August 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

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Four years ago, four close girlfriends went to Belize and Guatemala for one of the more adventurous trips I’ve taken. We explored caves, went “wheeeee!” down a zipline, hiked, toured Mayan ruins, and spent a day on horseback. You can read more about what I’d recommend in both countries in past posts Belize It Or Not! and Tikal.

For this month’s travel POTM™, I thought I’d share an atypical photo for my bloggery: a view from souvenir shopping in a small village in Belize. The wares were colorful and quite eye-catching! In case you’re curious, I brought home a ceramic Mayan calendar and a hand painted ornament–Christmas ornaments are my item of choice everywhere I travel.

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Local Souvenirs in San Jose Succotz

Travel Photo of the Month: November 2015

Although I’ve been to Mexico several times, I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit Chichén Itzá. Named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this sacred site has long been on my places to visit. On a recent trip to the Riviera Maya, I joined a tour group and journeyed to the Mayan ruins. As I did when I visited Tikal, I was amazed by the geometry and planning of the ancient people; what a civilization the worshipers of the sun god must have been! This photo was taken from the south side of the main building, Kukulkan, El Castillo.

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Travel Photo of the Month: June 2015

I’ve already blogged about What Not To Do in Costa Rica, but I didn’t touch on the best part of the trip: a visit to the quaint shores of Playa Conchal. My friend Brandi and I visited in 2007, and the afternoon we spent snapping pictures seaside brings us June’s POTM. I love the juxtaposition of the flippers with the overturned cart on the white shell beach.

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Tikal, Guatemala

While on a girls’ trip to Belize, three friends and I made a day-long private excursion into Guatemala to visit the Mayan ruins in Tikal. We left early in the morning, as the van drive to the ruins was roughly two and a half hours from our resort, and we had to go through passport control in both countries. Our guide deftly helped us through both border towns–Benque Viejo and Melchor de Mencos, and I ended up with four stamps in my passport by the end of the day.

After an informative drive (and stop by a lakeside, where we were told local Guatemalans did their laundry), we ended up in Tikal National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learned about Mayan history, economy, and fascinating traditions from our guide while we walked among the dense forest and ruins. We climbed up Pyramid IV (which had an excellent view made famous by Star Wars) and relished the incredible feeling of absorbing an ancient culture.

Our early afternoon jaunt continued throughout the remainder of the site, yet it was cut short very close to the conclusion of our tour by a fast-approaching rain from the skies. We rushed through the downpour to a nearby restaurant and noshed on a simple meal of red beans and rice, as well as Gallo, the local beer. While the rain was heavy, it did not dampen our spirits, and the four of us giggled most of the ride back to Belize about loving piña coladas and getting caught in the rain…in Tikal.

Belize It or Not!

Instead of a calm vacation where we languished by the beach, three girlfriends and I had an action-packed few days in Central America. We were wonderfully greeted upon arrival at Ka’ana, our lovely boutique hotel, even though this welcome soured by the end of the trip with hidden fees and sneaky charges. We stayed in Casita Two (Xa) and happily explored the grounds and enjoyed the pool area.

Our first full day there, we ziplined through the jungle before cave tubing. I highly recommend our tour company, cave-tubing.com, who picked us up from our hotel and safely delivered us home after a delicious local meal of red beans and rice. At the end of day one, we visited San Jose Succotz, a nearby Belizean village. There, we went shopping for handmade souvenirs and walked around the small community. We treated ourselves to pure sugarcane Coca-Colas and caught a local futbol game. Here, we really soaked up the culture of Belize!

Our second day took us to Tikal in nearby Guatemala, which I’ll save for a future post. I will say that it was magical. The last full day in paradise was spent at Xunantunich—another Mayan archaeological site—which we traveled to on horseback! This last-minute plan of riding horseback from Hanna Stables was absolutely the highlight of our time in Belize. We dubbed our guide Santiago “the most interesting man in the world,” as he shared his family’s history, took us over a hand-cranked ferry to the ruins, and treated us to an incredible meal at the Clarissa Falls Resort. His knowledge and warm hospitality made our trip that much more special.

Our last adventure in Belize was spending a happening Monday night dining in San Ignacio, where we dined at Ko-Ox Han-Nah. This place was worth the trip into town, as we once again feasted on the simple local fare before walking around the city center and enjoying the August evening breeze. (My one caution from this entire vacation: pack mosquito repellent!) While we didn’t get to see the famous Blue Hole, as we flew in and out of Belize City and were on the Western side of Belize, we had an adventure-filled three days in paradise! Belize it…or not!

What Not to Do in Costa Rica

In the spring of 2007, a friend of mine and I used the American Airlines miles we had accumulated to buy a vacation package via AA Vacations. We picked an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica, and excitedly, we planned our trip to Paradisus Playa Conchal.

The time for vacay had arrived. We arrived at the Dallas Fort Worth International airport for our Saturday afternoon departure, our suitcases crammed full with swimsuits, suntan lotion, and more beach reading materials than humanly possible to read poolside at our destination. Both business travelers, we were thrilled to be at the airport for a holiday destination. What may come next will surprise you, and six years later, I can finally share about our excursion…

Eventually, I took this photo in Costa Rica.

Eventually, I took this photo in Costa Rica.

…that never came to be. We both received an email sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning from the airline that our itinerary had changed. Our departure was now scheduled for Saturday morning. So, imagine our absolute shock and disappointment that not only had we missed our rescheduled flight earlier that morning, but we had forfeited our entire holiday, as that was the only flight that day to Guanacaste!

(Dear reader, we eventually talked a nice person at AA Vacations to move our itinerary to another available weekend for a minimal fee, and that night, we went to Chuy’s–an “exotic” culinary experience in our own Dallas, Texas. All ended well, and we made it to Playa Conchal to zip-line, bathe in the sun, and luxuriate in nothingness eventually.) And most importantly, my travel-savvy friend and I learned the most crucial lesson of checking the airline website up-until-the-last-minute for changes. It was embarrassing; however, it’s a great story of flexibility, preparedness, and last-minute plan B margarita sipping.