Viva La Ziva: Turning Silver Into Gold

Two or three years ago I visited a particular resort in Los Cabos, Mexico that I liked a great deal.  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to return to that same property for another stay.  I was excited by the prospect for two reasons:

1)  I fully enjoyed the location, facilities and experience on my first visit.

2)  I discovered that this property had changed ownership and was now owned and managed by the Playa group and operated as the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos.  After all the buzz, I was very keen to experience the new Hyatt all-inclusive concept for myself.

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Not a bad way to be greeted upon arrival. They all seem so pleased to see me!

In my previous post, I presented lots of background information about the exciting new Hyatt Zilara and Ziva brands.  I encourage you to take a moment and read that post.  (Just be sure to tether yourself to this post.  I don’t fancy floating through cyberspace in an unflattering, bulbous space suit searching for you.)  If you are wondering about the title of this blog post, the explanation is simple.  The property was pure silver before but through a miracle of alchemy that only the Hyatt folks in white lab coats could pull off, it is now solid gold!  As proof, consider the fact that the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos was awarded Triple AAA’s 2014 Four-Diamond designation this past March.

In that prior post, I talked about the “evolution of all-inclusive” and listed a few specific amenities such as the butler service, unlimited pillow menu, Tequila sommelier and romance concierge.  Let’s spend the remainder of our time together considering a few more marks of distinction.

Service From The Heart

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos saluteI will grant you I am not necessarily the brightest porch light on the street but I admit I was a bit confused when I first noticed that the staff were constantly smiling at me while placing a hand over their hearts.  I quickly ruled out a strange contagion  of cardiac ailments . . . unless these were the most affable and chipper heart attack victims I have ever met.  As it turns out, this is their unique and very endearing salute to their guests.  It is meant to convey that their service comes not from duty but from the heart.   And you know what, it so clearly does!  I’ll let the dour cynics roll their eyes and call it hokey if they care to provided they leave me alone to bask in the radiant warmth of the staff’s genuine hospitality.

Beyond Gourmet

Let’s be honest.  Buffet and gourmet are not normally used in the same sentence by true Hyatt Ziva Dining Optionsgourmands.  Leave it to Hyatt to shatter even that common misconception.  The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos can claim not one but two gourmet buffet restaurants:  one features international cuisine and the other Mexican.   However, if your patrician upbringing produces involuntary quivers at the term “buffet”, not to worry.  There are five specialty  à la carte Restaurants, including Bon Vivant (French classical), Lotus (Teppanyaki-style cooking with a Sushi bar) and Coral (outdoor grilled seafood).  I wouldn’t worry about a precipitous weight loss during your vacation.

Spontaneous Moments

When I was a guest at the Hyatt Ziva, I was privileged to meet . . . and even spend a little quality golf course time with . . . Francisco Silva, the General Manager.   As will be true of every generalHyatt Ziva Los Cabos manager as each new property opens, he had just been challenged to create a unique “spontaneous moment” for his guests.  This is intended to be some unexpected amenity rendered to the guest at no charge.  Francisco had a couple of ideas he was mulling over but he said if he told me he would have to kill me.   OK, not really but these general managers are very competitive.  They take tremendous pride in their profession and especially in assembling a staff from top to bottom that reflects their values.  After spending some quality time with Francisco, it is easy to see why the service at his resort is so exemplary.

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos exteriorAs I sit here and stare at the picture above (you must click on it for the full effect), I picture myself at just this time of day, sitting on one of the floating conversation / fire pits in the foreground, sipping an Argentinian Malbec all the while letting a gentle ocean breeze waft over me.  Since I am exhausted from penning yet another literary masterpiece anyway, I have decided to go reheat my coffee and come back and gaze at the full screen version of this picture for the next several minutes until a zen like serenity envelopes me.

I know!  Let’s both make this picture our new desktop!

100 Points Of Tripe

In June of 2013, I wrote a post called, “What Do You Get A Blog For Its First Birthday?”.  In the same spirit of shameless self-congratulations (proving I haven’t matured in the intervening year), here is a short interlude from our regular programing to celebrate both my second blog birthday and my one hundredth post!   If that doesn’t rank right up there with the signing of the Magna Charta and the Normandy invasion on D-Day for historical significance, I can’t imagine what would.

Dancing hot dogIf you are one of the tiny minority who have not studiously perused every post I have ever written, here are a couple of ways for you to purge your shame and cleanse your conscience.  Trust me, this will constitute some serious penance!  You can go to the “What Did I Miss?” page along the top for a list of all 100 posts or, conversely, you can scan the right rail for a list of categories.  Then by simply reading all one hundred at one sitting, you will be automatically inducted into the Travel By Terry “Hall Of Masochists” of which I am currently the only member.  At this point, the meetings are short, lonely and, as you might expect, painful.  I would love some company.

