Nestled halfway between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in So. Calif. Is
a treasure of historic coastline where time seems to have stood still.
Crystal Cove State Park (www.crystalcovebeachcottages.com)
offers a welcome reprieve from everyday life and a look back in time.
Built as a seaside colony in the 1930’s & 40’s, Crystal Cove endures as
a magical escape from the overdevelopment of the surrounding coastal
area. What I believe to be one of the OC’s best kept little secrets
–Crystal Cove Historic District fills the prevailing sea air with images
of a bygone era.
Starting from the easily accessible parking lot just north of Pacific
Coast Highway, skip the shuttle bus and take the inviting paved walking
path which leads through a tunnel under the highway and opens to a
well-maintained dirt trail. Lined by majestic old-growth eucalyptus,
oaks, sage and rosemary, one can drink in the hillside flora and fauna.
Then you’ll pass old wooden sheds used by original cottage dwellers, a
visitor’s center, store and gift shop. But keep your eyes westward as
just beyond the next curve the prettiest little beach in the OC comes to
view. Three and a half miles of pristine coastline frame twenty-one
authentically restored rustic cottages. Twenty more dot the beach and
bluffs just north—waiting patiently for much needed restoration funds (www.CrystalCovelliance.Org)
and each in different stages of weathering dilapidation. Instantly, one
is transported back to the 40’s and 50’s when the Cove was a collection
of clap-board & thatched cottages inhabited by very fortunate friends
and family of the famous Irvine Co. who owned (and still do) thousands
of coastal ranchland acres. Just imagine the ‘good ‘ol days’--of beach
parties set beneath sea-wood awnings and the distant sound of clinking
martini glasses and jovial laughter from sand covered cottage patios.
From 1935 to 1955 these lucky families thrived, partied, surfed and
vacationed in this picturesque beach-side community. Unfortunately, all
good things must come to an end and the land lease expired in 1979.
Luckily the cottages were saved by developers and The Crystal Cove State
Park Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic
Places. A sad day indeed when the last families had to leave, but a gift
was given to the public who are now welcome to enjoy a truly unique area
of Calif. History.
Another huge plus about the Cove is its fantastic restaurant—The
Beachcomber Cafe (www.thebeachcombercafe.com/_crystalcove).
Where else in So. Cal can one enjoy a fine-dining eatery perched on a
wooden deck just steps up from the sand? And around the corner is the
Bootlegger Bar with an extensive menu of foo-foo tropical drinks and
appetizers. The fun Hawaiian décor, strung lighting, candles and
big-band era music inspire a 40’s tropical bygone era.
Crystal Cove was adequately named in 1927 by Elizabeth Wood “because the
name seemed right for such a beautiful place.” During one of our hot
OC summer nights, I was lucky to catch a half moon rising over the
Cove’s gently lapping waves. Soon a triangle of shimmering diamonds
reached out from the cobalt blue horizon to my vantage point—an old
wooden picnic bench. My new squeeze added to this special moment with
sweet kisses that brought to mind the lovers who once snuggled around
seaside bonfires---the world did indeed seem to go away…..
Happy Traveling, discovering and taking the road less traveled….
A Tribute to Ireland
Viridian, forest, emerald, kelly---a virtual pallet
of greens envelop Ireland’s vast farm fields and countryside. From the
soft rolling hills lined with cobblestone fences on the West coast to
the raised bog of central lowlands and rugged shores of Eastern Ireland,
there’s a prevailing mystical and magical feel to my ancestral homeland.
My recent adventure started with an invitation from
Cousin Bill Cassidy to accompany him and his two charming (yes, actually
charming) teenagers on their first visit to the homeland. Bill’s
grandmother and my grandfather were siblings and emigrated from
Westport, County Mayo, in the early 1900’s. Bill was on a quest to
visit the clan for the first time and see as much of the emerald isle in
8 days. To be his guest was pure pleasure for me--- to not have to
plan, coordinate, reserve, and research the trip—he had done all that.
So I sat back, and enjoyed our road trip from Shannon, across the
interior of Ireland to Westport then to Trim Country, Meath, and across
again to the coastal city of Galway.
