Traditional Handcrafts from Mexico

Traditional Handcrafts from Mexico

huiplies 2A group of women in a small town in the Mexican State of Guerrero is working to preserve their ancient handcrafts.  Using the traditional techniques of hand-spinning, dyeing and weaving they create the most beautifully embroidered and colourful huipiles, (highly decorated blouses) as well as shawls, table runners, napkins and cushions.   All feature the traditional designs of the region.

huipiles 6In 1969 a co-operative was founded in the town of Xochislahuaca with a mission to rescue, preserve and promote the ancient handcraft techniques of spinning, dyeing and hand-weaving.

In November they have been invited to attend the Feria Maestros del Arte in Chapala, Jalisco to demonstrate their skills and display and sell these stunning and highly collectible handcrafted textile products.

We are really excited about attending the Feria again this year.  It’s fantastic to be able to meet these and other artisans who are all working to preserve their ancient skills.

With no intermediaries and being able to buy direct not only guarantees extraordinarily good bargains it also contributes to support these artisans, their families and villages and their traditional handcraft skills which would otherwise disappear.   Mexico is a vibrant and exciting destination and Ajijic, where we stay, is home to a lively group of ex-pats and a vibrant artistic community. Guaranteed to surprise and delight.  Easily accessible with flights to Guadalajara from L.A. where you will be met and hosted for 9 gloriously relaxing days.  It’s slow travel at its very best.

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huipiles

 

8 Reasons why Costa Rica is the Happiest Country on Earth

8 Reasons why Costa Rica is the Happiest Country on Earth

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With a population of less than 5 million this small country positioned between Nicaragua and Panama and the oceans of the  Pacific and Caribbean punches well above its weight in the world.

There’s much that our Governments could learn from this hard working, friendly and sociable people.

Here are just 8 reasons why they have so much to be happy about:

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  1. A 96% functional literacy rate across their population.
  2. The first nation in the world to source 100% of its electricity needs from renewable energy for 75 days in a row.
  3. A well-developed health system.
  4. A stable democratic government for the last 80 years.
  5. A free and effective system of public education.
  6. No standing army and the defence budget re-directed to pay for welfare, healthcare, pensions, and investment in sustainability and in becoming a world leader in eco-tourism.
  7. Life expectancy of 82 for women and 78 for men with more people over the age of 90 than in any other country in the world.
  8. Costa Rica requires a gender balance among candidates in elections for public office.

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All this before we mention the extraordinarily rich diversity of flora and fauna, the rain forests, volcanoes, rivers, beaches and natural resources all safeguarded by national parks and reserves.

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This is a destination not to be missed.  The itinerary for our intimate and unforgettable small group tour to this magic country can be found by clicking here.

Look Who’s Coming to the Feria

Look Who’s Coming to the Feria

If you’re interested in folk art, traditional artisan work, style and colour or interior design then you wouldn’t want to miss the Feria Maestros del Arte being held in Chapala in Mexico. Take a look at a selection of artisans who will be featured at the Fair this November. Our fascinating cultural immersion tour to the small neighbouring village of Ajijic includes access to the Feria and an opportunity to meet the artists. The itinerary can be found by clicking here.

Don’t miss the additional article by Marianne Carlson talking about the history of the Feria, why she felt compelled to establish it and the volunteers who make it possible for these artisans to continue to maintain these traditions and earn enough money to support their families and villages.

Every year the Feria is proud to present grandes maestros (great masters) who have been featured in the landmark publications by Fomento Cultural Banamex.

José Abraham Ruiz (Mexico) – finely carved
bone miniatures. “The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art” in which Don Roberto Ruiz
(father) is featured.

Alfonso Castillo Orta Family  (Puebla) Trees of Life, ceramic figures. “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

José Juan García Aguilar (Oaxaca) ceramic figures. His famous grandmother, Josefina Aguilar – featured in the book “Great Masters of MexicanFolk Art” will also be attending the show.

Juana Gómez Ramírez – (Chiapas) –intricate ceramic jaguars, pots, and other ceramic items. “Great Masters of Latin American Folk Art.”

