THIRDHOME member Larry Grossman turns 70 this year.

In celebration of this milestone, he’s hitting all 7 continents with the help of THIRDHOME.

Meet Larry:

World Traveler, Philanthropist, Friend, & THIRDHOME Member

As Larry travels the globe with THIRDHOME, he’ll be blogging about his experiences as he navigates the post-pandemic world. His planning began in 2019 with THIRDHOME Director of Adventures, Liz Bates, who has assisted him in pivoting to satisfy his travel cravings when COVID-19 restrictions have not allowed him to visit a destination. Keep reading to learn more about Larry’s most recent travel experiences.

Next Stop: Isla Mujeres

It was “Big Chill Week” on the Mexican Island of Isla Mujeres and I got lucky.  With THIRDHOME’s help, I scored a seaside house large enough to host four couples at the southern tip of Isla. Word travels fast with my travel buddies and Dale called first and said, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine that we’re going to Mexico the week before Christmas.”  Shortly thereafter, Fiesta texted “I Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and count me in!”  Pam emailed, “I Second That Emotion and I’ll buy the tequila,” and finally Tina let me know that she was “My Girl” and she was not staying home.

*If these song titles are too obscure, power up your Spotify and listen to what could be the greatest screenplay soundtrack ever made: The Big Chill.

And thus, another grand “Larry World” vacation got on the calendar, and seven vaccinated Gringos flew into the Cancun airport from Baltimore, Chicago, Phoenix and Norfolk, VA. One cab ride and a 30-minute ferry ride later, we arrived at the Isla Mujeres ferry terminal to begin our adventure in this beachy, funky, laid-back island paradise.

While only eight miles removed from Cancun, Isla offers a totally different vacation experience. Missing are the mass of all-inclusive resorts with partying tourists everywhere. Present, are visitors from all over the world riding around in golf carts, visiting the beaches that surround the island, partaking in a beverage in one of several unique beach clubs, and deciding on the optimal location to watch crazy-beautiful sunrises and sunsets. 

In the course of our week, we met visitors from Australia, Denmark, Ecuador, Italy, France and Great Britain.  It quickly becomes apparent that Isla Mujeres is a really diverse environment with any number of languages being spoken over the course of a day – “arrivederci” meets “hasta la vista.”

The entire week we never left the island, and why would we?  We had a great house, Casa Amarilla, with a chef-worthy kitchen, a lap pool in the back yard, one deck to watch sunrise and another deck to watch sunset.  Most importantly, our house was a short walk from Punta Sur, the eastern most tip of Mexico that features Punta de Amanecer, the Point of Sunrise.

As the first part of Mexico to be touched by the sun’s rays every morning, this spot has a “Key West Sunset” vibe that draws visitors from all over the island.  Every day began with our group ambling over, coffee in hand, to the same spot that Mayan warriors hung out 2,000 years earlier.  The statue of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel alongside the giant iguana statue greeted us every morning as we entered the point. 

My Top Seven Isla Memories:

1. Sitting on our deck, listening to a Christmas jazz collection while sipping one of Art’s top shelf margaritas as the sun set over the turquoise waters and the Cancun skyline.

2. Our private Chef dinner that featured Mexican lobster, shrimp, and fish, along with killer guacamole and totopos (chips).

3. Visiting the Women’s Beading Cooperative to witness beautiful, handmade necklaces, bracelets, purses and more.  This wonderful business provides an income to island residents and provided us the chance to purchase colorful and unique Christmas presents.

4. Snorkeling off the beach at Garrafon Natural Reef Park.  This part of the world is renowned for crystal clear water and abundant fish, and the reef didn’t disappoint.

5. Our spur of the moment golf cart “Photo Safari” that covered the whole island and gave me the opportunity to capture all the colorful murals, statues, and dramatic Caribbean coastline of Isla. 

6. Singing (badly, I should add) old Motown hits while we cooked, ate, drank, and reminisced together in the kitchen.

7. Our afternoon lounging at the Capitán Dulché Beach Club.  This was not your run-of-the-mill beach club. A row of faceless, metal statues greet you as you arrive, and great food and drinks welcome you as you lounge at the beach, in the pool, or under the palapa.

This is a really tiny island that is five miles long and half a mile wide at its widest point, yet every inch is worth exploring. And explore we did, walking and “golf carting” every day. This quirky, historically significant, and simply gorgeous slice of Mexico proved to be an idyllic location to reconnect with good friends.

Seven days post-arrival, none of us were ready to depart and I fully understood why a number of expats chose to make this place their home.  It was a great place to end 2021 and set the stage for 2022.  Our “Big Chill” week at Casa Amarilla left us all singing Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”


To read more about Larry’s adventures with THIRDHOME, click here. Stay tuned for more of his travels!

Park City, it’s not just for winter anymore!

I scored a gold medal by bringing my friends to Utah.

Larry Utah

I ran into my friend Brian at a party a few months ago.  “Where are you going next?” he asked, knowing that travel is my favorite pastime. When I told him I was going to Park City, Utah, he immediately informed me that Park City is one of his favorite destinations. After all, it’s the location of the largest ski resort in the country with huge snowfall and acres and acres of powder, moguls and all levels of runs.  When he heard I was going in August he looked at me like I had lost my mind and questioned why anyone would visit this former Winter Olympic venue when there was no snow on the ground. I proceeded to explain that nothing good could come of Larry hurtling down a mountain with skis attached to his feet. The only question would be what part of my anatomy would be broken when I reached the bottom of the mountain. I told him I was a warm-weather kind of guy and there was plenty to do in Utah during the summer months.  

As it turned out, I was right! Last week 7 friends and I headed to the Chateau Residences in Park City through THIRDHOME to spend a week exploring Utah. This was our 2ndAnnual Birthday Bash as 3 of us have birthdays within the same week. None of us had ever set foot in Utah, but getting out of hot and muggy Virginia and visiting the Rockies in August seemed like an admirable plan. We had a memorable vacation experience and easily could have spent an additional week or 2 exploring Utah.

