Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Guest Comments!

Our family (mom, dad, 2 teens and a 7 year old) fell in love with Progreso and the Yucatan. We were so sad to only have 7 hours. We arranged a guided tour with William Lawson's driving service. We chose to visit 2 Cenotes for our trip with him. We drove through several beautiful villages during our 90 minute drive to the cenotes. The time flew by as we zipped by picturesque towns that looked like they were built for a movie set of Mexico. Along the drive we saw colorful thatched roof round houses, adorable schoolchildren in starched white uniforms waving at us, a grandmother strolling through town with a basket of flour balanced on her head, a flock of flamingos flying over our car as if they were trained, and a pyramid that was so close we could almost touch it out of the car window. In order to reach the cenotes, we were transported by horses and carts down tracks. The cenotes were truly magical. My kids loved swimming and jumping in the bluest crystal clear water you can imagine while surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. We were never once nervous or felt unsafe at all. Our guide was a walking Yucatan history book and great with kids to boot. It was a perfect day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eco Museo del Cacao (Plantacion Tikul) (Part Deux)

The tour is comprised of a series of palapas, each of which highlight Mayan history and the story of cacao in the region. The manner in which the information is presented is clear, in both Spanish and English (French and German to come soon in a brochure format) and every single detail has been carefully placed, from the signage to the lighting to the sounds coming through the speakers.

As you can see from the photos, dear reader, this is not some chintzy half baked display - it's the real thing and has all been done privately, with no intervention from the authorities.

The highlight of the tour of course, is when you visit the last palapa where you will see chocolate beans (seeds) ground with a stone grinder and have real chocolate made for you right there, using traditional Mayan methods, which you will then sample. You may add several ingredients so the chocolate is to your liking, such as pepper, chile, sugar, achiote (used by the Mayans to make the drink red in order that is resembled blood). It is an interesting taste sensation!

After this portion of the tour you are left at the cafeteria which offers cold drinks and several chocolate varieties for purchase as well as a selection of locally-produced spices and condiments at very reasonable prices.

Visit their website here.

Happy Guest Comments!

Honestly, I don't make these up! My two guests from Frisco were a delight to show around the area and here's what they had to say:

Thank you for your note. We loved every minute of our time with you doing things we never would have experienced (or certainly not in such a comfortable relaxed way) without your help. Your cultural perspective and experience are truly invaluable in helping a tourist "see" and put what they see into a context they can understand. You have quite a knack for humanizing culture (reducing the "exotic" factor) for the novice. I appreciated every insight. You made us feel so at home with your humor and friendship. Many thanks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eco Museo del Cacao (Plantacion Tikul)

The EcoMuseo del Cacao, Plantacion Tikul (Cacao Museum) in the Puuc region of the Yucatan is, in my humble and not at all opinionated opinion, a must for residents of - and visitors to - the area.

To get here, take the highway to Uxmal, stop in for an espresso and continue past Santa Elena where you wave at Valerie and her Pickled Onion restaurant (news flash - fresh hand made tortillas available now) and pass Labna slowing down for tourists there criss-crossing the street and finally coming to bone-jarring tope which will shake the mashed butterflies from your grill as evidenced by the small pile already accumulating as you add your donation. Note: this butterfly thing is only applicable during the rainy season, when hundreds if not thousands of butterflies in bright yellow, orange and white flutter like snowflakes over the highways and byways here after a rainfall. Many will sacrifice themselves on the altar of your windshield and countless more on the chrome grill between your headlights (on your car). I have found that slowing down a little gives them time to swoop away as you go forward.

After that speed bump or tope, you will see straight ahead the mysterious path on to Campeche, marked by a police station. But you will turn left and continue past two of the Puuc-y sites until you see the signs for the EcoMuseo del Cacao, on your right.

Park the car and admire the entrance and the parking lot. Lots of trees have been left and the entrance itself is worthy of a photo so here it is.

Once you reach the lobby, you know you are in a first class operation, just from the lighting, the signage, the design and the smiling hipil-clad hostesses waiting to greet you. The cash register, where you will pay 80 pesos per person, is adorned with a giant vase with beautiful aves de paraiso flowers from the property. A gift shop right there features chocolate-making-related gifts.

Once the entrance fee is paid, a young man in traditional white leads you onwards to the tour.

To be continued in the next post.

Update: Visit their website