October 29, 2009

Hierro Barro y Verde Cafe

Dear Blog,

"The fine mountain mist, combined with the soft scent of freshly roasted coffee beans and that sweet pine tree aroma filled the room on that cool Autumn day!"...

Hahaha, now THAT would be my starting sentence if I were posing to be something I am not. I am no writer but I still try my best to describe what I see when I travel within Honduras so that I may conjure up a more lasting image of the places I visit and the things I experience. My objective is to provide useful information (with pictures & videos), to someone interested in visiting my beautiful country.

In this particular case, I am referring to this wonderful and eclectic cafe, located down a relatively secluded street in Valle de Angeles. Hierro, Barro y Verde means Iron, Clay and Green; those are just some of the objects found in this boutique cafe / souvenir shop / green house. Not to mention the different types of plants they have for sale. They have everything from iron candlesticks to wall decorations, Lenca clay ornaments (very popular hand crafted souvenirs made by a Honduran ethnic group), all kinds of pottery and vases, as well as exotic plants. Tourist info is also available to take for free.

The locale is divided into two areas indoors which house the majority of items, as well as a very colorful section outside, which includes wall murals and even a little fountain. This outdoors area is most appropriate for enjoying the very comfortable temperatures while tasting some Honduran made coffee or some foreign wine (keep in mind that Honduras does not produce wine, but our coffee is one of our best known exports). In addition, they have created a very distinctive display which you cannot miss, which consists of two life size sculptures of cows being adorned by what else... plants.

The house has some history to it too. According to owner, Criscia Estrella, this is the oldest house in Valle de Angeles at 114 years old and it used to belong to the town's blacksmith.

So go ahead and visit Hierro, Barro y Verde Cafe. It's a sight for sore eyes!!!

October 28, 2009

Valle de Angeles

Translated it comes out to Valley of Angels, and if I were an angel, I wouldn't mind hanging up my wings and heading to early retirement in this simple but colorful little town. Valle de Angeles is a municipio or municipality close to Tegucigalpa (round 30 kms). It has been one of the capitalinos (residents from the capital of Tegucigalpa) favorite holiday destination due to its close proximity. The winding road is in very good conditions and on hot days this colonial town makes for a great escape from the traffic, pollution and everyday urban routine. Peaks for visitation occur during weekends, with a heavy drop-off during weekdays. If you want to experience a more peaceful and tranquil town I suggest you take advantage of the weekdays during most of the year. However, during the first week of October, the Valle de Angelinos (residents from Valle de Angeles) celebrate their "fiesta patronal" or patrons day celebration. It's a good time to visit if you are looking for a more festive atmosphere with local cuisine, fireworks, live music, etc.

The town has the basic grid style, Spanish colonial layout, with the town square being the center point of the town. The government office, main church, some souvenir shops and some restaurants surround this main plaza. Climate can be a bit cooler than in the city and specially at night during the months of November - February. One of its biggest tourist attractions has to be the arts and crafts. There are many souvenir shops to choose from with a wide variety of just about everything Honduran made. Finished products of very high quality such as wood carvings, leather products, and coffee, are highly sought after, as well as Honduran made cigars. Just a couple of blocks east of the main entrance to the cathedral, you can find the souvenir hangars where you will find a vast selection of souvenirs stacked all the way up to the roof. It will be hard for you not to find something nice. Just remember that it is OK to haggle!

The colonial architecture is still visible and creates a nice backdrop for taking pictures; in particular, the old houses with the red colored clay tiles, which have now been converted to small, rustic, bars and restaurants. Their cozy, candle lit settings invite you to have a drink and try a variety of tasty appetizers such as carne asada, chorizo, tortillas, fried beans served in hot "anafres" (lit coal containers made of clay), as well as the popular "pupusas" (flour tortillas filled with melted cheese), etc.

October 21, 2009

Commemmorative Video


Roatan in motion during August 09 mixed with the very user friendly Movie Maker. Proof that you can travel to Honduras even in the midst of a political crisis!

October 16, 2009

Crisis, what Crisis?

This entry is conveniently titled after the name given to the winning Best Thesis Award belonging to a couple of ex-classmates of mine (Akram Saboundji & Tanja Lonnroth), that were part of my tourism & hospitality masters program in Sweden. I had to use it cuz it fit like a moth to a flame, specially because those were our precise words after what we experienced during this short journey in the midst of a political crisis.