Here are my top 10 reasons to plan a summer trip to visit Park City:

  1. Within a four-hour drive from Park City are several really cool National Parks to explore including Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches.   
  2. The weather in summer is perfect to hike, dine outside and bike around town. Sunny and 80 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night with no humidity, no bugs and no icy roads. 
  3. Live music everywhere! The music scene has something for everyone.  Free concerts, big-name bands and outstanding outdoor venues where you can bring a blanket and cooler and pass the evening away. 
  4. The Olympic Village is hopping in the summer.  Ski jumpers practice their jumps into a huge swimming pool, zip lines are operating and you can even take a bobsled ride on wheels going up to 70 mph (way too fast for my liking).
  5. Outdoor dining on Main Street. Rooftop decks and funky restaurants and bars are plentiful downtown. Everything from buffalo burgers to Tex Mex and even a Whiskey distillery are available to tourists and locals to sample. Our favorite was The No Name Bar with great drinks and food! The eclectic décor was fun as was the wait staff.
  6. Go to the top of a mountain on a chair lift or gondola. All summer, chair lifts are available to get visitors up high.  You can even hike down from the top if you want to get outstanding views of the valleys.
  7. Flowers are everywhere. Colorful wildflowers on the mountainside and stunning displays of flowers in the hotels and on Main Street downtown.  
  8. Biking is a huge summer pastime in Park City.  The adventurous ride mountain bikes down the side of the mountain and the serious bikers ride up and down the mountain roads. They even have electric bikes for old guys like me.
  9. The Egyptian Theater on Main Street features movies, plays and concerts all year long including flicks from the Sundance Film Festival. This historic 1926 venue is a don’t miss site.  
  10. If you end up needing medical care due to an unplanned event (like a twisted knee on a hiking trail you never should have been on for instance), Park City InstaCare’s physicians and staff are friendly and professional.

Now a word about our lodging.  At this point, many of my friends are spoiled due to my THIRDHOME membership. The Chateau Deer Valley Residence Club did not disappoint! Our residence was roomy with 4 ensuite bedrooms, a comfy living room with a fireplace and a fully equipped kitchen. The property amenities were nothing short of spectacular featuring a daily bountiful breakfast buffet, fire pits, spa facilities, transportation across the Deer Park area and outstanding concierge assistance. The staff were helpful in all our planning and even provided a cake and balloons for birthday girl Fiesta’s 50-year celebration.  

And so to my skiing friends who forget that the Rocky Mountains exist during the summer months, I say you are missing some prime vacation opportunities to experience what I consider to be the most breathtaking region of the United States. THIRDHOME offers several options in Colorado and Utah, and I know for certain I’m coming back next year.  I plan to be a returning gold medalist!  

THIRDHOME Members, Jolene and Neal Luck, had an extraordinary experience traveling from Sydney to Singapore aboard the Crystal Symphony.

How did you choose this Crystal Cruise Experience?

When we saw the Crystal Cruise offering on THIRDHOME and the voyage was from Sydney to Singapore we immediately looked at each other and said WOW this knocks off several things on our bucket list we have to do this!  We love snorkeling so the Great Barrier Reef was also a huge draw.  We saw dragons on Komodo island on documentaries for years and the opportunity to get to actually see them in person was a big selling point.  Bali was a destination interest since the book Eat, Pray, Love! Singapore is known as a premium destination spot.

What were some of the main highlights and experiences of your journey?

We challenged ourselves with the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, we trekked the Sydney Botanical Garden, Hyde Park, and Darling Harbour and topped out at 17K steps seeing the most iconic birds in Australia. We also hiked Hamilton Island Scenic Trail with breathtaking views of the bays, butterflies, and Kookaburras.

Aboard the Symphony we got to see an America’s Got Talent act and The Illuminators light dance show, which was absolutely thrilling. We also very much enjoyed the grand gala, which highlighted the amazing chefs and their culinary creations.

Bali was a 9 hour tour for us and the best possible tour of all including a personable guide telling stories of his youth, an orchid garden, batik processing center, and two famous temples starting with Pura Taman. Ayun ending with the sunset at Pura Tanah Lot (the seaside temple only accessible at low tide), Balinese food, and dance performance of the traditional Ramayama Monkey Chant onboard the ship.

Marina Bay Sands infinity pool on top of the structures was spectacular and our room faced the marina where light shows were conducted every evening.

Clark Quay was absolutely the most beautiful place after dark or otherwise we’ve ever seen and the Singapore river cruise puts you up close and personal with the revolving colors on the bridges and the waterside facilities.

Faber Peak Cable Car Dining was unique and a memorable experience ending with a video show on a large tree bringing fantasy and amazement

The Singapore Botanical Garden comes close to matching the Gardens by the bay or better (just missing the indoor fantasy gardens) and we saw a water monitor in the pond (much like a small Komodo dragon).

Was there one specific WOW moment you enjoyed the most?

The WOW moment was when a large Komodo dragon started coming straight for our group (there is a series of pictures on this).  The guides recommended stepping back and pointed their sticks at the dragon and he dropped on all fours flat to his belly.  The guides say they hate the sticks poked at their noses because it hurts them so they don’t charge when the sticks are pointing at them.  A separate WOW moment on the same island was when we saw a Komodo dragon stalking a deer on the beach, the people scared off the deer and the dragon missed his lunch.

What did you like most about the Crystal Cruise experience – service, staff, dining, cabin accommodations, etc?

The service, staff, dining, and staterooms on the ship were above any expectation we could possibly have. The food was five-star (I would give ten-star if there was such a thing) gourmet as often as you want including room service. The stateroom attendants made sure the room was stocked with beverages and fruits of your choice. There were several staff members who went above and beyond to make us feel special and appreciated as guests on the ship.

What would you like to share with other members about your experience using the services of THIRDHOME Custom Travel?

We worked with Liz Bates and she has supported three magnificent trips for us including Fiji, Peru, and now Sydney to Singapore.  Liz is always there for her clients, does the right thing, and does what she says she is going to do.  We know we can count on Liz with any of our travel needs and appreciate her expertise so much.

How would you rate this past travel experience?

FIVE STARS!

Interested in booking a Crystal Cruise Voyage? Contact Liz Bates to start planning your experience.

THIRDHOME member Alli Gulliver just returned from Cuba on Mariel Hemingway’s Hidden Havana Adventure – See what she has to say about this extraordinary experience.

“Mariel Hemingway’s Hidden Havana” was our first THIRDHOME Adventure and it will certainly not be our last! We arrived in Cuba with certain preconceived notions about the country and we departed with completely altered and improved impressions.

Wade Shealy in a car Cuba Unique architecture in Cuba

We entered Cuba on the basis of “Supporting the Cuban People” and THIRDHOME left no stone unturned as they exposed us to the stunning culture and beautiful artistry of these wonderful people. We toured a cemetery and art gallery and also attended a popular nightclub which doubled as an art gallery. We visited the gallery and home of a well-known artist and enjoyed a private performance of a young dance troupe. We were able to have lunch with a famous radio announcer and drinks with a popular musical artist. This all in addition to the more common yet also incredible tourist attractions such as the Partagas Cigar Factory and Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar, Floridita. The main highlight for us was the private cigar and rum pairing activity, which also impressed members who had never smoked a cigar before!

THIRDHOME Members rolling cigars THIRDHOME Members touring the streets of Havana, CubaEvery restaurant was carefully chosen and exposed us to the wide range of culinary skills to be found in this fascinating country. We also enjoyed a special cooking and mojito making class in a much beloved local restaurant outside of Havana.

