An ode to Mexico

“It sounds so simple I just got to go,” James Taylor sang of Mexico. He was spot-on at any time, but particularly now when it’s one of the few places Americans can travel without taking a COVID-19 test first or quarantining on arrival. That’s not to say safety isn’t a priority, as enhanced airport protocols have masks, sanitizer and social distancing ubiquitous. Visitors do fill out a health questionnaire on arrival and temperatures are taken. It’s that Mexico is just a quick flight away for most of us, and our neighbor to the south has been a favorite destination for decades.

There are so many layers to Mexico, you can go time and again and never have the same journey twice. Even the familiar areas are always adapting with the times, with new resorts that blend in with natural surroundings and emphasize quality, service and wellness. Though entry is simple, hotels and resorts are at reduced capacity and have safeguards everywhere. Fortunately, there are so many Virtuoso-preferred accommodations in Mexico that you can travel throughout the country in style and safety.

Resort areas

Cancun/Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos tend to see the most visitors and are probably the areas you’re most familiar with. What you may not realize is the sheer variety of the resorts there means there’s a lot more to them than the cookie-cutter all-inclusives swarmed by college-aged spring breakers you might imagine.

Just minutes away from the Cancun airport is NIZUC Resort & Spa on grounds that once served as a getaway for Mexico’s president. Given the tranquility you’ll find there, you’d scarcely believe how close you are to the busy hotel zone. Down the coast, resorts such as Chable Maroma, which offers a Mayan rebirth ceremony, and Rosewood Mayakoba, which preserves the mangrove ecosystem around the resort, deliver authenticity as well as a great beach. Overwater bungalows along the Riviera Maya can satisfy your desire for the lagoon experience without venturing all the way to the South Pacifc. Just inland in the Yucatan, Merida is a base for exploring a land of cenotes and Mayan ruins.

Just outside Puerto Vallarta, resorts such as Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Four Seasons Punta Mita and One&Only Mandarina are oases of exclusivity with secluded settings, culinary delights and endless activities for families and couples. There are resorts aplenty in Los Cabos at the end of Baja California. Given the area’s geography, there aren’t swimmable beaches aplenty. One of the few can be found at One&Only Palmilla, where every room has a view of the dazzling Sea of Cortez.

Off-the-beaten-path beaches

From Costalegre to Zihuatanejo, Mexico’s Pacific coast is dotted with secluded coves and pristine beaches. All along that stretch, you’ll find Virtuoso-preferred boutique hotels and resorts to put your feet up and take a load off. Be it the 16-suite Las Alamandas spread out over 1,500 acres of tropical paradise, the Cuixmala private estate on 32,000 acres of biosphere reserve or the romantic retreat of 59-room Cala del Mar, you’ll be far away from cares and crowds. The 56-room Thompson Zihuatanejo is close enough to town for day exploration before you retire to your private beachfront oasis. No wonder Red and Andy were so eager to get down there after they left Shawshank.

Colonial Mexico

We love the beach as much as anyone. We’d be remiss to leave out the wonderful cultural experiences in Mexico’s colonial interior, however. Mexico City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, and three Virtuoso-preferred hotels there put you in the heart of the restaurant scene and the posh neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa and Polanco. The magnificent ruins of Tenochtitlan are just outside the city, and the centro contains the city’s well-preserved Spanish architecture.

Puebla’s entire downtown is an open-air UNESCO World Heritage site, as is Oaxaca, which preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures, passed down today in artisan villages where time-honored traditions produce handmade textiles from natural materials. San Miguel de Allende, another World Heritage site, is about as close to heaven as you can get on Earth and an artist’s dream. The service and accommodations at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada keep that heavenly feeling instilled all through the night.

If you want to eat, drink and be merry in 2020, there may be no better place than colonial Mexico. Just like James Taylor, you might forget to go home.

The Lowcountry & Sea Islands

Though we often go abroad to capture a sense of an older way of life and unique culture, it’s good to remember how diverse this country can be and how many distinct regions the U.S. has. The Lowcountry of South Carolina and Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida contain a great deal of history among the people, food and architecture. The mention of Charleston or Savannah conjures up images of Spanish moss hanging from ancient oaks, the roots of the U.S. and some of the best meals you could ever hope to have. Venture farther south to Amelia Island and St. Augustine in Florida, and you reach back to even before the founding.

The capital of the region is Charleston, founded more than a century before the Declaration of Independence was written. There, you can have a wonderful dinner at the famous Hall’s Chophouse or enjoy a more modern take on Southern favorites at the award-winning Husk. Out in Charleston Harbor, you can tour Fort Sumter, where the first battle of the Civil War took place. Down the coast are the inviting beaches and verdant golf courses of Kiawah Island, home to Virtuoso-preferred resort The Sanctuary.

