A night in Barcelona….Hotel Grums…

With our camera packed away, we won’t have photos until tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

Last night was our first night in a hotel since arriving in Scottsdale, Arizona over six months ago.  Booking the hotel on Expedia with four star reviews put our minds at ease that it would not only be close to the Port of Barcelona but also acceptable by our relatively picky standards.

At $169 a night for a “standard deluxe” room for last night chose to select this hotel for last night and again on June 3, 2013.  We wanted to ensure we’d like the hotel to avoid the need of cancelling an prepaid reservation.  Thus, we were willing to pay a little more for that luxury.  For this, we weren’t disappointed.

The room was modern, clean and comfortable with plush king bed with comfy covers, a spacious seating area with sofa, lots of storage (which we didn’t need since we didn’t unpack), a flat screen TV with one English speaking channel, (BBC news) and alas, our first experience with 220 electrical outlets, with which neither our computers or smart phones could be charged.

We did bring a litany of adapters and converters befitting travel anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately, they were tightly packed away in our “not to be opened” luggage, now consisting of two large suitcases, two carry on bags, two duffel bags, two computer bags and a couple of peripheral hand carry bags. 

As mentioned earlier, our goal is to ditch all but the two large suitcases, two carry on bags, two computer bags and my handbag by the time we leave Dubai to fly back to Barcelona for the remaining one night at the same Hotel Grums. The next day, on June 4th, we’ll be boarding yet another cruise on the Norwegian Spirit through the Mediterranean Sea for 15 nights.  (We’ll post the itinerary for that cruise at that time).

Back to the electrical issues.  Without easy access to our adapters and converters, (we try to remember every detail but some do fall through the cracks), we asked the front desk if they had the necessary adapters/converters for recharging our US 110 equipment. 

“No, problemo,” stated the handsome young man at the desk, as he began rummaging through a box of 50 various plug-ins.  After a few minutes, he enthusiastically pulled out what he believed to be the correct adapter.

Wary of plugging our digital equipment directly into the plug into which could potentially “blow out” our phones or laptops, we tried it using the only other electrical item we’d be willing to part with if something went wrong…the oldest of three surge protectors we had in our possession.

Poof!  Yes, poof!  It blew the power out in our room and fried our surge protector. We tossed it in the garbage. For some odd reason, we both had suspected it wouldn’t work although it was indicated as a US converter. 

Getting back on the elevator, I went back to the desk requesting an adapter that would work.  Again, the cutie dug through the box finally pulling out a much more elaborated plug.  I told him our power in the room was out asking if he’d send someone to flip the circuit breaker. 

No one in the hotel seemed to know where the breaker box was located in our room, after six attempts to find it by one person and then three attempts by a second person.  Finally, a third person appeared and found the box hidden behind a false wall.  Once the power was back on, Tom held up the new adapter again asking, “Will this work for US plugs?”

The employee emphatically stated it would work.  Finally an hour later, Tom spending much time as the power continued going out, he managed to get everything working to ensure we wouldn’t fry our laptops or smart phones.  At this point, all of our equipment was deader than a doornail.

By the time everything was charging, we were anxious to find a great restaurant to head out for dinner.  Oh, no such luck.  All the nearby restaurants in Barcelona are closed on Sunday except, the fine dining restaurant in the hotel.

With little English spoken in the hotel, I went online and found this gluten free chef card in Spanish to which I added, handwritten in Spanish, after researching Google Translate:  sugar free, low carb, starch free, grain free, no beans, rice,  or soy.

Handing this to the waiter at dinner resulted in his giving it to the chef for a perfect meal of salad with fresh greens, blue cheese, tomatoes, onions, olives and no less than eight giant prawns sautéed in olive oil  (with heads, guts, brains included) with a freshly made olive oil dressing that was absolutely delicious.  I will continue to print these Chef Cards in various languages to use as we travel from country to country.

I hadn’t had that good of a meal since the night we dined in the specialty restaurant on the Carnival Liberty almost three weeks ago.  Tom opted for a bun-less veal burger topped with veggies, cheese and a fried egg.

Exhausted, we slept through the night bolting out of bed at 6 am this morning  to get ready for the day and down to the restaurant for coffee.  As typical “cruisers” we decided to wait to eat until we were aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas for the “free food.”

So now at 2:00 PM, Barcelona time, we’re sitting at a comfy table in the Windjammer (buffet) Restaurant having had a rather perfect GF lunch with tender roast beef, grilled fish, egg salad and green beans. 

Our ship sails at 5:00 PM inspiring us to go online now while taking advantage of our MiFi working, although slowly, while we’re still in port.  Before the muster drill at 4:15, we’ll meander to the Internet Café to sign up for the ship’s WiFi, a necessity with many upcoming days out to sea.

Tomorrow, we’ll post our current itinerary for this cruise to Dubai along with photos of our “new home” for the next 15 days as we commence our journey through the Suez Canal along our way to the Middle East. 

Scary night…lessons learned….

We’ll be posting more photos once we get to Madeira on the 28th.  Internet too slow to upload photos.

It’s 11:30 pm.
Clocks will change another hour forward at 2:00 am.  With winds close to 65 mph and 30 foot waves, we’re swaying from side to side in our cabin. The walls and ceilings are creaking so much that it sounds as if something is about to break apart.

Many passengers are seasick. Ready-to-use barf bags are taped to the railings. No one can walk a straight line. Most of the entertainment has been shut down until further notice.

