Category Archives: Travel

Aeroliteral Inaugurates Non-Stop L.A./Rocky Point

MP Staff

Aeroliteral announced today a Los Angeles press conference to celebrate the start non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora – otherwise known as Rocky Point. The conference will take place October 24th at 10 A.M. Flights began today, with the following schedule:

Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays
Depart Hermosillo (HMO) to Puerto Peñasco (PPE) – 9:00 AM
Arrive PPE – 10:00 AM

Depart PPE to Los Angeles International (LAX)- 10:40 AM
Arrive LAX – 12:10 PM

Depart LAX to PPE – 1:30 PM
Arrive PPE – 3:00 PM

The Aerolitoral commuter jets carry 33 passengers – and yes, passports are a must!

A Farewell To Nick Gallo

By David Simmonds


Nick Gallo died a week ago. No one saw it coming, certainly not his wife, Laurie, and the two sons he loved so much, Alex and Noah. From his Seattle home he boarded a plane bound for Greece on yet another writing assignment and he didn’t come home, succumbing to pericarditis and pneumonia after several days in an Athens hospital. By all accounts he was getting better after several bed-ridden days, then suddenly his temperature was 104 degrees and then he was gone at 57.

By definition Nick was a freelance writer, taking jobs where he could find them, often traveling to Mexico to research a travel piece. But Nick was much more than a travel writer. He was a damn writer…period. He had the gift– the talent, the humanity, the honesty to tell a story that you would read and believe. He told it straight and pure, often with wicked humor, and hacks like me knew that we had to always try harder if we wanted to compete. Quite simply, Nick was the best of the bunch. He was my friend and I will miss him dearly, but he will not be forgotten.

Mexico Premiere will be establishing an annual excellence in writing award focused on Mexico travel, to be named The Nick Gallo Award. One day, perhaps twenty years from now, some young journalist will ask “Just who was this Gallo dude”? Nick would like that.

Here is a web site where you can see some photos and read some of Nick’s excellent writing

And here are some thoughts from a few of Nick’s many travel writer friends.

Marty Adair

How I miss our Nick. Smiling always. Spreading his sunshine. Casting humor on his foibles. Boyishly humble and polite. Endowed with a family he obviously loved. Enthusiastic about so much — his family, friends, life, work. Mexico. Imbued with the joy of a well-turned phrase. Brimful of ideas to spin into perfectly crafted stories. Deeply intrigued by people and places and feelings. Compassionate. So refreshingly unafraid to embrace emotion. How much I admired all of this about him. I will always remember Nick Gallo.

Susan Kaye

Nick–you were one of the all-time greats among travel writers. Your words always made me envious.

Lydia Gregory

I guess when writing about Nick’s smile and laugh, I’d have to paraphrase the Borg: resistance was futile. Why even try? With his biting wit, his keen insight and amazing power of observation — tempered buy his ever-present sense of humor — Nick Gallo easily peeled off the layers of pretentiousness that so many people love to wrap around themselves. After one tequila, two tequilas, three tequilas (but never floor), he regaled those around him with stories that would touch off fits of laughter. I feel privileged, very privileged that he included me in his circle of friends. Our communication wasn’t constant, but it was real. Just like everything about Nick, who will always be for me “el Gallo Mas Gallo”.

Dan Millington

I’m in shock!!! Man, he’ll be missed. Damn it for taking him. Nick was and always will be a great spirit. Always up, always had something funny to say or write. His compassion for Mexico and his writing about the country is unparalleled. The way he carried himself was a lesson in manners and dignity. Always respectful of the Mexican people and their culture. I considered him to be a very good friend of mine. He never let me down and I could always rely on his counsel with respect to our industry.

I will miss not being able to talk to him. I will miss his wonderful spirit. I will miss his friendship.

