Nova Scotia Odyssey from Storied Wheels

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake

John Lamkin

One might get the idea from the wagon wheels strewn the length of the trail from Barrington up to the Barrens that this was an ancient wagon-train road.

This story starts a long time ago, arriving in Nova Scotia after a cross-country journey in the old van, loaded with what was left of our worldly possessions after a couple of months unloading at flea markets. Worldly possessions had caused the axle of our van to break and the wheel to go off on its own as we were heading out of San Francisco on our odyssey. Deciding so many worldly possessions were a burden, we stayed longer and flea marketed some more, then got on the road again.

Jayme and I had bought 149 acres of Nova Scotia land sight unseen from a catalog of cheap land for 3,300 good old U.S. dollars.

We found that the land was about six miles upriver from the coastal town of Barrington with no passable roads, so we decided to get an ox. We borrowed a truck and went to Yarmouth where they were selling oxen. Moo (the locals thought we were crazy naming an ox Moo) was one of a young pair. We hated to separate them knowing that they had bonded, but he quickly became at home with us.

Now we needed a wagon and yoke, so we asked around. A local person knew of one that might be for sale. We went to look at it. It appeared to be in pretty good shape for its age (guessing about a hundred years). It came with extra wheels, which came in very handy later as we went through quite a few on the rough trails to the land.

Now we needed to paint the wagon (traditional red) and train Moo to pull it. I hitched Moo to the yoke, the yoke to the wagon and began the training (Moo or myself?). I went up and down the road many times trying to instill the idea of going forward, turning and stopping. Moo, on the other hand, tried to convey the idea to me that he didn’t give a damn. At the end of the day we had both learned a little and I was covered, head to foot, with slow-drying red paint.

Moo helped immeasurably in building our small house, hauling materials up the six miles from town. We shared quite a few adventures the year we were there.

The sad ending to this story is that after a year of building and living in our house, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told us that, being illegal immigrants, we had to leave or become deportees. Seeing little other choice, we loaded the wagon with our remaining worldly possessions, hitched up Moo and headed out. We found a buyer for the little house, a neurosurgeon from Maine, and sold Moo to people in the village with the understanding that he would have a good home until the end.


John Lamkin is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He is a board member and global membership director for the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. He is widely published online and in print. Lamkin has been a SOMOS member sporadically almost since its inception.

This story was published in SOMOS’ anthology, Storied Wheels.
Edited by Barbara Scott
ISBN 150-2341042



¡Otoño! The Arroyo Hondo Valley is alive with color

Bob & Sally's House

Bob & Sally’s House

¡Otoño! The Arroyo Hondo Valley is alive with color. The fiery aspens on the Sangre de Cristo mountains have dimmed now, but there still fire in the Valley.

The acequia is running next to our house. It doesn’t look like an irrigation ditch, it looks more like a small stream cascading down the gentle slope of the hill, next to the pond outside, next to our bedroom door — a beautiful way to wake up in the morning.

Morning walk in the Valley, on the rim of the Valley, beautiful. Cotton-like clouds in the pristine, blue sky. On the road a coyote crossed right in front of me just after I had turned my camera off. I tried to snap a photo when she was in the middle of the field but, being too shy, she would not cooperate. Many signs of animals: cottontail rabbits dashing across the road, new elk tracks — they probably came through just this morning. Bear scat in the middle of the road, lots of activity.

I hope where you live is this beautiful, this energizing, this life-giving.

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Celebrating Day of the Dead and Halloween


Calavera dispensing mescal

Calavera dispensing mescal

Just in time for Day of the Dead and Halloween here’s a little story published on Travel Chronicles see page 45…

How do you celebrate these holidays where you live?