Not a word from the bridge since this morning. The TV channel entitled “Word from the Bridge” gave us the above stats.  Are we safe? I guess we are. How will we sleep with the rolling and the noise? I don’t know.

We’re a two and a half days from our first port of call, the island of Madeira, Portugal, off the coast of Algeria. We’re more than halfway across the ocean.

It’s 2:00 am. I actually slept for a few hours. We changed our clocks when we went to bed at midnight. I was dreaming about water running, lots of water running. The water sounds as if it’s
coming from outside the door. Tom is sound asleep. I want to awaken him, but I don’t. 

I want to open the door and look outside in the hallway. I try to open it. It won’t open. The heavy self closing door requires a hefty pull using my right arm. I haven’t been able to open it once since we boarded six days ago due to my bad right shoulder. 

Why would I think I could open it now? I jiggle the lock, but can’t tell, in my harried state, which way is open. Give up opening the door, my head screams. The swaying and creaking is louder than ever. I need to look outside. 

Repeatedly faltering as I maneuver to the sliding door, I fall toward the glass, grabbing the thick drapes to keep me from going down. Pulling the drapes to the side, in the dark I can see the huge white caps, the 30 foot waves, grasping at the ship in an angry rage, as if to attack.

There’s nothing I can do. I’m a little scared, but I must be brave. I crawl back into bed, pulling the covers over my head. Sleep, please come. Thirty minutes pass. I take the Tylenol PM I’d left on the shelf next to my side of the bed, just in case.  Swallowing it down with leftover iced tea in my mug, it feels stuck in my throat.  I drink again and position myself on my left side, as always, protecting the bad shoulder with a pillow under my elbow. 
The noise is deafening, the creaking, the sound of running water, the roar of the sea. Finally, I drift off, desperate to escape my own thoughts.

It’s 8:52 am. Sun is filtering into the cabin through a tiny sliver I left open during the night in the thick red drapes. The sound of the cabin creaking is a soft murmur. The sound of water running is no more. The cabin is rolling gently, a smooth roll, almost comforting as rocking a child in a cradle. 

It’s over.

I made a huge mistake before going to bed. I hooked up the Internet on my laptop at $.40 a minute, researching high winds and waves on cruise ships. The results were ominous.  Over the past 30 years, people died, ships broke apart, ships sunk. 

Not much was written about the ships that “weathered the storms” other than a few comments passengers posted about their terrifying experiences, ultimately surviving without incident.  Why didn’t I glom onto those comments as opposed to the dreadful news? 

My old fearful self, crept her way back into my psyche in my exhausted state. Shoo away, old
self!  New brave self, emerge!  In a way I guess she did, when she gave up and went to sleep. Old self would never have taken the Tylenol PM and gone back to sleep. She needed to stay in control by staying awake.

How can one possibly stay in control and “piloting the ship” or “fly the plane” when one is asleep?  I’ve never slept on a plane. If I slept, it all would fall apart, wouldn’t it?  I guess not. 

It’s 11:10 am. Now as I sit with Tom, still oblivious of the scary night, in our favorite booth in the Garden Cafe, the gentle rolling continues and I’m no longer afraid, not now and hopefully, not in the future. Last night I learned something, something simple.

It’s OK to sleep during the storm.

 

Tom’s haircut adventure with photos!…

How could Tom’s haircut be more fun?

This morning at 10:00 am, as opposed to our usual 9:00 am, Estevan picked us up at our resort for our usual Wednesday shopping trip to Placencia Village.  We’d changed the time to accommodate the local barbershop’s opening time of 10:00 am, as indicated on their sign on the side of the building.

Alas, we appeared on time to find it closed.  Upon waiting for a few minutes, we decided to kill some time by checking out the fish market around the corner. Last week they were out of fish. The guy at the fish shop walked us over to the hut where the fisherman prepares his fish for sale.

No fresh fish from the fisherman today. 

Interested in grouper for me only (Tom doesn’t like fish) a few small packages would have been ideal.  Unfortunately, all he had on hand was a frozen 3 1/2 pound clump of filleted grouper. Hoping for fresh, unfrozen fish which I’d cut into serving size pieces, to be frozen individually and used accordingly.

Usually, I’d eat no more than six or seven ounces in a meal.  Defrosting it and refreezing it doesn’t appeal to me.  At US $17.50 for the clump, it didn’t make sense to buy it, although the price per pound was very reasonable for this much-desired fish. We walked away empty handed with a plan to try again another day when they may have a fresh fish available.

Thrilled to see this sign we quickly made our way to the salon down a side street.

By this time it was 10:30 and the barbershop near the end of the peninsula had yet to open. With a plan to meet Estevan at the Top Value Supermarket at 11:30, we needed to move along.  Our Minnesota friends had suggested a unisex salon further along our walk to the grocery shop. We kept an eye out for a sign.
As we approached the building, we were baffled as to the location of the entrance.  We approached a young woman sitting on a plastic chair as to who we’d see to get a man’s haircut.  She looked up, yelling out to a man about 100 feet away. 
  It didn’t appear that there was a barber in this old building.
He immediately approached us with a wide grin on his face, explaining that the salon was being renovated, “Would you mind having a haircut outside under this fig tree?” 
Tom looked at me.  We both shrugged and he replied, “No, I wouldn’t mind at all.”

 Tom was thrilled to have an outdoor haircut.
The barber asked the young woman to give up the plastic chair she was sitting on as he ran around gather cement blocks to raise the chair to a height, comparable to that of a barber chair.  All the while, neither Tom nor I could wipe the amused smiles off of our faces. 