Lisa Coleman

When I heard the tragic news about Nick Gallo, I was devastated. It wasn’t that we talked often or knew each other beyond our occasional crossings in Mexico, it was because people like Nick don’t come along too often in the freelance writing world. He was so kind, generous and everyone knew him as a consummate professional. After we met for the first time at the annual Tianguis trade show in Acapulco, I asked him to send me some of his work. I was more than impressed; I was moved by the passion in his words and quality of his articles. He had won the Pluma de Plata and was kind of a celebrity to those of us who aspired to be at the top of our profession. But all that aside, he was just a hell of a good guy. I know I’m on a long list of people who feel that way. Nick Gallo was an icon in this business and I’m privileged to have known him.

Maribeth Mellin

As the air darkens and darkness descends earlier each day, my thoughts turn to my favorite Mexican celebration. It’s called Dia de los Muertos, and falls just after Halloween on the Catholic feast days of all souls and saints. At the end of each October, my thoughts turn to those people who linger in my life long after their bodies leave this earth, as I practice my romanticized version of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I gradually assemble an altar, searching for Dad’s cuff-links and Mom’s engagement band. You’d think after so many years building altars small and large I would keep everything in one place. Not me — I do best with scattered memories.

This year, sad to say, some memories are far too recent to be set aside. A few days ago, while traveling in Baja, I found out through cyberspace that a dear friend and fellow travel writer had died alone in Athens. His home was in Seattle, where his wife, sons, relatives and abundant friends were in total crisis mode. His body was on some soulless morgue in Greece. And all around the world people were mourning a loss that seemed utterly unreal.

Nick Gallo’s death has affected me on so may levels I’m not sure I’m ready to put his picture on my altar. The pain is sharp and reverberations raw.

To be honest, I didn’t even know Nick all that well. We shared e-mails weekly, talked on the phone every few months, and saw each other almost annually at Mexico’s big tequila-fueled bash. I can’t even tell you how many years that cycle’s been repeating itself. Bit I do know he was one of the first people I wanted to email when I heard of his death, odd as that sounds. It was one of those the sum is far more than its parts moments. I wanted Nick to know I missed him and that someone we shared and cared so much for was gone.

Let’s say I’ve known Nick for eight years, maybe. We met in Mexico — I’m sure of that. Our acquaintance moved quickly into friendship and camaraderie built upon a place and a profession. We were writers sharing a common topic and plenty of similar complaints. We both suffered from “whining and dining” syndrome, as Nick once wrote.

Few people outside the business get the downside of travel writing. Nick, being (I think) genetically sensitive, got it in spades. He loved exploring new places — and hated leaving his family. Though outgoing and funny and genuine, he wasn’t all that crazy about being thrown into trying circumstances with perfect strangers. Yet he wanted so very much to experience something new and powerful and to write about it from the heart, giving readers a true feel for his experiences. In doing so, Nick gave me, and many others, a tremendous gift. Writing was a passion for him, a talent he treasured and used judiciously. He cared so much about every word, even when his assignments trivialized his abilities. He had the fury to fight for his words and their meanings and the drive to spend hours composing thoughts that might never be published.

Those of us who write for a living sometimes lose our voices as we labor to earn dollars for every word. Granted, I only read the best of Nick’s writing and didn’t see his everday labors. but when Nick was on, he could write with a worldly, yet personal, perspective that comes only from genuine practice, persistence and skillful observation. I loved reading Nick’s work, and I’ll miss his words.

So, this year Nick Gallo will prominently displayed on my Day of the Dead altar. I’ll choose a photo that best portrays his spirit and smile, and the finest bottle of tequila I can fined. I’ll fan out the pages from his essay on walking the dog and his stories about traveling with his wife and sons in Mexico. One night, when I’m trying to come up with the perfect sentence or am internally raging at some absurd abuse of my words, I’ll talk with my elusive friend. And I’ll thank him for being a part of my life forever.

Jane Onstott

Nick was a travel writer friend of mine; we saw each other most every year at the annual travel writers convention in Acapulco and kept in touch via email and the occasional phone call. When I think of Nick I remember his laugh, which seem to gain momentum quickly and ranged from husky through a whole range of notes and pitches, depending on the joke or situation.