The grand country of Ireland holds a place near and
dear to my heart and my grandfather kept me linked to my heritage. I
recall his tales of playing with all the other emigrant children on
Ellis Island as the statue of liberty saluted their dreams of life in a
new country. There were photographs sent from cousins with names like
Daly, Cassidy and ours—Kirby. For hours, he could recite Gallic poems
that described a magical place-- of his thatched cottage in Ballybourke
surround by fields of wild ponies, fluffy sheep and cool streams.
eccentric playwright and author, Oscar Wilde once said, “The Irish have
an ingrain sense of tragedy to sustain them through brief moments of
happiness.” From a history rich in tragedy and religious prosecution, a
new people thrive as the real treasure of Ireland lies in its people.
In all my travels, never have I experienced such an optimism and joy for
life—even through endless months of rain soaked days, the Irish embrace
their country and their beloved Guinness with a proud stance and gleam
in their sparkling blue eyes. From the rowdy pubs lining Dublin’s River
Riffey streets, to the coastal resort city of Galway, I found sweet
souls willing to stop anything they're doing to smile, greet and offer
directions to this bewildered American driver on the wrong side of the
street. To my direction inquiry many would answer, “Oh, it’s no
problem, really, I’ll be takin' ye there if ye like”….and no doubt they
There are a few items I just can’t travel
without—one that is near and dear to my heart is my wide-brimmed straw
sun-hat. I picked it up in Nassau last January while on a Bahamas
cruise with my daughter. Too frazzled to endure yet another adventure,
its predecessor was reluctantly tossed but not without many fond
memories—like being caught in the middle of a torrential tropical
downpour on Buck Island in the Virgin Islands. Seeking shelter beneath
a coconut palm, I can still smell the sweet wet woven straw as rain
dripped on my clenched knees. From its protective brim, the storm
brewed quickly and I could survey the majesty of nature at its best.
Dark purple clouds sent jagged bolts towards the deep blue Caribbean
horizon while fierce winds swirled my calm snorkeling lagoon into a
white-caped frenzy. Now quite disheveled, the drenching took its
toll. But experiences like this simply add more character.
My fedora has lovingly protected my face while sun
bathing. What joy in waking up from a sunny snooze to the speckled
sunlight filtering through?With my pony tail and designer shades---it
even makes a nice fashion statement. Many admirers have commented, Oh,
I love your hat! That always makes me grin. While souvenir shopping
and people watching, the hat makes a cool refuge from which to
Toting a hat along can be a challenge and
unfortunately the glamorous days of traveling with big stylish
color-coordinated round hat boxes are gone. Although a bit gangly, I
place mine in a soft nylon carry-on along with my purse so it counts as
one item. Just make sure to store under your seat and not in the
overhead or it’ll get squashed. I’ve even found specially made straw
hats that can be folded two times over into a small triangle and pop
right back into shape—how great is that! And they can even go directly
in your luggage.
At home, my straw hat sits on a high shelf in my
closet—calmly waiting for the next excursion. As I begin to pack once
again, my boyfriend shouts—"You’re not bringing that hat are you?" –he
hates it and his daughter says I look old in it (oh, I just love that).
I disregard their comments—what do they know? In my eyes, it’s a silent
friend and protector—and it’s coming along!
Here’s a picture from my recent trip to the
stunning Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort in Cabo San Lucas---what do
By Anna MacKenzie
Once a base for pirate ships waiting to pounce on Spanish treasure
ships, ‘Cabo’ is a diversified, playful destination. Lapped by both the
Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, even 15 years ago was little more
than a fishing and canning village occasionally visited by adventurous
sports fisherman with the means to sail in or fly down.
recall being a young thing of 18 and totally awestruck when my
jet-setting boss, Don Callender of Marie Callender’s Pies, would whisk
his girlfriend off to this place called Cabo. She would return brown as
a nut with tall tales and I vowed then to check it out when I grew up.
Well, grow up I did and have explored this part of Mexico’s “Gold Coast”
many times—even had a few romances of my own where the famed ‘El Arco’ –
the Arch- famous rock formation frames a pretty little beach
appropriately named, ‘Lovers Beach’.