To close off the trip with a long lasting image, we were looking for a place to fully immerse ourselves into a therapeutic state of mind. We needed a place to hang out that we were familiar with and that brought back good memories, and that was lively enough to erase any stressful thoughts of politics left in our brains. After walking up and down West End, looking for such a place with no avail, we proceeded to enter the place which at that time appeared to be the most crowded. The locale we knew from way back but under a different name. It used to belong to some friends of ours, Ian Drydesdale and Jenny Myton and was called the Mango Verde. This used to be my favorite bar before Sundowners and we practically lived there every time we visited the island until they unexpectedly closed. It was the place to be where the West End boys could meet the West End girls. The great tunes, drinks & food led to memorable conversations with both tourists and locals and the ever popular dive instructors. It seems quite obvious that there is huge competition to own or rent this piece property among investors. I believe a lot of its popularity is a result of its fabulous location (right in the middle of WE). It constantly has changed hands from owner to owner. At another point in time it was also called the Purple Turtle with the same type of customers but owned by a German citizen. During my previous visit in January 2009 we were looking forward to go there but we were disappointed to see that it was closed.

This time in August, to our surprise, we stumbled into the pre-inauguration of a new bar, now called the Blue Marlin. We were told it is dutch owned. The area has been expanded and renovated and they added a nice little lounge area which was already taken, of course. The wooden deck floor is now combined with the adjacent floor of the neighboring establishment which used to be Reef Gliders. This has created a lot of additional space which was lacking before. The sound system is much improved which I feel should be the most important aspect of any successful bar. Too bad we discovered it on our last night of the trip. Next time, however; I know where I will be heading for some night life entertainment, no matter what it is called.

Don't you just dig their logo!?!?!?

October 12, 2009

Roadtrip towards The Mayan Princess

The road trip began very relaxing in the fast running, curve hugging, Suzuki Swift, aptly named "The Renegade of Funk". It belongs to our friends and it made the 5 1/2 hour drive ideal for great conversations, listening to some good tunes and enjoying the scenery. Once in La Ceiba, we had a bite to eat and then we were off to the docks (this is the same Muelle de Cabotaje mentioned earlier). We proceeded to drop off the car in the parking lot of the Empresa Nacional Portuaria (ENP), which is next door to the terminal. It costs 100.00 Lempiras or about 5.00 US dollars per day and the amount is due upon return.

I gotta say that the road was pure traveling pleasure compared to the ferry waiting for us at the docks and ready to take us to Roatan. I have become very accustomed to this ferry, and since the weather was so amazing it gave me no reason for me to imagine that this would become one of my worst rides ever, if not the worst. The sunshine and clear skies did not seem to blend in with the gigantic waves that were making the sea extremely choppy and turning that ferry into a fumbling and stumbling wooden roller coaster. However, the Dramamine we had earlier proved effective as we were able to contain ourselves and no one had the unfortunate mishap of feeling dizzy and/or blowing chunks towards the end. I'm sure that many passengers did not make a clean exit from the ferry. (Check out our faces above and judge for yourself!!!).

Soon after our bouncy ride which felt like an eternity ended, and once on dry and steady land, we were being picked up by the Mayan Princess's bus which was there to take us to the hotel. YEP, we were heading towards The Mayan Princess, perhaps one of the finest hotels in West Bay, Roatan. That was gonna be our place of residence for at least one night. It later turned to be for two nights, after we asked the front desk if my fiancee and I could stay in the same suite with our friends for one more night since there were very few people staying at the hotel anyway. Our friends of course did not mind. And neither did the hotel staff as they gave us a green light to remain in the hotel. This gave us the opportunity to use the facilities, the pool area, and best of all it was all FREE of charge!

West Bay Beach was about 20 meters away from our suite, and the pool was at a diving distance. The restaurant area was also beach side, so right after settling in our room, we proceeded to celebrate our arrival with some appetizers and some beers. Food was not that great but we didn't care because we had made it and we were HAPPY!

The suite/apartment had one freshly decorated room, a nicely equipped kitchen with appliances and utensils, as well as a dining and living room area with a pullout sofa-bed. It came with AC, ceiling fans, and a TV. Of course, we wanted nothing to do with the TV because one of our main objectives on this trip was to stay away from the news channels, Internet and newspapers. That we sure did. Besides, there are plenty of things to do while on vacation instead of watching the tube.

For their rates, check out their website http://www.mayanprincess.com. Rates may vary depending on the season and of course on the type of room. We did not even pay attention to the prices, which can be a bit high for many, but of course why would we, since we were enjoying ourselves there for FREE after all.