Friday, September 28, 2012

Great Sleeps: The Royal/Playa del Carmen, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

The Royal/Playa del Carmen  Av. Constituyentes #2, (984) 877 29 00, US 800-760-0944.  507 luxury suites.  3 pools; 2 hot tubs (+ 4 in spa); full-service spa (with temazcal).  7 restaurants, no reservations needed, gluten-free and vegan menu avail.  All-Inclusive; adult only (16+).  Guests at this beachfront luxury resort are greeted by staff members holding a hand over their heart.  It is a beautiful, calming gesture that evokes a smile.  Each guest room has its own terrace--90 percent with a hammock—and indoor turbo tub whirlpool with sports car-like seats for two.  The resort is especially popular with young couples in their 20s and 30s who like to drink and party, and sometimes the communal hot tubs sometimes seem to hold more people than water.  Tequila and more flows at the swim-up bar, at the swing bar, and also in each room’s included mini-bar.  On-property activities include:  scuba diving school (the introductory class is included); daily yoga, pilates, and spinning classes; an escorted morning and afternoon bicycle tour; a weekly cooking class, tequila tasting, and wine tasting.  A different show is scheduled every evening, and special events and theme dinners are sprinkled in.  When you want to explore, you can rent a Mini Cooper ($40/hr., $130/day) or sign up for a day trip to one of the spectacular Maya archaeological sites found in the area.  This hotel has been rated the highest in the region for food safety preparation.  It has the very strictest standards for food hygiene (find more hotels with stellar kitchen sanitation at www.checksafetyfirst.com).  This means you can eat lettuce and unpeeled vegetables without worry.  Additionally, the fare is gourmet quality.  Among the many restaurants are beach-side Pelicanos and buffet Spice, which has a special corner for vegans.  Exclusive Chef’s Plate--where diners watch their seven-course gourmet dinner being prepared—is available only to guests staying in Royal Jr. Suite Ocean Front and higher categories.  A romantic dinner on the beach with violins—perfect for popping the question or celebrating something special--is available at additional charge.  A coffeehouse and evening tequila bar with 50-plus brands are also available.

See The Royal live via webcam.

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

More things to do in Mexico.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things to Do: The Make House, Portland, Oregon

The Make House  1732 NE Alberta St., (503) 754-1892.  This little house has been converted into a common work space for artists and designers.  The “living room” is a shop displaying and selling their wares, and the “dining room” holds an amazing vintage silk-screen machine that is used to print on paper and fabric.

More things to do in Portland.

More things to do in Oregon.    

More antique machines. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

video c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, September 24, 2012

Things to Do: The Grotto, Portland, Oregon

The Grotto  8840 NE Skidmore St. (at NE 85th Ave./Sandy Blvd.), 6 mi. E of downtown, (503) 254-7371.  Daily 9am-6:30pm, to 8:30pm in summer.  Free; elevator:  $4, 65+ $3, 6-11 $2.50.  This Catholic shrine is set amid a 62-acre botanical garden.  It is a place of peace and solitude for all religions.  The outdoor main altar and cave--services are held here daily--are on the entrance level with a visitor center, gift shop, and trail leading past the Stations of the Cross.  On the upper level reachable only by an elevator, the cliff-top Meditation Chapel provides a panoramic view of the Columbia River Valley, the Cascades, and Mount St. Helens and has comfortable seating for rest and reflection.  Also on that level are manicured gardens, religious artwork, a labyrinth, and the Servite Monastery (not open to the public).

More things to do in Portland.

More things to do in Oregon.    

More gardens around the world.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Good Eats: Ah Cacao, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Ah Cacao  5th Ave./Constituyentes, 984 803 5748.  Daily 7:15am-11:30pm.  Reputed to be the best coffeehouse in town, this is where chocoholics come for goodies prepared from the best chocolate, vanilla, and coffee.  Rich, spicy 70% Mexican chocolate is offered in pastries, ice cream, and drinks.  Try the popular dairy-free, spicy Chocolate Maya--the chocolate equivalent of espresso--or an exquisite soft brownie.  Seating includes an open-air patio and a cool little glass box in the back with a.c. and jazz. 

