My adventure to Roatan, Honduras

I’ve spent MANY hours lately researching where to go for our next trip and in doing so it made me reminisce about past holidays so I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorites.

In 2012 my husband and I decided we wanted to go someplace different and after much debate settled on Media Luna in Roatan, Honduras.

For those of you that may not be familiar with Roatan it is a small island (approximately 48 miles long by 5 miles at its widest) off the mainland of Honduras.  It lies just off the edge of the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and a large part of its economy comes from tourism due to its beauty and proximity to the reef for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Landing in Roatan was an interesting experience. The landing strip is rather short and immediately after a quick decent over the hills beside the airfield.  It was equally as unique when we left; so much so that the pilot advised the takeoff would be different than most people are used to.  The plane taxied to the farthest end of the runway, the brakes were engaged and then the engine revved to the point the plane was vibrating before the pilot released the brakes and the plane took off like a shot up the short runway.  All though it was a smooth takeoff it felt like we just barely had enough runway and then height to clear the hills.

Media Luna

Media Luna is a beautiful remote resort on a small beach surrounded by lush vegetation.  Although the beach is small it is sufficient for the size of the resort and was never busy.  The resort offered the use of sea kayaks which we took advantage of a number of times to check out the coral that was visible from the surface of the water not that far down the beach. You could also walk down the shoreline and see some interesting fish hiding in the rocky crevices. I would strongly recommend water shoes for anyone wanting to walk down the beach past the sandy area.  I tried to step from sandy area to sandy area and managed to fall rather inelegantly into the water fully dressed before dinner one evening.

Coral visible from sea kayak just barely off shore.

The main building of the resort houses a small gift shop, front desk and restaurant/entertainment area.  The restaurant is set up in a way that I had never seen before but really enjoyed.  The room is set up almost like a theatre with graduated levels of seating leading from a large open area at the bottom for entertainment purposes to the buffet that is on the large, main, upper level.  Each level is wide enough to hold the dining tables and is where you eat all your meals.

Terraced restaurant

The evening entertainment was one of the few areas that I found lacking but in all honesty they were doing their best to accommodate a large group of very demanding Italians that were also staying at the resort while we were there, so about half the shows were in Italian. There was only one evening scheduled for a dance party and it wound down by 11pm.  I’ve heard that recently they have more than one evening of dancing which I would appreciate.

I’m an adventurous eater who will try just about anything and not particularly picky so I had no problems with the food, but neither did my husband who is a very basic eater.  I had the most incredible calamari I have ever tasted while there.  Instead of being sliced into rings it was left as a tube and stuffed almost like cannelloni.  There was always an assortment of meats but you did have to be careful when eating the fish because there were often bones in it even though it appeared to be fillets. Surprisingly there was not a lot of fruit provided and never any bananas. If you are looking for 5 star Michelin dining this is not the place for you but it was always edible with numerous choices.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

The drinks were always ice cold and not lacking for alcohol so I understood quickly why they didn’t provide large glasses for the drinks.  I had to ask the bartenders to put half the rum in my drinks so I didn’t end up tipsy.  We were told to try the lemon daiquiris and were not impressed at first but once the alcohol was reduced they quickly became my drink of choice. I also heard the expresso bar was first rate but never tried it myself.

One of my favourite things about this resort was the sprawling layout and rooms.  I absolutely loved that each room was its own private cabin.  We had an oceanfront cabin and I would highly recommend paying the extra for these cabins as the views were worth every penny.   The cabins themselves were a decent size with a large bathroom.  The shower was against an exterior wall with a frosted glass window looking out over the ocean.  There was a small unfrosted area high enough to look out at the water but not expose you if someone happened to go past the cabin at that time. We did find out rather unintentionally that although you can’t see particulars through the frosted glass you can tell when someone is in the shower.  Our room had a king size four poster bed with semi-sheer curtains that could be pulled closed around it.

Our roomBeside our cabin

The cabin also had a sizeable porch/balcony with 2 lounge chairs and a two person hammock for relaxing in.  We weren’t however the only ones who enjoyed our porch.  For the first few mornings we would wake up to find a mess on the decking but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  On night number three we discovered our friends.  There were 2 large (at least large to me) bats that made the ceiling of the porch their home and they were the ones leaving us fruit bits and droppings for presents every morning.

Our bat friends

My husband, Wayne, and I are the type of people who like to experience and enjoy the true culture of where we are visiting. We have been known to hop on local buses just to see where they take us when we travel.  In Roatan the resort we chose was on the far end of the island away from any towns so before we arrived we arranged to rent a dirt bike to get around.  What I didn’t account for was just how hilly and windy the roads would be. The road into the resort had such a steep incline that I decided there was no way I would feel comfortable on the back of the bike about not falling off so Wayne got a lot of alone time to check out the island without me.