Alta Gracia at her Altar - Teotitlan ©John Lamkin Altar, Cemetery ©John Lamkin Cemetery Day of the Dead Decoration ©John Lamkin Cemetery Day of the Dead Decoration Detail ©John Lamkin Cemetery Teotitlan 2 ©John Lamkin Day of the Altar -  ©John Lamkin Day of the Dead floral arrangement - Teotitlan Market ©John Lamkin Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls - Teotitlan Market ©John Lamkin Day of the Dead Teo Cem Oa Traditional Day of the Dead Bread - Teotitlan Market ©John Lamkin Traditional Day of the Dead Bread 2 - Teotitlan Market ©John Lamkin Women Shopping for Day of the Dead Flowers - Teotitlan Market ©John Lamkin



Storied Wheels, SOMOS’ new anthology

Storied Wheels, SOMO's new bookSOMOS, The Literary Society of Taos, is kicking off their 15th Annual Storytelling Festival  with a book launch featuring SOMOS’ newest publication, Storied Wheels, at Mesa Brewing Company on Thursday, October 23rd at 7pm. Come by grab a brew and check it out.
(My – very – short story, Nova Scotia Odyssey, is on page 249. Come by and say hi)

Somos_Storied Wheels_order form_FINAL-1

Luxury in ancient Mayaland. Hotel Marina Copán, Copán, Honduras, Central America

Hotel Copan Marina

Hotel Copan Marina

Story and photographs by John Lamkin

One place that I think should be on everyone’s bucket list is the amazing old Maya city of Copán. This is the best and most complete of the restored ancient Maya cities I’ve seen—and I’ve seen quite a few.

The next attraction on this list is the beautiful Spanish colonial, cobbled-street town of Copán—right next door to the archaeological site. This is a beautiful, clean and safe-to-walk-at-night town.

And, the best place to stay in Copán is Hotel Marina Copán. This excellent fifty-room hotel was the first hotel in the town and now the best. It is right near the main Plaza and less then a mile from the ruins. The architecture is Spanish colonial, with high, beamed ceilings and red tile floors and walkways. The bed frames and wardrobes are made of stunning tropical hardwood. Local artwork adorns the walls and plants abound. Room service may be had from early morning until late, when the restaurant closes and, if you are driving, the hotel has private secure parking.

The free-form swimming pool is in the center of the courtyard, surrounded by tropical plants and flowers and is very inviting to take a dip. The pool is surrounded by ample seating to eat or observe and has a waterfall and hot tub. There is a bar, Jaguar and Venado, next to the pool with inexpensive drinks and a tranquil atmosphere.

The hotel has a complete gift shop near the lobby, but, for one, I find shopping with the vendors on the street more enjoyable. The hotel does have a basic gym and sauna and massages are available on request. The WiFi is reasonably fast (actually better than I have at home).

The food in the two-story restaurant is enjoyable and inexpensive. Try the Honduran comida tipica—the local dishes of the country. The bilingual wait staff are friendly and helpful, always with a smile—which is typical to the country. The breakfast buffet is a gastronomical treat, with an egg/omelet chef to custom design that part of your meal.

The local Welchez family owns the hotel and it is managed by the two brothers. The family also has a coffee plantation to which they provide tours. The Welchez Coffee is widely distributed and available to purchase online. Their tour company, MC Tours, also provides tours to other local attractions. MC Tours has been in business since 1991 serving Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize, and is the only mainland Honduras tour company with a full operation in Roatan Island. The Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve is a must see, with rescued birds—macaws, parrots, hawks, toucans and more. They also have a small coffee farm on site. The coffee is sold only in their gift shop. The coffee grown there, as with the Welchez’ is a full-bodied blend—delicious.

I came here on a luxury tour with Maya Temple Tours from San Pedro Sula, the capital. Maya Temple Tours has great service and will customize a personal tour if you like. I was on assignment to do a Honduras luxury real estate article, so that was the focus of my personal tour. I would do it again in a New York, that is, Maya second.


Hotel Marina Copán

MC Tours

Maya Temple Tours

Taca Airlines flies out of several US hubs

Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve

Cafe Welchez

Copan Coffee Tours

Luxury Latin America

See the story on the EXAMINER

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Barefoot luxury in Placencia, Belize – Chabil Mar Villas

© John Lamkin

The driver took us a short way along this narrow peninsula that is Placencia, through the heavy, expertly carved, gigantic wooden gates and into this eye-popping lush tropical paradise. We had arrived at Chabil Mar.

The first thing I noticed was the verdant, tropical landscaping, flowers, shrubs, trees everywhere, and the ever present coconut palms lining the pristine, white sand beach. The next was the friendliness of the staff, including the driver that picked us up and took us there.