Wordpress badgesIf you think I am being a little too hard on myself calling this post 100 Points of Tripe, as I pointed out in a previous post, hot dogs (of which I am a fan) are largely tripe and quite tasty!  I take it for granted that you are chomping at the Frankfurter to join the celebration and so I have provided a means for you to do so.  Simply register your opinion in the poll below.

As I enter my terrible twos, I encourage you to come back soon for another tasty . . .  if not necessarily nutritious . . . offering.   With any luck at all you will be entertained, educated and enticed which, coincidentally, happen to be the three pillars of this humble blog.

OK, NOW It’s Funny

James Thurber, the noted author and celebrated wit once said, ““Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”  If he wasn’t thinking of travel when he penned thoseJames Thurber words, he should have been.

The intrepid traveler is akin to a playwright who painstakingly crafts the perfect dialogue only to have his script handed over to a troupe of actors at the local improv comedy club.

Weeks before you travel, you begin to meticulously plan every detail of your trip.  Yet, it is virtually guaranteed that you will cram too many activities into way too short a span of time with “emotional chaos” being the inevitable outcome.  You will hardly have begun your trip when reality (such an ugly word) will materialize like an uninvited former girlfriend at your wedding nuptials.

In the “OK, NOW it’s funny” category, here are a couple of random episodes from my personal group escorting history.  Neither was remotely amusing at the time.

GYPSY HIJINKS

Picture yourself responsible for one hundred or so choir directors, each more tightly strung than Charlie Daniels’ fiddle.  You are traveling through a tiny Romanian hamlet on two large motorcoaches weaving your way between ox carts, sheep and milling pedestrians.  This was my unfortunate fate a few years back.

Village in Romania

I had a local tour guide on the first coach and I was sitting in the front right seat of the second coach trailing by a couple of hundred yards.  I noticed that the first coach had made an unscheduled stop in the middle of the road.  I could be pretty confident it was not a stop light because there wasn’t one for several hundred miles.

By the time our coach pulled up behind the first . . .  it had to be  less than sixty seconds. . . I could see a gaggle of gypsies gathered around the coach throwing rocks and screaming what I assume were time-worn, traditional obscenities at the occupants.  I can assure you that there are no chapters in the travel escort’s nifty little handbook for mollifying highly agitated gypsies.  It was only after disembarking from my coach that I noticed a young girl lying on the ground being attended to by other gypsies.   My heart sank with the realization that she might have been hit by the coach. (Let me hasten to add, she wasn’t!)

Only after a trip to the police station, a three-hour delay and no doubt a hefty “fine” paid by the tour company (don’t ask, don’t tell) were we again on our way.  The local guide and drivers assured me this was a common gypsy ruse. They have one of their younger members slap the side of the bus, fall to the ground and claim to have been hit all in the hope of extorting a few bucks from their hapless marks.  Welcome to Romania! (Notwithstanding this incident, a stunningly beautiful country.)

THE TOUR GUIDE’S WORST NIGHTMARE

 For several years I took groups to England and used the services of a rather large and established tour company.  At one point, two of the people I was working with left that company and formed their own concern.  They solicited me to follow them and, given that  I was satisfied with the service I had received, I did so.

London Gatwick AirportOur group arrived at London Gatwick airport ready to begin our grand adventure which we all would have gladly done had our coach driver shown up.  Take thirty or so otherwise quite amicable people, put them on an eight-hour overnight flight, trudge them through immigration and customs lines a mile long and then tell them their transportation is missing-in-action and you suddenly have a cast of extras for the next Frankenstein remake requiring angry villagers with torches and pitchforks.

The coach eventually arrived and we headed off to London for the first couple of days of sightseeing.  Fortunately, that portion passed without incident and the tattered sleeve of my Cotswolds villagecredibility if not mended, had at least been largely forgotten.  Off to the Cotswolds with a stop in Oxford.  Nothing like the bracing fresh air of the British countryside to put everyone in a congenial mood.  We pulled up in front of the hotel and I asked the passengers to wait on the bus momentarily while I gathered up room keys from the front desk.

Most of you will have guessed by now that there was a slight problem.  Not a living soul at the hotel, including the Irish Setter napping by the fireplace, would admit to having ever heard of me, my group or my fledgling inbound tour operator.  By some miracle for which I still burn candles and say Hail Marys (and I am not even Catholic), there was a hotel just down the road that had only opened that week that was largely empty.  Even though utter disaster was averted, faced with having that little chat I thought seriously about sneaking out the back of the hotel, catching a train to London, flying back home and buying a fly-fishing lodge in Newfoundland under an assumed name.

