Special Agents: The SECRET to great SERVICE!

Our esteemed leaders at Travel Leaders headquarters had an epiphany a while back that has had a dramatic impact on the way Travel Leaders agencies like ours go to market.  In a dazzling moment of crystalline clarity, they realized that, in a very real sense, we are all not so much in the travel business as the travel agent business.  By that I mean, the essence of our business is to connect eager travelers to the right travel experience by means of an experienced travel expert.

Special Agent Badge

You can buy this badge by clicking on the image.

According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, special agent is usually the title for a detective or investigator for a state, county, municipal, federal or tribal government who conducts criminal investigations and has arrest authority.”   Never one to shy away from random acts of audacity, I am going to brazenly expropriate that term and apply it to our own front line travel agents . . .  minus the criminal investigation and arrest authority, of course! 

Those who regularly visit these pages know that I exercise remarkable restraint when it comes to blatant promotion.  Only after I have hopefully entertained and educated do I occasionally sprinkle in a little enticement to do business with us.  Today, however, I creating a new category to which I will contribute content consistently but sparingly.  The category is called “Special Agent” and under that rubric I will introduce you from time to time to one of our special travel agents.

What I intend to do now, and in upcoming similar posts, is to give you a brief overview of an agent and provide a link to their “agent profile”.  Whereas, B.E. (that would be Before Epiphany), we would spend our time and money advertising destinations and/or travel provider partners, now we largely focus on promoting our agents through their individual, customized agent profiles.

For example, today I want to introduce you to Sandy DuVall.  Sandy is a consummate Sandy DuVallprofessional.  Over the past twenty-five years, she has traveled much of the world broadening her knowledge and adding to her personal experience. When she recommends a beach, she has likely wiggled her toes in that very sand. When she touts a resort, no doubt she has performed a recent white gloves site inspection.  When she endorses an adult beverage to be sipped pool side . . .  never mind.

While Sandy’s experience is broad, her true travel passions are a little more focused.  In particular, her heart rate rises a few ticks when someone inquires about a honeymoon or destination wedding or about Mexico or Hawaii.

This will become very evident when you visit her Agent Profile.   You can read about each of these three specialties, view picture albums related to each and even read short experiential posts that share her personal insights.  Spend a few minutes perusing her profile and you will find that entrusting Sandy with your dream trip is not just reasonable but downright perspicacious.

HawiiIf I were in the market for a destination wedding, planning a visit to the Hawaiian Islands or longing for an unforgettable Mexico vacation, I would have no hesitancy in seeking the advice of Sandy DuVall.  Now that I think about it, even as an agency owner I have sought her advice more than once!

Bottom line, if you are a traveler seeking a memorable travel experience, you need the assistance of a true travel expert.  Let me be the first to introduce you to Special Agent Sandy DuVall.

Trains, Tours And A Touch Of Tequila

The other day a couple of sales reps came a callin’.  OK, admittedly,  that in itself is not exactly remarkable or particularly blog worthy.  In the travel industry, sales reps are as common as fleas on a junk yard dog.  Not that I equate any of these precious souls with a member of the Pulicidea family of insects, let me hasten to add.  Certainly not these two charming ladies!

Tequila, MexicoWhat is beyond remarkable, however, is whenever a supplier is able to lay before me a destination or experience:

  1. I have never even heard of before.
  2. I would gladly book the next flight to experience for myself.

These two ladies scored on both counts and, since I live to make your jaw drop too, I am going to tell you all about it.  Strike that.  There is never enough time to tell you “all about” anything. Instead, I am going to tell you just enough to tickle your wanderlust.  Relax, that is not nearly as prurient as it sounds.


Tequila Espíritu de México

The journey begins with a flight into Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Our ultimate destination is Tequila, Mexico.  (Did I catch you reflexively licking your lips?)  OK, we are in Guadalajara but how shall we traverse the sixty kilometers (just under forty miles) to Tequila town?  Let’s see . . . burro, oxcart, thumb a ride?  If it is all the same to you, I think I would rather hop aboard the:

Jose Cuervo Express It doesn’t require much imagination to picture myself sitting at the bar below, sipping on a smooth little Jose Cuervo tequila and testing my limited Spanish on the convivial, and very patient, bartender.  He even stifles a laugh when I ask him if he is ever pregnant (embarazado) when he uses the wrong English word.  I hate those false cognates!

