Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Laguna Bacalar © Susanna Starr

Laguna Bacalar © Susanna Starr

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.

Our Chariot Awaits

Our Chariot Awaits © Susanna Starr

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 At Work - Victoria House  © Susanna Starr

John At Work - Victoria House © Susanna Starr

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.

Maria & Grandson  © Susanna Starr

Maria & Grandson © Susanna Starr

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.

Victoria House

Victoria House © Susanna Starr

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


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Orchid - Cuenca, Ecuador © Susanna Starr

Orchid - Cuenca, Ecuador © Susanna Starr

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Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel, Elegance in Cuenca, Ecuador

Lobby Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel, Cuenca, Ecuador ©Susanna Starr

Text and Slideshow by Susanna Starr

Rather than try to see as much of Ecuador as we could, we opted for a long term stay in Cuenca, a city that was a good deal smaller than the capital city of Quito to the north and quieter than the more largely populated city of Guayaquil on the Pacific coast. Four rivers run through Cuenca, carrying their waters down from a height of more than 14,000 feet. The river banks are kept pristine with lush green grass and beautiful plantings along some, treed areas along others and always with spaces to sit, relax and enjoy the beauty and serenity. Some have playground areas, obviously designed to provide a place for families. There are walking paths everywhere. Signs are prominently displayed declaring that this has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the people are proud of this status.

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Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca Mexico © Susanna Starr

Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca Mexico © Susanna Starr


story and photos by Susanna Starr

It’s been more than 35 years that I’ve been living and working in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico and in the small outlying villages. Most of my work with the weavers, both buying and designing pieces that will be sold in my New Mexico gallery, is done in a small Zapotec weaving village outside of Oaxaca.

We are now working with the third generation of weavers from that village where we first began, almost four decades ago. Although the weaving village is my main focus, there are always other villages engaged in a craft specific to each of them to visit and explore. Read more at Global Writes

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Los Poblanos: A country inn and gourmet organic food getaway near Albuquerque

Los Poblanos: A country inn ©Susanna Starr

For those who think of Taos or Santa Fe when they’re contemplating an eco-conscious and laid back vacation in northern New Mexico, where dreams of locally grown, gourmet organic food is par for the course, think again! Located in the North Valley area of the city of Albuquerque, Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is a treasure to be discovered by those looking for a philosophy as well as just a lovely place to stay, whether for a weekend or a week or longer. According to Matt Rembe, Executive Director and one of the present family owners, it’s a place to re-connect.

In the 1930’s, when the influential Simms family purchased the property, they had a vision of it being a center for cultural activities and in addition to using it as their family home, created another building for special events. Employing the talents of acclaimed architect of the region, John Gaw Meem, the beautiful and graceful building reflects his sensibility now known as the Santa Fe Style.

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Taos Mountain, New Mexico

Taos Mountain, New Mexico - ©Susanna Starr

The temperature reading on the bank clock, as we passed by on our way north to the Taos Pueblo, registered 6 degrees. We were on our way to the Turtle Dance held every New Year’s Day to celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of another. Read more at Examiner.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico - ©John Lamkin




Information about Taos Tewa Pueblo and Taos Area






Where to Stay



Where to Eat


Where to Shop




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Story by Susanna Starr
Photos courtesy of Riviera Maya/Turner PR

The designation “Riviera Maya” is a fairly recent one. For many years, even after the advent and development of Cancun, then Playa del Carmen and finally Tulum, this magnificent stretch of beach along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, was little explored. When I first arrived in that area in 1973, there were a few narrow sand roads leading to some small places where you could find some basic accommodations. Of course, there was the beautiful resort development of Akumal, still in its early, formative years, but after that, there simply wasn’t much happening. Driving down to Chetumal was an adventure on the gravel roads that traversed long, lonesome stretches of undeveloped jungle.
Riviera Maya, Mexico - Lodging
Riviera Maya Lodging

Now the entire strip of land from Playa del Carmen to Tulum has been developed with magnificent hotels, many of which are all-inclusive. Other properties are simply upscale, grand hotels owned and operated by world consortiums, designed to entice passersby, as well as vacationers who have made their reservations online. Many look like backdrops for movie scenes: lush, tropical landscapes with sparkling white sand beaches, brilliant turquoise waters and, of course, ubiquitous palm trees swaying in gentle breezes. Read more at Global Writes.

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