Gourmet breakfast at the private villas Traditional Cuban dish

Mariel Hemingway was charming and very approachable and her insights into her grandfather’s life and legacy were invaluable and impressive. We were given unprecedented access to his home, Finca Vigia, and the opportunity to meet and speak in detail with the grandson of Gregorio Fuentes. Both very intimate and extraordinary experiences that brought so much of what we had read previously to life.

Mariel Hemmingway sharing stories at lunch Mariel Hemmingway with THIRDHOME members

Our guides were impressively knowledgeable and their command of the English language was flawless. They answered our many questions with great insight and honesty. We truly felt as if we were being given an insider view into this interesting and somewhat complicated culture.

Stephan Haas and cuban driver guide THIRDHOME Adventure tour guides

THIRDHOME Members in Cuba with Mariel Hemingway

Our villa was charming and comfortable and every morning we started with an impressive breakfast buffet. The villa staff were attentive and pleasant. Our group dynamic was one of instant chemistry and mutual enjoyment. We have no doubt that we will remain friends with the people we met on this trip and all of us hope to plan travel together again soon.

THIRDHOME Members enjoying breakfast at their villaMariel Hemmingway entertaining THIRDHOME members at the villa

THIRDHOME Members driving in a vintage cuban car

We cannot speak highly enough of this experience and the unbelievable attention to detail by THIRDHOME. It is unusual to travel for a week and find nothing to fault. The movement of a group of 30 people was seamless and smooth and the itinerary was extremely well rounded and considered. Our Cuba experience was both memorable and influential. We would not hesitate for a minute to travel with THIRDHOME Adventures again.

Cuban Cabaret at the TropicanaTHIRDHOME Members walking into Finca Vigia

Alli and Richard Gulliver in CubaAlli is a longtime THIRDHOME member and loyal traveler to our Adventure & Custom Travel Division. 

Contact liz@thirdhome.com to start planning you next trip! 
 

 

THIRDHOME member Barbara Malarski just returned from a majestic Rain Journey through Switzerland. Read below for her account of this amazing locomotive experience.

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

The Hills are alive with the sound of … cow bells in the unsurpassed pastoral beauty of the Swiss countryside. The crinkle of Swiss chocolates, as they unravel from a gold wrapper, pierces through the otherwise silent sound of the soft snow landing on Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe. Jungfraujoch, the highest altitude railway station in the world, is located at 3454 meters above sea level. Sparkling snow and ice stretches from the peopled viewing tower to beyond. The gentle rumble of steel train tracks aboard the famous Glacier Express accompanies a vision of blurred glaciers, ancient forests, and rushing mountain streams.

Barbara in Ville Vielle, the end of the promenade from Montreux Switzerland

Lunch at Cafe Resturant de La Clef, VeveyJill Chism and I had just completed the Mont Blanc walking trail (an 8-day version of the walk through France, Switzerland and Italy across a number of challenging passes), so we were keen travel at a more restful pace. And rest we did as we looked out the window at the picture perfect landscape by train. Our Curated Swiss Rail Trip exceeded our expectations, especially the picturesque landscapes of ancient and famous vineyards traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area.

Photograph from 'images' biennial exhibition at VeveyJill in Ville Veille near Montreux SwitzerlandChillon Castle in Veytaux, Switzerland

Our first stop was in the town of Montreux, where our hotel was a 5 minute walk to Lake Geneva. We were in awe of Montreux’s long flowered promenade that borders the lake’s edge.  Being “walkers” we loved the 5 kilometer walk to Chillon Castle with numerous other significant landmarks along the way, including the magnificent Fairmount Le Montreux Palace dating to the Belle Époque (1871-1914).  On from the castle is the charming town of Vielle-Ville, which simply means ‘old town’. If you are an enthusiastic walker, once back in Montreux, you can walk the promenade in the opposite direction to Vevey, another charming historical town nearby. Coming from the Tropics in Australia, we loved the biodiversity of pines, cypresses and palm trees that reflected a more Mediterranean feel. It was very relaxing and made us feel at home.

Public Art in Lake Geneva, Vevey Freddy Mercury statue, MontreuxVevey, 15 minutes by local bus, if you don’t want to walk, was hosting its biennial Arts Festival. The standard of the Arts festival ‘Images’ was very high, enlivened by the inventive staging of its exhibits. Works of both established and emerging photographers were displayed in an astonishing variety of unconventional venues and locations, showcasing both the beauty of the surrounding natural environment as well as the town’s historical buildings. Aside from the ‘Images’ exhibition, Jill was especially intrigued by the collection of Picasso prints (the second biggest collection in Europe) at Musee Jenisch in Vevey. And there was no one else there looking at over 150 original prints!

‘Cows can walk through walls’ - InterlakenCows 2500m on Swiss mountainsOur timely arrival enabled us to experience Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Memorial. Montreux was alive with people and music, celebrating the time the band Queen spent writing music from an apartment they owned in the area. Staying at Montreux was a highlight for us, especially in the month of September with so many events in combination with its natural beauty, culture and history. It was truly magical to be there.

The end of the promenade from Montreux to Ville VeilleJill at Jungfraujoch 3571m Outside the highest railway station in EuropeFrom Montreux we stopped briefly in Interlaken, which is presided over by three mighty mountains, nestled in a valley that is a gateway to alpine destinations for hiking and exploring the region.  Our main reason for stopping at Interlaken was for the unique train journey to Junfraujoch, The Top of Europe, which sits at 3454 meters above sea level. The experience involved changing three trains. Quite a trip: Our advice is to start as early as possible.

 View from the lookout tower at JungfraujochTraditional Swiss desserts in InterlakenChapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland

Next we were on to Lucerne in Central Switzerland. The town straddles the Ruess River with its main feature being the famous Chapel Bridge, a 66 foot long wooden bridge, and the oldest covered bridge in Europe. We spent hours walking through the old town and ended up at the Culture and Convention Center, and ultra-modern building sitting on the lake. We were blessed to experience a free concert inside The Convention Centre, in what is recognized as one of the world leading concert halls.

Culture and Convention Center in Lucerne, Switzerland

View from the train traveling to Lucerne

View of Lucerne from the Old Bridge

Leaving Switzerland, we had the opportunity to stay in THIRDHOME‘s unique 19 century mansion, a traditional “Mansard House”, located in the small village of Soisy Sur Seine, France. With Paris on our doorstep, 20 miles away, we mostly retreated into the countryside with long walks along the Seine into either Ris D’Orangis or the local village for our morning croissants. Pure Heaven! It was serenity on the Seine. This was a remarkable home and one which Jill and I felt privileged to have the opportunity of staying in, hosted through THIRDHOME and Liz Bates.

