A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: traciekochanny

Discovering San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Beaches, bars, and the world’s best pancakes

We fly into San Pedro after spending several blissful days in the jungles of Belize. It’s a 12 minute scenic flight on Tropic Air., and unlike any flight experience we’ve had. We show up at the airport about an hour before the flight, they check us in and give us laminated boarding passes, and we sit down to wait. A few minutes later, the gate attendant comes over and says “hey, are you ready?” We tell her that we are on the 10:30 AM flight and it’s only 9:40 AM. She says “That’s OK! Let’s go!“ We walk out of the airport in to the waiting sunshine and step onto a beautiful new plane with *zero* other passengers. The pilot says hello, gives us a quick safety briefing and we are off. After a few minutes, the pilot says “Hey I have to drop off some fishing equipment to Caye Caulker” so we end up making an added stop, dropping off the stuff and heading back to San Pedro. Never had that happen on a commercial flight! I already love it here.

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We land in San Pedro, grab our bags and head across the street to rent a golf cart. Golf carts are the premier mode of transportation on this little island which suits us just fine!

After checking into our hotel we head across the the Island on a bumpy, dusty road to the place they call “Secret Beach”. We should make it there by sunset. We find that Secret Beach is a series of beach bars that Spread out along a stretch of sandy shore with impossibly blue water. There are hammocks, beach swings, and tables in the water. Grills are ready for the catch of the day, bars are stocked with every imaginable libation, and blenders are waiting to fire up. We walk around but wonder why it’s so quiet here. This is supposed to be the place to hang out! Where is everyone? We finally ask someone and find out that everything closes at sunset. This is the place to be during the day but everyone has back to San Pedro at night. We enjoy a sunset cocktail and are already making plans to come back in the morning.

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After 2 days on the beach, we move to a beautiful B & B in San Pedro called Daydreamin’. There are 5 cabanas around a little courtyard with a perfect little pool. Every morning, the owners, Rob and Mar, bring us incredible breakfasts. I’m not much of a breakfast eater but this food made me gain 5 pounds was so delicious! Mar’s specialty was light, fluffy, lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh blueberry sauce. Worth every calorie.

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Every morning, volunteers from the local Humane Society walk all of the dogs. If you like, you can borrow a dog and take it for a walk as well!

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San Pedro is a happy little place!

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This is the Palapa Bar. We float in the tubes, bobbing up and down in the clear, warm water and servers bring buckets of drinks out to us on an overhead pulley. I could get used to this!

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We see tall, pink birds wading in the mangroves and think they are flamingos. We ask around and find out they are roseate spoonbills. The second photo is from Wikipedia but I wanted you to see one up close because they’re gorgeous!

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Like I said, Secret Beach quickly became our favorite place to spend sunny days. It’s a bumpy golf cart ride across the mangroves (watch for crocodiles!) but the crystal clear water, music, great food and drinks and great vibes are worth the trip. All of the beach bars lining the stretch of sand are inviting, but we really loved Blue Bayou. Newly opened in late 2019, they take hospitality seriously. The colorful fish bite your ankles swim around you as you bask in the sun, and it feels like having lunch in an aquarium. Who wouldn’t want to spend their day half submerged at a thatched roof picnic table in the clear Caribbean Sea while nice people wade in to bring you drinks?

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When it rains in San Pedro, you find another beach bar to hang out at and drink more have a lot of options to pass the time. We stumbled into a little place called Crazy Canucks, owned by a friendly couple from-you guessed it-Canada. On Wednesday afternoons, they host a sip and paint class, where you can create your own painting while drinking wicked cocktails. Did we sign up? Of course we did!

By the way, which painting do you think is better? I know, it’s mine. Thank you.

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Each evening, we walk to the Truck Stop.. Originally created to feature a few local food trucks based out of shipping containers, it’s become the place to hang out in San Pedro. The food is outstanding, the drinks are great, the bartenders are friendly and it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset. There’s a pool with a swim up bar and different activities every night. They set up a big screen out back for movies and football, host family game night and have live music and game shows on stage. We love it here!

