When you want to get away from your fellow gringos and gringas and find the “real” Mexico, there’s no speedier escape route than the covered market. Some are marked on maps, some not, but head for the heart of town and ask around for the mercado and sooner or later you’ll stumble on a rabbit warren of stalls selling everything from vegetables, cheese and meat to recycled tee-shirts and car parts, most likely all under the same corrugated tin roof.

And no matter how touristy the waterfront and hotel zone you came from, here you’ll find few of your fellow guests. Instead you’ll see the life of the town, with the young and the old shopping, bargaining, sharing a meal, and catching up on the news of the day.

So dust off your rusty Spanish and dive in; you’ll find a warm welcome and come away with a better sense of your destination than you could get from the most in-depth tour.

Chili pepper tasting available for the brave at this spice market booth in Ensenada’s Los Globos market.

Ensenada is a case in point.

Considered by some to be “ruined” by surfers, cruise ship day-trippers, and Los Angelinas visiting for medical tourism, Ensenada may not have the prettiest beaches or the cleanest streets, but it does have energy – it’s the engine of the fast-growing Baja Norte economy.

And while the outskirts are fast being discolored by industrial sprawl, the old downtown remains much as I remember it

from a childhood visit decades ago.

Here are a few photos from a recent foray to Mercado Los Globos in Ensenada. Not to be confused with the seafood market down by the waterfront (which is also fun, but much more touristy), this is a good ten blocks inland from the part of town most visitors frequent.

To find it, follow Calle Novena from Avenida Reforma to the area between Colon and Revolución. On weekends, ask for Tianguis Los Globos, which describes the colorful flea market that spread out around the central covered market.

To the left, a shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, which you’ll find somewhere in pretty much any market.

This one had kids climbing around it much of the time. Ruega por nosotros translates as “pray for us” and is part of many popular prayers.

Piñatas filled with candy are still the centerpiece of pretty much any fiesta, and stars still among the most popular designs.

Bright handpainted signs like this are everywhere, and with the peso currently 20/1 with the dollar, prices are extremely low.No warm day in Mexico is complete without a stop at the paleteria, where fruit is flash-frozen into ice cream bars so fresh that my sandia (watermelon) popsicle still had seeds in it.