This March 21, the spring Equinox, the Mayan city of Chichen Itza reminds us why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. On this day, visitors gather in the Great Plaza at the foot of El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcan, and as the sun begins to set, the secret of the pyramid is revealed, an ancient serpent god returns to earth. The pyramid was built with such mathematical precision and aligned to catch the rays of the setting sun on the spring and autumn equinoxes. Triangles of light and shadow ripple along the side of the north staircase creating the body of a snake. As it merges with the head of a stone serpent at the foot of the building, the illusion is complete – a gigantic serpent slithering down from the heavens and across the ground towards the Sacred Cenote.
The Coming of a God The snake symbolizes Kukulcan (also known as Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico), the feathered serpent god, returning to earth to give hope to his followers and heralding the spring planting and fall harvest seasons for the Maya. The city’s rulers, priests and astronomers would scan the heavens for portents, recording the movements of the stars and charting the passage of the seasons. They could predict the Equinoxes and on this day, they would have summoned their subjects to the main square for a ceremony invoking Kukulcan with prayers, rites and offerings. Imagine the awe of the populace as the serpent appeared before them. Experts believe that Kukulcan may also have been the name of a great leader who came from the west and resided at Chichen Itza some time in the 10th century, during the period when the city was ruled by the Itzae, a group of seafaring warrior traders or Putun from Chontal Maya territory in Tabasco and Campeche with political and commercial ties to central Mexican cultures.
A Solar Clock Dominating the Great Plaza and built only with stone tools, the 25-meter-high El Castillo functions as a solar clock to the wonder of scientists and visitors alike and is also associated with the Mayan calendar. Sitting on a square base measuring 55.5 meters on all sides, the pyramid has nine terraces, divided by two stairways. The number of terraces and wall panels coincides with the number of months in the ancient year (18) and years in a calendar round (52), respectively, and the number of steps in the staircases (91), in addition to the top platform, the entrance to the temple, equals 365, the days in the year. The pyramid was built some time between A.D. 650 and 800, with later modifications, possibly from 1000 to 1150. The earlier temples are inside the pyramid we see today and can be visited via a narrow staircase, which is definitely not for the claustrophobic. A chac mool statue guards the entrance to the inner sanctum where there is a magnificent throne in the form of a red jaguar with jade spots and eyes. The Maya and other pre-Hispanic cultures venerated the jaguar for its strength, stealth and ferocity and at Chichen Itza, this noble animal has its own temple, just one of the wonders to be seen at the huge archaeological site.
The Equinox phenomenon can also be witnessed at Dzibilchaltun (see above photo), an archaeological site to the north of state capital Merida, en route to the Gulf coast port of Progreso. Here, early birds gather to watch the rising sun shine through the doorway of the Temple of the Dolls. Archaeologists have reported similar temple alignments and the play of light and shadow to mark the equinoxes and solstices at Uxmal and at Uaxactun in Guatemala.
One of Yucatan’s Ancient Wonders Don’t miss the spring Equinox at Chichen Itza. The serpent of light and shadow may also be seen the day before and after, cloud cover permitting. Book your Chichen Itza trip through Thomas More Travel or at the tour desk in your resort. If you would like to explore at your own pace, private tours can also be arranged through the travel agency and if you decide to stay longer, the evening Light & Sound Show is highly recommended. Chichen Itza is located in the eastern Yucatan, 200 kilometers/125 miles from Cancun via the toll road (take the exit at Piste) or Highway 180.
With the prospect of warm sun, clear blue waters and a wide beach beckoning, thoughts inevitably turn to relaxing on the soft white sand with a good book – or the latest download on your Kindle if you are so inclined – and before you are due to travel to the Mexican Caribbean you should always stock up on beach reads; you can never have too many!
Perhaps you like Nora Roberts, Philippa Gregory, Ann Tyler, Anita Shreve and Margaret Atwood or always choose the latest James Patterson, David Baldacci or Tom Clancy novels. Whether you bring books by Ian McEwan, A.S. Byatt and Hilary Mantel, decide to reread the classics or are hooked on the escapades of one “traditionally built” lady detective from Botswana, recently the subject of a HBO series, the beach is the place to drift off and set your imagination free. Even if you have your own favorite authors, here are some more ideas.
