Haciendas Foundation of the Maya World – Folk Art

Besides the fine dining, glamorous hotel properties and cocktail sipping one might see if you follow my rambling trails on Instagram or Facebook, you will also see photos of locals or crafts people I meet along the way. I love chatting with those involved or working within these foundations – people who make a significant difference in local lives. People who provide job skills and aid in creating sustainable occupations.

One such fine organization was presented to me in Mérida, Mexico. When you visit Mérida, we will organize your private guiding with an esteemed local firm who has secured the most knowledgeable guides and supports several local non-profits. Part of my process is to hand select our guiding teams, assuring the absolute best guides for our clients. We  don’t look at an extensive list provided by a large travel association to ‘vet’ our guides and local teams, I prefer a more personal relationship with our local representatives.

As you may know, many original Haciendas have been restored as hotel properties or as private stay. I had the opportunity to explore a few and stayed at one hotel hacienda property – I am dying to return to Mérida and see more of these converted ancient haciendas.

In 2002, the devastating Hurricane Isidore slammed into the states of Yucatán and Campeche, leaving a path of devastation in its path. In these two states there are many rural Maya communities that were severely affected by this hurricane. As a result of witnessing the ruins and destruction caused to these communities, Grupo Plan, a corporation that owns a number of haciendas in the Yucatán, started the project La Fundación de las Haciendas del Mundo Maya, AC ( The Haciendas Foundation of the Maya World). The same founder, a successful businessman and his wife founded an exclusive travel firm, employing esteemed guides, specializing in the Yucatan, whom we  specifically work with for our client visits.

From the sisal workshop: Mother and daughter. Daughter works in the business development side

Friday morning, Pedro Gamboa collected me for the visit to the artisan workshops nearby the Hacienda Temozon Sur. What an electric morning with these charming and talented women. They challenged me to make one of the sisal turtles…from handling the rough uncombed sisal to intricate weaving and assembly. By nature, I am competitive and I sadly must admit, I failed at this delicate craft. The story was the same, each one had introduced a friend to the native craft – the objects may be travel trinkets, but the sisal history is an integral story of the Mayan heritage. I asked them what they liked the most – one said: the money, it is all mine, not my husbands’! She giggled and blushed; these traditional women did not work outside the home and some faced resistance from their spouses. I asked what do you with your money? I pay for my children and grandchildren’s education. I’m not certain she saw the tears well up in my eyes, it was so heartwarming to see a flourishing project and meet these enterprising successful women. The foundation works directly with the women in the villages and are seeing that when women are empowered with education and skills, entire families benefit – and when families benefit, the entire village benefits. 

Through various programs, the foundation is working with 177 artisans in 14 villages that surround the haciendas they own.

From the sisal workshop: Eluteria Chan and Fani Be

We visited the sisal workshop and the carved horn workshop where Cecilia Ek took slices of a horn, pounded them, drew and cut intricate patterns into the tough horn, remarkable – she has won many awards for her work. We also visited a seamstress and a tortilla business. It was the hottest month of May, but the broad smiles of these proud women in the sweltering tortilla bakery told the story – independence, success and a better life for them and their families. These are a few of the highlights of my recent travels.

From the carved horn workshop: Cecilia Ek

Tortilla Shop- Several generations of ladies.

The local guiding team we selected also works in collaboration with the hotel and private haciendas, they provided my introduction to these village of women working on their exceptional crafts. The features of the foundation, besides teaching these women useful skills, set up working villages near the hotel haciendas where the women work and sell their goods. They have also established a path with retailers for the craft goods. The non-profit organization was created with the idea of assisting these rural Maya communities escape poverty as they try to change their ways and adapt to the 21st century.

The Haciendas Foundation was founded as a unique union between the tourism project developed by the group (Grupo Plan) that specializes in innovative tourist developments (the hacienda hotels) and the Maya communities where the haciendas are located.

