Like most Americans, I was mortified by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. My stomach turned when I viewed the underwater photos of oil gushing from the breached well and I felt helpless, wishing I could help in some way but knowing there probably wasn’t anything I could do. Then, a few weeks ago, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism invited me to visit the area as part of their first ever press tour. Since I had long wanted to check out this part of the country I jumped at the chance, but I was anxious about what I would find, given the devastating images of destroyed marshes and glops of oil floating atop beds of sea grass that had been continuously flashed across the TV screen. To my great delight, I found stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear water. I also found a community that, from the very first day oil showed up on the beaches, made a commitment to tell the truth, believing it would be far better for visitors to be aware of the situation before arriving.
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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are dependent upon tourism and fishing, thus their economies have taken a double whammy during this disaster, since large portions of the Gulf were closed until recently and local fishermen missed the first part of the shrimping season this year. Fortunately, the fishing grounds have Continue reading
On the spur of the moment I decided to hop on a bus to Tlacotalpan, a small fishing village about three hours south of Veracruz that is another UNESCO World heritage Site. Although the bus was not crowded I ended up sitting next to a young man named Miguel Angel Lopez who was returning to work after a long Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend. Miguel, who turned out to be the town judge in Tlacotalpan, spent the entire bus ride telling me about his adopted town and Mexican culture in general. Upon arrival I expected we would go our separate ways, but in the tradition of courtesy so prevalent around Mexico he invited me to walk with him to his office, where I met his secretary and we chatted some more. Half an hour later, as I was again making a departure, Miguel invited me to meet him for coffee at 9 p.m. that evening. I gratefully accepted and we talked until long after midnight, him teaching me about the area and me teaching him how to say English words that begin with the letter ‘y.’
“Como se dice esta palabra?” (How do you say this word?) he asked, writing out the word ‘yes’ on a piece of paper.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Jes,” he repeated.
“No. There is no ‘j’ at the beginning. It is pronounced yes.”
“Jes,” he tried again.
In Mexico the letter ‘y’ is pronounced with a ‘j’ sound in front of it and I quickly realized I would have to approach this from a different direction. I said both words to myself – yes and jes – and noted that my tongue was at the bottom of my mouth behind my teeth, when I used the English pronunciation, but was at the top of my mouth when I said ‘jes.’ And so began an evening of hysterical laughter as I instructed him where to hold his tongue, complete with open-mouth demonstrations, in order to get the English version to sound correct. Miguel did finally get the ‘y’ sound down pat, and in return he walked me through the tongue twisting name of his town (pronounced Tla coh TAHL pahn), which I didn’t fully grasp until a couple of days later, and told me everything I needed to see while I was there.
Armed with this information, the next morning I set out to explore. Tlacotalpan is renowned for its neo-classic buildings, most of which have front porticoes supported by columns or pillars that have been painted lime green, pale pink, sky blue, bright orange, deep rose, burnished gold, lavender, purple, turquoise, and yellow. I wandered the cobblestone streets, enjoying this Continue reading
I stepped from my casita and looked up into a night sky exploding with stars. They swirled and throbbed, so bright that I needed no flashlight to find my way. On the western horizon, Orion’s bow pointed me toward the open-air restaurant at Rancho Pescadero, while the Big Dipper hung low in the eastern sky. Even shy little Pleiades came out to gaze upon this amazing new resort near Todos Santos in Baja California, Mexico.
As a hosted guest of Rancho Pescadero Resort during a press trip, I expected the resort management to make every effort to welcome and impress me, but I did not expect to become a part of their family. From the moment I arrived everyone – from resort managers, Josh and Christine; to Danny the bartender; to Carla in the front office; to the night watchman, Angel; right down to the owner, Lisa Harper and her partner, George Lilinoe – adopted me. While I’d like to think that had something to do with my charming personality and wit, I must confess that during my stay, every guest received the same care and attention and this may be why, with only four months under their belt, the resort is already receiving repeat guests.
If a caring staff is not enough to entice you to visit Rancho Pescadero, the facilities will win you over. From the central reception and open-air restaurant, guests descend to suites, which arc toward a pommeling ocean in a sweeping semi-circle that enfolds a poolside bar, whirlpool spa, and gorgeous pool with floating beds. By day, sand paths lead over a low dune past tall cactus to miles of pristine, windswept beach, where long walks, fishing, or surfing are the order of the day. Not into physical activity? Luxuriate in one of the resort’s dunetop beach beds, roofed wood frames with a mattress and curtains that can be drawn if the sun gets too intense, or make an appointment for a treatment at the oceanfront spa cottage. After dark, barrel chairs surrounding a firepit encourage flame gazing or more star gazing. Continue reading