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For years I had heard about a little island off of the coast of Belize called Caye Caulker. It’s truly a sleepy little place, with less than 2,000 residents. The streets are sand and the official motto is “Go slow.” It sounds perfect to me. It’s only an hour ferry ride from San Pedro so we hop on one morning to check it out. As usual on this island, nothing is really tied to a schedule so even though we show up 20 minutes before the printed departure time, we are the last ones on the ferry and we are off.

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We fly across the smooth blue water, crossing near the worlds second largest barrier reef. We see the waves crashing over the reef as it protects the beautiful turquoise lagoon. We pass tour boats at Shark Ray Alley, where swimmers bob around with dozens of nurse sharks and stingrays. “Wow, the boat really quiets down when she gets going!” I say after a few minutes. “Uh, that’s because the engines stopped” PK tells me. We slow down and start bobbing up and down like a loose cork. The crew scrambles and tries to figure out what’s wrong, radioing back to the dock. Pay no attention to the dark clouds and razor sharp reef, I tell myself hopefully. This happens all the time, right?

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As I sit nervously watching us bob closer and closer to the reef, PK does what he always does during distress on a plane boat or train. He falls sound asleep.

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The crew finally gives up and sends for another ferry. Imagine two giant steel boats trying to line up so you can walk from one to another. I am convinced I am going to end up in the drink. We scramble and lurch and finally board. A half hour later we are finally at Caye Caulker. The sleepy little town is waking up and the smell of barbecue greets us. I need a cocktail, so we head to the Lazy Lizard. The sandy streets are peaceful and everyone is friendly, just like everywhere in Belize.

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One of my favorite island singers is Jim Morris. He loved Belize, and wrote a song that talked about Caye Caulker. “Then he took us to Caye Caulker, to the place they call The Split. If I ever saw a picture of cool man this place was it.” I knew I wanted to go there. He was right!

The Split is a channel that cuts the island of Caye Caulker in half. Some people say it happened during a hurricane in 1961. Some say it is man-made. Nobody knows for sure, but it is indeed a cool place. The clear turquoise water flows rapidly from the sea to the lagoon, and we laugh watching people try to kayak against the current. We watch local kids spear fishing and someone buys them a bucket of Belikin.

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Belize is very environmentally conscious and has banned reusable Styrofoam and plastic, which is great! At beach bars like the Lazy Lizard on Caye Caulker, we buy reusable cups and metal straws. Tip: don’t drink a roadie from the metal straw on a golf cart if you value your teeth!

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just like everywhere else in Belize, the local stray dogs are well cared for. We visited the humane society everywhere we go but I am not successful in getting PK to take one of the dogs home. Another time!

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I have no idea who this guy is!

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We head back to Ambergris Caye and the ferry works all the way there! Life is good. We wander up the beach road and hear music at the Dive Bar. We wander in and find the weigh in for the Wahoo Festival. There is music from a local student group playing steel drums, families are laughing, and there are a lot of beautiful fish competing for first place. Just when I think it can’t get any more fun, we find - get this - beachfront wine tasting. It’s a great way to end a great day.

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We head back to the airport and encounter one more particularly Belizean surprise. Jet Holland is 80-something years old. He has been operating Jet’s Airport Bar in the same tiny space for 56 years. Say hello and you’re guaranteed to have a fascinating and strange chat. Celebrities seek him out and he has photos all over the walls with people from all over the world. What a character! Talking with him leaves us with a smile on our faces as we head out to the sunny tarmac to travel back to the snow. Little did we know we’d be headed back to Belize in a few short weeks...

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Posted by traciekochanny 07:20 Archived in Belize Tagged islands beach belize san_pedro secret_beach ambergris_caye golf_cart blue_bayou truck_stop_san_pedro belize_cayes Comments (0)

Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, Belize

Luxury, tranquillity and adventure in the Belizean rainforest. We loved it so much we went twice!

I’ve been lucky to experience many wonderful accommodations in this world. When we booked a last-minute trip to Belize, I was fortunate to find the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge.. I hit it out of the park on this one.

