Do you Belize in Magic? – Erin Green

The “better Belize it” puns started as soon as the airplane landed!  I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring this relatively untouched country in October, with visits to three resorts owned by Francis Ford Coppola and his family.  All of the properties are very eco-conscious, feature fantastic food and wine, and are places where you immediately feel at home and part of the family.  I started at Turtle Inn outside of the small beach-side town of Placencia.  The cottages are spacious with wonderful porches to enjoy your morning coffee service, and most have views straight out into the ocean.

Every cottage at Turtle Inn has a beautiful outdoor shower!

The first day there was quite a bit of rain, but it didn’t dampen our spirits at all!  We spent the afternoon exploring the restaurants and bars that make up Placencia and of course trying out a Belikin or two (the Belizean beer of choice).  Dinner was a really unique experience: Rijsttafel – a Dutch tradition of a sampling of over 20 Indonesian dishes.  This meal perfectly fits into the resort as the property is decorated in a Balinese style and the ever so welcoming and friendly General Manager, Martin, is Dutch.  It’s hard to decide if this meal or the following night’s beach dinner of a grilled lobster was better!

The delicious Indonesian spread.

The real highlight of our stay in Placencia was our snorkel trip.  We went out on the Wild Orchid catamaran to the Belize Barrier Reef which is a part of the 2nd largest reef system in the world.  As soon as we jumped in the water we were surrounded by massive 70 year old sea turtles, nurse sharks, and sting rays… amazing!

Swimming to one of Belize’s pristine cayes

After our time at the beach, we took a quick flight up to Blancaneaux Lodge, which is in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.  As you drive in, you pass their massive organic garden which provides the majority of their produce.  This resort is completely off the grid, with their power coming from the river.  All of the cottages are surrounded by lush forest and you fall asleep to the sounds of running water.  At night the lit stone paths look like something out of a fairy tale.  Once again the rain tried to ruin our plans to hike to the falls, but the General Manager Bernie had something else in mind: A Coppola Wines tasting while one of the lodge’s guides gave us a fascinating introduction to Mayan history in preparation for some of the Mayan sites we were to see over the next few days.   Dinner was pizza made by chefs that are all sent to Naples to learn the art of Italian pizza making… so tasty!

Rooms are decorated with handmade Guatemalan textiles.
Private plunge pool over the rain forest

One of the activity highlights at Blancaneaux is an excursion to the ATM Cave.  Certainly for the adventurous, you hike 45 minutes to the mouth of the cave where you have to jump into a deep pool, swim into the cave, and then proceed to walk/swim/wade through chest deep water and tight spaces.  If the beauty of the cave isn’t enough to wow you, the cavern where you end up is mindblowing.  All around you are artifacts and skeletons left from the times when the Mayans used the chamber for rituals to bring rain.  The pots look like they are broken and scattered but in fact they are aligned by the Mayans with the constellations and were smashed to be sure they weren’t offering anything that appeared perfect to the Gods.  Skulls left from the sacrificed (it was a huge honor to be sacrificed back in the day!) are just inches from the path you are walking.  I still get chills thinking about it!

It’s even an adventure getting to the ATM Cave!

The next morning came early as we were off to Guatemala to visit the ancient Mayan city of Tikal.  I never thought I was that enthralled by the history of ancient civilizations, but this visit and the fantastic guiding changed my mind.  I felt like I was in a movie set with towers of temples rising above 200 square miles of jungle that is the old city.  Only 20% of the ruins have been restored so there is so much more laying underneath the jungle.

Mayan city of Tikal. Notice how few visitors there are!

Then it was off to the third Coppola property in Central America, La Lancha.  The ten casitas that make up the resort look over Lago Petén Itzá, which is a huge pristine lake.

All the casitas at La Lancha have porches with hammocks to take in the view

Raised in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, I admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to lakes and I have to say this is probably among the cleanest and prettiest I have seen.  I had to pinch myself as I realized I was floating in an inner tube, drinking Coppola Sauvignon Blanc, and looking up at the howler monkeys jumping through the trees.  What a dream.