Since there are actually three districts in “Cabo”, visitors can get a
Cabo San Lucas, the
“Main Town’, which is 20-some miles from the airport and the
entertainment hub of Cabo. The word ‘Cabo’ alone evokes images of
teens-gone-wild and tequila drenched tourists jamming the wild bars of
The Blue Marlin, Cabo Wabo, and numerous other discotheques. Cabo is
also a favorite port for Mexican Riviera cruises. Time share hotels
line the pretty beaches and the famous rock arch guards the harbor as
countless fishing boats now rigged with sleek, radar-equipped devices
promise a catch for the novice to experienced fisherman. One of my
biggest thrills was watching a majestic marlin fight for it’s life as it
leaped and thrashed
against a most certain
destiny—only to break free and careen back to an abyss of dark blue.
San Jose del Cabo,
the “old Town” is nearest to the airport. San Jose has old Mexico charm
and some shining new resorts. Another world altogether and my
favorite part of Cabo, San Jose still has the picturesque atmosphere of
a slow-paced Mexican “pueblo”. Narrow streets lead to the heart of town
where you’ll find the ‘plaza’ or main square. There’s even the
beautiful San Jose del Anuiti mission in the heart of the square. Go
ahead and venture down side streets and tucked between will be a pretty
little courtyard restaurant, fountains bubbling with friendly
proprietors coaxing in much needed tourists. While enjoying festive
strolling mariachis, order up one of the local fish dishes—a specialty
in this area. And there’s nothing like warm hand-made tortillas washed
down with a shot of smooth agave tequila.
the highway which connects San Jose and Cabo San Lucas—once a desolate
stretch of barren gray desert, is now lined with golf courses, condos
and resorts that hug the stunning coastline. Luckily the city buss runs
continually between both areas but take head Cinderella--it stops at 11
p.m. So if you’re partying hearty in Cabo and staying in San Jose,
you’ll need to end the festivities early or be stuck with a hefty
Still think Mexico is cheap? Forget about it!--in this part of
Americanized Baja Mexico…it’s very pricey, but the dollar is accepted
and preferred everywhere. There is one deal, however, and that’s
silver. I’ve bartered and purchased gorgeous pieces from roaming beach
vendors to village jewelry stores. Know your prices and offer at least
half of what they’re asking.
ocean here is very deceiving. Unfortunately, only a couple swimming
beaches exist in Cabo and they’re in the downtown resort area. Though
gorgeous to look at, San Jose beaches are not for swimming. Alarmingly,
this is usually not stated in the glitzy web-site blogs and ‘Beach
Front’ does not mean, ‘Swimming Beach’. Warning signs are posted
everywhere—in hotel lobbies and along beaches. Dangerous currents and
sand bars lie waiting under the seemingly serine coastline. Just a year
ago, I had a horrible experience helping rescue a young dude who was
stupid enough to dive in. So enjoy the pool areas and use the pretty
sandy beach for long work-out walks and awesome whale spotting in the
UPDATE: Swine Flu Outbreak. As of April 30, 2009, The World Health
Organization (WHO) has raised its global alert level for H1N1 swine flu
to Phase 5. Although no known cases have been reported in the Cabo area
and air travel is not affected, cruise ships have temporarily
discontinued all Mexican ports. But from the bad comes some
good---airfares to Mexico have been slashed so lots of good deals to be
Staying in Shape While
Although we may
embark on a vacation adventure with all the intentions of hitting the
gym every day—it’s simply easer said than done. But feeling good,
looking fit and leading a long and healthy life are things most of us
want. The beneficial effects – both physical and mental – of good
nutrition, physical fitness and exercise are proven. So why not mix
these proven effects with your next get-a-way? I’ve found all kinds of
ways to fuse physical activity with my escapes so the word ‘workout’ is
easily blended in.
The inside of a cold,
stark gym just doesn’t do it for me when sun, sand and sea await. Even
though cruise ships have very cool gyms with rows of exercise equipment
facing grand picture windows, I prefer to hit the deck running—the desk
side walking track that is. With water bottle in hand, elbows bent and
arms above waste level--keep the tummy tucked in, squeeze the glutes
(that’s your butt) with each step and mind your posture——eyes
ahead--drink in the scenery!
