Sunday, March 21, 2010

well so much for posting!

Our trip was amazing - to my mind, the most wonderful trip we've taken together, after Vietnam. It was just so wonderful being together for the week, eating good food, relaxing, dozing, walking on the beach, snorkeling (twice only, I was sick with a cold at the beginning and there was a storm, more in a sec), doing a whole lot of nothing except being together.

We didn't take a lot of photos, because nothing had changed since our last trip, photo-wise. There were significantly fewer tourists, maybe because of the world economy and/or maybe because of the political situation. We didn't really notice anything different politically except for the evening presence of national police driving around. One local guy with a gun strapped to his calf. Nothing more.

One night while we were eating a truly crappy dinner at Eagle Ray's, Marc noticed a lot of airplane traffic flying into the little airport on the other side of the island at Coxon Hole. The Roatan airport has 2 gates, one runway, it's TINY. But this one evening, Marc counted approximately 5 per minute, coming in to the airport. One every 20 seconds or so. That made NO SENSE. The runway and gates couldn't handle one minute's worth, and this went on for our whole meal. We thought of a dozen scenarios, but none made any sense. What in the world was going on? It couldn't have been, but it was.

The bars all seemed to play music from the 1980s, which was hilarious. The lone exception: LADY GAGA. Everywhere. The incongruity of it made me laugh out loud every time I heard her.

The Lobster Pot was as wonderful as ever; we ate coconut bread french toast for breakfast, or pancakes. Dinner, huge fried shrimp. Huge. Everything we ate there was simply perfect. There are 3 sisters who run the place; their mother returned to their island (we don't know where). One sister, Elizabeth, has a little girl named Brittany. One sister is named Lorna. The other stayed in the kitchen, maybe she was the primary cook. For dinner, they bring out a basket of warm homemade coconut bread, then the meal, and then a slice of lemon pie. It's the best place to eat on the island, by far. One night we ventured to the other end of West End to eat at the Lily Pond, which was pretty good too. But my heart belongs to those sisters at the Lobster Pot.

While we were at Luna Beach, the place was overrun with divers. It's a funny thing, being the snorkelers on a boat full of divers. There's a very real sense of us as the babies, we're not "real" in the same way the important divers are. They were always perfectly nice to us, patient, nothing at all negative. It's just the vibe. We saw the big schools of brilliant blue fish, and I could just follow them for the rest of my life. We saw sea urchins, with such long spikes they looked like porcupines. Regular fish we saw last year, nothing new.

For two days of our visit, a tremendous storm raged. The weather those days was supposed to be partly cloudy with a 30% chance of thunderstorms. Instead, rain slashed and wind howled. Beach washed into the ocean and disappeared. Trees danced with the wind. It was absolutely WONDERFUL. We just stayed in our room and watched it rage outside, while we were cozy inside. We couldn't even stay on our porch or lie in the hammock, the wind and rain were too strong. The only real downside to the storm was that we were stuck eating at Luna Beach, where we were staying. Nearly everyone else spent the evening sitting around the bar (well, they spent most of their non-diving time there, anyway). We crept out to the bar - not our scene, for sure - and ordered hamburgers and took them back to our room. I think we both felt our outsider status pretty intensely; the crowd was all friendly and laughing together, strangers who had come to know and enjoy each other's company. We are both so shy and don't know how to do that easy comfort with strangers, but at least we had each other, both in the same boat.

The trip itself was so easy, especially compared to last year! This year, we just fly from Newark directly to the airport at Roatan. Approximately 4 hours, bang we're there. A 20-minute cab ride to Luna Beach. Marc booked our trip 10 months ago, and he had requested a particular cabin, E. When we were on our way to the hotel, Marc said he expected something to go wrong, that even though we requested (and confirmed) E, something would go wrong. And it did. Sonia, the desk clerk, said we had to take a different room because the people in E had just disappeared, no one knew where they were, she was really worried about them and hoped they were ok. (An obvious, very very obvious lie.) We'd have to stay in A for the night, and tomorrow when the people checked out of E (if they returned, she hopes they're ok), we can move into E. Marc was angry, and insisted and reiterated that we'd confirmed the room. We finally went to A, and Sonia accompanied us. Marc walked over to E and the people were just sitting on the porch! So Marc and Sonia went over to E and it was really unpleasant all around. The people acknowledged that they'd known they were supposed to change rooms this morning, but it was still kind of awful. They quickly packed and moved, and Sonia Herself cleaned the room (after having argued that one reason we couldn't take the room was that the housekeeper was already gone for the day). Sonia was extremely sullen and always treated us with a hostile attitude. Whatev.