Joel (pronounced, Joe-El) prepared the barber chair for Tom’s haircut, gathering cement blocks to ensure a steady foundatio

 The cement block structure completed and ready for use.
Joel McKenzie, a former US Marine, born in Belize, having lived in Brooklyn New York, Chicago Illinois, and Los Angeles California proved to be an intriguing man with vast worldwide experience, as a renowned former stylist for Essence Magazine.  He returned to his homeland of Belize in 1995 to live near his family and friends and build his hairstyling business.

His adept hands and the delightful conversation continued during the 45-minute cut.

Seldom late, old people that we are, we arrived at 11:32.  Of course, our Estevan was patiently waiting in his red van outside the Top Value grocery store. We’ve invited our Minnesota friends for dinner this upcoming Friday night.  We surprised ourselves how quickly we managed to get all the items we needed for our planned menu.  Well, maybe not everything but most of it.
Joel gave Tom a great haircut and we both had a great time chatting with Joel.
After paying Joel the US $12.50 for the haircut along with a 40% well-deserved tip, we were on our way.  We still needed to get to the vegetable market and meet up with Estevan at 11:30 at the grocery store to do our shopping.
In any case, we’re happy with Tom’s haircut.  Thanks, Joel for a fine job and for sharing your enchanting story, further adding to our repertoire of interesting and valuable experiences while we’re visitors in your country.

 

 

 

 

Countries we’ll visit, real estate to explore, plus photos…

 

Famous long sidewalk in Placencia Village with houses scattered along the way.

After spending most of my career as a real estate broker in Minnesota, USA, real estate in Belize peaked my curiosity and Tom’s as well.  With our possible plan to “settle somewhere” when and if we tire of traveling, we’ve decided to research real estate when we find an area particularly appealing. 

An excellent example of local property design, the restaurant, the “Caribbean Breeze Coolspot,” offers sweeping views of the lagoon and the mountains from the deck.

With our newly discovered wanderlust, we can’t imagine living in one locale for an extended period.  But, let’s face it, advancing age may require a fixed location some time down the road

House along the drive into Placencia Village.

How can we make this potential eventuality fun and exciting, rather than a dreaded eventuality of aging?  Taking care of our health is firmly implanted in our lives.  As we all know, unforeseen medical issues can occur in a flash, no matter the attempts one has made to avert it.  We’re products of our genes, our environment, and past bad habits, that can haunt our DNA for a lifetime.

House on the way to Placencia Village.  There’s a tremendous amount of poverty in Belize.

Keeping a positive attitude isn’t a guaranty either, as much as we’d like to believe it is.  So, we’ve decided to live now, as if we’ll live long and healthy lives, full of energy, full of passion, and full of hope.

House we see each time we walk along the beach heading south on the Placencia peninsula.

This hope precipitates a desire to explore what options will be available to us for not only our pleasure but also for a certain degree of ease of living.  Would Belize fill that bill?  We don’t know.  We’re yet to define a frame of reference from one locale to another.

Occupied house near the pier at Monkey River.

We will have visited the following countries including many of their cities and regions in the next two-plus years. Health providing, we’ll add many more in the years to come.  With a three and a half month unplanned gap in Europe in 2014 and a plan to explore more countries during that time, perhaps we’ll add three to four more countries to this list.  (These are listed in no particular order).
1.      USA
2.      Belize
3.      France
4.      Italy
5.      Spain
6.      Turkey
7.      Greece
8.      United Arab Emirates
9.      US Virgin islands
10.  Honduras
11.  Grand Cayman
12.  Bahamas
13.  Puerto Rico
14.  Grand Turks and Caicos
15.  Portugal
16.  Egypt
17.  Jordan
18.  Kenya
19.  South Africa
20. Panama
21. Mexico
22. Guatemala
23. Costa Rica
24. Columbia

With ten upcoming cruises from April 2013 to November 2014, we’ll have an opportunity to look at properties while in port along the way, both for sale and for rent. This process may not give us a definitive view of our eventual long term location but may inspire us to return to live in a particular locale for a number of months to better acquaint ourselves with the lifestyle.

House along the canal leading to the lagoon, leading to the Caribbean Sea.

So often, while on vacation, we’ve all fantasized about moving to the location to live an idyllic life lounging on a pristine sandy beach, with the waves lapping at our feet. 

In only a short time, we’ve come to realize in our own naivety, that however romantic and inviting a location maybe, in time, we all settle into the comfortable and the familiar which hopefully brings us a sense of contentment, fulfillment, and a certain degree of happiness.

 

Moonlight becomes you…

The late afternoon moon.

This old Johnny Mathis song wound through my brain last night as we watched the moon progress from the afternoon into dark. Yes, I know. That song sure dates me! 

Here’s the link on YouTube to this song that for old timers, like me, will bring back memories.  Listen here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQOP3b3gLBQ

The moon at 9:00 pm.

Moonlight seems to appeal to everyone, young or old, as we marvel at the wonder of space, our world, the moon and the sun.  As I sit here on the veranda, the sun in my eyes, my laptop monitor hard to see on yet another hot sunny morning, I prepare to post the photos we took last night.

Back in Minnesota, on a full moon night whether on a warm summer’s eve or in the brisk cold of winter, we always stepped outside on those nights to languish in the bright beam of light cast upon the lake, even when frozen, reflecting a magical feeling of awe and surprise.

The moon from our veranda.

