“What Can I Do” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize ?

With the completion of our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize drawing ever closer I have been giving thought as to what to do with this blog (this is NOT an invitation to tell me where to stuff it!).

Long time readers will probably know that it’s raison d’être was as a relatively easy way for Rose and I to document the build of our new home in Ambergris Caye, Belize and share the experience with our family and friends in the UK without having to send a multitude of emails. It has, as the number of you that follow it will know, morphed in to much, much more than this.

I have to admit that although on some days I have found “knocking” an edition out has been a bit of a pain I have overall thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I like the discipline it requires and I like the routine. It’s also extremely rewarding to “feel” the sense of involvement that so ( i come from the world of newspapers so may be guilty of a little exaggeration here) many people have had in our adventure (OK it is only a build but it has been an adventure in to the unknown for us).

Uncertain as to whether to keep it going or not I am using this edition to find out what your views are. Obviously with the build finished the subject matter of the blog would need to be different. Do you think I should keep it going? If so, what would interest you? Obviously it must be something that I can do relatively easily AND find interesting. They are the only caveats. So please do not suggest something like geophysics!

So, a simple question really, what can I do? Please do let me know.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts for the future. Lets move to the present. Well, the past actually -yesterday.

Got up around 05.00 hours and after making the obligatory mug of black coffee it was straight on to the veranda for some Internet time (yes this included The Times on-line and no Arsenal have not bought anyone (of note) yet).

Knowing that Rose and I had lots that we wanted to accomplish (designing the bed that we want Daniel Camal, our building contractor, to make for us; making our final purchasing decisions for the stuff we are going to have shipped from America; making the first moves to sell the condo at Banana Beach Resort that we bought shortly after visiting Ambergris Caye the first time over fifteen years ago) I decided that I needed (deserved in fact) a hearty breakfast so I went to (yes, you’ve guessed it) Estel’s (stopping off first at Atlantic International Bank Limited to make a withdrawal and pay some bills) and got there shortly after 08.00 hours.

Responding to the request made by Louise I include (see how expediently I respond to requests) in today’s edition a few of the photos I took whilst there.


Whoops, wrong folder.


The real view from my table. Matches Salma Hayek any day of the week (apart from Tuesdays obviously because Estel’s is closed!) !


My breakfast. Not the healthiest choice but…

When I got back to the condo we are renting during our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize I took care of some administrative stuff and then eventually Rose and I set about working out the measurements for our bed. With this information Rose then drew a sketch of what we want. This along with a photograph of the type of bed we want will hopefully be enough for Daniel.

That was as far on our list of things to do as we got because before we knew it the time had come to head off to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize. Robert Burns put it so well “The best laid schemes of mice and men…”

We got there around 15.30 hours and as we pulled in to our lot could see Moses, who is in charge of Daniel’s wood shop, with two of his colleagues carrying the sink unit frame up the stairs.




And through the entrance to the house.

They then set about bringing in the door jambs (think that is what they are called).



Sink unit, breakfast bar and door jambs ready for installation.

The excitement didn’t end there though because it appeared that lots of things were going on!


Christopher laying tiles in the First Floor bedroom (Rose’s handicraft room).


From the hallway in to the bedroom.

Up on the Second Floor Ernesto was still at work fixing the tiles in my bathroom but had moved in to the shower “cubicle”.



Saving the seat and floor until last.

A few feet away Alfredo was applying the final coat of emulsion to the walls of the walk-in closet.


A walk out on to the roof terrace and we saw that Rolando had been at work fitting the spotlights for the northern and southern walls.



As we were about to leave the floor and head home my attention was caught by a sailing boat with a name that says it all, “Caye Dreams”. Even though we live here now we still have them!


Today’s headline is based on the single released in 1998 by The Corrs which reached number three in the UK Singles Chart.


  1. tom says:

    John, Your retired. So you can stop with whatever you wish or start up with something anew. Your posts have been interesting enough to enjoy reading and seeing pics of your wonderful architecture grow in real time… What a time you two have had so far. You and Rose now are on that New ride and should dance to those heartfelt sounds you enjoy from yesterday(s). All tomorrows are your future located from your new home views and stories to tell of every direction you chose. Enjoy!

    1. Thanks Tom. We do intend to enjoy the house for a little while before starting in earnest on the next project. Which will most likely be the garden.

  2. Robert J. Hawkins says:

    Here I was, formulating all these compelling arguments for the continuation of your blog when I started reading all the previous comments. And reading. And reading. … I feel my work is done here. I’m glad that you will carry on. You inject a journalist’s sensibility into your daily observations. Following your house construction has been fascinating but learning about Ambergris Caye from an insider’s perspective has been invaluable. My wife (also a Rose) and I will be making our first foray into Belize (Aug. 28-Sept. 17) mainly to plot out the location of our first home there. I’m a former newspaper writer/editor, too, also in my very early ’60’s.
    Your blog could well answer the big question, “What will we do once we get there?” My wife is giving up her pilates and yoga studio here in California but has hopes of continuing her work at some level on AC.That’s a given. Me? I’m still trying to figure out what ex-news people are good for. I pray for clarity (and not claret) once I arrive. Nt sure, for the sake of mankind, that I should become the 1 millionth ex-journalist to write a bitter piece of fictionl about how it all ended badly and some senior editor got murdered …
    Anyhow, the “small” details of life on AC hold a fascination — how far can you bicycle in a day before you must turn around and repeat yourself? What’s the best Internet option? Where can I get a good book to read? Does anyone jog in Paradise? Is there local football to watch or pickup games for really old farts? (So proud of Belize playing the US,despite the outcome.)
    You’ve already answered questions on dentistry and the best breakfast and renewing visas … well, John, back to work! You’ve got a lot of writing to do! Regards,
    Bob Hawkins

    1. Hi Robert. Thanks for taking the time to make a post. It’s great to hear the plans your wife Rose and you have for moving here.
      Don’t know whether you intend to go for QRP, Residency or just renew your Visa every 30 days but, depending on which option you go for I am sure that your wife might be able to continue with her profession. I am not sure if there are Pilates classes on the island (not my kind if thing) but do know that there are yoga classes (definitely one at the Exotic Caye Beach Resort).

      Need to put you right on my previous progression. True I worked in newspapers for over 40 years but never as a journalist. My time was spent in the field of circulation (newspaper sales) and distribution (nowadays more often referred to as logistics). Never, ever anything so glamorous as working on the editorial floor.

      Haven’t got a bike yet but am going to get one when we move in to the house. So, I will attempt, at some stage in the future, your question. I will also endeavour to provide an insight and/or answers to your other questions/suggestions.
      Kind regards

  3. Kris Jensen says:

    See John, you just cannot possibly retire. Your fan base is simply too extensive. Groupies…who would have thunk it?
    If and when I get to AC for extended periods of time, I will seek out some vocation on the island – I think I want to help the local people in some way and will be exploring what’s available.

    1. Hi Kris. I thought people might find the blog interesting but never expected the response I got. Haven’t seen the Groupies yet though!
      I think when we get the landscaping done I will be looking around for some of form of activity that benefits the less well off locals.

  4. Mike from Florida says:

    Thinking of moving to Belize and wondering about building, If I buy land can I build without restrictions? or does the govt. tell me what I an do like here in Fl. ? Want to bring business and my family and find a non-communist place where you are free to build and live without the govt. making sure you conform. Any advice as to building and not my politics is appreciated.

    1. Hi Mike
      You can buy land here and build on it (as we are doing) but there are restrictions eg you must leave X feet between the wall of the building and the perimeter of your land (this may vary depending upon which region you build in). You must also get your architectural plans approved. The regulations though are not at all onerous.

      Good luck.

    2. Sorry, should have mentioned that if you have further questions regarding building here in Belize (specifically on Ambergris Caye) then just fire them off.

  5. Paul says:

    Very well said Don!

    Paul from Montreal

  6. Helena Fehr says:

    Hello John and Rose,
    I have been reading your blog daily since you started it. I had been reading the daily Belize news and when your news about your build started showing up I was so homesick. We’ve been to Sweet Belize quite a number of times. To San Pedro and Snorkelled in Shark Ray alley!! I know what you mean by ‘Estel’s has wonderful food, atmosphere and the view… just loved it.
    Keep on writing about what you see, upbeat local news, your landscaping, the waves past the reef, sunrises and sunsets…
    I live in northern Alberta, Canada…6950 kilometres north of your build!!


    1. Hi Helena
      Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to respond to the questions I posed the other day.

      Responses like yours have convinced me to keep the blog going.

      Sure that you know, but if not, Sweet Basil closed a god few years ago.

      Kind regards

  7. Tracy Jamison, Idaho says:

    Well I hope you are convinced by the responses to keep the blog going, I can only agree with all of the suggestions and thank you’s. I would like to mention one bit of gratitude that may have been overlooked, your honesty in the daily developments and opinion of “building a life”. I read the message boards, and a few other blogs and find I am not sure as to the honesty/intentions of their information so to speak (trying to be delicate) You have nothing to prove nor sell whichs makes for a very refreshing read!. Again thank you for sharing and I agree to all the wonderfull ideas that have been suggested.

    1. H Tracy
      First of all thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions.
      Secondly, and far more importantly as far as I am concerned, thanks for you very kind and honest comments. They are appreciated.
      I am going to keep the blog going.

      Kind regards


  8. Tom J says:

    Hi John,
    Just a quick note and an “attaboy” for your delightful blog. I have been a reader for some time and enjoy the daily updates and
    info. I have never been to Belize but have studied it for a few years. Next door neighbors here in Montana have been a time or two and enjoyed it. Their son married a girl from Belize and we met her and were able to get some insight. Most bloggers about Belize and SP seem to have an axe to grind and are either selling property or trips so a real couple like you and mystery blogger is great. We (wife and I) were all set for a trip last year and one of our 3 daughters decided to get married and there went our budget. I do enjoy your Benny Hill Brit sense of humor….okay..humour.
    Best to you from Montana.

    1. Tracy Jamison, Idaho says:

      I took to long putting my thoughts into words and you beat me to the punch! I completely agree 🙂

    2. Tom
      Thanks so much for your kind note. Really appreciated.

      The responses I have received have convinced me to keep the blog going.

      Hope that you make it here very soon. In the meantime I will do my best to make it feel like you are here!

      Kind regards

  9. Erik Jensen says:

    Hi John, this is my first post here, although I have followed you for months. I am Erik, Kris’ brother, that is building down the street in Tres Coco. I have really, really enjoyed viewing what has gone on during your build; you have answered so many questions that I was afraid to ask they are too numerous to mention. Your project was just far enough ahead of ours, and to see how it was all to be done in advance was wonderful. Thank-you.
    I would suggest that you continue your blog with your daily experiences on Ambergris Caye. Some things, which may seem mundane to you, is valuable information to those of us either moving, planning to move, or just wish to move to the island.
    Needless to say, I look forward to meeting you someday at Estel’s as I have been there for breakfast a few times myself (I’m partial to the breakfast burrito with Mary Sharp’s).
    Again, thanks for your time and effort, it has made a big difference to me.

    Erik Jensen

    1. Hi Erik
      We haven’t met but I am aware of you.
      Pleased that my blog has been of help. I am going to keep it going and will do my best to cover subjects that may help others thinking about or in the process of making the move.
      Would love to meet you for breakfast at Estel’s.

      Kind regards

  10. Don says:

    John, it was not always about the house …well the house was the conduit we can agree and i came aboard late and have enjoyed every morning read but I quickly realized it was about you reaching out and sharing and it turned out that your musing and sharing is something that you do very well. And all of celebrating and encouraging you in your next phase. I am not sure where each of us on site live (geographically) but all you did was prove once again that somehow and in some way we are all connected. You shouted at the top of your lungs (via key board of course) that you are retiring and entering another phase of your life and wanted to share in a transformation. Yeah, you were building the house and as i mentioned it was a nice conduit to share but your choice of music, your affection for your partner and even taking the time to introduce the guy’s that worked around your home with a name and letting us know when you saw them for the first and did not know their name and committing to get it next time show that it and you were more involved.

    The blog will and should morph into more of you, less of the of the house but more of the life that will be going around you and into the house. You, Rose, the growth and development of your relationship/retirement and its positive effects, Belize and your future adventures as you become less and less tethered to house will become more pronounced in your writings. Whats five miles out in the west, east and north, and then 10 miles out. Where were those folks in the Caya Dreams sail boat going that’s a nice task for you and if you find out that they were going no where..tell us about what nowhere looks like. Lets encourage your web family and new friends in Montana, South Carolina, Montreal, California to add to the blog with view or muse their daily life, dreams, hopes and aspiration and make sure they add a few clips of their life and surroundings so we can get a feel for South Carolina through their eyes as well as whats Montana look like in a pic or two.

    I would like to know who everyone is and it would sure to add even more to the blog to see a couple of Brits show whats out of their front window or down the block. John, I imagine years down the road your blog name stays the same and the millionth subscriber ask where and how did the name of the blog originate and why?

    Just my input…and yes i will share also and with a few pics of Oakland and San Francisco where i have to be to have beer with with a beer drinking meetup group i joined last month. Imagine that! groups that you find on the net and your whole purpose is that you all like drinking beer and want to get together with other people who like drinking beer and you set dates and times to get together just to drink beer with a bunch of people that you don’t know. My last meeting was in downtown San Francisco and 174 people showed up. That was really nice.

    Come on you Brits, Montana folks, South Carolinian’s, Californians, Floridians, Canadians….who is your favorite music artist, a few pics or your street, most comfortable shoes, kids, you and your partner, your favorite beer bar (we want a pic of beer and meal)or your church group if that is part of your life.

    Your friend

    1. Hi Don
      I cannot thank you enough for your note. The thoughts, sentiments and suggestions are really – no, truly- appreciated.
      If do not not mind I would like to reproduce some (or all) of it in a future edition of the blog. Would this be OK?

      Kind regards

      1. Don says:

        John, have at it..misspelled and missing words included……

  11. carrieanng72 says:

    It sounds as if you may have already decided but so as I feel included. 🙂 I too am toying with the idea of a life there. I feel if blogs such as yours give me a peek into what my life might be like if I take the leap. Thank you for letting us peek through the curtains and I do hope you continue.

  12. Paul says:

    Please keep on writing and allowing us to get a glimpse of the ” life ”
    A chronicle on Belize living, along with the joys, trials and tribulations, would make for informative reading.
    Thanks for the entertainment.

    Paul from Montreal, Canada

    1. Hi Paul
      The response (including yours) have been overwhelming and I will be continuing with the blog.

      Kind regards

  13. Julian Foster says:

    Well, John, I can only echo all the other replies: please do keep writing!!

    I, like most of us, cannot take or haven’t taken the plunge that you two have and we can sort of “follow along” and enjoy vicariously as you do what I’d truly like to do myself. That will only happen for me if something were to happen to my better half — and I don’t want that at all – so this is the best substitute to doing it myself!!

    Thanks for the journey so far!


    Julian from Upstate South Carolina, USA

    1. Noted Julian. And am going to. Continue with the blog that is.

      Kind regards

  14. Don Squier says:

    It would be interesting to also follow the progress on San Pedro’s new boardwalk as news on this project is hard to come by.

    Thanks Don

    1. Hi Don,
      Noted. And I will try to oblige. Can tell you now that they have cleared and flattened part of the old football field for the Costa Maya Festival. Looks good but just hope that it doesn’t rain or it could be a real messy event.

      Kind regards


  15. Jennifer Bryan says:

    Please keep writing! Move your focus to “a day in the life!” I have dreams of retiring there and would love to hear about the daily life on the island. Hope that’s interesting to you too 🙂

    Thanks for your daily wisdoms!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Jennifer. It will be adopted.

  16. Shirley says:

    I too enjoy your blog, but also only started reading every day a few months ago but I did go back to look at all the photos . I enjoy watching the progress and to be honest are probably almost as excited as you are to see the progress. It was I can’t wait to see the windows, then can’t wait to see the tiles…(kitchen & bathrooms are next on my can’t wait to see list..) Then when things were done how beautiful it all looks. With us building soon It is making me more anxious to get it going….( but are in the very beginning stages looking for a builder so have a long haul to go yet…) I have also learned some things that I think have to be done when we build ..

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us all.. when it is done I will miss my daily morning read..

    1. Hi Shirley. Pleased that you have enjoyed the blog AND that it has given you some tips for when you eventually start yours. It is nowhere near as bad as some people would have you believe. I think the most important thing for this though is your choice of building contractor. Get a bad one and …
      The feedback I have received thus far had convinced me to keep the blog going. Don’t know what frequency yet. Not what it will feature on but I am sure I will find something to write and take photos about/of.

  17. footballbat says:

    Another ‘both hands raised’ vote for a “Living in San Pedro” blog sir. We may not get back again any time soon and we miss the island. Any occasional updates and photos about Ambergris Caye and events, greatly appreciated.

    And thank you for my regular digital vacations.

    1. Thank you. I am going to keep on blogging. Don’t know exactly what about yet but my thinking cap is on and I have already received some very good suggestions.

  18. Jane says:

    John, although we live just down “the road” (will soon be UP “the road”) and I see your build nearly every day, it doesn’t take on a life without your words. I would love to see you continue to write, as I share your blog each day, with a personal message, to family back home in the US. Content? Whatever’s on your mind or part of your experience as an expat down here would be fun to look forward to reading.
    You need not reach out each day, but staying in touch once or twice a week would be enjoyable. Please do continue…
    Oh, PS. Please clear this up for me. Is the “first floor” the “ground floor?” Always has me baffled.

    1. Morning Jane. Or should I say neighbour (nearly anyway) ?
      Thanks so much for your kind, constructive and helpful comments.
      The feedback I have received already has convinced (persuaded) me to continue with the blog.
      As to the naming convention for the floors, we use different terminology to Daniel. For us the lowest floor (where the self-contained apartment is located) is the Ground Floor with the next two floors (our accommodation areas) being the First and Second Floors.
      Have a great day. Difficult not to here though isn’t it.

  19. Louise Gow says:

    Keep it going please! Once a week would be enough – just “the expat abroad” I am sure you will be having loads of adventures. I will possibly do blog on ours – but I doubt we will be lucky enough to be living there at the same time. But who knows!!

    1. Thanks Louise.

      I hope that I am still here when you make the move. Don’t intend moving myself so….

  20. Hazel Ahmad says:

    Although I got in a little late in the game of your building blog I have enjoyed watching the progress I have seen. Seems like you haven’t had to many problems at all with the build. You lucked out on your building team which is great. Perhaps when my husband and I come to choose our final home fr retirement in 2014 we can catch up for a meal and a chat with yourself and Rose. One of the things that I would like to read on in your blog is what you do to fill in your time there. That’s one thing that is a question for many close to retirement I guess.

    1. Hi Hazel. You may have only picked up on the blog a short while ago but as they say “It’s never too late”.

      We did manage (we think) to choose the right building constructor. But we put in a lot of time drawing up a short list before we made the choice. So, lucky up to a point maybe.

      Your point regarding “what to occupy the time with” is a very good one and one that I will endeavour to cover when the build is eventually finished. Our time though up to now has had the build somewhat “driving” it. Now when the build is finished ???

      When you do eventually make the move then please do contact me. I will be more than happy to provide what help I can.

      Kind regards


  21. John Crossen says:

    We bought property near Hopkins, and intend to follow a similar path in 2-3 years. The insights into the building process has been great. As you continue, to buy furnishings and landscape, that process will also be very insightful. And your daily life activities also provide a really great glimpse of real life (vs the vacation holiday life) there. Don’t stop!!!

    1. Hi John. From the feedback I have received already I am fast deciding that I will continue with the blog . Not too sure though yet what form it will take.

      In the next couple of editions I will make an attempt at the “shopping for furniture and household goods” process.

      Good luck when the time comes (and it will come fast) for your build in Hopkins. A favourite place for Rose and I by the way.

  22. Kat George says:

    I have been following your blog for quite some time and definitely do not want you to stop. Maybe you could do two or three days a week on daily life in Belize. Loved the photos you had up today and it give us an idea of what it is really like there. As for me, my first trip will be in January and I would love to meet you and Rose at Estel’s for breakfast. Definitely do not want to pry into your personal space, but would be interesting to watch the landscaping, etc. More candid shots around town would be great.

    1. Hi Kat. First of all thanks for the kind words. Perhaps a couple of editions a week might be about right – for me and you. Little doubt that there are loads, and loads of photo opportunities.

      I am sure that when you eventually get here you will love it. And please do email me before you set off for your visit because it would be nice to meet you.

      Kind regards

      1. Kat George says:

        will do. cant wait. am so excited.

  23. robert says:

    Hi John. Youve done, well nearly The build of your house. Think you need to do Living in the house , Maybe the Tres Cocos Weekly. Or Johnnies Journal. I know theres a few others out there, but dont think a Brit has taken up the challenge, and lets be honest , your dying to keep up your daily scribblings !!!!

    1. You are right Robert, I do enjoy it. Maybe, as you suggest, a couple of editions a week. Not so sure though that I will call it “Johnnies Journal”!
      Safe journey and have a great time.

  24. bobsteadman says:

    once a blogger………….
    surely you can’t stop till Arsenal win the Prem again?

    1. I think you could be right Bob but until Arsenal win the Prem again? You may have given me a life sentence!

  25. bluesqueen7 says:

    Hi John, Well you know, many of us will be wanting to see the decorating and landscaping process as you and Rose progress towards the move out of your condo into your new home. On another note, is emulsion the same as primer in the states? Thanks, Nancy
    I love to hear about Estels because when we come we stay next door at the Spindrift and Estel’s is always on our short list for meals. I can hardly wait till December to return!

    1. Hi Nancy. Happy to share the experience of the landscaping with everyone but photos of the decorating (all rooms are going to be painted white) will be confined to the rooms in an unfurnished state. The furnishings are what we consider to be particularly personal.

      As to emulsion, no it is not primer, it is the finishing coat(s). They seal the walls first with two coats of masonry sealant.

      Estel’s is always a great place to go and so, so easy to get to if, like you, staying at the Spindrift.

  26. wassuu says:

    Went on that boat about 12 months ago…..lovely guy who lives part of the year at Royal Palms..

    1. Well you got a lot closer than I have managed. So far !

  27. Bob Scott says:


    Please keep the blog going, highlight of my day!! Always interesting to hear about different lifestyles and experiences.

    Good luck with the move into the condo which is not far away.

    Bob Scott

    1. Hi Bob. Pleased that you enjoy reading it and will give serious thought as to what it’s content can be but at the moment I as struggling as to what.

      By the way, its a house we are having built, not a condo.

      Regards John

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