So anyway, it was just a fantastic trip all around. I really wish I hadn't had to come back. We're daydreaming about our fall vacation.....Laos, we think. Something to look forward to. We aren't sure we'll go back to Roatan next spring. Another Caribbean island may get our attention, we'll see.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

no worries

We're here and having a wonderful time - the internet connection is dicier than last year, so it's really hard to get (and stay) online. There are significantly fewer tourists here than last year, although Luna Beach Resort is full. The national police drive around, and we hear that they're "cracking down" at night, though we don't know exactly what they're cracking down on. Or who they're cracking down on.

But we don't really feel any trouble, at all. We're loving eating at the Lobster Pot, like last year, and we've gone out snorkeling once so far. We had a couple of sunny days, a bunch overcast, right now it's spitting and spotting just a bit of rain. I hope it comes a cloudburst, and clears up in the afternoon.

Otherwise, lazy island life. And it's really really good. Do I miss Manhattan? NO NOT A TINY LITTLE BIT.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

going back!

We had such a good time last year - see all the posts below - that we're going back, March 13-20. This time, though, we're taking the direct flight from Newark right onto the island. None of that leaving at 3am, flying here and waiting for hours, then flying there and waiting for hours, only to finally arrive on Roatan. Not this time, not for us.

We'll be staying at Luna Beach Resort again; we enjoyed it so much last year! This time we're taking the cabin right next door to the one we had. That way no one has to be walking right in front of our windows. Instead, we'll be the ones walking in front of others' windows. Much mo' bettah.

So just a couple more weeks.....can't wait can't wait can't wait.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

cab, plane, plane, cab, cab, plane, tram, bus, car, HOME.

The last travel day was very long; we left Luna Beach (after having to pay a ridiculous $50 for a lost key! really, people!) around 10:15am and got home at 6am the next morning. It shouldn't have taken that long, but we seemed to run into one thing after another that required patience.

When we got to the airport in Coxen Hole for the flight to La Ceiba, we were worried about our remaining flights because the ticket agents at TACA couldn't find our reservations in the system. At all. We'd changed our flights coming out to Roatan with a little trepidation, since the agents on the telephone had told us we were not allowed to do that - it made no sense, and the gate agents in Honduras said of course, it's no problem. So when we weren't in the system, our anxiety was piqued a little. We got to the gate for the short SOSA flight from the island to La Ceiba, and saw the plane we'd be on. I swear, it looked like a cross between a very old Volvo and the Spruce Goose. It was a huge boxy shape with excess airplane on the top, somehow. I wasn't sure it could be airborne, and as we taxied on the runway I said a lot of secret prayers. Please let us not crash in the ocean. If we do, I'm really sorry for anything I've ever done to hurt anyone. If we do, please help our children. Please don't let us crash. Please please please. It was very hot, but we made it to La Ceiba just fine.

And luckily, the TACA agents in La Ceiba confirmed our flights all the way to JFK, and gave us boarding passes. Whew. As always, though, TACA provided absolutely no information about the flight once we were in the waiting area. No announcements were ever made, there were no signs anywhere, people just randomly seemed to know when to go, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the scheduled departure. People started leaving the waiting area 30 minutes before we were supposed to board the plane to San Pedro Sula, and Marc ran to check - yep, we were supposed to be on that plane. Bizarre and annoying.

We had a 6-hour wait in San Pedro Sula, and if ever there were an awful airport to hang around, it would be San Pedro Sula. I guess the airport in Delhi is worse, but not by much. (Marc didn't think it was such a bad airport....and really, I guess it wasn't, really. It was air conditioned and clean, and the gate agents were friendly enough. I didn't like it because of the lack of communication, and the fact that we were just stuck in one large room that felt like a holding pen. I just have a grudge because TACA was so uncommunicative and the room felt so gloomy.)

