We would like to thank the Occidental Hotel and Resorts & Isla Cozumel for their hospitality during the filming of Classical Stretch Season 9 and for letting us film at several of their beautiful locations!
We arrived at the airport in Cancun and met by the charming and very efficient Anna of the Mayan Riviera Board of Tourism. She became our gracious host for the next two and a half weeks picking us up and dropping us off at hotels and locations around the Rivera Maya. Our first stop was the Occidental Grand Xcaret hotel. We spend our first 4 nights in this beautiful resort which is also an ecological and historical preserve. As we walked around the hotel grounds we’d stumble across many old Mayans ruins from light houses, small ritual sites and ruins of a Mayan village. The hotel featured a protective cove that we filmed two of our most beautiful episodes. The cove was sheltered by rocky walls that the ocean was constantly beating against. This made for some tricky camera work trying to keep the cameras dry in the face of the extreme mist. The audio was even a greater challenge as you couldn’t have a conversation with the sound of the ocean pounding on the rocks. Our magical sound expert managed to do wonders getting one of the most interesting episodes of the series. Poor Miranda had to film these episodes without being able to hear any of her music! But it all worked out in the end and we were very proud of our efforts all round. Yeah team!
Up at 4:00 am, to be picked up by Anna, our new best friend from the Mayan Rivera board of Tourism (who took great care of us), to go to Xel-Ha, a natural aquarium park. The park is considered the largest aquarium in the world! Xel-Ha has miles and miles of beautiful trails, which means quite a bit of walking with our heavy equipment! Everywhere we went we were invited to participate in all the activities. Too bad work got in our way. We did manage to get in quite a bit of sight seeing as it is part of the job! Sigh…
We packed all of our things and said goodbye to the Xcaret Grand Hotel and headed to the ferry in Playa del Carmen to go to Mexico’s renowned Cozumel Island. The ocean wasn’t very calm causing some of us to be a little queasy! Once off the ferry we were greeted by Pablo from the Cozumel Board of Tourism. Pablo gave us a history lesson of the island. We learned that Cozumel is the largest inhibited island in Mexico and is one of the top 5 diving destinations in the world due to the second largest coral reef that is located on its coast?! Before Cozumel became a vacationing haven it was a place where Mayans made pilgrimages to. Women were obliged to visit Cozumel as the Island was home to the fertility goddess Ixchel. Pablo dropped us off at the Occidental Grand Cozumel resort where we were greeted with a glass of champagne and cashews. This was a boutique hotel had all the charm of a Mexican Hacienda! The individual Villas where we stayed were cut into the jungle and surrounded by natural flowers and vines and palm trees. Every path was cut through the jungle punctured by fountains and lined by lush flowers and jungle foliage. Monkeys were swinging from the vines, and three foot long iguanas sun-bathed unfazed by tourists on the paths, hanging from trees and in the beaches. We had lots of great locations to shoot so you will get to see some of the hotel in the next series.
On our 8th day of filming Pablo picked us up for a short drive to Chankanaab National Park. Chankanaab is famous for a massive natural lagoon located inside the park; Chan means small and Kanaab means sea or ocean. There were countless water activities to do there none of which were had time to do. A swim with the dolphins was what looked the most fun! Since the park is open to the public we had to wait to film after the park closed, which meant we had to alter our regular filming schedule. Filming is dependent of the sun not park closing times. The time change meant that we were shooting in the dead heat. Poor Miranda and the camera crew almost fainted in the afternoon heat. No one did but it wasn’t the most fun of filming days. The place was amazing for its archeological replicas. It is worth a visit not in the dead heat of the day.
It was once again time for us to pack-up and leave. We’d just spent 7 nights at the Grand Cozumel and loved every minute. No one wanted to leave! We had no choice so we reluctantly hoped back onto the ferry and headed to the mainland. The water was much calmer this time around, but for future trips we picked up handy tips from the locals as to how not to get sea sick when the water is rough. Sit in the back ferry. Once off the ferry we headed to our final destination, the Royal Hideaway Playcar Resort. This breathtaking resort is situated in Playa del Carmen where it is the winner of the AAA 5 Diamond Award (is the highest level of the AAA Diamond Ratings System for restaurants and lodgings administered by AAA). We were greeted with more champagne and cookies. Yum! This hotel was a ridiculous treat for us, starting with afternoon tea and finishing with cognac. There is no way to describe the quality of food. Every meal was a masterpiece of flavor and beauty. Each meal was accompanied, if you wished, by the perfect wine and served to perfection. I have to say I have eaten in some very nice restaurants in London, Paris , LA and New York and never has as consistently high quality food as there. On returning to Montreal and Chicago we all found that it was difficult to readjust to our old lives after experiencing even for a few days what it’s like to be part of the 1%. We all are planning to bringing our loved ones to experience the Royal Hideaway Playcar. Everyone deserves to be spoiled at least once in their life!