Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - January 29, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - January 29, 2011
Parasailing in Cancun, Mexico Every Room is Waterfront at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico; Chocolate Couples Massages at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun Spa, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico; Personalized Service On- and Off-Property from the Ritz-Carlton Cancun Concierge and Club Floor, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico; A Colorful Mexican Folk Art Collection in a Historic Private Home at Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico; Climbing Chichen Itza's Pyramids the Maya Way with AGI Tours, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Jorge Herran, Director of Operations, The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show enjoy the magnificent ocean view with Jorge Herran, Director of Operations and Acting General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Cancun in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Stephanie describes Cancun as a "give them your body and they'll give you back your mind" destination.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

"We're the best medicine for your stress or agitated lifestyle," Jorge says. "We're very creative, so you'll have the best experience ever in dining and in service. The culinary center will change the ideas you had about cooking. At the spa, we'll pamper you with the best available services. If you're cold right now, it's a great time to join us in Cancun." Stephanie agrees that a change can be good, even for those who live in warm places. "You can't live in a vacuum and expect to have a creative, inspirational, productive life," she says. "You need the input that comes from meeting people and confronting other cultures."

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun has 365 waterfront rooms, even though the property is big enough for 700 rooms. "We're very lucky because when the owner built the property, there was a great vision," Jorge explains. "They could have built 700 rooms, but they decided to have 365 guests very satisfied, rather than 365 guests not very happy." This is quite different from other hotels where Stephanie has expected to find a waterfront room, only to be directed to an annex across the street or facing the parking lot.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

"If you're coming to Cancun, you're coming to spend time on the beach," she says. "Just opening the curtains and seeing that magnificent view makes a difference. Every time you come back to the room, when you open the door and see the sea, it's like the vacation just started all over again. You're confronted with a living tableau, especially in Cancun, where the aqua and turquoise water and white cresting waves are just amazing. It really does something for you, spiritually." Jorge has observed a change in guests after just a few hours at the beach. "You see a different face after the first day," he says.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Jorge was born in Mexico City and decided he wanted to go into the hotel industry at the age of nine. "I was at a hotel and told my father that I wanted to do what that man was doing," he recalls. "The gentleman I pointed at was the general manager. Something about what this individual was doing really caught my attention – the fact that he was walking around with a smile on his face, talking to all these people, acting like a host." Before moving to Cancun in 1998, Jorge managed the Maria Cristina, a boutique hotel in Cuernavaca.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=848

For more information visit www.ritzcarlton.com


Link to this segment

Viorica Coman, Spa Director, The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show listen to soothing ocean waves with Viorica Coma, Spa Director at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The relaxation starts for visitors on the way to Cancun, since the city is easy to reach from almost anywhere in the U.S. and often has good promotional airfares.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Viorica came to Cancun by way of Romania. "I came to visit, fell in love with the place and the people, and forgot to go home," she says. "I already had spa-related skills, and in that industry, you find something right away. If you're doing massage, you can go around the world." Stephanie points out that the spa industry is expanding, in part thanks to golf courses. "The big thing used to be that resorts had golf courses," she says. "So the men went to play golf and the women had nothing to do except go to the pool or go shopping."

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The solution was for resorts to build spas, which initially attracted a largely female clientele. Today, the split is 60% women and 40% male, according to Viorica. "Sometimes it's even 50-50 because couples come to escape for the weekend, their honeymoon, or before they have a baby," she explains. "Things have changed; men want to look and feel better. And it's much more accepted for men to get massages and facials now. Skin is skin, whether on a man or a woman, and the damage is the same if it's not cared for."

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The spa at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun has 7,000 square feet of space and 9 massage rooms. Viorica suggests wandering through the patio gardens with Jacuzzi, exploring the terraces, having lunch outside, or getting a massage in one of the palapas. These are teepee-like structures with thatched roofs and conical tops, so that guests can feel the warm breezes and relax to the sound of the waves on the beach as they receive a treatment.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

With Valentine's Day coming up, Viorica and her staff have a special couple's massage planned. "We do amazing massages with the flavors and oils of chocolate," she says. "The wrap is real chocolate. And we put out candles and roses, too, so it's a very interesting atmosphere. It's a very nice couple's escape. It's all about the experience and the sensation that we offer to guests."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=848

For more information visit www.ritzcarlton.com


Link to this segment

Angelica de la Cruz, Club & Concierge Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show find out what to see with Angelica De La Cruz, Club and Concierge Manager at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The property's concierge not only pampers guests within the hotel, but can arrange for sightseeing in the greater Cancun area. The Ritz-Carlton Cancun offers both a concierge desk in the lobby and a club level with a more personalized concierge.

Mayan Ruins.
Mayan Ruins.