 

Barbara is a longtime THIRDHOME member and frequent traveler with a second luxury home in Port Douglas, Australia. 

 

Contact liz@thirdhome.com to start planning your voyage! 

 

Keep reading to be inspired by Charles and his wife Judy’s extraordinary journey to the gems of Peru by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.

 

I was fortunate enough to be the lucky winner of an incredible Amazon River Voyage at the 2018 THIRDHOME Member Appreciation Event hosted in Nashville.  Although visiting the Amazon was never at the top of my bucket list, I was so excited and in total shock when Liz Bates emailed to inform we had won. We were in the midst of planning a family wedding but definitely couldn’t pass up this amazing experience. Now having been, I’d recommend that everyone add Peru to their bucket lists!

 Zafiro Yacht on the Amazon Suite on the Zafiro Yacht    Sunset above the Amazon Jungle Peru locals fishing in the river

The voyage was operated by International Expeditions which is a first class and top-notch tour operator. Everything was handled impeccably, from escorting us through the airport to private transportation to the hotels and the ship. So, if anyone has any concerns about navigating a foreign country, they need not worry, as IE was on top of everything, getting us where we needed to be when we needed to be there.Hot Tub on the Zafiro Yactch Skiff boat on the Amazon riverJudy Stoopack in a ricksha Dining table on the Zafiro Yacht

Once we were on-board the ship the attentive guest services exceeded our expectations. The 24 staff members welcomed each passenger with open arms and fully immersed each passenger into their unique culture. We loved learning about each staff members’ personal story, each serving as its own testimonial for the great pride they all share for their country and its culture. One of the main highlights of the voyage was the extraordinary Peruvian musical and dance performances by the staff each night.  The ship itself was beautifully decorated and completely renovated. The spa room had floor to ceiling glass windows so that one is able to look out over the river while enjoying your massage treatments.  The main dining room was spacious, and allowed passengers to have flexible seating to dine with each other in small communal groups or privately as a couple for more intimacy. 

Judy Stoopack in a skiff boat   Family of alligators Two guides standing on tree log in the river

If you love birding this is a must do experience for you! I was never a bird enthusiast but on this trip I became more and more invested into this unique hobby of feathered friends, as the majority of wildlife we encountered on this voyage were local indigenous birds. So, be sure to pack really good binoculars and a powerful zoom lens with your camera! I’d have to say that the educational aspect of this experience was most memorable. The on-board lectures were very informative and as passengers we were able to gain a well-rounded understanding of Peru’s culture, biodiversity, local communities and economy, and how these are intertwined with the annual rise and fall of the river during the rainy and dry seasons. Not to mention we were on-board with passengers from the Smithsonian, so many of our conversations yielded deep discussion of each lecture and education excursions, such as our local children’s school visit, a nature hike through the Peruvian jungle, and a unique encounter with a local shaman.  

Local Peruvian children's school Indigenous parrots indigenous bird flying Local fisherman in canoe

We also decided to add on a trip extension to Machu Picchu, which I highly recommend. It was a completely different experience that complimented the Amazon voyage perfectly, almost like visiting two completely different countries. The extension was also operated by IE and was all-inclusive, with five star accommodations and gourmet meals throughout the entire tour. The food was so delicious that my wife and I joked that we basically ate our way through Peru, even though were rarely eat 3 course meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Passengers swimming in Amazon river Noble’s Pygmy frog on a leaf

Peruvian woman cooking in traditional bowls Charles Stoopack feeding an alpaca

We also were lucky enough to have an amazing private guide that escorted us to all the most incredible attractions including the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes, Cusco, and the Maras Salt Flats. From the beginning to the end of the journey, especially the extraordinary Vistadome Train ride to the peak of Machu Picchu, we were truly unprepared for the rugged beauty of the valley and the awe-inspiring experiences we encountered.

Alpaca siting on top of Machu Picchu  Charles Stoopack and wife Judy Stoopack

Stoopack looking at the Maras Salt Flats  Charles Stoopack in front of Machu Picchu

Charles and Judy Stoopack

Charles Stoopack is a longtime THIRDHOME member and frequent traveler with a home in Vail, Colorado.

 

Contact liz@thirdhome.com to start planning your voyage! 

Guest blogger Larry Grossman shares his Galapagos voyage experience aboard The M/V Evolution.

 

The Evolution Yacht in the Galapagos

Be inspired by this extraordinary journey in the Galapagos by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.

Penguins and sea lions and whales, oh my! Clearly we weren’t in Oz, but had instead landed off the coast of Ecuador in The Galapagos Islands aboard the International Expedition’s M/V Evolution. For seven days, twenty Americans, two Canadians and three Peruvians shared an incredible journey in the world made famous by Charles Darwin in the 1800’s. Today, The Galapagos Islands are operated as a national park by Ecuador with over 225,000 visitors a year. If you love animals, both on land and under the sea, this is the voyage for you.

Larry Grossman and giant turtle Adult sea lion and baby sea lion

Larry Grossman and wife in a kayak

CAUTION: THIS IS NOT A SIT BY THE POOL AND SIP MARGARITAS VACATION.

No swimming pools, no bingo and not even a beach chair anywhere. If you’re looking for bars, nightlife and live music go to Cancún and skip this place. We hiked, we snorkeled, kayaked and then hiked again, this time over a field of black lava.  Picture a Discovery Channel documentary, narrated by Richard Attenborough, populated with doe-eyed animals, closer in resemblance to Disney characters than wild animals.  On our journey we encountered Sammy the lovable sea lion, Alfie the grumpy albatross, Toni the temperamental tortoise and Ichabod the evil iguana who spits salt water when you get too close.

Local Ecuadorian family Iguana on grass

Baby sea lion on a rock  The evolution interior common area

After 7 days, 452 nautical miles and 20 panga (zodiac boat) rides we were worn out and giddy from all we had experienced.  We visited at close range with giant tortoises, sea turtles, reef sharks, penguins, sea lions, birds of all kinds from the blue-footed boobies (a real species) to flamingos, and quite possibly the ugliest animal on the planet: the black and grey marine iguana.  As if that wasn’t enough, we closed out the voyage with a salute from 5 orca whales, one of whom came within 5 feet of our panga.  Clearly, these protected Galapagos animal residents had no fear of we visiting humans.  It was their world and they knew that despite our abundance of cameras and binoculars pointed at them we were no threat.  In fact, the sea lions seemed to take great pleasure swimming circles around the round humans stuffed in wetsuits wearing the funny glasses.