Here in another land, we find that we all share in the romantic commonality of reveling in the moon’s beacon of light reflecting so graciously upon the sea. Last night was no exception, as we noticed our few neighbors also on their verandas necks stretched to the heavens.

Thank you, moon.  Thank you, sun.  Thank you, God, for making our world and it heavens only but a glimpse of what is yet to come.

Playful night in Belize despite “24/7″…



 Tom and I enjoyed the balmy evening, sitting on the beach in front of our villa.

I’ve never cared for the expression, “24/7,” thinking it sounded as if it were a lazy way of saying, “all the time,” “around the clock,” or “every minute of the day.”
 

The words “24/7” never crossed my lips until a few days ago while lounging at the pool, chatting with a guest at Laru Beya, it fell out of my mouth when she asked me, “Now that you both are retired, how does it feel to be together all of the time?”

Without hesitation, I blurted, “Being together 24/7 has worked well for us.  We don’t whine, snip or pick on each other. It works!”  I let out a little gasp, shocked at myself for having said the dreadful expression.  24/7?  Yep, that’s us. 24/7?  Yep, that’s most retired people. 

A few hours later, while again lounging, this time in the comfy chaise on our veranda, I allowed my mind to wander to the conversation with the woman.  After 22 years of being together with busy work schedules and personal lives, we’re finally together.


We shot this coconut tree photo in the dark on the beach in front of our veranda. 

How do couples make it work?  Over the years we observed many couples on their way to, and eventually into retirement.  Some made it work.  Some didn’t. 

Early on in our relationship and in many years to come, Tom and I surrounded ourselves with a role model couple we adored, Sue and Chip, our dear friends and neighbors four doors from us with whom we spent many enjoyable hours. 

Entrenched in lively conversations on countless occasions we discussed every possible topic, over fabulous food and drink, during holidays, special events, as well as on Chip and Tom’s shared birthdays on December 23rd. 


Hold it steady, Honey.  Its a little blurry!

As a couple, Sue and Chip personified the ideal of retirement.  Chip, retired as an orthopedic surgeon, used the finite hand skills he’d acquired as a surgeon to fulfill his artistic bent busying himself as a sculptor, artist and singer.  Sue, a charming hostess and friend to many, played tennis and entertained guests, surrounding herself with meaningful social and academic adventures.

Well rounded as individuals, they came together fulfilled and content, lovingly and unselfishly reveling in each other’s interests and activities.  Observing them during our countless times spent together, we knew we needed to follow suit into our own retirement with caveats we learned from Sue and Chip (never spoken but observed):

1.  No nagging, no complaining, no snipping and no negative tone of voice when asking or responding to anything at all.
2.  Expand on or develop new interests to fill a portion of your time in gratifying endeavors, sharing what you’ve learned with your spouse opening new avenues for conversation.
3.  Spend time with friends and family building relationships of your own.
4.  Socialize together always speaking well of one another with a twinkle in your eye.  Never complain about your partner’s bad habits (which seem to worsen as we age) to others, including family.
5.  Share financial status with one another on an ongoing basis especially if one handles the money more than the other.
6.  Discuss life’s concerns in a productive manner, inspiring solutions and resolutions together as a couple.
7.  Compliment each other, always seeking new ways to express your interest and attraction to many aspects of your partner, not merely complimenting their outfit for the evening (which in itself always earns brownie points!). 
8. Always give one another credit for accomplishments even if only one of you did most of the work.  After all, it is a partnership.
9.  Have fun!  (This can be achieved in many ways, if you know what I mean!)
10. Have more fun!

This is what we learned from Sue and Chip.  This is what we strive to achieve every single day.  It’s a choice, isn’t it?  It’s not a matter of circumstance one falls into via good or bad luck.  Do we accomplish it “24/7?”  No, but like any good habit, its easier to fall back into the goodness, if one so chooses.

We lost our dear Chip the end of May last year (see blog post in archives for June 1, 2012).  We miss him.  We’ll always miss him.  But, in us (and in Sue and many others who knew him and easily loved him) his legacy of love, laughter and passion for life continues on,  along with the fine example of a happy and fulfilling retirement as an individual and as a couple.

Last night we had fun, as we so often do, prompting our silly pictures posted on Facebook and again here in this blog today.  May it serve as a reminder that this, dear friends, is what retirement means to us, not traveling the world on one adventure after another but, being together living our lives to the fullest, living in the moment, with a “twinkle in our eyes” of what is yet to come.

Be well.

Happy Valentine’s Day…staying happy…staying fit…




Valentine’s Day sunrise photo of the Caribbean Sea taken by Tom this morning while standing less than 10 feet from our veranda.

Heartfelt Valentine’s wishes for all of our family and friends.  This morning, Tom arose before sunrise waiting to take this extraordinary photo for me while I remained in restful slumber.  This is truly the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever received.  Thanks, my love.

After a fun happy hour last night with our tourist neighbors from Canada, another couple we’ve befriended, we dined on our homemade pizza made using Polish not Italian sausage.  It wasn’t quite the same, missing the familiar spices in the sausage that make pizza so tasty.  Not having eaten all day, we devoured half of it leaving the remainder for tonight’s dinner. 

While grocery shopping a few days ago, I’d purchased a whole coconut, wondering how we’d open it. With my limited way of eating, I was craving something sweet.  The thought of eating fresh coconut got me salivating.

During last night’s happy hour festivities, we asked a resort employee if he could help us crack the coconut. He dashed off, moments later returning with a awe inspiring machete. 

