Namale Fiji . . . Where The Livin’ Is Easy

In Fiji, so they say, there are many paradises but only one utopia.  “They” in this particular case are the authors of the online brochure for Namale Resort & Spa.  You have to love the audacious confidence of that tag line.  If I execute my assignment properly, by the time you finish reading this post that claim will sound less like hyperbolic exaggeration and more like honest evaluation.

Sunset at Namale FijiOne of the chief frustrations of writing about some of the world’s most breathtaking hotels and resorts is that there is never time to give them their full due.  That is particularly true here.  Elizabeth Barret Browning’s most famous sonnet is #43, admittedly better known as “How Do I Love Thee?”.  You recall that those opening words are followed by “Let Me Count The Ways.”

With that bit of literary inspiration, I offer my humble (or as close to humility as I ever get) version of “Namale, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.”  Let’s begin with a spectacular setting because absent that any resort is Deck at Namale Resort & Spaimmediately disqualified from a serious traveler’s short list.  Setting encompasses beauty and atmosphere of course but, if you are like me (heaven help you), you would likely add serenity as well.  This picture to the right suggests about as much separation from the maddening crowds as one can imagine.  If you are desperately seeking seclusion, this warm handshake between the emerald rainforest and the azure sea is the perfect rendezvous.

In addition to the setting, this resort is world-famous for its discriminating service.  I say discriminating because the true art of gracious service is unfailingly finding that thin line between a trifle neglectful and a tad too intrusive.  Try these numbers on for size:  the property hosts only 44 guests at any one time so that their needs may be anticipated and their wishes fulfilled by their staff of 140.  I suppose you could argue that the service pictured below is slightly over that line but I beg to differ.  After being a little over served, you have to get back to your villa somehow, right?

Scene from Namale FijiIn general, I have next to no use for the muddled opinions of the celebrity set with one exception:  I do value their seemingly natural instinct for sating their self-indulgence.  They say when driving through the mid-west, always choose a diner with lots of cars in the parking lot.  A corollary would be, when seeking a great resort, find out where the stars congregate.

So for what it’s worth, I am given to understand that the likes of NBA coach Pat Riley, actors Russell Crowe, Edward Norton (wasn’t he one of the characters with Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners?), Meg Ryan and Mike Myers, and musician and producer Quincy Jones have found their way here, as well as many more “A listers”.  Donna Karen, who I am told has some fleeting familiarity with fashion, has said, “Namale is an ultimate escape . . experience its bliss!”

Namale, how else do I love thee?  Ah, there is always your sumptuous dining.  As the aforementioned brochure explains, “Private three-course lunches and five-course Dinner at Namale Fijidinners can be enjoyed anywhere you like — be it the twinkling main bure, your private bure or villa, in a romantic, seaside cave, or on the beach at sunset.”

Decisions, decisions! I think tonight I want to have my five course gourmet dinner in this exact spot to the left!  Should the gentle ocean breeze grow a bit nippy, I have no doubt that another glass of vintage Cabernet will suffice to warm me from the inside out.  In case you are wondering, I am sadly not at Namale as I pen these words.  That was a momentary flight of literary, not to mention holiday, fantasy.  Dreammakers are allowed to dream too!

Namale, I love thy refined accommodations.  Since we are running short of time, I will refer you to the online brochure for an explanation of the room distinctions between Bures, Garden Tropical, Ocean Tropical, Villas, Bula House, etc.  I shall also let the picture below do the job of a thousand words which, yikes, according to my word calculator, we are rapidly approaching.  I must scurry on!

Honeymoon room at Natale FijiLast, but certainly not least is the exposure one gains to authentic Fijian culture.  Below is a picture of a troupe of tribal dancers telling a traditional story through age old movements.  I Namale danceknow. to the uninitiated, i.e., folks like me, it  looks a little like the Hokey Pokey but rest assured it is not.  (Speaking of which, as a quick nod to the philosophically inclined, what if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about? Hmmm.)

OK, I have managed to count down five ways I love the Namale Resort & Spa.  I have yet to mention the bowling alley and indoor golf (seriously), the incredible snorkeling, and the magnificent spa.  See why this is frustrating?

Namale bowling  Snorkling in Namale

I think we can all agree that it would be more than a little cruel to tantalize you with this exquisite haven of happiness without presenting a way to experience it for yourself.  As I check my back pocket, it just so happens . . . imagine that . . . I have a great offer from our partners at Travel2 for an all-inclusive 9 night stay.  Let’s leave the more mundane matters like price to a future conversation.  But if this post has whetted your appetite to know more about Namale Resort & Spa and how you too can experience its wonders, reach out to us through our website.  And if you are still not convinced, take a look at this video!

Crème de Cancun: The Top Five Resorts

A while back I wrote a blog post called Crème de Los Cabos:  The Top Five Resorts  which has proven to be one of my most popular posts ever.   Having been decidedly unpopular among the snootier cliques during my high school days (I’m not bitter, honest I’m not),  I now warmly embrace popularity wherever I stumble into it.

