Friday, December 13, 2013

Angel was Friendly, Flexible and Knowledgeable

"I have visited Chichen Itza, Tulum and Altun Ha. Uxmal was my favorite. Very relaxed feel to the place and gorgeous preservation work. We hired a private guide company (Lawsons Original Yucatan Excursions) and had a most wonderful time with them. From the person who handled my planning (Ralf) to our driver and guide (Angel), we were never disappointed. My husband has limited mobility and we also have a 13 year old child. We were never rushed and the boy was never bored. LOL Angel was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. Our vehicle had a stocked cooler with sodas and water and Angel even stopped after our hot day to buy us some local handmade popsicles (very interesting flavors). When I go back, I will definitely hire them again!"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Wondrous and miraculous" This happy guest is "not hyperbolizing"

Ben visited with his family this past fall. Here is a recounting of his experience with us:

"Wondrous and miraculous.  That's the experience William Lawson Tours provided my family this past week in Progreso Yucatan.  I'm not hyperbolizing.
First, the wondrous part.  Our guide, Angel, took us on two fantastic excursions.  The first was to the ruins at Mayapan and two cenotes afterwards.  Both were fantastic experiences.  Angel's knowledge of Mayan history and culture was awesome; he answered every question and made observations that enriched our experience.  We were the only people at the cenotes, and my two young adult sons had a blast, leaping 30 to 40 feet into the dark cenote waters that seemed like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, only better.  In between, while we were driving on narrow jungle roads east of Merida, Angel provided us with an impromptu snack, asking a local  Mayan lady to make us some fresh habanero salsa with chaya & scrambled egg tortillas, which we ate at a hacienda in the early stages of restoration.  It was quiet and real, yet other worldly.  On our way out, Angel stopped along a little road and stripped one henequen leaf down to its sisal fibers, twisted it, and knotted it at one end, showing us in just a few moments, what brought great wealth to Yucatan when henequen was green gold for the region.  As we drove along, I knotted the other end and have saved the tiny strand of twine as an invaluable keepsake of another time and another world.
Our second excursion was to the Yaxcopoil Hacienda and the ruins at Uxmal. Uxmal was magnificent and not overrun, allowing use to roam freely and enjoy Angel's explanations and story-telling.   Again, the stuff in between was every bit as enriching and stirring.  We stopped at a magnificent hilltop vista above the town of Muni, and explored the lovely creations of an artisan there (his name escapes me).  We stopped at a tiny village tortilleria for fresh tortillas right off a rickety conveyor belt from an oven that made the little place about 130 degrees.  We also stopped at Hacienda Ochil on our way back to Merida.  I was gratified to see the narrow gauge rails and the corroding carriages that once carried visitors, workers, henequen leaves, and raw sisal fibers from the fields to the main hacienda and the warehouses where the fibers were processed.  I'd seen these things in pictures on the internet, but it was fantastic to see these artifacts up close, with my own eyes.
The last 10 minutes of time with Angel were yet another gift.   He knew we were tired  (my wife and I are thinly disguised oldsters), but after getting our okay, he drove us, in the mid-afternoon, through incredibly narrow and congested streets near the city's center, but not the part with the fancy cathedrals and colonial state buildings, but the working class part.  The streets teemed like an alive river, with thousands of people going about their hard-working lives:  vendors, workers returning to work after siesta, women lugging home groceries for that night's dinner, and the best part for me -- hundreds and hundreds of school children of all ages, just dismissed from their day's studies, the adolescent ones talking together excitedly and hanging out, and the younger ones holding a parent's hand while they jostled their way home.  Those 10 minutes touched me deeply, seeing that river of life, and glimpsing the hard working and generous hearts of the Yucatecan people.
But wait, there's more.  The miraculous part.
I didn't come to Progreso or Merida to see the sights.  I came to Progreso with faint hopes of finding my long lost paternal grandfather, a Chinaman, who lived for 55 years in Progreso and who passed away there 23 years ago.  My family and I found his little flat on Calle 35; we had an address.  But we couldn't find his headstone in the Cementario Generales, despite an afternoon of searching.  I gave up hope, except for one last thing to try.  Before our  first excursion, I asked Angel if he could drive me to the library in town, so I could ask if there was a directory of any sort for the cemetery.  Perhaps I might find my grandfather that way.  No problem, Angel said.  On the way there, he pulled over and picked up his friend, a gregarious man name Pedro M. 
Angel and Pedro are aptly named.  One is a celestial helper and the other is a saint.  Within an hour the two of them guided me to Progreso's municipal offices, where we found the record of my grandfather's death and also his last residence, the town's nursing home.  Angel and Pedro helped me secure a certified copy of my abuelo's death.  Not only that, but Pedro also secured the name of the man who helped bring my grandfather to the nursing home when he faltered. 
Angel and Pedro then drove me and my family back to Cementario Generales.  There, one of the municipality's managers, whom Pedro miraculously summoned during all this, led us to the necropolis' western edge, where we found my grandfather's final resting place.  I could hardly speak, I was so surprised and moved.  The manager asked me if I would like some  flowers.  I said yes and looked around towards the outer streets, knowing from our fruitless search the day before, that there were no convenient flower vendors, such as one might find in an American cemetery.  The manager simply stepped up on an elevated slab nearby, climbed briefly onto a tree, and plucked 4 beautiful blossoms and gave them to me.  They looked like gardenias, and they were lovely, white.  For Chinese folks, white is the color of  mourning.  How did he know?
Later that night, Angel and Pedro  introduced us to an open-hearted woman in Progreso whose family is the only one of Chinese heritage in Progreso today.  We have the same last name!  My grandfather knew her grandfather, we were certain, and likely worked together for a while in Merida's Chinese Colony.
All this in one day.
Lawson Tours is magic.  Lawson Tours provided me and my family with 2 great excursions, and one life-changing, unforgettable journey of the heart that I never expected, and will never forget.  To Ralf, Angel, and Pedro -- thank you for giving me my abuelo.  Gracias por todo, desde mi corazon lleno-- thank you for everything, from my full heart! "

