7.18.2015

MEXICO CITY FAM Trip, 7/30-8/2/2015 pt II

Well...still waiting on airplane arrangements.  While I do, I thought I might share some of the planned itinerary with y'all.

So, Day One, I'm flying in.  No idea when I will get there.  But when I do, I'll be met and transferred to the El Presidente Intercontinental.  By all accounts a solid 4.5* hotel in the Polanco district, just off the Paseo de la Reforma.  Polanco is kind of the 90210 of Mexico City.  Dinner that night will probably be in one of the 6 or 7 restaurants onsite, though that is TBD.

On Day Two, I might have mentioned earlier, we're getting up at 5am to fly in a balloon and all that.  And be to breakfast by 8:30 at the Gran Teocalli restaurant.  Looks nice.  Well reviewed.  After breakfast is the tour of Teotihuacan, which goes til 1:30, then lunch at La Gruta.  I have actually heard of this place before.  It is located in a cave, specializes in pre-Hispanic food, has live entertainment, and serves not just grasshoppers and rabbit cooked in a hole in the ground, but both red AND white worms! 

If you've ever had Mezcal (like tequila, but from the maguey plant instead of the agave), you've seen the worm at the bottom of the bottle.  You may even have finished a bottle and downed the worm.  It's even possible you did this on the beach in Ensenada, before you were old enough to drink back home, in order to impress a girl, and shortly thereafter hurled it back up in to said girls lap, ruining the impression and your chance of knocking off a little on the beach in Ensenada. 

But I digress - so, yeah...La Gruta serves some very interesting cuisine, including piles of those worms, and in a pretty unique locale.  Looking forward to that, for sure.

After that, we return to the El Presidente for that blessed 90 minutes of free time, before heading out to another restaurant, TBD, until 10:30 or so.

Day Three begins at 7:45 when we head over to the JW Marriott Mexico City for some breakfast and a site inspection.  It is also in the Polanco area, and I assume we're walking.  JW is Marriotts luxury brand, maybe a half-step below their Ritz Carlton properties.  I am anxious to have a look at it.

After that we're hopping on the Turibus to check out the San Angel and Coyoacan areas of the city.  Lot's of history both places.  And in Coyoacan, we'll be touring both the Frida Kahlo Museum, and the Anahuacalli Museum.  The Anahuacalli has over 60,000 items on display representing pretty much every indigenous Mexican civilization.  And it was built (or at least, started) by Frida Kahlo's on-again/off-again husband, Diego Rivera. 

Which will take us right to our 2pm lunch at the Corazon de Maguey, a restaurant/mezcaleria.  Apparently a range of Mexican cuisines, from Oaxaca to Veracruz - and mescal, so, you know...more worms.  Oh, and I see grasshoppers are on the menu. 

Then it's back to the Presidente for another short break before dinner at some other upscale restaurant.  Til 10:30.

Finally, on Day Four, we'll be sleeping in until 7:45 (it is Sunday, after all), before heading to the St Regis Mexico City.  St Regis being Starwoods main luxury brand, in the same space JW occupies for Marriott.  I have stayed at the St Regis in San Francisco, and it's fabulous.  If the Mexico City property is similar, it would be my go to for a luxe vacation.  So, I am REALLY looking forward to this site inspection. 

After breakfast it's off to the Palacio Bellas Artes  for a performance of the Amalia Hernandez Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.  I am sure you've all seen some sort of ballet folklorico somewhere.  Amalia Hernandes pretty much invented the modern form.  The word "iconic" is not too strong here.  I have to say, it's an inspired choice, as far as ways to end a trip to Mexico!  Because, after that, it's grab the bags and get to the airport.

So, there you have it.  About 72 hours on the ground, and damn few of them wasted. 

Of course, I'll be reporting live...and I really hope all these activities and restaurants and hotels meet or exceed expectations.  Either way, you'll be the first to know

Hasta Luego, mi amigos!

7.16.2015

MEXICO CITY FAM Trip, 7/30-8/2/2015

In 2 weeks I'll be in Mexico City, with a little help from my friends at NorthStar Travel Media (Travel Weekly).  Going for a 4 day familiarization trip.

I am really looking forward to it, as I have never, believe it or not, been to Mexico City.  I have probably spent close to a year of my life in Mexico, including Baja, Mexicali, Nogales, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta,  Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Acapulco, San Felipe, Cozumel, Cancun, etc.  You'll notice, those are all on the coast...I just never made it inland.  I have had the opportunity to go on FAM trips to some of those places, and I have passed, because, frankly, I know them well enough to represent them.  Mexico City, not so much.

This is going to be interesting.  And educational.  Because the TW folks don't like to see people sitting around doing nothing.  We're actually starting our first full day there at FIVE AM!  Yeah...5.  In the morning. 