Seeing a golden opportunity to make those uppity, out-of-ballast cheerleaders eat their black little hearts out, I have decided to ride this “crème”  train all the way to the station, so to speak.  Thus, you can expect  in the days ahead, even more gangly siblings in this growing family of “crème” posts.

Some may wonder how I have arrived at my personal list of Cancun’s top five resorts.  Let’s just say that the polling was even less democratic than the recent election in Crimea where the populace voted with Russian boots firmly planted on their necks.  As was famously said by Putin’s diabolical predecessor, “In elections it doesn’t matter so much who votes as who counts the votes.”  In my case, I readily admit, I did both.

Excellence Playa Mujeres

Excellence ResortsYou have to admire the chutzpah of any hotel chain daring to call itself “Excellence”.  It is a lot less risky when you actually are excellent, or so I’m told. One of the things I like best about this property is its location.  As they describe it on their website “an all-inclusive Playa Mujeres Golf Courseoasis situated on an untouched peninsula between the Caribbean and a wetlands preserve”.  Even though it is a little out from Cancun proper, I have included it this grouping because it is the opposite direction from the Rivera Maya. Instead of south it is north and a little west.

Another great feature of this resort is both the quality and variety of dining options.  Suppose your busy schedule only permits a three night stay.  (The first order of business is to re-priortize your schedule!  Do you want to die young?)  In any case, imagine being able to savor the tangy herbs and spices of India’s North-West frontier your first night at Basmati,  sauntering (by the second night you have slowed your pace signficantly) over to Barcelona Mediterranean Restaurant for a variety of tapas followed by paella, veal or perhaps seafood.  By the third night the romantic juices are in full flow (remember those?) and nowhere else will do but Chez Isabelle, their signature French restaurant.  The resort claims you will forget for a moment that you are in Cancun and begin to imagine you have been transported to the Left Bank.  My guess is that by this time you will have been transported to an amorous place where geography is the last thing on your mind.

Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach

Fiesta Americana Grand Coral BeachIf “Excellence” was apropos of the previous resort, “Grand” certainly fits this hotel every bit as much. It begins with the location on what is arguably the nicest stretch of beach in Cancun.  If you are familiar with Cancun’s resemblance to the number seven, this property sits at the top of the seven just before it bends southward.  If you like to be in the heart of things, you can’t find a better location.

The entire hotel exudes an old-world charm that from the moment you enter delivers careful attention to detail.  If you are the sort who Le Basilicappreciates refined taste and gentile surroundings, you will immediately fall in love with this hotel.  You will not want to miss the incomparable dining experience afforded at the five diamond Le Basilic.

One of the lingering memories I carried away from my stay was how incredibly fresh and delicious were the breakfast pastries.  Every hotel, including Motel 6, offers pastries and in spite of the fact I have a sweet tooth that would shame a sabre tooth tiger, most of them are frankly not all that tasty.  It is a testament to the class of this resort that it maintains exacting standards even in a relatively small matter.

Hyatt Zilara (formally Royal Cancun)

Room at Hyatt Zilara CancunIn case you didn’t know (keep reading this blog and eventually you will know almost as much as the master), Hyatt Resorts has entered the all-inclusive market.  When a player the size of Hyatt makes a move, they don’t do anything by half-measures!  When they entered the Los Cabos market, they just went out and bought the Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe with one of the most stunning settings in that destination (see Hyatt Ziva).  In Cancun, they merely ponied up a few mil from their rainy day account and acquired the storied Royal Cancun and rebranded it the Hyatt Zilara.  (The Hyatt Zebra and Hyatt Zephyr can’t be far behind, can they?)

I want you to picture yourself coming home from work one evening, flashing the picture above to your life partner and saying this is the room where we will be staying next weekend.  If that Hyatt Zilara Cancundoesn’t get you around third and all the way home you have bigger problems than I have a clue how to solve.   I suppose if your beloved has an aversion to the color blue as in sky, ocean and pool, that could present a problem.

This stunning resort property is all adults, all -suite, all-inclusive and all your greedy little heart could covet.  There are seven specialty restaurants including Pelicanos which offers international cuisine in an oceanfront setting.  Catering to your refined palate will hardly be a problem here.  Check out this impressive new video!

Nizuc Resort And Spa

Nizuc Resort and SpaBy way of full disclosure, I have never been to Nizuc Resort and Spa.  This picture above is of the reflecting pond.  I find it has put me in a very reflective mood.  Right now I am reflecting on the question of why I have never stayed there.  Two reasons come to mind.  One, it only opened in March of 2013.  The second, and more important reason, I have never been invited.  Note to whom it may concern in Nizuc’s upper management.  My passport is up to date, my bags are perennially packed and my dance card is wide open!  (I know, not exactly subtle.)

By virtue of research, reputation and recommendation, I have definitely determined that it is a place I want to visit.   If you visit their website, take a little time to drool all over your Nizuc Resort and Spa. Cancunkeyboard in the “Gallery” section.