Manuel Jerónimo Reyes – (Michocán) famous black ceramics from
Santa Fe de la Laguna. ”
Great Masters of Latin American Folk Art.”

Nicasio Pajarito González(Jalisco) the famousbarro canelo (cinnamon) pottery of Tonalá.
“Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

Cesar Torres Ramírez (Puebla) talavera pottery.
“Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

La Flor de Xochistlahuaca(Guerrero) fabulous hand-woven garments. The grand maestra, Florentina López de Jesus (1939-2014), who began this cooperativa is featured in the book”Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art” and “Great Masters of Latin America.”

Maleni Cruz Uc – (Campeche) handwoven Panama hats from huano or jipe (palm fibers). Her grandfather isfeatured in the book “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

Ofelia Madariaga & Gloria Leticia Villajuana(Yucatán) hammocks. “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

Magdiel Garcia Hernandez(Mexico) hand-etched glass.
“Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

Felix Bautista Martínez(Oaxaca) silveryalalagcrosses and necklaces. “Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art.

Gorgonio Candelario Castro(Colima)traditional hand-carved wood masks. His father was featured in the
book” Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

José Ojeda – (Jalisco) world-famous handcrafted knives. “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art”, and “Great Masters of Latin America”.

Pedro Ortega Lozano(Mexico) traditional papel picado as well as cut paper work done in foil. “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”

History of Feria

History of Feria

The History of the Feria Maestros del Arte
By Marianne Carlson
Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Feria Maestros del Arte is an art show conceived from a trip in 2002 when a friend and I took a “four-day-adventure-mega-shopping trip” to 16 artisan villages between Ajijic and Pátzcuaro, Michoácan.

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Clearly, most of the incredible art we were seeing was not being sold anywhere in our area, because as collectors, we would have seen it. Many artists live in remote areas and it is difficult and expensive for them to attend art shows to sell their work. Often, sales are confined to the tianguis (outdoor market) in their puebla (town) or, if they get lucky, to collectors (like me) who manage to track them down at their homes.

I felt strongly that these talented, creative people needed a continuous outlet to sell their work. Mexico’s art is disappearing because artists cannot sustain a living on their art alone. The thought of this trend continuing was more than my heart could bear — something had to be done. I decided to organize a venue where artists could sell their work and keep all the money they made—no booth fee or percentage of sales would be charged, and they would have no lodging expenses because of our “Hosting Program” where they are placed with local families for the three days they are at the show. We would also pay for their transportation. The first Feria was in 2002 and I invited 13 artists.

A legal Mexican and U.S. non-profit organization, Feria Maestros del Arte is organized by an army of volunteers; there are no paid personnel.

In 2016, our 15th anniversary, we will be hosting 85 artists from all corners of Mexico—Chihuahua, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, Michoacán, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Yucatán, Sonora and Campeche. They will come together in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico to exhibit and sell their art to collectors, galleries, museum buyers and the general public.

With much of the cultural diversity of Mexico disappearing, our mission is to facilitate regional and international awareness of the plight of endangered Mexican folk art. Toward fostering the preservation and development of this art, now and in the future, the organization provides a yearly exhibition venue for folk artists to sell their work to galleries, collectors and museums. We further strive, through collaboration with the Mexican organizations and government, as well as entities outside Mexico, to preserve not just the art itself, but the culture producing it, by giving the artists a viable means to sell their work using their traditional skills both in Mexico and abroad.

history-02Educating the public to the plight of Mexican indigenous and folk art is a high priority of Feria Maestros del Arte. Bringing these artists to the public’s attention increases knowledge of Mexico’s history and heritage issues. Our project enhances the identity and traditional values of Mexico and contributes to the rescue and preservation of its art.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest “transplants” living in Mexico! For over 35 years, I have traveled throughout Mexico seeking adventure and experiencing the spirit and essence of this country I now call home for the last 19 years. However, since moving to Lake Chapala, the focus and reasons for my viajes (trips) now have a purpose beyond adventure itself — locating specific Mexican folk artists. Wow! Imagine meeting and getting to know some of the finest artists in Mexico. I am proud to call many of these maestros (masters) friends and part of my extended Mexican family.