Bar club and dining areaTo continue my imaginary journey, after the brutal two-hour rail journey gazing at gorgeous agave fields and throwing back tequila shots, I am only hoping I can find some decent little hovel to rest my weary head.  If required, I suppose I could make do with the brand new Hotel Solar de las Animas.

This incredible hotel is based on a Creole colonial house andHotel Solar de Las Animas is designed by renowned architect Jorge Loyzaga whose prestigious restoration works include Chapultepec Castle, a stunning edifice overlooking Mexico City.  (I have a picture of me standing on the ramparts of the castle where the city looms over my right shoulder,  a piece of trivia I realize would bore even Clilff Clavin from Cheers.)

The room categories range from Superior Double to the Royal Suite.  Since, for now at least this is but a mythical journey, I attempt to check into the Royal Suite.  When my royal lineage is called into question (surprisingly they seem to be unfamiliar with the prominence of the Denton clan in British history), I gracefully accept whatever category is shown in the picture below.

Room at Hotel Solar de las AnimasComfortably ensconced in my room, I turn my attention to whatever enriching experiences might lie outside my doorstep.  I am intrigued to discover how many options the area offers but I decide on a horseback ride through blue agave fields and a tour of Fabrica La Rojeña , the oldest distillery in the Americas.  The order in which I participate in the two activities is not accidental, I assure you!

When you visit (hopefully, unlike mine, yours will not be of the virtual variety) you will want to sign up for the Maestro Tequilero blending experience where, under the watchful eye of an expert in the art of blending, you will experiment with five combinations to produce your own souvenir damajuana.   If like your humble scribe, you have never even heard of a damajuana, you will immediately recognize the necessity of the expert assistance mentioned above!

Horseback riding  Fabrica La Rojena

Unfortunately, the cold, wet dishrag of reality is slapping me in the face and I must conclude my mythical odyssey.   If the two ladies who planted this yearning in the first place are reading these words, I feel sure I could add so much more vibrant color and rich context in future blogs if only I were to experience Tequila Espiritu de Mexico for myself.  (As regular readers can attest, I have always valued directness over subtlety.)

If you think this might be a trip you would enjoy, reach out to me and maybe I will put a little group together so we can all experience it!

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Zoëtry Villa Rolandi: Such An Easy Decision!

Life, as you may have noticed, is filled with one brutally difficult decision after another.

  • Is this really the soul mate of my dreams or the beginning of one long nightmare?
  • Is a college degree a sound investment for me or a fool’s path to crushing debt?
  • Should I vacation on a Caribbean island this year or yield to the magic of Mexico?

OK, since I am neither a marriage counselor nor a life coach, I am going to pass on offering advice regarding the first two questions.  However, since I am a renowned travel maven (in the murky corners of my own mind, at least), I will gleefully presume to dispense my own brand of wisdom in regards to the last question.  As I like to say, my advice is as simple as it is self-serving.

Zoetry Villa Rolandi ExteriorContact me to book your next vacation at Zoëtry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun and you will find yourself enjoying both.  The reason is, Isla Mujeres is both a Caribbean island and a charming part of Mexico.  This “Island of Women” is located about eight miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea and is home to one of the most delightful resorts it will ever be your privilege to experience.

In spite of what they say, getting there is seldom half the fun.  In this case, however that old saw is true. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and whisked to a nearby pier where you will board your aquatic transfer to your all too temporary abode.  Aboard the twin hulled, 42′ power craft, the CoCoon, you will soon discover that it is not only the panoramic skyline of Cancun that begins to recede.  As the high-rise hotels of Cancun gradually become less imposing in the distance, so too will the weighty responsibilities and worrisome cares of life back home.   Before you can say Danaus plexippus (or “monarch butterfly” for the non-scientists in my audience), you will find yourself casting off your own cocoon thus releasing the butterfly of your better self.