Angelica is originally from Mexico City, but has lived in Cancun for 6 years and has been at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun for five. Even though her first job was in housekeeping, she's always been a concierge. "I was a concierge before I worked as one," she says. "In our profession, you're always a concierge; it doesn't matter where you are. Even if you're not working as a concierge – you're always one." Angelica decided to work in different areas in order to understand how the hotel worked. From housekeeping, she moved to the front desk, the executive offices, and finally to the club level.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The club level of the Ritz-Carlton Cancun offers personalized service for guests staying on that floor. "We have a lot more time to talk to those guests and explain everything in the Cancun area, inside and outside the property," Angelica says. "It's a huge opportunity because everything is easily reached – you don't have to plan in advance. You can decide to do things in 30 minutes and we'll be able to accommodate you."

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Club level members enjoy 5 different food presentations throughout the day in a lounge with a view of the lagoon. "There's a great view of the sunset from there, so you can enjoy very good service in an area with a perfect view," Angelica explains. Guests on both the club floor and the rest of the hotel can choose to dine at the 2 fine dining restaurants, Fantino and The Club Grill, at the lobby lounge and sushi bar, Casitas Restaurant on the beach, or 24 hour room service.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

"Casitas is wonderful for romantic dinners or families," Angelica says. "You can even make reservations for private villas, which are set up depending on the number of people we're expecting." Guests at the private villa tables dine under tentlike gauze structures under the stars on tables that are both lit by candles and illuminated from beneath so that they glow. "The ambience is gorgeous – really magical," says Stephanie.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

As for activities outside the hotel, the concierge focus on what's important to the guest. "I try to learn what guests want to do – helicopter, airplanes, sightseeing, birdwatching, fishing," says Angelica. "Then I can offer activities. People love going to Chichen Itza because it's a wonder of the world. But you can't climb the pyramid at Chichen Itza. If guests want to climb the pyramids, I have to know which one they'll be able to do. We're the experts on the area, but we have to know what's important to the guest."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=848

For more information visit www.ritzcarlton.com


Guests Include:

Jorge Herran, Director of Operations, The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Viorica Coman, Spa Director, The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Angelica de la Cruz, Club & Concierge Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.ritzcarlton.com/cancun

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Denis Larsen, Docent, Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.casadelosvenados.com
www.casahamaca.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show discover Mexican folk art with Denis Larsen, Docent at Casa de Los Venados in Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Casa de los Venados is both a museum of Mexican folk art and a private residence. Although it's still inhabited, Stephanie compares it to other private art collections like that of the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Denis has been coming to the Yucatan for 14 years, bought a house in Valladolid 5 years ago, and moved to Mexico 4 years ago. "I came down here doing volunteer work with a group from the U.S.," he recalls. "The first place I had lunch was this town, and I thought it was wonderful, beautiful, tranquil. I've been coming back ever since, until I finally moved here." He befriended the owners of Casa de los Venados, John and Dorianne Venator, and now gives tours of the home and art collection.

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

How does one befriend art collectors? "One day the owner showed up at my bed and breakfast and introduced himself as John the neighbor," Denis explains. "We got to talking and he brought me up here and showed me around. I was overwhelmed!" Denis met the Venators when construction on Casa de los Venados was nearly finished. The couple did, however, undertake extensive renovations on the property.

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The house itself is around 60 meters by 60 meters. "For downtown Valladolid, that's a good-sized piece of property," Denis observes. He was born in North Dakota, raised in Montana, and moved to the Yucatan from Bergen County, New Jersey. "They're having below-zero temps and I'm in sunny Mexico," he says. "I never want to see a snow shovel again." Denis now sleeps in a hammock and runs a bed and breakfast in Valladolid called Casa Hamaca.

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

"All the rooms in my B&B have air conditioning except mine," he adds. "I like the weather and heat." Why sleep in a hammock? Denis claims that it's more comfortable than sleeping in a bed. "There's a massage table that Indians use that's sort of like a barrel," he explains. "You drape yourself over it and the purpose is to open your spine. A hammock does the same thing – it opens your spine."

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Visitors to Valladolid can take tours of Casa de los Venados by showing up at 10 or 10:30 a.m. "Right now, you just show up at the door, and unless John has something posted, he'll be there to run a tour for people who want to come and see the artwork," Denis says. "He asks a $5 or 60 peso donation to a foundation in the U.S. that goes to artistic, medical, and educational charities. Last week, the donations went to Clinica San Lucas. It's a clinic in town that was built by volunteer doctors from the U.S. who come down to provide free or low-cost services to people."

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The artwork at Casa de Los Venados reflects Mexican artists, craftsmen, and culture, particularly in its use of Day of the Dead imagery. "Mexico doesn't worship death by any means; rather, they laugh at it. It's part of life," explains Denis. "In the U.S., we try to ignore death and put it off as far as we can." The art collection includes sculptures in rattan, ceramic, and stone; paintings and pencil drawings; small collectibles; and even furniture. "At first, it's kind of macabre, like the funhouse at an amusement park," says Stephanie. "But if you look long enough, you just have to laugh."