Once you get to Nizuc, you don’t even have to leave your room to enjoy spectacular views.  Not a bad place to enjoy your morning coffee, I would say.  The resort is located in the secluded enclave of Punta Nizuc.  I suspect you have to flash your American Express platinum card just to get past the gate which could potentially constitute a problem for me since my most exclusive credit card is made of balsa wood.  Since I am sure you don’t share that problem, should my pathetic hint above falls on deaf ears, promise me you will send me pictures!

All four of the properties I have mentioned so far deserve a much richer treatment than space permits here.  Should the Lord tarry and my body parts not collectively implode, I promise to write about each one of these gems separately.  That, however, is not a problem for my final selection below as you will shortly see.

Secrets the Vine

Secrets The Vine The Wine GlassOf these five properties, this is the only one I have already treated in detail.  Knock yourself out and read all three.  It’s not like you have anything else going on in your life, right?

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (1)

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (2)

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (3)

I know that many of you will have your own thoughts about which resorts should and should not be on this short list.  I invite you to use the comment section to weigh in.  I would love to hear your list.  All I ask is please don’t tell any of the other worthy candidates I didn’t select!

If you would like to visit one of these incredible resorts, reach out to us here.

Why Secrets Resorts Aren’t Such A Big Secret Anymore

If you need to get the word out quickly regarding some important matter throughout a club, organization or business, I know one foolproof method.  Just take two or three people aside individually and relay the information to them in whispered tones.  Then tell them to be sure and keep it under wraps because you are not ready to make the announcement public just yet.  At least one, and more likely all three of those people, will tell a handful of others and long before the sun sets it will be common knowledge.  Let’s face it, most of us suffer from the verbal version of a common urinary tract problem I like to call “lack of blather control”. Secrets Puerto Los CabosI suspect most folks returning from a stay at one of the Secrets Resorts have every intention of smugly keeping their little discovery all to themselves.  Notwithstanding their best efforts, they find themselves effusing all over the people sitting on either side of them . . . it is not quite as disgusting as it sounds . . . before their flight home even leaves the runway. I myself have written posts about several of the Secrets Resorts. Should you cast your eyes to the right rail, you will see I even have a category by that name where you can see all my Secrets postings.  I just recently returned from one of the brand’s newest offerings so, fair warning, grab a towel.  I am about to effuse all over you!

SECRETS PUERTO LOS CABOS

Puerto Los Cabos is an exciting new development in the eastern area of Los Cabos, Mexico.  You can get all those juicy details by clicking on this link to a post I wrote a few weeks back, Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For the Best.  Situated in the heart of that new development on a very choice bit of real estate is Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.

Secrets Puerto Los CabosYou can have a beautiful setting and attractive facilities (which this property has in spades) but from vast experience I can tell you that unless they are blessed with outstanding personnel, it is all in vain.  The entire staff, from reception to restaurant, exude the kind of warmth and helpfulness that is the envy of many of their competitors.  A special shout out to Salvador Gutierrez who, as the resident manager, deserves a great deal of credit for selecting and training such a marvelous staff and Karla Ponce, the front desk manager, who oversees those employees who represent the all-important first impression to the guests.  Karla’s infectious smile seems to have spread to the entire reception staff.  It must be a case of staff infection!

When stopping by Rendezvous for a little pre-dinner libation, it is never a bad thing to Martini Cart at Secrets Puerto Los Cabosencounter a well-stocked martini cart as you walk in. Before you can say “¡Si Señor, por favor!” you might well find one of these sitting before you.  Rendezvous Secrets Resorts

 

Dining in general, I have always believed, is one part cuisine, one part ambiance and one part great companions.   Picture yourself with a small circle of friends dining out under the stars at El Patio Restaurant savoring your favorite ceviche, sipping a fine glass of Cabernet and conversing late into the night.

El Patio Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

At some point in the evening, no matter how convivial the company or smooth the after-dinner port, you are going to want to stumble back to your home away from home for a sound night’s sleep.  When that happens, if you are staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, this welcoming sight is waiting to greet you when you enter the room.

Room at Secrets Puerto Los CabosThere is never enough time in one of these posts to tell you one-tenth of the wonderful features of such a stunning resort.  I haven’t even mentioned all the gourmet restaurants, the 24-hour room service, the 12,000 sq. ft. world-class Secrets spa by Pevonia,  the 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, access to three miles of pristine beach and so much more.

Not to worry!  That is what great travel agents are for.  Our folks would be more than glad to drill down to the most minute detail to guarantee that your stay will exceed your expectations.

This concludes five posts under the category “Puerto Los Cabos”.  Let me know if you enjoyed this little glimpse into Los Cabos’ exciting new development.

