Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Canadians in Cancun

It seems that many are the Canadians that prefer to fly into Cancun instead of Merida; practically all my guests this December have used the WestJet direct flights into Cancun from frosty Ottawa, freezing Edmonton and chilly Victoria. Another thing they all have in common: their flights are all delayed!

Thanks to Wendy, Ryan, Vikki and Sonia for choosing to travel with me! I trust everyone enjoyed their Yucatecan tacos and that their tummies survived that foray into the wonders of Yucatan gastronomy.

Happy holidays to all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cancun Airport Pickups - Why Me?

So, you ask, what's so great about this personal driver picking you up at Cancun's airport? Here's a few reasons:
  • Your plane is delayed and you arrive late at Cancun - I wait
  • You are bringing pets and you can't leave the airport until a vet is called in from Cancun to spray the animalitos and only then are you allowed to leave, delaying your arrival for 1-2 hours - I wait
  • You miss your plane and arrive on an entire different airline altogether, at a different time - I wait
  • You bring a mountain of luggage - you don't have to fight with it, with porters, with bus drivers, with connecting shuttles, with taxi drivers and small vehicles
  • You go to buy a beer while I take the luggage and airport porter to the vehicle and tip him
  • You relax while I drive
  • We stop for real Yucatecan tacos which you would probably never try
  • You pick my brain on everything Yucatan, and I understand your questions, as I can relate to what you are asking, as well as present you with the Yucatecan side of things, which I 'get'
  • You arrive in Merida safe and sound, and happy, having had a great welcome to the country
So it's not about transportation. If you want to get cheap transportation, take the bus. And it's not about a ride in and of itself. If that was the case, a taxi would do.

No, this is about making you feel welcome, understanding your 'foreign' point of view and explaining to you the Yucatecan mindset.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Italian Coffee - Merida-Cancun Toll Highway

A new Italian Coffee kick the 'isla de servicio's offerings up a notch!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting Ready for Cancun!

December is finally here and bookings for my fabulous :) driving services are on the rise this year! I have bookings for December 9 and 10th as well as the 26th now confirmed, along with several tentative bookings. All Cancun airport pickups and all Canadians! January is looking to be a really busy time with folks coming in from Canada, USA and Austria. That's Austria, not Australia, for those kangaroo lovers out there.

In a funny twist, Vikki, who booked through my Craigslist ad, arrives on the 9th and it turns out she actually lived in the same little pueblito I did in Canada! Knows the family and everything. How weird is that? Well, I thought it was completely crazy.

Happy December, everyone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hunter, Pig, Xcanatun

During a brief tour by the nice folks at the reception of the Xcanatun Hacienda, there was this little pig foot stool in the lobby that Hunter really wanted to sit on. So he did. And here's the proof.

Monday, November 30, 2009

All Day Tour w the Richards

Lawsons' Personal Driving Service is touring today with the Richards family! First stop: Chicxulub Puerto.

Visiting at the Benito Juarez elementary school through the Chicxulub Food Bank program, run by Sharon, an organization that sponsors needy children and their families. Donations needed and welcome!

Contact me for details if you can help.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guest Comments on TripAdvisor

My dear Brits, who I drove here and there while enjoying enormously that unique, razor sharp wit only found in those steeped in Shakespeare, Monty Python and British cuisine, commented on TripAdvisor the following:

4. We then flew to Merida where we were met by Bill Lawson (found via this forum!). Bill drove us to Uxmal. Initially I had swithered whether to include a visit to Uxmal on our trip but am very pleased we did. Fabulous site. We got there around 1.30pm and practically had the place to ourselves. We used an official guide which I would highly recommend as we got a lot more info about the site than if we had just wandered around with a guide book. Got great photos and had a wonderful time here. Bill then drove us on to our hotel. We had planned the following day as a chill-out day and we really needed it by then. Well worth having a day to not do any sightseeing as it gives you time to reflect on what you have seen and to just generally relax.

5. Bill picked us up the next morning and drove us to Chichen Itza. Again we used an official guide which we thought was worth it. We arrived around 1.30pm and although the site was quite busy that wasn't a problem for us. By the time we were leaving most of the tour groups had already drifted off. We didn't find the stall holders hassled us or were annoying. It was easy to browse and not buy. No pressure from anyone. We then walked to Hacienda Chichen where we were staying overnight.

6. Following morning, Bill picked us up and drove us to Cancun airport. He didn't just drop us there but took us into the airport and even managed to get us to the front of the queue (know it was probably a fluke Bill but we were impressed!).

7. With regard to Bill - I probably am not allowed to give a plug on this website - but I will anyway! It was great to be able to do this part of our holiday without having to drive - and instead having someone reliable, knowledgeable and friendly to drive us around. He also keeps beer/water nicely chilled for thirsty passengers! I genuinely can highly recommend him if you are in our position and want to get around the Merida area and don't want to drive.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Debbie Has a Cell Phone!

