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Grand Residences welcomes new chef Guido de la Mora

We have some Grand Residences dining news for you this month. Chef Yann Cozic has decided to return to France to pursue his dream of opening a bistro in his hometown Le Mans. Chef Cozic has been with us since the beginning at Grand Residences and presided over the opening of our three restaurants. We are sad to see him go and we are sure that you will want to join us in wishing him bon voyage and every success for the future.

We want to introduce you to your new chef Guido de la Mora. We are excited to welcome him to the Grand Residences family and are sure that he will delight you with his sublime flavors and attention to detail.

Originally from Toluca, State of Mexico, Chef de la Mora studied a degree in Ethnomusicology at the National School of Music before deciding to concentrate on his first passion: cuisine. He studied a two-year Diploma in Culinary Arts at the University of the State of Mexico and followed that with master class courses in vanguard cuisine and molecular cuisine at Michelin star restaurants in Spain, and in Mexican and Thai cuisine.

Chef de la Mora’s career has taken him all over the world and he has worked at top restaurants and luxury hotels in Barcelona, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Curaçao, Miami, Kuwait, Qatar and the Riviera Maya, Mexico. Additionally, he has travelled to France, India, Thailand and Philippines to study different cuisines and to California for wines.

He is a senior member of the Emirates Culinary Guild (Dubai) and a member of Les Toques Blanches Association. He was the runner up in the Dish of the Riviera Maya competition in Cancun and the Cornella Gastronomic Contest in Spain. He has also been a judge and exhibitor in cooking competitions held at universities in Cancun, Riviera Maya and Bridgetown, Barbados.

Stay posted for an interview with Chef Guido de la Mora in the next edition of this newsletter.

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Turtle Season 2018

Our turtle guardians report that there are currently 22 nests in the Grand Residences corral, 15 contain eggs laid by green turtles and seven by loggerhead turtles. To date, 432 baby turtles have been released.

It is a slow nesting season in Cancun too; there are 125 nests in the corrals at The Royal Sands, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander with 15,141 eggs. The first 973 baby turtles of the season have already been freed.

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Viva Mexico! Independence Day 2018

If you are staying with us this month, we hope that you’ll join us on September 15, the eve of Mexican Independence to raise your glass in a toast to celebrate this beautiful country and its people.

Dine on tasty traditional Independence Night dishes. Sip premium tequila, a margarita or ask the sommelier to recommend a Mexican wine, there are some excellent ones to try. Listen to Mexican melodies and end the evening with the El Grito, the rallying cry “Viva Mexico.” 

Festive Mexican dishes to try this month

Here are some Mexican dishes that feature on Independence Night menus throughout the country and that you’ll want to try this month.

Chiles en Nogada

On the menu at Flor de Canela this month, Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce) is the Independence Day dish par excellence.

Chiles en Nogada dates from 1821 and was created by the nuns of Santa Monica Convent in Puebla for a banquet to honor General Agustín de Iturbide who was visiting the city after signing the Treaty of Córdoba, the agreement that gave Mexico its Independence from Spain. The recipe is based on Poblano chilies that are stuffed with a tasty mix of ground pork and beef, assorted dried fruit, spices, garlic and onion. The chilies are topped with a creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, coriander and parsley, the colors of the Mexican flag, red, white and green.

Pozole

Mexico’s most famous traditional broth is another Independence night favorite. Choose between pozole rojo, verde or blanco with pork or chicken and hominy. The rojo or red variety is flavored with dried guajillo or ancho chilies and comes from Jalisco. The state of Guerrero is famous for verde or green pozole, made with jalapeño and poblano chilies, green tomatillos and coriander, and also for blanco or white pozole, which is the simple broth with meat and hominy.

Once your bowl of broth is served, you help yourself to the classic pozole garnishes: sliced radishes and lettuce, chopped onion, coriander, dried oregano, tostadas and chili.