So anyway, we'd planned to take a cab to a restaurant to kill time, even though all the airport personnel seemed startled by our choice. The cab was $15US, and the restaurant we chose seemed a bit strange but we'd had no information. There was a strip mall nearby, so we went to a little bakery called the New York Bakery (complete with a skyline and Statue of Liberty on the front window) to kill some time. It was only 4:00, I think, and too early to eat dinner. We drank cokes and talked, and at 4:45 walked over to the restaurant. The food was pretty good, the place was strange, but it was a nice experience. We were the only people in the very large restaurant, and the lights were kept turned off until the very end of our meal. We asked the woman who served us to call a cab, with our minimal and halting Spanish. The cab driver said the ride to the airport would be $50US, so we argued and then a bunch of women came out of the restaurant (the daughters of the woman who served us? no idea). There was no clear communication, the daughters said 10 5's, 50, and at some point someone said 13 so we got in. The cab driver was clearly pissed off and aggressively turned the radio up SO LOUD my whole body was vibrating. I thought he wanted to upset us, so I determinedly did not act upset but rather as if I were enjoying the music. We got to the airport, Marc gave him $15 - which included a tip! - and he glared at Marc and gave him the dirtiest look. Whatever.

So again we waited, and again there was no information provided anywhere in the waiting room. The wheelchair brigade was there again, and we really think many of the same women were on our flight home as were on our flight to Honduras. Very very strange. The flight was ok, though we got a late start and a long wait on the ground with no AC, sweltering and very very hot. But the flight was ok.

It took 45 minutes for our luggage to finally come out at baggage claim, and we went to the tram to go out to the far-flung long term parking. OK, it was nearly 5am at this point, we're tired. And we're told the tram is broken and doesn't go to our stop, we have to get out at the stop before and take a bus. Oy. We're so tired. But we have pretty good luck, the tram comes, and the bus arrives after only 5 minutes of waiting. We get to the car, never got lost, and took off for home. Real tired, by the way.

We always have a hard time getting home from JFK; it doesn't help that we're always tired when we're coming home from JFK, and it's usually late at night. Last night was not only dark but raining. Cold. We were turned around, kind of lost, but finally found our way. The RFK (come on, it's the Triborough) was down to 1 lane, so we decided to take the Midtown Tunnel home. Traffic was strangely heavy on the FDR, everything seemed to go against us, and we finally got home and in bed at 6am. Tired, tired, tired. I woke up at 11am and here we are. I miss Roatan. I miss being away on vacation, away with Marc, snorkeling, the Lobster Pot, time to lounge. We look forward to going back next year. It was an absolutely wonderful vacation.

the whole photo shebang

The whole slideshow of photos - if you're really bored and so inclined - is on the Honduras post on our blog o' travel blogs: Our Travels. Or here:

catching up, but not the coming-home day

Our 2pm snorkel was magnificent, though also sad since it was our last time snorkeling on this trip. We went to a different part of the reef and I saw this very l-o-n-g fish go by. I pointed it out to Marc, and he put his arm out to stop me, like you do when your kid is in the front seat and you have to slam on the brakes. I asked him later about it, and he said it was a barracuda. (barracuda! a la Heart, if you're old enough to know.) Not our photo below, but it looked like this:

We were at a part of the reef that drops off to a great depth on the outside - I didn't look because it was very hard to see the bottom, but Marc liked to dive down and poke along the reef, looking closely at fish and coral. Me, I stay near the surface of the water, and always thrilled a little to watch him dive.

We saw this very amazing fish, all black but with the strangest fins, top and bottom. I don't even know how to describe them - I hope this is enough to remind me. But the schools of fish, my favorite of course, were so so beautiful. There was an enormous school of velvety blue-purple fish, I'll bet there were 80 of them altogether. They moved like a flock of birds moves, all at once together shifting here and there, diving down and picking the coral, darting to the left or right. I followed them as long as I could, and nearly cried inside my snorkel mask for the beauty. It's one of those visual moments I'll always remember.

As before, we were the last people back on the boat; we just didn't want to stop. We lay in the sun to dry off, then showered to get the salt out of our hair (kind of hard, since the water is very soft and doesn't get the shampoo out). Marc went back into West End to take replacement photos for the ones I screwed up earlier in the morning, while I read. Here, West End:

walking into West End

the main drag

Tong's - a Thai restaurant

the far end of the main drag

Foster's, a bar and restaurant that always made us laugh because of the
dilapidated look. It reminded me of the entire town of Sweethaven
in the movie Popeye.