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala

If you are adventurous and would enjoy seeing Mexican folk art at its best, consider traveling to Mexico for Feria Maestros del Arte next November 11-13, 2016. I can assure you, this is a very safe area of Mexico. It is also one of the most beautiful areas of Mexico situated on Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, which is about one hour south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. We have some of the finest restaurants you may ever have experienced.
See you at the Feria!

For the dates and detailed itinerary of our Cultural Immersion into Old Mexico tour which includes attending the Feria and meeting the artists click here.

Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

This 100% sustainable hotel in Costa Rica is the chosen destination for the start of our September tour to breathtakingly beautiful Costa Rica home to some of the happiest people in the world.   A luxury boutique hotel that exemplifies the ability to mix luxury and sustainability at the highest level by combining elements of environmental conservation, education, training, luxury, community development and innovative building techniques.

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Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn, the first certified sustainable hotel in Costa Rica, is the only hotel to achieve a perfect score of 100% with the prestigious Sustainable Tourism Certification program. Click on the link below to discover the breadth and depth of commitment of this luxury boutique hotel has to its environment and community.

https://www.fincarosablanca.com/en/about/sustainability

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Heroes, Bon Vivants and Scallawags

Heroes, Bon Vivants and Scallawags

Scallawags – such a delicious word and you can hear that Southern drawl.

Anchorage 1770

Anchorage 1770

In the 1800’s Anchorage 1770 was home to the Ribaut Club, nominally a literary club but better known as a retreat for “heroes, bon vivants and scallawags”.  Rumour has it that history is about to repeat itself with the Ribaut club reinstated but maybe, this time without the scallawags.
The 250 year old Anchorage 1770, in Beaufort, South Carolina has recently re-opened its doors as a private hotel.

 Aerial view of Beaufort, South Carolina

Aerial view of Beaufort, South Carolina

The beautiful historic city of Beaufort, the second oldest city in South Carolina after Charleston, is located in the heart of the Sea Islands and South Carolina low country.

Oak Trees, Beaufort, South Carolina

Oak Trees, Beaufort, South Carolina

With its antebellum architecture, centuries old moss-draped oak trees, historic city centre and extensive walking and cycle paths it’s on the New York Time’s list of must visit destinations and a highlight of our cycling tour in October to Georgia and South Carolina with Halloween spent in the most haunted city in the USA, Savannah.

The full itinerary for this small group tour which follows a circular coastal route in Georgia and the low country of South Carolina starting and ending in Savannah can be found at https://www.bigyellowsuitcase.com.au/tour/savannah-ghosts-cycling-and-southern-hospitality-october-2016/

One thing that can be guaranteed is a generous helping of southern hospitality.

A hidden garden and a murder

A hidden garden and a murder

We’re in Lecce, a city of baroque buildings created by architects in the 17th century. A lively and graceful university city it’s the capital of the Province of Lecce in the region of Puglia – the heel of Italy.

In the centre of this beautiful and beguiling city can be found an ancient noble palace.  Originally built in the 15th century it boasts among its many treasures a magnificent hidden secret garden accessed by a centuries old garden gate.

Secret Garden, Palazzo Tamborino

Secret Garden, Palazzo Tamborino

Family history includes the macabre story of the Prince of Colle d’Anchise who murdered his wife, Lady Beatrice, here in 1636.

Internal Courtyard, Palazzo Tamborino

Internal Courtyard, Palazzo Tamborino

Our tour to Puglia in May includes a private visit, cooking class and dinner in this ancient palace still inhabited by a descendent of the family.   We’ll explore the garden, learn some of the history of the house and the treasures it contains and hopefully not be visited by the ghost of Lady Beatrice.

