April 2024
2024,  April,  Brayden,  Charlotte,  Family,  Hanleigh,  Vacation

Belize, Brother, Beautiful Prom, & Birthday Bash!

April was another amazing month. We started it off with a very adventurous and relaxing spring break in Ambergris Caye, Belize. This was a new country and stamp for our passports and we were super excited to try something different and off the beaten path. We had been recommended this island by a friend of mine and so I did some research and found this beautiful property called the Alaia resort. It was a very easy flight—only taking us about three hours to get there and when we landed on the mainland, we immediately hopped on a little puddle jumper for a 15-minute ride over the most beautiful seas and landed in Ambergris Caye. Our hotel was only a couple of years old and had a sprawling pool and lots of small villas, which is where we stayed. We had our own kitchen, two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, and a private porch overlooking another pool. It was really gorgeous. The cool thing about this island is that the main mode of transportation is via golf cart. The uncool thing about this island is that those golf carts run on gas, so there is a very strong gasoline odor throughout the island. That was a little bit difficult for me, as I never really got used to it. On our first night there, we went to a fun outdoor restaurant called Palapa, which was just that: a huge palapa that had a live band and some tasty food. While we were waiting to be seated, we went out onto the dock and saw two spotted eagle rays! It was so exciting as we had never seen these before, but we knew exactly what they were. Belize is known to have some of the most amazing sea life in the entire world as it has the second largest barrier reef. The next day, Brayden and I were able to explore the beautiful underwater world when we went scuba diving. While the coral was a bit lackluster in terms of color, the marine life made up for it tenfold. We immediately saw large Caribbean reef sharks, lobster, rays, nurse, sharks, and your typical fish. As a diver, you are very lucky if you get to even see one shark, let alone many. While we were diving, Trent and Hanleigh enjoyed some pool time and we joined them in the afternoon to continue the party. That night, we went to dinner at a place called Caramba’s, which had a very unique dining experience. All their fresh food was on display by the street in different containers and you grabbed a plate, filled it with the fish you wanted and brought it inside where you tell the waiter how you would like each piece prepared. I believe we picked out shrimp, scallops, and hogfish. Of course, Louise Ann joined us for the trip and she loved it, too.

The next day, we relax by the pool and enjoyed watching the NCAA tournament, where NC State beat Duke! We met the most friendly British man who was probably one of the funniest people we’ve ever met as well. That night, we went to Elvi’s Kitchen, where we had to wait a very long time for our food, but it was absolutely delicious and probably one of our best meals. We highly recommend this restaurant. The next day, we went on an all-day excursion that took us, via catamaran, to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve where we saw more amazing fish, then we proceeded to Shark Ray Alley, where they chummed the water and humongous stingrays and tons of nurse sharks converged right next to us while we were snorkeling. We then sailed to Caye Caulker for lunch The Rainbow Cafe where we enjoyed some painkillers with sidecar floaters and then explored the island a little bit by feeding the tarpons (check out the video, it’s pretty comical), and tried to spy some seahorses. On our sail back to Ambergris Caye, we saw some dolphins as well. It was awesome! That night, we came back and dined on property at The Deck. It was extremely windy, so it was a bit hard to enjoy the meal and the food was just okay as compared to the other meals we had had so far. 

The next day, we did more exploring and took a 45-minute golf cart ride to Secret Beach. The water on that side of the island is extremely flat (not much wind) and it’s a tourist trap with beach bars and restaurants lined up side by side with watersports activities available. I’m glad we went, but I’m not sure I would go back. It gave us something to do, which was nice. Plus, we got to explore a side of the island on the golf cart that we would not normally have seen, so that was cool. From Secret Beach we stopped at Rum Dog for lunch and that probably was my favorite meal. As far as the food and the view, it’s a two-story pier with the most amazing views and delicious cocktails. We also saw another spotted eagle ray there, too! That night, we dined at Caliente, which is an awesome Mexican restaurant. Because we enjoyed our scuba diving so much, Brayden and I signed up for another single tank dive the next day and it did not disappoint. We were the first two divers to do a free descent to the bottom and while we were waiting for the other divers to join us, we looked around and there was a very large Caribbean reef shark headed our way, so we were a teeny bit nervous, but more excited than anything else! The shark started swimming upward towards some of the divers that were coming down and then there were three sharks. All of a sudden. It was pretty crazy. They weren’t being suspicious or anything, rather just curious. It was so beautiful and I love how graceful this type of shark is as opposed to the typical black- or white-tip reef sharks that we are used to seeing, who have very erratic behavior and can’t be as trusted. That afternoon, we did a snorkeling excursion to a place called Mexico Rocks, which was pretty good snorkeling as well. That night, we ate dinner at Sandy Toes, which was laid back and played some great music. On our final day in Belize, we intentionally did nothing. We laid around the pool, played some games, read books and we’re just lazy. It was awesome. Trent and I did work out every morning so that was good. All in all, we loved the island and will definitely add it to our list of places return to again! 

Upon reentry to reality, our normal life slapped us in the face with a vengeance. We were back to flag football games (Hanleigh LOVES this sport!), soccer practice and the typical working during the day and weeknight activities. Trent took me on an awesome surprise date night where we ate at Taco Boy, went to a speakeasy called Elsewhere, and then capped the night off at Goldie’s, an all-day music venue that had an amazing country cover band! We did get the chance to see Thad, Trent’s brother, who we had not seen in eight years. Fran and Terry had us over for dinner one night at their house and we enjoyed spending time with him. The next morning, Trent did his annual Waxhaw Trail Fest run while I had lunch with Mimi, Aunt Patty, and Hanleigh at The Office while Brayden was working! It was Mimi’s first time there and she really liked it. After that, we went to Hanleigh’s soccer game and that evening, we had dinner with Nina and Keith, who we had not seen in forever. We went to Puerta, a new restaurant in Elizabeth. It was very tasty! We had an awesome time. 

My dear friend, Tonya, celebrated her 50th birthday and I took her out to dinner to Firebirds. It was awesome having one-on-one time with her! Brayden babysat Aary, our neighbor, and another night she went to the Hozier concert with her girlfriends. We continued with more flag football and soccer practice and I wrapped the month up with a surprise birthday extravaganza for Tonya. I had been planning this for about nine months. Her sister, Mel, flew in from Denver and hung out with her for a couple days, before seven more of us snuck up to her at her house in her kitchen, yelling “surprise”, and then kidnapping her for about 24 hours. We went hiking to Crowder’s Mountain and the weather was beautiful, then we ventured over to Veronet Vineyards for a delicious lunch and some wine. I had rented out the Ballantyne Lodge, which is a very big house that we occupied all by ourselves. Three people in our group went to the spa and had massages while Tonya, Mel, and Kristina went to help Tonya’s daughter get ready for prom. I was doing the same thing as Brayden also had prom that night and so I left the group to go take pictures of her and all her friends. They all look so great, but Brayden was especially stunning. I know I’m biased, but she was just gorgeous! They had a group of 20 kids for photos and all of them went to Dressler’s for dinner before hitting prom at The Revelry at Camp North End. I returned back to the lodge and we all got ready and were scooped up by a black car service that our friend, Koh, had arranged to take us to dinner at Sixty Vines. The dinner was amazing, the wine was fabulous, and the company was even better! Lots of laughs and I even had some tears because our waiter was so good and had such an awesome story that it moved me. We concluded the night with a pit stop at Lost & Found for some dancing. The next day, we recuperated and made our way back home after a tasty breakfast at First Watch.

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