Sunday, 31 March 2013

Loving Flores

I don't think we'll be leaving in any hurry.. in fact in just a few days we are settling in very nicely. This hostel makes it so easy to just stay and chill and we keep finding little restaurants that we say "we'll have to come back".  The prices are right, the days hot, the nights are cool, the people are friendly.. we are in no rush to leave!

at the Cool Bean restaurant
We were so excited to just have a place to stay over the Easter long weekend that we didn't even think about actually catching the Semana Santa festivities. We walked out of the hostel on Friday for a late breakfast, and we caught the process carrying Jesus with his cross. Then later that afternoon we saw the resident families getting the street designs ready for the evening procession. Flores is a small town so the religious festivities felt really intimate and really interesting to see. We were busy explaining everything to the kids, a crash course on Christianity.

Yesterday, Saturday we took a launcha to the local zoo across the lake and it was busy with Guatemalan families on holidays and then the city square had government sponsered actitivies including bouncy castles for the kids, bouncers for the older kids and a hip-hop demonstration.

Terraza restaurant..another spot we'll return to

The square (zecalo) where the church is has a great vantage point for watching the sunset and you can grab a beer for very cheap at the local vendor and sit on the park benches and watch the  sun go down. We caught the sunset last night.. again saying "we'll have to come here again!".. there is also a monkey bar and teeter-totter at the little park that has kids wanting to come back again too.



Saturday, 30 March 2013

Sean's Blog - Adventures 1 1/2 - About Orange Juice

About orange juice. In Spanish they call it Jugo de Naranja. In other places, I have  no idea what they call it. If anyone knows, put it in the comment box to me and I will put it in the next blog. 

Orange Juice is very yummy. It is my most favourite drink in the whole wide world. There are three kinds of things that you need in an orange juice for me to like it. 

1) It needs to be super sour.
2) There needs to be lots of ice in it and a straw.
3) It needs to be freshly squeezed and cold. 

Those are all the things you need to make my kind of orange juice. In Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras, they have green oranges instead of orange oranges. So if you ever go to those places, get green oranges because those are the sour kind and there are also some orange oranges and the orange oranges are the sweet kind. At other places I don't know what colours they are.. purple, red, blue…white..I don't know. But the only downfall is that my brother doesn't like orange juice. He likes that nasty stuff called Pop.  Anyways, back to orange juice. Later in the story we are going to learn about the history of Orange juice and who was the first person to make the orange squeezer and who was the first one to grow oranges. Okay, back to me. Every restaurant I go to, I always order orange juice. Sometimes I like the orange juice and sometimes I don't like it. Sometimes, instead of using freshly squeezed orange juice they use this weird stuff called Tang. Sometimes it is so delicious I want to go into the back and drink every last orange and orange juice. And other times, it is horrible. It's so sweet I can't even taste the orange. And all they do is put in lots of sugar and use that weird stuff called Tang. And if you have watched "annoying orange" on YouTube, you'll know what the first answer is on the quiz questions.  Now to the history of ORANGE JUICE!

The first people to grow oranges were the Chinese and oranges have vitamin C in it and would stop scurvy. The first person to make an orange squeezer was Dr. Norman Walker in 1930's. The crusaders brought the oranges to Italy in the 11th century and they were used for medical uses. The Franscicans and Sailers brought over oranges to America from the 1500's to the 1700's. 

Quiz Question: (Put your answer in the comment box)

What is orange + knife?            

What is Sean + orange juice?

What is Liam + pop? 

Who was the first people to grow oranges?     
  A) Chinese  B) Italian  C) Americans

Who was the first person to make an orange squeezer?   
    A) Dr. Know it all  B) Dr. Norman Walker  C) Dr. Kink

What vitamin does Oranges have?
   A) Vitamin A   B) Vitamin B   C) Vitamin C

One bad orange juice

One good orange juice

Making orange juice

bags of oranges

Orange juice maker

One good orange juice

me eating an orange

Happy Me

Friday, 29 March 2013

Back in Guatemala

Well, the travel day wasn't so bad after all. It started with rain in Placencia but all the connections went smooth and travel in Guatemala is so easy, so we were in Flores by 2pm.. enough time to relax, enjoy the Hostel (great inner garden, many hang out spots, big room, great food, lots of travellers.. perfect!), and then walk around the little island of Flores.

Leaving Placencia.. love the brightly coloured buses!
Los Amigo Hostel
A little garden oasis on the inside with the best
freshly squeezed orange juice.. Sean was happy!
Flores is in the middle of the Lago Peten Itza, connected by a causeway. It was the last full Mayan (the Itza Mayan)  strong hold in Central America before it was conquered in 1697.. that's almost 2 hundred years after the initial Spanish conquest. This whole Peten region of Guatemala is full of significant Mayan city-states. More recently discovered, which the archeologists are discovering was bigger than Tikal, is the Mayan city-state of Mirador. But the whole region is covered in Mayan ruins.. so lots to discover. The town of Flores is now a cobbled street, colonial feel place with a lovely perimeter promenade with docks that people swim off, launchas to take you around the lake and with Easter weekend.. it is full and busy with Guatemalans on vacation.. it feels like a festive town!

For now, we are really liking Flores and the hostel so we think we might just stay for a week and then head to Tikal. There is a jungle trek that we might be able to do.. have to look into that. And there is a zip-line that the boys have voted on (and it's only $20!).

Better go get breakfast and start our day.. Happy Friday everyone!