The full itinerary of the tour departing late May can be found at https://www.bigyellowsuitcase.com.au/tour/the-heel-of-italy-puglia-a-feast-for-the-senses/

There are some great airfare deals currently available for flights to Europe in May.  Check out online at www.kayak.com or ask your favourite travel agent to assist.

Valletta’s 450th Birthday

Valletta’s 450th Birthday

New York Times has listed Malta as one of its Top 52 places to visit in 2016.

There could be no better time to visit as its capital, Valletta, is celebrating its 450th birthday this year.

To mark this significant milestone the Government commissioned the renowned architect, Renzo Piano, to design a new city gate, a restored open-air opera house and a new Parliament building.   They may not be to everyone’s taste but they certainly add some 21st century design to this historic and beautiful city.  Judge for yourself in the photos below of historic Valletta and the new additions.

New Parliament Building

New Parliament Building

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Valletta harbour

Valletta harbour

Typical Balconies in Valletta

Typical Balconies in Valletta

Whilst the main island is endlessly fascinating with its architecture, walled towns, ancient buildings and the oldest underground burial site in the world my heart was lost to Gozo.

The second largest of the three islands that make up Malta it’s easy to lose the tourist crowds even in high season by opting, as we do, to explore the island in 4 wheel drives.  Secluded beaches, farms and small villages abound.

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It’s possible to spend all day exploring and never see any other tourists only to be amazed when arriving to catch the ferry back to the main island to discover the long line of tourist buses waiting to disgorge their passengers.

Planning to be in Europe in June why not join us for our 5 day 4 night visit to the Mediterranean jewel of Malta and discover it Big Yellow Suitcase style.

Awe Inspiring Malta

Awe Inspiring Malta

My first sight of Valletta and its walled harbour took my breath away and closer discovery and subsequent visits to the main island and its 2 sister-isles of Gozo and Comino continued to bewitch, delight and seduce the senses.

Gozo

Gozo

  • The Ggantija Temples – so enormous they could only have been built by giants.
  • The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieri – the only known prehistoric underground temples in the world.
  • The fabulously wealthy Knights of St John who built the capital, Valletta and its magnificent Co-Cathedral.
  • Breathtaking Caravaggios.
  • Three islands each with its own unique beauty.
Balconies in Valletta

Balconies in Valletta

  • A countryside dotted with the oldest known human structures in the world.
  • A Country awarded the St George Cross for bravery in WW2.
  • 7,000 years of history.
  • The Grand Harbour of Valletta.awe-03
  • The Maltese language – the only Semitic language written in Latin alphabet.
  • Mdina, the Silent City and original capital of Malta

    Mdina

    Mdina

The list could go on and on and include the wonderful food and its many cultural influences and its friendly English speaking locals.

Discover it for yourself.  We’ll take you off the tourist trail and initiate you into the richness, variety and wonder that is the Maltese Islands.

Why not combine it with our exclusive small group tour to Sicily.
https://www.bigyellowsuitcase.com.au/tour/malta-shimmering-jewel-of-the-mediterranean-june-2016/
https://www.bigyellowsuitcase.com.au/tour/sicily-the-pearl-of-southern-italy/

Costa Rica – A small country – a GIANT in eco-tourism.

Costa Rica – A small country – a GIANT in eco-tourism.

While other countries talk – Costa Rica walks starting several decades ago when they decided sustainability was more important than funding their standing army.  Budgets were re-directed towards creating an eco-paradise and they confidently expect to be carbon neutral within the next 5 years.

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It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Bordered by oceans on two sides, the Caribbean and Pacific, volcanoes, rainforests, rivers, national parks and reserves.  It has an immense biodiversity and is rich with wildlife including sloths, spider monkeys and quetzal birds.

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Coffee beans are grown here and just about everything you eat will have been grown locally.  The food is a melange of culinary traditions from Africa, Italy, France and China.

You’ll find a recipe for a traditional bread pudding recipe – Budin – often eaten at Xmas if you click on to Recipes.

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Why not join us in September and discover this eco paradise for yourself.
https://www.bigyellowsuitcase.com.au/tour/costa-rica-an-eco-paradise/

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