Today I spent most of the afternoon at Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill here at Grand Caribe attending the "Lobstermania" closing party.  And what a fine party it was!  It was fun to see San Pedro friends and hang out chatting in the bar.  The morning clouds cleared out, and the afternoon got sunny and hot.  There was plenty of good food to go around and good music courtesy of Zac and Tanya.  I enjoyed a few rum drinks, a lobster sausage, and a few hot French fries (thanks Debra and Bill for sharing!)  Barry came by with Paisley during the afternoon to say hi, and her little nose was twitching with all the good food aromas coming from the grill!
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A beautiful afternoon after a cloudy morning
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All guests welcome -- even inflatable ones!

Party like a lob-star!

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Christine -- Miss Lobsterfest 2012
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Cowboy Doug
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Chee was working very hard to keep the orders straight
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Josh -- cool as always
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Dov had a huge plate of food -- not sure where he puts it!
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Kids enjoying the Grand Caribe pool
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Andrew worked his butt off!
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Ribs on the grill
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Some of the prizes to be won in the various games
I started with a pineapple juice and rum and a lobster sausage -- definitely a different use of lobster!
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Lobster sausage with SPICY bbq sauce
I was super happy when our good friends Debra and Bill showed up.  They don't make it up our way all that often, so it is always a treat to see them.
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Debra and Bill -- love you guys!
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Andrew's grill was busy
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Zac arrives!
The Grand Caribe folks all worked so hard today...thank you all!

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Another Lob-Star
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Debra and I were staying out of the sun and chatting it up
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Leisa and a friend "making muscles"
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Barry finally made an appearance
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Tanya with her drum
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Ribs coming out of the kitchen...mmmmm
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Tanya and Zac providing musical entertainment
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What a setting, and a beautiful afternoon
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Audience appreciating the entertainment
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Laurie, aka Tacogirl, trying to figure out her camera
Oceana also showed up with a booth, and I joined their organization and bought a cute t-shirt.  It's such a great cause for those who care about the world's oceans and marine life.
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My t-shirt
And speaking of our animal friends, there were several canine friends in attendance at the party:
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Callie
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And our Paisley
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JJ
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Our little devil dog
It was a great day and a great way to end San Pedro's Lobsterfest 2012.  Thanks, Cowboy Doug, Leisa, Tacogirl, and all the Grand Caribe folks who made this day possible!
 
So, she's not really a cousin, but her maiden name and Barry's last name are the same.  She also lives in Ohio, where he is from and still has family, so I joke that she is a cousin of his.  I'd been chatting with Debbie about Ambergris Caye on Facebook for awhile but had never met her in person.  She and her husband Tom are building a condo on north Ambergris and visit here frequently, this time for San Pedro Lobsterfest.  So she invited us to meet them for lunch yesterday at Aji.  Also joining us were our good friend Debra, who lives in San Pedro, and her visiting friend Alyssa from Mississippi, along with Debbie's sons Justin and Billy and a few family friends.  It was quite a crowd!

We were lucky to get sunshine for our lunch, though there wasn't much breeze, and it was seriously hot and humid out, around 89 degrees with humidity also in the 80s.  Whew.  Cold beverages were much appreciated (I drank two large glasses of ice water in addition to a Belikin), and let's just say that no one ordered soup today.  Well, except for Barry, but it was chilled gazpacho!
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We had Aji to ourselves on this hot day
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Debbie and Tom (on left) enjoying Tapas
Barry had the discount Tapa of the day, Quesito Frito (fried cheese), with a couple of dipping sauces but we both forgot to take a photo before he chowed down on it.  Here's his gazpacho, which came after.
And I had the grilled snapper pita -- delish!
Afterwards, Debbie's son Justin took this photo of some of us on the Aji dock before we melted.  Not sure why I didn't actually put my sunglasses ON as I was squinting like crazy!
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I think we on the front row coordinated our colors pretty nicely, don't you? Warm colors for a HOT day...
Thanks for arranging the lunch, Debbie.  It was great to meet all of you.  Say hello to Ohio for us and pull those Indians on!
 
Today we had the pleasure of attending a very special celebration for Jana and CJ, who are visiting San Pedro from Texas for a month of vacation.  They both recently celebrated a milestone birthday (we won't say which one!) and invited a group of folks to join them for a day on the Lady Leslie catamaran to snorkel and sail to Caye Caulker.  We were lucky enough to be included, and we had a blast!  

After all the rain we've been getting lately on the island, it was touch-and-go up until the last minute, and Jana had warned us they might have to postpone the trip.  When I woke up just before 6 am to a heavy downpour, I feared the worst, but it passed over quickly, and Jana informed us on Facebook that the sail was on.  Fortunately, no more rain fell, and the day turned out to be just right -- mostly sunny but with enough shade to keep us from getting completely fried.