Travelers taking photos of sea lions Larry Grossman and Ecuador locals

Sea lion lying on a lounge chair   Sea turtle under water

Kudos to our guides Christina and Boli (named after Simón Bolívar of course) and all the staff on the M/V Evolution for great customer service and great food.  The M/V Evolution was a cozy place to hang out and get to know our fellow boat mates while learning important information about the volcanic Galapagos terrain and the indigenous animals (according to Christina, Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an albatross).  We even got treated to an evening of Ecuadorian music and dancing with complementary shots of Caña Manabito, a local spirit.

Galapagos voyage guides on lava Indigenous galapagos bird

Traditional Ecuadorian dancing

This was my second International Expedition arranged through THIRDHOME and it won’t be my last (read more about Larry’s experience aboard the Peruvian Amazon Voyage).  My suggestion to fellow club members is get to know Liz Bates, travel agent extraordinaire, and let her make your travel life easier.  I’m old enough to remember a time before Expedia and Travelocity when travel agents ruled the travel world.  There’s something very reassuring knowing it’s still possible to engage a real, live, breathing human being who can help plan and navigate a big trip from beginning to end.  With Liz’s help I can keep whittling down my personal travel bucket list that is loosely based on the National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s “50 Places of a Lifetime”.  27 down so far!

Larry Grossman in front of coastline

 

Larry Grossman is a longtime THIRDHOME member and blogger with a home in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

 

Contact liz@thirdhome.com to start planning your voyage! 

Larry recently visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with THIRDHOME! His THIRDHOME membership allows him to trade time at his second home to visit destinations all around the world, such as his favorite city, Puerto Vallarta. Members of The Club, like Larry, book trips every day for a fraction of the price by using their THIRDHOME membership. Read more to learn about Larry’s luxury travel experience in Puerto Vallarta.

Ah, Puerto Vallarta, my favorite city on this Earth!

Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

And I’m not alone. Puerto Vallarta was among Conde Nast Traveler 2017 Reader’s Choice Award picks for one of the “Best Cities in the World” as well as one of the “Top Small Cities Outside the U.S.”.

Puerto Vallarta Mexico Larry Grossman

After all, how can a city that boasts being the film location of Schwarzenegger’s “Predator” as well as legendary Director John Huston’s “Night of the Iguana” not be a really special place?

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

So, after years of begging my two birthday compadres, Tina and Fiesta, to move our annual celebration (our birthdays are August 14th, 15th and 16th) out of the U.S. to Mexico, I finally won out and we planned a week long birthday celebration and reunion.

Larry grossman Puerto Vallarta

Ten long-time friends hopped on planes in Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Arizona and headed down to Puerto Vallarta for a birthday party for the ages. My final argument to the group was compelling and three-fold:

Casa en las nubes THIRDHOME Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

Reason #1: I had scored a beautiful 11,000 square-foot penthouse through THIRDHOME for our birthday week located in the hills above the “Romantic Zone” of Puerto Vallarta.

Casa en las nubes THIRDHOME Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

Reason #2: Casa En Las Nubes (House in the Clouds) features a panoramic view of the City and Banderas Bay as well as a view of the Sierra Madre Mountains and, dare I mention, a private Chef named Santos and an exquisite bartender named Maurecio.

Casa en las nubes THIRDHOME Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

Reason #3: If your parents were savvy enough to name you “Fiesta” shouldn’t you, and your husband, spend important moments south of the border?

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Now, there are many who believe that the only time to travel to Mexico is the winter season when snow, ice and freezing rain are the norm in much of the United States. I, however, have learned over the years that summer in Vallarta is a fantastic time to visit for the following reasons:

Puerto Vallarta Mexico Larry Grossman

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

So how do 10 old friends suddenly reunited in the same house for a week spend their waking vacation hours?

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

For starters, you reminisce, relax and rejuvenate. Our best moments were sitting together talking for hours in one of the home’s huge outside living areas looking down into the city as the sun sets and the Puerto Vallarta landscape moved from daytime to dazzling nighttime scenery.

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Casa En Las Nubes was ideally situated for our nightly bonding. I have visited nearly every nook of Puerto Vallarta and nothing compares to the views we enjoyed each day. Throw in the amazing food and beverages and we really had no need to venture out, but venture out we did.

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

So many highlights over the 7 days but here are my personal favorites:

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Highlight #1: Our water taxi and snorkeling ride to the Yelapa fishing village. Yelapa is a small Mexican town lost in time. On the towns website they brag: “A palapa in Yelapa is better than a condo in Redondo”. We sampled the world’s best Michelada (beer, clamato, shrimp, jicama, peanuts and more), we hiked to, and swam below the Yelapa waterfall, we sampled raicilla, a locally produced fermented mash (moonshine) and we took pictures with the biggest iguana I’ve ever seen.

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Highlight #2: We spent a day roaming Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon (downtown boardwalk) admiring the numerous one-of-a-kind statues and sculptures while talking to locals, sampling tequila and indulging in local seafood. The huge local Mercado (market) met all our souvenir and shopping needs for the week.

Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

Highlight #3: We ubered into the jungle to visit El Eden an eco-tourism natural park, site of the Predator movie set. Although we were all too chicken (or old) to participate, we watched the zipliners careen past us while we enjoyed a seafood lunch, listened to mariachi music and swam in the swimming hole beneath the Eden waterfall.

Casa en las nubes THIRDHOME Puerto Vallarta Larry Grossman

Highlight #4: The surprise afternoon visit of the mariachi band to our condo to usher in our birthday celebration. Thank you Dale and Art!

Larry Grossman Puerto Vallarta Mexico

“Priceless” is the only word that describes a week like the one we just enjoyed. I’ve found the real joy of THIRDHOME membership to be the opportunity to travel in a first-class manner to outstanding places while enjoying the company of my closest family members and friends. Gotta go, time to plan my next escapade.

Casa en las Nubes can be found on THIRDHOME Exchange and THIRDHOME Rentals.

Click here to see available Exchange properties in Puerto Vallarta!

See more of Larry’s photos from Puerto Vallarta below:

    

           

  

 

“I love places that have an incredible history. I love the Italian way of life. I love the food. I love the people.” – ELTON JOHN 

 

Tuscany

Viewing the Duomo from the Villa

 

Villa Oliveto

From the road, the house is hidden from view. Once you pass through the gate and the car tires gently roll down the unpaved rock road swinging around the bend and curving slightly toward vast olive groves and vineyards, Villa Oliveto appears. Then your gaze alternates from the villa to the opposite direction, past the orchards and hills to an impressive structure standing proudly in the distance. What is it? Yes, it is “Il  Duomo di Firenze,” designed by Filippo Brunelleschi! And in the late afternoon, past farmlands and rolling hills, the glorious Tuscan light illuminates Florentine landmarks as if guided by a higher power.