I once spent much time in Kenya with a small non-profit who taught teen girls how to run a business – it was a solid lesson in the theory: if you teach a woman or a girl a skill, she is more likely than a man to share these skills with other girls – like tossing a pebble into a pond, the ripple effect. When I met the local women in the workshops near Hacienda Temozon Sur, this lesson was repeated to me by the workers – each one introduced a friend, mother or sister to this organization. Success creates success.

Transformation is on the rise in the villages where the program has been put into practice – lives are changing for the better. Such positive changes seem infectious in each community!

From the carved horn workshop by Cecilia Ek

When you purchase one of these products you are helping a family end the vicious cycle of poverty.

Donations and more details can be found at: www.haciendasmundomaya.com



Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam

Besides London, Mallorca, France, Spain and Italy ( always Italy!), we have four families traveling to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Experience a Nordic world of fjords, castles, glaciers, and the legacy of the Vikings.  Enjoy the rides at Tivoli Gardens, discover the capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. View the Danish Crown Jewels, royal Viking ships, the warship Vasa, rescued after more than 300 years on the bottom of Stockholm harbor and well-preserved medieval ports. Western Europe’s most prosperous, pristine and progressive corner, many options for historic castles including Kalmar Castle, and Copenhagen’s fun-loving pedestrian center, biking and kayaking, innovative shopping and gourmet dining.

Generally, we aim to balance city and country life as we explore three important cities, it is  important not to move around too much when choosing three cities, so balance is critical, and at the same time provide an adventure without exhausting the family.

Three locations in 2 weeks translates approx 3-5 days in each city. Stockholm (city and archipelago), then Copenhagen (mostly country near the Fredriksborg castle & the Hamlet castle), and Amsterdam, city.

Starting at the top of the globe, arrive Stockholm in Northern Europe, then travel further  south to Copenhagen and then move south towards Amsterdam. Depart Amsterdam to home.

Stockholm will give teens that balance of cool city and country life but the country life part will be set in the Archipelago, very true to Swedish summers, being in the archipelago near to water and nature, they can learn about the relationship between the two countries of Sweden and Denmark.

Stockholm Hotel and a Glamping Option.

City Hotel http://www.grandhotel.se Grand Hotel and an Archipelago Hotel http://www.sandhamn.com *Extra option* Island luxury camp style hotel – http://www.islandlodge.se (This is very unique place in the middle of the Stockholm archipelago you arrive here by boat and stay in luxury tents, with Mille Notte linen and outdoor showers  – 1 night stay would do fine if the family/teens want to ‘camp’ out for some adventure, could be fun, the website does not look like much but it is a very humble style site and hotel).

A combination of city and island life. Here we can organize culture and cool in the city with biking activity and rafting. Stockholm is where innovation is key, the start of many great companies such as Ikea, H&M, Spotify, Skype, many of the world’s music producers and song writers come from Sweden too.  Then in the archipelago, it is a more humble, sailing environment, small town built on an island, hiking and nature can be the focus here.

Copenhagen Hotels Country http://www.kokkedalslotcopenhagen.dk/en/welcome (here you would be close to the castles which are perfect cycling spots and roads to ride on) Falsled Kro https://www.relaischateaux.com/us/denmark/falsled-fionie-millinge

City – http://www.dangleterre.com The D’Angleterre

Activity Options – Copenhagen.  Here you will get more of the countryside living among castles type of environment near the water, biking and walking is key and the best place to bike in the world is actually Copenhagen.

A cooking class on how to make smörrebröd could be fun, takes a few hours and the pace is fast. There is time for relaxation and leisure.

Amsterdam Hotels (city only)
Hotel L’Europe http://www.leurope.nl/ Overlooking the River Amstel, Hotel de l’Europe blends classic design—the building dates from 1896—with contemporary amenities in its 111 guestrooms and 42 suites. The recently opened Dutch Masters wing features replicas of paintings found in the Rijksmuseum.