Since there was no water taxi at the appropriate time this morning, Barry and I loaded up our backpacks with towels, sunscreen, and other necessary items, and hiked into town after our breakfast.  We'd worked up a good sweat by the time we made it to the dock near Wet Willy's, but with all the food we ended up eating during the day, we were very glad we'd gotten our exercise in early.
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Lady Leslie
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Captain Martin
Barry and I had taken this same trip on the Lady Leslie on our first visit to San Pedro in May 2010, and we had great memories of it.  In addition to Captain Martin and his son Jody, another crew member, Ricky, was aboard today.  These guys are the best and really know their stuff.  We have recommended them to a lot of people.  Jody's sister Jessie also cuts my hair at Leslie's Salon in town.  They're just a super nice local family.
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Jody Leslie
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Barry on board
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Jody briefing the whole gang on where we'd be going and the rules onboard
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A perfect day for a sail after so much rain
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This is the life
After leaving San Pedro, our first stop was Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Snorkeling was optional, but I wouldn't have missed it.  There were a ton of fish of all sizes, a couple of sea turtles, a moray eel, and much beautiful coral.  It was the best snorkeling experience I've ever had, in part because my mask stayed on and didn't keep filling with water as I've had problems with in the past.  It was a nice long snorkel as well, with Ricky as the guide for our part of the group, and we got to see so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite a few foot cramps and turning into a prune by the end!  Barry is not as crazy about snorkeling as I am so stayed behind along with some of the others to take some photos and just enjoy hanging out on the deck of the Lady Leslie.  I do wish he'd joined me, but he has problems with foot cramps as well, so he might not have enjoyed himself too much.
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The water looked like a swimming pool today
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Our group with Ricky before heading out
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Lots of other groups were in the reserve as well
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Here we are snorkeling close to the reef
When we got back to the boat, we were swimming among a school of large horse-eye jacks, and a couple of HUGE groupers were right in there too.  You can see the dark gray forms of the fish in this photo.  It was surreal!
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Huge grouper to the right and forward of me
I wish I had taken my waterproof camera along for some underwater shots, but I was too afraid of dropping it.  I am hoping that Debra (Taking Belize blog) got some good shots of the many sights we saw as she was snapping away under water.

After drying off, we enjoyed fresh pineapple slices Jody brought around.  Nothing like snorkeling to help you work up an appetite.  A bit more sunscreen was in order as well.
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Very refreshing!


Our next stop, much briefer, was Shark Ray Alley.  I didn't get in this time, but we enjoyed watching the nurse sharks come eat the chum behind the stern of the boat.  I never get tired of watching them go after it.  Ricky also held a sting ray up for a few brave folks to touch.  
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Nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley
Finally it was full-steam ahead to Caye Caulker.
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Caye Caulker
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Debra, me, Laurie, Bill, and Tim on the dock at Caye Caulker
A few of us misunderstood and thought our lunch was at the Lazy Lizard at the Split, so we headed down there. 
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The sandy streets of Caye Caulker
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A Caye Caulker character with a very creative headdress
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But where is the rest of our party?
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A few lost souls...
About this time, Laurie got a text that we were supposed to be at Wish Willy's!  Not sure how we got confused, but perhaps it was the rum punches and panty rippas we had after snorkeling....  Fortunately, it was only a short walk back down the road.
It was right across the way from the Humane Society, where this sweet pooch took a liking to Barry.  Wish we could have played with him and his bone!
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Our table at Wish Willy's
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Veggies fresh off the grill
Our meal was wonderful -- a lobster tail (my first of the newly opened season), shrimp skewer, chicken, veggies, rice and beans.  Yum!
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Our hosts with the most...CJ and Jana flashing some serious Belize dinero
After the fine lunch, we had a bit of extra time before we had to be back on the boat, so we wandered around, and I bought a beaded ankle bracelet from a lady Debra liked.  Debra had one on one ankle already but bought another for her second ankle!
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This one seems to fit just right...sold!
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Laurie and me
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Laurie took this funny photo of Barry and me
At last we had to board the boat again and make our way back to Ambergris Caye.  But not without a bit more food.  The crew made us fresh sushi, which was absolutely delicious, and we had melt-in-your-mouth orange cake (aka "crack cake" said Jana) made by Casa Pan Dulce.  Could we possible eat any more today!?  
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Birthday cake
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Like I really need this...but did I eat it? But of course!
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Barry took so many photos of me I felt bad and took this one of him
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Girls gone wild
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Chillin' on the Lady Leslie on the way back to San Pedro
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An attractive ketch at anchor - the color of the sea
Sadly, all too soon we were pulling into the dock and saying goodbye to everyone.  What a wonderful day it was, though. Many thanks to Jana and CJ for their generosity in arranging such a memorable event and for inviting us along!
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What a great day
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Thanks Jana and CJ -- you guys rock!
 