The lodge is about 90 minutes from the Belize airport and they will happily arrange transport for you. As we wind our way through the impossibly green countryside on the Hummingbird Highway, I wonder what awaits us in this jungle paradise. Nestled in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, the lodge promised beauty, relaxation and adventure. Would it deliver?

Arriving at the open air lobby, we are greeted with a fresh cocktail, complete with a bamboo straw. Sleeping Giant prides itself on being eco friendly, and they are committed to doing everything they can to support sustainable environmental practices. The lush landscaping, brilliant colors and friendly welcome draw us in. They already know our name, and we toast to new adventures. The grounds are lush, peaceful and verdant. Ducks splash in the streams and palm trees sway in the breeze. The smell of the flowers follows you everywhere you go and even though it rains nonstop for the first few days, we know this place is special. To say we were happy to be there would be a major understatement. As a matter of fact, we liked it so much we came back a month later!

Axel, our new friend (everyone in Belize is your new friend...I’m being serious!) walked us over to our Creekside cottage. The warm colors, Belizean hardwoods, open air bathroom and sumptuous fabrics made us feel at home and happy. All of the accommodations are pretty extraordinary, and next time we opt for a sprawling suite overlooking the Sibun River. All of the accommodations are nestled seamlessly into the river bank or the side of the mountain, and views are exceptional everywhere you look.

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I’d say Paul loves hanging out in the hammock but that’s pretty obvious.

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The grounds at the Lodge are spectacular, lush and peaceful. All we hear are babbling brooks, waterfalls and birds. OK so the first time we visited all we heard was the constant downpour of rain lots of peaceful showers, but it is still gorgeous. Like I said, we came back again a month later!

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The bathrooms are an absolute dream, with spa amenities and my favorite, outdoor tubs and showers. I could live there.

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The first time we visit the lodge we did not have a car so we spent all of our time on the property. Like I said, we battled almost nonstop rain but we learned to drink more cocktails make the best of it and just get wet. Honestly, when it’s 82° and you’re in a place this beautiful it really doesn’t matter.

The lodge has bicycles, kayaks and standup paddleboards that we can borrow any time. We eye the river, but with all the rain the water is high, so we are content to sit and watch the birds. One morning, we grab a couple of bikes and set off to find five “hammock bridges” over the river that runs through the property. We stop at each bridge and marvel at the beauty of the jungle landscape. We see a brilliant scarlet macaw in the distance and hear parrots squawking in the trees. The soft rushing water over the rocks in the river almost has a hypnotic effect. We sit on the bridge, swinging and watching.

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At the fourth bridge, we find a swimming hole that looks like something out of a magical jungle movie set. I try not to think about all of the magical jungle creatures that are probably watching us, so I can focus on this extraordinary place. I remember someone telling me they saw a hundred shades of green during their travels, and I wondered how that could be. Now I know. We shed our wet clothes and swim in the warm, crystal clear water, stopping to listen to the jungle around us, and for some reason, we laugh. It feels marvelous. It rains for four hours straight and yet we return happy, soaked and ready for the hot tub in our Creekside garden.

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So this is a cow and her calf. “That’s nice,” you say. Well, here’s the thing. All of the cows on the property roam free in the pastures, and are managed by real life Belizean cowboys. Apparently this calf gave birth a few days before we arrived, and the staff notices on trail cams that there were TWO jaguars stalking the calf, so they wrangle mother and baby and bring them to the corral near the lodge. “ I am so glad they are safe now!” I say to the cowboy. “Well, safer,” he replies. It is the jungle, after all.

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When you stay at Sleeping Giant, you can be as chill or active as you want. They offer a variety of tours every day if you’re into that, and if not, the lodge has an incredible pool, great restaurant, elegant bar and as of February 2020, a woodfired pizza oven restaurant. They infuse all of their own vodkas with fruit and herbs from the surrounding area, and happy hour at the pool is from 2 to 4 PM. Happy hour at the bar starts again from 4 to 6 PM which suits us just fine! The restaurant, The Grove House, was voted best restaurant in Belize in 2019. Make sure you try the pollo asado. Wait, try the oxtail stew. The carne asada. Yes indeed, just try everything. You’ll be glad you did.