Helpful employee at LaruBeya cracking open my coconut.

In a matter of seconds, he’d split the coconut.  Unfortunately, as an inexperienced coconut buyer, I had purchased one with a crack it in.  The employee explained that the meat would be dry and the milk unsafe to drink.  I had hoped to use it to make coconut flour pancakes. Live and learn.  We dumped the milk placing the two chunks in the fridge to deal with later.

As I peeked in the refrigerator this morning, seeing the leftovers wrapped in foil and the two chunks of coconut, impossible to remove from the shell after trying late last night, a sense of disappointment came over me, such sorry leftovers for Valentine’s dinner and no coconut meat.   Oh well, no big deal.  I tucked it away in my mind to “think about later.”  We had chicken and beef in the freezer and could easily make a new dinner.

After our usual morning coffee on the veranda, checking our email and Facebook, it was time to wander over to the resort next door, Roberts Grove, a five minute walk along the beach so I could work out once again. We darted in and out of palm trees on the scenic walk along the beach.  Me, in workout shoes and Tom, barefooted.  He never ventures outdoors without shoes.  It’s fun to see that he too, is falling into the Belizean way, barefoot and laid back.

Staying fit as we travel the world is important to me.  Its not about “burning calories” which I’ve never found to be effective.  Its about maintaining a level of fitness and well being to ensure my continuing good health, mobility, strength and endurance, many of which dwindle away as one approaches old age. 

Turning 65 years old in a mere six days, February  20th, is a huge motivator for me.  Since we left Minnesota on Halloween, I’ve only missed one week, that horrifying week without water in the little beach house.  Once we moved here to LaruBeya on February 5th, I signed up next door (no health club here) to use their health club at $39 a month, as mentioned in a prior post.

My workout consists of a program I adopted from the book, The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor which extols the virtues of 1000 scientific studies done by researchers at Harvard as to why we need to eat more and exercise less (and smarter) utilizing the concert of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). 

This concept along with the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, not only changed my life, now free of pain except for the testy shoulder on occasion but helped Tom lose 45 pounds which he has maintained after two cruises and many nights of dining out.  I know I’ve mentioned these many times in the past but we would not have been able to travel the world prior to these startling life changes from eating this new way, now 18 months later.

Tom has never had interest in working out.  He’s lost all this weight from diet alone.  Now, living on the beach, its not hard to get in my preferred 10,000 steps of walking per day. I don’t nag or cajole Tom into doing more. Its entirely his decision, one I doubt he’ll choose to make. 

In any case, my workouts continue leaving me feeling refreshed, renewed and energized.  Although I only go to the gym twice a week for short periods, HIIT is an excruciated short period, as little as 10 minutes of torture.  Once done, I wait 3-4 days to do it again, ideal with our current lifestyle.

As discussed many times in this blog, our diets continue to be a source of careful planning and sometimes difficult choices.    Tom had planted himself in a comfy chair in the shade reading a book on his smart phone (we no longer have cell phone contract but use WiFi for data on our phones) while I’d work out.  While standing at the desk at Robert’s Grove to collect the key to the workout room, I noticed three fancy Valentine’s Day menus spread out on the counter.

Thinking about the leftover pizza and impossible to shell coconut in the fridge, I called Tom over to peruse the menus.  Pizza or filet mignon and lobster tail????
Filet and lobster won!!!  We made the reservation for 7 PM tonight, Valentine’s night.  All we do is show up at that desk at 6:45 tonight and the staff at Robert’s Grove will drive us the five miles to Maya Beach to their sister resort for dinner at the Singing Sands Resort and return us to our resort later in the evening.  

Tom washed a boulder and then used it to crack my coconut, making it possible to eat. It wasn’t dry at all.  Tonight’s dessert!

Our costs for 2 1/2 months in Belize….Plus photos…Plus a new mission…

 

The beach outside our door.

Renting a golf cart is the best thing we could have done!  After the rain stopped yesterday, we decided to go check out some local restaurants for our date night. Although it only goes about 10 miles an hour, we can explore this general area quite easily.  There’s not another town for about 53 miles so we’re best to stay within the approximate eight-mile distance of the peninsula of Placencia.

Around noon, we took off for Robert’s Grove Resort to check out their health club and three restaurants.  Not a golfer, the golf cart reminded me of the motorized cars at Disneyland that I so much loved to drive as a kid maneuvering between the high rubber bumper curbs. The putt putt sound made the ride all the more entertaining.

Wandering into Robert’s Grove, for a moment I wished we were staying there for the entire 2 1/2 months.  Almost a year ago, I checked their prices to discover that they were already entirely booked. Also, at $200 a night plus meals at another $150 a day (we checked their menus), the cost would have been $24,150 plus tips, plus laundry, plus transportation. 

The total to stay at Robert’s Grove would have been around $30,000. Our total cost for the 2 1/2 months in Belize including rent, golf cart rental, groceries, and dining out will be approximately $6800 total! 

After the inspection visit at Robert’s Grove Resort, we made reservations for dinner for their Saturday night buffet. Much to our surprise, they offered to pick us up at our little beach house at 6:45 and bring us back at no charge. We described how to find us as best as we could and planned to be standing on the road at 6:45 promptly. 

In order to drive to Robert’s Grove, we must go through a very poor rough looking town, not unlike North Minneapolis, 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. The thought of a ride in the dark, unlit street in a van, as opposed to a golf cart, was very appealing making the prospect of dinner all the more exciting. We had newfound hope that soon we’d start enjoying ourselves. 