How easily cares and
concerns fade away as your next steps are drawn to the cool blue horizon
A gym just can’t
offer the sensation of brisk sea breezes or tropical sun drenching your
sports bra-exposed back. Smile and greet your fellow cruisers. Have
you noticed how happy and fun vacationers are? To burn more calories
and work legs even more, pack some 2 lb ankle weights. And take
advantage of outside yoga classes to really elevate the senses. If your
resort or cruise line offers bike and kayaking excursions—go for it!
daughters learned at an early age that Mommy takes a lot of walks.
Leaving my lounging husband with his cooler of six-packs and the girls
to entertain, I’d head for the beach!….not down at surf level where the
sand is wet and hard, but a few feet above where it’s soft and cushy and
your feet sink in. A mile down and back is a great work out. There’s a
reason why thoroughbred horses are trained
in sand—it builds leg muscle and you can easily break a healthy aerobic
In the big
cities—pack a pair of good sneakers and walk, walk, walk—everywhere.
Skip the trains, planes and automobiles when possible. Take a walking
tour—there’s nothing like the sounds, smells and vistas of a beautiful,
historic city. Subway stairs are a fabulous workout but be careful in
slippery rain. Many museums have audio tours to follow at your own
stretch after your workout—don’t bounce. Hold your bends and stretches
just until there’s a slight ache and hold for at least 10 seconds.
Taking the time to stretch your worked muscles properly after,
not before, is proven to decrease soreness
As little as 20-30 minutes of exercise
most days of the week is all you need to see results. That’s 3% of your
waking day and you’ll fee better for the other 97% to enjoy your
And don’t forget to take a few extra
minutes for our Facial Magic exercises as well!
Travel in 2009
By Anna MacKenzie
vowed this year to go somewhere I’ve never been before. It’s so easy to
return to a familiar resort or destination but where’s the adventure in
that? After all, most of the allure of travel is adventure—the
discovery of places unknown with unfamiliar faces and cultures. But I
do realize our tumultuous financial times are curtailing many would-be
happy wanderers. How many of our destination choices are made simply
based on affordability? I’m often guilty of just that. Like the
Bahamas cruise I’m taking my daughter on next week. I’ve visited the
Bahamas before but the off-season price was so cheap-- how could I say
no? But one port will be a new experience—Royal Caribbean’s own private
island, Coco Cay. Dora The Explorer has nothing on me!---I plan on
trekking the nature trails, maybe bike a little and definitely sign up
for the yoga class on the beach. Even a familiar destination can bring
Now I must admit working for an airline brings travel more easily into
my life. I honestly can ask, “Where in the world shall I go this
year?" But finances beyond the flight are still a big concern. Staying
with family and friends can cut costs in half. This will be a huge
money saver for my trip to Italy in early spring. My BFF, Pam, has a
friend who has offered his apartment in Milan and his Mother’s house on
Lake Como. And Pam’s elder aunt would welcome us to her home in the
Italian Alps---perfect!—we’re there!
One of my favorite low budget yet glamorous destinations is Cancun—an
all-inclusive being the only way to go, of course. Try the GR Solaris (www.clubsolaris.com)
and be open to their time-share presentation. They offer free
excursions and cash to attend. These presentations can get long and
tedious, but some of the deals are good once they get down to their
take-it-or-leave-it offer…. and if you go to a couple different hotel
presentations, it can pay for most of your trip!
The promise of a new year is here--a clean slate and open map await.
Allow the imagination to run wild and please don’t over-internet search
your destination. Allow some element of surprise and wonder. I do
suggest checking airfares religiously—they can change without notice.
Many airlines have a fare finder feature—use it. And don’t forget
last-minute tour, hotel and cruise deals.
Now, for those lucky enough to travel with no budget---hey, we should
all be so lucky! But have caution, many of the high-end, 5 stars are
just a rip off (come on—why should a margarita cost $15 and breakfast
$35!). And the limo/concierge, chocolate turned-down Australian feather
stuffed pillows and 800 count sheets are too fancy schmancy for me—I
prefer a hammock on a secluded cove in St. Lucia with a little open-air
beach cottage and a handsome man sitting alone at the palapa bar—now
Remember—happiness is a journey not a destination….