For our last dinner, we ate at Eagle Ray's, which is named for the eagle ray - not a guy named Eagle Ray. While we were eating, everyone at the table next to ours, plus the waiter, dashed to the railing and pointed out an eagle ray cruising past. Even though it was dark, we could see the darker shape gliding past us, under water. Of course, we have no way of knowing if it was actually an eagle ray (and note, I don't even know exactly what kind of ray that is), but it was at least some kind of ray, with a very long tail. Do you call those things tails? Stingers. Whatever. Here's Eagle Ray's:

You may think, at a quick glance, that it looks like Foster's but it's not dilapidated and falling apart. We ate on that back deck, and since there never was a visible moon the entire time we were there, it was quite dark. Our food was great, as always, and the music was 1970s, lots of Barry White and Dr Hook; in fact, I can't get the song "Sylvia" out of my head. ("Sylvia's mother says, Sylvia's busy, too busy to come to the phone ... And the operator says, 40 cents more For the next 3 minutes, Ple-ease Mrs Avery, I just gotta talk to her, I'll only keep her a while. Please Mrs Avery, I just wanna tell 'er goodbye")

And here's a photo we found of an eagle ray - I think it really was an eagle ray we saw, given the really long tail thingy:

On our last morning, we ate coconut bread french toast at the Lobster Pot, as planned, and it was absolutely delicious, as we knew it would be. I miss it already.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

so much paradise

Apologies to those of you who have heard me say this before - several times, even. The Inferno is a much more interesting read than Paradiso. Bliss, light, joy. Repeat. Incredible to experience, but to write about and read about? Boring, after a bit. Why am I bringing up Dante? Because I'm in paradise, and I've run out of new ways to describe beauty, brilliance, light, gorgeousness, etc. Clouds, yay! Reef, yay! White sands and turquoise waters? Yay! Great food.....again.

Still, this is more a diary for me than anything else, so I report. Yesterday morning we took a water taxi to the other popular area of Roatan beaches, West Bay. I really didn't like it at all - it was slick and overly fancy, the people were too beach hip and European -- not that there's anything bad about Europeans -- but there were slim-hipped men in tiny speedos with absolutely no body hair, and brown, thin women in designer bikinis. That's fine, it's just not my crowd. So we saw it, and were newly thrilled with West End and Luna Beach Resort.

Yesterday afternoon we went out on the big boat, to the reef. We puny snorkelers are definitely not as 'cool' as the macho scuba divers. Marc noted that it was condescending the way they went out of their way not to be condescending to us. That made me laugh, it was so true. The boat goes out at daily 9, 11, and 2, to different dive spots along the reef, and snorkelers can tag along if they like. So we liked, at 2.

I do wish I could take underwater pictures so I could remember the actual breathtaking beauty of some of the fish. There were these small ones that were brilliant deep sapphire blue with tiny little spots of light blue - looked like the night sky with stars to me. And yellow ones, and orange ones, and red ones, and frilly ones, and SCHOOLS of them. I laughed at myself once, when I was in the midst of several schools of fish and everywhere I looked were other schools of fish because I thought 'the ocean is full of fish!' Silly me. But really, it was incredible to see. I love the schools of fish the most. When he was snorkeling the day before, Marc saw an 8' long moray eel; he first thought it was a huge log, and then he saw the hideous maw. I'm glad I didn't see that.

So anyway, beauty, joy, brilliance, light, more beauty. Repeat. Yesterday was the most fun day of our whole vacation. We're going out again at 2 today, our last full day here.

Sunsets, courtesy of yesterday:

the Luna Beach pier and dock

from the beach between Luna Beach and West End
And oh!! The stars, the night sky. Living in Manhattan, I forget about the stars since they're never visible. We stop on the beach on our way home after dinner and just stare, point out Orion's belt, watch the amazing Milky Way. If I'd brought my tripod, I'd take a photo but I didn't, too bad.

This morning we walked into West End for breakfast, back to Pura Vida where we had pizza a couple of nights ago. We both ordered the "tipical" breakfast: 2 eggs, cheese, refried beans, and fresh corn tortillas:

And this sign next to Pura Vida made me laugh - cheep rooms:

I accidentally had my camera set at manual shutter, so all the photos I took this morning were blown out since I didn't adjust the shutter speed. Too bad.