Nick wan’t usually the center of attention, preferring, it seems to me, a one-on-one or small group conversation. Although I didn’t see him as a late-night party person, he didn’t abandon the fray. During after-hours convention parties and club visits he’d usually hang on ’til the more effusive among us called it quits, even if he was on occasion spotted napping at the table, while others danced on.

The two of us sometimes groused about the state of the world, and although politics and pettiness sometimes made him blue, he was also always philosophical and stoic. Thoughtful in all senses of the word. He was proud of his work but extremely modest, while always quick with praise and generous with suggestions and advice for others.

John Mitchell

Like everyone who knew Nick Gallo, I was shocked and saddened to hear of this recent death. I valued him both as a colleague and as a good friend. Nick was a gifted and dedicated writer. I never failed to learn something new from him every time we found ourselves traveling together, usually on a press trip to some corner of Mexico. His warmth and irreverant sense of humor were infectious, as was his love of Mexico. If Nick were here, I’m sure that he would still be telling us “Yes, folks, you can find plenty of Cheez Whiz atop your huevos rancheros south of the border these days, but here’s an antidote…” And Nick never failed to deliver that antidote. We’re all going to miss him.

The Greenberg Good Book

MP News Staff

Peter Greenberg has written the most complete travel advice tome to date. His new paperback book, “The Complete Travel Detective Bible”, will answer travel questions that you have never asked or imagined. But if you want to know how things work in the real post 911 travel world apart from the kick-back-and-relax airline and resort ads, this will be $17.95 well spent.

As travel editor of NBC’s Today show, where he frequently reminds breakfast viewers that there are two kinds of luggage…carry-on and lost, Peter is always going somewhere. At 624 pages, the bible of travel covers everything from initially planning your trip to medical evacuation insurance, should you require it. With more tips than a porcupine, Greenberg has organized all of the material in an easy-to-find manner that will mitigate the risk and enhance the reward on all of your future travels, or at least until the world changes….again.

Published by Rodale and available at bookstores and online.

Sombreros Off to the Cenote Women!

By: Lisa Coleman

(Included Article By: Sara Miller Llana)

There are certain things about Mexico that almost defy description…swimming in a cenote someplace (anyplace) in the Yucatan ranks right at the top. Most people won’t even pronounce it correctly, let alone be able to convey the experience. Either way, the accomplishment of these local women warrants plenty of praise.

Pronounced SAY-NO-TAY, this is essentially the opening to an underground river or cave. The Yucatan functions as a giant sponge with all of the water sources lying underground. The article below (published in the Christian Science Monitor and attached here in its entirety) offers an excellent definition… so do read on.

Before you get there, I just want to share that I have been lucky enough to visit a few cenotes throughout my Mexico travels. Some have been totally remote and equally as amazing. The people in the small villages around them, if you can find them, will gladly act as your guide for a few pesos. You’ll have to dig deep and venture out, but it will all be worth it. These brilliant works of nature’s art are a must to put on your list. Even if you have to go the touristy route with a bunch of strangers on your bus to Chichén Itzá, make sure a cenote is in your itinerary if you find yourself on the Yucatan Peninsula. Trust me, it will be a highlight.

Anyway, the article below is a marvelous story of heart and dedication of the Mexican women. Their dedication to this project is testament to their courage and to their love for their land. If you want to the photo that accompanied the piece, check out