Wedding Time in Tuscany
Oh, Tuscany—how romantic, This was
the response from most of my friends upon mention of my latest
destination. The word alone conjures the imagination--medieval stone
villages, sweeping farm fields lined with ancient cedars, and of course
lots of wini de rossi—red wine, which flowed quite freely during my
whirlwind visit to Italy’s magnificent Central valley.
After my last European adventure, I
swore I would never again do Europe in just one week. Recalling
jet-lagged days and sandpaper eyes—I was reluctant to repeat this bodily
abuse, but the opportunity to join my Irish clan and attend cousin Larry
Daly’s wedding in the quant village of Radicofani was the chance of a
And what a wedding it was.
Decorated in vines and bouquets of bright yellow sunflowers, the
historic Chiesa di San Pietro took on an angelic amber glow as Anne and
Larry shared their nuptials in Italian. Amazingly, it was the first
wedding Father Don Elia ever performed for a non-Italian couple. With
tear-swelled eyes, the elderly priest spoke eloquently and entirely in
Italian. His tenderness and caring in performing this sacred sacrament
truly touched everyone and created a moment I will forever hold close to
my heart. Outside, villagers gathered as we tossed real rice and raced
across the narrow coble-stoned street to the quaint ‘boozer’ where
numerous toasts were made to the newlyweds before our short caravan
drive to Castelvecchio (www.borgodicastelvecchio.com), an ancient
medieval hamlet where the reception would take place.
As sunset transformed the horizon
into a haze of peach and purple, our tiny Smartcar struggled up the
curved mountain road of this former fortress. Guests gathered outside
on a hill-side slope of vibrant green with a stunning view of the Tuscan
valley far below. Soft music from a pool-side jazz ensemble set quite
the romantic mood while tables of ice-cold champagne and fancy hors
d'oeuvres lined the decking. This was my kind of reception! Soon we
were directed to the great hall of Castelvecchio’s castle dating back to
1279 where a gourmet wedding feast of roast boar, pasta and other
At midnight, guests were summoned
by bells to follow a candle-lit pathway across the courtyard to a gazebo
for the cake cutting ceremony. By this time, tipsy guests laughed and
joked while the adoring couple shared this sweet tradition. Until the
wee hours of the morning we ate, danced and drank in celebration.
Finally at 4:30 a.m. it was time to return to our little piece of heaven
high on a hill—the farmhouse Cacciamici (www.cacciamici.it)
At our charming stone farmhouse
located half way between Rome and Florence with nearby picturesque
abbeys of Sant’Antimo and Monte Oliveto Maggiore and three quarters of
an hour from the Chianti region of Siena, Orveiot and San Gimignano we
gathered to reminisce—make more toasts of warm beer and swim in the
lovely cool pool high atop our own private mountain retreat surrounded
by barley fields and olive groves. Just a short hike up hill stood a
derelict stone farmhouse just waiting for Diane Lane to fall in love
under its dilapidated eaves. Another charming aspect of Tuscany is that
old structures cannot be torn down—only renovated. How I wish our
country held its historic buildings in such high regard.
Radicofani’s castle tower loomed on
a distant hill reminding us of the special day prior. Sienna and Firenze
lay in many of our destinations that afternoon. A word of caution about
driving—the country roads throughout Tuscany leave much to be
admired—narrow and winding with poor signage and virtually no lighting.
Believe me; it’s worth renting a navigation system to avoid heated
back-seat-driver arguments. Also be prepared, this part of Italy is an
Agriturismol area, there are no amenities nearby—no mini marts, no gas
stations, no nothing except beautiful scenery, blessed silence and the
sweet distant clanging of sheep’s bells or a pheasant’s call.
And the historical aspect is
unbeatable--close your eyes and one can almost hear the echoes of
Etruscan soldiers galloping on slate-stone village streets, or the call
of Roman emperors from their columned thrones…and in the far-reaching
country side, the soft swishing of sickles as peasants worked their
fields. Tuscany, sweet Tuscany, you capture the soul.
