Years ago when my wife and I pulled up roots in America and moved to Guanajuato, Mexico, I began telling everyone who would listen that San Miguel de Allende was well on its way to Guanajuato. Mexicans as well as American Expats shook their heads and clicked their tongues at me. No one believed the expatriate debacle that has overtaken San Miguel de Allende could ever, in a million years, come to Guanajuato.Wellits coming. No! Its here.My recent article, Guanajuato: The Death of Heritage, spelled out one aspect of the gentrification of Guanajuato. The Mega Store, an anchor store in an indoor mall, and its deathblow to the local Mom-and-Pop Shops was the theme of that column. What ruined colonial Mexico all over this country is now here in Guanajuato to have its dubious way with the citys ancient heritage.Another issue coming at the speed of light is the steep increase in real estate prices. Landlords, Mexican and gringo alike, have seen the writing on the wall and are charging prices for rentals and real estate that were unheard of just four years ago. They are now asking, and getting, the prices that you expect to see in San Miguel de Allende and the west coast resort cities. It is tragic!The next step that is officially here: excluding Mexicans from their own city. This has been going on in San Miguel de Allende now for a while with the Mexican Free ZonesGringos only. That has now arrived in Guanajuato.In doing some research for my new book, Can I Live and Work in Mexico?, I ran across an ad for a rental property that said Americans Only. They are actually beginning, in this lovely and very Mexican town, to exclude Mexicans from renting property in their own town and country! The owners of this particular property are excluding Mexicans from renting the property even if they can afford it. I guess the gringos are beginning the Mexican-Free Zone sooner than expected in Guanajuato.None of this is shocking to me. I saw it coming years ago. What I think makes me madder than anything are those who dismissed me as hysterical or he exaggerates too much, or whatever. They poo-pooed me, patted me on the head, and asked me if I wanted another beer when I would try to sound the warning.They were wrong.I was right!What I said would happen is happening right now. The gringos, the ones with lots and lots of money and who will never learn two words of Spanish to string together, are moving here and with them come all the joys of rich gringo expatriation.If you want to see what the joyous place Guanajuato will be like in a short time, just visit San Miguel de Allende and stay about a month. Then you will know Guanajuatos destiny.Sad. So, very, very sad!
Why is it that everyone else but me has heard of Cayo Espanto in Ambergris Caye Belize, reputed to be the place where the best Belize Island Honeymoons are spent?So when my partner suggested we spend our vacation in Belize, and he mentioned the Cayo Espanto as one of the luxury Belize resorts we would be staying in, all my friends whooped and assumed a wedding was definitely on the cards!!Well it wasnt, and it isnt now, but you didnt have to be on your honeymoon to just love Cayo Espanto. Id never heard of it, and to me it is just an absolutely fantastic best kept secret.What can I say about Cayo Espanto, except that it is the most romantic place on earth.From the moment you arrive with all the staff waiting to greet you, plus the labrador Sally, to the moment you leave when the process is reversed you are cosseted, spoiled, and totally overwhelmed by the best service I have ever experienced anywhere in the world.From the moment the boat picked us up and we were handed drinks and cold towels I knew this was special, although I should have realised when we were sent a preferences sheet to fill in before we had ever left home.You see, nothing is too much trouble, we had a personal houseman, and he had an assistant. We had a walkie talkie so we could contact him whenever we wanted. Everything from breakfast first thing in the morning to a nightcap at night. Everything, literally at any time, because they already knew what we liked and didnt like.The island is a very private place, and we hardly saw another soul during our stay, because we ate our meals either on the boat deck or on the beach, we were sung to by candlelight, you name it we had it. Our meals were very much personally cooked according to our preferences, and some of the meals were the best Ive eaten anywhere in the world.The accommodation, or casita I think was called Casa Esrella, and this seemed to be the biggest and best of all the villas, being a two storey house, with shutters that were raised during the day, and lowered at night for us.I could go on, but in fairness I must tell you, David proposed when we got home, and the only condition I made before accepting was.. I had to have the best Belize island Honeymoon at Cayo Esperanto in Ambergris Caye Belize!!