Tacos

Be sure to dine on tacos this month. On Taco Tuesday in Flor de Canela you can choose your favorite ingredients from a mouthwatering selection that includes tender beef, pastor-style pork, cochinita pibil, chicken, fish, shrimp, cheese and vegetable fillings. Drizzle your tacos with chili sauce – check the heat factor with your waiter – and add a generous helping of guacamole and you are ready to tuck in.

Tamales

Tamales date from pre-Hispanic times and are dumplings made from masa or corn dough and stuffed with shredded chicken, pork, beef, mole, cheese and chili slices or even fruit and honey. The dumplings are then wrapped in banana or palm leaves or corn husks and are steamed or baked. The leaf wrapping and cooking method used varies from region to region. In the Yucatán, tamales are served with a chilmole tomato sauce.

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September Spa Relaxation

After the stress of summer in the city you’ll be looking forward to a well-earned break at Grand Residences. Check into the Spa for some luxury pampering and your favourite massage. After a delightfully fragrant herbal facial and a body wrap to cleanse and tone your skin and ease away your cares, you’ll be relaxed and ready to enjoy your Mexican Caribbean vacation.

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Every picture tells a story

This month we celebrate the beauty of the Yucatan, its landscapes and wildlife, ancient temples and colonial masterpieces, colorful traditional fiestas and vibrant folk culture.

If you have a picture of a special place in the Yucatan, Puerto Morelos and Grand Residences or a vacation story that you would like to share with us, drop us a line. Send us your pictures to memories@royalresorts.com. A selection of the photos we receive will be published in this newsletter.

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Mayan masterpieces

Triangles of light and shadow spread down the side of the ancient Pyramid of Kukulcan as the sun sets over Chichen Itza. A giant serpent appears to be descending from the heavens. It is the fall Equinox and the god Kukulcan is returning to earth. This is the spectacle that visitors to the Mayan metropolis of Chichen Itza in eastern Yucatan will witness on September 22 as they explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, everywhere you go in the Yucatan and southeast Mexico Mayan masterpieces await in ancient cities, large and small. Why not explore some of them on your next visit?

Yucatan

Uxmal

An hour’s drive south of Mérida, Uxmal is one of the loveliest ancient cities in the Maya World. During the Late Classic period (A.D. 600-900), it was a regional capital, controlling southwest Yucatán and a chain of smaller cities referred to as the Puuc Route: Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labná.

Apart from location, these sites share a unique architectural and artistic style called Puuc. In recognition of their outstanding cultural worth, UNESCO declared them a World Heritage area in 1996.

Highlights at Uxmal are the Magician’s Pyramid, the Nuns’ Quadrangle, a gracious courtyard surrounded by four palace-like buildings with magnificent friezes and the impressive Palace of the Governor on a mound and platform overlooking the site. Other buildings of note are the Temple of the Birds, the Great Pyramid, The House of the Turtles and El Palomar.

 

Puuc Route

Thirty minutes south of Uxmal, Kabah is the second largest site in the Puuc hills and was one of its vassals. It is famous for the Codz Poop, or the Palace of the Masks, a name that does justice to its magnificent façade consisting of 250 masks depicting Chaac, the Mayan rain god.

Seven kilometers south of Kabah is Sayil, which means “place of the ants” in Maya. The principal building on site is the three-tiered Palace, a long building containing 94 chambers, porticos, columns, Chaac masks and sculptures of the descending or diving god, also seen in Tulum on the Caribbean coast.

The smallest of the Puuc Route sites, Xlapak is best known for the Palace, a tiny but richly carved building in a forest clearing.

Ten kilometers to the east of Sayil, Labna is famous for its huge arch, which was the gateway between the ceremonial plaza and a courtyard surrounded by palaces in ancient times. The arch has an open work roof comb and its finely carved façade features Chaac masks, Mayan huts, nobles and geometric motifs.

 

Mayapan

Located 30 miles south of Merida, Mayapan was the last capital of the Maya in the Yucatan. Founded around A.D. 1250 during the post-Classic period of Mayan civilization, it was abandoned in 1450. Several of Mayapan’s most important buildings show similarities to those at Chichen Itza, leading archaeologists to speculate that it was settled by Maya from Chichen, which was abandoned around 1250.