That is when we head out to Teotihuacan (The City of the Gods) for a daybreak balloon ride.  Which sounds, like, awesome.  Teotihuacan is just north of Mexico City, and is a city so old, no one really knows who built it.  At it's height it was the biggest city in the Western Hemisphere, except maybe Rome, with a population estimated at 250,000 or more.  The Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure in the city has about the same size perimeter as the Great Pyramid at Giza, though it's only half as tall.  So...looking forward to the balloon ride and then a ground tour.

Then back to the city for some hotel inspections, and restaurants, and ground tours and a trip to the Frida Kahlo Museum, etc.  Three full days of it.  I think we have, like, 2 hours of free time one evening.  Unless they find something to fill that hole.

Okay, just kidding...it's actually one of the things I love about this organization.  They are aware that some of us don't have a week or two to lollygag around the pool.  Every event I have been to with them is jampacked with information, learning, networking, yet organized properly so it doesn't feel too rushed.  So, if anyone can show a bunch of us everything we need to know to convince you you need to go to Mexico City on your next vacation, it will be these guys.

I will, of course, be posting live, daily, during the trip, and I hope to get some great pictures and video.  Especially from the hot air balloon.  So, stay tuned, and follow along!

7.07.2015

Grand Canyon Adventure, Sixth of July, 2015

HA!  Said I'd be early, and I am even later than yesterday.  Oops.  Busy day!

So, yeah, we got up early-ish on Monday, had a little breakfast, dropped the ice chest at the front desk (the rest of our bags would be picked up directly from the room and taken back to Williams) and jumped on a shuttle to Mather Point.  And proceeded to walk to the South Kaibab trailhead.  About 6 miles or so.  Along the way, besides stunning vistas looking out over the canyon, we saw an elk, about 20 feet away.  Just watching us, watching him.  Until he got bored and turned away.  A little later we were positively accosted by a gang of squirrels.  Let me tell you about the Grand Canyon squirrels.  Clearly, they've lost any fear of humans, and will go about their nut and berry gathering mere feet away, as though you weren't even there.  But these 4 came out of the bushes and absolutely charged us.  So much so it scared my niece.  My nephew happened to be munching some Pringles, and apparently they wanted some, because they got about a foot from him, and raised up on two legs, begging.  With their little squirrel hands clasped together in a little squirrel begging pose.  You could almost hear them saying "Alms?  Alms for the squirrel-poor?".  We managed to avoid unpleasantness by cleverly (and illegally) throwing a few Pringles to the side of the path and walking away, staring straight ahead to avoid eye contact.
About a mile later we spotted 3 or maybe 4 deer walking a ways off the trail.  They clearly haven't lost their fear of humans, and ran when they heard us coming.  So mostly we just saw their rear ends as they scampered away.
Once we got to the South Kaibab Trail, we headed down in to the canyon.  With each step I was reminded how much harder it is to climb up than down, and how there still wasn't any air.  So after a 1/2 hour or so, I called it quits.  The kids were still raring to go, so I told them to go on for another 20 minutes or so, and I'd see them back up top in an hour.  I made it back up, but it was a near thing.  and about 45 minutes later, so did they.  Lotus was complaining that her feet were dead.  I told her all of me was dead so quit whining.
With that we got back on a shuttle to return to Mather Point and the big Visitor Center/Museum there.  Checked out the exhibits and watched a pretty good little film on the history of the Grand Canyon and all that, then got on a shuttle back to the Maswik Lodge to retrieve the ice chest.
I decided I just couldn't take another 2 hour train ride sucking my own knee caps in a Pullman car, so we walked over to the train depot.  Taking the Greenway over there we passed the stables where the mules are kept.  They seemed friendly.  Mostly looking for food is my guess.  But we stopped and talked to them for a few minutes, got some pictures, etc.
Upon arriving at the depot, I found they were more than happy to upgrade us to 1st Class for the ride back to Williams, so we got that done and had an hour and a half to kill before boarding, so we decided on a final lunch at the El Tovar restaurant.  Very fancy.  Formally attired Maitre d' and everything.  I wasn't sure we should go, considering we were dressed for hiking and not elegant dining.  I was ready if they asked to see a credit card or a cash deposit before seating us.  Except everyone else in the place was dressed like we were - shorts, t-shirts, dusty sneakers and back packs.  It was kind of funny, but I guess they're used to it.  No one batted an eye.  And it was worth it.  The food was the best we had on the whole trip.  I had a veal schnitzel sandwich, Lotus got chicken Cordon Bleu, Om had an Avacado and Brie burger and Eth went for the daily special, a grilled trout over corn and quinoa something or other.
After lunch we headed back to the depot and 10 minutes later boarded the train.  The 1st Class car was just OMIGOD better than the Pullman.  About 10 yards between reclining seats, air conditioning, a little buffet of cheese and crackers and fruit, soft drinks and coffee all laid out.  So, we trained home in style.  Again there was entertainment.  This time a lady playing the accordion and doing "Rocky Top" and "Happy Trails to You".  Oh, and of course a train robbery.  The best organized, politest train heist in history.  I am not sure authentic train robbers in the old West stopped and posed for pics with the kids, but these guys did.  So, that was fun.
We got back to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel about 5, checked in to our room, found our stuff was already there, and decided to take a swim.  Unlike two days previous, when the pool was nearly empty, it was a complete mad house.  At least 30 people in the pool and 6 in the Jacuzzi.  But the kids were determined so I told them to enjoy, and I went and got my laptop and typed up yesterdays post.  After an hour or so they got out and we all got cleaned up for dinner.  Back to the all you can eat buffet.  Pretty much the same menu as on the 4th.  And the same guy at the pasta station, so that was cool.  After dinner we all agreed we were too damn tired to do anything more strenuous than watch TV, so that's what we did.  This time, they all conked before I did - but not by much.