I should point out that this happened very early in my travel career and I have ever since only worked with carefully vetted and highly experienced destination management companies.

THE MORAL

The point of my little morality play, if there is one (my poor readers often search these posts in vain for one) is that time has a way of transforming temporary disasters into lifelong anecdotes.   I would not be retelling these incidents were it not for the fact that, in both cases, the trips turned out quite successfully in spite of the hiccups described.

As has been astutely observed, if nothing bad ever happened when you travel, you would have absolutely nothing to say at cocktail parties.  Travel misadventures are like noses, everyone has one.  Some are just funnier than others.  Especially with the passing of time!

 

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.

Spontaneity, Sydney And The City2Surf Race

If you rummage through the section on this blog called “What Did I Miss?”, you will find a post entitled A Life Lesson Learned In London.  If you imagine for one moment that this was a singular pedagogical event in my travels, you couldn’t be more misguided.  Give the globe a little 180 degree spin and you will find that Sydney, Australia can be every bit as instructive in dispensing life lessons as London ever was.  What I am about to describe falls into the category of “I wouldn’t take a million bucks for the experience and wouldn’t repeat it for twice that!”

Sheraton on the Park Sydney AustraliaTo think it all started innocently enough over a hearty breakfast on the executive floor of the Sheraton On The Park in Sydney, Australia.  For a period of about fifteen years I escorted groups to Australia at least once a year.  On this occasion, I had brought along one my employees, Carey Rector, to assist.  We had just pushed aside the Vegemite in favor of the strawberry jam (I never did acquire a taste for that particular Aussie delicacy although I am pretty sure it would make a great axle grease.)  Carey and I were chatting amicably and gazing out the window at the park some thirty floors below.

“Why are all those people starting to gather and mill about in the park?” I asked the waiter.  “Oh, they are getting ready for the annual City2Surf race,” he replied.  “Can anyone participate?” I asked.  “Anyone with $10.00 Australian,”  he said.  “What time does it start?”  “10:00 am, I believe.”

At that moment we were only halfway through breakfast and it was just shy of 9 o’clock in the morning.  I looked across the table at Carey and asked (only an omniscient God knows why), “Would you like to run in it?”  To which Carey responded, “Sure, we aren’t doing anything else today.”  After reading this post, you can be the judge as to whether this impetuous decision should fairly be labeled inspiring spontaneity or temporary insanity.

City2Surf race in Sydney AustraliaIf you are not familiar, as I was not, the Sun-Herald City2Surf presented by Westpac has grown to be the world’s largest run with over 80,000 registered participants each year.  It is actually larger than the London and New York Marathons combined!

It began way back in 1971 with a mere 2,000 entrants.   It draws a combination of locals, affectionately known as Sydneysiders, and participants from all over the world.  Some are elite and others are dweebs like me who obviously could use a full-scale psychiatric analysis for taking such a rash and impetuous action.

I recall showing up in shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes (not the least designed for running), paying my $10 Australian, pinning a number to my chest and finding a place toward the back of this mass of humanity.  It was only at this point that a rather important question occurred to me, heretofore overlooked.  Before I could even express the question to Carey, it was answered by an announcer on a loud speaker who welcomed us all to the annual City2Surf race where we would be running from Hyde Park in the central business district to Bondi Beach, a distance of 14 kilometers.  My mental acuity must have been heightened by the sudden rush of adrenalin because I was able to instantly calculate that 14 kilometers was 8.3 bleeping miles!

Another feature of the race which would become painfully apparent in just a few moments is that the entire first half of the race is pretty much uphill to the “Heads”, the towering cliffs The Heads, Sydney Harborthat bookend the two-kilometer-wide entrance to the harbor.   The route then mercifully starts the descent to Bondi Beach, which not too surprisingly I suppose, is at sea level.

I am going to spare you an agonizing play by play description of the race partly because it still stirs painful memories long since relegated to the recesses of my mind (and, trust me, my mind has lots of recesses).   When I finally staggered across the finish line . . . I would tell you my elapsed time but I wasn’t carrying a sundial at the moment . . . I was only thinking about limping on to one the motorcoaches provided to carry us back to the city.

One of the most disconcerting moments of my life came when I asked where the coaches were parked and a race official pointed a long, bony index finger to a car park a half-mile away up a steep hill.  We didn’t overuse the term “Really?” in a sardonic fashion back then as we do now but if we had, it would have been extremely appropriate.  What I did say though, what it may have lacked in gentility, was more than made up for in clarity.

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!

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!