We were handed a cool, tropical drink and escorted to our villa by the friendly concierge, while all the way she was cheerfully explaining the ins and outs of the resort. One interesting fact was that there was no dining room. Eating was wherever you wanted—in your villa, on your deck/balcony, by the pool, near the bar in the charming palapa, with comfortable seating and a soothing sheet pratfall separating the space from the bar, on the wonderful dining deck overlooking the beautiful Caribbean—wherever you wanted. And, what we found was that usually one of the staff would find you around mealtime and ask where you wanted to eat. By the way, the food was excellent.

When we arrived at our villa, a spacious and luxurious, accommodation, we found that, being valentine’s day, the staff had made the most elegant and exotic floral arrangement I’ve ever seen visiting these luxury resorts. It was replete with the customary swans, a giant heart with “BE MY VALENTINE” written in flowers—bougainvilleas, hibiscus, and other flowers. And, as we entered the front door, a path of bougainvillea petals had been strewn all the way to the bedroom with this fantastic arrangement covering the bed.

Our villa was tastefully decorated (all were decorated differently), with an ample, comfortable living room, dining for six (if you wanted the crowd) and a full kitchen with all modern appliances. The bedroom was also ample with its own balcony. The bath was beautifully appointed and next to it was a small room with a washer/dryer. You could live here indefinitely. On the bar, separating the kitchen and the living area, we found the daily Chabil Mar newspaper announcing the valentine’s day dinner and activities, welcoming us and other arriving guests by name.

As we were finishing our welcome drinks at the umbrella table on our private deck, one of the amiable staff (as they all were) came by and asked us if we needed anything and if we knew where we wanted to eat lunch. We opted to eat right there, on the deck, surrounded by the profusion of blooming flowers.

Chabil Mar is an exclusive, small, boutique luxury resort with 22 lovely villas, two swimming pools, a newly expanded palapa (thatched roof) bar, a pier leading to another palapa over the waters of the Caribbean with seating, tables for dining and just a very tranquil spot to hang out and look at the beach or the stars. All this, along with the best stretch of white sand beach around, make this spot the penultimate in barefoot luxury.

Many of Chabil Mar’s guests have the resort arrange one or more of the exciting trips offered–visiting the world’s second largest barrier reef, sailing, diving, fishing (the chef will prepare a meal from your catch for you), or visiting ancient Mayan ruins, or the jaguar preserve, and many more. We opted for a little beach time and an occasional trip into town to look around or dine at one of the fine restaurants.

Chabil Mar is ideally situated between the Tropic Air terminal (which services many destinations in Belize as well as Roatan, Honduras and Cancun, Mexico) and the small town of Placencia–a short taxi or bicycle ride away (the resort provides bicycles).

English is the language of the country, making it an easy choice for people traveling from the United States and Canada, but it attracts Europeans as well who are looking for unspoiled tropical destinations to discover. It’s less than half an hour by small plane from Belize City and there are frequent flights both in and out of Placencia, a place formally thought to be very difficult to get to.

Whether looking for a quiet, laid back beach holiday or an exciting, active visit, both can be found at this lovely tropical paradise.

If You Go

Getting to Belize:

Both United and American Airways have flights from the U.S. to Belize City, Belize. Placencia is serviced by Tropic Air.

Belize Tourism Board

Placencia, Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America

Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America

Where to stay in luxury:

Chabil Mar Villas




John Lamkin is a born-again travel journalist and photographer based in Taos, New Mexico and in Mexico. He writes (and photographs) about travel, food, wine, luxury, budget, gear, tech. and more. He is Global Membership Chair of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. He travels the world in search of something new in culture, cuisine and drink. Look for John Lamkin’s photographs in a new BOOK, OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of the Heart (written by Examiner’s Susanna Starr with Photographs by John Lamkin)


Alternative Energy House near Taos, New Mexico

Casa Juan Galan

I’m posting the #TinyHouse here because it is for sale and selling it will enable me to travel more :-)

There are many photos on the site and the blog, but here are some recent ones. We’ve had some great rains lately and flowers are blooming and everything is green.

