Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Join me next February for an adventure to Chiapas, The Magic of the Maya World

This last February I lead a tour to a glorious old, old part of Mexico in the southern state of Chiapas.  We experienced its ancient Maya monuments and temples, visited with its warm and friendly people and saw firsthand the incredible work these artisans create.  It was such a memorable trip.  One lady friend, who has been on all of my Mexico tours, sent me the nicest note in which she wrote, "I can't thank you enough for planning the 'Grande Adventure' trip to Chiapas.  I can't think of anything I would have changed.  It was one of the best so far!"  I had hired a wonderful driver with a spacious Sprinter van and a very knowledgeable historian who was our guide the entire trip.  Not only was our guide extremely knowledgeable, she was such a pleasure to be with.  I could not have had a better crew.

It was such a great trip and so different than my other Mexican tours, that I have decided to lead another tour to Chiapas.  The Magic of the Maya World journey is set for February 8 - 16, 2018.  This time, I have added another day in San Cristobal de Las Casa.  You'll be gone 9 days which includes travel.  Below are just some of the highlights of the upcoming trip!
 The first night will be spent at a quaint hotel right in Chiapa de Corzo.  (See my post dated April 20, 2017 to read about the town's square and history)
The next morning will will visit the pristine plaza before heading down to the river
where we will visit one of Chiapa's most impressive natural wonders when we  take a boat trip up the Grijalva River.  The river winds through the Canon de Sumidero whose limestone walls reach a kilometer high in some places.  A haven for all kinds of birds and Spider monkeys.  (See my post dated June 28, 2016 on more photos of the Canon)
We'll spend three nights in San Cristobal de Las Casa which was founded in 1528 and is full of historic churches, museums and old architecture.  There is a large artisan market right next to the Santo Domingo church.
Chiapas is known for its textiles; huipiles, rebozas, blankets, purses, table runners...  You will find the creative pottery from Amantenanga del Valle.  The area is famous for its amber and we will visit one of the best amber jewelry stores in town.
A visit to the beautiful Ex-convento de Santo Domingo which is home to the Museo de los Altos.  There is a phenomenal Maya textile collection located on the second floor.  The main floor showcases Pre-Colombian textiles and carvings, paintings and religious artifacts from the Spanish conquistadors along with displays giving an overview of the diverse indigenous groups in the region. 
An example of the colorful architecture in San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Calle de Guadalupe in the historic center of San Cristobal de Las Casas is one of the pedestrian streets, lined with quaint restaurants, galleries and shops.
A side trip from San Cristobal de Las Casas will take us north to San Juan Chamula in the Highlands.  One of the most interesting churches with an interior that is like no other in Mexico.  (see my post dated April 28,2016).
I have specifically planned the itinerary on these dates so we will be in San Juan Chamula during Carnival.  Carnival is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration  before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnival is celebrated exuberantly with parades, costumes, music and dancing in the streets.

It is an exciting time during Carnival and something one should not miss.
A visit to the colorful Sunday market in the Highland's village of Zinacantan.
The church in Zinacantan was beautifully decorated with flowers grown nearby (a big industry in this area). 
Each Chiapas highland village has their own unique attire, hand-woven that is embellished with a cross-stitch or embroidery.  The embroidered shawls worn by the women of Zinacantan were just exquisite.  (See my post dated February 26, 2016 for more photos and information about Zinacantan).
As we leave San Cristobal de las Casas, we will travel through gorgeous countryside on the way to the jungle setting of Palenque.
We will spend the morning in Tonina, one of the best Maya archaeological sites that sees very little visitors.  This ball court is one of the Maya's largest, almost 200 feet long and unique with it's sunken construction.
Tonina (Tzetltal Mayan for House of Stone) is believed to be the last major city to succumb to the abrupt collapse that hit the Maya in the 9th century.
The view from the top with the spectacular view of the valley.  After all the climbing, we relaxed over a picnic lunch and an ice cold beer at the site.
Two nights will be spent at the Chan-Kah Resort.  Set in a manicured jungle setting, you will have your own casita while enjoying the huge main pool and the open-air restaurant with a wonderful view.
The Palenque ruins are the crown jewel of the archaeological sites not only in Chiapas but in the entire Maya empire.   
There is a sense of sophistication about Palenque. (For more information on Palenque, check my posts out on my Blog:  August 28, 2016, March 21, 2017 and March 31, 2017.)
After touring the ruins, we will visit the fabulous museum where you will see many pieces that are almost perfectly preserved.
Part of the fun getting to the ruins of Yaxchilan is the smooth, the 45-minute boat ride down the Usumacinta River which divides Mexico and Guatemala.  The scenery is magnificent and you may spot a Howler monkey up in a riverside tree.
Yaxchilan, an ancient city overlooking the Osumacinta River, has a magical feel to it.  The setting was just enchanting, as were the ruins.
Bonampak is a modest archaeological sight in comparison to the others, but it has some of the best Maya murals ever discovered.   The brightly colored frescoes are amazing.  One shows a fierce jungle battle scene where another shows the crowning of a boy king.