Determined to find more restaurants, we decided to eat out most days while we had either a ride or transportation during the times we’d have the golf cart. At over $900 a month for the cart, we thought we might get it every other week, grocery shopping for the long week stranded in between. Maybe, if dinner at Robert’s Grove was good, we’d have them pick us up a few times in the weeks we were without wheels. This was a plan we could live with.

Deciding against the $39 a month for workout facility at Robert’s Grove due to it not having the equipment I use, we were on our way, tootling down the road to see what else we could find.

Suddenly, a sign appeared, “Luxury Condos for Sale, Coco Plum Villas” as we looked at each other, nodding yes at each other at exactly the same moment. “Let’s check it out.” Of course, we had no intention of buying a home in Belize but thought it would be fun as vacationers often do, in order to get a better feel for an area, to do a bit of house hunting. We wanted to see the more luxurious side of Placencia as well.

Below are photos of the exquisite grounds of Coco Plum Villas.

A man-made lake was the central focus of the development.

A friendly guard waved us through at the gate pointing us to the model, a short distance down the road.  We were in another world.  At considerable cost and design, they utilized the Placencia peninsula on the lagoon side, to build a massive amount of waterways surrounding by nature’s bounty of the area, a variety of palm trees, flowering plants, and trees of unknown origin. Birds were singing and although a cloudy, humid day, it was beautiful.

Another view of the lake.

To see a photo gallery of the area, click this link:
http://www.cocoplumbelize.net/placencia-photo-gallery.aspx

Another friendly young man welcomed us in the model home. It was interesting seeing the model condo, designed and decorated to utilize the space and views of the sea. Priced at $369,000, not unlike a price one we find in any ocean town so close to the water. Fantasizing for a moment, we asked each other, “Could we live here?” as we walked out the breathtaking grounds, the cabana bars, the long dock with a built-in bar at the end, overlooking expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.

Much of the land around the lake was undeveloped.

Tom answered, “The condo, yes, it’s great. The general location, no.” 

I agreed, “There isn’t a grocery store anywhere in the area that would fulfill our needs with the way we eat.”  One would have to have food products flown in and the cost would be prohibitive.  Eating out every meal would become tiresome and costly. For vacationers, for a week or two, it would be ideal.  But not for us down the road.

It then dawned on us that we needed to “reframe our thinking” a phrase used by Tony Robbins, a renowned life coach and motivational speaker whom my eldest son Richard and I made a point of seeing as often as we could, many years ago. His teachings had a profound effect on both of our careers in real estate, with me, retiring over three years ago after over 25 years and Richard still active in Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada with an illustrious career, still booming in this distressed market. 

A dock to the ocean.

Did we reframe our thinking? How did we do that? We talked.

As we drove away from the condo villas, smiles on our faces, we now realized a greater mission than we previously had dreamed of traveling the world.  At some point, we’ll need to settle down, due to health or tiring from being on the move. 

Where we will live is totally up in the air.  In our year’s long journey, somehow, somewhere, we will find a place that spells “home” deciding to spend whatever time we have left in this world in a beautiful setting (with a good grocery store) whereby our family can visit and feel they are on vacation.  We may do this someday.

With a new mission naturally falling into place, we are rejuvenated, our enthusiasm has been given a burst and we can be at peace wherever we may be.  Thus, as we choose, we can explore real estate at the numerous upcoming ports of call, arranging for a real estate agent to pick us up the pier and show us a few properties for sale.  As a former agent/broker for many years, I often showed homes to prospective buyers, knowing full well that they hadn’t yet locked in an area.  That is what agents do.

Last night at 6:45, we both outside on the dark road as directed waiting for the Robert’s Grove marked van to appear to pick us up.  We figured they’d find us since the Little Cottage was located on their map of Placencia and we gave them the milepost numbers.

Standing in the dark was scary.  Lots of pickup trucks drove by with the bed filled with people sitting on the edges, honking and making noise.  Each time we saw a vehicle go by we had to stand close to the road enabling the driver to see us.  By 7:00 pm and no driver, we had to make a decision. 

Do we go back inside the humid little house and call it a night with nothing defrosted for dinner.  Or, do we take a chance and drive the golf cart in the pitch dark the three miles through the scary town?

As we sat in the driveway in the golf cart contemplating our move, we noticed a golf cart go by with what looked like tourists. We opted to follow them.  There’s strength in numbers.  Driving as fast as he could, Tom reassured me we’d be safe.  My heart was racing.

Along the road, there were about six speed bumps that were raised pedestrian crossings. To cross them, one had to slow down to a snail’s pace. It’s during that time that a potential attacker could have easy access to golf cart occupants. As we sped up after crossing each of the speed bumps we sighed a sigh of relief to again be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at Robert’s Grove Habener Restaurant, the smell of unfamiliar spices filling the air while live reggae music pulsated through the restaurant. Immediately, we alerted the restaurant staff that the driver never arrived by 7:00 pm resulting in our driving on our own. We were pleased to know we hadn’t missed him since she explained he was running late, as much as 1/2 hour. We’d only waited 15 minutes. She called him to tell him we were there since he had yet to arrive to pick us up.

Seated at our cozy white linen-covered table and chairs, we finally relaxed ordering a drink. Tom was anxious to get to the buffet. We’d hardly eaten in days with the problematic tiny stove, the running water issues, the tiny refrigerator with little room to stock fresh foods befitting our diet. 