One of the many windy roads

We did rent a van for a few days with two other couples we met at the resort and managed to tour the island a little.  On one of Wayne’s solo excursions he found this local man who offered to take us for a tour of the mangroves for a fraction of the price of the tours offered at the resort so we went for it.  When we arrived for the tour and saw the boat we nearly backed out.  The boat (for 7 of us) was only slightly better than a canoe and the canopy on the boat was a plastic sand box lid that was strapped to four shower curtain rods to hold it up.  The boat may not have been pretty (nor was the tour guide) but it was the most amazing afternoon.  The guide was born and raised in the area and told us all kinds of neat tidbits of information interspersed with a liberal amount of humour.

Mangrove tour boat 2

On the second to last day there we drove into town and went on a dune buggy tour.  The guide handed us bandanas to tie around our faces and told us to take a lap around the warehouse to get a feel for the buggy before we headed out into the wilderness.  We hadn’t even completed that lap before Wayne found a mud puddle to splash through.  The guide just laughed and said we were definitely going to have a fun day.  He took us down all kinds of dirt paths (although he called them roads) to an open mud field and let us loose.  About 100 feet into the field I realized why he gave us the bandanas.  I hadn’t pulled mine over my mouth and Wayne hit the first bog and swamped me with muddy water in my face and mouth.  I think I swallowed a half a cup of mud.  We played in the mud for about an hour and laughed so hard my sides hurt but I was still ecstatic to see our next stop of the tour was a private beach to swim (and clean off) and have a snack.

Dune buggy fun

Lessons learned when on a dune buggy – put your bandana over your face and keep your mouth shut when mud bogging.  If you don’t do this you may end up sick like I did.  The day after I got home I was violently ill and my doctor initially thought I may have typhoid.  Since I was working for a pharmaceutical research company at that time I could not go to work for fear of contamination but it was quickly determined I did not have typhoid but had swallowed some nasty bacteria when I swallowed all the muddy water.  A week of antibiotics and I was good as new.

I may have gotten sick from this trip (through no fault but my own) but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if there weren’t so many other places I still need to see.

On to the next adventure.

 

 

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I Want It All Or Rather to See It All

During March I was very busy travelling for work and spent half of the month away from home.  While I enjoy travelling, 14 days away from my family in one month is more than I could take.

A quick visit to Stanley Park while in Vancouver, BC for the joint NAR/AE Conference.

A quick visit to Stanley Park while in Vancouver, BC for the joint NAR/AE Conference.

Apparently it was more than my family could take too, but not for the reason you would think.  They actually managed quite well without me (aside from a rather large laundry pile).  What they did (and still do) have a problem with is listening to me as I continually talk about where I want to travel to next.

You see, while I was away and stuck in a hotel room by myself I spent a lot of time online researching where I wanted to travel to for my next trip, with my family. The more research I did the more locations I realized I want to visit.

I’m realistic enough to know I’m not going to get to visit them all but that isn’t going to keep me from trying to figure out how to visit as many of as I can.

In that quest I’m currently planning my 20th wedding anniversary trip and still trying to figure out how to afford another trip to Walt Disney World for my daughters 16th birthday.

My anniversary trip planning has had some challenges.  I booked a Disney Cruise but my husband, Wayne, has now said he doesn’t really want to go on a cruise.  I still haven’t cancelled it on the hopes he changes his mind. I planned the cruise so I could run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and then relax on the cruise a few days later.

Since this trip is for him as well, I suggested a visit to Las Vegas so he could attend the tattoo convention and then we could tack on a few days to Disneyland for its 60th anniversary but the timing just doesn’t seem to be working out for that.

Next I found a wonderful jungle lodge in Costa Rica that seemed perfect but it’s very remote and Wayne doesn’t want to spend 2 days travelling just to get to and from our destination.  He has also said he’d prefer an all-inclusive resort but I just can’t find any I like in Costa Rica that seem true to the magnificent natural surroundings.  I’ve always said I want to experience the culture of where I travel to. I don’t want to stay in just another fancy hotel so now I’m back at square one again. I’m looking for something unique whether that be from the excursions available, location or atmosphere.

Where to go?

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

A few of my dream trips would be to Cambodia and Vietnam, Bali, Figi or Madagascar but since Wayne currently won’t go anywhere with a flight longer than 6 hours they are out of the running as well for this next trip.  We does however want to see the Great Wall of China so I have hopes that someday we’ll be able to travel farther together.