El Ganzo Delivers A Gold Medal Experience

As I write these words, the Sochi Winter Olympics, like this modest trilogy on Hotel El Ganzo,  are winding down.  There is one commonality shared by every OlympicGold Medal participant regardless of the event, gender or nationality.  Not for weeks, nor months but for years they have lain in bed at night and dreamed of ascending the platform to the playing of their country’s national anthem and of bending forward so that a gold medal could be hung around their neck.

OK, granted most of us will never compete in an Olympics, be it summer or winter.  But that is not to say we don’t have our dreams.  For many of us, who labor all year to provide for our families, our dreams consist of imagining our next vacation.  Yet no sane person dreams of having a mediocre experience.  In our minds, our holiday should meet a gold medal standard.  Like those athletes mentioned above, we see ourselves returning home draped in glorious recollections and clutching unforgettable memories to our chests.

Hotel El Ganzo, unlike so many adequate but uninspired resort properties, possesses the rare qualities to deliver on those unspoken promises. In the prior two posts, I told you about the stunning art and haunting music of the Arts In Residence program.  In this final post I will acquaint you with just a few of the features that make El Ganzo literally one of a kind.

THE ROOFTOP

Would you be impressed if I told you the hotel had a swim-up bar?  Yawn.  Probably not.  But what if I told you El Ganzo’s swim-up bar was on the roof!

El Ganzo has a rooftop swim up bar.Not only that but what if I told you that the rooftop sported a transparent hot tub where you can not only see but be seen?  Perfect, I suppose, for the less inhibited among you.   In my case, I am afraid the other guests might mistake the tank for a “swim with a sea-lion” Transparent Hot Tub experience and try to pull on my moustache and throw me fish!

The rooftop also offers a  sushi bar where you can dine under the stars on a rainbow roll while imbibing your favorite libation.  That sounds a lot more like my speed.  Now that I think about it, I probably could win a gold medal when it comes to over-indulging and being over-served. After all,  I have been in training for decades.

THE BEACH CLUB

Ganzo de Playa Beach ClubOne of the criticisms you sometimes hear leveled against certain resorts in Los Cabos is that the beaches are not as swimmable as those on the eastern side of Mexico.  While that is admittedly true of some Los Cabos properties, it is patently untrue about El Ganzo.  Just a very short boat ride (one minute) away . .  or a fairly long swim if your free-style stroke, like mine, resembles a drunk thrashing an imaginary snake with a garden hoe . . . you will find the idyllic setting reflected in the image above.  Notice the long jettyies on both sides which guarantee the consistently placid waters you see in this picture.

There are many who define an awesome vacation as lying about all day on a beach chair lifting nothing heavier than a foo-foo drink with a tiny umbrella and catching up on all the unread blog posts on TravelByTerry (You missed some of them?).  OK, maybe a few people would prefer reading the latest best-selling mystery novel but I am sure they are in the minority.  If that describes you, you will love the Beach Club where the pace is leisurely and the service impeccable.

Wirikuta Gardens

One of the fun features of El Ganzo is that everything is nearby and within the confines of Bicycles at El Ganzoa secure gated community.  Everything you might want to see and experience is just a short bike ride away.  If only you had thought to pack a bicycle!  Not to worry.  El Ganzo anticipates everything.  Your chariot awaits!

One of the interesting things to do is to visit the Wirikuta Gardens, “Home to over 1500 varieties of desert plants from around the world.”

Gardens at Puerto Los CabosYou can get a complete explanation of this interesting facility on this page or by visiting page 13 of this online brochure.

There is so much more I would like to tell you about, such as the suite with the ping-pong table in the living room, the bowling alley lane for a table top in the dining room and the private elevator on the balcony that takes you to the roof.  No I have not been dipping into the elderberry wine again.  All true!

Time is pressing and I have “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep”.  (I bet Robert Frost wishes he had thought of that line.)  One of these promises is the vow I made to give you a link to some incredible pictures and to an online brochure where you can fill in all the gaps that time and space have regrettably forced me to leave vacant.  Here you go:

1)  Pictures I took

2)  Pictures taken by someone who knows one end of a camera from the other.

3)  The El Ganzo website, Facebook page, YouTube site and online brochure.

This is the final post of this El Ganzo trilogy and I would like to leave you with this exhortation.  Do yourself an immense favor and venture to glorious Los Cabos and discover your own gold medal experience.  Speaking as one who can hear the not so faint swoosh of the reaper’s scythe in the distance, life is too short and vacations too few not to make the most of each and every one.  El Ganzo will not disappoint!

Come back soon to hear all about Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.

El Ganzo Lays More Golden Eggs

In some contexts, the American idiom “to lay an egg” has a quite negative connotation.  One example would be your humble scribe’s occasionally lame attempts at levity.  They have been known, albeit rarely, to fall a smidgen short of the mark. (Hey, they can’t all be winners!)  But if the layer in question is a goose and the layee is a egg made of solid gold, then that is a fowl of an entirely different sort. (See Aesop’s FablesThe Goose With The Golden Eggs)  As I hope you are discovering, Hotel El Ganzo has an entire roost full of golden eggs lying about to be gathered.