Tuscany Tuscany Tuscany Tuscany

To describe the villa as a charming restored farmhouse is an understatement of grand proportion. The stunning two-story property is comprised of a formal entry, fully stocked kitchen with an adjacent formal dining area, two generous entertaining areas with fireplaces on the ground and upstairs level, five bedrooms with luxury linens (two king, two queen and one twin), six baths as well as a relaxing sauna and hammam (Turkish bath).

The exterior boasts a solar-heated saltwater pool ringed by umbrellas and loungers along with two outdoor dining areas (one covered and includes a barbeque and the other located on the terrace). The Villa is bordered by large private gardens, a cobblestone patio in front transforms into a late night dance floor and adjoining olive groves.

Villa Oliveto is quiet and tranquil. No crowds. Living here is peaceful and relaxing. Hiking through the olive groves rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit.

The Gang of Eight

Eight adults (most new acquaintances to one another) were giddy with excitement at this auspicious gathering! For the next 7 days, we remained elated as we fully embraced “La Dolce Villa” as our Italian home. Some days we broke into small groups and scoped out the local area, chatting as we strolled under the shade of the olive trees. We met a pair of darling donkeys who were tucked away on the edge of the property. Our group quickly became fast friends. One couple began each day with a quick plunge into the pool! We enjoyed Restorative Yoga in the upstairs living room with the tall windows opens wide to let in the afternoon breeze. As the sun began to set, we gathered for Apericena under the umbrellas or vine-covered pergola and shared our daily adventures – a pre-dawn photo shoot in Florence, bike touring around Florence, visiting a winery and discovering ancient towns, museum hopping, and gelato sampling.

 

Tuscany

Cheryl greeting the Gang of Eight at Villa Oliveto

 

Tuscany

Never too many cooks in the kitchen

 

The evening’s escapades commenced in the chef’s kitchen which contained every conceivable gadget, pot, pan, stemware, and china. This backdrop allowed the serious cooks to create fabulous dinners while the mischievous assistants maximized merriment when grating the Parmesan Reggiano or mixing the villa’s official apéritif, “Aperol Spritz,” made of Prosecco, Aperol and soda water over ice.  Pre-dinner deliberation regarding wine for the evening was serious and thoughtful. Even setting a lovely dinner table became an artful presentation with candles and wildflowers from the garden. We embraced the Tuscan reverence for preparing and sharing meals with good friends.

The villa is located in Bagno a Ripoli which overlooks the Arno Valley and the rolling hills of Tuscany. The postcard-perfect landscape includes olive groves, abundant vineyards and cypress-lined roads. Castles are sprinkled around the area like medieval jewels.

Toscana

 

Tuscany

Tuscany

Tuscan Hills

Tuscany or Toscana is a region located in central Italy that stretches from the Apennine Alps to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The characteristic landscape is a blend of gently rolling hills leading to sharply peaked mountains that pose a barrier between Tuscany and regions to the south. People have inhabited this beautiful part of the world for thousands of years. Ruins of the ancient Etruscan civilization (which predated the Roman Empire) are scattered throughout the back roads.

Tuscany has two distinct appearances – the art cities like Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa as well as the countryside sprinkled with small towns, villages, castles, villas, and vineyards.

The word “Tuscan” evolved from “Etruscan” and now serves as a marketing modifier, a cultural indicator, and even a lifestyle choice. The word “Tuscan” influences the design, fashion, decor, epicurean lifestyle and evokes a “Bella Vita”  or “good life” philosophy.

Brief History of Tuscany

 

The Etruscan tribes settled in the area about 1000 BCE and credited for teaching the Romans the art of civilization, including war and conquest. The Romans were good students because their strength and power grew and the Etruscans eventually vanished. The Romans built the cities of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena and connected them by roads allowing the movement of goods and the military. The Barbarian Invasion brought about the end of the Western Roman Empire and the walled Tuscan cities transitioned into city-states. As Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire grew in power, rich Tuscany became a region of great desire. Today’s tourists enjoy the ruins of magnificent walled cities, monasteries and fortified castles that were constructed during this time to fend off invaders.

 

Tuscany

Matilda, detail of a miniature from Vita Mathildis by Donizo of Canossa, 12th century; in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 4922).Courtesy of the Bibliotech Apostolica Vaticana.

 

In 1089, at the age of 43, the Great Countess, Matilda (the most powerful woman in Italy, at the time) married the 17-year-old Welf V, Duke of Bavaria and Carinthia. She sometimes fought in armor at the head of her troops in the wars between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda finally made peace with Henry V and donated her territorial possessions to him. However, she had already gifted them to the Pope, an act that later provoked controversy between papacy and empire. The House of Medici was the Italian family that ruled Florence and later Tuscany during most of the period from 1434 to 1737. They first attained immense wealth and political power in Florence through their success in commerce and banking. With the rise to power of Cosimo de’ Medici (or Cosimo the Elder), the family’s support of the arts and humanities transformed Florence into the cradle of the Renaissance, a cultural flowering rivaled only by that of ancient Greece. Walk the streets of Florence and you see the remnants of Medici power and wealth on display. The house of Medici funded the work of masters like Botticelli, Da Vinci, Galileo, and Michelangelo. Seems like just about everyone wants a Tuscan Villa! Napoleon Bonaparte made his mark by conquering the region in 1807 and gifting it to his sister, Maria Anna Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy who became the Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

 

Day Trips Italian Style

Before you take off on an excursion be sure to schedule time each day for “Meriggiare” which roughly means “to escape the heat of the midday sun by resting in the shade.” Savoring a scoop or two of gelato is an excellent example of Meriggiare!

And before dinner, make sure you carve out time for “Apericena” which means “pre-dinner drinks accompanied by food.”

Practice this phrase until it rolls off your tongue and then say it like you mean it!  “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco” which means “Things don’t always turn out as planned” and literally translates to “Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.” This philosophy will serve you well as you get lost in the hills on the way to your destination.

The Tuscan region is populated with small and large wineries. Best to make contact before you plan to visit. The enormous Antinori Winery and beautiful Il Borro (owned by the Ferragamo family) are two famous ones but there are many small, family owned and operated establishments that welcome visitors. And if you get lost along the way, remember … Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco!

An interesting day trip is San Gimignano or the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” where tower projects went out of control! Only 15 of the original 72 towers remain standing but they are visually impressive and the skyline is unique. It is impossible to miss Porta San Giovanni, the main gate, which was constructed in 1262. These tall towers were constructed to demonstrate the power of the wealthy townspeople. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site. No visit is complete without sampling and perhaps purchasing the local white wine, “Vernaccia di San Gimignano.”

 

Tuscany

Images of San Gimignano

 

Fiesole is where the Florentine aristocracy retired to escape the heat of the big city. This small town hides a wealth of surprises like 8th century BCE Etruscan walls, ancient Roman baths, the very hill where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with the concept of flight and a Roman amphitheater which serves as the stage for the Estate Fiesolana summer events.