Our friend David had a golf cart for the week so suggested he drive the three of us down to a restaurant south of town for dinner.  Normally we go to eat out right in town since we (and David) live north of the bridge and have no vehicles other than bikes, so getting to restaurants south of town is not impossible but inconvenient.  David picked us up at Grand Caribe last night, and away we embarked on our adventure to Casa Picasso -- and with the roads in the shape they were in, it really was an adventure!

The road north of town had already been riddled with potholes, but thanks to 2.5 inches of rain on Tuesday, these potholes were now filled with water.  And in some cases (cough...Reef Village...cough), deep water.  We plowed through the "great lakes" as we headed southward, and as we approached the incline of the Sir Barry Bowen bridge, the golf cart stalled out. Oops!  It really wasn't surprising considering that the water in a couple of the "lakes" reached almost to the floorboard.

A couple of locals in a cart behind us stopped to survey the situation (yes, the cart had plenty of gas), and Barry got out and pushed the cart back off the bridge and out of the way.  I jumped out of the cart to snap a couple of photos, and before long, David got the cart going again.  I even jogged over the bridge to keep the weight in the cart down as he drove it over the only real "hill" in town!
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Cart going nowhere
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Barry pushing cart away from the bridge so others can pass by
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Mud on cart -- and my foot -- from splashing through deep puddles on road
Even after we crossed the bridge into town and onto the paved road, the fun wasn't over as we had to negotiate the muddy, unpaved detour in town while Middle Street is under repair near Castillo's Hardware.  And after getting through town, the road in front of the Belikin distributor and around in front of Casa Picasso is unpaved and puddly as well.  We were very happy to see this sign!
We had never been to Casa Picasso before but had heard great things.  And it didn't disappoint.  The decor was bright and attractive, with lots of local artwork on the walls.
Service was polite, professional, and attentive.  Since this is low season, we had the place to ourselves for much of our meal, though more diners arrived near the end of our meal. 
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Barry and David
The food was deliciously prepared and lovely to look at as well!  The three of us shared two Tapas (which we forgot to photograph), but here are the descriptions -- I took a photo of the menu since we gobbled up the food so quickly! 
And we each tried a different entree, all of which were wonderful.  

David's entree: Malaysian Style Rendang Pork Ribs -- Tender pork ribs, braised in lemongrass, ginger, garlic chili sauce, fresh coconut, turmeric & coconut milk, served with coconut turmeric rice and acar (Malaysian style pickled vegetables)
Barry's entree: Vegetable Lasagna -- Homemade rolled pasta layered with fresh vegetables, tomato sauce and cheeses, served with an organic salad & garlic bread 
My entree: Curry Rice Noodles with Sautéed Vegetables (v) -- Asian inspired curried, sautéed rice noodles with fresh seasonal vegetables & local chaya
Portion sizes were generous, and I even had enough to take home half of my entree for lunch the next day.  We skipped dessert, but I have a feeling those would have been lovely as well.  Maybe next time!  Our waiter served us complimentary shots of Limoncello after our meal, a perfect way to end the meal. 
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Barry and I
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Leaving Casa Picasso
Here's a big pond on the road right outside the restaurant:
On the drive home, we remembered to take photos of some of the worst road moguls and ponds up around Reef Village.  Wish we'd gotten these shots earlier while it was still light, but I think you will get the idea.  Fortunately the golf cart held up just fine this time with no more stalling out.  It is worrisome to realize that this is just the beginning of rainy season here, and the the window on grading the road has probably come and gone, as it may not dry out for many months now.  The road just doesn't drain properly and is badly compacted from all the vehicles driving on it when it is in this condition.
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"Moguls" now filled with water
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Approaching a large pond, but not the worst one
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Large, deep pond, followed immediately by another one
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Another cart plowing through the worst of the ponds -- this sucker is deep in the middle!
Despite the challenges in getting there and back, we had a lovely evening and can recommend Casa Picasso to anyone who enjoys upscale, eclectic dining. This is really a gem of a restaurant that reminded us of nicer places "back home" in the US. The owners, Adam and Jackie, couldn't be any friendlier, and they've created an attractive and unique spot with an obviously talented kitchen staff and excellent service as well.  Check it out!