I believe in creating our own luck, but I also know good fortune when it hits me in the face.
That was my trip to Belize. A Series of 12 Fortunate Events that came together for a few sweet days, en route to seeing my parents in California for an early holiday celebration.
I should point out that Belize has never been on my radar as a must-see place to visit. The thought of going there would have never crossed my mind if I hadn’t wondered if there might be a half-marathon somewhere around this time. Having started the year with my first half-marathon in Bangkok, I thought it would be fun to end with one as well. Lo’ and behold, the beach town of Placencia would be holding their first-ever race and were welcoming participants with open arms (along with a pasta dinner).
Fortunate Event #1: The Reward
Without thinking about what I was doing, I researched last-minute tickets and found super-saver reward tickets from NYC to BZE and from BZE to NYC and a crazy cheap ticket from LAX back to NYC a week later. In other words, I could do the whole trip for under $300.
Fortunate Event #2: The Flights
Even though my pre-dawn flight out of the Big Apple was obscenely early, I had the entire row to myself. Nap time! Upon arrival in DFW for my transfer flight, the timing was such that I waltzed from one flight straight onto the other and acquired my usual window seat, with no one on the middle. The gentlemen in the aisle had a guidebook, which he kindly lent me for the duration of the flight. The time flew by as I made copious notes about where to stay and eat in Placencia as I hadn’t make arrangements before departure. I knew the race registration was that afternoon at a resort called Robert’s Grove. A Google search showed the accommodations were well out of my price range, but I figured I could meet other racers and get their take on an inexpensive guest house nearby.
Fortunate Event #3: The Smile and Nod
From BZE it’s a 30-minute flight to PLJ in a 12-person commuter plane. I had read there were multiple flights daily, so I had decided to figure it out upon arrival. Wouldn’t you know it- there was one leaving in 20 minutes. The manager of Maya Air was kind enough to give me a discount. (Tip: Just ask… and smile)
So far so good.
Fortunate Event #4: The Ride
The flight was intoxicating. I loved being in such a small plane, overlooking dense patches of green and blue. Sitting next to me was a biologist and expert of the area, and pointed out various flora and fauna. Also on the plane were half dozen women, all friends, and as it turns out, one was the sister of the wife of the owner of Robert’s Grove, where they would all be staying. Yes, the same Robert’s Grove where the race registration and pasta dinner were being held. Why didn’t I hitch ride with them to the resort once we arrived, they asked. Perfect… since I hadn’t arranged for a cab to pick me up.
Upon arrival, the grounds were jaw droppingly stunning. In my mind Robert’s Grove looked like the love child of Nosara (Costa Rica) and Koh Yao Yai (Thailand).
Fortunate Event #5: The Welcome
At the front desk, I awkwardly attempted to explain that as much as I would like to stay, I was only able to be there for the race registration. And then a miracle happened. After a brief discussion, the lovely owners quoted me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I may have jumped up and down and squealed like a teenager at a Bieber concert.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent exploring the grounds. The pre-race pasta dinner was a great way to meet the other runners. I sat with a couple who, between them, have run over 50 marathons and I attempted to soak up their sage advice. Shortly after, I fell fast asleep in my big, comfortable bed.
Fortunate Event #6: The Finish
The race is post-worthy in and of itself, so I’ll just say here that after not having run in over two weeks, I felt grateful to finish at all! The organizers did a fantastic job and watching the sunrise over the ocean during the run didn’t hurt things either.
Fortunate Event #7: The Ceviche
After a free continental breakfast, I claimed a beach chair for my own, breathed in the salt air, reflected on the past year (and discovered my word for 2013!). After an hour or so a dip in the pool sounded refreshing so I walked the 40-feet over to the shallow end and cooled off. My stomach was growling so I asked the only other person around, a woman sunning herself nearby, if she recommended the hotel restaurant for launch. Indeed. As it turns out, the woman, along with her husband, owns a condo on the property. They’ve been making yearly pilgrimages (when not traveling around the world) to Placencia for a decade. Introductions were made and before I knew it, they were treating me to guacamole and shrimp ceviche.
Fortunate Event #8: The Gelato
The only downside (or upside depending on your preference) is that Robert’s Grove is rather secluded. The actual Placencia village is several miles away. I had hoped to check it out, along with a gelato shop I heard other runners raving about. Guess what? My ceviche friends were heading over there, and offered to give me a lift in their golf cart. After exploring the shops along the boardwalk, it was time for some caramel-and-coconut-in-a-cone heaven.
Fortunate Event #9: The Paella
Back at the resort, there was little time before the sunset, a sight I wanted to see. So I headed across the street to Habaneros, a Mexican restaurant with a view. Sunday, as it turns out, is seafood paella night. This sounded wonderful to me, but as I learned in Madrid last year, an order of paella generally feeds as small army. Could I possibly get a half order? I asked the server. After a check-in with the chef, arrangements were made. So I happily order my personal-sized Paella while sipping my Beliken beer and watching the sun turn the horizon into a magnificent cacophony of bright colored hues before transforming into a smothering of ink, dotted with stars twinkling like white Christmas lights. The server returned to inform me that the Paella isn’t available for another 90 minutes. Hmmmm. I guess I’ll get something else. This resulted in a giggle and a disappearance into the kitchen. Moments later I see him, along with chef glancing over my way. The server returns. Would you like your Paella now instead of waiting? Why, yes, that would be wonderful.
Also, it comes with Sangria.
Fortunate Event #10: The Switch Up
I had no plans to snorkel before my arrival. But once I learned this was considered one of the top snorkeling and diving locations in the world, I couldn’t resist. There were daily boat trips organized by the hotel with several options for locations, which was determined by factors like weather, other tours, etc. I heard tell that Silk Island was the best for underwater scenery and Poseidon adventures. But we weren’t scheduled to go there.
Until a last minute change of plans meant that we were.
And it did not disappoint! Our boat, the S.S. Ambitious, led us to fish the color of M.C. Hammer’s neon pants, along with sharks (harmless- or so we were told), manta rays, squid, barracudas, and turtles the size of… well… ginormous turtles. My only regret is not having an underwater camera, as the coral alone was breathtaking. All, in all, it was a perfect way to spend the day.
Fortunate Event #11 The Best Seat In The House
My last morning in Placencia was spent catching up on work and emails, the last of which there were many due to a guest post I wrote that went up over on Think Traffic. A final breakfast and photo tour, and it was time to catch my flight back to BZE and onward to California.
This time I got to sit up front. Way up front. One step closer to my dream of flying a plane myself.
Fortunate Event #12 The Arrival
After breezing through customs (no line!), the last leg of the journey from DFW to SNA was slightly delayed due to waiting for the arrival of the captain. (I was tempted to offer my services having experienced the co-pilot’s chair earlier, but figured I’d leave it to the professionals). Once we were in the air, the captain made the announcement that there was a good chance our flight would have to be diverted, as John Wayne Airport doesn’t allow you to land after 11:00 pm.
At 10:55 pm we pulled up to the gate. Moments later, I was greeted by my parents, an hour left to go of my dad’s 70th birthday,
I’m writing this to you from my childhood bedroom. The smell of pumpkin pie wafts in from the kitchen oven.
Of course, all travel has its inconveniences. I’m fighting fatigue with my second cup of coffee. My legs are covered in bug bites and my big toes have blisters from the race. There’s a good chance I’ll lose a toenail as well.
But those sacrifices pale in comparison with the memories gained.
May today and everyday, bring you your own Series of Fortunate Events.
Live from the OC,
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