On Monday, February 22nd a Travel Alert was issued by the U.S. Department of State regarding travel to Mexico.
For the many tourists who have been loyal to visiting Mexico over the years, this news wasn’t cause for concern. However, Mexico attracts new visitors every day and this Travel Alert could have potential tourists feel a little worried about traveling to Mexico.
To begin, this is not a new Travel Alert, but an update from a Travel Alert dated August 20, 2009 and is reviewed every six months. The main revisions on this version have to do with a few additional border areas where extra caution is recommended.
If you read the document, you will see the U.S. Department of State mainly refers to cities like Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and Nogales, where there has been an increase in violence along the U.S. – Mexico border.
Clearly, the Travel Alert has put an emphasis on the border area. But Mexico is a big country and fortunately the top touristic destinations are far from those border cities.
So what does it mean to travelers and how should we respond to this alert?
One of the things that we need to understand is that there is a big difference between a Travel Alert and a Travel Warning.
Basically a Travel Alert informs the public about short-term conditions, meaning U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions (we hope you always use your common sense, regardless!).
On the other hand, Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable.
So, it is very important U.S. citizens understand that this alert is not to discourage Americans from traveling to Mexico’s tourist destinations.
As I mentioned before, the top tourist destinations in Mexico are far from the areas included in the alert. For example, the distance from Cancun to Ciudad Juarez is 1,312 miles – approximately the same distance between New York and Miami (1,290 miles).
Other tourist spots like Los Cabos, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and Acapulco, are about a two-hour flight away from the areas identified in the alert. In other words: no need to get up from your hammock, so relax and ask your waiter for another Margarita!
Putting things in perspective
Big fact: U.S. and international travelers continue to visit Mexico because they feel safe; they know the violence in the northern border cities is unrelated to Mexico’s main tourist areas.
Tourists who visit Mexico find the friendliness, warmth, and hospitality like no other place. Because of this, Mexico welcomed almost 22 million international tourists in 2009. In addition, over one million Americans choose to reside in Mexico.
Always remember: As with any other place in the world, you should always be a smart traveler, use your common-sense, be informed about the place you will visit, respect the local customs, and take any necessary precautions.
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Located in the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat stands in full splendor as the largest religious structure in the world.
It was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman II, the king of the Khmer Empire, and it is remarkably preserved to this day.
The complex of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of many structures and temples honoring Hindu deities.
Besides the main structure, one of the most famous temples is Ta Prohm. This temple has been left as it was found, and today large tree roots have been growing around the stones.
Ta Prohm became a Hollywood film location when it was used as a movie set for the film Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.
My recommendation when visiting Angkor Wat is to buy a three-day pass, which costs about US$20 per person. This will give you plenty of time to explore the compound.
Also, the distances between some temples are a bit far for a casual walk, so you can either rent a bike or hire a driver for the day.
TravelPlusWine always loves to seek out excellent wine bars at the world’s best travel destinations.
Clearly, Bangkok is no exception. As my ex-patriot friend who lived in Bangkok put it, “wine is hip, cool, and spendy in BKK” which means it can be found at just about any big, fancy hotel. So when in Thailand, remember to kick back, relax, and enjoy the Thai hospitality!
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
This extravagant Bangkok hotel is the epitome of world-class. Lucky for non- hotel guests, anyone dressed like a jet setter can stop by to casually enjoy the swanky scene.
With so many restaurants and lounges to choose from, I personally recommend you take a seat at The Verandah Restaurant to enjoy views of the always-active Chao Phraya River.
The Mandarin Oriental only hires crème de la crème chefs who serve the best Thai food in Bangkok and the international wine menu won’t disappoint, I promise!
Pier 59 at the Banyan Tree Hotel has an exclusive wine tasting room. Ask your waiter for a wine recommendation as you dine on sumptuous seafood.
Is there more to life than this? Apparently there’s a lot more on the rooftop Vertigo & Moon Bar including canapés, wines-by-the-glass, and a breathtaking 360° view of Bangkok.
Lake House Wine Garden
If you’re looking for a different kind of wine bar, set far away from the swanky Bangkok hotels, the luscious surroundings of Lake House might be the place for you.
Once home to many well-known artists and writers, this place has been transformed into a secret concrete jungle getaway where great wine comes first and foremost.
Do you have a favorite wine spot in Bangkok?
From a small hill town in the Jurá region of France, comes one of the most unique wines on Earth: Chateau-Chalon.
Also known as vin jaune (yellow wine), the Chateau-Chalon is so exotic and elegant that Emperor Napoleon labeled it as “the best wine in the world”.
Why is this wine so special?
Let’s start by mentioning that the quality standards are extremely important for the producers of this wine. They take their quality so seriously that they are willing to sacrifice an entire year of production if the climate conditions are not favorable during harvest!
Having said that, the production of Chateau-Chalon is very small; on a good year it could amount to 300,000 bottles. And just to make a silly comparison, last year over 100 million bottles of tequila were sold around the world.
The grape behind Chateau-Chalon
Chateau-Chalon is made exclusively with Savagnin grape. This is not to be confused with sauvignon, which is completely different.
The origins of the exotic savagnin grape remain unkown. Mostly grown in the Jurá region, it is believed to be related to the traminer grapes, used to produce the Gewürztraminer. But more specific, it is associated to the Alsacian traminer, which is more aromatic than the German version.
The savagnin grape is also used to produce the Cotes du Jurá wine, a version which many refer to as Chateau-Chalon’s little brother.
Chateau-Chalon is also a vin de garde, French for “a wine to keep,” because it is a wine capable of lasting a very long time.
When I visited the region, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabrielle Rizzi, a producer of Chateau-Chalon.
She stated that a bottle of Chateau-Chalon could easily be stored for 100 years and still taste great when opened. Personally, I can’t wait that long!
Later, while visiting our favorite wine connoisseurs at Liner & Elsen, a fantastic wine shop in Portland, Oregon, I discovered some revealing information about this wine.
One of their wine specialists had tried a bottle from 1964 and then compared it with one from 2000, and he said there was no significant difference in taste. Chateau-Chalon is simply an excellent wine.
Unique in design
The bottle of Chateau-Chalon is one-of-a-kind in the European Union not only in design but in volume.
Since the 16th century it has been bottled in clavelins, a particular bottle style containing a glass plaque with the “Chateau-Chalon” label.
When it comes to volume, nothing else like this exists. The clavelin bottles hold 62 cl of Chateau-Chalon.
The European Parliament had to make an exception to allow such a discrepancy with the regular 75 cl volume.
Why the smaller volume? The reason has to do with the process of making Chateau-Chalon. Those 62 cl are the remaining volume of 1 liter after a maturity period of 6 years in barrels.
To better enjoy Chateau-Chalon
This vin de garde is more enjoyable at a 57º F (14º C) temperature and it is recommended to let it breathe for a few hours (about 4) before drinking. This helps bring out the scents of walnuts, wheat, tobacco, and even curry, which are very characteristic of a Chateau-Chalon.
This wine is ideal with seafood (lobster) or poultry prepared with thick, creamy sauces. And of course, it makes a perfect pairing with the local Comté cheese.
The only drawback is Chateau-Chalon is not an easy wine to find. A great place I was able to find it at a very reasonable price (and from people who are passionate about wine) is Liner & Elsen. They are always very helpful and friendly.
But I can assure that if you try Chateau-Chalon, you might just understand why Napoleon named it the “best wine in the world”. There’s no other wine like it.