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Tibetan stupa in distance

Tibetan stupa in distance

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Wild aster

Wild aster

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Wild 4 O'clock

Wild 4 O’clock

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New bookcase

New bookcase



Front room - new furniture

Front room – new furniture

Chabil Mar, luxury in Placencia, Belize

Chabil Mar Villas – Placencia, Belize
2284 Placencia Peninsula Road, Placencia, Belize

Offering a more DIY alternative to service-oriented Robert’s Grove (outside of town) and Turtle Inn (a short walk away), Chabil Mar offers large, fully-equipped villas that can be rented by the night and has the most picturesque beachfront in the area.
Chabil Mar

With 20 spacious suites of one or two bedrooms, Chabil Mar offers Placencia visitors a way to stretch out and have a big kitchen without having to commit to a week–long rental. Each unit has a large living room area, a full kitchen with high–end appliances, a washer/dryer setup, and at least one private terrace or balcony. The property functions more like a hotel, however, with maid service, two large community pools, kayaks, and the Kaleidoscope Bar and Lounge, a well–stocked, recently expanded bar area.

Chabil Mar bar

Situated bike riding distance from Placencia village on the way to the airport, the resort sits behind a gated entrance (no non-guests allowed) and has the feel of a small community. Families are frequently found enjoying one of the two infinity pools and the beach with lounge chairs and cabanas or taking out the complimentary bicycles or kayaks for exploring. The six buildings with blue roofs and dark wood balconies are intersected by paths and lush tropical landscaping. The owners continue to tweak and improve the facilities, making the most of their waterfront location by installing oversized lounge chairs on the pier and beach.

Chabil Mar pierSince our last review, Chabil Mar’s owners have enlarged the pier to accommodate more lounging and sunning chairs under lit the pier and added more lighting to the landscape for a stunning evening effect. They installed Cafe Mar, featuring beach–side dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner; plus they built a new lounge area complete with chaise lounges and other seating attached to the cafe. The beach now cushioned lounges with umbrellas and mini cabanas.

Dining options at the resort are myriad. You can dine at Café Mar beach side, on your villa’s veranda, poolside, on the pier, or at Kaleidoscope Bar & Lounge. They will also cook and serve your day’s fishing catch for you. There are also outdoor grills with tables and seating in the beautiful nearby palapas for DIY cooking, making this a good bet for families who don’t want to be a in a restaurant for every meal. Each villa has a fully–equipped kitchen for another cooking option.

Chabil Mar Hotel

The resort also offers the option of a private chef and custom menu. During our stay, the staff was always able to find us at the appropriate time and ask what dining option we desired. A nighttime recommendation is on the pier or Café Mar under the stars. Very romantic.

The 400 feet of beachfront is a pretty spot for swimming and sunning. If you don’t feel all that comfortable on the water you can take outChabil Mar beachfront a paddle boat or kayak, or just play volleyball on the beach. The staff is accustomed to setting up excursions to inland Maya ruins and jungles or working out snorkeling and diving trips offshore. Some of the off–site options are an afternoon or overnight private island party, flats and deep water fishing, and hiking in Belize’s Jaguar Preserve.

The air–conditioned villas here are all furnished in different styles, ranging from Caribbean colorful to Mexican to pseudo-European, with eclectic local art work adorning the walls. Each unit has plenty of sitting room inside and out and most bedrooms are big enough for a queen or king. The honeymoon suite has a huge 4–poster bed and a granite and stainless steel kitchen, plus an additional half bath. The two–bedroom Oceanfront Villas have terrific vistas as well as contemporary baths, stunning kitchens, and several TVs with DVD players.

Chabil Mar lounging

All have at least a partial sea view. All units have complimentary wireless internet access, more than enough utensils, dining tables, electronic safes, robes, and fine linens. Kitchen appliances go well beyond the basics to include things like blenders, juicers, and coffee grinders. Much of the furniture and cabinetry is made in Belize from local hardwoods.

Transfers from the airport are complimentary for guests and golf carts are available for a jaunt into town. Children 12 and under stay for free but additional guests incur a $50 charge.

If you’re looking for fine dining, a large service staff, and high design, Turtle Inn is probably a better choice. But if you want your own kitchen, a quick hop to the beach, and a spacious apartment feel, Chabil Mar offers a great environment for chilling out in Placencia.

Web Address:
Total Number of Units: 20
Published rates: $250-$550 1BR, $325-$650 2BR without meals or taxes.

Review and photos by John Lamkin
Read the source at Luxury Latin America.

Nova Scotia Odyssey

Nova Scotia Odyssey an upcoming story….

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake, Nova Scotia

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Odyssey is a tale that will appear here soon (more or less). It’s hinted at in this story in Your Life is a Trip dot com where you will meet one of the main characters. Until then.

Cheers,    John