Mexico can be nice but we have been there so many times now that I’d like to visit some place different. Roatan, Honduras was beautiful but again I want to see someplace new.

Maybe Brazil, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos or Grenada. At this point who knows where we will end up but I’m having fun researching and driving my family crazy with the discussions on all the options.

An Unexpected Benefit of Running

When I started running I did so knowing I needed to be more active and get healthy.  A sedentary office job was starting to take its toll on my body. I had a lot of aches and pains and had a standing appointment with my massage therapist, Angie, to work out the kinks.  In particular the muscles under and between my shoulder blades were always badly knotted from sitting in one position at a desk typing on my computer all day. I think those muscles are called the Trapezius and Rhomboids but whatever they are called they caused me a great deal of pain on a regular basis.

v2.My back

During the first few weeks of running Angie had to deal with tight muscles in my legs and hips when I showed up for my appointments and didn’t get to spend as much time working on my shoulders as she usually would. Once my body got used to running Angie no longer had to work on my legs and returned to my shoulders but to both our surprises my shoulders were not in nearly as bad a shape as we expected, especially since they had basically been neglected for a few months.

It seems that for me at least, there is an added benefit to running. The motion of pumping my arms as I run also seems to loosen up the stiff muscles in my upper back and shoulders and I couldn’t be happier about this unexpected side effect.

Now if only I could figure out how to pay for my next trip to Walt Disney World for the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to really stretch out those muscles, life would be almost perfect.

Our Villainous Family Day

I want to start by thanking all the wonderful sponsors: Disney Parks, MomSelect, Duff Goldman, HP, All, Wisk, Twinings Tea and My Image Bracelet Maker for supplying free products and providing me with the opportunity to host a #DisneySide @Home Celebration.  Although I’ve received free products, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

disneyside box

Once my @Home Celebration kit arrived it was time to start the planning.  To me Disney is about making memories and spending time with family and friends so what better day to have our party than on Family Day.  It also meant I had a long weekend to get organized, or at least try to.

We received a Villains themed celebration kit so I sent out the invitations saying Disney Villain costumes were encouraged but not required.  I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of friends who are more than willing to dress up and act silly just because it’s something different to do on a cold Family Day.

I’ve come to the realization that roller derby girls and their families are some of the most fun and outgoing people I know and I love them all the more for it.   They take my Disney obsession in stride and never think twice about joining in with my craziness. They even dressed up as Darla, Jafar, the Sith Lord and the Evil Queen among others for the party.

In addition to the Villains theme I decided to focus on the tastes of Disney.  I invited a large number of people who have never been to a Disney Park so it was fun to introduce them to some of the more famous Disney dishes and ones that are personal favorites of mine.

The menu consisted of:

Cheese Soup from Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons at EPCOT

Kalua Pork Sliders with Spicy Pineapple Chutney from EPCOT Food & Wine Festival

Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Pop Century Resort

Beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

Dole Whips from Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom

There were also poison candy apple cake pops and a beautiful Maleficent cake to go along with the Disney Villains theme.

Once everyone had “stuffed their faces” (as someone put it) it was time to move on to the games.  The kids enjoyed playing tape the smile on Mickey, creating custom creations with the My Image Bracelet Maker and doing the Villains puzzle while the adults watched and chatted. Our youngest attendee was only 2 ½ months old and even he got in on the action by getting his photo with Maleficent horns on.

It was a lovely evening and one that probably would not have happened in the middle of a cold and nasty Canadian winter if not for the #DisneySide @Home Celebration so again I say thank Disney Parks and MomSelect for this opportunity.

When all was said and done I cleaned up and then sat down with a soothing cup of Twinings Goodnight Blend Tea.  Although it’s not my usual brand of tea is was a pleasant change and a great way to end the day.

All I have left to do now is print off some of my favorite party photos on all the HP photo paper that was provided and deliver them to my friends as mementos, oh and plan the next party because this one went so well.  Everyone who attended has decided to make it a monthly event to get together with our families and come up with some theme for the evening.

I AM going to run a half marathon this year!

So after a year off from running and roller derby due to a knee injury and life getting in the way I’ve set myself a new goal.  I AM going to run a half marathon this year!  There I’ve said it and put in it writing.  I can’t turn back now.

I haven’t always been the best at keeping fitness goals I set for myself so my thought is that by putting it out there for everyone to see I am forcing myself to stick with it this time.  I know I need to make myself accountable but if the prospect of public embarrassment is what it takes I’ll do it.

