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Travel News

By Judy Newell

Mexico Travel News

Why Tulum Is a Travelers Favorite

Tulum, which racked up more than 20 million visits in 2014, is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico for Americans—and that number is expected to increase for 2015. Market Research predicts 4.6 percent growth from tourism arrivals, and claims that tourism will jump to one of Mexico’s top cash sources by 2018.

What is making Tulum one of Mexico’s fastest-growing destinations?

One of the drivers of tourism traffic is its easy-to-reach location. Tulum is a 90-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport. It is also home to some of the world’s most famous Mayan ruins, which attract approximately 1 million visitors per year.

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is another attraction that brings visitors to the shores of Tulum with its wide variety of bird species, rare animals, and protected plants scattered throughout coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, and lagoons.

Watersports are abundant in the area. Tulum is home to the world’s second-largest coral reef, and a colorful variety of sea life occupies the waters of the area, bringing divers and snorkelers eager to swim and explore its depths. In addition to the coral reefs offshore, the area contains a unique 65-million-year-old underground cave system that is enjoyed by cave divers and visitors from around the world.

8th Annual Gourmet Inclusive Awards

El Dorado Royale, a spa resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico, recently hosted the eighth annual Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultant Awards and Sales and Marketing Forum. The resort offers specialized gourmet experiences and recently won an award for Food & Beverage at the International Luxury Hotel Association’s 2015 Guest Experience Awards.

Air News

Fly Away with Your Pampered Pooch

Pampered pooch travel reached a new level when American Airlines introduced its First Class Pet Cabin with the launch of the A321T plane, which flies between Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) to New York (JFK).

The airlines’ standard US$125 carry-on fee can now include a reservation in the First Class Pet Cabin on a first-come, first-serve basis if the dog’s owner is flying in first class, too. The small, ventilated compartment accommodates dogs in their kennels (standard rules apply) for takeoff and landing. In-flight, your pup can sit with you on your lap or at your feet.

International News

Aztec chocolate in Sicily?

Made in the Sicilian town of Modica, Aztec-inspired chocolate is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. For years, travelers have been drawn to Sicily’s intriguing history, smoking volcanoes and famed cuisine, but somehow the island’s distinctive chocolate—made in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Modica and inspired by the traditions of the ancient Aztecs—has remained one of the world’s best-kept secrets.

When the Spanish were ruling Sicily in the sixteenth century, conquistadors went to Mexico and brought back cacao and the recipes needed for what the Aztecs called xocoàtl, a paste ground by a smooth round stone called a metate. Unlike the often over-sugared and creamy snack we know as chocolate, the original xocoàtl was bitter and was used to enhance sauces for meat dishes, grated over salads, or eaten on its own as a dietary supplement. If prepared with certain spices, it was considered an aphrodisiac.

In Modica, generations of families have followed the same techniques, using metates crafted with lava stone from Mount Etna. Locals would mix the chocolate paste with sugar, “cold working” it so that the sugar doesn’t get hot enough to melt and giving the treat an unusual but deliciously crunchy texture. Then they would incorporate flavors typically enjoyed in Sicily, such as lime oil or pistachio. Today, flavorings are occasionally adapted to more modern tastes such as the current European fashion for sea salt chocolate.

Like the Aztecs, Modica chocolate makers believe their chocolate has certain health benefits. Unprocessed cacao is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, and studies suggest that the cold-working process helps to keep these beneficial properties intact. The walls of Modica’s chocolate shops proudly display articles claiming that one square of dark chocolate a day reduces sugar cravings and can even help with weight loss.

Modica’s businesses are serious about preserving and celebrating their chocolate traditions. Even when most of Modica’s infrastructure was destroyed in the 1693 earthquake, the chocolate industry survived. In 2013, the Consortium for the Protection of Modica Chocolate published recipes dating back to the 1740s. In December, an annual festival called ChocoModica melds the town’s two most important features: chocolate and baroque architecture.

Words of the Wise and Well-Traveled

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” -Wendell Berry

Judy Newell, an international travel consultant for over 40 years, heads Perfect Journeys and specializes in personalized cruises and tours. She designs trips that are tailored to suit a client’s interests, abilities, and budgets. Please contact Judy for reservations or further information on any of the Travel News topics; cell phone 415 111 8765; Vonage 949 -300 3682; email View the latest travel specials on the website, where you can book your hotels, tours, and cruises online.

Sources: Travel Pulse, USA Today, Hotel Management, BBC, Seabourn


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