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chunkanan Cenote Update

While I love the 3 cenotes of Chunkanan (aka the Cuzama cenotes) and they are indeed magical, potential visitors should know that this attraction is in the midst of some serious problems that will come as a rather unpleasant surprise unless you read this update.

Initially started as an attraction based in the village of Chunkanan, the folks from nearby and larger Cuzama realized that many tourists passed their town without stopping and decided they wanted a piece of the pie as they alleged that one of the cenotes was on their land. They therefore created their own access to the cenotes, building a rail track that intersected with the original tracks from Chunkanan. This caused some conflict, but after a few fisticuffs and much negotiation, an uneasy truce was arrived at.

At the Cuzama entry point, red-flag waving men attempt to make tourists stop, telling them that the other entry point is "closed". Just beyond them are green-flag waving people from Chunkanan waving to continue on to their village and take the tour from there.

Now it seems that the even larger village of Acanceh, the one before Cuzama (are you still with me here?) has gotten into the act, alleging that one of the cenotes is actually on their land and, since Cuzama was collecting a "fee" from the Chunkanan folks, has asked the Cuzama people to hand over a portion of that "fee". Cuzama has so far claimed that this is not correct and they will hand over no funds to Acanceh. Acanceh has retaliated by not allowing access to "their" cenote.

Therefore, there is no access at the time of this writing to the last - and most spectacular - cenote, the one with the vertical ladder down a small tunnel-like hole. According to the folks from Cuzama, when asked, the cenote is having some "maintenance" done. Not true, according to a Chunkanan rail cart driver I talked to who then went on to explain the whole thing.

A last report from a tour guide in the field one week ago, states that the Chunkanan folks are now offering only ONE cenote - the first one, Chelentun - while the Cuzama folks are taking their tourists to "their cenote" which is the middle one for those who have been before.