If your day trips include driving, you will need to refuel yourself and your ride. Along the Autostrada you might spot the occasional red-and-white Autogrill, (Italy’s answer to fast food) and it’s worth a stop. Not only do they have everything you need, many travelers boldly proclaim that Autogrill makes the best 1 Euro espresso in Italy! Once you and your auto are full, back you go on your merry way to the marvelous countryside filled with green grass and trees merging with blue sky, violet and golden wildflowers, terracotta villas and slate farmhouses. A drive along the Tuscan back roads is a visual feast!

Sometimes you zig when you should zag! Make a mantra of these wise words from Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun, “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”

Tip – Unless you have lived in the region, do yourself and your passengers a favor – double the time your navigation system estimates the trip will take. These country roads are an adventure! And, if you happen to arrive early and find the perfect place to park, celebrate with gelato or espresso!

Florence

Fiesole is where the Florentine aristocracy retired to escape the heat of the big city. This small town hides a wealth of surprises like 8th century BCE Etruscan walls, ancient Roman baths, the very hill where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with the concept of flight and a Roman amphitheater which serves as the stage for the Estate Fiesolana summer events.

Florence

If your day trips include driving, you will need to refuel yourself and your ride. Along the Autostrada you might spot the occasional red-and-white Autogrill, (Italy’s answer to fast food) and it’s worth a stop. Not only do they have everything you need, many travelers boldly proclaim that Autogrill makes the best 1 Euro espresso in Italy! Once you and your auto are full, back you go on your merry way to the marvelous countryside filled with green grass and trees merging with blue sky, violet and golden wildflowers, terracotta villas, and slate farmhouses. A drive along the Tuscan back roads is a visual feast!

Sometimes you zig when you should zag! Make a mantra of these wise words from Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun, “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.” Tip – Unless you have lived in the region, do yourself and your passengers a favor – double the time your navigation system estimates the trip will take. These country roads are an adventure! And, if you happen to arrive early and find the perfect place to park, celebrate with gelato or espresso!

Florence Pre-Dawn Photo Shoot

One morning we arrived in Florence before sunrise and well in advance of the crowds. During these quiet hours, the city of the Medici belongs to the early risers. Walking the streets you sense the city slowly waking up as townspeople ride their vespas and bicycles to work. If you walk by the Duomo at dawn, you might glimpse nuns walking quietly to their morning prayers. It is a magical city in the morning light.

 

Florence

Nuns walking to morning prayers outside the Duomo

 

A successful visit requires planning. The city of Florence is congested regardless of the time of year. Tip – Pre-purchase tickets to view Michelangelo’s David at L’Accademia and at the Uffizi as well as current exhibitions. If museums and cultural tours are your main objective, stay close to the old town so that walking or hopping a bus to your destination is easy. If you are new to Florence (and even if you visited on the cheap 20 years ago and have fond memories of lugging a backpack on public transportation in a much smaller city) stay in a central location. Yes! It will be more expensive than the outskirts. Driving in Florence is challenging, parking is stressful, costly and time-consuming. If you insist on driving, arriving in town early (before 7 am) on weekdays is a useful strategy but you pay for the luxury of in town parking. On Sundays, parking is free throughout the city which means everyone wants a parking space! So on Sunday, arrive by 9 am and prepare to walk.

Florence

Tip – Arrive at museums and “jump the line” tours 30 minutes ahead of scheduled entry time. Be prepared to stand in line anyway (just not as long). Carefully read instructions on your ticket about entry the day before. Sometimes you need to exchange your computer ticket for a different one and this will likely mean going out of your way to a kiosk. A conscientious concierge can likely get tickets and reservations for you if you plan ahead.

 

Closing Thoughts

There are two sides of Tuscany, the cities, and the country. Why not enjoy both? There is no place like Florence due to its unique character, though the crowds tend to be large. And the Tuscan hills have an incomparable charm derived from people who lived and died defending the fertile hills for thousands of years. Ribbons of road ramble through olive groves, vineyards, castles, palaces, and villages. Every small hamlet has a cafe to welcome visitors and locals. If you stop, you will likely create a memory.

Sharing this part of the world with close friends is a wonderful way to experience Tuscany. We hope you enjoy these images of the beautiful Tuscan region. Hopefully, they will inspire you to visit this wonderful and unique part of our world.

Ciao Bella Toscana!

 

Florence

 

As you can tell, Rick and Cheryl aren’t your average travelers. They aspire to learn and understand each place they voyage off to. Interested in learning some of their recommendations and hearing some of their spectacular stories? Click the link below to be inspired by more of Rick and Cheryl’s explorations around the world.

Check out Rick and Cheryl’s “Travel is Beautiful” blog here.

 

 

 

 

When I moved toward retirement my friend Paul offered me the following advice:

Larry Grossman in Cabo San Lucas THIRDHOME

 

“There are 3 Stages in Retirement:
1. Go-Go.
2. Slow-Go. and
3. No-Go.
You better enjoy Stage 1 as long as you can because you never know when 2 and 3 are going to hit.”

 

Since Paul is about the smartest guy I know, I decided to follow his advice and over the past 3 years I’ve taken almost 40 trips as a member of THIRDHOME across the US, Europe, South America and Mexico.

 

In fact, since last November, I’ve trekked across Mexico and Guatemala, from Cozumel in the East, to Zihuatenejo in the West, and south to Guatemala, staying in seven THIRDHOME residences.

thirdhomoe mexico larry grossman guest blog

During my somewhat manic and adrenaline-filled adventure I visited 18 different cities and towns while meeting countless locals, taking hundreds of photos in numerous colorful markets and sampling many versions of guacamole and sipping tequila (one of life’s great combinations).

tequila tasting Mexico larry grossman thirdhome

As an added bonus I had 27 friends share my south of the border adventures across all venues.

thirdhome larry grossman friends

Now I admit to being a bit of a travel junkie and nothing excites me more than opening my latest edition of National Geographic Traveler or perusing the THIRDHOME website to see what just became available.

Lake atitlan thirdhome larry grossman

To me, maximizing my travel opportunities provided by THIRDHOME is simply a “no-brainer” and having the ability to invite friends and family on these trips has become a staple of my journeys.

mexico thirdhome beach larry grossman

I’ve become a pretty popular guy and if everyone is using me for my travel “hookup” so be it, because I’m having a ball. We are all seeing the world in a first-class manner that a few years ago, prior to joining THIRDHOME, I couldn’t have imagined.

thirdhome larry grossman on beach

There were so many highlights on my recent South of the Border expedition that it is hard to isolate the best moments, but here are a few of my favorites:

thirdhome property mexico

1. Sampling a seafood stew served in a molcajete (volcanic rock bowl) at a beachfront restaurant in Bucerias, Mexico, while listening to an 8-piece mariachi band playing Mexican classics.

molcajete thirdhome larry grossman

thirdhome mariachi

2. Spending a sunny February afternoon sitting on our deck in the awesome Novaispania THIRDHOME property in Cabo San Lucas and watching dozens of whales breach and perform their unique acrobatics.