The Color by Rose Tremain. Gold casts its fatal spell in this tale of 19th-century prospectors in New Zealand.
Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann. Two stories of love and loss and a journey of discovery.
Pompeii by Robert Harris. A tale of love and adventure in the famous Roman city doomed to destruction by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. An American writer travels through the United Kingdom and this is his funny and affectionate look at the island and its people.
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. A rich saga of 19th-century India at the time of the Opium Wars. A ship sets sail for Mauritius with a motley crew of sailors, coolies and convicts, including a bankrupt Raja, a widowed opium farmer and a French runaway.
Suite Française by Irene Némirovsky. A moving insight into human frailties, nobility, vanity, courage, love and hope. The story of a group of French citizens fleeing the Nazi invasion and of a community as it endures occupation. Tragically, the author perished in Auschwitz in 1942.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. A story of remarkable women in the South, a girl’s search for truth and how she finds a family.
If you do happen to run out of books during your vacation, there are two secondhand bookstores in the Cancun area with a good selection of English language titles: Needful Things, Coba Ave., Downtown Cancun and the Alma Libre Bookstore on the main square in Puerto Morelos. Finally, the Royal Resorts all have shelves in the lobby where you can leave the books you have finished and exchange them for others. Why not let us know about some of your favorite beach books?
For all of you suffering from the snow blues, here are two tropical cocktails for you courtesy of the Royal Resorts bartenders. Hope they bring back many happy memories of sunny days on the beach or by the pool. Cheers!
½oz vodka 1oz white rum ½oz melon liqueur 1oz Kahlua 1½oz orange juice 2oz mango ¼oz grenadine
Place all ingredients in a blender, serve with ice; garnish glass with melon pearls and orange slices.
1oz melon liqueur ½oz banana liqueur ½oz coconut cream 2oz pineapple juice 2oz orange juice
Place all ingredients in a blender, serve with ice; garnish glass with melon pearls and orange slices.
Following up on some of the requests we have received in the past few months, we would like to share some more recipes from the Royal Resorts kitchen. We hope that they will get you in the mood for your next Mexican Caribbean vacation. Bon appétit!
Creamy Bean Soup A longtime Royal favorite!
1 kg black beans 5 liters of water 6 leaves of epazote (Mexican herb) Half a white onion 5oz lard 2½oz garlic 2oz chicken stock powder ¼ gallon of chicken stock
Bring the water to the boil, add the beans (you can soak them previously overnight in water to remove any impurities, make sure that they are clean of any grit or husks), onion and four epazote leaves and simmer until the beans are cooked. In another pan add the lard, the two remaining epazote leaves and the finely chopped garlic and lightly fry. Add to the beans and blend; finally add the chicken stock powder and consommé. Bring to the boil and stir constantly until thoroughly blended.
Note: If you cannot find epazote, you can use chopped cilantro instead – just add more. This soup can be served with a topping of crispy tortilla strips and crumbled cheese or a drizzle of cream.
Black Bean Salsa A variation on the popular black bean salsa served at some of the Royal restaurants.
130g/4½oz black beans soaked overnight in water to cover 2 serrano chilies (or to taste) 1 red onion 1-2 tomatoes Grated rind and juice of one lime 2 tbsp Mexican beer (optional) 1 tbsp olive oil Small bunch of coriander chopped Salt
Drain the beans and put them in a large saucepan. Pour in water to cover and place the lid on. Bring to the boil, lower the heat slightly and simmer the beans for about 40 minutes or until tender. They should still have some bite and should not have begun to break up. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and leave to cool. Chop up the chilies finely and remove the seeds. Always handle chilies with care, wear gloves, avoid touching your face and eyes and wash your hands thoroughly. Chop up the onion and tomato finely. Place the beans in a bowl; add the onion, tomato and chili. Stir in the lime rind and juice, beer, oil and coriander. Season with salt and mix well. Chill before serving.
