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March 2, 2006

Spice Up Pesachat Ixtapa Club Med

http://www.jewishjournal.com/travel/article/spice_up_pesach_at_ixtapa_club_med_20060303

Kayaking, catamarans and savory kabobs are all on the menu at the kosher Club Med program in Ixtapa, Mexico. The weather is warm, the sunsets are spectacular and the meals are to "live for."

Raphael Bellehsen of New York-based Le Voyage Travel is the brains behind the program, which is supervised glatt kosher and all-inclusive of meals and beverages, accommodations, two kinds of seders, two full restaurants and a tea room. There are also daily minyanim, sports activities, a children's club and evening entertainment. Even taxes and gratuities are included.

Bellehsen is once again offering a glatt kosher Passover program April 11-24. Based on a wonderful week I once spent at Club Med Ixtapa, it should make for a terrific holiday.

With perfect weather and good company, it was easy to retreat to this tropical, epicurean heaven. As a single traveler, I felt completely at home at this "three-trident family village." (That's Club Med lingo for a resort roughly ranked at four stars plus.)

My days were mostly filled with water sports. My nights were reserved for leisurely dinners and deep sleep, lulled by the sound of the ocean crashing just a few hundred yards from my air-conditioned room.

Each morning, we awoke to a sumptuous kosher buffet: huevos rancheros (scrambled eggs with or without Mexican spices) omelets to order fried over a grill, freshly baked treats, perfectly ripe Mexican papaya and other fruits, brie, goat cheese and other dairy delicacies, fresh fruit smoothies and juices -- and more.

Lunches and dinner, either dairy or meat, always included an extensive selection of elaborate dishes based on various themes. On Mexican night, we dined on delicious fish, chicken and meat dishes; various salads, and more. Specialties on the Asian-Pacific menu included melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, sushi and chicken.

Middle Eastern fare included a knockout Moroccan-style fish, prime rib in a mushroom and wine sauce, tuna steak or chicken kabobs.

The specialties just kept coming: fantastic beef bourguinonne, duck ? l'orange, succulent osso bucco lamb and on Shabbat, an authentic cholent.

Meats and fish were grilled over a flame as part of the buffet, and fish was served at every lunch or dinner, whether dairy or meat. There was also no shortage of kid favorites: hamburgers, fries and more.

Thankfully there were plenty of opportunities to burn off excess calories. One day I joined a combination hiking and snorkeling excursion to nearby Las Gatas. After a bus ride to the marina in Ixtapa, we boated to a picturesque beach and hiked through a beautiful reserve overlooking a lighthouse and majestic cliffs. Once we hit the water snorkeling, I was thrilled to ID a spotted boxfish, a colorful parrotfish and plenty of dark-blue damselfish.

Afterward, we dined on kosher bag lunches the staff brought along from Club Med and plenty of frosty mineral water, Coke and Fresca. Another day, I swam with bottlenose dolphins at nearby Delfiniti (www.delfiniti.com). Restricted to a large pool and supervised by a trainer, the opportunities to interact with the dolphins are nearly constant.

There was still plenty of time for kayaking, sailing catamarans, ocean swims and snorkeling at a nearby island frequented by bright barber fish, camouflage-colored balloon fish and spotted puffers. Other activities include in-line skating, archery, tennis and flying trapeze. (Lessons are included for all of these activities.)

Bring plenty of small bills or change money at Club Med's reception desk for all the beachside fun. Vendors offer boogie board rentals, massage and rides to a nearby island, where you can bring your own snorkeling equipment or rent for about $10. Access to a magnificent coral reef with terrific snorkeling is free to the public. The current is strong, so consider opting for the life jacket included in your snorkel rental.

Prices for the Pesach program vary based on the number of nights. For the basic program, April 12-21, rates are per person, based on double occupancy: $2,675, adults; $1,745, teens, 12-15; $1,565, children, 4-11; $998, children 2-3; $120, infants. Required insurance is $40 per adult and $30 per child.

Additional fees are charged for connecting rooms, as well as supervised Petit/Baby Club children's programming, which requires advance reservations. Excursions and Internet access are also extra.

Lisa Alcalay Klug was hosted by Club Med and her air travel was provided by Mexicana Airlines.

For more information or reservation, contact Le Voyage Travel at (877) 452-8744 or visit them online at www.levoyagetravel.com.

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