My day at the McGees Inn started early with a breakfast at 7:30 am. I plunked myself down at one of the two-seater tables in the large bay window which gave me a nice view out onto Daly Street. A women from Montreal, Claudine, here in Ottawa on a business trip sat down to the left of me and a nice couple from Syracuse, New York, chose the table to my right.Whats always nice about bed and breakfasts is that people actually talk to one another and soon the four of us were wrapped up in a nice conversation. We discussed Montreal, Syracuse and Toronto, and the various festivals that are held in our respective home cities. I am planning to go to Montreal at the end of June, so Claudine gave me some insider information about her home town and we decided that we would connect during my stay in Montreal.After a delicious breakfast that featured a fruit cocktail, Eggs Florentine and homebaked croissants and muffins, I sat down for my interview with the Armstrong family who run the McGees Inn. They filled me in on what it is like for two couples - mother, father, son and daughter-in-law to jointly run a bed and breakfast and they shared with me what motivated this decision in the first place.At about 10 am I was ready for my next adventure: the Canadian Museum of Nature and its current Fatal Attraction exhibit. Ottawa is a city full of museums, and I had already seen two exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography as well as a special exhibit and an IMAX movie at the Canadian Museum of Civilization yesterday. After an exploration of contemporary photography and antiquity I was going to explore the topics of nature and, more specifically, dating in the animal world.But before I even began my tour of the Fatal Attraction exhibit, I was awestruck by the building when I drove up to it. On one of Ottawas leafy residential side streets there is this enormous castle-like building that rises up in front of you and I was fascinated by the physical structure of this historic building.Highlights of the museums collections are housed in the distinctive Victoria Memorial Museum Building which dates back to 1912. It is an example of fine early 20th century architecture, built in a style that has been described as Scottish baronial. It was intended to mirror the Centre Block of Canadas Parliament Buildings and indeed both buildings share similar stonework. In the past both buildings also had similar towers, but the Museums tower was removed years ago since its weight was too heavy for the foundation.Throughout its history the building has been altered significantly, but some of the original design is still visible in the Atrium. This magnificent space extends over four storeys above the ground floor and features skylights that provide natural lighting. A beautiful staircase rises and splits to reach the second level. The relatively austere Atrium highlights the two-storey tall stained-glass window in the Atrium as well as three intricate stained glass windows over nearby doors. Two big pre-historic flying reptiles, Pteranodons, are suspended from the ceiling and provide an imposing view.The building has an interesting history: in 1916 it became the emergency headquarters for the Canadian government after a fire had destroyed the Parliament Buildings. Both the House of Commons and the Senate were located here for a time and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier lay in state here after he had passed away. Finally in 1988 the Castle became the exclusive home of the Canadian Museum of Nature and at present a major renewal project is underway.In my case I was here to see a special internationally travelling exhibition entitled Fatal Attraction. Presented in English, French and Dutch, this exhibition was developed by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels together with the Musee Nationale dHistoire naturelle in Paris and Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden in the Netherlands.Fatal Attraction explores the language of love in the animal world. It is an interactive, light-hearted exhibition that focuses on courtship rituals in different species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and insects. The science of propagation is explored in a humorous way. 100 specimens from various European natural history collections provide an up-close look at the world of animal seduction.All sorts of mating signals are explored since the animal world features a wide range of tactics to attract a mate: from songs, calls, positions, mimics, vibrations, light codes, bright or flashy colours, scents and even sounds that we humans are unable to detect. Many interactive displays allow you to push buttons to explore different mating calls, light or sound signals for animal species living on land and in the water.The exhibition also reveals that sometimes mating is risky business predators might also be attracted to animals who are trying to seduce their mates. Some of them even imitate courtship signals in order to catch their prey! Human courtship is explored in the fourth and final portion of the exhibition which makes you realize that we are not all that different from our animal cousins. Fatal Attraction will stay at the Canadian Museum of Nature until September 4, 2006 when it moves to the Biodome in Montreal.On October 20, 2006, new permanent galleries will open on the west side of the Museum: the Mammal Gallery, Bird Gallery, Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, and Discovery Zone with programming and high-definition nature movies. There will also be a travelling exhibition on Einstein. The east side of the Museum will then close to the public until 2009 for the installation of new galleries. Check out nature.ca to learn more about the Canadian Museum of Nature, its collections, special Web sites, and its Renewal project.I had fun at the Canadian Museum of Nature exploring the world of animal seduction, and my next item on the agenda was an expoloration of Canadian nature: Gatineau Park, Ottawas nature playground