In case you are just catching up on this subject, I recently made a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, a destination that never disappoints.  Since returning home, I have published a couple of posts about my experience which you can find either by simply scrolling down or . . . should scrolling sound way too grueling . . . by clicking here.  We pick up the thread by plucking a few more golden eggs from the El Ganzo nest (to soft scramble a few metaphors).

El Ganzo Studio doorWithout a doubt one of the most unique features of this hotel is the Artist in Residence program mentioned in the previous post.  One key aspect of that program is the musicalEl Ganzo Hotel - Door to Recording Studio  arts component.  When you walk in the main bar/restaurant area adjacent to the lobby, you might overlook this nondescript door built into the floor assuming it leads to some dank storage facility.  In actuality, it leads to a state of the art recording facility that is overseen by Mark Rudin who carries the twin titles of Music Director / Studio Manager.  Mark shoulders the weighty responsibility of vetting potential artists to ensure that the quality of their musicianship meets El Ganzo’s exacting standards.  (Speaking of musicality, I am what is known in Texas as a prison singer.  “I never can find the key and I’m always behind a few bars.”  See reference to “laying an egg” above.)

El Ganzo Hotel - Underground StudioAs I understand the program, invited artists arrive at the hotel’s doorstep at their own expense, whereupon they are afforded accommodations, airport transfers (or access to the dock if they came by fishing trawler) and a generous meal allowance  They have access to the studio as well as Mark’s talented assistance as needed.  In turn, they are expected to record music which El Ganzo has the right to upload on their YouTube site.

El Ganzo Sessions In addition, they are required to perform at a live concert on the hotel’s rooftop on a Saturday evening.  People flock like geese (what else were you expecting) to experience these concerts.  The hotel offers a cover charge that includes all the music, margaritas and mojitos you care to consume.  Mark has just created a “trailer” that gives you a sampling of the stunning work created by these talented and widely diverse artists which you can access here.  I highly recommend you pour yourself a cup of java or glass of wine (as you prefer), kick back and listen to this amazing assembly of versatile artists.  I should caution that this may well lead to you wanting to hear the collection in its entirety which you can do by clicking here.

DSC01703Before we conclude this segment, I thought you might enjoy seeing some more works from the visual arts side of the program which resides in the capable hands of well-known art and fashion curator Luzma Moctezuma.  No less an authority than the sales manager, Miriam Reuter, tells me that they are working on an inventory of all the art work.  You will be able to learn more online about the piece, as well as the artist who created it.

DSC01704I promise in the next post to provide you links both to my own library of pictures taken on my recent visit as well as a whole raft of pictures professionally done.  It shouldn’t prove too difficult to tell which are which! In the meantime, here is a link to a great promotional video.

If you are wondering why I don’t just post the links to the pictures now, it is because I am being very naughty and feeling the need to create a compelling reason for you to come back here again soon.  You have yet to visit the enchanted garden or to glide across the shimmering waters toward the shade-drenched oasis or to gaze out to sea from the towering ramparts.  All in due time, dear reader, all in due time.

El Ganzo Gives Me Goose Bumps

If brevity is the soul of wit, serendipity is the soul of travel!

Hotel El Ganzo, Los Cabos The absolute best aspect of travel is the unforseen twists and unpredictable turns that lead to such satisfying intellectual stimulation and emotional fulfillment.  The following sequence of events from last week is a wonderful example of precisely what I mean.

1)  I find out my advisory board meeting will be at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.  Great, I have been wanting to learn more about that development.

2)  In the airport departure lounge, I decide spontaneously to reach out to a good friend and business contact Juan Carlos Del Rio, Managing Director of Epic Group Los Cabos and suggest to him we get together for a drink and chat.

3)  We meet one afternoon on the Secrets patio and Juan Carlos brings along Rafael Sanchez Navarro of Grupo Questro whose company owns and is developing Puerto Los Cabos.  He mentions offhandedly a boutique hotel they own located nearby at the marina.

4)  Later that evening, on a whim I email Rafael to see if I could do a site inspection the next morning before I catch my afternoon flight.  He readily agrees and sets it up.

Sitting in the airport at DFW, I was focused on my upcoming advisory board meeting agenda.  Stumbling upon one of the most interesting hotels I have every visited was the absolute farthest thing from my mind.  How could I possibly have known that El Ganzo was about to give me goose bumps!

El Ganzo logo

As you can tell from their logo, El Ganzo means “goose” in Spanish although the conventional spelling is el ganso with an “s”.  After I concluded my tour, I asked my intrepid guide Miriam Reuter about the spelling deviation.  She had the perfect explanation.  “As you have discovered for yourself, El Ganzo does things differently than other hotels.  As such, even the name demands its own flair.”   At the end of the next few posts, you can judge for yourself if indeed El Ganzo does not offer a unique travel experience.