Royal Haciendas Shrimp Tacos
Lime Soup, Cream of Chili Poblano Soup & Portobello Mushroom Seafood Surprise
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Love is in the air at Royal Resorts this February with a variety of Valentine’s Day events planned for you and the one you love. Start your day by sharing some Spa magic. The Spas at The Royal Sands and The Royal Haciendas are both offering relaxing Valentine’s Day specials. Let the Spa at The Royal Sands pamper you with a private Jacuzzi session, a relaxing massage, sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, while the Spa at The Royal Haciendas has two options for members and guests. You can choose an exfoliation with rose petals or champagne and a relaxing massage or a massage in the privacy of your villa with a bottle of wine for you to toast your love. Both Spa specials cost $290 US, for more details and reservations, please contact the Spa at email@example.com or call Ext. 179 upon arrival at your resort.
Celebrate your love with a romantic night out at one of the Royal Resorts restaurants. El Conquistador, Captain’s Cove and Hacienda Sisal are all offering special menus and Los Murales, the new restaurant at The Royal Haciendas is an enchanting setting for a unforgettable evening. And for something really special, how about dining by candlelight on the beach? Enjoy a tempting menu; feel the sand between your toes and let the sound of the waves and the glimmer of the stars cast their spell. The Royal Sands, The Royal Mayan, The Royal Islander and La Palapa del Sol at The Royal Haciendas are offering Valentine’s Day Dinners on the beach with a set menu and live music. For more information on Valentine’s Day dining choices at Royal Resorts and reservations, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Restaurant Reservations Center at Ext. 165 upon arrival at your resort. Of course, a Romantic Dinner on the beach can be arranged all year round at your resort and for any special occasion, whether it be an anniversary, birthday, an engagement or just because…In fact, we will shortly be hearing from one couple who celebrated their engagement with a Valentine’s Day dinner on the shores of the Caribbean.
Say the magic words “I love you” with flowers. You can order a variety of bouquets and floral arrangements from The Royal Market while you are staying at Royal Resorts, and why not pick up a bottle of bubbly or some chocolates to go with them? An alternative is to use the convenient You can give flowers, fruit baskets, wine, cakes and even grocery store gift certificates to members and guests staying at all six Royal Resorts in Cancún and the Riviera Maya and staff at The Royal Market will deliver them to their villa.
Cupid comes a calling at La Paloma Gift Shop in The Royal Sands and The Royal Caribbean with a Valentine’s Day gift when you spend more than $500, $750 or $1,000 pesos at the stores.
Finally, with all this talk of romance, there is a chance that someone somewhere may pop the question. After the initial euphoria and congratulations, thoughts will inevitably turn to the choice of wedding venue and what better place to celebrate the most important day of your lives than the Mexican Caribbean and Royal Resorts? Our Special Events Team will help you plan the wedding of your dreams, taking care of every little detail so that you can enjoy the captivating setting with your family and friends. For more information on our wedding and special events services contact email@example.com
NFL fans staying at Royal Resorts won’t want to miss out on our Super Bowl Parties this Sunday. You can watch the game at Sidelines and La Cabaña bars in The Royal Sands and The Royal Caribbean, respectively, at Pancho & Willy’s Bar next to Captain’s Cove and in La Rotonda Bar at The Royal Haciendas. Order from the Super Bowl snack menu, check out the drinks specials and even purchase a Super Bowl t-shirt. Have fun, cheer the players and may the best team win!
We are sure that you have been avidly following our beach restoration coverage on this website and on www.royalresortsnews.com and as the Cancún project wraps up at the end of this month, we wanted to share some additional photos with you. The beaches at The Royal Sands, The Royal Mayan, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander have been completely restored and palapas and sun loungers have been reinstalled, ready and waiting for your next trip. The global interest in this project has been immense and the Mexican Tourist Board has been proudly showing off Cancún’s pearly white beaches at the FITUR Travel Show in Madrid, Spain (January 18 – 22).
