Did I forget to mention I was going on vacation? Well, I almost forgot it, too. See while I was wrangling grapes and manhandling the crush for three months, my husband was working 12 hour days trying to navigate his company through these difficult times. The good news: with the Christmas season upon us, and toward the end of their traditionally strongest quarter, things are looking brighter. But boy, does Andy need a vacation. And when this son of Albion really needs a vacation, nothing will do but to head for some outpost at the far extreme of the former British Empire. There is probably no outpost more extreme than Belize, formerly known as British Honduras. A once pirate and mosquito infested strip on the coast of nowhere. Actually, it’s that historic obscurity that makes Belize such a wonderful place to visit now.

Let’s count down somethings you probably didn’t know about Belize:

1. It boasts the largest intact coral reef in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef. Luckily, the forward-thinking Belize government has protected much of it as an underwater marine sanctuary.

2. Speaking of which, The Blue Hole, a collapsed and submerged volcano topped Jacque Cousteau’s list of incredible dive spots.

3. The cayes and mangrove bays off the coast of Belize were favorite haunts of pirates, especially Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

4. While Belize, like much of the Caribbean has slavery in its past, Belize had a “kinder, gentler” form of slavery. Slaves worked 5 days a week. If you needed workers on Saturday, you had to pay wages. And slaves could, and did, purchase their freedom. Maybe a factor in today’s easy racial harmony in Belize.

5. Belize is rich with Mayan ruins, jaguar and monkey habitat and tropical birds.

6. Belize was once a haven for Confederate soldiers and well-borne Southern families looking to recreate the glories of plantation life once the Civil War had been lost. That dream quickly died due to rougher terrain and the more independent mindset of local slaves. (Again, who demanded payment for overtime.)

Now that you know a bit more about Belize, I’ll confess, we aren’t here for the history. We did that trip a few years ago when I dragged Andy into an Eco-lodge, through the highlands on photo safaris for howler monkeys, up and over crumbling Mayan temples and into an amazing series of underwater Mayan caves (a trip we were too adrenalinized to realize was probably life-threatening on several different levels.) No, this trip is all about sitting on verandas and sipping gin and tonics while contemplating the receding British Empire (which, at last count has receded to about the border of Scotland). We’ll also get in some diving and snorkeling, some of it with sharks and manta rays. And we’ve got the underwater camera, so watch this space.

Well, maybe.

The only place I seem to be able to get Internet is the Admiral Nelson Beach Bar. Where the connection is about as fast as two tin cans connected with a piece of string. And they specialize in rum drinks with names like Panty Ripper and Island Stumbler.

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