Debbie has arrived and is the happy user of the latest Lawson invention - a local cell phone rental! Don't you wish you had one? No roaming charges, pre-loaded with as much credit as you want, and cheap!

(phone may not be this model, but it will be a Nokia)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Back at the Hacienda Chichen, Chichen Itza

Dawn and Paul spent some time at this hotel, which meant I was able to enjoy another fine espresso on their front 'porch'. Just look at all that jungle vegetation!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On The Road to Sotuta de Peon

After Dawn and Paul visited Uxmal fresh off the plane, I dropped them off at the Hacienda Temozon. I then decided - instead ot taking highway 261 back to Merida directly - to explore what appeared to be a shortcut to Sotuta de Peon in preparation for some folks that want to see Sotuta de Peon and Uxmal on the same day.

On the tiny, one and a half lane road that leads through the Yucatan scrub, I came upon a cemetery on the outskirts of the Uayalceh hacienda that made me stop and take a photo or two.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Uxmal This Morning!

So Kristin comes in at the last minute to see if Lawson is available for a ride out to Uxmal! Seeing as things are so slow this time of the year and besides it's Kristin so yeah, of course, sure!

An uneventful drive out to to Uxmal, not much traffic, not too much tourism at Uxmal either. A guide was hired and off went Kristin and Co to tour the ruins.

Boy is it hot out there this time of year! Very high humidity, lots of mosquitos and presently, a tropical rain shower which refreshes and steams shortly thereafter. Some gossip with the guides hanging around at the entrance and then, back to Merida.

Short and sweet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Update on the Tulum-Cobá-Chemax highway

For those of you considering heading to Merida or Valladolid via Coba and Chemax, I had the opportunity to drive that highway just yesterday and I can tell you that the portion from Tulum to Cobá has improved mightily and that it is regulation-wide and not a pot-hole in sight. Sweet relief!

However, once you go around the traffic circle that divides the highway into the Coba turn-off and the continuing highway to Chemax/Valladolid, beware. There is construction immediately in the form of an unpaved stretch of bumpiness; not much however.

Then it gets much worse. Although there is evidence of road-widening work in progress, the actual two lanes remaining are paved as if a space ship had dropped asphalt blobs from way up high. Veeery bumpy and veeery narrow. Be very very careful here. (short video below)

This goes on for a while until you see the sign 'Welcome to Yucatan' and the highway gets much better, fast. Smooth and wide, the only thing missing for some stretch of it is actual lanes painted but that is coming as you will see when you get closer to the junction with highway 180 (free) that runs between Cancun and Mérida. Turn left at this junction for Valladolid and Merida.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Driving? Beware of Sudden Torrential Downpour!

Rainy Season!

Just heading back to Merida from the airport, along the beltway known as el periferico, I was hit by a sudden rainstorm which reduced visibility to about 3 feet in front of the car. This is what it looks like! If you can, pull over and wait it out, since these heavy rainstorms pass fairly quickly most of the time.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Uxmal Closed in Celebration of Swine Flu

When Lawson and the JF Crew arrived at Uxmal, bright and early to escape the heat, we were met by the sight of some tourists from Holland or thereabouts waving their fingers in a 'no' fashion and a guard at the parking lot entrance who informed us that indeed, the ruins were closed until further notice due to the swine flu scare. How walking about an open site like Uxmal could cause a health risk is beyond me, but nevertheless, alternative plans had to be made.

It was decided that we meander on through the Ruta Puuc where we could see Santa Elena and also some Mayan ruins from the side of the highway.

At each of the stops including Uxmal itself, we had busses full of frustrated tourists pull in as well. How it can be safer in a bus full of humans than outside on a Mayan archeological site I don't understand.

At Santa Elena, we visited the church and then the charming Pickled Onion restaurant, run by a lovely lady from Ontario with whom we chatted briefly. We also enjoyed fresh juices and some guacamole while deciding on whether or not to continue on to Campeche.

Once that was decided, the LawsonMobile headed towards our neighbor state, along the back roads past forest fires, fields of crops, a soldiers checkpoint and a fabulous fruit stand.

In Campeche, a stroll around the downtown area and dinner at La Pigua before heading back to Merida!

This was a great, exhausting and very long but productive day!

See ALL the photos here!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Driving the Merida-Cancun Highway

Many people ask Lawson about the drive from Cancun to Merida and vice versa, and is it dangerous. The response is always the same: the most dangerous part of the highway is falling asleep at the wheel and having your foot weigh down on the accelerator, thereby resulting in a spectacular crash event involving you.

Below is a short example of what the entire 3 hour drive is like, with the exception of the stops for tolls (2) which will set you back around 600 pesos. Cash only.

At night, after 7pm, they offer coffee. However, it often runs out and then 'no hay'. Apparently it is too much of a stretch for the folks manning the booths to have 'coffee making' included in their job description. Or maybe that would put them in a different, higher, pay grade and no one wants that.