Women help save Mexico’s cenotes Housewives now earn tourist cash after cleaning up one of the region’s famous freshwater pools.By Sara Miller Llana Yokdzonot, Mexico – The name of this town in the Mayan language means “above the cenote,” but for years the cenote, or freshwater pool, in the middle of this tiny community of 500 operated as the neighborhood garbage dump.And then a group of middle-aged women here, looking for more work in a town where most families merely subsist on crops they grow on small pots of land, decided to capitalize on the growing craze for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving among the sinkholes that dot the tourist circuit throughout Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.The men called them foolish, and as the group of 25 cut through the jungle with machetes, the other women shook their heads. They hiked 20 meters down to the water’s edge, dragging out glass bottles and plastic bags, one by one. They hiked up into the mountains to bring back flat stones to create foot paths, and cut down wood to create rails. The whole effort took more than a year.“We are all housewives,” says Mirna Yolanda Mendez, a mother of four, standing at the Yokdzonot Ecological Park and Cenote, which opened this winter. It is fringed by lush vines. The water is crystal clear, revealing brightly-hued fish below. On a recent day a family splashed around a dock anchored in the middle. “No one believed we could do it,” says Ms. Mendez.

How Mexico’s cenotes formed Cenotes formed thousands of years ago, as ocean levels rose and fell over the Yucatán Peninsula. The region sits on of one of largest limestone platforms in the world, which has dissolved over time into flooded caves and underground rivers, whose openings are the cenotes spread across the region today.Today, there are 3,000 cenotes registered throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, but an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 are believed to exist.Sam Meacham, who runs the Center for Research of Aquifier Systems of Quintana Roo and has been exploring cenotes for the past decade, says they are to the Yucatán Peninsula what the “Alps are to Switzerland.”The sinkholes were integral to the lives of the ancient Mayan people. They not only provided their water source but were revered as entrances to the “underworld,” and the ancients threw gold, jade, and even sacrificed bodies into them. Their Mayan derivation, dzonot, also means “sacred well.”

While they were virtually unheard of 10 years ago, tourists are increasingly visiting the pools, which range from deep swimming holes like the one in Yokdzonot to vaulted caverns where stalactites hang from the walls.

Some are full-blown tourist operations; others draw only locals looking for a picnic and a swim. “Each year the number of visitors goes up,” says Mr. Meacham.

Locals once used the town’s cenote as a water source, but over time trash began to accumulate in it. No one considered swimming there – except the young boys who would play anywhere.

Tourists and local residents certainly had very little interest in the town’s cenote, even though they have whizzed by the tiny town for years on the way to see the ancient Mayan pyramids at Chichén Itzá.

Tourists are now stopping byOne visitor was Belisa Barbachano, who runs the landmark hotel Hacienda Chichen at the nearby ruins and has driven past Yokdzonot for 14 years. But taking a shortcut one day last year, she passed the town, and a group of women working into the night.She immediately assumed some high-end tourist operator had moved in, she says. But when she stopped to talk she says she realized it was a grass-roots effort by the community to boost tourism and generate revenue.“There were these little women,” Ms. Barbachano says, whose staff now helps them plan their menus and follow a budget. “I was so impressed with them. They had put down each stone. Everyone thought they were crazy. They told [us]: ‘Now that we have it, everyone wants it.’ ”

Today homemade signs on the highway invite visitors to take a swim. The cenote is still a work in progress. The group takes shifts managing the new tourist attraction: cleaning, handling the $2 entrance fees, or cooking in a small palm-covered restaurant that they built adjacent to the cenote. For now, the group invests most of the money they earn into maintaining the small park and cenote.

It’s been hard, says Mendez, who used to sew in her spare time for extra cash. While they were building the pool, some men complained that the women were gone all day and night. Some men helped, but others have not accepted that they must sometimes help out.

That, she says, has not stopped their efforts. “As a woman, all you want to do is help your family,” Mendez says. “That is why we did this.”

Baja Targeted For Another Cancun

By David Simmonds

Those of us who have traveled Baja California for decades know that the 900-mile long peninsula is, like a wild Mustang, not easily tamed…and we like it that way. The lone, winding highway connecting Tijuana to land’s end at Cabo San Lucas was completed in 1973, spurring tourist-oriented growth around the southern Cape, now one of Mexico’s most visited destinations. But the majority of Baja has changed little for the past 35 years, attracting road-hardened, adventurous travelers and residents who don’t much like crowds and concrete. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the imcomparable Sea of Cortez, the lack of fresh water and searing summer heat have been Nature’s ardent protector from the inevitable advances of the single-minded Hammer-Swingers. If some places on earth deserve protection (of course, they do), then Baja California has to be near the top of that shrinking, sacred list. Make your next Mexico visit to Baja and you’ll see what I mean.

