Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

The Un-Cancun: Nizuc Resort and Spa Connects to Yucatan Peninsula’s Roots

Cancun is one of those places that I thought I might never make it to. Though I have an insatiable wanderlust, like Las Vegas, Cancun seemed like it just might not be for me, based on everything I’d heard over the years. And then I got a chance to stay at the Nizuc Resort and Spa (opened in 2013), located in Cancun, but away from the resort towers and well-known all-inclusives (and college-town spring breakathons). As the general manager told me, “We’re miles away from “Cancun” but yet in Cancun.”

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First, I now understand why Cancun has grown in size and popularity since the 1974 when it was designated an Integrally Planned Center by the Mexican government. The formerly tiny fishing village (now worldwide-known mega resort area) is in an absolutely gorgeous spot, with incredible Caribbean blue ocean (see my floating, above….that color!) and soft white sand beaches. But mostly the area is known more for its party-hearty atmosphere and chock-a-block hotel towers lined along the beach—but not at Nizuc Resort and Spa.

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That’s because Nizuc is located several miles away (and what feels like a totally different planet) from the main hotel strip in Cancun: Its private, quiet and altogether stunning location is no accident. It’s the former getaway residence for the Mexican President (like the United States’ Prez has Camp David for schmoozing outside of Washington, D.C.). The view above—over the adults-only infinity pool now—is approximately the same view as presidents of the country and their guests had from the original residence.

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So if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live like a head of state, welcome to Nizuc Resort and Spa, where they take this idea pretty seriously, making me—and all the guests I spoke with during my four days there—feel very well taken care of. The incredible modern design you see in my images above and below will give you an idea of how the space looks, but it can’t really capture how it feels to walk the grounds and buildings here. (And I love that you feel and know you are in Mexico via innumerable small design touches—there’s nothing worse than being in a pretty-but-soulless resort and forgetting what country you are in.)

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Nizuc is a truly inside-out resort, meaning that all the common areas are open to the cool ocean breezes—and attention has been paid to where both light and air come from, so that almost wherever you stand (even while waiting for the elevator), you can enjoy a glimpse of blue ocean, creamy sand, or green jungle. That’s great design: Location-specific, celebratory of the natural environment, mindful of light—where it comes from and where it goes—and beautiful to look at too. Nizuc’s main building, where I stayed, had the feel of a soulful, intelligent mind behind it, someone who understands how delightful a breeze across your shoulders feels as you walk down the hallway to your room. Turns out its one of Mexico’s premiere architects, Alejandro Escudero.

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Mexico City: A Young, Modern, Colorful Metropolis

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Starre Vartan in Mexico City.

This story was originally featured on MNN.com

Over the years, I've heard my fair share about Mexico City, mostly negatives—crime, terrible air pollution and, well, crime topped the list. But upon a recent visit to the capital, I non only felt totally safe (a vibe which is backed up by plenty of news reports that have called the city a 'refuge' from crime in the country), but that I was wandering in the midst of a European city, not one south of the border. In addition to the city's much-reduced crime rate, it has been seriously (and successfully) fighting its pollution problem (like Los Angeles, its once-noticable smog wasn't in evidence when I visited), and even boasts some air-cleaning giant green walls

I spent four days enjoying this capital city; here are some of my favorite sights and experiences, as captured by my camera (there is plenty more to see, so I'm planning a return voyage sometime next year!)

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Street cafes and al fresco dining were ubuiquitous in some neighborhoods; the exterior of this restaurant was a gorgeous example, with potted plants shading the sidewalk (and pedestrians walking through the dining area, which would make for some ideal people-watching!) 

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Decorative ironwork is popular in most places with a warm climate; Mexico City's Roma neighborhood has plenty of examples that catch the sunshine and give beautiful attention to light and shadow. 

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I had such a blast in Mexico City: I can’t wait to go back! (more…)

The Women of Cuetzalan, Mexico: Photos from Market Day

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In most of the world, the everyday women who make life happen—who cook the food, sell the wares, care for the children, run businesses, harvest crops—are ignored, especially once they are no longer young. While men are achieving power and renown, building legacies and businesses (however local they may be), and even taking younger lovers or wives, women tend to be overlooked as they age. This happens in developed and developing countries, in cities and on the farm, but it is more obvious in places where both women and men have less opportunity (this includes both the urban poor in the United States and rural folk the world over).

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The irony is, of course, that as we age, we learn how to live; how to fight for ourselves and what we believe in, how to compromise, when to lay down arms in surrender and when to dig in. Older women are a vast and untapped resource, a wasted well of knowledge and knowingness. When I took these images in the waning days of October, 2012 in the tiny mountain town of Cuetzalan, Mexico (about 4 1/2 hours northeast of Mexico City in the state of Puebla), it was an unplanned excursion into portraiture.

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It was market day in the town’s square, the sun was high and bright in an almost-cloudless blue sky, and after procuring a beautifully-embroidered traditional Mexican blouse (the woman who sewed it is wearing the glasses, below), two herb-stuffed sopas with green and red salsa, a large glass of fresh orange juice, and some treats, I relaxed in the cafe that fronted the square. After wandering through the market, using my ok-but-not-great Spanish to make exchanges with the locals, it was with appreciation for a mental respite that I sat sipping a cappuccino and watching the market.

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A group of older women sat directly in front of my table, and indeed one fairly cantankerous lady used one of the chairs in the al fresco spot to rest her bags. They ignored me, and I just watched their body language with eachother; as I observed them, I realized that in their way, they were sort of flying under the radar of the rest of the people in the market. About half of the sellers were these older women, but in a way, they were part of the landscape, not paid much mind by anyone walking near them.

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But their faces! How could I keep myself from attempting to catch their beautiful, totally natural faces? I have made it my goal to achieve at least enough fluency in Spanish to enable me to also get their stories down next time. What is behind those visages? I’m sure they have so much to tell. And nobody asking them about how they got there. Next time, I will.

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