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Did I tell you it rained a lot during the first trip? And we still came back!

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The Sleeping Giant is in the distance...can you see his profile and chest?

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There are trails all over the property. One morning we rouse ourselves from our delicious bed, our relaxing hammock and our warm outdoor shower and make our way to the top, up a steep muddy trail in the rain. We climb over roots and vines, creep around long lines of leaf cutter ants, and wonder what the heck we are doing when we have such beautiful accommodations below. We ascend the gazebo stairs at the top and stand silent. We stare out at the impossibly green orange groves, the Maya Mountains and the always present Sleeping Giant. The view is so worth it. Let me think of something articulate and insightful to say to describe this moment. I’ve got it. “Wow.”

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Since it was so rainy during our first trip to the lodge, we opted not to do day trips. We did find out that Danny the cowboy was hosting carriage tours of the property, so we sign up because we are feeling lazy looking forward to learning more about the area. We do learn a lot and even make it back in time for happy hour (OK we planned that part).

We sit in the carriage, dodging the raindrops. Danny tells us about the lodge, its history, and the geography of the area. We stop to pick fresh oranges and eat them like little kids, with the juice running down our chins. We meet the horses in the pasture, who barely notice us as we pass by, while they nod to the horses leading our little tour. “Not my turn today,” they seem to say. The carriage crosses the river, and as we splash through the shallow water, the horses speed up, as if the water might catch them. We stop to learn about growing cacao - the fruit that ends up as chocolate. I am forever indebted to whoever figured out how to turn this orange, squishy bean into something everyone can love. I enjoyed learning about something that I would love to eat every day enjoy on special occasions. I never knew the pods grew right out of the trees! Did you know they only harvest them once a year? Don’t you feel smarter just knowing that? I know I do.

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Next stop... Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Lodge

Posted by traciekochanny 16:54 Archived in Belize Tagged mountains rainforest jungle belize sleeping_giant sleeping_giant_rainforest_lodge luxury_hotel unique_properties Comments (0)

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Yes, it really is that beautiful

sunny 82 °F
View French Polynesia on traciekochanny's travel map.

There are some places in this world that live in our heads as having almost mythical beauty. We see them in pictures, dream about them in movies, and wish we could know if it really looks like that. Bora Bora is one of those places. The iconic images of its impossibly blue lagoon and the dark, towering Mount Otemanu rising in the center had been seared on my brain for as long as I could remember. Let’s go there.

As the folks from the Tahitian tourist board say, Bora Bora is known as the “Jewel of the South Seas.” It is the most celebrated island in the South Pacific, French Polynesia's leading lady. Her beauty is unrivaled and her fame, unwavering. Bora Bora is one of the few places on earth that everyone hopes to witness in their lifetime—and once you see it, you are forever enamored.

We fly to Bora Bora on Air Tahiti from the magical little island of Huahine (more on that in another post). Flying between the islands in French Polynesia is something to be experienced. There is no security, the airports are open air, and the scent of flowers is everywhere. It’s literally the exact opposite of most airports. No long security lines and crabby attendants, just people waiting to put leis around your neck.

The flight into Bora Bora is breathtaking. As we approach, we circle the lagoon and get a bird’s eye view of all of the overwater bungalow resorts on the outlying motus. It’s cliche to say it takes my breath away but it does. When we land, we walk across flowered walkways and see that there are stands set up throughout the open air terminal with women in colorful dresses holding armfuls of fresh flower leis. Palm fronds sway in the breeze, people smile and wave “Ia Orana!” The hotel ‘shuttles’ are beautiful boats that whisk you away to your intended destination across the impossibly blue lagoon. I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

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This is the airport bathroom. Imagine that.

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The hotel shuttle skirts the island while we all look around in awe. We arrive at the Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora and are met with cool drinks and warm greetings of welcome. As Platinum Ambassador members, we are upgraded to an overwater bungalow and everything about it exceeds every expectation. The property is stunning, the lagoon is breathtaking and the people are wonderful.