All throughout the region, you’ll encounter the Gullah-Geechee culture, kept alive by the descendants of slaves brought from West Africa in the 1700s. They make their homes primarily on barrier islands of the region, just as their ancestors did. Isolated from the mainland, the Gullah-Geechee have managed to preserve their cooking traditions, music and language. At the Virtuoso-preferred Lodge & Cloister at Sea Island, you’ll be in the heart of the barrier islands.

From Charleston or Sea Island, you’re in prime position to journey to Savannah, the first capital of Georgia and a storybook city that reflects its 18th-century beginnings in every square, street and cemetery. One thing that’s quite modern about Savannah is its arts scene, and you’ll find some of the best works among the collection at Virtuoso-preferred Perry Lane Hotel.

The southernmost of the Sea Islands, Amelia Island has seen eight flags fly over its pristine beaches and hiking trails. Arts lovers will not be disappointed here, either, as the island is home to annual jazz, blues, chamber music and film festivals. It’s also just over an hour to St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in what is now the U.S., founded in 1565. Whatever your interests, you can rest easy laying your head at the Virtuoso-preferred Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

The Lowcountry and Sea Islands offer a journey that both preserves hundreds of years of history and carves a path to the future of cuisine and culture, right here in the U.S.

Travel Dreaming in Tahiti: Q&A with Liz Coleman, Paul Gauguin Cruises

Is crystal clear blue waters, private beaches, cultural immersion and isolated islands on your list? If so, Paul Gauguin Cruises is a great fit for you.

Here I am with Liz Coleman, Director of Sales for Paul Gauguin cruises. Paul Gauguin is a luxury cruise company that sails in Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific. In 2019, they joined the Ponant family, a world leader in small ship cruising. We speak about their most popular itinerary, cultural experiences to be had, what makes them special and Virtuoso amenities given when booking with me.

For any questions and or to start planning your French Polynesia dream trip, please contact Stefany at: info@dmctraveltailor.com and or stefany@largaytravel.com. To watch other travel dreaming Q&A’s with our partners, click here:

With passion and adventure,

Stefany

Travel Dreaming with Tauck

Would you like to see the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives Building in Washington DC without crowds? Or how about an evening with dinner and music in a private palace in Vienna? If so, these are just two of the many exclusive experiences Tauck offers on their trips.

Here I am with Lora Shapiro, National Account Manager at Tauck. Tauck is a family owned company that does escorted tours all around the world. They have land and family journeys and river and small ship cruising. In this presentation, Lora tells us the fascinating Tauck story, their popular destinations, Tauck exclusive experiences and their partnership with Ken Burns, American filmmaker.

I love their philosophy of doing what is right and delivering more than what is expected. If you have any questions on Tauck tours, contact me at: info@dmctraveltailor.com and or stefany@largaytravel.com. You can find other travel dreaming Q&A’s with our preferred partners here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQYfI9WNWYqPEUHjo8u2iaMHXCt9VZFip

With passion and adventure,

Stefany

The Great American Getaway

The great American road trip is back. It’s returning with some 21st century style. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open, and so is the southern half of Yellowstone. Slowly but surely, places around are opening up and we’re emerging from our homes and ready to hit the road. You might still be wary of hopping on a plane or staying in a big city. We get that. That’s why the first step in our Great American Getaway is all about getting away from it all.

RVs

The mere mention of the term RV might conjure up images of Cousin Eddie emptying the septic tank in “Christmas Vacation,” but the RVs of today are well-furnished, clean and equipped with all the technology you need to make for a smooth family road trip. There’s a range of luxury RVs that accommodate varying budgets. Partners of ours such as Abercrombie & Kent and American Excursionist offer RV packages that fit your style. There are options for self-drive or with a driver, and you can spend every night on the RV and or retire to a nice lodge for the night while the driver takes care of the vehicle.

It’s easy to practice social distancing in an RV while carving out some quality family or couple time away from home. You don’t have to worry about constant unpacking and repacking, and you can be close to the outdoors action without having to worry about the lack of nearby accommodations. Of course, you can’t just park anywhere you want for the night. That’s where a well-crafted itinerary planned out with your travel advisor comes in.

Sensing “a nostalgic craving for the American road trip,” as U.S. operations manager Kirk Reynolds put it, A&K has developed local and regional itineraries of six to eight nights highlighting national parks, the Rockies and Texas to name a few. Excursionist also offers national parks itineraries in the West and from the Berkshires to Acadia. You can even get your kicks on Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, or in Canada when the time comes.