After a few sips of our drinks, we sauntered to the buffet delighted with what we found:  huge lobster tails, Belizean roast chicken, fried conch (which I couldn’t eat due to the breading), piles of fresh large unpeeled shrimp on a bed of ice, and a whole roasted pig cooked to perfection. Various rice concoctions, salads, fresh fruit, bread, and rolls, completed the buffet along with a full table of what appeared to be delectable desserts. 

I asked the waiter if the water was purified and he assured us it was which is typical for hotels not wanting sick, angry guests stuck in their rooms with the “revenge” unable to spend more money and, in this day and age, writing derogatory reviews.  We felt safe to finally enjoy some ice in our water.

There were numerous items of which I couldn’t partake, but more that I could and I piled my plate twice as high as Tom’s.  The lobster was sweet and tender, the chicken, seasoned the Belizean way was falling off the bone, the sausage was spicy and moist and the pig. Well, I “pigged out.” It was a feast. Tom went back for another lobster tail. I had taken two to start and didn’t go back for seconds after eating my entire plate of food. 

The music was so loud we could barely speak instead of preoccupying ourselves with our food, the ambiance, and the good feeling of enjoying “being out.” The bill for everything, including our drinks and a generous tip for the attentive waiter, was $78 US, a deal by our standards. We’ll definitely go back again soon. 

The drive back was less scary and uneventful. We now felt comfortable driving the golf cart at night and of course, we’d be as mindful as possible. We can’t spend our world travels being suspicious of every corner, but we can and will be as cautious as is practical and possible.

This morning, I swept the piles of sand off the tile floor in the little house and on the patio, boiled more water, washed off the tabletops and kitchen counters with rags dipped in cold soapy (there’s literally NO HOT WATER in the little house!) hoping the soap would somehow sanitize everything.

At noon, an hour from now, we’ll hop into our golf cart driving in the opposite direction as yesterday, find a restaurant for tonight, and hopefully discover more interesting areas to explore.  We’ll take more photos. 

Today, I received a comment from a reader kindly requesting me to post photos of the distressed areas as well.  Next time we go to Placencia Village, in the next few days, we will definitely take photos and post them.  Thanks, Anonymous.  We’re happy to comply.

We recovered from the virus/cold, we got on the ship. We’re getting used to the heat, my 25 bites are becoming less itchy, the sun is shining, its 80 degrees and we’re good.  Yep, for the moment, we’re good.

 

Moving on…Celebrity Equinox awaits us…Perks of an upgrade to Concierge Class…

It hot and humid here in Boca Raton, Florida, so humid that my clothes are sticking to me.  It rained all night, pouring pelting rain.  Tossing and turning all night, kicking off the covers from time to time, I awoke exhausted this morning feeling as if I hadn’t slept a wink.

Both of us have bad, painful right shoulders, different issues, similar discomfort.  We hurt today in the dampness, both taking two Aleve, know the hauling of bags into our friend’s SUV was yet ahead of us.  It’s almost 10 am and we can’t leave here until noon since we can’t board the new ship until 1:00 PM.

This time on the Celebrity Equinox we booked a Concierge Class balcony, an upgrade, we elected when booking the 11-night cruise from which we’ll embark three days early by the “tender” (smaller boat) in Belize.

We’ll live in the small peninsula community of Placencia, a four-hour drive from Belize City, for more than two months, moving to Ambergris Caye for an additional almost two weeks in yet another beach house. 

The Concierge Class upgrade was a bonus feature of the balcony cabin we selected at the time of booking.

Concierge Class includes:

Services

    • Priority check-in
    • Express luggage delivery
    • Personalized Concierge service
    • Priority disembarkation based on travel needs
    • Complimentary shoeshine service
    • Access to the exclusive Concierge Class Pre-departure Lounge

Dining

    • Main and specialty restaurant seating time preferences
    • Expanded room service menu

Amenities

    • Welcome Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine with a commemorative label featuring exclusive artwork from the ArtCenter/South Florida artists
    • Pillow menu to suit sleeping preferences
    • Daily delivery of Afternoon Savories (appetizers, most of which I can’t eat)
    • Plush Frette® bathrobes
    • Fresh fruit (we don’t eat fruit)
    • Fresh flowers
    • Custom-blended bath amenities
    • Personalized stationery
    • Use of binoculars and golf umbrella
    • Oversized 100% cotton bath towels
    • Extra handheld hairdryer
    • Celebrity tote bag

Stateroom Features

    • Hansgrohe® massaging showerhead

Hopefully, this express check-in feature will serve us as well as the seamless check-in we experienced leaving San Diego on January 3rd when we boarded the Celebrity Century for our 15-night Panama Canal Cruise. Now, after three days in Florida, we are excited to board the new ship. 

Packing carefully, we’ll only have to open a few of our bags aboard the Equinox, hiding the remainder behind the curtains as Tom so cleverly managed to accomplish on the last cruise.  Hopefully, by dinner time tonight, we’ll be unpacked and ready to enjoy another fabulous evening dining with amazing food and meeting other passengers.

Last night, we finally booked our airfare for June 3, 2013, getting us back to Barcelona after our 15-night cruise and a two-week stay in Dubai.  We struggled when deciding on the airline and the flight time. 

Hoping to get a great price and handling of our excess luggage (two bags over the limit), we finally decided to go for the shortest non-stop flight (7 hours 55 minutes from Dubai to Barcelona) of which there was only one, at $700 per person with an allowance of two large bags plus one carry-on each. 