It really feels like we are in some otherworldly movie set. The colors are brighter, the air is warmer, and the flowers smell like heaven. Speaking of flowers... In French Polynesia everyone wears flowers every day, and I mean everyone. Men women and children wear brightly colored flowers on their head and around their necks, and many men wear pareos instead of shorts. It’s really beautiful.

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Each bungalow has a glass coffee table that looks down into the lagoon. The hotel has had local marine biologists start little coral gardens under each bungalow to serve as fish nurseries, and they provide eco friendly fish food that you can sprinkle down into the water. I have wanted to say those words...” I am feeding the fish through a hole in my bedroom floor!” If anyone had ever told me that I could spend hours looking down into the coffee table I would’ve had thought they were crazy but it’s amazing and, quite frankly, a little addictive. “Wait, the blue wrasse is coming back! I can see the eel’s head!” Just like in Moorea, the occasional black tip shark slides by, giving us the eye but never threatening. Again, if anyone had ever told me I’d jump in a lagoon with sharks and not give it a second thought, well...you know.

The elusive moray eel finally shows himself and you’d think we just won the lottery.

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One night we decide to explore a little and take a taxi to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. for dinner. The scenery on the way looks like something out of a South Pacific movie. I know I keep saying it, but it’s true. Children play in the surf, people wave, and color after color whizzes by the windows like a giant mixed up rainbow. The yacht club is a hit. We enjoy a beautiful evening on the water and can not help but notice a couple at the table next to us. They’re celebrating an anniversary and despite the incredible location, they don’t put their phones down during the ENTIRE MEAL. The wife is continually staging pictures, providing direction to her husband and the staff, and actually has the waiter bring the champagne twice because he did not do it to her satisfaction on camera the first time! She announces every post on Instagram as if it’s a sport during their so-called special dinner, and we shake our heads.

Have you ever seen a taxi that looked like this? I feel like I am in a garden!

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We ask the taxi driver if we can stop at a store for a few things. We marvel at the rows and rows of fine French wine, patès and baskets full of baguettes. We laugh at seeing Lays potato chips flavored with ‘rotisserie chicken’ and ‘ancient with smoked ham’. We’re tempted to find out what that even means but pass for this time.

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Our time at Le Moana is spent lounging in the water, enjoying meals by the lagoon, joining other guests for sunset happy hours, perfecting our French rosè drinking skill and generally being in awe of such a beautiful place. At night, there is a celebration of Polynesian dance. In the torch lit evening, under the full moon, the gorgeously colorful dancers spin and sway. The energy is palpable. The music intensifies, drums beat, and stories are told.

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There are times when I write that I honestly don’t know what to say. I feel like no words could really describe the beauty of this place so for now I will just leave the rest of the photos right here for you to enjoy while I dream of returning to Bora Bora someday. It will live forever in my memories

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Next stop...Tahiti!

Posted by traciekochanny 09:10 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged islands flowers beach lagoon moth french_polynesia bora_bora blue_lagoon leis le_moana matira_beach Comments (0)

Finding Italian magic in Cortona

Sometimes you find exactly what you didn’t even know what you were looking for

Travel often provides moments that offer magic in the most unexpected places. Every now and then though, there is a place that provides a connection that resonates on the most existential level. For us, it’s often Italy. This time, it’s Cortona. Made famous by Frances Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Cortona is one of those places that threatens to disappoint, but for us right now, it delivers soul enriching memories.

We leave Montepulciano and drive through Tuscany, down winding roads cutting through vast vineyards and olive groves. It’s autumn, and the colors seem unusually bright. As we approach Cortona, my heart is torn. Montepulciano was everything we had hoped for, and I wonder if Cortona, now famous after Diane Lane makes it her own in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” might be overrun with tourists and somehow rendered inauthentic. The road winds up and up along strong stone walls, and we even manage to find a parking place right next to the city wall. Our suitcases clack clack clack on the narrow cobblestone lane as we try to navigate our way to the hotel. The neighborhood is so quiet we wonder if we took a wrong turn. Suddenly we come across an unassuming set of glass doors that whoosh open to beckon us into the new Hotel Monastero di Cortona.. The elegant lobby, with subtle touches of white and gray, whispers elegance. It even smells like a spa. A kind gentleman welcomes us and asks us to be seated while we are served a refreshing welcome drink and hot towels. We glance at each other and smile. “I think we’re going to love it here.”