Villas, Cabins & Condos

No matter what part of the country you live in, our partners offer freestanding structures for those not quite sure about jumping back into a high-rise hotel just yet. There are many options that are part of a resort and come with all the attendant amenities, such as Stone Water Cove on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks, any number of places in Napa Valley or the Ocean House in Rhode Island.

For those who want even more space, Villas of Distinction is expanding its domestic collection to add more private homes in Colorado and Utah, Southern California (Palm Springs, La Jolla and L.A.). From Montana to Miami — and Singer Island and Orlando —they are adding or expanding their inventory. Hilton Head bookings are available immediately, and they’re also looking to add places in destinations such as Nashville, Charleston, Savannah and Martha’s Vineyard. Each home or condo comes with an updated guideline for cleanliness that owners must follow in addition to Villas of Distinctions already rigorous vetting process. They are also looking into modifying cancellation policies in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence.

Glamping

Nothing says back to nature like sleeping under the stars. Pitching a tent in the backyard and dragging out a couple of sleeping bags probably doesn’t cut it anymore after weeks stuck at home. With glamping, you can sleep in a cozy bed with a fire going in a semi-permanent tent complete with a private bathroom and shower. Instead of your back porch, you have the glory of a national park or another part of the great outdoors to explore with companies such as Excursionist and Under Canvas. There’s a kitchen serving up gourmet fare and S’more making around the campfire at night.

You can take private guided excursions during the day, including some awe-inspiring experiences such as lunch on the rim of the Grand Canyon after a morning of hiking, or riding a zipline through the canopy of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Whichever option you choose, let’s rediscover America this summer!

The Importance of Wellness

Wellness is about so much more than a trip to the spa. As we emerge from our shelters and begin traveling again, we will all have some feelings to work through after such a profound change to outlook and way of life. As part of our Travel Dreaming series, Largay president Amanda Klimak spoke with Dora Karanikas of Hidden Doorways, Rebecca Soloff of Six Senses and Janine Cifelli of Janine Cifelli Representation about the comprehensive wellness programs offered at destinations they represent.

“It’s about well-being. It’s about the mind, the body and the spirit, not just about the spa and getting a massage in a beautiful spot–which we do believe in,” Soloff said, explaining the Six Senses ethos. “We believe it’s much more than that.”

Each visit to a Six Senses property is an immersive experience that focuses on the totality of a person. For example, if you’re having trouble with sleep, as many of us have been during self-isolation measures, Six Senses can do a sleep analysis and assessment at many of its resorts. While you can’t travel there now, the At Home with Six Senses program offers live meditation and yoga, cooking classes utilizing Eat With Six Senses philosophy and tips for staying connected with other people.

Cifelli represents JL Bar Ranch in Texas’ Hill Country, which is scheduled to reopen May 20. The horse program there helps visitors find a peace within themselves.

“Horses in general are a direct reflection of you,” she related. “If you’re a mess, the horse is a mess.” If you’re trying to mount a horse and you’re tense, the horse senses that and tenses up as well. So, in earning the horse’s trust, you have to find a place of calm in your own mind. That ability to achieve that inner peace carries forward long after you leave the ranch.

At Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, there is no cell service, so those of who can’t put our phones down are forced to let go and enjoy their surroundings. Don’t worry, you can still make calls over the internet in case of emergencies, but otherwise you’ll be too busy immersing yourself in wilderness.

“We can take the most Type A personality and actually calm them down,” Cifelli said. “It’s a very spiritual experience.”

In their efforts to redefine wellness, Chablé Maroma and Chablé Resort in Mexico’s Yucatan provide temazcal ceremonies with shamans. “Everyone who’s ever done it comes out totally changed,” after two hours of steam and gratitude, Karanikas said.

The physical experience of wellness is very much tied in with the culture of the destination, making each experience unique. Meanwhile, it’s your vacation, so do wellness your way. If that means relaxing with a cocktail, so be it. At BodyHoliday in St. Lucia, there are dozens of options for classes and treatments, but there’s also no pressure to take part in any of them. That’s one of the qualities that makes it a great place to get into wellness travel, and with Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.

“Wellness is what you make of it,” Karanikas said. “So many people have turned to focusing on themselves and their wellness at home. Know that you can take that with you when you travel if you want to.”

These destinations offer flexible change and cancellation policies, so you can plan your wellness getaway with the peace of mind knowing you won’t be on the hook if the pandemic wreaks more havoc on plans.

“Our health, both physical and mental, is everything,” Klimak said. “Without our health we have nothing.”