After spending a great 10 days at Thanksgiving on AC with my family, I arrived in San Pedro on Friday, Jan. 2, 2004, with 2 old friends, Don and Joe, for week 1 of Jerry Jeff's Camp Belize which would end on Sunday, Jan. 11. This was my 4th trip, Don's 2nd and Joe's 1st.
Out of 9 days, we had 7 perfect days of sunshine, one day of half sun and half clouds, and one day of rain and clouds. The weather was great.
Although we had wonderful meals all over the island as usual at many of my favorites from past trips, we found ourselves drawn again and again to two rather new venues. We found ourselves having dinner at Caramba on Pescadora St. 4 out of the 9 nights we were there. This truly local restaurant has only been open 7 or 8 months and is a definite winner for the long term. The food is extraordinary, the prices are amazing and the service and hospitality are over the top in a town where those 2 elements seem to be the rule rather than the exception. From the warm welcome of the host/owner to the complimentary conch ceviche and chips, you know you have entered someplace special at Caramba. I first tried them in November and couldn't wait to get back. If you haven't been there, you need to.
The other fairly new place that kept us coming back was the Stained Glass Pub on Front Street. It is small and cozy, with a small bar, and table seating for 22, and has an awesome menu which is a combination of excellent local dishes, three or four fresh fish choices and some great British and American dishes. Jim and Marie opened this in March, 2003, after selling their restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and moving to San Pedro to retire. (Some retirement)They are great people and great hosts. I believe they have the BEST cheeseburger on the island. Also, after much field research, comparison and qualitative analysis, they were presented with the Jay, Don and Joe award for the best key lime pie on the island for the month of January. Kudos to Marie!
Don and I were staying at Paradise Villas, where I have stayed on all previous trips, and Joe stayed at the Spindrift, which he was very pleased with. Paradise Villas has one and two bedroom units with full kitchen and a nice pool. It is also located so close to the center of town, but not actually in the heart of the town. As it is fenced-in, it seems like a private mini-compound.
When we arrived on Friday afternoon, we found that Nellie Gomez, our rental agent, had a full case of Belikin iced down in our refrigerator and had brought her CD player from home to lend us so we did not have to carry one from USA. She is a great lady to work with, grew up in San Pedro, has an active rental/leasing business and a busy laundromat on Pescadora St. The laundromat will pick up your laundry, wash it and return it to you the next day. Nice service. We wasted no time utilizing the Belikin.
During JJW's Camp Belize last year, we had a pickin'party in front of Ramon's on Wednesday night with 7 guitars, 1 fiddle and 8 or 9 outstanding musicians playing for about 4 hours in front of an audience of about 120 people. It was a magical night, the likes of which I don't expect to see again. I have never played music with musicians of that caliber. The entire evening was videotaped by Mike from Austin, a UT student I had gotten to know who also sat in and played and sang very well. Mike was not part of the JJW group, but was on AC by happenstance. He was supposed to go home on Tuesday. After getting to know our group and wanting to see JJW's concerts, Mike cancelled his flight and stayed the rest of the week. Mike promised me faithfully to copy the tapes of the evening and send them to me. I offered to pay him in advance for his trouble, but he wouldn't accept any money, promising to send them to me as soon as he got home to Texas and edited the tapes. I desperately wanted a copy of those tapes. When I got home, I discovered the email address he had given me was no good. I tried every way to locate him in Texas including trying to reach him through UT, but they said he had not registered for classes. Other than flying from Maryland to Texas and conducting a house to house search, I had no hopes of ever seeing him or the tapes again. However, it is indeed a small world. After dinner on Friday night, as we walked on the beach in front of Big Daddy's, I ran smack into Mike from Austin! He was as shocked as I was. He had been vacationing in Costa Rica and AC with his mother and her friend for the past 6 weeks and was flying back to Texas on Monday. But, guess what-after thinking about the JJW concerts and another pickin' party for a day or so, he cancelled his flight and stayed in San Pedro for the following week. We played a lot of guitar,and had a lot of fun, and worked out a surefire arrangement to get copies of the tapes to me as soon as he got back to Texas. I am now back in Maryland waiting for the tapes that still haven't arrived. Perhaps someday!
Here is what we did on AC:
Friday, Jan.2- Had wonderful dinner and drinks at Caramba, spent the rest of the night at Mangoes listening to Barefoot Skinny and his band play their hard-hitting rock. Great time, great drinks, met a lot of new people and renewed acquaintances with a lot of local San Pedranos from last year. Amazing how so many of them remembered Don and me by name from last year.
Saturday, Jan. 3- Spent a lot of time around the pool, snorkeled at the end of the Paradise Villas pier. There are six large circular concrete anchorages sunk in the water about 20 feet off the end of the pier that attract hundreds of beautiful fish-almost like a mini-reef. It is a perfect place to snorkel without even getting into a boat. Also under the end of Wet Willie's pier the snorkeling is excellent-almost like a little aquarium. Saw several good sized barracudas as well as hundreds of fish of every color. Found several undersized conchs-threw them back in to grow a bit.
Went to happy hour at BC's, then had excellent dinner, as always, at Elvi's. After dinner, we headed to Coconuts as Dennis Wolfe and band were playing. Dennis had Reynaldo on bass and Reynaldo's 10 year old son, Conrad, on drums. What a surprise-he plays very well. At Thanksgiving, I watched Dennis' 12 year old son, Dennis-cito, play drums very well at Palapa Bar, but Conrad holds the record as the youngest drummer I have seen play rock and roll in a bar band. Coconuts really got jumping, met some more new people, closed down the bar and jumped in the gold cart and headed home. Incidentally, we had always rented electric carts before and had to turn them in daily for new ones due to running out of juice. This time we rented a gas cart. Itwas only $350 for 8 days and t