Located in a 700 year old former monastery, the hotel has taken every care to restore the property to exacting standards, providing a friendly and luxurious experience for guests. The entire property has a hushed ambience that invites you to sit back, relax and be pampered. We even walk slower as we explore the property, almost as if an ancient monk might come around the corner to meet us. It’s October so the pool is more of a lovely courtyard centerpiece than a place to swim, but the flowers are still bright in the autumn sun. The hotel sits at the top of the town, and the views over Tuscany are a dream. The hotel staff teases us with an invitation to the underground spa and we are sorely tempted. We don’t usually stay at the same hotels twice but I assure you, we will stay here again.

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As Frances Mayes will tell you, the center of small town Italian life is in the piazza. Her new book, |See You in the Piazza., is a beautiful testament to this (do read it!). Cortona is no different. One morning, we sit down to have a cappuccino and watch the world go by and soon notice a flurry of activity near the town hall. “What would be happening at the town hall on a Sunday?” we ask. “Oh, today is a wedding!” the cafe owner tells us. Since Italy is such a religious and primarily Catholic country, we wonder out loud why a couple would be getting married at the town hall on a Sunday. The older gentleman next to us gestures and explains in a rather passionate fashion. Luckily, the couple next to us speaks Italian and translates: since the groom has been married before, and is not catholic, they have to get married in a civil ceremony. As always, everyone knows everybody’s business in small town Italy.

Friends and family gather, tourists stop to look, and just like that the bride appears and the celebrations begin. The entire piazza becomes a part of the celebration, and soon the cafe owner brings out bottles of Prosecco for guests and visitors alike. Toasts are raised, glasses clink and pretty soon it’s “Spritz for all!” It’s a joyous day, and for a little while we are all a part of the community.

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Our worries about Cortona being overrun and commercialized turn out to be unfounded. Perhaps in the summer it might be different but in this fine, clear October weather, we find it charming, endearing and perfect.

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Our days are spent exploring the countryside and looking forward to our favorite evening ritual - the passegiatta. In small towns all over Italy, the early evening is a time to walk, mingle and spend time with your neighbors. Hugs are shared, conversation buzzes and people connect. I often imagine how things might be if we did this in the U.S. No TVs, no internet, just...people.

We hear a crowd, walk to the piazza and see a large group of people in costume gathering on the town hall steps. Spider-Man, Captain American, Shrek, Batman...they are all here! I spot Beauty and the Beast, Dorothy and the Scaredrow and (of course) Elvis. We ask what’s happening, and someone tells us it’s a birthday party. The entire group sings, cheers and pops champagne before heading off to celebrate the night away. What a crazy mess of fun!

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Have you ever had nights that make you want to pinch yourself because they seemed so perfect? That’s how it feels on this night in Cortona. An amazing dinner in a thousand year old cistern, a stroll during passeggiata, and a turn into an alley that ends up as magic. These are the travel moments that imprint in your brain and change you forever. “Contentezza totale” - total contentment.

“Is that Crosby, Stills and Nash I hear?” Paul asks. We follow the sound and see a group of young men singing and playing guitars on the steps of an enoteca. We order Prosecco, sit on pillows on the steps and settle in. I don’t know if it’s the music, the night air, the Prosecco or the company but it turns into one of those nights you remember forever.

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Posted by traciekochanny 14:23 Archived in Italy Tagged italy cortona tuscany piazza hotel_monastero_di_cortona Comments (0)

I fell in love with San Pedro...again. Life in the slow lane

Tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free, this is where is long to be...la Isla Bonita, Ambergris Caye, Belize

sunny 82 °F

What is it with Tropic Air? We show up, get on whatever plane is leaving next, and we have the jet all to ourselves. Safe, comfortable and fast. We love them. We head back to San Pedro, because we love it too.