Sutton Coldfield is located in the West Midlands and is a remarkably vibrant town within the City of Birmingham, in the West Midlands. It lies about 13 km (8 miles) from central Birmingham, in the northeast of the city, and has a population of about 105,452.The town of Sutton Coldfield has grown up around the periphery of Sutton Park.Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe and the largest outside a capital city. It covers 900.1 hectares (2224.2 acres / 9.0 km), with a mix of heath land, wetlands and marshes, seven lakes and extensive ancient woodlands. Sutton Park is arguably the jewel in the areas crown boasting a handful of quality restaurants, several 18-hole golf courses, a number of children's playgrounds, a visitors' centre and even a donkey sanctuary! The park makes for a fantastic destination whatever the season and whatever the weather.Sutton Coldfield can also be described as a shoppers paradise. The famous Mall Shopping centre now boasts some of the finest shopping in the area and includes names such as House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer and Monsoon, to name but three. There is almost a continental caf feel about the Mall; where one can take a gourmet coffee on the flower lined pedestrianised pavement, whilst listening to street music watching the world go by. The monthly farmers market on the second Friday in the month is a huge draw and reminds the locals of bygone days.If you are looking for nightlife then Sutton Coldfield will not disappoint you having something for everyone. Whether its a sophisticated meal for two at the Boathouse or something more upbeat at the Ha Ha Bar, there is an abundance of options to suit all tastes and ages. There are some outstanding balti restaurants in the Sutton Coldfield area too; the standard of food served at these restaurants is first class and all are exceptional value for moneyThe area has always had an outstanding reputation for sport and Sutton Coldfield caters for all age groups and interest. There are numerous clubs and venues supporting the local community and just about every sport is catered for here. Whether it is rugby, soccer, hockey, swimming, athletics you name it -- Sutton Coldfield boasts a team of exceptionally high standing in that field.Schools in the area are some of the best in the West Midlands and because of this demand helps keep property prices high. Schools such a s Bishop Vesey Grammar School, Sutton Girls School and even junior school St. Nicholas, all regularly rank amongst the best in the nation in the annual league tables.Sutton Coldfield is an excellent centre for business and commerce too. There are numerous offices around the town and there are plenty of industrial units supporting manufacturing and service industries.All in all, Sutton Coldfield is a relaxed and friendly place that is just far enough away from the big city yet still retains all the charm of a small local town. It is certainly a great place to both live and visit.
A Disney World vacation is a dream vacation for most families. But its also an expensive one, especially if you dont know how to find an affordable package.There are many flexible ways to purchase tickets. The more days you plan to stay at the resort, the better bargain youll receive. If you want to visit more than one theme park, it might be a good idea to hang around the resort for a little while. You can save a little money and experience some extra Disney magic with your family that way.The Park Hopper option is also a good way to save some money and it allows you and your family to visit multiple theme parks during the same day, for however long you purchased tickets for. This rids of you having to carry a ticket for each theme park and being limited to a single park a day.Also, there is a Magic Plus Pack option which allows you access to other "Disney World" attractions, like the two water parks, Disneyquest (an indoor, interactive theme park) and more. Then there is the No Expiration Option, which allows park access for up to fourteen days after the original resort tickets have been used. Of those fourteen, any unused days can be taken advantage of for a future vacation.But wait, theres more.Disney World isnt just known for its exciting sites, shows, and attractions. From inexpensive restaurants to fine dining, there are several options to choose from. In a package deal, each family member is provided with combination meals and a snack every day and there are over a hundred restaurants located in the Disney World parks and hotels. You can contact your travel agent for detailed information about the opportunities you and your fellow vacationers will have.The premium package is certainly one of the most elegant vacation deals around it includes meal vouchers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as theme park tours and admission to shows like Cirque du Soleils La Nouba.A Disney World Vacation is sure to be unforgettable and worth every penny, especially if you plan ahead. There are plenty of goodies you may want to invest in, like the pass that allows you to hang around the park after hours and Walt Disney World is prepared for all your needs, whether it be child care or transportation to and from the different parks and hotels. So make sure you to give more than a cursory glance to all the different package deals and benefits of a Disney World vacation!What are you waiting for? Book the vacation of your lives and share some magical Disney moments with your family.