he will stop at nothing!
I have a weakness for a good animal story and obviously true crime is not my calling but I would love to hear your Pancho stories!! -Karen Barnert
My love affair with vacation rentals began in 2006, while planning a Florida holiday for my family of ten. I poured over every VRBO and Flipkey listing, within 20 miles of Disney. I looked at every detail - the photos, the reviews, the floor plans,-- even as I wondered if it was an all-good-to-be true scam. Did any of these homes actually exist?
Between the thousands of properties available and my overzealous approach, the shopping process took several weeks. I narrowed the pool down to 10 and from there one clearly stood out. A luxurious 3000 sq. foot home, in a gated community, centrally located between both Florida coasts.The booking process was fairly simple, sign the rental agreement, send the owner the money and the house would be waiting...or so I hoped!
Upon arrival, my anxiety was completely laid to rest. In the words of my 15 year old son as he headed to check out "OUR" pool, "This place is AWESOME"! And indeed it was. 
Everyone quickly claimed their rooms, sounding like a flock of seagulls shouting "Mine, Mine, Mine". For hubby and I, there was no choice. The large, luxurious master bedroom with direct pool access was "OURS" and the large jacuzzi tub in the ensuite bathroom was "MINE"!
I will admit I am selfish when it comes to my family vacations. A holiday is expensive, so I make no apologies for stretching every vacation dollar where I can. Nor do I apologize about making sure I get everything I want!

I want my vacation to be affordable, so I can start planning my next one as soon as possible. For our Florida trip, the cost savings on accommodations alone was the primary reason I chose a vacation rental. The house cost us $325.00 USD, per day, during the high season, for five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a den, a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room and OUR pool with covered lanai (that's Floridian for screen room). Five hotel rooms would have easily cost double and would not have had half the amenities!

I want to spend time with my family, exclusively, in a space that is just as comfortable as home, if not more so. I have special memories of sitting around the living room discussing the days events, the friendly family banter over a game of cards at the dining room table, and the late night swims in the pool that never closes (OUR POOL). This could not be replicated in a series of visits down a hotel hallway while sitting cross-legged on beds. We were able to enjoy everyone, without the confines of our work, school and sports schedules. It was the perfect holiday.

I want all the comforts of home. My husband takes pleasure in cracking a cold one right out of the fridge. For me, my morning coffee is an important ritual to my every day and I will not compromise that on holiday. Enjoying the first cuppa of the day makes a coffee maker completely essential (I even packed down a ten day supply of tim Horton's brew...which I did run short and had to dip into the homeowner supplied coffee, since all the coffee drinkers remembered to pack their own go cups). There are far too many hotels that don't have in-room coffee makers and a 6 a.m. stroll to Starbucks for a $5.00 coffee has no appeal to me.

I want hotel luxury.  Did I tell you about "OUR" pool?

I want to eat what I want, when I want. My kids are all athletes, and a trip to McDonalds is not considered a meal to them. they all brought backpacks as their carry-on airline baggage and then used them to pack their own healthy lunches, snacks and drinks, when we visited the amusement parks. They ate during the shows and while waiting in ride lines, maximizing our Disney ride time. this was a huge savings of not just cash (our ice cream splurge at Wild Kingdom was over $50.00), but of time. Everyone was content to go home to swim in the pool, while we prepared a quick meal of Spaghetti, Caesar salad, and garlic bread ( 20 bucks and 45 minutes from prep to clean up). By comparison, a trip to a restaurant for all ten, was over $250.00, and took over 3 hours (dressing, driving, ordering, eating).The kids even teamed up and took turns choosing and cooking meals for the whole group (I was amazed at my eldest son's lemon chicken!). On beach days, we packed a cheap styrofoam cooler and picnicked in the sand. By holiday end, I didn't spend much more on groceries than I would have if we had stayed home.

All of my vacation goals were achieved. Within two months, I had our next family vacation home booked. Christmas in Hawaii! I was hopelessly addicted.

Karen Barnert ended up so hopelessly addicted that she and hubby Mark, went on to purchase their own Villa rental in 2012. It's her personal goal that every guest is able to enjoy similiar anxiety-free home-away-from-home vacations at Casa Esquina in Cabo San Lucas.


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