Activity Options – Amsterdam. Lots of things to see in Amsterdam – hours of cool shopping, art museums: Van Gogh and Rijks museum, antiques, the Red Light district, the Anne Frank Museum, biking is very common here, the city life is more rife and alive here.

Stockholm Hotel: The Grand Hotel www.grandhotel.se which includes a gorgeous Nordic Spa (included in rate) – located nicely in the middle of the city overlooking the Royal Palace.

Activity Options – Stockholm (city/countryside/). Great thing about Stockholm, it is a blue and green city, surrounded by parks, water and beautiful islands with lots to do – day trips out to islands and the countryside. Teens will have bikes for their entire stay at the hotels, take it with wherever you may go and whatever transport we may use. If the idea is of interest, we could ask a local Swedish family to host a Swedish Midsummer celebration at their humble summer house where you would be able to join them at their home, making flower garlands and eating local Swedish food over midsummer. You can also go berry or mushroom picking together on an island.

Will mix in nature, sports, fun, activity and culture keeping the whole family in mind with a fun/ relaxed balance. Kayaking or paddle boarding in the lake Mälaren or in the beautiful canals of the Royal island of Djurgården. Create a map of Djurgården and meet up with parents somewhere on the island either for a luxury picnic or lunch in a park. A boat trip into the archipelago for island hopping exploring islands, hiking or little quaint towns for shopping. Kite surfing? We know the place on a small island!  The island of Vaxholm has a fortress which is  interesting, great for exploring by bike or just having lunch.  Shopping in the Bohemian style area SOFO for vintage shopping, cool music stores and cafes, where Greta Garbo lived. The old Town is  lovely and a must, for so many reasons, historical perfect in the day & evenings – some say a little haunted as well. Would be fun doing a ghost walk in the Old Town in the evening – teeny cliché perhaps, but fun. The Royal island of Djurgården – is a great spot for both kayaking and cycling it is the perfect spot for these activities as it is so peaceful with many great paths here; there are lovely cafes and restaurants The Rosendahl’s Garden near the Rosendal Castle is a perfect spot for cycling to for teens and the parents can meet the teens there for lunch. It is an open greenhouse and garden with the freshest of produce and flowers, here you can have lunch or coffees and cakes. On the island of Djurgården there is a theme park called Gröna Lund where there are lots of other teenagers as well, it is very close to the Abba Museum and some other lovely restaurants.

If anyone is into photography, there is a museum dedicated to just photography – Fotografiska Museum.

Day trips to beautiful Swedish palaces around the lake Mälaren for a culture experience and have your bikes ready or kayaks nearby at the same spots while the parents explore further and the teens can adventure on.

An underground art tour, the underground system is great in Sweden and we have had some amazing artists paint the walls of the underground – great photo ops.

Adventurous & different options?  Then perhaps a rooftop tour, you will get harnessed up and taken on a climbing tour on top of a building where you get to learn a bit about Stockholm from above and see all the other rooftops over the city, a different view while the parents can come along or wait for the kids at the café down by the water, watching the stunning views & explore the rest of Riddarholmen island.

Will look into some any summer musical concerts outdoors.

The Vasa Museum is quite amazing to visit and has a great but tragic story about the magnificent ship, I could look into a ‘behind the scenes’ experience where you can touch the remaining findings that were found on the ship in the 1600’s – this is in a special vault under the museum and everyone would need gloves before entering.

Beautiful museums abound in locations where there are great paths for riding bikes etc.
Private guides for all tours + bike guide to start the teens off with their bearings & knowledge.

Sunbathing on the feather islands. Take a boat out to the feather islands a quaint little island with small cafés and bathing spots.

I recommend a sail into the archipelago on a private boat and perhaps a stay for the night out if you like. A Swedish barbecue either on an island called Grinda, where you can cycle as well as just relax, kayak, swim and sauna if you wish.

Interested in novels and films like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we can do an exclusive tour, where this movie was written, filmed and inspired by in the book and the movie.

So much – pace yourself or add a few extra days and see it all!