So if you are planning to visit Cuzama/Chunkanan for the "three" cenotes, be aware that you may not visit all three, or even two, of those magnificent cenotes until someone steps in and mediates a solution that will bring the tour back in a manner fair to all parties involved.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Happy Guest Comments

Jeff and his wife spent a week exploring the area with our driver/guide Angel - here is what they had to say:

We're back in cool Connecticut after a great trip to the Yucatan. Angel was great. He showed us a lot of Mayan life in addition to the ruins, and was a delight in every respect. Do you have his email address? I'd like to drop him a line. Thanks for the wine at The Pickled Onion. All the accommodations were great, though, hedonist that I am, I liked the Hacienda Chichen best. We realize we just scratched the surface, but what we saw makes me want to go back for a longer period. Maybe some day!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Greg and his family came into Progreso on the Carnival cruiseship and here is what he had to say about his tour with us:

Our family had a great time. This was a great experience. Angel our guide was fantastic He is a quality person and great resource. We felt very comfortable and safe with him. If we head back to progreso we would definitely use your services again  

Greg from Indiana 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Things to do on the Highway to Uxmal - The Hacienda Ochil

Ochil is another hacienda, one of the hundreds of them that are scattered throughout the peninsula of Yucatan in various stages of decomposition or restoration, depending on who the owner his, the depth of his or her pockets. In the case of Ochil, which has been semi-restored, the owners have very deep pockets; indeed, they also own the luxury haciendas run by Starwood. One interesting thing about these hacienda owners is that they have set up a fund or foundation through Banamex, the Mexican bank they also happen to own, that encourages and assists local artisans in the communities where the haciendas are located to produce and sell artesanias. At Ochil, for example, you will see workshops set up for textiles and filigree production as well as stone cutting and carving.

Unlike many haciendas, this one is easy to visit as it is on the way to Uxmal, a popular destination for people visiting the Yucatan. Located near the Abala exit on the highway from Uman to Uxmal, there is a large sign on the side of the road that you really can't miss. 

It is a pleasant place to have lunch, visit some of the artisans workshops mentioned above or simply have a tamarind margarita cocktail. If the light is right, in the late afternoon perhaps, it is also a fantastic place to take photographs as the hacienda is full of pleasing architectural details, colors and angles that you will not tire of. 

Keep in mind that if you only want to visit the hacienda, they will ask for an entry fee. Among the other things to see or do at the hacienda: a gift shop which was once the chapel - look at the walls, the niches and notice how everything of value has been chipped off and looted (before the present owners rescued the property from abandon); the small museum and of course the James Turrell designed (thanks Missy!) amphitheater in the depression that leads to the (unswimmable) cenote.

(above) the chimney or smokestack

(above) one of the former workers houses

(above) miniature railway contraption

(above) arches abound

(above) amphitheater and cenote

(above) definitely a Moorish arch

(above) papayas

(above) fountain

(above) former irrigation tank now a small pool

(above) the restaurant

(above) Yucatecan appy sampler platter

Friday, March 29, 2013

More Cruisers, More Happy Comments

Kathy and her group also visited the cenotes when Carnival stopped at Progreso last week. Here's what she has to say:

"We had a great time on our trip! Gabriel did a great job and went beyond our expectations on showing us the local sites. He was full of interesting Mayan history. 

This excursion was the highlight of our cruise. 

The cenotes were too beautiful to describe and the food at the local restaurant was great. We the loved the ride on the carts with horse. 

We felt totally safe at all times. 

We will definitely book another trip with you the next time we are in the area. I will send some pictures after I finish unpacking. Thanks again for all your help and making our day in Progreso one we won't forget."

Happy Guest Comments - Cenotes!