I'm adding a link to another traveller's blog here..we just met him at the hostel and he goes into a lot more detail about his travels than I do. His retirement plan (he is 68 yrs)  is to just keep travelling until he can't..he is working himself south to Antartica! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Leaving Belize

After our road trip adventure and stay at Caves Branch.. we hunkered back down in Placencia and did homeschooling and caught up on all the pictures and blogs. Placencia started to really grow on us as we discovered little favourite places to eat, an ice cream place and faces and rhythms of the village started started to feel familiar. One calm morning we saw a dolphin slowing diving in and out of the water.. right across the bay.. so tranquil and beautiful. For a few days we got extreme heat and everyone was stripped down to the bare clothing essentials. Hot sticky heat that makes one cranky... I was so lethargic all I could do was laze in the hammock or sit in front of the fan. It was bad! But luckily a cold front came in and we got some relief (or else I would never have gotten these blogs done!). Right now there is a lovely breeze and there is drumming (Afro-Caribe style) coming from the bar a few doors down, the palms are rustling, the waves are breaking on shore,  and if I poke my head out from under the veranda, there is a full moon. Eric is content in the hammock on the porch, and the boys asleep.

Julia's Cabanas

working on Math
working on reading
Belizeans love their colour!
Yay.. homeschooling is over.. now time for fun!

closer to the Lagoon side of Placencia

Over the last few days we were in a bit of a flux figuring out our next move in our trip. Our 30 day visa is running out and though we could pay to get our visa extended, it's expensive travel here. We decided to head back to Guatemala and see the Mayan ruins of Tikal and then head further into the Peten region to the Mexican border where there are other Mayan ruins that Eric and I would love to visit (one is called Yachilan and sits on a bend of the river and you access it by launcha from the water). After that we're not too sure.. the ideas keep changing. But heading into Guatemala means we'll be travelling the Easter long weekend,  the busiest time of the year for vacationing.. so all hotels are booked up and prices are elevated and here we are trying to travel .. something we had been conscious of avoiding the whole trip!

But luckily we were able to get reservations (after a fierce internet search and many inquires sent) so we'll be in the island town of Flores in Guatemala for the Easter long weekend. The boys keep asking about the easter bunny and chocolate.. quite concerned that they may get left out! Guatemala is the birth place of chocolate.. they'll get lots (Chocolate comes from Cacao beans, which are grown in Central America, and the Mayan used them to make a chocolate drink and used the Cacao beans as currency.. the drink and currency was highly valued.. when the Spanish came.. they thought the chocolate drink was good.. brought it back to Europe where it was all the rage... but added some sugar.. and then someone in the England I think, turned the drink into chocolate bars.. my history of chocolate gets a bit fuzzy there). But anyways, Guatemala should be interesting for Easter - birth place of chocolate and a Catholic country.. I'm sure we'll get our Easter fix somehow (though we'll miss family dearly).

So, tomorrow (Thursday, March 28th) we leave Belize with a long day of travel ahead of us. We catch the 6am bus to Belmopan (3 hours), then transfer to San Ignacio (1 hr), then bus to the border town (maybe 30 minutes?), then taxi across no-mans land and to the immigration office to get our passports stamped, then bus to Flores (3 hours?). I'm not sure what time we'll get in.. but it'll be a long day for sure!

Happy Easter everyone! 
(in case I don't get another blog out before then). 

Belize Re-cap - part 3

                                                 Part 3... still at Caves Branch

We met Ian's wife and got to share in their new venture... they had just purchased a new piece of property and were getting full possession of it the day we arrived!  One of the days at Caves Branch we ventured with Ian to get a tour of their new property near San Ignacio (about 45 min drive from main highway along good dirt road, bad dirt road, through creeks and over bridges) - his retirement project!  He is still full of ideas and energy!

Eric wanted me to take a picture of the bridge.. the boards did rattle! 
crossing Lower Barton Creek
Barton Creek... on his property...
the river comes from a cave system just 5 minutes upstream
cutest little puppies they inherited with the property

Ian, Sean and Eric

It was such a hot, hot day... the water was so refreshing!

a long day

One of the days we drove to see the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich... it was a hot, hot day (we just sweltered) and it was a funny experience for us because we had to share the experience with several tour groups from the Cruise ships that stop in Belize.  As we explored the summit of one of the principal temples it was suddenly crawling with tourists and got a little to tight for us as everyone squeezed onto the platform!  We all felt a little overwhelmed by the crowds but later in the day we did get to experience the place in a more serene environment when the tour groups all left.  It's a nice little ruin to visit as it's not too big and you get great vistas (can see across the Guatemala boarder)... and we saw a troop of howler monkeys there... including a mom with her baby on her back... so cute.

Hand cranked ferry to get to the Ruins

Mayan Runs of Xunantunich

See us crouched by the wall?
 It was like we were at a ball game or something!
One advantage of having so many people up there...
 there is someone to take your picture.

Another hot, hot day!

Putting him to work on the hand cranked ferry!
We met a lot of really nice people that were staying at Caves Branch (Ian sets up the dining area as family style so you get to meet many people)... including a family from Victoria (there is a theme developing here!).  The kids had a few days of playing with other kids... mostly at the pool  at the end of the day.   Ian's wife, Ella, has put together an amazing Arboretum and they now have the largest collection of orchids in Belize... so it was a treat to stroll through that as well.

It was just an amazing 4 days at a place that we have such fond memories of and now we have even more.  There were a few things that reminded us of our time 18 years ago... the little green shed Eric and I stayed in was still there (which they now use to make their own soap) and the river bank looked the same... same river, same path down to it and of course, the jungle sounds... including the sound of Howlers off in the distance... loved every minute we were there.

The last day we had to say our farewells... headed off to visit the Zoo (and it was sooo sooo hot.. don't think Liam mentioned that part in his blog!)... and then we headed back to Placencia!