Although people say they enjoy traveling, chances are they don’t mean the actual act of traveling. Delays are frequent, lost luggage is frustrating, and queues can be long. It is tiresome, but we endure it because we see the light at the end of the tunnel. And in just a little while longer, we will arrive at our final destination and the troubles will be worth it. One day, soon, we’ll learn that teleportation is possible and this will all be irrelevant…but in the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy the journey.
Recently I was heading to Ambergris Caye, Belize, from New Orleans for a condominium-opening party. The total trip, from MSY to SPR (San Pedro airport), takes approximately five hours. It is (usually) quick, easy, and convenient, one of the few reasons why I still keep my U.S. base in New Orleans. Per typical airline fashion, both of my flights were delayed, so this 5-hour journey jumped up to 9 hours.
Upon arriving at the Belize International Airport, I cleared customs and immigration and raced to the domestic Tropic Air counter, eager to get to the island. I boarded the next 15-passenger Cessna caravan, made my way to the co-pilot seat, and excitedly fixed my gaze out the window. The next 17-minutes of flying over the azure Caribbean waters, no matter how many times I make this journey, will never get old.
Playing co-pilot… yet not at allowed to touch any buttons. Probably for the best!
The pilot smoothly landed in San Pedro, and a few of the passengers let out an applause – most likely first-time visitors appreciative that they safely arrived to the island. As I stepped down from the puddle jumper, my skin glistened from the warm, balmy air and Marlon, a Tropic Air employee with a large grin on his face, welcomed me back to the island. I took a deep breath in, acknowledged the Caribbean paradise I stepped foot on, and thought to myself, this is exactly where I should be.
When I got to the office, I realized that I was hungry, hot, and exhausted.
I knew exactly what I needed…an Esperanza pick-me-up:
Freshly squeezed orange juice and juicy, ripe fruit.
I walked one minute south on Coconut Drive to Esperanza’s Fruit Stand. I discovered Esperanza’s about four years ago when I was sick of paying the inflated gringo prices at every other fruit stand. It is a place I have come to visit a few times a week. Think about the most delicious fruit you have ever eaten. Now imagine it for less than one-half the price, chemical and pesticide-free, and even fresher. This is what you find at Esperanza’s. And it’s addicting.
Tina, the manager, is a local San Pedrana who has been operating the shop for quite a few years now. Frequented by locals and visitors alike, her shop offers native Belizean and Mexican fruits and vegetables. I walked into the shop and Tina already knew why I was there. She told me she didn’t have any pre-cut pineapple ready, but she would cut one right now. (If you, like me, have a better chance of slicing your finger than the pineapple, Tina will gladly cut it for you.)
She chose a large Mexican pineapple and told me, by looking at the color of the bottom of the pineapple, that it was the best pineapple in the bunch – and she was right.
I picked up a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, and my snack was complete. The entire cut pineapple plus a bottle of orange juice only cost a mere $3 USD. You can’t beat that. It’s reasons like this that living in Latin America is so enjoyable – fresh local produce, affordable prices, and most importantly, incredible people.
The view while enjoying the pineapple and orange juice.
If you’re heading to San Pedro in the near future, make sure you stop by Esperanza’s for a satisfying, fresh snack. You’ll be glad you did.