I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend for 20 years this summer and have tentatively booked a Disney cruise to celebrate but I hope to run the Wine and Dine Half Marathon while we are in Florida just before our cruise.

wine-and-dine-logo

Well, now that I have a goal and a date it’s time to get started with the training plan and deal with my 2 biggest excuses.

Firstly, running for me (and many others) is a mental game as much or more than it is a physical game.  In this game I have realized that it doesn’t take much to distract me from my runs so my husband came to my rescue and bought me a treadmill for Christmas.  Why does this help? Because I get bored when I run and then the mind games start.  On the treadmill I can put a movie in the DVD player and lose myself in the story while running.  This means I don’t get bored and want to quit.

Secondly the treadmill is inside.  I know this sounds silly, but to state the obvious, inside means warm.  I truly dislike winter and since I live in Canada winter is long and cold.  With the treadmill I don’t have the excuse that I can’t run because it’s too cold, dark and slippery to run outside.

Well now that I have those excuses defeated I have no reason not to train for a half marathon.

Wish me luck.

I will do it.

Eating Quick-Service at Walt Disney World Resort

Over the years I have purchased most of the different Dining Plans available at Walt Disney World Resort (“WDW”).  I prefer to purchase the Dining Plans because I like to have my costs figured out ahead of time and I don’t want to think about how much I’m spending on each meal.  The great thing about the Dining Plans are all the choices available depending on what style of restaurant you prefer and how many meals a day you want to eat.

With all the different Disney Dining Plans available at WDW the one that I seem to keep returning to is the Quick-Service Dining Plan.  This plan consists of two Quick-Service meals and one snack each day.

Now some people have told me I’m crazy to want to eat “fast food”  for an entire week but these are the people who don’t understand the vast array of options available for Quick-Service at WDW.  I’ve spent entire weeks at WDW and never eaten a single hamburger, which truly amazes some people.

Quick-Service at WDW basically means you eat cafeteria style instead of being waited on.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the food or options offered.

The following is a sample of the Quick-Service meals offered and some of my personal favorites:

Salmon with Couscous and Broccoli from Columbia Harbour House;

photo 2

Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

Beef Udon or Tokyo Sushi Combo from Katsura Grill;

Ginger Chicken Salad from Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes;

Barbeque Pork Sandwich from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café;

Half Rotisserie Chicken from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café;

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons.

photo 1

Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

All this choice and no need to figure out and book reservations months ahead of time is why I keep returning to the Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Don’t get me wrong the Table-Service restaurants are fabulous too but after having purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan  a few years ago and booking reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for a week, it felt like all my family did was run from reservation to reservation.  There was no spontaneity and it was far too scheduled.

With the Quick-Service restaurants you just stop to eat when you are hungry and see something on the menu that looks appealing to you at that moment.  No planning needed.

I still book the occasional Table-Service restaurant for special occasions but am more than happy with the less expensive Quick-Service options and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks.

I Love Disney’s FastPass+

I’ll admit I was skeptical when Disney rolled out its FastPass+ program.  It just seemed like this was one more thing I would have to plan long before we actually arrived at WDW and as much as I like planning for our vacations, my family doesn’t like to have every element of our holidays “scheduled” in advance.

For instance, after purchasing the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan one visit and booking dining reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it felt like all we did was run from one reservation to the next and it took some of the fun out of the visit for us. Now I only book one or two Table-Service meals per week to avoid the dreaded “schedule”.

If you are staying at a WDW Resort you can book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance of your check-in date and if you have purchased advance tickets (without a WDW Resort stay) you can book FastPass+ experiences 30 days in advance of your use date.

photo

From either your computer or your smart phone you can access the My Disney Experience web page or App to set up your FastPass+ experiences. You select 3 choices from the available attractions and the system will provide you with a number of time slot options for you to select from. It’s so easy.

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I liked the fact that for most experiences you get a one hour time slot and not just a specific time.  This one hour time slot provides a lot more flexibility to arrive at the attraction at a time that works for you within the hour window.

The hardest part about the whole process was deciding which 3 attractions/experiences are your favorites that you want to guarantee a time slot for.   We have a few must do’s every vacation that do not normally have very long lines so we decided to forgo using FastPass+ on those rides and used them for the rides that traditionally have longer lines (such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania)  so we didn’t have to wait as long.

photo 4

When all was said and done I loved the FastPass+ system and being able to book 3 attractions ahead of time.  I hadn’t realized before this trip just how much my family likes to sleep in.  We aren’t early risers.  We would much rather sleep in and then stay at the Parks until they close.  Under the old system, by not getting to the Parks early we were often too late to get a FastPass for our favorite attractions and would just have to wait in line.  The new system shortened our overall wait time immensely.  I loved it and can’t wait to use it again.