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!
 
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My birthday was yesterday, and I chose one of my very favorite places to go for dinner here on Ambergris Caye, Aji.  Neither Barry nor I had any desire to go into town, since we knew it would be packed with tourists and locals partying like crazy for Easter weekend.  Every now and then we enjoy that type of atmosphere, but those times are few and far between as we've gotten older.  Normally we prefer quiet and peaceful to noisy and rowdy -- maybe we get that from living in the woods on acreage for so many years.  

Aji definitely provided the quiet and peaceful setting we craved, and it was a perfect night with gentle ocean breezes and no bugs.  An added plus is that we can so easily walk there as it's just a couple hundred yards up the beach from our condo.  And since I didn't have to ride my bike to get there, I could wear a dress. 

I started with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines.  Barry had a Panty Ripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice).  Our server then brought out a plate of lovely homemade bread with some tomato sauce and cilantro for us to enjoy while awaiting our dinners.  Yum!

For our entrees, I choose the curried coconut conch with veggies and coconut rice, and Barry had pasta with spicy tomato sauce and chicken.  Both dishes were delicious and beautifully presented.

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My curried conch, veggies, & rice
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Bread with tomato sauce & cilantro
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Barry's pasta
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I was a happy birthday girl
Since it was a special occasion, we splurged and got dessert -- not just one, but two!  We tried the chocolate rum cake and the coconut pie.  The key lime pie is amazing too, but since we'd tried that before, we wanted to try the two we hadn't had.  Both were scrumptious!  Barry liked the chocolate rum cake best.  It was deliciously moist, very rummy, and delicious.  However, the coconut pie blew me away because it was absolutely packed with fresh coconut, unlike any coconut pie I've ever had before, since they are usually made with dried, sweetened "angel flake" coconut and more "cream" than coconut.  The crust also seemed to have a lime syrup on the outside.  Manna of the gods!  Chef Hugo is truly a talent.
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We forgot to take a photo until we'd had the first bite of each delicious dessert!
After dinner as we were taking the short walk down the beach home, the full moon was rising over the ocean, amid clouds.  It was a dramatic and beautiful sight to see and a lovely ending to my birthday evening.

A birthday bash on the beach

The previous Sunday, our condo neighbor Danny threw a surprise birthday party on the beach for his wife Judy.  It was a spirited celebration with plenty of food, a band, and plenty of adult beverages.  Just the right size for a party, I thought, and a good mix of locals, snowbirds, expats, and visitors to the island.
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Party just getting started with some ceviche and the early arrivals
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Our host Danny in the purple bandanna
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Talking to Jim (the second wine glass is Barry's!)
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Plenty of ceviche and chips
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Even Zeke came to the party!
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Danny talking with our neighbors John and Caitlyn
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The band
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Our building, Jim and I still chatting it up, Sammy hoping from a handout from the birthday girl Judy (in the multi-colored top)
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Flor in pretty floral dress contemplating her beverage selection
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More food kept appearing...
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...and I kept eating!
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Someone gave Sammy a snack!
After sunset, Barry brought Paisley out but kept a tight hold on her.  She would have gone bonkers for all the finger food!
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Barry and Paisley
Turns out that Danny is quite the musician and singer and joined the band for several numbers.  Even Cowboy Doug got in on the action!  
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Danny at the mike!
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Go, Cowboy!
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Cowboy Doug and Danny collaborate
Judy, the birthday girl, was getting into the spirit of the evening by now and was bustin' a move with a friend!
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Danny with our internet guy Mr. Norman and his wife
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Emily and Leisa enjoying the music
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Judy gets some assistance with cutting the cake
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Danny, Judy, and friends
We enjoyed hanging out with our Grand Caribe friends, tapping our feet to the music; and since the party was right on the beach behind our building, the trip back home was an easy one.