The Baja California Meeting three-day summit was held in Tijuana last week, where a Fonatur (the tourist development arm of the Mexican government) spokesman announced plans to study the pristine area between Gonzaga Bay and Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez, about 300 miles south of the border. “We need to build three Cancuns, and we are analyzing where we could do so, and one of them could be in this zone”, is how the Fonatur official matter-of-factly put it. As he was addressing mostly developers and real estate moguls, his musings were met with head-nodding approval.

One Cancun, a Disney-like experience for serious party warriors, is enough. Much of that once ecological and cultural wonder is being destroyed, with no end of destruction in sight. Okay, we’ll give them that one, although I’m not sure the local Mayan civilization would agree. But Cancun was a mistake and should not be repeated…anywhere.

Fortunately, there are several environmental watchdog groups who diligently fight for nature. For a good overview check out Ron Mader’s excellent web site:

With the recent Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Al Gore, the sometimes flickering light being shined our earth’s environment has never been brighter. It is up to each of us to get involved. It’s a fight worth fighting.

Mexicana Bid Rejected, Public Wins

By David Simmonds

Air flights within Mexico have become much cheaper the past few years as start-up airlines have increased competition to the long-time carrier giants, Mexicana and AeroMexico. Utilizing the power of online booking and well-designed web sites, newer airlines such as Alma, Aviacsa, Avolar and Volaris have opened up new routes at competitive prices, fueling the decline in revenues for the Big Two.

Mexicana had recently made a bid to buy AeroMexico, which would have given them control of over 50% of the domestic market. Wisely, the anti-monopoly regulators in Mexico have ruled against the sale, citing too much “market control” as the reason for the correct decision.

Prior to competition being allowed in the domestic market, the price to fly from city-to-city was insane, with fares much greater mile-to-mile than in the U.S. I recently flew on Avolar round-trip from Tijuana to Tepic, about 2,000 miles total, for less than $175.00. So, props to the Mexican regulators for watching out for the public and not succumbing to the “elite-connected” network pressures that so often dictate the agenda.

Taco Hell?

By: Lisa Coleman

As the defender of Mexico’s culture and cuisine, the news was shocking. It’s not bad enough that we have to endure an over abundance of fast food  in the good ol’ USA, but now (for reasons I will never understand) Taco Bell is opening in Mexico. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, back in 1992, Taco Bell attempted to cross back over the border into Mexico City. And, after giving it a whirl next door to KFC, they packed up their bland, greasy meat, hard shell tacos and headed home.

I’m not Mexican, but I can assure you the taco is sacred. Come on now, from a food perspective, this is a Mexican icon. A real Mexican taco is something to behold. It’s kind of impossible to get a bad one… unless of course you’re in a strip mall at a Taco Bell. The idea for the “Mexican” Taco Bell is to project a “more American fast-food image.” Why, I don’t know, but maybe there is a marketing guy at Yum Brands, Inc. corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky that knows something the Mexican’s don’t. By the way, Yum Brands, Inc. is also the proud owner of the culinary gems KFC and Pizza Hut.

To make it even more alluring… they have added French fries to the menu at Mexican locations. Not just plain oil-drenched fries, but some with a special south-of-the-border twist. In an attempt to further devastate the Mexican palate, the fries will be topped with a choice of cheese, tomatoes, cream or ground meat. Yum. Yum. Need I go on?

Will it work? My guess is no. I have faith in the taste buds of the Mexican people. I think they will honor their taco. If you want to enjoy the rather disturbing details of the Taco Bell invasion, please read