In 2007, an international body polled more than 100 million people to name their favorite, man-made monument from a list of 200 nominees. After all the votes were counted, these were named the winners—aka the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” I’ve visited four so far and hope to see the others soon. Until then, here’s a summary of each.
My latest for Paste Magazine: “It’s amazing how colorful Cancun is on a sunny day, even if you’ve visited its beaches before. The ocean is a stunning combination of deep blues, cobalts, and teals—some of the most gorgeous you’ll ever see. What’s more, the celebrated city is home to more all-inclusives than anywhere else, which is partly why it’s such a popular vacation hop. (The other is Mexican affordability and American proximity.)
“With so many options to choose from, then, which resort stands out? As one of the very last a la carte hotels in Cancun to convert to an all-inclusive, Grand Fiesta Coral Beach is “new” in that it shuns the often pragmatic, systematized practices of traditional all-inclusives while staying true to its fancy heritage. Yes, the property is big and beautiful like other contenders. But the toothy staff are noticeably more attentive and personal, because they were “Hecho en Mexico” and clearly love their jobs.”
My latest for Paste Magazine: This story begins with a struggling musician in the 1970s who didn’t fit the establishment. Rock ‘n’ roll didn’t like him. Nashville didn’t either. So he said, “To hell with it,” moved to Key West, and popularized a new genre of counterculture music called Gulf & Western or Tropic Rock. He championed “island escapism” over hard work. Made fun of inebriated debauchery. Sang heartfelt songs about retired Caribbean sailors. And paired unapologetic poetry with catchy melodies.
His name was Jimmy Buffett, a name that has since outgrown the brilliant but often overlooked and underrated sound he created during that groovy decade. Not long after, Buffett started capitalizing on the endearing lifestyle he created by the late ‘80s, which grew to “Parrothead” levels by the late ‘90s, and stratospheric status by the turn of the century. Today, Jimmy Buffett is worth nearly $1 billion dollars. His “Margaritaville” empire includes dozens of best-selling albums, cafes, and hotels, three best-selling books, and even a handful of Southern retirement communities boasting thousands of homes. In truth, the “brand” far outweighs the music that inspired it.
Last year during the pandemic, just as the world was entering a second round of lockdowns, Buffett Inc. quietly launched the Margaritaville Island Reserve, its first all-inclusive resort, near Cancun, Mexico. Operated by the well-run Karisma chain of all-inclusives, Buffett’s resort could have easily turned into a tacky, kitchy, money grab. It is anything but. After visiting with my wife this winter, Margaritaville Island Reserve is one of the finest all-inclusives I’ve ever visited, replete with the best all-inclusive food of any resort, a helpful staff worth writing home about, and an impressive attention to detail (i.e. custom furnishings) to appeal to fans and non-fans alike.
About the only “on brand” thing the resort is missing is the debauchery, which no one wants on vacation anyway. Continue reading…
My latest for Travel Weekly: “Just as the U.S. was announcing mandatory Covid tests for border reentry this year, I arrived, family in tow, at a small, locally owned resort in the middle of Puerto Vallarta’s coastline. Deep discounts and easy access made Mexico, one of a dozen or so countries still open to Americans, an irresistible beach vacation escape, and although there were plentiful bargains among newer all-inclusives, I was intrigued by an older property called Las Palmas by the Sea.”
As you can hopefully tell after reading the full article, my family and I were enamored by this place. We stayed a full week. Although we usually like to travel to new places and properties for our next vacation, we hope to return to this little slice of paradise within the next year. I smile justing thinking about it. Kudos to both Las Palmas by the Sea and Vallarta Transportation for getting my family to and the airport in comfort and on time. Viva Vallarta!
Can technology ever fix corruption? (Rest of World) Here is a thought-provoking story about how Mexico City uses the world’s largest surveillance system to reduce petty crime while also increasing police bribes in a notoriously corrupt culture. While I disagree with the author about throwing out the bath tub for harboring dirty water (i.e. because the system doesn’t reduce high crimes), it was still an enlightening read.
Shigeru Miyamoto Wants to Create a Kinder World (New Yorker). “It’s important to note that, in our household, all the video-game hardware belonged to me, and the children understood that they were borrowing these things. If they couldn’t follow the rules, then there was an understanding that I could just take the machine away from them. [Laughs.] When it was good weather outside, I would always encourage them to play outside. They played a lot of Sega games, too, by the way.”
After all the votes where counted, only The Colosseum (Italy), Machu Picchu (Peru), Chichen Itza (Mexico), Christ The Redeemer (Brazil), Petra (Jordan), Taj Mahal (India), and The Great Wall (China) were left standing. As the only survivor of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” the Pyramids of Giza (Egypt) were granted honorary status.
Because I like lists, glowing recommendations from large samples, and travel, I’d like to visit all someday. So far, I’ve experienced Machu Picchu and The Colosseum and think they exceed expectations. My friend James has visited six of eight and dubs Machu Picchu his favorite.
Readers—have you visited any of the seven wonders? Have a favorite? Where would you start?