British Honduras

Found: The Weasley Family’s vacation retreat in Belize

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Amazing what you will find when you grab a pair of bikes and just get lost on the rutted back streets of San Pedro: The Weasley Family vacation home.
Amazing what you will find when you grab a pair of bikes and just get lost on the rutted back streets of San Pedro: The Weasley Family vacation home.

After a grueling year  at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the kids and Arthur’s  ever-more-challenging role  in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, do you really think the Weasley family spent holiday in soggy old Ottery St. Catchpole, outside Devon?

Of course not!

The Weasleys were featured on “House Hunters International” back in the early 1980’s,  as they went in search of a vacation home in sunny Ambergris Caye, Belize, where they could enjoy sun, surf and sand — and still find a touch of Merry Old England in the former colony known as British Honduras.

As the HGTV program put it at the time: “Can the Weasleys find a rambling quirky structure that complemented the Burrow and their own eccentricities — without all that English fog to thwart their attempts at tanning freckled skin? Will a summer home in Belize put that old magic back into the lives of these hard working wizards and witches?”

You bet.

These days, locals say, the beginning of high season is marked by the sudden influx of carrot-topped, freckle-faced Weasleys in San Pedro.

Some say that, in recent times, even a paunchy, sun-burned Harry Potter could be seen tooling about in Arthur’s 24-foot fishing boat, here cleverly and magically disguised as a sunken derelict while the home awaits the coming of the Weasleys during high season.

Locals recall one gift shop that tried to market “Weasley Belizely” T-shirts back in the early 1990’s, but most people didn’t get it, mainly because J.K. Rowling hadn’t yet published the books that splayed open the secret life of magic. Way ahead of their time, the shirts were eventually discontinued.

I really, really think this is it, a Weasley vacation home if ever there was one, on the lagoon side of San Pedro.

What do you think?

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Somewhere in Belize there is a party going on

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Just a little over a week until we head for Belize on the “Truth or Die” Tour.

Maybe that is excessive. Let’s call it the “Boots on the Ground” Tour.

I’m excited to learn that we will arrive in time for the start of two major annual events in Belize: The Christmas Holiday season and the final months of hurricane season.

You have to love a country that can stretch out a holiday over five months.  Actually the holiday season is composed of many disparate celebrations sewn into one long seamless party that peaks with Christmas and Boxing Day, and ends with the new year.

It starts Sept. 10 with commemoration of the Battle of St George’s Caye in 1798,  when  early settlers of what became British Honduras defeated a much larger Spanish invasion force.

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t just about every nation have a day of celebration in which they defeated the Spanish at one place or another?

That’s followed appropriately enough by Belize Independence Day on Sept. 21, marking the end of English rule in 1981, and the emergence of the new Belize nation.

I think what I said about the Spanish may hold true for the English. I mean, what country doesn’t celebrate some sort of independence from British rule?

Well, the holidays, big and small, go on from there. Maybe this is just a marketing bit to get the tourism industry through the long low slough to high season but I’m all for it. Anything that can bring out a nation’s better side and put its talents on display for the world to see — well, that’s worth celebrating.

As for Hurricane Season, I guess it has been in play since June and despite a sluggish start, forecasters are looking for a strong finish. That should cheer up the cable news channels which love to position every storm center as the Next Big Apocalypse into which they position their celebrity newscasters waist high in turbulent surf so that they can prove that it is indeed wet outside …

Caribbean storms once helped fill the vast cable TV news void left when Washington DC went on summer hiatus.  I’ve always suspected that the absence of hot air in Washington combined with the wishful thinking of TV weatherman to create a low pressure zone into which Caribbean weather patterns were drawn and stirred up into demon storms.

Let’s go to the map!

Here’s what forecasters are saying for the balance of the Caribbean storm season, in incredibly specific language:  “We estimate that the remainder of 2013 will have about 8 hurricanes (average is 5.5), 14 named storms (average is 10.5), 75 named storm days (average is 58), 35 hurricane days (average is 21.3), 3 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.0) and 7 major hurricane days (average is 3.9).”

We will pack rain ponchos.

Getting ready for Belize!

Rose spent part of yesterday poking pins into our mounted map of Belize, indicating all the places we want to visit during our three weeks. You can pretty well summarize the activity like this:  everything from Placentia, north to the border with Mexico and west to Guatemala.

And why not? Every town seems to hold a different and intriguing piece of the puzzle that is Belize.

I’ll attach a few photos here so you can see what I mean. The pins are a little hard to see, but there are plenty of them.