 

Ek Balam

A 20-minute drive to the north of Valladolid is the ancient city of Ek Balam, which means “black jaguar or star jaguar” in Maya. The city flourished between A.D. 250-1200 and its crowning glory is the façade on the upper level of the Acropolis, the principal building, which features the magnificent stucco figure of an ancient lord thought to be the first ruler of the city. The figure’s ornate feathered headdress resembles wings and has led many people to refer to him as “el angel” or the angel.

Quintana Roo

Tulum

Crowning a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, Tulum is one of the Maya World’s most spectacular sites. “Tulum” means “wall” in Maya, a reference to the sturdy stone barrier that protects it on three sides, the fourth being the sea, but in ancient times the city was known as Zama or Dawn.

An inscription on a stela or standing stone found at the site reveals that Tulum was inhabited as far back as A.D. 564 although it reached its peak during the Post-Classic period (1250–1521) as a port on the sea and land trade routes.

The principal building at Tulum is a temple known as El Castillo; other important groupings are the Temple of the Descending God, Temple of the Frescos and the House of the Columns.

 

Coba

From Tulum on the Riviera Maya coast, head inland to the ancient city of Coba (25 miles/41 km from the coast), one of the Maya World’s largest archaeological sites.

Coba means “waters ruffled by the wind” in Maya and the pyramids and temples at this jungle site are clustered around four shallow lakes. The city reached its peak during the Mayan Classic period, A.D. 250-900, when it was an important trade center. Archaeologists believe that it may have had links with Tikal in Guatemala. The most recent discovery at the site is the identification of the ancient dynasty that dominated Coba and the names of 14 rulers through the study of hieroglyphic inscriptions carved on stelae and wall tablets.

The principal buildings or groups at Coba are Nohoch Mul, at 42 meters, the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatán, the Cobá group, La Iglesia (another pyramid), Las Pinturas, the Ball Court, Xaibe and the Macanxoc group which has nine circular altars and eight stelae.

Cobá is also famous for the sacbes or Mayan roads that radiate from the heart of the city. The longest sacbe in the Maya World links the city with the site of Yaxuná, near Chichén Itzá and is 101 km long.

 

Kohunlich

The most famous archaeological site in southern Quintana Roo, 60 kilometers to the west of Chetumal via Highway 186, Kohunlich was first reported in 1912 by Raymond Merwin. The name “Kohunlich” is derived from the English words “cohune,” a native palm tree, and “ridge.”

Excavation work has revealed that the city was founded around 200 B.C. and reached its peak during the Classic period of Mayan history (A.D. 200 – 1000). Building work appears to have ceased around 1200.

Kohunlich is famous for the huge stucco masks that flank the staircase of the Temple of the Masks. Archaeologists believe that they depict the city’s rulers who chose to identify themselves with the sun god, Kinich Ahau, to legitimize their rule. Other important groups of buildings are the Acropolis, the Courtyard of the Stelae, the Palace of the King, Merwin Plaza and the elite residential areas known as the 27 Steps Complex and Pixa’an.

 

Dzibanche

Located in the jungle 81 kilometers northwest of Chetumal via Highway 186, Dzibanche is an ancient city that is still revealing its secrets. Discovered in 1927 by Thomas Gann, Dzibanche means “writing on wood” in Maya, a reference to the calendar inscriptions found on the carved lintel of zapote wood above the doorway to Temple VI.

Experts believe that Dzibanche was the largest and most important city in southern Quintana Roo in ancient times and may have been involved in a power struggle with other city-states in the region such as Calakmul in Campeche. The city reached its peak between A.D. 300 and 1200.

The most important groups of buildings are the Temple of the Lintels; the Gann Plaza, which is flanked by the Temples of the Cormorants, Captives and Toucans; Xibalba Plaza, the site of the Temple of the Owl and the North and South Palaces.