Zoetry Villa Rolandi CocoonFor those of you who occasionally miss one of these timeless posts (unless you want an unexcused absence, I will need either a letter from your doctor or your grandmother’s funeral notice in the future), here is a quick review of the Zoëtry concept.  After reading this  post, you will be well versed in the subtleties of Endless Privileges and Wellness and Luxury.

Daniele Sandro Muller

With just 35 oceanfront rooms, Zoëtry Villa Rolandi is about as boutique as a resort can be.   Should we ever meet, dear reader, it will become instantly obvious to you that I have weakness for all things culinary.  Thus, what say we begin our tour with a look at the exquisite dining options?  The stellar quality of the food comes as no surprise since Daniele Muller, the son of owner Sandro Muller and manager of the specialties restaurant “Le Mestissage”, trained at the Institut Paul Bocusse in Lyon, France. Nice pedigree!

On a recent trip with some of our travel agents, we dined at Casa Rolandi, whose offerings are styled “Gourmet Swiss-Northern Italian Cuisine”.   I won’t pretend I can Casa Rolandidistinguish Swiss-Northern Italian from Northern Swiss-Italian in a dark room . . . which this obviously was . .  but, for what it’s worth, I can testify that when I finished, I felt as though I had just consumed a small Swiss chalet.  Yes, I know true gourmands don’t engorge themselves but moderation has never been my long suit.

Since my visit was much too brief, I did not get a chance to sample the French Mexican fusion cuisine at Le Métissage.   Such a pity.   Sandra, our gracious hostess for the evening, assures me that I must rectify that deficiency post-haste.  Well, Sandra, I suppose if you insist though my demanding schedule precludes me getting there before, say . . . tomorrow night!

If you share my lack of dining restraint (oh, and did I mention drinking?), you are going to need somewhere nearby to waddle off to after a night of feasting and imbibing.  With a mere 35 rooms, you should be able to find your lodgings with a minimum of assistance. from the helpful staff.

Superior Junior Suite When you do arrive at your room, this is the type of modern décor that awaits.  I personally love the fine Italian marble and the spacious design.  If you feel the need to wander, but not too far, youZoetry Villa Rolandi Jacuzzi can always retreat to your balcony for a glass of wine or a relaxing dip in your jacuzzi or, even better, combine the experiences.

I once wrote a blog post explaining why no vacation can possibly be complete without a round of golfIf, by some odd coincidence, you share this addiction as well, you can find relief (so to speak) at Playa Mujeres Golf Club where you’ll enjoy complimentary greens fees.  It is a beautiful Greg Norman design with generous fairways and manicured aprons from which you can often putt.  If you are not a golfer and find that last sentence incomprehensible, I suggest you just ignore it and soldier on.  It won’t be the first time someone found my writing mystifying.

Lest I test the limits of your attention span, not to mention mine, I will have to leave the matter here.  There is so much more that could be said about this exclusive resort.  That said, the very best way to learn more is to go there and experience it for yourself!  You will not be surprised when I tell you that I . . . OK, our talented staff . . . can make that happen.  If you can leave tomorrow, save me a seat tomorrow night at Le Métissage.

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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!

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!


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.


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.


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!

Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For The Best

Being a consummate travel professional (no giggles, please), I admittedly approach my personal travel a little differently than the average vacationer.  Because a large percentage of the travel I do could be considered a combination of business and pleasure, I always travel with an eye out for the unique, the fascinating, the “New Next” to steal a phrase from Texas Monthly magazine.  It is my own relentless “quest for the best” to share with you.  Think of me as a sort of Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant only without the chest hair and female entourage.

Marina at Puerto Los CabosThis past week was a perfect example.  I serve on the advisory board for the travel behemoth, Travel Leaders.  We had our quarterly meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, not exactly a shabby site for a business meeting. One thing I will say about the travel industry, we do meetings right!  I was especially pleased to discover that we were staying at the Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.  As the title above suggests, this post (and the next several) will introduce you to the newest, nicest and neatest development in one of my favorite destinations in all the world.