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Last time we stayed several miles north of town and just about wrecked our kidneys on the bumpy golf cart ride back and forth, so this time we stay at Belizean Shores.. It’s a pretty place, right on the beach, with a gorgeous pool area.

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It’s Thursday night so we headed straight to Daydreamin’, our favorite local B&B, where we stayed last time. We planned this trip on 24 hours notice, so they didn’t have a room for us, but we knew they had their Thursday evening wine social. Music, wine, great apps (thanks Mar!) and great company.

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One of our favorite things to do in San Pedro is to walk the beach in the morning. Birds, sand, coffee and a warm breeze...does it get any better?

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Thanks for the T-shirt Rick Steves!

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Sometimes you just need a coconut. And a guy to crack it open for you. And offer to put rum in it at 8:00 am. We stuck with coffee.

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So here’s a secret that’s not a secret about San Pedro. On Tuesday nights, you’ve got to go to the chicken drop at Wahoos. What is a chicken drop, you ask? Well let me tell you. Picture a giant square with numbered tiles, a couple dozen happily drunk people lining up for tickets, and a chicken (or two) that walks around the squares waiting to drop...a...well, you know. If he ‘drops’ on your number, you win the $$. Trust me on this, it’s serious fun! Sometimes you just need a chicken to tell you where to go.

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“The chicken who doesn’t poop tonight is barbecue tomorrow!” Im telling you, these people are cutthroat. No chicken is safe.

Ambergris Caye is only about 25 miles long. But when you’re in a golf cart and the road looks like this, we’re talking about a day trip. A nice little Belizean custom involves men stopping at any point on any road to pee, so there’s that. The north end of the island borders Mexico so we figured we’d know if we’d gone too far. Adventure time!

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First stop, mile 5.6 or so... Rojo Beach Bar. Fantastic place, nice people, great atmosphere.

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Next stop, El Norte...mile 10. So let me get this straight, you mix your own drinks here. Seriously. A guy sits on a stool and tells you how to make his rum punch.

-one shot dark rum
-one shot coconut rum
-one shot white rum
-whoa are you kidding me
-pour in some unidentifiable fruit juice from an unmarked bottle
-whoa wait a minute
-top it off with club soda
-it’s going to be a long day

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At mile 14.5 they are building a new Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville resort. So here’s the thing...there are NO ROADS and no airport here! It took us 2 hours on a golf cart from San Pedro! So we ask the one guy who’s working there...”how are people supposed to get here?” He says “water taxi”. So if it’s raining, it’s windy, seas are rough...? Yep. “But,” he adds...”Jimmy’s trying to get an international airport in Chetumal.” Oh, OK. I’ll be curious to see how this place goes. They may have water and electricity most of the time, but at least they’ll have boat drinks.

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This is the only building they have finished at the new Margaritaville resort. It has a model condo and one can be yours starting at $399,000 US. Let me know how it goes.

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We finally hit Tranquility Bay...about 17 miles up. This is what a place looks like after a zombie apocalypse. THERE ARE NO HUMANS HERE! We learn that there are a boatload (see what I did there) of bone fisherman who patrol the flats all morning looking for fish they can lie about catching bonefish, permit and tarpon, and that they will, in fact, be back after lunch. The one woman working here sits in a corner ignoring us while we sit looking around at the bar, until we finally ask if we could get some food. “Oh sure” she says. Never gets up, never asks us what we want to eat, just sits there looking at her phone. We finally ask for a menu, She looks up surprised, as if she forgot we there there. She finally takes our order and...goes in the kitchen to cook it. Interesting place! It’s quiet, I’ll give you that.

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The road really improves after this point...if you don’t value your kidneys.

We soldier on, and quickly realized we had gone too far...(we didn’t really make it to Mexico, we just ran out of road).

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One of the best things Ambergris Caye is the sheer number of thatched roof, funky beach bars with great live music. We make it our mission to check out as many as possible. Purely for research purposes of course.

This is Stella’s Sunset. Everywhere you go, you hear a lot of Jimmy Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker. Jerry calls this island his home away from home and has a music festival called ‘Camp Belize’ every January. We just missed it last time we were here.