So today we'll lounge around until 2, go out for a long snorkel along the reef, then lie in the sun for awhile. Dinner somewhere, we haven't decided yet, but we do know that tomorrow morning we're going to have our last breakfast at Lobster Pot. I just love that place so much; we've eaten three dinners there and one breakfast, and I want it to be the last place we eat. It's run by a mother and three adult daughters, and they are lovely and laugh and serve absolutely delicious food. I'm going to miss that place, a lot.

I don't want to go home.

Monday, March 23, 2009

lotsa nature

Yesterday it rained much of the day - lots of rain dripping off the trees, splashing on the sand, speckling the water. We spent a good bit of time on the porch watching and listening:

The sun came out this morning and Marc saw this slight rainbow:

I poked around and ate breakfast while Marc swam and snorkeled for awhile, and then we took a walk. The owner of this resort built a new road that comes directly to the hotel. It's a big deal; you can see it on Google maps, and the taxi driver talked about it, too.

Here's the road we walked on:

It's really beautiful, and the jungle on either side is primeval and wonderful:

Lots of interesting trees and plants

want a banana?

The most beautiful little butterflies, with red and black wings; they never land long enough to get a good picture, but Marc got this one:

And this strange blue-headed lizard. Really, its head is blue and its body is brilliant green:

When we circled back to the hotel, we stopped at the big cage of brilliant red macaws by the front of the hotel:

Tonight I think we're going back to Lobster Pot for dinner. It's hard to stay away, the food is so good and the service is so sweet. We went back to Mavis and Dixie's for dinner last night, and believe we saw Dixie. We suspect the reason our waiter was sullen at breakfast was due to Dixie's stern hand. We just made that up, but it made us laugh.

Lots of sun today, lots of suntan lotion, lots of paddling around in the water and lots of doing not much. Vacation.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mavis and Dixie

Marc was up very early so he took a walk out on the pier and shot these great pictures that show just how clear the water is. Take a look; he shot these images standing on the pier, shooting down into the water:

He came back to check on me and I was still sleeping hard, so he went out for a snorkel and swim, though the sun kept going behind the clouds. I woke up and watched him swimming along, circling here and there, and just felt so happy.

Our breakfast mission was to walk into West End to find this much raved about place called Mavis and Dixies. All the reviews we have read were unanimous and nearly over the top, raving about the food and claiming the reviewers only want to eat there, they could eat 3 meals a day there, etc. The one to beat, as far as we're concerned, is the sweet little Lobster Pot, but they're closed on Sundays anyway so we ventured into West End to find Mavis and Dixies.

walking into town

The sky was looking heavy and dark, which I noticed but didn't really notice....I was carrying my camera. My really nice and not inexpensive camera, which does not have a case. But we were walking along, letting the water lap over our feet, talking. My shoes are rubbing the skin off between my big and 2nd toe, so I was kind of limping along, but never mind. Mavis and Dixies lured us forward.

Maybe we got the Sunday crew. Maybe the guy who served us was having a rotten day. Maybe they just didn't like the looks of us, that happens. But I was not at all impressed. The guy who served us was sullen and didn't bring what we needed. The menu wasn't all that great, nothing that really made me salivate. I got coconut bread toast and coffee, and Marc ordered banana pancakes and coffee. We sat on the back deck overlooking this little bay, eating our OK breakfast and watching the sky darken:

Several more bites and the rain started falling:

We grabbed our food and went inside the restaurant to wait out the storm.

It didn't last too long, and we were able to get a plastic bag to carry the camera in.

For those of you prone to schadenfreude, this is the 2nd day in a row (of our 2 days here, so far) with cloudy skies and rain. There is still time to go out snorkeling, time to lie in the sun, etc., it's just not sunny skies all the time. As far as I'm concerned, that's good because it lets me off the hook from feeling guilty when I want to just lie in the hammock and read or nap. I couldn't be snorkeling anyway, might as well snooze.

West End and West Wing

Last night we walked into the village of West End, maybe 3/4 of a mile down the beach. The sand is incredibly soft and rock/shell free. Right inside the surf there are sharp little coral bits, inevitable near a living coral reef, but you can walk barefoot in the sand - and everyone does - without having to watch where you're going. This is really the most beautiful beach. So we went into West End for dinner, looking for a highly-recommended place called Pura Vida. Like so many other things here, it's associated with a dive center in some way. We had an extra walk, since we got to the village and remembered that we had left the money in our room, so we had to walk back. No bother. The night air was sweet, the sand was soft, and the walk felt so good.