Google Map of Los CabosFirst a quick geography lesson. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that the destination is called Los Cabos and not El Cabo (cabo meaning cape or tip in Spanish)?  The reason is that at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula there are actually three capes: on the western side is the Cape of San Lucas where you find the town of Cabo San Lucas; the Cape of San Jose where the town of San Jose del Cabo is situated; and finally, there is an Eastern Cape.  Just east of San Jose del Cabo is Puerto Los Cabos sitting right on the border between these latter two capes.  In between the first two capes is the stretch of land known as The Corridor.  Are you starting to remember why you hated geography class so much!

Not to worry, for our purposes we are going to focus all our attention on Puerto Los Cabos.  This amazing development is the brain child of the Sanchez Navarro family comprised of a father, at least two or three sons involved in the business and a nephew.  To date I have only had the pleasure of meeting Rafael who directs the sales and marketing, a deficiency I hope to remedy soon.  I did Google the rest of the family and they all look like stars of a Mexican telenovela. I would love to meet the rest of the “cast” even though in their midst I would no doubt look like one of those character actors brought in for comic relief!  Their company is aptly enough named Grupo Questro and, as you will read below, the entire family obviously shares my passionate quest for the best.

Golf Course at Puerto Los CabosPuerto Los Cabos is a planned development nestled in the hills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains with its own spectacular marina and 18-hole golf course.   The existing course is the only course I have every played where the front nine was designed by one world-class architect, Jack Nicklaus and the back nine by an equally famous luminary, Greg Norman.  This marriage made in heaven, alas, is temporary seeing that the Greg Norman half will become the front nine of his own eighteen hole signature course and the Jack Nicklaus half will become the back nine of his own 18-hole course.  Nothing like picking out your next spouse while still married!  And you thought geography was complicated.

With the time I have remaining, I am going to tell you about two incredible resorts currently in progress (J. W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton Reserve) and then invite you to come back soon and read about two magnificent resort properties you can book right now (Secrets Puerto Los Cabos and El Ganzo).  Over an ice-cold Negra Modelo (the best beer in Mexico, by the way), Rafael explained to me that the construction I could see next door from where we were sitting on the terrace was a J. W. Marriott that is slated to open late this year. The best I can offer you at the moment are the various artist renderings below. To read a news release about the property, click here.

JW Marriott Puerto Los CabosIn case you are not aware, apparently Ritz Carlton was just not quite ritzy enough for some folks so a few years back they launched the Ritz Carlton Reserve brand.  This new property is described in their news release which you can read here.  “Nestled along 800 feet of oceanfront along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, 124 private, single-story, oceanfront villas will each have breathtaking panoramic views across the Sea of Cortez in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”  Again, here is an artist rendering.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Puerto Los CabosLest you assume the only option today for visiting Puerto Los Cabos is bringing along a pup tent from home along with a can of pork and beans and a few matches, in the next several posts I will tell you about two remarkable places you can book now.  By way of a tease, while both are magnificent, one of these two is perhaps the most unusual and intriguing hotel concept I have ever seen!  It may take a couple of blog posts to do it justice.

I’ll be back soon.  Why don’t you invite a few friends to join us next time as we continue our “quest for the best”?  This will be one time I can promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, why not sign up to follow this blog and you will never have to be disappointed again?  Cheers!

Crème de Los Cabos: The Top Five Resorts

In a previous post, I wrote, quite eloquently might I suggest, about various things to do once you arrive in Cabo San Lucas.  Working backwards (my normal orientation), it might be worthwhile to give some serious thought as to where you are going to reside during your upcoming holiday in Cabo San Lucas.

I should warn you at the outset that even with my vaunted (or is it taunted?) descriptive powers, after reading this post it will not be an easy selection.  That is because I intend to lay before you the five most luminous objects in the entire Cabo San Lucas panoply.