Approaching Belize from the west, you can see how I tried to get fancy with attaching ribbons but out plans are proving more fluid and, really, there aren't that many main roads in Belize. Rose's pins show more in detail where we'd like to stop along the way.
Approaching Belize from the west, you can see how I tried to get fancy with attaching ribbons but out plans are proving more fluid and, really, there aren’t that many main roads in Belize. Rose’s pins show more in detail where we’d like to stop along the way.
Coastal Belize --so many vilalges and towns to see en route to Placencia -- Dangriga, Hopkins, Sitee Point, Maya Beach ...
Coastal Belize –so many vilalges and towns to see en route to Placencia — Dangriga, Hopkins, Sitee Point, Maya Beach …
This area is the most intriguing -- the western part of Belize, from the capital of Belmopan to the border with Guatemala. Such towns as Spanish Lookout and San Ignacio are beckoning.
This area is the most intriguing — the western part of Belize, from the capital of Belmopan to the border with Guatemala. Such towns as Spanish Lookout and San Ignacio are beckoning.

Pop Quiz on Belize

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I woke up at 5 a.m. and started putting together a quiz on our future homeland, Belize. I have no idea why. It just sort of came to me and I went with it, sort of like the idea of moving to Belize.

So let’s go with it. No prizes. (Heck, I can’t even guarantee that the answers are correct. ) But in the end i think you’ll agree that for such a tiny place, Belize is an amazing country.

1.Belize is a country
A. In Coastal West Africa.
B. Near the Philippines.
C. In Central America, bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea.
D. Conceived in the imagination of Florida-centric author Carl Hiaasen.

2. The Blue Hole is
A. Form of depression that usually hits career professionals in their Thirties.
B. A Willie Nelson song.
C. One of the eight natural wonders of the world.
D. A popular regional beer.

3. Jamaica is to Belize as Red Stripe is to Belikin.  True or False?

 4. Which of these animals are found in Belize?
A. Manatee
B. Jaguar
C. Howler Monkey
D. Taipir
E. Crocodile
F. Toucan
G. All of the above.

5. A Garifuna is
A. A taller and busier species of Hobbit.
B. A geological depression in a valley.
C. A descendant of Caribbean natives and West African slaves.
D. A recently discovered planet in a nearby solar system.

6. Which of these cultures can be found in Belize?
A. Creoles
B. German-speaking Mennonites
C. Mayans.
D. Descendants of Confederate Civil War veterans
E. East Indians
F. Hispanics
G. All of the above, and many more.

 7. A “caye” is
A. Spice used in preparing barbecue sauce.
B. Tool used in boat building.
C. Creole for “All is cool, mon.”
D. An island. And it is pronounced “key.”

8. In Belize a “highway” can contain
A. Bumper to bumper traffic jams during rush hour.
B. European sports cars on Autobahn-like roadways.
C. Dirt surfaces with many ruts, bumps and washed out areas.
D. Adequate signage.

9. Before 1973, the one-time British colony of Belize was known as
A. West Indian Honduras
B. British Honduras
C. South Beach, Miami
D. Captain Morgan’s Retreat

10. To finance the national football team’s first-ever entry into the prestigious CONCAF Gold Cup tournament, Belizians
A. Held a barbecue fundraiser.
B. Took out a rather large loan from a British bank.
C. Collected quarters from school children all over the country.
D. Conspired with gamblers to fix their first game in return for a one-time payment.

11. To surface a road recently, a government contractor
A. Dredged gravel from the bottom of the Blue Hole.
B. Recycled roadside trash into a synthetic form of asphalt.
C. Ground up a big chunk of an ancient Mayan temple.
D. Collected and ground us seashells from coastal beaches.

12. Concerned Belizians say the greatest threat to the natural beauty of this country is
A. Oil drilling in the world’s second largest barrier reef.
B. Illegal clear-cutting of jungle trees for agriculture and lumber
C. Construction of a cruise ship island/terminal in largely pristine southern Belize.
D. All of the above.

13. In 2006, Belize musicians were nominated for a World music Grammy principally for their
A. Drumming
B. Singing
C. Broadway-style musicals
D. Conch shell renditions of classical music.

 And the answers are

1.C (Just south of the Yucatan Peninsula. Can’t miss it, though it is only the size of Massachusetts.)

2. C.

3. True: Belikin is the national beer of Belize.

4. G. There is an incredible diversity of animals in Belize, including more than 500 species of birds.

5. C.

6. G.

7. D.

8. C. Yes, the term highway is used rather loosely.

9. B. The English still retain a small contingent of soldiers in the country to train the Belize Defence Force which protects the country from a long anticipated invasion from Guatemala.

10. A. Incredible as it sounds, the team wasn’t sure it was playing until the day they left Belize. Several  players reported being approached by a game fixer with a monetary offer which they refused. On the other hand, Belize last all three games in its bracket and went home without scoring a single goal.

11. C. Archeologists seeking a silver lining noted that they now had a “cutaway” look at the inside of a Mayan structure.

12. D. Amazing that a country with so much natural beauty can be under siege from so many directions at once.

13. A. Garifuna drumming is a source of national pride.