Kathy and her group arrived on the Carnival cruise ship at Progreso and headed out on their own private cenote tour. Here is what she had to say: 

"We had a great time on our trip! Gabriel did a great job and went beyond our expectations on showing us the local sites. He was full of interesting Mayan history. This excursion was the highlight of our cruise. The cenotes were to beautiful to describe and the food at the local restaurant was great. We the loved the ride on the carts with horse. We felt totally safe at all times. We will definitely book another trip with you the next time we are in the area. I will send some pictures after I finish unpacking. Thanks again for all your help and making our day in Progreso one we won't forget. "

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Grace and her group visited the Yucatan on a recent Carnival cruise that stopped in Progreso - they visited some Mayan ruins and a cenote and had this to say about their experience:


Wow, that tour was absolutely amazing! I can't thank you enough for setting up such a wonderful day for my friends and me. David was so knowledgeable; he answered every one of our questions about the Yucatan ranging from Natural History to Politics, and ya, he knows a LOT about birds :D And Emanuel was so kind and helpful. He was laughing and smiling the whole day. 

We thought the hour and a half drive out to Uxmal would be boring but David kept us well entertained! He even stopped in a market place to show us some of the local fresh fruit and then took us to a handcraft store to buy the most beautiful souvenirs! And Uxmal itself was way more interesting than we had anticipated! We could tell that David really loved the Maya and he knew so much about their culture that it was easy to imagine what life was like for them. Then after a long walk in the hot sun, Emanuel brought out cold towels to help us cool off! It was so refreshing; such a nice touch. 

David took us to lunch at a gorgeous Hacienda (I can't remember the name of if; if you get the chance, could you ask him what it was and remind me?) and we had the best pulled pork I have ever tasted. When I asked David what was in the sauce, the staff brought out a plate with all of the separate ingredients so I could see how it was made. After lunch we went to a breath taking cenote! I would never have imagined it would be that beautiful! And then to see Emanuel bringing down a bottle of wine for us; it was absolutely wonderful. 

The Yucatan has a special place in my heart now :) I really hope to make it back in the near future, and when I do, you'll be hearing from me! Please tell David and Emanuel thank you from all of us and I hope everything goes well for all of you!
Peace and Blessings,

~Grace "

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Maritza and her husband took a private tour with an emphasis on food, culture and architecture. Here is what she had to say:


It was amazing - exceeded our expectations.  David is a walking encyclopedia.  We were so impressed.  Both David and Gonzalo were gracious and hospitable. David was so intuitive in capturing our interests; architecture and culinary arts and culture. Our only wish is that we had more time. We will just have to come back!

Please extend our warm regards to both of them.
I will be entering tomorrow my trip details on Trip Advisor and will definitely be describing our experience.



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Lori and her family visited Mayapan and a secret cenote on their recent cruise into Progreso. Here is what they had to say:

Our Progreso stop made our trip! I am so thankful I came across your name while searching online. As soon as our shuttle pulled into the bus stop we saw Jorge standing there with my name, off we went in the van. The couple we were traveling with can't stop talking about how much fun we had. My kids all unanimously agree that the cenotes were their favorite thing about the entire cruise. Yes my 13 yr old flipped and dove off the platform and also jumped from the highest point(the very top) My 9 yr daughter even jumped. They had a blast! We loved the Mayapan ruins, and the kids crawled to the top. If we are......I mean WHEN we are in your area again we will definitely be booking something with you! I am ready to go NOW but the hubby said we had to wait awhile!
I loved passing by the school houses in the small village, I am a school teacher and would love to visit one next time. Is this a possibility?
Tell Jorge thx for putting up with us! Best vacation ever thanks to you guys! "

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Susan and her family were stranded in Progreso for a day and a half, thanks to Carnivals ship having a mechanical problem. While the rest of the passengers grumbled and moaned about not being able to visit Cozumel, Susan and Co. got off the ship and explored the area with plenty of time - an unusual event for my beloved "boat people" as we are usually racing around trying to pack as much in as possible in a short 6 hours of real time in port. Here is what she has to say about her time with us:

Thank you for your email, and THANK YOU for our wonderful trips into Merida!  You and Angel absolutely made our trip!  We had the BEST time with you guys!
I will be leaving reviews on both TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic in the next few days, and will let you know when I do. 
I just can't tell you how you made our trip.  My mom was very nervous about even going into Mexico, and she is now excited about returning next year.  You also made the trip for Jennifer with the churches! 
Our next cruise leaves on January 27, 2014.  There will be 4 of us going.  We would like for you to take us again, so please get us on your schedule! 
Again, thank you so much for such a wonderful time.  You exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds!   Not only did we get to see such a wonderful city, but we truly felt like we made 2 new friends!  I will let you know when I add reviews this week!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Jana and her family were here on the Carnival Cruise's Progreso stop and we had a great trip lined up for them. Here is what she had to say:

"As "boat people", I would like to say that we had a FANTASTIC day with William Lawson Tours! This was the very best way to pack in as much as possible on our short stop at Progresso. As I look back at the pictures we have, I am very thankful for the amazing experience we were able to have because of our driver and our guide. We had 3 of our children with us and our guide did an excellent job making sure to cater to all our needs. A+ service and experience, for sure!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Sandra was in town and wanted to see the Uxmal area. Here is what she had to say:

"Thank you so much for a wonderful time.  

Saul was a great guide. He was funny, knowledgeable, and very professional.  I was very leery about booking a private car and driver online without the recommendation of my friends or family. However, it was worth every cent. Saul maximized the limited time we had to tour.  He accommodated the changes we made to our itinerary at the spur of the moment graciously.  His knowledge on the ruins and churches we visited made the trip much more interesting. A swim in a cenote was a must. We had the entire cenote Saul recommended to ourselves. That was a check off my bucket list.  

I highly recommend William Lawson's Personal Driving Service. 

My email contact was Ralf. Ralf was professional, friendly, and responded to my emails promptly. I planned this trip in 4 days, and William Lawson helped me make the most of my time."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Wayne and his family went on a private tour to the Mayan city of Mayapan and then had a Yucatecan specialty lunch, before heading back to the Carnival ship in Progreso. Here's what he had to say:

"We had an amazing time. We just wish we had more time!! The tour was more than we expected. 
Angel was awesome. So friendly and informative. He really made sure we had everything we needed. Saw everything we could and picked a wonderful restaurant where we got to sample a variety of foods.
This was the highlight of our cruise.
We will be getting on TripAdvisor when we get back home and giving your company a glowing review!
Thank you for an amazing experience.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy Guest Comments!

Linda and Pablo visited the Yaxcopoil hacienda and a cenote or two during their recent vacation in Merida. We made them a CD of photos taken during their excursion. Here's a bit of what they had to say:

"THANK YOU sooo much for the CD, we got it. :)

Both Pablo and I, feel that the 2 days we had with you was the highlight of our trip. You offer first class service, and I am very impressed with the little extra things, such as cold cloths,water, and not to forget a CD."

Happy Guest Comments!

LeKedra and her hubby came in on Carnival to Progreso and had arranged an excursion for the two of them to the Chunkanan cenotes. Here's what she had to say:

"We had a great time, Angel did a fantastic job.  What we really liked were the sidebar things, for example he stopped and split open one of the fruits and told us how it was Used for cosmetics.  The stop at the tortilla factory where he bought Us fresh hot tortillas was a nice touch.  He called ahead to make sure the cenotes weren't occupied, so there were times where we Had them all to ourselves.  That was awesome.

In terms of feedback-these are minor things, just for fine tuning-1) there were two of us so 2 pairs of goggles would have been good.  2) I'm really paranoid about my bags-so just a closer eye ours bags while people are swimming may be a little more reassuring.  But I'll be giving you a great review in TripAdvisor, we had a great time.

... he (Angel) paid for a few of our purchases, so we reimbursed him for that and gave him a healthy tip in American dollars.

Thanks for a memorable visit! "