Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Travel Tip of the Week

A fellow passenger on our Hurtigruten Norwegian fjord cruise suggested using a sock as a washcloth when there wasn't a washcloth furnished onboard.
Sue McCarthy
Send us your favorite travel tips and you might see them on our blog.  kevinandsuetravel@yahoo.com

Yucatan Treasures

Treasures come in all forms and we found a treasure we had not expected on our January trip to the city of Merida, Izamal and UNESCO's new "Seventh Wonder of the World" - Chichen Itza.
Our first treasure was the Presidential Suite at the Presidente InterContinental Villa Mercedes in Merida.  Our second treasure was the fullfillment of a dream of visiting the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.  The third treasure was an afternoon in the "Magic City" of Izamal.  The fourth treasure was a wonderful day enjoying the city of Merida, the smiling and friendly people of Merida and the customs and daily life of Merida.
Merida (Presidente InterContinental Villa Mercedes)
In 2001, Merida was appointed as the American Capital of Culture due to its
development in the arts.  It is the capital city of Yucatan, known as the "White City"
because of the sparkling white limestone buildings gleaming in the sun.  The city has also been called "The Paris of the West."  The Spanish Conquistadors renamed the city Merida after Merida, Spain. 
Kevin and I had a free weekend and decided to leave the 0 degree weather in St. Louis and head south where we were welcomed with friendly smiles and 80 degree warmth.  All those trips we've been taking added up and we used our Continental Airlines Frequent Flyer miles, added a little extra and had a wonderful relaxing weekend. Our stay at the Presidente InterContinental Villa Mercedes was too short.  We were picked up at the airport by a driver from the local tourism bureau and arrived at our hotel 15 minutes later.
We were met in the lobby of the luxurious pastel peach-colored hotel with a refreshing drink and taken to our suite.  The Presidential Suite was large enough for a small family to live in.
Two balconies overlooked the central courtyard, cascading waterfall and pool.  The marble floors were not only beautiful, but cool to our feet.  The bath amenities included a jacuzzi tub and a very large shower and towels that were 7 feet long.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were at the hotel's restaurant, Frutas y Flores.  Yucatan cuisine is different than Mexican cuisine and we thoroughly enjoyed tasting the difference.
Chichen Itza
Arrangements were made for a driver and a guide, Mr. Umberto, to take us to Chichen Itza. 
We drove past the sisal fields and Mr. Umberto told us of the riches in the past with the fiber.  Chichen Itza is located 120km or about 75 miles from Merida.  One of UNESCO's newest named "Seven Wonders of the World", we were advised to go early before the tour busses arrived and before the noon day sun.  The Main Esplanade has the Great Pyramid of Kukulkan (or El Castilo "Castle of the Plumed Serpent"), the Ball Court, Observatory, Sacred Cenote (underground water hole), Temple of the Thousand Columns, Temple of the Bearded Man, Platform of Skulls, Platform of Venus, Temple of Warriors and the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars.
There is a 980 foot raised and paved roadway leading to the Sacred Cenote, also called "Sacred Well" or "Well of Sacrifice."  Vendors lined both sided of the roadway selling hammocks, quartz replicas of the Great Pyramid, hand-embroidered clothing, musical instruements and carved wooden skeletons. 
Two other interesting ruins were the 90 meter long (about the size of a football field) Ball Court (Juego de Pelota), which was used for sacred games and rituals where the winning captain was beheaded since he was considered worthy of being offered to the gods.  The Observatory "El Caracol" (means snail in Spanish) was constructed (900-11 A.D.) in a circular design and illustrates the Mayan interests in both archeology and architecture.
We were very impressed with the exquisite detail of the carvings and the rich Mayan history.  You should plan on spending a whole day if you want to take it all in leisurely.
After leaving Chichen Itza we headed back to Merida and stopped for lunch at restaurant Keniche. We went on a horse and carriage ride on cobblestone streets and saw more Mayan ruins in the small town.  Izamal is known as "the yellow city" and "the magic city."  All the buildings in the town center are painted yellow and white.  The central plaza was bordered by shops and the magnificent golden yellow and white Franciscan Monastery.   The inner courtyard is second in size only to the Vatican.  In fact, there is a statue of Pope John Paul, who visited the monastery in 1993.  Izamal is only 44 miles from Merida and worth the drive.
Merida (the people, customs and daily life)
Merida is a very safe and family-friendly city.  On Sunday morning we went to the local markets and saw the families shopping and having lunch.  The parks are all open with puppet shows, riding toys and bikes to rent.  The streets are closed down to encourage a day for families to ride bikes together in the streets.  Restaurants bring their tables outside on the sidewalks.  Music was in the air as people danced on the sidewalks.  Handicraft and food booths are set up in the parks.  It was a beautiful sunny day to walk around and see the happy smiling people of Merida enjoying their weekend. 
www.yucatan.travel  Yucatan Tourism Board

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Norwegian Fjord Cruise March 3 - 13th

Day 1 Arrived in Bergen Norway via Scandanavian Airlines (St Louis to Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark and then to Bergen)
Bergen is a beautiful historic port town and we board the Hurtigruten Trollfjord tonight at 6pm after a day of sightseeing.  Last night we stayed at the First Hotel and my room overlooked the water.....great sunset.  We dined at the Bellevue Restaurant last night and took the funicular to the top...the highest point in Bergen.
More to follow as I journey north of the Arctic Circle and Kevin joins up with me in Tromso.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sue's Travel Tip of The Week

When packing for a trip I do the following:
Start packing a week in advance.  Compare your travel itinerary to your clothes you plan to take.  Coordinate your colors so that you can mix and match and add accessories for a different look.  Remove any unnecessary clothing that you can't wear more than once.  Roll your clothing for less wrinkles and to save space. 
Happy Traveling!


This is the alert Sue discussed on Fox News 2.  Issued 02/20/09 expires 08/20/09.
For in-depth information go to www.travel.state.gov
The Mexican drug cartels have been engaging in violent and often deadly conflicts in some of the border towns.  They are trying to gain control of the narcotics trafficking routes along the border towns of Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Ciudad Juarez, Nogales, Neuvo Laredo and the northern Baja areas. 
Most crime victims are Mexican citizens, but there are still security risks for U.S. citizens traveling in the area.   Be alert and aware of your surroundings, use common sense and caution when traveling to these regions.  Stay in the well-known tourist areas of the cities and avoid traveling at night.  Stay on the main roads, leave a travel itinerary with friends or family back home and do not wear flashy or expensive jewelry.  Ask your cellular provider if your cell phone is set for roam on international networks.    For an emergency contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

FOX 2 NEWS - Mexico Travel Alert

Sue has been asked to be a guest again as a Travel Expert, on FOX NEWS Channel 2 (St. Louis)
to talk about the newly issued Mexico Travel Alert. She will be on with John Pertzborn and Randy Naughton at 7:10 a.m., Tuesday, March 3rd.