Saves Big Bucks
By now you
have heard that major airlines are increasing their fees to recoup
skyrocketing fuel prices. Sadly, these ever-increasing oil prices
have meant catastrophic losses for airlines and these costs can no
longer be absorbed; they must be passed on to us, the airline passenger.
One of the new
fees starting with tickets purchased after June 15 is $15.00 for the
first checked bag and $25.00 for the second—yep, nothing is free
anymore. And to top it off, if the bag weighs over 50 lbs--which is
easy to do, the cost will be $100-$150 more! Not all carriers are
charging the same, so check with your airline on their latest increases.
traveler to do? It’s really quite simple—take only carry-on bags and be
very selective about what you bring. Yes, with a little pre-planning for
each day’s outfit, one week’s necessities can be stuffed into the
overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
Now, my New
York big-city daughter would strongly disagree. "I must have
options", is her motto but won’t be for long. The first time she’s
asked to pay $115.00 in checked and overweight fees, she’ll change her
tune and follow my advice.
all about reducing weight and maximizing space. Here are some of my
best tips. Keep in mind they’re geared more towards my preferred
warm-weather destinations like the Caribbean or Hawaii. Cold climates
will require more bulky space-guzzling sweaters which can be worn in
layers during transit and removed later.
- You’re still allowed two carry-on bags.
Take advantage of this! Do what I do and put a small purse
containing just the necessities inside a larger tote. Later, this
carry-on tote-it-all can double as a beach and shopping bag. And
the small purse stays with you everywhere—don’t leave personal items
in your room unless you can lock up in a safe.
- Think Three Oz’s---keep all your
liquids—including perfumes, cosmetics and hair products to 3 oz’s or
less—or they’ll be confiscated at security. It’s easy to forget
that new $65.00 bottle of Mambo tucked in your makeup bag and so sad
when it’s confiscated by a TSA agent.
- Another tip—when buying your favorite
cosmetics or trying out new ones, always ask for samples—the tiny
sizes are perfect and feel like a treat.
- Roll, Roll, Roll---yes rolled clothing does
take up less space than folding. It’s been proven—just believe me!
- Bathing suit cover-ups—pair them with
leggings and heels and they double for a nice evening outfit. Wear
a cammie underneath, add accessories, and Voila! -- It’s a
coordinated ensemble! Just be careful when pool side to fold and
tuck inside your tote to avoid sunscreen stains. And bring only two
bathing suits—who needs all those different tan lines anyway?
- Keep it down to three pairs of shoes---lighter
aerobic tennies for walks and spa workouts and two foam or cork
soled (less weight) slip-on sandals in black and white. Black for
the evening, white for the pool or beach. For cooler trips—a pair
of black boots is a must. Wear one pair while traveling so you’re
only packing two.
- Forget all those bulky appliances. Most
hotels provide hair dryers and irons. If not, it’s a small
investment to buy folding travel sizes and don’t forget outlet
adaptors for foreign destinations.
- Leave the pooch at home—checked animals are
$100-$150 each way!
these higher costs and loss of wardrobe options don’t need to affect our
sense of adventure—of seeking the road less traveled. After all,
there’s nothing like watching fading sunlight cast purple shadows on an
ancient Tuscan olive grove or the smell of a crisp cold aquamarine
glacier as your kayak silently glides by. Despite increased airfares
and fees, the world remains our oyster.
One of the many joys in my life is being involved
with the Something mAAgic FoundationÔ.
Something mAAgic is definitely magical--a nonprofit organization made up
of employee volunteers of American Airlines/American Eagle that supports
the missions of the Give Kids the World VillageÔ
and the Make-A-Wish FoundationÔ
by raising money to enhance wishes for children with life-threatening
illnesses and sponsor their marquee event, WishFlight . Please visit
www.somethingmaagic.org for more information.
Did you know our own Cynthia Rowland has donated
her precious time and efforts to this wonderful cause? For the past two
years, Cynthia and I have teamed Facial Magic with Something mAAgic for
two dynamic benefit Facial Magic workshops. Many, many thanks, Cynthia!