Novaispania thirdhome cabo

Novaispania thirdhome cabo

Novaispania thirdhome cabo

thirdhome cabo novaispania

3. Kayaking in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, surrounded by volcanoes, and watching local fishermen catch their dinner.

lake atitlan thirdhome larry grossman

4. Observing while women in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, demonstrated a process called “backstrap weaving” to make the most colorful fabrics on earth, all dyed with plants, bark, vegetables, insects and fruits.

thirdhome markets of guatemala

BAckstrap weaving in guatemala larry grossman thirdhome guest blog

5. Taking a morning swim in the crystal clear Sea of Cortez in Ixtapa, Mexico, followed by a Mexican breakfast of fresh fruit and chilaquiles to begin the day.

Sea of Cortez thirdhome

thirdhome chef

thirdhome fruit

6. Diving into cool water underneath a waterfall in the “lost in time” Mexican fishing village of Yelapa, Mexico.

thirdhome hidden lake larry grossman

 

In my “Retired Guy” travels I’ve found that my THIRDHOME membership is an unmatchable tool to get me to some of the best places on earth. My plan is to savor this opportunity for first-class travel by continuing to deposit weeks into The Club and continue to take advantage of Keyless travel opportunities.

Viva Mexico street art thirdhome larry grossman

Back-to-back trips are a great treat for those members, who, like me, have a “nomadic” spirit. So little time and so many places to see. Adios Amigos until my next report!

 

Read more about Larry’s travels here.

 

Click here to view all available Exchange Properties in Mexico!

“I’ll tell you where I’d go. Zihuatanejo.  It’s in Mexico.  A little place on the Pacific Ocean…..It’s where I want to live the rest of my life.”  So said Tim Robbins’ character “Alex” to Morgan Freeman’s “Ellis Boyd” in the 1994 screen classic, The Shawshank Redemption.

SPOILER ALERT: Eventually, Alex and Ellis are reunited in Mexico following a lengthy incarceration (watch the movie for more detail) and the fishing village is as beautiful as described by Alex.

zihuatanejo

After spending a week in Zihuatanejo and sister city Ixtapa I believe Alex was on to something. I could spend the rest of my life in this town and be a happily retired guy.

Zihuatanejo

Present day Zihuatanejo (referred to as “Zihua” by locals) is no longer a “sleepy” fishing village but is, in fact, the 3rd leading tourist destination in Mexico behind Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

Zihuatanejo

Although cruise ships now dock here on a regular basis, Zihua retains a high level of Mexico charm with cultural attractions and several drop-dead gorgeous beaches.

Zihuatanejo

There is a daily thriving market, enough seafood restaurants to last a lifetime and a  “Malecon” with strolling mariachis at night.

Zihuatanejo

Mornings are particularly memorable in El Centro as the fishing boats return early in the morning loaded with the fresh catch of the day which ranges from tuna to red snapper to clams and oysters.

Zihuatanejo

Get there early (before 8 am) for the best selection of fresh fish.

Zihuatanejo

Whereas, Zihuatanejo is old Mexico charming and a delightful place to walk around and spend the day, Ixtapa, 20 minutes down the road, has a “luxury resort” relaxing feel.

Zihuatanejo

Our THIRDHOME for the week was Casa Cuatro located in Punta Ixtapa, a gated community that we never wanted to leave.

Zihuatanejo

The home, as I’ve come to expect from staying in THIRDHOME properties, was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a terrace you could hang out in all day and night.

Zihuatanejo

The Punta Ixtapa community features 6 stunning private beaches, 3 beach clubhouses with restaurants, several pools that stayed empty during most of our stay, a fitness center and tennis courts.  Since Casa Cuatro was located right on Don Rodrigo Beach shoes were an optional accessory much of the week.

Zihuatanejo

There were many highlights of our week in Paraiso (Spanish for Paradise) but here are my personal favorites:

Zihuatanejo

Martina, our cocinera (chef), preparing authentic Mexican breakfast specialties and great seafood dinners each evening.

Zihuatanejo

The “Pelican and Sunrise” movie we got to watch every morning as literally hundreds of pelicans danced and dove for breakfast in the ocean directly in front of us while the sun rose over the mountains.

Zihuatanejo

Hanging out at the Don Rodrigo Club restaurant drinking margaritas while watching the NFL playoffs and explaining American football to David and Jose, our waiters.

Zihuatanejo

Watching the 4 Mexican Pole Flyers (Voldadores) climb and descend from a 100-foot pole upside down hanging from ropes while the 5th “Flyer plays Mayan tunes with a flute standing at the top of the pole. Wow!!!

Zihuatanejo

Renting a bicycle and pedaling the Ixtapa Cicloplista, 7.5 miles of bike path winding through Ixtapa’s lush forest. Somewhat hilly but a beautiful ride.

Zihuatanejo

Experiencing releasing baby sea turtles to the ocean at sunset from the beach in Zihuatanejo.

Zihuatanejo

Despite the tremendous experiences I have when traveling around this beautiful country I read the travel advisories and I know there is trepidation about visiting any number of places in Mexico at this time. According to a recent survey conducted by the Mexican Tourism Board, 94% of visitors indicated that their vacation “exceeded their expectations” and 86% said they plan on returning in the following 6 months. I am happy to report that this THIRDHOME trip exceeded my expectations and I look forward to returning to Mexico.

Click here to see where Larry stayed, Casa Cuatro. Or, view homes located in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo

 

More photos from Larry’s trip:

Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo

 

Best known by THIRDHOME members for their interior design work at The Mandala House, Design 4 Corners has made a name for themselves working on extraordinary residences around the globe.

Design 4 Corners, an interior design firm based out of Encinitas, California, is sharing their tips for achieving three distinct looks for your second home.

 

No matter where your home is located, one of these looks is sure to dazzle. Bring exterior natural landscapes inside to play with the Urban Jungle Villa look.  Is your home on the beach? Throw out the seashell decor and try out Design 4 Corner’s refreshed Beach House Look. Finally, for the mountain dwellers, some tips on achieving a cozy yet modern ski chalet look.

Design 4 Corners


Design 4 Corners


Design 4 Corners

 

Use these tips to help take your second home to the next level and really wow your guests! Which look do you think you’ll try? Interested in more design inspiration from Design 4 Corners? Click the link below to check out their other residential projects.

Check out Design 4 Corners’ portfolio of residential design work here.

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