Travel Weekly's Mexico E-Letter: Aug. 20, 2003

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS is offering companion airline tickets at half price from San Francisco to Cancun, effective Aug. 23 to Sept. 27. The promotion is valid for flights on ATA Airlines every Saturday during the travel period. Flights depart from San Francisco at 7:30 a.m. and arrive in Cancun at 2:30 p.m. The return flight leaves Cancun at 4:10 p.m. and arrives in San Francisco at 7:46 p.m. Meanwhile, Pleasant Holidays said its fall ValuPak promotion to Cancun will be in effect through Dec. 22. The promotion features discounts on meals, shopping and excursions in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. For information or reservations, call (800) 448-3333.

US AIRWAYS is expanding its service to Cozumel. The airline will launch flights from Philadelphia to Cozumel on Saturdays starting Dec. 13. In addition, beginning Feb. 14, US Airways will expand its nonstop service from Charlotte, N.C., to Cozumel to seven flights a week. The Charlotte and Philadelphia flights will operate year-round aboard 120-seat Airbus A319 aircraft.

FOODIES in search of an authentic Mexican culinary experience might want to consider a trip to Oaxaca during the Food of the Gods Festival, Oct. 4 to 11. Oaxaca's cuisine is considered to be one of the finest and elaborate in all of Mexico. Oaxaca is known as the "land of the seven moles," because of its seven distinct multispiced mole sauces. Oaxaca is also famous for its cheeses and meat dishes. The weeklong festival offers a number of hands-on cooking opportunities taught by four local chefs. Other events include wine-tasting, chocolate-making, a coffee mill tour, Mezcal (an alcoholic drink derived from the maguey cactus) tasting, nature walks, archeological tours and trips to craft villages and markets. Travel 360 is marketing a package priced from $598 per person, double, excluding air fare. Accommodations range from the intimate Hotel Victoria Oaxaca to the five-star Camino Real Oaxaca. For information or reservations, call (800) 241-5429 or visit the Web at www.travel360.com.

SPEAKING OF OAXACA, a team of archaeologists from Chicago's Field Museum discovered a 1,500-year-old underground tomb while excavating a Zapotec residential complex in Oaxaca. The Zapotec was one of the most important cultures at the time of the Maya. The team found the remains of three persons, including one who was interred seated and wearing a single green stone bead, both signs that the occupants of the complex were privileged and that those interred in the tomb held high status. The tomb included three wall niches filled with ceramic vessels. Twenty-five vessels dating to the latter part of the Classic period (AD 500-700) also were found. A brief report of the tomb's discovery will be published in the September/October issue of Archaeology Magazine.

CORRECTION: Avalon Resorts owns and operates five resorts in Mexico and Panama -- the Avalon Grand and Avalon Baccara resorts in Cancun, the Avalon Excalibur in Acapulco, the Avalon Reef Club on Isla Mujeres, and the Avalon Grand in Panama. An item last week about Avalon's fifth-night-free promotion (extended through Dec. 23) left out the Avalon Baccara in Cancun and Avalon Grand in Panama. For more information and to make reservations, call (800) 261-5014 or visit www.avalonvacations.com.

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