El Ganzo Hotel in Los CabosNow, where to start?  For a boutique hotel with just 72 rooms, there is a lot to explain.  I know, let’s begin just as I did.  I arrived a little early so while I waited to meet Miriam, I walked out on the verandah, ordered a  cappuccino and sat gazing out at the marina.  Puerto Los Cabos marinaSome of you may know that just off the coast of Los Cabos are some of the world’s best sport fishing grounds and many boats harbor here.   Rather than trying to explain such niceties as the marina being a “4 S” with 400 slips and a drystock with a 150 ton lift . . . why parade my gross ignorance for all the world to see . . .just click here and read away.  Fortunately, one needn’t be a Fleet Admiral to sit and drink in the aesthetic beauty of the place.  Anyway, Miriam’s here to start our tour.

As we walked to the front entrance to the hotel, I asked Miriam to explain the basic concept of their signature Artist In Residence program.  Here is a brief synopsis with a fuller explanation and more examples to come later.  Artists and musicians from around the world are invited to come and experience the hotel while they create, interpret and record works of art.  No money changes hands.  This is all based on trade.  The artists are responsible for their own airfare but once they arrive they are provided airport transfers, accommodations and a generous meal allowance (since the property is not all-inclusive).  They in turn are expected to exercise their creative gifts leaving behind a permanent record of their visit.

As you can perhaps tell from the picture at the top of this page, the entrance to the hotel is on one end, giving the impression there couldn’t be more than a half-dozen rooms.  The wider shot above gives a very different perspective.  Now take a look at the pictures below.  The one on the left again shows the entrance.  The one on the right is a closer view of a magnificent piece of art by the Mexican graffiti artist SanerEntrance to Hotel El Ganzo   Art

I have barely scratched the surface and already it is time to wind down this post.  But I have oh so much more to tell you about El Ganzo.  In a later post I will give you links to some incredible pictures of this property.   When we next reconvene, I will take you by the hand and lead you down steep steps to secret chambers, on mysterious boat rides to a shady oasis and on a two-wheel journey through enchanted gardens.  Harry Potter, eat your heart out!

A Blue Diamond In A Silver Setting

Have you been struggling over what to give the light of your life this Valentine’s Day? If you are a man, just admit it:  you’ve been struggling.  (I’m giving you a huge benefit of the doubt by assuming Valentine’s has even crossed your mind more that three weeks out!)  You needn’t panic.  I have the perfect suggestion.

It was Carol Channing in the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes who introduced the song that Marilyn Monroe shortly thereafter turned into a bit of enduring American lore:  “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”.   You could do the diamond thing, a safe if uninspired choice.  I, however, have a better idea.  Rather than handing her a rock this Valentine’s, why not rock her world with a stay at the unforgettable Blue Diamond Riviera Maya?

Blue Diamond Luxury Resort

Here are a few thoughts to ponder and they’re all very powerful.  This property is all-inclusive (thus you know exactly what you will spend), all suites (who isn’t impressed when throwing open the doors to a suite) and all adults (if you need this benefit explained, maybe you should just buy a diamond).  So are you all in?

I know, I’m treating this weighty matter in much too cavalier a fashion.  We both know the stakes are extremely high since your credibility for, say . . . the next twenty years or so . . .is on the line.  You don’t have to tell me that most lovely ladies, not matter how delicate, have memories like six ton elephants.  Have you ever seen an elephant turn on a trainer?  Not pretty.  So let’s see if I can assuage your concerns.

Blue Diamond ResortSETTING

As with any diamond, you must consider the setting.  This luxurious property is positioned in the midst of 36 acres of lush tropical jungle. It fronts the tranquil, azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.  It rests in the midst of manicured gardens and is linked to the lapping ocean waves by a broad band of silvery sand.

CUISINE

If you are truly going to impress, both the dining and imbibing must comport with this significant occasion.  Even one mediocre meal or dubious drink is unacceptable.  Fortunately, in neither case will quality or variety disappoint.  You can share an incomparable gilded sunset at Aguamarina which features international cuisine coupled with a panoramic ocean view.

The Cigar Lounge at the Blue Diamond Riviera MayaIf your companion fancies Nouvelle Fusion, than you have obviously partnered way above your station since I am pretty sure neither one of us has a clue what that is.  But here is the great part!  Blue Diamond has a restaurant called Ambar which is all over Nouvelle Fusion like a duck on a junebug (granted an unfortunate turn of phrase giving we are discussing haute cuisine at the moment).

As for libations,  a chic rooftop bar called the Cigar Bar is the perfect location to sample a wide assortment of wine and spirits.  When craving a cappuccino or a tasty hot tea, Café Brulé is perfecto mundo as we like to pretentiously say whenever we chill out down on the Riviera.

ACCOMMODATIONS

If this is a romantic getaway for just the two of you, you just might be spending more than the normal amount of time in your room . . . ahem.  If that sounds about right, then the accommodations are of critical importance.