Cancún Beach Restoration Fast Facts
* 12 kilometers of beach restored from Punta Cancún to Punta Nizuc * 4.5 kilometers of beach in Playa del Carmen * Approximately 6.3 million cubic meters of sand were dredged from two sand banks – La Ollita near Isla Mujeres and Punta Norte off the coast of Cozumel – and pumped on to the Cancún shoreline. * The Cancún portion of the project cost $650 million Mexican pesos * Restoration was carried out by Mexicana de Dragados S.A. de C.V., an affiliate of Belgian company Jan de Nul, and coordinated by the Mexican Electricity Board (CFE). * Two dredgers worked round the clock to restore Cancún’s beaches. * Work advanced at a pace of 100 meters a day. * A concrete barrier was erected between Punta Cancún and the Golondrinas Islet. Over 300 meters long and comprised of more than 13,830 concrete blocks weighing approximately 16,245 tons, the sea wall will help to reduce coastal erosion and sand loss. * A 10-year monitoring and maintenance project is also planned. * Sand pumping began in Cancún on November 1 and by December 16, beach project engineers had already reached The Royal Sands. * Work started at The Royal Mayan on January 6 and was completed at The Royal Islander on January 14. Once the 12-meter-long pipes and heavy equipment were moved further south, resort staff reopened all the beach entrances. * With only 400 meters of shoreline to restore, the Cancún project will be finished by the end of January and work is well underway in Playa del Carmen. * Mexican President Felipe Calderón is expected to visit the area in February to inspect the beaches.
January 14, Beach restoration has now been completed at The Royal Islander and project engineers are moving heavy equipment further south along the shoreline, although the pipeline in front of The Royal Mayan and The Royal Caribbean has still to be dismantled.
There is access to the beach from The Royal Mayan, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander. The installation of beach palapas has finished at The Royal Mayan and will continue at The Royal Caribbean on Friday. Shade umbrellas will be available at The Royal Islander until all machinery has moved out of the area.
Overall, beach restoration is 91% complete with work now underway in the Playa Delfines area. Edgar Ordoñez Durán, the Project Coordinator indicated that it will take another 10 days to restore the remaining stretch of shore. He also mentioned that the concrete wall erected between Punta Cancún and the Golondrinas Islet to prevent sand being washed further north along the coast will be finished by the end of the month.
The Beach Project crew has been working round the clock and we are pleased to report that they have now advanced to The Royal Caribbean. You can see the progress as you look at the most recent photos taken by the Royal Channel on January 7. As work is underway at The Royal Caribbean and will continue at The Royal Islander, the beaches in front of the three resorts will remain closed for safety reasons until the authorities give the signal to reopen them. The floating tube through which sand is pumped from the dredger to the metal pipeline on the beach is currently located in front of The Royal Caribbean and is expected to remain there for several days, and diggers and other heavy vehicles continue to operate in the area. A temporary access to the beach has now been opened in front of Building M at The Royal Mayan. Additional updates will be published as we receive more information from the beach project coordinator. According to the original calendar issued by the Mexican authorities in December 2009, the pipes and beach restoration vehicles were scheduled for removal at the three resorts on January 15 (estimated date, give or take one or two days). The beaches to the north of The Royal Mayan are open and shuttle service to The Royal Sands is also available. Overall, the Cancún Beach Restoration project is now 77% complete. Stay posted for a video and additional photos over the coming days.
January 6 and right on schedule, beach restoration is underway at The Royal Mayan. Project engineers ordered the closure of the beach in front of The Royal Mayan, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander yesterday so that pipes and heavy machinery could be moved into place. We have just been informed that sand is now being pumped on to the beach at The Royal Mayan. In other Royal Resorts beach news, the palapas at The Royal Sands have now been reinstalled. Finally, representatives of the Beach Restoration Trust, the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico Rodolfo Elizondo, the Quintana Roo State Governor Felix Gonzalez Canto and the Mayor of Cancun Gregorio Sánchez met yesterday to discuss project progress, funding and future monitoring/maintenance. After some confusion over the New Year regarding a payment due from Cancún City Council, they announced that an agreement had been reached and that beach restoration will continue as planned. Over 60 percent of the Cancún shoreline has already been restored and the project is slated for completion in February. We will be posting further websites as work progresses at the three Royal Resorts.