“Mexico the Royal Tour” – PBSTravel — By Tania Anderson on September 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm
By Tania Anderson
Live harp and flute music wafted throughout the hall greeted the patrons at the Regal Cinemas in downtown Los Angeles. Tequila freely splashed into glasses as tasty Mexican appetizers were served to dark-suited and sequined guests at Wednesday night’s advance screening of “Mexico: The Royal Tour.” The scene was reminiscent of embassy parties in DC, where dark suits abound and one might scan a lapel to get a fix on your affiliation. One female guest was exquisitely dressed in colorful and traditional Mexican finery, a la Frida Khalo, with flowers in her perfectly coiffed hair.
Over 800 attendees filed into the theatre and were encouraged to take their seats pronto as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, accompanied by the Ambassador from Mexico to the United States took their seats. The announcement was made that President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala would be arriving any minute. The phalanx of policemen outside had definitely not gone unnoticed, due to the presence of a Mexican royalty.
EMMY-award winning travel news journalist Peter Greenberg had the unprecedented opportunity to join the affable president on an exotic but mega-fast paced journey criss-crossing Mexico in the president’s helicopter while absorbing all the sites from above, ground-level, and way beneath the earth’s surface.
President Calderon rose to speak at the dais after the audience had been told that he had filmed exhausting 20-hour days with Peter, but never complained. Calderon noted “When Peter first spoke about this idea, a lot of people told me “no!” And ballooning is a little complicated,” he added to laughter.
They had discussed the best places Mexico has to offer, many sites which show the world the great diversity it possesses. “Even with all the problems we have, we like to enjoy life and be happy,” said President Felipe Calderon. “All my life I’ve been in politics, and when I was young, I had the opportunity to travel and know my own country. The best of Mexico is our hospitality. When we say ‘Mi Casa es Su Casa,’ we mean that and offer you our souls. I have a real passion for Mexico. I had some protests about doing this film, but the fault is on Peter,” the president laughed.
This is a must-see on a large screen, and the vibrant mix of color and contrasts – mountains, deserts, rain forests, sea – grabs you in the beginning, spiriting you along on the ride and doesn’t let go until the end credits start rolling. Peter and Felipe met at Los Pinos, the official presidential residence, to begin their journey together, as the country’s national treasures awaited them.
The explorers began this marvelous journey through Mexico’s most cherished sites at the Mayan grand pyramid called “The Temple of Inscriptions,” where Felipe took Peter way inside to view historical artifacts from long ago, including Jade death masks inside the tomb area. One large sarcophagus had incredibly detailed depictions of Mayan life and death. Back outside of the tomb, Felipe and Peter climbed up dozens of steps to the top of a pyramid, notably without any help from an oxygen mask, to take in the stunning and endless 360 degree view.
Afterwards, he took Peter to meet the Mayan descendants of the people who carefully crafted these pyramids for a chat and then a boat ride further into the jungle. The president is helping the Mayans with funds to help maintain eco-tourism.
Next up was the well-known Chicken Itza, the most sacred place in Mayan civilization. Spotting the bones of the sacrificed along the way, the president joked to Peter, “These days we don’t sacrifice young ladies, we sacrifice journalists.”
The helicopter then spirited them to the rainforest, where they each took a zip-line, racing above the treetops and way, way jungle below. This brought them to a forest teeming with thousands of monarch butterflies, where Felipe noted, “There are so many that if you listen carefully, you can hear their wings beating,” a comment which illustrates not only the president’s sensitivity, but his love of beauty and ardent desire to preserve the environment.
After a trip to Felipe’s old grammar school which delighted the kids no end, they paid a quick visit to see his mother and immediate family. It was apparent right away where the president drew his well-documented modesty.
Again, the helicopter lifted off, taking them to Baja, to go whale watching with the president’s children in a rather small boat. Felipe suggested that the children sing as he had heard that whales are attracted to “the spirit of the children” and the sound of their voices. It worked, as within minutes the whales not only showed up, but breathtaking close to the boat so that the kids could reach out and touch them. The mammals instinctively knew to be gentle around the vessel as they played with the children. “They are Mexican, they come back every year, they have no papers,” the president quipped.
After a short hop, the duo found themselves suiting up to repel downwards more than a thousand feet, to a rather mysterious place where the Mayans also used to hold special ceremonies.
Back up on top-side, they visited a ranch where tequila is produced, tasting a quick sample before the final leg of their odyssey.The last treat of this whirl wind trip was spectacular a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids.In this world-class production with superb musical accompaniment, the viewer is definitely along for the ride, unbelievably all filmed in a mere five days!