An outlying district of the city, Kinichna (“House of the Sun” in Maya) is located about two kilometers north of Dzibanche and is dominated by a temple called the Acropolis

 

Campeche

Calakmul

Deep in the jungle of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in southern Campeche, close to the Guatemalan border, the ancient city of Calakmul was a major Maya power in the Classic period of Maya history. Its rulers had a bitter rivalry with the city of Tikal and were at war with it for almost a century. The study of hieroglyphic inscriptions carved on Calakmul’s many stelae or standing stones has revealed events including battles, victories, alliances and successions.

Climb the twin pyramids for panoramic views of the forest with the Danta Pyramid at the Guatemalan site of El Mirador visible in the distance.

The huge site of Calakmul is also famous for the jade masks found in the tombs of ancient rulers buried deep in temples and palaces.

Calakmul is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the surrounding jungle is a haven for wildlife, including spider and howler monkeys, deer, jaguar and puma, ocellated turkey, toucans and the rare king vulture.

Due to its remote location, guided tours are the best way to explore Calakmul.

 

Chiapas

Palenque

Nestled in the forest-shrouded foothills of the northern mountains of Chiapas, the white city of Palenque is one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the Maya World.

A major power during the Classic period of Maya history, it reached its peak during the reign of its most famous ruler Pakal (AD 615-683) and his heir Chan B’ahlum. Carved wall panels, bas-reliefs, masks and memorial tablets have provided archaeologists with a wealth of information about their deeds, the city’s history and the Maya universe.

In 1952, archaeologists working at the site announced a major discovery, the tomb of Pakal deep in the heart of the Temple of Inscriptions. The carved lid of the sarcophagus can still be viewed today in the burial chamber. In 1994, another amazing find made the headlines, the tomb of a woman with a burial mask and a hoard of jade covered in cinnabar dust in Temple XIII, next to the Temple of Inscriptions. The Red Queen as she is known is thought to be Tz’ak-b’u Ajaw, the wife of Pakal.

Other important buildings in Palenque include the Palace with its distinctive tower and a courtyard with tablets depicting captive rulers, the Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Foliated Cross, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Skull and Temple of the Count.

Jungle paths take visitors through the archaeological site and the trees echo with the cries of howler monkeys and the squawks of parrots.

Flights are available to Palenque and to Villahermosa from Cancun. The nearby village of Palenque is a good base for exploring the area and sites of interest such as Agua Azul and Misol Ha waterfalls and the archaeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak in the Lacandon Jungle.

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Cancun Airport News

Cancun International Airport continues to grow with the planned construction of a fifth terminal as part of its development project for the next six years. Building is slated to begin in 2019. The new facility would enable the airport to handle an additional nine million passengers each year.

In more airline news, Frontier Airlines has announced a new flight to Cancun from Raleigh, North Carolina, starting mid-November and operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

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Train travel may be coming to the Maya World

Mexican President elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently announced a number of national development projects, including the Tren Maya, a railway that would link parts of southeast Mexico and enable tourists to discover some of the Maya World’s most important archaeological sites.

The proposed route includes Cancun and Tulum and continues south to Bacalar before turning westward to Xpujil, the stopping off point for Calakmul, Becan, Chicanna and other archaeological sites in southern Campeche. It would then continue west to Palenque in Chiapas and complete the circuit passing through Tabasco and Campeche to Merida and Valladolid, Yucatan. In the Yucatan it would follow a pre-existing rail route from Palenque to Valladolid.

A Tren Maya project linking Merida with Cancun and Playa del Carmen had been discussed by the previous administration but the new proposal is much larger and would spread the economic benefits of tourism to areas that have been off the beaten track to all but a few visitors.

The railway would carry passengers and cargo and the definitive route and financing are still under discussion. If it goes ahead, the project would take about four years to complete.

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Seaweed Update

It is natural for seaweed to wash up on the beach from season to season, after storms and in the summer heat. However, this summer large quantities of two species of seaweed known as Gulfweed or Sargassum (Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans) are coming ashore from time to time in the Riviera Maya, Cancun and other parts of the Mexican Caribbean. These landings occur periodically, the amount of seaweed varies and not all beaches are affected.