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things to Do: Xcaret, near Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico


Xcaret (pronounced “ISH-kah-RET”)  Puerto Juarez Hwy., 3 mi. S of Playa, 984-206-0038.  Tours.   Free parking.  This eco-archeological park displays sea life as well as scale models of the area’s major ruins.  You can see local wildlife up close, snorkel and swim in a manmade lagoon and underground river, and sunbathe on a child-friendly shallow beach.  Swimming with dolphins or sharks is available at additional charge.  The park also has a botanical garden, a mushroom garden filled with pods that bring to mind those seen in the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a butterfly enclosure, a Maya museum, and a replica Maya village.  Inside Hacienda Henequenera, a folk art museum is set up as if a family is living there.  Food is good, especially at the buffets.  The evening folklore show in the Grand Tlachco Teather is very well done and includes a Maya ball game (called pok-ta-pok); dining while watching is an option.  Vino de México Wine Cellar promotes the culture and history of Mexican wine.  Here you can taste wines from the first winery in Mexico, which is also the oldest in America.  (Mexico had the first winery in the New World, in Baja California—Casa Madero, opened in 1597.  There are 87 wineries in Baja, and 3 wineries in Guanajuato.)

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

More things to do in Mexico.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  


images c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Sleeps: Blue Diamond Riviera Maya, near Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Blue Diamond Riviera Maya  Km. 298.8 Carretera #307, 10 min. N of Playa, 984-206-4100. 128 suites + 5 beachfront casitas; 2 stories.  Minimum stay 5 nights.  Adults only.  All-inclusive.  all-adult, all-suites.  This 36-acre hideaway features a white sandy beach and is surrounded by lush tropical jungle.  First up on the long side lane from highway to sea is the gigantic open-air reception palapa--which just might be the world’s largest and, with its expansive polished marble floors, certainly is one of its most beautiful.  Then comes the spa, a cenote, and the room complexes--each with a unique courtyard.  Finally come a few lagoon units and Ambar restaurant, the oceanfront units, a pool, the beach, and two more restaurants.  Golf carts act as taxis.  One of the all-inclusive amenities at this tranquil boutique property is world-wide free calls!  The spectacularly beautiful and spacious spa is constructed with typical local white limestone blocks throughout and features the latest fitness machines (in fact, the Yucatecan limestone and zapote wood used throughout the property are the same materials the Mayas used to build their temples).  Treatments are a mix of Maya and Asian, and all guests get a complimentary temazcal experience.  Sedate Ambar restaurant features haute cuisine and a spectacular namesake chandelier made with giant slices of local amber.  Slightly livelier Aquamarina has a lovely water view and sometimes mariachis sing at lunch.  Special dinners are prepared for French, Italian, and Lebanese nights, and sometimes a cook-out occurs on the beach with shrimp and lobster.  Rooms are large and luxurious, with marble bathrooms accented by tiny iridescent tiles and with glass-enclosed his/hers Swiss showers with sunflower heads looking out to the jungle.  Call a butler to fill the room’s exterior plunge pool (though the water can be quite cold).  The walk-in closet has its own air circulation system so that your clothes stay dry in the moist air.  Top-of-the-line casitas have private beach access and rooftop infinity pools.  This was formerly the Mandarin Oriental. 



More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Great Sleeps: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.  95 rooms.  Built originally as a palatial private villa in 1830, this spectacular property was converted to a hotel in 1872.  It has been owned and operated by one of the oldest hotel families in Europe since 1916.  My family had a magnificent corner room with three windows overlooking the lake.  Waking up each day was like opening a new gift as the color and feeling of the three-window view changed.  My teenage daughter was set up on a comfortable cot in a private dressing alcove, closed from the main room by a thick door.  Sheets were real linen (wonderful in a warm climate), ceilings were very tall, and nights were blissfully quiet.  All this plus suede-lined elevators and a divine breakfast room, too! 

images c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sights to See: Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park  62 miles S of Cedar City, (435) 772-3256.  $25/car/7 days.  The landscape leading into Zion is filled with mesas and buttes.  At the south entrance, where most people enter, a visitor center provides orientation.  An efficient free shuttle runs over the park’s famous red roads from April through October (when parking restrictions are in effect), providing a 6-mile scenic ride along its deep canyon floor as well as access to trailheads.  Located at the intersection of three separate ecosystems, this stunning park has more than 900 plant species (some are unique to the park).  Famous formations include The Watchman, a 2,400-foot-high monolith standing guard at the south entrance, The Great White Throne, and the hanging gardens of Weeping Rock grotto.  At the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava, many people stop to frolic in the shallow river or to hike Riverside Walk--an easy paved path that leads deeper into the canyon and features nearly 2,000-foot-high canyon walls on both sides.  A path beyond the end of this trail leads to the Narrows of the Virgin River, a gorge that is 16 miles long and up to 2,000 feet deep and sometimes only 20-30 feet wide; hiking it is a major adventure (flash floods are a concern, so fall is the best time to experience it). 

See a live webcam focused on Zion.

More things to do in Southern Utah.   

More travel articles to inspire you and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers