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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You win some, you lose some


This is the 14th floor pool deck of the Icon Brickell complex in Miami, looking out over Biscayne Bay.

Three buildings form around it on the north, south and west sides, leaving the open view you see here facing east. The buildings to be seen are on Brickell Key a small island just offshore. Each of the three Icon buildings are more than 50 floors, offering magnificent views of the bay, Miami River and downtown.

The Viceroy Hotel occupied the west building until it was acquired in June 2016 and changed to a W. I shot it and this picture in 2010 when it was Viceroy managed.

I loved this pool deck and watched the sunrise from it more than a few times.

So what?

Well, the damn thing leaks and had been found to be structurally unsound. The residents of Icon Brickell and the new owners of the hotel tower (an arm of the government of Qatar) have to cough up $14.4 million dollars to fix it. The fix will also take well over a year during which time there will be no pool deck and ongoing construction noise as it is shored up from all sides.

The lawsuits are flying, not at the talented architects at Arquitectonica and Phillipe Starck's firm Yoo, who designed the buildings, but at the contractor.

It's going to be a mess. Such a shame.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Here's the thing - it's not all about you

At least it shouldn't be.

I recently read a travel piece in the New York Times by a writer named Freda Moon. Whining and self-indulgent, the piece has all of the charm of a warm Chardonnay. The basic ingredient had potential, but the manner of serving is all wrong. How Ms Moon convinced the Old Gray Lady to publish this is beyond me.

The title of the piece is, "Bringing a Destination Wedding Within a Family's Reach". not a bad premise for a nuts and bolts service article in the "how to" fashion, but Ms Moon's piece gives no insight how to accomplish this and instead focuses on her own self-induced travails and they're not very interesting at that.

When Clay Felker was Editor of New York magazine he championed "New Journalism", where the writer injects themselves in to the piece they are writing and becomes a significant part of the story. Tom Wolf and Hunter S. Thompson were let loose on the world and for writers of their talent the story became better for it. Ms Moon has no such gift.

Currently, the Scottish writer Andrew O'Hagan does this brilliantly with his travel essays, as does Lawrence Osborne, the English writer. I assume that Ms moon is not from the British Isles. Nor is she Dervla Murphy, the swashbuckling Irish writer who dragged her young daughter across Madagascar and wrote it up in a book called, Muddling Through In Madagascar - a highly recommended read.

Travel writing relies upon observation and anecdote and it takes a good raconteur or skilled writer to interest us enough to care. Ms Moon's petty tribulations bored the shit out of me. Starbucks has made billions by not serving you a cup of coffee, but by giving you an experience that's all about you, and Freda Moon and her ilk lap the attention up and regurgitate this as a way of life.

The cod's wallop that was served up in this offending piece was about attending a friend's wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico, with baby and husband in tow. Punta Mita is a pricey enclave just north of Puerto Vallarta. I've worked there and know it quite well so I was interested in reading the article. Our poor scribe couldn't afford the rates at Punta Mita so they took cheap digs down the road. Thankfully I was spared stories of tarantulas in the bed and lizards in the shower, but I did get the tale of her baby soiling it's diaper as the Lyft driver arrived to take them to the airport in San Francisco.

On that omen she should have taken the hint, stayed at home and made up an excuse for the New York Times because the article became no better as I toiled through one laborious, self-indulgent sentence after another. The writer's observations of her location were few and shallow and the prose was mundane. I'd advise her to keep the day job but I fear this may be it.

Serviceable travel writing is fairly straightforward, here's where to go and what to do sort of thing. Good travel writing is hard to come by and ranks high on the literary scale for me. Actually, Lawrence Osborne claims that he has turned his back on it these days to pursue fiction because travel writing is really from another era.

I think I know what he means and if I may expand on that thought: Good travel writing is losing an audience in these times of pre-packaged trips to an all-inclusive, tweeting at every opportunity in-between taking Selfies and posting cell phone shots of everything that comes your way on Instagram.

The more travel marketers use terms like experiential and authentic, the less it becomes so.

Pity, but there are still dinosaurs like me- and O'Hagan - who can appreciate a good yarn well told and seek to inject some depth into creative endeavor.


Litbu, Punta Mita

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mayakoba Magic



Forty minutes south of Cancun and ten minutes north of Playa Del Carmen, Mayakoba is several hundred acres of jungle, mangrove swamps, man made canals, a golf course and three (soon to be four) gorgeous resorts. A gorgeous beach with turquoise waters tops it off.