This flight was almost twice as much as the 11 hours, two stops, separate airlines, changing planes, layover flights offered.  We’ll store our two extra bags in a storage facility we found near the pier avoiding $100 in extra charges.

We decided that the 8:15 am flight on luxurious Emirates Air with many amenities was worth the extra expense including service of gourmet meals.  We don’t enjoy flying. Simplifying the process makes it a more pleasant experience leaving us comfortable with our decision. I had budgeted $1500 for this particular flight. We’ll have the extra $100 for tips and gum. 

Now, we must find a hotel for the one night we’ll stay in Barcelona until our cruise a day later, departing from Barcelona to explore the Mediterranean. While onboard the Equinox we’ll research and book the one night plus another night we’ll need a few months later, which we’ll describe in a future post.

Here we go once again, boarding our second Celebrity ship which placed us into the “Captain’s Club” providing some cocktail parties and extra perks which we’ll report on as we experience them.  That combined with the Concierge Class upgrade should make this an extra special experience.  After reading many reviews online, some cruisers didn’t see any added value for the two upgrades but we shall see how it works for us.  We’re easy to please and we appreciate even the slightest extra amenity.

Special thanks to our friend Carol in Boca Raton for putting up with us for three days, for the comfortable accommodations, the fun dinner party meeting her friends, and for the bothersome drive to and from the Fort Lauderdale Pier.

Back in touch soon with updates, pricing, and comments on the Celebrity Equinox and the journey to Belize.  Stay well.

It wasn’t easy getting off the ship…Currently in Boca Raton, Florida now…

When we arrive in Belize on January 29th and get situated in our little beach house,  we’ll be very relieved.  Tom is having angst about the “tender” coming to pick us up in Belize and the maneuvering of our luggage.

Most passengers will be disembarking for an excursion, not like us with the intent of staying off the ship, not to return for the remaining two-night journey back to Florida. As a result, we’ll most likely be the only passengers loading luggage onto the tender.

The reason the Celebrity Equinox (or other cruise ships) cannot dock at the pier in Belize is its size, too big. It’s too shallow at the pier for huge ships. 

As much as I try to reassure Tom that the ship’s staff will assist us as well as the tender’s staff, hired by Celebrity to assist passengers on and off, he remains steadfast in his concern. 

Determined to allay his fear, I will prepare for this scenario with guest services aboard ship days in advance to ensure staff is on hand and ready to take over. Yes, it will cost us in tips, as it did yesterday disembarking the Celebrity Century.

Oh.  Disembarking in Fort Lauderdale yesterday was a little challenging. Yes, we know we have too many bags.  Yes, we know as time marches on we’ll end up reducing the amount of our luggage.  But if we’d only had two large bags, two carry on bags, and two computer bags, it still was challenging.  We stayed calm.

A kind older man, a porter of small stature, seeing our abundant orange luggage as we fumbled grabbing it among the piles of black bags, approached asking if we’d use his services. We looked at each other, wildly shaking our heads, “YES!”  This porter was strong as a horse immediately loading our copious bags onto his large cart. The line to go through customs was several hundred deep.

Our friend, with whom we are staying until Monday was standing by for our text with instructions as to where to pick us up.  At this point, there was no way to determine how long it would take.  The kind porter waited in line with us for the 20 or so minutes it took to get through customs.  How much to tip him

Getting through customs was a breeze in itself. When we saw how fast the line was moving I contacted our friend who was 35 minutes away in Boca Raton giving her our exact location. We were asked if we purchased anything, which we had not, asked to show our passports, and scooted on through without opening a single bag.  That took less than two minutes.

Then, the fun began.  We were escorted to the massive parking lots with fast-moving cars and trucks were dropping off and picking up passengers and dropping off supplies for the ships, several of which surrounded us.  Traffic cops in orange vests were directing traffic, annoyed by our need to find a spot to unload our luggage and wait for our friend. 

Actually, standing in a curved lane of traffic with our bags neatly lined up next to us, the porter on his way with our $50 tip  (he’d been with us for over a half-hour), we watched every white SUV whizzing by, hoping it was our friend.  Dressed in short sleeves, I was cold.  Who knew it would be only 60 degrees when weather reports indicated high 70’s?  I should have worn a jacket or sweater.  Tom, as usual, was comfortable. My guy, so sturdy. Me, a wimp.

Twenty-five minutes later our friend arrived to see our smiling faces, anxious to get on the road. The kind porter suddenly reappeared to assist once again. Apparently, the $50 tip had been adequate and we were pleased to let him help Tom.

Forty minutes later, we unloaded the bags, leaving most of the bags in her garage, bringing in only our two duffel bags filled with dirty clothes, our laptop bags, my handbag, and a doctor bag of toiletries.  Surely, this would suffice for the weekend with us leaving to sail away again on Monday, January 21st on the Celebrity Expedition for our trip to Belize.

Walking into our friend’s gorgeous Boca Raton home was comforting, our accommodations ideal.  Unpacking our six loads of dirty clothes from 15 days aboard the Celebrity Century, the washer is still going non-stop today.  Paying special attention to drying cycles, hoping to avoid wrinkles has kept me running back and forth.

It’s raining today. We’d hoped to sit by her inviting pool, soaking up our 45 minutes of sun, swimming in the pool, relaxing. Instead, we’ll busy ourselves indoors today, calling family, completing the laundry, and helping to cook a big meal for more company coming tonight.  We’re good.  We’re content.

We’re living our new life