And I'll go ahead and finish out the trip report by saying we got up at 7 this morning, had breakfast, bought some souvenirs and hit the road by 8, made it home at 2, and have been just chillin' since.  But I think we all agreed it was a great little trip.

If you'd like to do a Grand Canyon Adventure of your own, give us a call or email at Holman Travel - we'll be happy to hook you up!  760.265.3687 or daveholman@verizon.net or www.facebook.com/daveholmantravel !

7.06.2015

Grand Canyon Adventure, Fifth of July, 2015

Sorry for the late entry, but I decided to leave the laptop in Williams rather than lug it up to Grand Canyon Village.

So, we got up about 7am, repacked our essentials for the overnite in the GC, dropped our bags in the lobby, then headed to breakfast.  The pasta bar was replaced by an omelette bar, and there was pretty much what you would expect from a breakfast buffet.  Except that, once again, the staff were just outstanding.  The lady making omelettes and the waitress both just talked and engaged with the kids and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. 
At 9am there was a Wild West Show - pretty hokey, but, you know...live horses and cowboys and enough gunfire and killing to make it fun.
Then it was time to board the train.  I had us booked in the Pullman Car, a restored 1923 coach originally used on commuter trains from San Jose to San Francisco.  It was cool, from a historical train buff perspective, and the seats were reversible, so we could flip one row and the 4 of us could face each other, BUT...no air conditioning (the windows open), and less leg room than Spirit Air...so, yeah...after two hours it wasn't as much fun as you'd think.  But, again, the staff was great, and they had some entertainment in the form of a strolling guitar player who ranged from "Don't Fence Me In" to "People Are Strange" and "Eleanor Rigby".  So that was cool.  And Marshall Tucker came thru telling bad jokes and paying special attention to all the kids onboard.
We got to GCV and strolled along the Rim Trail from the depot to the Maswik Lodge and checked in.  The best part was having our backpacks in the room when we got there.  Maswik is a nice enough hotel, sprawling over several acres, and a little more Spartan than the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, but it's just a couple minutes from the rim and the Bright Angel Trailhead.  After a spot of lunch at the Bright Angel restaurant (a pretty good, if overpriced, restaurant right on the Rim) we headed down in to the canyon.  It's an easy enough trail, but for the lack of oxygen here at 7000'.  I never noticed it on my previous trips...must be getting old.  Our goal was the 3 Mile Station (little side note:  all distances are "as the crow flies" so multiply by 3 or 4 to get the actual distance over ground).  We were almost there when the lowering clouds finally burst open.  So we decided to try and get back to an overhang we had passed a mile back.  Those of you who haven't experienced a western summer thunderstorm may not be able to appreciate just how much water we're talking about here.  The plus side is that the ground is so dry it soaks in before getting too muddy.  And it does cool you off and feel good the first couple minutes.  But when visibility drops to 10 feet or so, and you're on a switchback trail with 1000+ foot drops, hurrying is not an option. Not that hurrying was an option for me anyway, seeing as how there's no oxygen and I was mouth breathing like a caught fish already.
So, even though the rain was intermittent, by the time we got back up we were soaked right thru to the socks and underwear.  We managed  to draggle ourselves back to the room for hot showers and a change of clothes, but the rain kind of put a damper on the afternoon.  So we watched TV until dinner time, when, of course, the rain stopped. 
We decided on pizza at the Maswik's food court.  Surprisingly good.  Then a quick stop at the gift shop, and back to the room.  I dropped off about 10pm.  No idea when the kids finally went to sleep.

And that was our day.  I'll have much more to post tomorrow, as we had a much more exciting day today.

Ciao for now, my friends!

p.s. there are a ton of pics on my FB page at www.facebook.com/daveholmantravel