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In our travels to Ambergris Caye, you’re going to see a lot of pictures from The Truck Stop.. It’s an amazing place with incredible food trucks, great music, fun family activities every night, sunset views, pool with a swim up bar...I could go on but check it out yourself. Also, this is Serena. We met her and her husband Scott the first night on island and continue to run into them EVERYWHERE! Pretty soon we were fast friends. I love when that happens.

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This is Coco. Her owner is sitting next to me, leans over and says “hey, can you watch her? I’ve gotta run out for a few...” Uh, sure. She’s pretty cute and lots of fun. She almost came home in my suitcase.

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If you love Colorado, you would love 3O3 Belize. The owners are from Denver (thus the 303 area code) and everything about the place is ski related. It’s a great overwater bar.

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Another favorite is The Dive Bar. A literal dive bar and a great PADI certifying dive operation. Last time we’re here it was their annual wahoo fishing tournament and wow was it fun!

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The cut separating north and south Ambergris Caye has. ‘toll bridge’. The ‘fee’ is $5 BZ but there is no rhyme or reason to whether you’ll actually be asked to pay. There are always guys standing around to collect, but most of the time they are just yakking it up with each other, or they’ll stop you and just say, “hey, how are you doing? Are you having a good day?” The Belizean hospitality is real and is costing the toll collectors a boatload!

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We head south of town on the golf cart one day and stumble upon Pirates at South Beach. It’s got a white sand beach, table in the water, a great bar and plenty of places to have a cocktail and just chillax. We will definitely be back here!

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One night we hear that there is a live reggae band at a place called the Sun Deck. We decide to check it out and find a ragtag bunch of Rasta guys who have apparently decided they are going to try to burn the entire island down have a bonfire on the beach, even though the wind is whipping. I think their massive intake of rum and ganja might have led to bad decision making. We make introductions and try to dance around the flying embers but decide we’d better get out of there before my hair starts on fire. The bartender runs after us and pours AN ENTIRE GLASS OF RUM into my thermal mug. Says “have a good night, irie!” This Belizean hospitality will get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Thankfully I am old smart enough to pour it out after we leave.

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We stumble (is it stumbling if you arrive in a golf cart?) on Paco’s Tiki bar one afternoon and have a fantastic lunch on the beach. We play a few games of ‘shut the box’ and meet a local realtor who offers to show us around. A group of very drunk enthusiastic, friendly women loudly toast to each other with their massive frozen cocktails, and we laugh. The owner invites us back for another bonfire (because of course he did...these people will invite you to move in with them, I swear) and we end up having a great time.

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We used to love going to Key West and Meeting of the Minds (the largest gathering of Jimmy Buffett Parrotheads). We still love the Keys and ran into a very cool guy named Roger Jokela.. We have a great time sharing stories and listening to his music at Rum Dog., another great overwater bar.

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There are great bonefish flats on Ambergris Caye. PK loves getting up at the crack of dawn (I know, what the hell, I’m on vacation) to fish. We head out over the causeway toward Secret Beach, enjoying our coffee and the sunrise over the flats. We see one crocodile and zero fish, but it’s a pretty relaxing way to spend the early morning. Every morning, food carts rumble down the streets of San Pedro, offering local fare at ridiculous prices. We scoop up three chicken tacos for $1 BZ (50 cents US), pick up some fresh juice and a bunch of bananas ($1 BZ) and breakfast is served.

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Our favorite place on island is Secret Beach, and more specifically Blue Bayou. BB is a new, overwater restaurant that has tables scattered all over in the ocean. Great food, great service, great live reggae band on ‘Sunday Funday’ and the BEST mango daiquiri ever on this planet. Go there!

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These people have it right...next time I am bringing my float for sure.

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We’re home now and the coronavirus is raging. It’s bittersweet writing these blogs but I am happy for so many good memories and hopeful that we can make more sometime soon. Take care, everyone.

Posted by traciekochanny 11:59 Archived in Belize Tagged beach caribbean belize central_america secret_beach ambergris_caye blue_bayou_belize san_pedro_belize truck_stop_belize Comments (0)

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