I could go on and on about the wonderful adventures in this unique part of Mexico.  
If you are interested in joining me, please send me an email with your address and 
I will send you the detailed itinerary along with pricing. 
Saludos,
Robin 

robindsg@aol.com

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Dad turned 95 over the weekend

Friday my Dad, Bob or RAM, had his 95th birthday.  My brother, Carter, called him RAM.  He said he could not go around the office calling him "Dad", so RAM came from his initials.  And it stuck and many to this day still call him RAM.
I had to come up with something special for his big birthday so I went thru a lot of my photos to make a two-sided photo "Birthday Mobile".   The photo above was taken of him at the age of six with his lunch basket.
32 photos hung from ribbons that were attached to a thin bamboo stick that rested on the top of the dining room light fixture.
There was a gap of a few years since many of the photos I shot were slides.
"RAM" in Alaska on a salmon fishing trip with Carter.
In 1948, he put the radio station KBUN on the air in Bemidji, Minnesota and that is where my parents met.  My mom had here first teaching job there, fresh out of school from Miss Woods Teaching College in Minneapolis. They would have breakfast at the same diner and that is when Bob spotted Lorraine.  The rest is history.   They will celebrating their 69th anniversary this June!
His 68th birthday at our first house in San Miguel de Allende.
I found THE perfect cocktail napkin for the occasion, Happy Birthday Handsome!   I had planned a dinner party for Friday and Saturday night.
The first night we had Mushroom Croustades and mixed nuts for appetizers.  Followed by a Caesar salad and a roasted poblano stuffed with shrimp, zucchini, onion and cheese that sat on a roasted tomato, roasted red pepper, cilantro and garlic sauce.
One thing I especially enjoy when entertaining is setting an unusual table.  I  bought these talavera shallow bowls (all with a different scene) in Seville, Spain and I found the vintage linens at an outdoor antique market in Aix de Provence, France.
One of my favorite desserts, Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte, that serves 14 to 16.  You can find this recipe on by post dated August 18, 2016.  The best part of this recipe, besides being sinfully delicious, is that you can make it a week in advance!
My Dad and George have known each other for around 40 years.  Back then, my Dad had the agency, Mullen Advertising and Public Relations in Scottsdale.  George was one of his clients and he created a very successful logo for George's commercial real estate company, Illif Thorn and Co.  Now my parents are living in Denver and George and his wife are here too.  Great stories were told that evening.
Saturday's dinner party, we started with shrimp cakes and a Shiracha mayo sauce and these zucchini roll filled with a herbed goat cheese. 

A different venue for Saturday's table setting...  Mexican plates from Dolores Hidalgo, Mexican wine glasses from San Miguel de Allende, bobble-head horses and cowboys from the Friday market in Patzcuaro, ceramic black and white chickens from Ametenango del Valle in the state of Chiapas and hand-carved wood donkeys from San Miguel.  Pretty festive.
The menu that night was a salad, creamy cornbread cooked in my dad's mother's cast iron skillet right out of the oven and grilled chicken sitting on a bed of julienned, sauteed jicama with a jalapeno vinegar cream sauce.  And of course, the Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte.
Fred and Suzy composed a tremendous two page poem commemorating my dad's life.  Very cleverly written. 
And to top it off , they even made a large poster for him with stickers and such nice praise, "Radio, out doorsman, equestrian, Taurus, Adman, writer, dove hunter, excellence, wit, Mexico, Lorraine, nifty, exceptional, responsible, old school, bone fide, educated, reliable, teddy bear, accomplished, elegant writing, magnificent, unsurpassed, effervescent, nice guy."  Suzy said, that 100 years old will even be better.
It was a great birthday weekend and thank you all for the birthday cards and Facebook greeting!  He loved every minute of it.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tonina, Our first of many Maya ruins that we visited

After leaving San Cristobal de Las Casas, Tonina was our first stop.  Tonina is one of the best Maya archaeological sites that sees very little visitors. We only encountered three other people and they were from Italy. 
Here is Len standing in the ball court with the rest of my group in the background.
Tonina (Tzetltal Mayan for House of Stone) is believed to be the last major city to succumb to the abrupt collapse that hit the Maya in the 9th century.
Tonina's major construction date to the Late Classic period (7 - 9AD), though there is evidence that the area was populated way before that; a stone monument was discovered dated 583AD.  This ball court is one of the Maya's largest, almost 200 feet long and unique with it's sunken construction.
There was a long rivalry between Tonina and Palenque.   This rivalry is even depicted in the ball court with carvings showing images of prisoners.
The other side of the Ball Court.
The Palace of the Underworld is entered via three step-vaulted arches on the eastern side of the second terrace of the Acropolis.
Ingenious architecture on how the cross shaped windows allowed light into the chambers.
Looking out from one of the passage ways.
 

Recent excavations at Tonina by archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have shown the Maya city to be twice as large as predicted, with clearly defined districts, including areas of palaces, temples, housing, and administration.  Originally it had been thought that the Tonina acropolis had been built on a hill, but the excavations have shown that the mound covers a pyramid more than 240 feet tall, with 208 stone steps from its base to its apex. “It’s a big surprise to see that the pyramid was done almost entirely by the architects and therefore is more artificial than natural. This is because it was believed that almost every hill was a natural mound, but recent evidence has revealed that it was almost entirely built by the ancient inhabitants,” said Emiliano Gallaga, director of the site. More than 300 hieroglyphic texts have also been found. Some of them reveal the names of city rulers.

This Stele is very well preserved.
Len in the opening and Greg taking photos.
The stone work is magnificent!

The climb up was steep and thank goodness for our helper!

To give you a little perspective on how high you actually climb, the ball court is marked with a white astrix and the pink one is where I was sitting under the tree.  (Thanks Greg for the photo).

  At the top, this structure is considered one of the tallest buildings of Middle America.

A panoramic shot by Greg.  What a magnificent view.


Another beautifully preserved Stele.
Located on the face of the third terrace of the Palace of Grecas and War is the zizaged cross design said to represent Quetazalcoatl.
The trees were just starting to bloom and leaf out.
The setting could not have been any prettier or tranquil.
The cattle in this area are a cross between a Brahma and Brazilian.
An open air restaurant at the entrance to Tonina is a great place to get an ice cold beer or two.
What a beautiful setting to have our picnic lunch after spending the morning at the ruins.  And what a perfect way to visit our first Maya ruin and practically have the entire site all to ourselves.