Thursday, July 31, 2014

Riviera Cancun's Grand Residences

Balconies, pools and tranquil sea (Photos by Michelle Richmond)

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun,  the Riviera Maya's newest luxury resort opened in December 2013 on a secluded strip of beach midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.
While still a work in progress, it currently boasts 103 lavish suites, three dining venues, four pools, fitness center, spa and convenience store.

With the addition of 100 suites, three themed restaurants and "mega" spa all planned for completion by 2017, this Leading Hotels of the World resort promises to become the darling of the Riviera Maya.The Riviera Maya's newest kid-on-the-block resort opened in December 2013 on a secluded strip of beach midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen Maya with 103 lavish suites. Still a "work in progress," with an additional 100 suites, three themed restaurants and "mega" spa planned by 2017, the resort offers seamless service in a luxurious enclave set along a tranquil slice of beach.

A member of the elite Leading Hotels of the World, the resort adds new meaning to the Mexican adage, "mi casa es su casa," (my home is your home) offering a host of personal touches which encourage a long stay and extended family and friends visits.

On check-in, guests are treated to a refreshing "designer" margarita - which changes daily - along with a good-luck pendant depicting Hanab Ku, a "supreme god" in Maya mythology. Three dining venues offer tasty options.
The posh lobby paves the way to a luxurious stay

El Faro Grill dishes up fresh seafood and prime steaks with a Mediterranean touch, while the Lobby Café and Bar serves as a casual meeting place in which you can grab a cold drink while enjoying live entertainment on weekends. The Heaven Beach Bar specializes in casual beach and poolside snacks along with frosty drinks. Expansion plans include adding a Steakhouse as well as a Mexican and Italian restaurant.

Accommodations offer spacious Junior Suites or one, two or three-bedroom Master Suites (with fully equipped kitchen) as well as two or four bedroom Penthouse suites.
With four pools to choose from (for laps, kids, adults and family), a tranquil sea, soft sandy beach and plenty of water sports and beach games, you'll have plenty to do. The resort also offers a variety of activities and classes including Zumba, Spanish, Salsa, aqua fitness and card games daily.

Sign up at the resort sports desk for bicycles, snorkeling gear, boogie boards, golf clubs and volleyballs. Kayaks and sailboats are also available and the resort offers a catamaran sail one night a week. Golfers can select from 12 area championship golf courses by booking tee times with the Concierge. Tennis players can sign up for a game or lessons on the resort's private courts. 

Children find plenty to do at the Kids Club
Children ages 4 - 12 will find plenty to do in the fully equipped Kid's Club with supervised activities ranging from games, to movies, face painting and crafts - including piñata-making. For teens 13 - 16 there is ping-pong, Xbox, games and more to captivate their attention should they tire of the sun, sand and surf. 

As you would expect in such a luxurious haven catering to creature comforts, a full service spa promises a slate of massages, facials and body wraps. The Maya massage soothes not only the body, but the soul as it opens with a "spiritual cleansing" beginning with the mournful call of the conch shell and a mystical rite involving herbs and special prayers. Experience this special ritual either on the beach or on your terrace for heightened awareness.

Maya therapist prepares for massage

Snacks, drinks and food basics are available at the Gourmet Food Market, the well-stocked Grand Residences convenience store. Pick from a variety of freshly baked goods and deli treats along with fruit and vegetables to have in your guest suite.

You don't have to miss a beat of your daily exercise routine when you're away from home while you're at Grand Residences. Cardio machines (with TV), stair climbers, stationary bikes, elliptical machines and weights will keep you in shape. A personal trainer is also available.

Just as the Brits do, Grand Residences serves an authentic high tea every afternoon from 4 - 5 p.m. on the lobby terrace. It claims to be the only resort in Cancun or the Riviera Maya that honors this charming ritual.

More than having a "spot of tea," this is an event in itself and well worth trying. A variety of teas are brewed at your table, highlighted by typical - and necessary - accompaniments such as scones with clotted cream and jelly, cucumber sandwiches and delicate homemade pastries.
The resort even has a "tea sommelier" who conducts workshops on the delicate art of picking and brewing the perfect tea.
Having tea becomes a true English ritual

If You Go:

For more information about Grand Residences, visit:
For information about the Riviera Maya, visit:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Savvy Shopping, Mexican Style

Colorful bargains can be found everywhere
(Photos by Michelle Richmond)

It's no secret that Mexico is a treasure-trove of colorful handicrafts. What may be a secret is that there is a special technique for walking away with some incredible bargains when visiting South of the Border.

The entire country is a Mecca for shoppers and whether you’re inclined to embark on a shopping spree or not, you may find yourself caught up in a frenzy of buying. Shopping in Mexico is so varied and wonderful that it is virtually impossible for even the most blasé traveler – male or female – to return home empty handed. With this thought in mind, you should take at least one empty suitcase with you when traveling south of the border as temptations can be found at every turn.

In the Beginning…..

Centuries ago the Aztecs established an event, known as Tianguis, which would launch a cultural tradition which lingers to this day throughout Mexico. The happening, meaning “marketplace” in Nahuatl gave birth to a cultural phenomenon which thrives to this day – the art of bargaining.

Open-air markets were set up on different days and in different areas of Tenochtitlán as the ancient capital of Mexico was known, providing locals not only with vegetables and basic foodstuffs, but affording them a social happening.

Legend has it that it was here that marriages were arranged, sacrifices plotted and – best of all – where bargains were struck. Often, goods were merely bartered but when prices were quoted, counter-offers were made and the sport began.
Whether fact or fiction, bargaining (regateo) remains a basic fiber of life today and the very core of their existence. A good rule of thumb is that most handicraft stores (unless government-run) are open to haggling – and markets specializing in handicrafts expect it. Think of it as a quasi-national sport, one Mexicans relish with mucho gusto (much pleasure), so indulge yourself and you’ll walk away richer for the experience.

Following are some tried and true bargaining techniques in Mexican mercados. Find one that works, perfect it – and go for it. Don’t feel guilty. After all, this sport was started by the ancient tribes of Mexico.

v Ask for the price; make a counter offer, acting disinterested. Move slowly away, glancing longingly at the object of your “affection.” When you hear a price you like, start serious negotiations.
v Walk determinedly into the shop, make a quick scan of the merchandise, then do some fast, no nonsense dickering. You’ll get better deals when buying in bulk.
v Clench teeth firmly, pick up the object of your desires, clinging to it tenaciously until you hear a price you like. Keep on countering until you wear the clerk out.
v Looking vaguely bored, ask for the price, giving a disdainful snort when it is quoted. Move slowly out of the shop, hoping the clerk will follow with a better offer. If not, swallow your pride and start from scratch.