Similar landings are occurring in the Caribbean islands and along the Gulf coast of the United States, including Florida.

Based on the recommendations of marine scientists, the authorities are now implementing a second phase of the program to prevent the sargassum from coming ashore by installing barriers in the sea. The first barrier has already been installed in the Punta Nizuc area and will be followed by additional barriers in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Mahahual and Puerto Morelos.

The barriers are anchored to the seabed but float on the surface of the water perpendicular to the coast. Each one is 30 meters long and they can be connected to form a chain two kilometers long. They will be located in areas where sargassum landings are the most frequent, taking into account the circulation of ocean currents and wind direction. They do not trap the sargassum but are designed to deflect it so that the currents move it away from the shoreline. The authorities expect that the amount of seaweed reaching the coast will be significantly reduced.

The barriers will not impede the movement of marine creatures nor trap them. Similarly, they will not affect coral reefs or the sea grass beds and they can be dismantled at the end of the season.

Specially equipped vessels will also be used in the future to collect patches of seaweed before they make landfall.

Beach cleaning brigades dispose of the seaweed that comes ashore on public beaches and hotels and resorts have their own cleaning programs.

In September and October, water temperatures begin to fall with the approach of cooler weather and periodic cold fronts (nortes) and the amount of sargassum is expected to decline.

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EVENTS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA & YUCATAN

Mexican Independence, September 15 &16

Mexico celebrates the anniversary of its Independence from Spain with delicious food, music and colorful festivities the night of September 15 and processions on September 16.

Equinox at Chichen Itza, September 22

The light and shadow serpent that appears on the Pyramid of Kukulcan in the Great Plaza at Chichen Itza as the sun goes down on the Equinox, September 22, is also visible the day before and the day after (cloud cover permitting).

Merida Restaurant Week, Merida, September 24-30

300 of the city’s restaurants are participating in this annual event offering set menus for a special rate.

Fiesta del Cristo de Las Ampollas, September 27, Merida

The patron saint of Merida is honored with masses, pilgrimages, processions and traditional dances.

10th Bird Festival, Cozumel, October 12- 14

Bird watching tours, conferences, environmental education workshops and the 2nd National Meeting of Coordinators of the CONABIO Urban Bird Program

6th Cancun International Festival of Music, Cancun, October 18 to 27

More than 300 musicians of 12 nationalities will take to the stage during the festival. Different musical genres and venues.

Festival de Vida y Muerte, Xcaret Park, October 30 – November 2

Hosted by Xcaret Park, the Festival of Life and Death Traditions showcases one of Mexico’s richest and most colorful customs, the Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos, which takes place on November 1 and 2. At this time of year, Mexicans believe that the souls of the departed come back to the world of the living for a short time. They welcome their loved ones with altars laden with flowers, food, treasured possessions and other offerings, and with candlelit vigils, masses and serenades.

The Festival program features processions, altars, traditional cuisine, art exhibits, music, dance, theater, children’s events and a visit to the colorful Mexican cemetery. Each year, a different Mexican state is invited to participate in the Festival and showcase its Day of the Dead traditions and this year it is the turn of Zacatecas. Located in the northern uplands, Zacatecas is a state rich in history.

OHL Classic at Mayakoba, PGA golf in the Riviera Maya, November 5 -11, 2018

A field of players that includes some of the PGA’s leading young players and former champions gathers for the OHL Classic at El Camaleón Golf Club in Mayakoba.

10th Xel-Ha Triathlon, Xel-Ha, November 17-18

Over 2,000 triathletes are expected to compete in this year’s Xel-Ha Triathlon. The money raised from this event is donated to Flora, Fauna y Cultura de Mexico, A.C. to support conservation projects.

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, Playa del Carmen, November 29 – December 1, 2018

Playa Mamitas in Playa del Carmen will be the venue for one of the year’s most popular events, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival. The festival program has yet to be announced.