On Oct. 26, 2007, I jetted off to Orlando, Florida,
for this year’s 12trh annual WishFlight where 27 Make-A-Wish children
and their families were flow in from cities all over the U.S., Mexico,
Peru and Puerto Rico. Upon arrival at the festively decorated gate area
in Orlando, numerous volunteers were on hand to meet and greet the
anxious families who will spend a week at the whimsical resort, Give
Kids the World village. Give Kids the World, a non-profit resort,
provides accommodations for the families, donated tickets, meals and
more for a week-long, cost free fantasy vacation.
This is where magical memories are created. If a
little girls dreams of having tea with Cinderella in the Disney World
castle—it happens. If a little boy wants to float in space, he’s an
astronaut for a day at NASA Space Center. Every effort is put into
fulfilling each child’s unique wish.
Many people have asked me if it’s too sad to watch
the sick children---I say not at all. The emphasis on this event is
strength, hope and joy. Honestly, there are more smiles than tears.
And the illness of the child is not discussed. This is a time for
families to be a family again—to laugh and sing and forget about
hospitals and doctors if only for one special, magical week.
The founder of Give Kids the World Village, Henry
Landwirth, has his favorite quote in the walkway at the village…
“We make a living by what we get, we get a life by
what we give”…
Natural Wonders Amidst
Cancun’s Bustling Riviera Maya
By Anna MacKenzie
sacred by the Ancient Maya, Cenotes (pronounced Say-no-tays) are an
intricate network of underground river systems, which feature thousands
of grottos, caverns and underwater rock formations that constitute one
of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most amazing natural attractions.
I’ve been to
Cancun several times and never knew these truly gorgeous waterways
existed. The crystalline waters allow a visibility of up to 150 feet
and surrender the magical and mysterious world that lies underneath this
mystical land. Cenotes (sinkholes) were ancient caves, totally or
partially filled with water, whose vaults collapsed due to the erosion
in its walls. For the Maya, cenotes represented the entrance to the
spiritual world, so they were considered holy in nature and enormous
ceremonial centers were constructed around many of them and used for
Being one who
steers away from tourist traps, I usually don’t consider glitzy
amusement park attractions advertised on glossy brochures strung
throughout airport and hotel information centers. But after being
awarded a free day’s tour from a time-share presentation, I was
pleasantly surprised by a the eco-friendly agricultural park, Xel-Ha (www.xel-ha.com)
miles south of Cancun, Xel-Ha is simply stunning and worth the drive—a
natural aquarium of unique beauty where you swim and snorkel in
freshwater cenotes amongst hundreds of multicolored fish that have made
their home in the rivers and lagoons. Also, a neat new concept, the
park is ‘all inclusive’. For one admittance price, around $40.00, all
food, drinks (including alcohol—gotta love Mexico for that), snorkel
gear, and towels, are included. Simply place your valuables in the
convenient locker areas provided, grab some snorkel gear (all new and
disinfected) and head for the magnificently clear water. Access to the
water is so easy on wooden platforms and steps placed strategically
throughout the rivers.
If you have the time, grab an inner tube and
gently drift down a river-way. Or for the Tom Sawyer in all of us, there
are cliffs to leap from, trails to meander, rickety wooden bridges to
forge and even free bicycles to ride. Be careful on the trails since
hundreds of people-friendly Iguanas sun themselves on the pathways and
leave little piles of squishy lizard turds.
Also very cool, were the numerous
cruise-ship-like teak lounge chairs perched sporadically in scenic and
tucked away spots on the rivers banks and within the dense tropical
jungle. These empty, comfy looking chairs beckoned me to take a
moment--sit, relax, and meditate amidst such natural wonder— but alas,
my boisterous traveling companions on their first trip to Cancun had to
keep exploring all Xel-Ha had to offer.
As our short visit came to a close, I wished for an
entire day to fully enjoy this fantastic place—to drink in the brilliant
hues of countless fish species, breath in the cool, earthy scent within
a dark cenote cave, or just relax beneath the shade of a giant
elephant-ear leaf. Even the languid scaly Iguanas beckoned my
return—but I’ll be sure to watch out in case one big guy should decide
to sun bathe on my lounge!