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

"I used to be a would-be artist, so I know how much work has been created and how difficult it is," Denis adds. "The small metal figurines done with lost-wax casting – that's an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish. The ribbons, folds of hair, the skirts take an incredible amount of technical expertise." There's also a whole room devoted to Frida Kahlo and the symbolism of her paintings, as well as some private art. Stephanie and Denis, for example, are in a private living room with 3 paintings of John and Dorianne commissioned by the couple themselves.

Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The home also has plenty of color. According to Denis, the building has won 4 architectural awards: 2 international, and one specifically for the best use of color. "When you overlay that with all the artwork, it makes for quite a striking visual experience," says Stephanie. She's also charmed by the main square of Valladolid, which reminds her of the main square in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Related Photo Galleries:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/album.php?albumid=520

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2763

For more information visit www.casadelosvenados.com and www.casahamaca.com


Link to this segment

Javier Gonzalez, Director General, AGI Tours, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.agitours.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show explore Mayan ruins with Javier Gonzalez, Director General of AGI Tours in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Stephanie visited the ancient city of Chichen Itza for the first time with Javier and says it was worth the time it takes. "I've been to Cancun so many times and am always on a tight schedule," she says. "But Chichen Itza is truly a marvel." Thanks to Javier's Mayan ancestry, Stephanie even got to learn about the Mayan numeric system, which is based on base 20.

Mayan Ruins.
Mayan Ruins.

The visit to Chichen Itza began with a walk past crowds of vendors of both handicrafts and t-shirts. The archaeological site itself is considered a complete metropolis, according to Javier. "It was a city with religious buildings, administrative buildings, and places for social meetings," he explains. "Archaeologists are still working here in a permanent program, year-round, and discovering things and releasing the information. So we never stop learning about Chichen Itza."

Mayan Ruins.
Mayan Ruins.

The site was first explored by archaeologist Luis Arochi. The centerpiece is a huge pyramid that, unlike the Egyptian pyramids, is made of platforms instead of straight sides. "Looking at it from one perspective, it's a huge calendar," Javier says. "There are 91 steps on each of the 4 sides. 4 times 91 is 364, plus the step on top gives you 365, or the number of days in the year. The Maya divided the solar year into 18 periods of 20 days, which gives you 360. Then, they added a period of 5 days for festivities, which is 365 days."

Mayan Ruins.
Mayan Ruins.

The pyramid is not oriented to the cardinal points; it deviates 17 degrees to the north-northwest. This deviation, however, creates a special effect on the spring and autumnal equinoxes. "Between 4 and 5 p.m. on those days, during the sunset, the sun projects light through the 9 platforms of the pyramid and forms 7 triangles of light. The last one ends at the head of a snake that's on the ground. If you look at it from the west side, you'll see a perfect figure of a rattlesnake coming down. That's Kukulkan, the god, coming down to the land of the Maya twice a year."

Mayan Ruins.
Mayan Ruins.

Though it's tempting to explore the pyramid, visitors are no longer allowed to climb its sides. "People were writing graffiti, plus it's very, very steep," Javier says. The steep stairs, however, were built with a purpose. The Maya believed that when climbing to a sacred place, it was appropriate to hold one's gaze to the ground. And most accidents happened close to the ground. "When you're coming down, you get to the last 5 steps and relax," Javier adds. "But you haven't made it until you're on the ground!" He suggests climbing the stairs the way Mayan priests did: in a diagonal or zigzag path.

Mayan Ruins..
Mayan Ruins.

Many visitors to Quintana Roo stick to the Cancun beaches, but Stephanie recommends a visit to inland destinations like Chichen Itza and the colonial city of Valladolid, Javier's hometown. What's so special about Valladolid? "For retired people, the warmth," he says. "The Yucatan peninsula is at sea level, so it has nice warm weather year-round. I'm going to go back!"

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and Javier Gonzalez, Director General, AGI Tours, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and Javier Gonzalez, Director General, AGI Tours, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The town was built in 1545 and still retains a colonial feel in its architecture and streets. But there's still life in Valladolid. "It's a beautiful city to walk around," Javier continues. "You can see how the local people sit in front of their homes in the evening and enjoy the breezes and sunset. Everyone knows each other, it's a small community, so you can walk day and night – it's completely safe. I can't speak highly enough of it." Valladolid is 100 miles west of Cancun. It can be reached by country roads, which take 2-and-a-half hours, or a highway, which takes 90 minutes.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=870

For more information visit www.agitours.com


Fun Fact:

The state of Quintana Roo has more roads than any other in Mexico.


Guests Include:

Denis Larsen, Docent, Casa de Los Venados, Valladolid, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.casadelosvenados.com
www.casahamaca.com

Javier Gonzalez, Director General, AGI Tours, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
www.agitours.com

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