Five Gold Stars

Whether your intent is to impress a partner,  indulge a passion, or ingest a prawn the size of a West Indian manatee, you can’t possibly go wrong booking your stay at any one of these little gems.  OK, there is one way to go terribly wrong – booking with another travel company – but let’s not even go there!

Here are my recommendations in no particular order.  I am already destined to offend all those resorts who failed to make this short list so inflaming the passions of hotel partners who were selected by ranking them seems both provocative and ill advised.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso

Las Ventanas al Paraiso

As fate would have it, I have already written a captivating little treatise about the first of our five resorts which you can read here.  Another aspiring blogger, Larry Olmsted, who writes for such obscure publications as Forbes, USA Today and Golf Travel also contributes his modest insights.  By some miracle, should you find your thirst for knowledge still unslaked after reading my mesmerizing piece, I suppose you could trundle over here and read Larry’s workmanlike article.   Don’t blame me if it pales in comparison to mine.  Just lower your expectations and you should be fine.

Capella Pedregal

Capella PedregalYou will search long and hard to find any resort in the world with a more impressive setting.  The picture you see above is your first view after exiting a long tunnel cut through the heart of a mountain.  The infinity view framed by the dancing tongues of fire elicits an audible gasp from most first time guests.

I was a guest there a couple of years ago and several fond memories still float like dainty lily pads on the tranquil surface of my memory.  The Auriga Spa was a spectacular setting to relax and rejuvenate.  One of my favorite recollections is taking a cooking class from the well-known chef Marco Bustamante on ways to prepare three unique varieties of ceviche, one of my favorite delights.

One&Only Palmilla

One And Only Palmilla, Cabo San LucasIf you go to this resort’s website, which I strongly suggest you do, you will find this rather immodest description, “One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos Resort, a retreat of gracious splendour, where exhilaration and serenity thrive in blissful harmony.”  Bear Bryant, longtime head football coach at Texas A&M and the University of Alabama famously said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”   This property has every right to extol its virtues however loudly it cares to.

Every stay includes complimentary welcome Tequila, golf, a bottle of wine, spa and more.  As for accolades honors and awards, if these were medals and ribbons, the entire resort would be draped like the chest of a tin horn Generalissimo from some third world military junta.  Let’s just say if Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure are singing your praises, there must not be too many flys buzzing about!

Secrets Marquis Los Cabos

Secrets Marquis Los CabosLet me share a little insider secret I have learned from extensive personal experience.  There are no bad Secrets Resorts.  I have stayed at Secrets the Vine, Secrets Vallarta Bay, Secrets Silversands, Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets Maroma Beach and visited a couple of others.

Each and every one of them exhibited the same exemplary personal service and luxurious accommodations.  AMResorts, the parent company and a division of Apple Vacations, has every reason to be proud of what they are quietly crafting from the Caribbean to the sun-drenched shores of western Mexico.  As a bit of a wordsmith myself, a personal tip of the hat to whoever creates these incredibly alluring names:  St. James, Wild Orchid, Aura, the Vine, etc. Their very names are siren calls to serene settings.

Esperanza, an Auberge Resort

Esperanza, an Auberge ResortAuberge is truly more than just an incredible string of resort pearls.  It is not an exaggeration to say it is a lifestyle.  If you question that assertion, just spend a little time dawdling over the pages of their iconic blog, The Art Of Living.  The blog itself is a destination! The resort in Cabo, as do all their resorts, reflects the worldly charm of the CEO Mark Harmon.  You might enjoy this interview with him in the May issue of Robb Report

One of the nicer features of the dining experience is the fact they showcase ingredients from local farmers and fishermen.  As followers of this blog well know, I am a great aficionado of spas.  You should know that The Spa At Esperanza has been named the number one spa in Latin America by Travel & Leisure magazine.

OK, the table has been set.  Five glorious, unique, stunning slices of paradise.  For most of my readers, devouring all five courses is impractical due to lack of time or financial resources.  As a quick aside, if you don’t possess those two limitations, we really should get to know one another better!

Given those limitations for us mere mortals, which resort will you choose?