Suite at Blue Diamond Rivieria MayaIs it just me or does this private plunge pool have midnight skinny dipping written all over it?  Take a moment and read this page to learn all about the floor-to-ceiling windows, the plasma flatscreen TVs and the soothing rain shower.  (I’m thinking after the midnight skinny dipping you might need the rain shower to cool down!)

ACTIVITIES

Maybe it’s best we just move on to discussing the structured activities offered by the resort.  Those activities range from wine tastings and cooking classes to Spanish and yoga classes.  If you prefer to soak up a little more sun there is windsurfing, kayaking, sailing and introductory scuba diving lessons.

I invite you, as the resort itself likes to say, to “Uncover a dream destination amid the waves!”  Or, as we prefer to say, “Lend us your dreams and we will repay you with memories.”  Are we agreed then?  This Valentine’s you are going to give her a Blue Diamond set in silver sands!  Or, as my waiter unfailingly remarks with transparent flummery, “Good choice!”

The One&Only Time A Royal Mirage Is A Real Oasis

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a mirage this way. “Something (such as a pool of water in the middle of a desert) that is seen and appears to be real but that is not actually there; something that you hope for or want but that is not possible or real.”  With apologies to the famous lexicographer, quite obviously Mr. Webster has never vacationed in Dubai.  (Being dead for some 170 years, Noah, is hardly an excuse.)  It may be the One&Only example of this phenomenon but I am about to tell you about a mirage that really is an oasis.

One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai

One&Only Royal Mirage lobbyOne of the first things you need to understand about this sprawling 65 acre resort is that it is very much three experiences in one setting.  The three very distinct environments are named The Palace, Arabian Court and Residence & Spa.  The overview page on their website does a masterful job of describing the unique characteristics of each section.

There are few hotel lobbies that literally stop you in your tracks when you enter.  This, however, is Lobby of the One&Only Royal Miragecertainly one of them.  I am thinking seriously of reworking the entry way to my tract home with a similar skylight.

Speaking of my own humble domicile, I may have to get my attorneys involved with the architects of this property who shamelessly stole the landscape plans to my own back yard even down to the bullseye fountain in the foreground.  Surely they realized the first reaction people were going to have is “Wow, just like Terry’s yard”?Royal MIrage viewTo say the accommodations are stunning doesn’t even begin to do them justice.  I was shown this room just before the guest arrivedRoyal Mirage accommodations.  Let’s be honest.  How would you like to arrive from a long journey to this?

I would love to tell you whether this is a picture of a Prestige room in the Residence, a Prince suite in the Arabian Court or a Superior Gold in the Palace but to be perfectly honest, after seeing so many spectacular rooms in all three sections and with hunger pains beginning to nip, my little gray cells had started taking an early Qaylulah, the Arabic version of a siesta.

Perhaps detecting the famished look in my eyes, my delightful guide Vanessa Thodda, Senior Sales Manager at the resort, suggested we pause for a brief repast.  A twist of the arm being wholly superfluous at this point, Vanessa (who reminds me of Cheryl Lobo, one of our top agents), Susan Joehri from Desert Adventures (more about this great company in the next post) and I found our way to the Eauzone in the Arabian Court section shown below.  The sumptuous fare and elegant surroundings were only surpassed by the convivial company.

Eauzone Restaurant at One&Only Royal MirageThe formula for a world-class property is not that complicated even if it is not easily duplicated.  You take a stunning setting, add elegant accommodations, include delicious cuisine served in a variety of stellar venues, throw in a world-renowned spa and add a pinch of gracious service and warm hospitality. Voilà!  You have the oasis in the desert you have always dreamed about.  And, despite its name, it is no mirage!

Check back in soon to learn why Dubai is must see destination.  After that final Dubai post, we will board Emirates for the next leg of our journey.  Next stop, Rome.  Actually, Ladispoli but more about that later.

One&Only X 2 = Double Delight

We can’t all be Issac Newton I suppose (although, I must say, I do love his fig bars) but here Fmaous mathematician Isaac Newtonis an equation so rudimentary that even I can grasp it.  If a single One&Only Resort is  magnificent, then ipso facto two One&Only Resorts are twice as delightful, right?  Unless, that is, you insist on dragging out that confusing expression “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in which case you have me totally lost.

Setting mathematics quickly aside for something I do understand, let’s talk a little travel.  As I trust you have noticed, I have been writing lately about my latest junket, the first stop of which was Dubai.  While I was there, it was my privilege to visit not one but two amazing gems of the Middle East.

ONE&ONLY THE PALM, DUBAI

To give you a feel for the opulence, the picture below is me standing in my bathroom in the Presidential Suite drawing my bath.  Just kidding!  This is actually the lobby but you do have to admit it is quite breathtaking.  (In point of fact, the sumptuous bathrooms do feature oversized freestanding bathtubs as you will learn below.)  If you need a sense of perspective, I am six feet six inches tall and exquisitely sculpted not unlike the iron lattice-work in the background.