View over Lake Petén Itzá from La Lancha


The three Coppola properties are a great way to see these beautiful, untouched countries and there are various packages that include the touring that I did while I was there, plus infinitely more options!   As members of Virtuoso, you receive exclusive amenities when you book through McCabe World Travel.  Call us today for more information!

The best travel companions and an incredible trip!


Bermuda Bound – Jessica Griscavage and Beth Jenkins

When you have a 3 day weekend, it’s tempting to get out of town! But travel time to many destinations makes 3 days too short for a getaway.  Did you know Bermuda is about 90 minutes nonstop from NYC, Philly, or Atlanta?  It is easy to get to, making it a great place for a quick trip… but once you get there I’ll bet you wish you had more time!

Bermuda is on the rise.  The island is home to the 2017 America’s Cup, which means the best sailors in the world will be descending on Bermuda for the events. Between now and then, many qualifying races bring buzz to the island… starting with the World Series this upcoming weekend.  We were lucky to see many sail boats already in the harbor this weekend in anticipation of the races, and for the Gold Cup this weekend.
Bermuda also offers some of the best beaches… white (and pink!) sand and clear blue water.  Even in October the weather is mild (high 70s) and the water was warm enough to go in.  The warmest times of year are March to October.

Many travelers want to be able to go out to dinner and spend time in town outside their resort.  Bermuda is a safe and fun destination for this, with many great restaurants on Front Street and in town.  You are also able to take hikes and walks to explore the coastline, cove beaches, and the colorful houses that Bermuda is famous for. It is perfectly safe, clean, and charming to explore off your resort property.

With 5 Virtuoso properties to choose from, there is a perfect fit for everyone! Give us a call and we’ll discuss which is right for you!
Read more about Beth and Jessica’s travels on their blogs:

Rhone River Cruise – Nadine Jackson

Being a real Francophile, I talked my husband Bobby to come with me in August on a cruise up the Rhone River from Avignon to Lyon.  We chose Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and their new “supership”, the SS Catherine, for this journey.

The Rhone is a wide, but not too commercial river. We cruised north through hilly countryside, farms and small towns until Lyon where the Rhone splits from the Soane.  The Provencal towns of Avignon and Arles are famous for their Roman and middle Ages history.  Lyon is a big but very attractive city.  Outside of these, the towns are small and charming,  mostly concerned with vineyards and farming (including lavender and sunflowers). From Lyon, we cruised up the Soane to Macon and a day visit to Beaune, heart of the Burgundy wine region and a beautiful, classy city.  We loved the leisurely itinerary and each day brought more hilltop villages, historical sites, and new wines to try.

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The SS Catherine is truly beautiful…like a luxury boutique Parisian hotel.  Each cabin is thoughtfully laid-out with excellent beds, huge closets, lots of storage space, wonderful lighting, deluxe bathrooms with heated floors.  The windows were floor-to-ceiling, making up the entire outer wall of the cabin.  They were the most ingenious windows – opening horizontally instead of vertically – the entire top half could be lowered for unobstructed viewing, and if needed a screen could be lowered


On our cruise, excursions were uniformly excellent with wonderful guides and special experiences. On a visit to the tiny medieval  town of Viviers, our group was graciously invited in for Rose and petit-fours to the four-hundred year old home of our guide.  Another excursion was to a truffle farm where   dogs are now used instead of pigs to sniff out the dark brown mushroom-like nuggets. I was most impressed with Uniworld’s “Go Active” complimentary options, offered every day for more athletic or adventurous guests.  One day this intrepid group kayaked under the Pont de Gard while the rest of us were up on the bridge waving them on.  Another day they hiked through terraced vineyards and had their own mid-vine tastings.  There were several bicycle outings too.  A special highlight for all was a night illumination tour of Lyon where all the bridges and exquisite hill-top basilica are beautifully lit.

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Uniworld is a member of Virtuoso.  When you book through McCabe World Travel, you are often eligible for amenities such as exclusive excursions and onboard credit.  Call us today to find the perfect itinerary for you!