Remember to watch the whole thing, not because anything exciting ever happens, but because you want to get a real feel for the drive before considering it yourself. Oh, and at night it's even more interesting. Not.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day Trip to Mani

For those of you who don't know it, Mani is important because it was the site of the burning of most of the Mayans writings and art, by that wonderful Spanish friar on a mission from god (again, religion making things warm and cozy for all) and because it is the home of the restaurant Principe Tutul Xiu, where you can eat a great Poc Chuc or Relleno Negro and where they have the best hand-made tortillas. My cohort the Casual Restaurant Critic has written about the place many times, always favourably.

This morning, I picked up Carm and Don at the Luz en Yucatan hotel at 11:00AM and we proceeded to hit the road, taking the route less travelled to reach our destination.

We meandered through pueblos, stopping everywhere and anywhere to take photos of haciendas and local sights and eat fresh tortillas (this is popular) at a tortilleria, where the ladies waiting in line had a chuckle watching us gringos marvel at their little tortilla factory. Of course, the cow in Uayalceh was a highlight as well!

At last we arrived in Mani, had a fabulous lunch and then explored the monastery, which is in the process of being renovated.

On the way back, we took the more direct Mayapan-Acanceh highway making only one more stop in the town of Chumayel to peek into their church (below)

We were back in downtown Merida, at the Luz en Yucatan hotel, by 6 P.M.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chichen Itzá - Ek Balam - Valladolid

Some photos from the Chichen Itzá - Ek Balam - Valladolid (and on to Mérida) day trip.

scrambled eggs and longaniza breakfast at a little restaurant at the entrance to Chichen Itzá

colorful interior of the restaurant

sign at the Xtepen or Dzitnup cenote, outside Valladolid

pay careful attention to the instructions regarding video cameras

See ALL the photos here!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Barrie Connection

Thank you to the Johnstons from Barrie for picking Lawson to drive them from the bus station to their beach house and back again, albeit early. Hopefully all is well back in Ontario and next time you come down, you'll have more time to explore all the interesting things there are to see in the Yucatan!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's Official - The Yellow Car has been Replaced

The Easy to Find in the Jungle (figurative concrete and literal green) Yellow Car was replaced by a vehicle identical in color and model to the one in the photo, a slightly larger and definitely more recognizable all-American vehicle that features room for 4 adults. The only disadvantage is that it is has no distinguishable characteristics that make it stand out in a parking lot but I am working on providing it with a defining sonic feature that should entertain the latent child in all of us and provide an icebreaker for those awkward moments when conversation dies or when a cow crosses the highway on some Yucatecan backroad. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Celestun Day Trip

Finally, after much planning, a cruise ship pick up that worked! It almost didn't, what with fog and a sick passenger that had to be airlifted off the ship which delayed the cruise ships arrival at Progreso's harbor this morning.

The happy family of four was whisked off in the latest temporary Lawson Mobile; the vehicle of the day was a 4 door Impala so there was plenty of room for everyone! A full two hours later, after much conversation, an army checkpoint, several villages, some slow moving traffic and a 5 peso bag of juicy mandarin oranges along with worries from one family member about whether we would make it back to the ship in time for it's departure, we arrived safely in the parking lot ready to take that much awaited bird watching tour.

Two options were available; time constraints and a helpful fellow tourist's comments convinced us to take the one hour tour as opposed to the two hour version which promised a diversion into the 'petrified' forest which is really a bunch of dead trees, nothing more, nothing less.

crappy cell phone photo!

The bird watching was fantastic, in spite of what I had thought regarding the availability of flamingos at this time of the year, there were quite a few hundred of them out there today, along with egrets both great and small, herons of all colors and stripes, pelicans and there was a swim in a natural spring.

The weather was fantastic and cooperated all day with sunshine, white puffy clouds and everyone was in a good mood.

The trip back featured a stop with photos at a tortilleria which was a hit and the half kilo we ended up buying was lunch since we were on a tight schedule and besides, endless buffets awaited the cruiseship passengers once they got back to Progreso!

For some reason on the return trip we ended up in Uman not Caucel which afforded us the opportunity to see the giant church that Uman is famous for with it's Moorish dome and Gothic entrance.

Finally, arrival at Progreso once again, with time to spare for a quick look around before heading back out onto the ship.

Thank you guys, it was a great day!! I'm very glad you enjoyed it and got to experience a tiny little bit of all the good stuff the real Yucatan has to offer!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year // Feliz Año Nuevo!

To all the fun, interesting and different people I have the pleasure to meet over the past two or three years while embarking on this little venture; I want to say
  • thank you!
  • gracias!!
  • dios bo'otik!!!
because it really was more than just ferrying bodies around from A to B; it was the chance to introduce people to the Yucatan through the lens of my experience living here; admittedly neurotic at times, but always with a great deal of love.

Have a safe and wonderful 2009!