Fairmont was the first and was soon followed by Rosewood (pictured above) and then Banyan tree. Hyatt Andaz is scheduled to open by the end of 2016.

This was my third time in nine years and it's as good as the first day I laid eyes on it. Owned by Spanish developer OHL, who have sensitively developed the land, with the addition of the canals and little streams, all of which are man made, they have created a nature preserve among the wetlands of the mangroves. Myriads of birds - you should see the size of the Great Blue Heron - deer, coati, raccoons, crocodiles, iguanas and mammals of all kinds are to be seen throughout the day.

The larger canals connect the three resorts, while the numerous streams are within each resort and allow one to watch the cormorants dive for fish while sitting on your patio or terrace. It's a great way to have morning coffee and watch the sun slowly rise over the trees.

Electric powered boats, like the one above, ply visitors to and fro and many of the casitas have their own private dock for water taxi service if you prefer it to the golf cart shuttle service available at all of the resorts.

Highly recommended and don't forget to bring a camera!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grand Hyatt, Playa Del Carmen.




The recently opened Grand Hyatt is right in the middle of the bustle on 5th Avenue, the main shopping, dining and place to be seen street in Playa.

It's also a block long and stretches out to the beach. Distinctive, modern architecture set it apart and certainly raise the bar in the area known for its local boutiques, cafes and shops. From cheap T shirt shops to Cartier and Mont Blanc, they're all there on Avenida Cinco.

I work in the Riviera Maya and around Playa about three or four times a year and have developed a taste for Playa, which I first of all quite disliked. Resorts on the Riviera Maya are relaxing and tranquil while Playa is busy, very busy. Traffic is a hodgepodge of everything imaginable and no one seems to know what a stop sign is. Parking is almost impossible - unless you know of my secret spot. It took a long time to find so I'm not telling.

Aside from that, it's full of real characters, both tourist and local and there's never a dull moment.

Thanks to Braulio and the rest of the folks at Hyatt who made it a pleasure. The above is sunrise at the infinity pool, overlooking the ocean.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cancun

I know, I know.

Cancun, Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Cancun. What can I say? It's a very busy place. Tourist arrivals and new resort building keep going up and up.

This was brand new - Excellence in Playa Mujeres, north of Cancun and the hotel zone, directly facing it's namesake, Isla Mujeres.

Before all of this development started, I was in Isla Mujeres. No ferries in those days, just fishermen who would take you over for a few pesos. There was only one hotel and a lot of smuggling of electronics it seemed. Late at night I watched fishing boats swinging their booms and big nets over the dock to unload the day's catch . . . . . . large boxes labeled Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic etc. The Honda motorcycles weren't in boxes!




I switched to Sony many years ago because of their lovely Zeiss lenses, but this was the first time I had used an E mount mirrorless for a job. While they produce lovely files, I miss a bright, optical viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders just aren't up to snuff. Especially for work in bright sun and this old man's eyes. Having to hold a camera away from my body in order to see anything just has the wrong feeling about it.

Riviera Maya

I decided to add a few entries in order to catch up - while I'm in the mood and have the time.

Just north of Playa Del Carmen and next to Mayakoba is Blue Diamond, formerly the Mandarin Oriental, the last time I was there in 2008.

Lush and dense landscaping contrast the smooth and sparse exteriors of the Casitas dotted around the grounds. Mine had a stream behind and I watched from my patio as the Cormorants fished for food every day.




Mi Casa

Mea Culpa

 
I've been remiss in adding new work to this site for a long time. Way too long.
 
So, I'll try to make it up with the lovely Four Seasons in Scottsdale, shown below. The Sonoran desert in July isn't anybody's first choice and this is the second time I've shot in Scottsdale in the middle of summer. Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, wrote Noel Coward. While I'm guilty of the second, he could have also added photographers shooting resorts in the off season. Only makes sense folks.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Classic Adobe architectural styling in the middle of the Sonoran desert about 40 minutes out of town and around the corner to Troon North golf course, which has stunning topography and landscaping. I keep promising myself to shoot there but never have.
 
On the way back, I actually had the joy of getting goosed by a TSA agent at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Something about my groin area in the body scan they said as I was sent over for the full experience of having a man in uniform rub his hands all over me. He was very efficient and polite though and I only giggled a couple of times. Noel Coward would have appreciated the irony.