By the time we got to the restaurant, we were pretty hungry. These fantastic-looking pizzas kept coming out of the kitchen, so we decided to order a pepperoni pizza with onions. Marc had a view of the kitchen, somewhat unfortunately, because he saw the woman who was making our pizza. She had a huge belly and a too-small t-shirt that didn't come near to covering it, and a huge rear end with a red skirt just managing to cover it. Her belly flopped on the table as she rolled out the dough. Glad I didn't see that. And the pizza peel just leaned against the wall like a broom, with the edge on the floor. Glad I didn't see that. But the pizza was delicious. One thing we are enjoying about this place is that for the most part, the other tourists are like us, kind of: older, happy, quiet. No rowdy frat boys and girls getting loud and drunk. There are families with small kids and families with teenagers.

Back to the hotel along the pitch-dark beach, navigating by star light (and the flashlight in my hand). Unless you like to sit in the bar and drink, which we don't, there is nothing really to do after dark unless you entertain yourself. Marc had brought movies and tv episodes to watch on the laptop, so we cuddled in and watched half an episode of West Wing before falling asleep.

Oh, and P.S. What's up with the reputation this place has for mosquitos and sand fleas?! We've experienced much worse mosquitos in Chicago and Texas! I haven't yet met a sand flea, either.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

tropical cloudburst

We woke up this morning and since there are no clocks in the room, I looked at my Blackberry to check the time: 9:30. Dang, slept a bit longer than I'd planned or hoped. Then Marc reminded me that we're actually two hours behind (we're in Central time zone, but no daylight savings) and that made me so happy! Slept in, but suddenly gained two hours. We walked down the beach to go out for breakfast. Look at the view. Wow. It kind of hypnotized me.

We went back to the Lobster Pot. Here's the view from our table on the deck. It looks like a movie set, the sand is so clean and artfully strewn with leaves.

It's a dumb name for the place, but the food is just so so delicious. It's like your mom cooks for you, but she's an amazing 5-star chef. I know I keep saying the word amazing, but it is really that good.

YEAH. That's the renowned french toast we kept reading about on all the TripAdvisor reviews and forums. It's really as good as I'd hoped. The homemade coconut bread the cook uses is delicious; we had some with dinner last night and it was soft and chewy and homemade wonderful. But what makes the french toast magnificent - and i'm not such a huge french toast fan - is that it's absolutely crisp and crunchy. It crunches when you cut it with your fork, but the inside is pillowy. That's a dumb food writer phrase, and a cliche, but I can't help it. That's what it is. Even though I'm still so full I can't stand it, 3 hours after breakfast, just writing about it makes me want some more. We shared a plate of "tropical fruit" which consisted of a sliced banana, several fat round red grapes, 3 slices of papaya, and 3 slices of cantaloupe. Not really too tropical, but it was good. And the OJ, just squeezed. Breakfast is my favorite meal, and this was great.

I think this blog will really be about the food, because there's the beach/ocean and there are restaurants. I may run out of adjectives to describe the beauty of the island and beaches, and there are only so many water and sunrise/sunset photos I can take. We'll see. Our 2-week fall vacations are generally spent dashing from here to there: Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu; Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City; Delhi to Varanasi. But our spring trips are just a week, usually near water, and they tend to be low key.

Anyway, we meandered back down the beach to our hotel, stopping to (try to) buy some fruit to keep in our room. The guy only took lempira, the local currency, which is actually quite rare, here. The menus only show prices in US dollars, and everyone accepts US money without hesitation. They usually give change in lempira, so we'll try again tomorrow.

We walked out on the pier at our hotel to take a look at the crystal clear water; really, it's like an aquarium or something, even Marc has never seen water this clear. It's like Xel-Ha, cenote clear.

The sky was filling with dark clouds, but it looked like we'd have time for a quick snorkel trip.

We dashed back to our room and gathered our gear and headed out, slipping into the water at the end of the pier. There are scorpionfish around, and barracuda, but a great plenty of amazing coral and colorful plants, and plenty of beautiful fish to see. We just stayed near our hotel because the sky was looking dark, but it was so much fun we can't wait to go out again. The boat takes divers and snorkelers out to the reef a few times each day, and we're going to do that soon.