The lobby of the One&Only The Palm, DubaiEvery square inch of this property oozes stylish luxury.  This is especially true of the public areas such as the dining rooms and bars.  The resort features a marina (of course) and one of my favorite spots is the 101 Dining Lounge and Bar pictured below with a panoramic view of the marina and the Dubai skyline.  When they told me the dress code was “smart casual”, I was a little concerned about flunking the entrance exam but they graciously let me in with a provisional pass.

101 Dining Lounge and BarThe other two elegant dining venues are called Stay and Zest.  Said together they sound to me a little like a command you might issue to an over-exuberant puppy, “Stay, Zest!  Down Stay at the One&Only Palm, Dubaiboy!”.   Setting aside the bizarre way my mind works, these are two extraordinary restaurants.  To cite their website, “Different seating arrangements including a sharing table area as well as a unique Pastry Library concept are key to the restaurant’s DNA.”   That works out extremely well for me since it appears consuming pastries in obscene quantities is deeply imbedded in my personal DNA.  Zest is the primary dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I particularly like the outdoor seating by the pool in the midst of beautiful Moorish style gardens.

This amazing resort offers you your choice of accommodations in three locales: the Manor House, Palm Beach Mansions and Beach Front Villas with various categories within each.  I started this post with one of my lame little jokes about the lobby.  Just to prove that I was indulging in only a slight exaggeration, here are pictures of The Grand Palm Suite with its sumptuous bathroom in the Mansion section.

Typical Manor room Bathroom in One&Only The Palm, Dubai

Be sure and spend some quality time in the world-famous One&Only Private Spa featuring every amenity you can imagine and several you probably couldn’t!  I will return shortly for the second part of this post that will describe the One&Only Royal Mirage.

Before I go, however, I would like to invite you to visit this site where I have posted over 300 pictures from my Golden Circle 2013 travels.   There will not be a test at the end so don’t feel obliged to look at all of them.  The first link in this paragraph will take you to the picture album and the second link to all the posts in this category in case you would like to catch up with my most devoted (some might say, demented) followers who slavishly read every word I write.

Fond Of The Frond: Dubai’s Iconic Palm Island

Most people who know anything at all about Dubai have heard of or seen pictures of the iconic Palm Jumeirah Island.  If not, you should watch this fascinating YouTube video about its construction.  I find the accomplishment mind-boggling even taking into consideration that my mind stays boggled a fair portion of the time anyway.

Palm Island, Dubai UAEThe entire structure is an engineering marvel but considering my occupation (you know, travel savant) you won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite portion is the outer ring called The Crescent.  As you look at this picture, the structure in the middle of the Crescent and dominating the landscape is Atlantis.  I published a post about the resort a few days ago which can be read here.

On the extreme right (eastern end) of the Crescent is another great resort, Anantara, which I will tell you about in this post.  On the extreme left (western end) of the Crescent is the One&Only, The Palm and at just south of The Palm is the One&Only Royal Mirage.  I will tell you about the latter two in a subsequent post.

Whew!  Now that we have north, south, east and west pretty much covered, let’s take a brief visit to the incomparable Anantara.  As you will soon discover, I like pretty much everything about this hotel but among my favorite features are the villas out over the water.

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa.If you can pry your eyes off all the “beautiful people” in the foreground (and I use that term in the loosest possible way), you can see the majestic over-the-water villas in the background.  In case you care to do a quick reality check on my judgment in this regard (never a bad idea), I direct your attention to a post on The New York Times Travel blog that was published just two days ago, can you believe it, on the very same subject.  Those shameless bugggers over at the Times have spies everywhere trying to scoop me!   (Note to Shivani Vora.  I just linked to your post.  A reciprocal link would be nice.  Just sayin’.)

Now I want you to close your eyes (never mind, that won’t work unless you are a camel, and a literate one at that, and can read this post through your eyelids).  OK, just imagine yourself floating aimlessly on a pool float in front of your swim up bungalow when you suddenly feel the need to slake your thirst.  Do you paddle over to your domicile, clamber out and retrieve a drink?

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & SpaDon’t be silly my pampered friend!  You are on vacation and this is the Anantara, after all.  See this little boat with the ice chest?Beverage boat at the Anantara  Your boat butler will simply paddle over to you and offer you the refreshing beverage of your choice.  How cool is that?

Another thing you are going to enjoy about this luxury property is the dining options.  Crescendo offers international cuisine in a dazzling open air setting.  According to their website, Mekong “evokes a feeling of the Far East with a melange of traditional Oriental ingredients . . .”  It sounds inviting.  It seems like forever since I had a really good melange.   Perhaps most surprising of all is Bushman’s Australian Restaurant And Bar.  This venue even features a Salt Guru (no, really) to help you select the perfect salt variety to compliment your meal.  I don’t know about you but I have had a Salt Guru on retainer for years. 

Night falls on the Anantara DubaiSadly, the sun is setting, not only on another glorious day at Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, but also on another of these masterful posts.  Wipe away that tear little buckaroo.  I will return very soon with another thralling installment.   That is sort of like thrilling but more captivating!