Chapter 5: Paradise Lost? Paradise Found?

Published: October 6th 2017
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Chapter Five: Paradise Lost? Paradise Found?

B4 lost herself in her Swedish massage with the portable massage table set up on our veranda and my iPhone music put on hold in favor of new age, well, massage music. I fled to a shady spot beneath an umbrella and a grove of palm trees to read. My music was the lapping of six inch waves on a constructed sea wall of sorts that surrounds 99%!o(MISSING)f Cayo Espanto. There are a couple of four to six-foot-long typical beaches but the remainder is short sea wall backfilled with coral sand. It is fine unless you want to walk the beach and then it isn’t fine. Bring sandals or water shoes.

Both of us were quite happy with our very different outcomes, her to her massage and me to my solitude.

After the tepid breakfast, I ordered fajitas for lunch. Coming in a cast iron skillet as fajitas do, I was confident they would be sizzling hot. They were neither hot nor warm. I sent them back—a thing I am loath to do—and, after not registering my disappointment at breakfast, expressed dismay that our lunchtime food was delivered at the wrong temperature. There were many apologies all around and a suggestion, ridiculous to my thinking, that the breeze did it.

After lunch, the staff responded to our request for a tour of the other casitas here. Ours and one other are the only ones occupied on this day so we first got guided tours of the two, two-bedroom units, the 2,600 square-foot, two-story Casa Estrella and the 2,100 square-foot one-story Casa Aurora. The 1,500-square foot one bedroom Casa Manana and the similar sized Casa Olita were also on the tour. Olita has the largest “beach” at approximately twenty feet in length (all sand everywhere on the island is quite coarse; footwear is advised). Our Casa Brisa is smaller at 1,200 square-feet but, for us, it is the best choice. It is, this time of year, very breezy; much more so than, say, Casa Olita which is on the sea side rather than the windward side of this tiny island. A point to note, however, is that the temperature at Brisa is perfect and at Olita it seemed hot. Breeze has its benefits.

We did see what drew us here: the overwater Casa Ventanas, at 1,100 square feet the smallest accommodation but the only one with a five-foot by five-foot glass floor insert. So far there isn’t a lot of aquatic life in the water—at least that we’ve seen through the choppy surface so I don’t know what the glass floor necessarily brings to the party. I’m happy we opted to not stay there; not for any particular reason other than Brisa shines brightest for us.

We did not see the 1,500 square-foot Casa Solana as it is occupied.

The publicity that says the entire place is almost always booked solid seems to be quite an exaggeration. Tonight, two of seven are filled. During low season, we are told, there are always plenty of vacancies.

It is true that no matter where you stay, with the possible exception of Casa Ventanas because it is out on the water, you might not ever see the other guests—even if the place is booked solid. Each casita is secluded. If that’s your thing, you’ll find it here more deftly achieved than anyplace I have ever been. If you like to mingle with your fellow travelers over a drink at the bar or at the next table in the dining room you’ll be disappointed because there is no dining room and no bar. There is the Casa you booked with its private dock and private plunge pool and private veranda and private view across the waters. Privacy is on offer here and delivered without compromise. The one exception which we may try tonight: you can opt for dinner “on the dock at the sunset end of the island.”

San Pedro Town is a short boat ride away and the staff “will be happy to recommend” their favorites. Transportation back and forth is free except after 5:30 when it costs $50.00 one way. The take pains to note, in bold print, that they take no responsibility for the water taxi, either as to availability or price.

Power here comes from diesel generators which are continuous—and for us silent—except for a three-minute changeover that occurs once a day.

Water is reverse osmosis turning the surrounding sea water into fresh water. They recommend that we drink the bottled water provided without charge. Toilets are of the “marine” type. Paper products are not to be flushed. The entire island has a mosquito and sand fly misting system of extract of chrysanthemums that seems to work well but we can’t verify its efficiency in the absence of our continuous breeze which would keep even the strongest mosquito frustrated. The lea side may be different.

And, somewhere, there are stationary bikes and an elliptical machine in an exercise room. We did not find that.

Snacks and tea service are offered with choices ranging from pommes frites to nachos to fresh baked cookies—all included. There are too many excursion choices to list. If you want to do it, they will arrange it. For $6,000 you can board the 35ft Yacht Sarah Kate (also open so if it rains please don’t go) and visit two of the three atolls in Belize, fishing or snorkeling or scuba diving along the way, pausing for a gourmet lunch and bird watching. Less energetic guests can opt for a DVD from their extensive collection or borrow one of the twenty board games they offer.

I have intimated that this place is outrageously expensive and it is. For me, it is overpriced for what they are giving. Our poor first impression in the open boat through a driving rainstorm and two meals of cold food have contributed mightily to that evaluation. If we had experienced the advertised warm welcome and been served warmer food, I might be relating a different opinion. The staff is trying hard but not quite pulling it off. Nothing is shiny new but neither is it old or tired. The electronics are up to par except for the Dish Network which is sporadic but, from my experience, that is true at home if there is wind and rain.

The fact that we completed the advance survey about ideal dinners and menu preferences appears to have been much ado about nothing. I am unable to detect that anything about the daily dinner menu reflected what we wrote. And, since the daily breakfast and lunch menus are pre-set, I don’t know what the survey was for other than, possibly, for “show.”

Should you come here? If you have money to burn and have a forecast free of rain, by all means.

At 3:25, the sunny sky turned gray and a squall pushed through sending Carlos and Flavio into a frenzy of rescuing cushions from the rain. After five minutes, the rain passed and the sun came back out. Ten minutes later it poured. Five minutes later it stopped. The weather reminds me of the emotions of my grandsons; mostly beautiful but subject to abrupt explosions, the shock waves of which quickly (usually) pass and soon all is once again cheery and bright. I could take a lesson from their mother and father who take these disruptions in stride.

Chef Richard appears right on time at 4:00 with tonight’s menu choices. B4 opts for grouper and I am enthusiastic about Cayo Espanto Paella. We ask for a table on the faraway pier. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Afternoon snack? Certainly. Nachos and a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, please.

Too windy for us to dine on the Casa Brisa pier, our hosts suggest that we move to the Casa Olita pier for dinner. Only possible tonight because leeward side Casa Olita is unoccupied, it is a great idea. We’re set for dinner at 7:00.

As Carlos comes to collect us at 7:00, the skies open with a five-minute torrential downpour driven by gusty wind. I scramble to close up the vulnerable side of Casa Brisa so our bed won’t get wet or damp from the rain as Carlos rushes off to save the table setting on the pier across the island. Via walkie-talkie, which most often, but not always, elicits a response, I offer the idea that we will be happy to simply dine inside Brisa to escape the rain. This was a time, understandably, of no reply.

After ten minutes or so, Carlos happily reported that the rain was over and the Olita table was reset and he was ready to escort us to dinner. Dinner was superb as the nearly full moon lit both our table and the scattered clouds overhead that trailed the rainstorm which raced, I think, southward. At night—and perhaps in the day—knowing what direction is east and what direction is west is tricky. Normally, you would say, “well, the ocean is on the east,” but here the ocean is on all sides.

We retired to read and catch a bit of CNN or FOX or MSNBC but DISH resisted. The signal was irritably intermittent. Books require no satellite so we took our pre-slumber refuge there.


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