Rain drops started to fall so we went back to our room just as it really started a drenching rain. Marc lay in the hammock and I sat in a chair on the porch, watching and listening to the cloudburst. Hot showers felt so good. Muscles used for snorkeling that don't often get used in Manhattan, felt so good. Relaxing, so so good. Stress of work, melting away.

Right now Marc is taking a scouting walk into and through the nearby town while I upload this post. There is no internet connection in the room, so I have to go to the central restaurant/pool/lobby area to get wifi. There's a 2nd floor space that looks out over the water, and I sit there to write these posts and upload the photos. It reminds me of our trip to Vietnam, when we sat in a huge salon looking out at the Gulf of Tonkin, near Hanoi, posting photos and blog entries and feeling like it's a very weird world.

So far so great. I'd recommend this place without reservation. It's all so good, and we are having a wonderful time together. But then we're really good at this vacation business. We both seem to have a special talent for it. :)

cars, planes, planes, planes, cabs. and feet.

We just didn't go to sleep Thursday night, at all. We had to leave for the airport around 12:45am, so why bother? We got to JFK and our flight seemed to be carrying the Wheelchair Brigade. They had to take the wheelchair-bound people in three groups, there were so many of them. Old women, mostly, old black women mostly, some with fantastic hats. We finally got to board and the plane left mostly on time, I think, 3:45am or so. It's all a blur.

So the airline, Taca, had been adamant with Marc all along, as he tried to rearrange our flights when we figured out that we'd have all those hours sitting around airports. No, that was their response, no matter what he asked. But when we got to San Pedro Sula this morning, he took off and found that the ticket agents were much more flexible. He got us on a little flight to La Ceiba without too much waiting around.

When I say "little flight," this is what I mean:

The La Cieba airport is really pretty nice, and the view is amazing. Mainland Honduras is gorgeous from the air: lush green forests, beautiful forested mountains with clouds hugging the tops, farmed land and rivers, and oceans on both sides. Here's what you see from the airport gate area:

And here's the view from my window as we took the 30-minute flight to Roatan:

The taxi driver who took us to Luna Beach had quite a speech, about the political economy of Honduras. The government takes all the money and gives the people none. The rich people keep their money and don't put it out in the economy. People are so poor, they don't share with each other. Old people beg and die in the streets, they don't have retirement homes like in Florida. After each sentence, he'd say "That's a wha happen."

We got to our room and crashed, oh so tired. I kept hearing all this squawking through my exhaustion, squawk squawk squawk. When we woke up we walked around the hotel grounds and I found the source of the squawking. There are huge cages filled with birds, parrots and macaws mostly. I stood in front of a cage watching the parrots perch and stare at each other, and all of a sudden I heard a strange voice say HOLA. And then whistle the cat call whistle. I looked around, weird, and then figured out that it was one of the birds.

But there was this very insistent and loud squawk that was coming from another cage, and I couldn't see the bird. Finally I glanced over and saw this head peeking down:

Maybe it was trying to tell me why the caged bird sings, I don't know. There are huge and brilliant red macaws I'll photograph tomorrow. It is a tropical island, with bougainvillea everywhere, and hibiscus and coconut palms. So pretty.

Here's our room, it's like a tree house:

And this is our porch, with chairs and a huge hammock:

We walked about 3/4 of a mile up the beach to West End and saw so many restaurants we'll try while we're here. It's really a wonderful place, we are enjoying it. The people have all been very friendly and kind to us.

Here we are:

For dinner, we walked a short way up the beach to the Lobster Pot. We'd planned to have breakfast there tomorrow because they have coconut bread french toast that is apparently amazing. We're kind of tired, so we just decided to have dinner there tonight.

The tables were outdoors under the palm trees (in the sand) and some were on a deck. We opted for the deck, thinking there might be fewer mosquitos. We'd read that the service was s-l-o-w, island time, but actually, it was just right. And the food was absolutely wonderful. We shared an appetizer of conch fritters, then I had coconut fried shrimp and a salad, and Marc had grouper and garlic mashed potatoes. It was as delicious and perfectly prepared as you would find in any fancy restaurant. The sweet waitress asked us if we would like a piece of house lemon pie; we said no, we're too full, but she pressed a little and said that they just give the guests a piece. So we decided to share, and it was ice cold lemon pie, like key lime but lemon. My eyes kind of rolled back in my head a little.

Tomorrow: snorkeling and eating and lounging and walking and napping. Sounds like a vacation to me.