Living in Bacalar can really be convenient for visiting Central America, since we’re just a half an hour away from the border with Belize by car and a little more than an hour and a half away by boat. On our recent visit to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize, we opted to take the boat across the Bahia de Chetumal. A somewhat windy day made for a somewhat bumpy ride but it prepared us for our next ride once we arrived on the island. We were met by someone who took us by golf cart to our first hotel stay. That’s pretty much the way most people get around the island as cars are really not allowed and virtually the only ones we saw were taxis. After our welcome drink, we were shown to our accommodation, a beachfront condo with private balcony overlooking the Caribbean. Not only was it fully equipped with all conveniences, but had an extra master bedroom with private Jacuzzi upstairs. There were lovely flowers everywhere, including the kitchen. A pretty nice way to start our working vacation.
The next morning, after breakfast, found us driving the golf cart, graciously loaned to us by the owner of one of the cart companies. It was great fun, especially since John was driving and not me. Just down the road a piece (all the roads, except the ones in town which are newly paved with cobblestones, are sand) we visited the Belize Chocolate Company. Jo and Chris Beaumont, the owners, showed us the whole operation which was housed in a small building on their beachfront property where they lived. I’m not sure which was more fun, hearing their story or sampling the chocolate, all organic and free trade, naturally. From there we spent some time with one of the realtors that John was working with. He was on assignment to do an article and we were both there to gather information for other articles that would come out of this visit. Well, okay, it was a working vacation and the work was part of the fun.
John had spent many weeks setting up visits with hotels and restaurants as well as realtors, and just needed to put the finishing details on our week’s appointments while we were there. Back in our golf cart, we drove to the town of San Pedro, laughing at the ride most of the way. Then it was a visit with Kelly McDermott, a young woman who, at 33 years old, is the owner of a fabulous resort hotel, three wonderful restaurants and a wine shop. She’s a native of San Pedro, went to school in the tiny schoolhouse just a block from the docks, left for high school and college and returned to build her own empire on the one previously begun by her parents. She also is very committed to a children’s orphanage on the mainland of Belize, where they shelter kids from infancy through high school, using the Montessori method of teaching. They match all contributions made and have been successful in keeping it going for many years, along with other resort owners who are likewise committed to working with the needs of the people of Belize. Just to give you an idea of her philosophy, her business also provides scholarships for one of the children of each of their employees to attend high school. It’s really nice to see committed people like that whose bottom line reflects their heart and life philosophy rather than the profit they can provide to shareholders.
Next, was one of the trip’s highlights. We stopped off at a roadside stand where we met the owners, Maria and Jose. The produce was fresh and wonderful and we indulged in buying a freshly baked loaf of gingerbread in addition to coming away with a half gallon of fresh squeezed orange juice, bananas and other fruit. But, it was meeting these two San Pedroanos that was so memorable. Although they were surely aware that they would probably not see us again, they were as friendly and welcoming as if we were their neighbors. That night we returned to one of Kelly’s restaurants on the beach in town where we had gourmet dinners and where Kelly was working that night, definitely a hands on operation. The next day found us at another of her restaurants, an informal but delicious little restaurant directly on the beach in town where we could be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of people coming and going from the various docks. Boat traffic is the other way people get around. When we turned in our golf cart after a couple of days, we went everywhere by boat on all our visits to the different resorts.
One of those resorts, the next one on our itinerary, was Victoria House. From its elegant entry of sweeping grass lawn to its pristine beachfront, it could easily been the backdrop for a movie scene for any Caribbean island resort. Because they had no other accommodation available, they provided us with one of their two bedroom luxury villas. We used only one. It was patterned very much on Francis Ford Coppola’s resort we had visited a long time ago, my very favorite style of architecture, with the kitchen/living room/dining room separating the two large bedroom and baths. The entire interior had soaring ceilings of traditional palapa construction, but they were faced with hardwoods rather than thatch which helps a lot in keeping the critter traffic out. I also loved the outdoor showers just outside the bathrooms which we used as soon as we got settled. The grounds were gorgeous, spaciously set out with different kinds of architecture, from upscale casitas to Caribbean Colonial style structures, several pools, and excellent dining room. We spent some time with the managers who, by the time they left the visit in our living room, felt more like old friends, really delightful people who I hope we’ll see again. We took advantage of the opportunity to hang out after having our gingerbread and coffee on our patio, followed up later by lunch, before leaving for the next lap. This was the south end of the island and we were headed next for the north end after our initial three nights of luxury.
To Be Continued