Coppola's La Lancha RUN FOR THE BORDER

Turns out we were just a 15 minute can ride away from the northwest border between Belize and Guatemala, so we jumped in a taxi and off we went in search of more off season adventure. We cleared customs and found another taxi to take us to our hotel. La Lancha is Francis Ford Coppola’s new hotel in Guatamala on the shores of Lago Peten Itza. The drive was easy and beautiful; we wound our way around the massive lake till we arrived at La Lancha.

La Lancha  We were taken to our cabana which was tastefully decorated and had a deck with chairs and a hammock to enjoy while overlooking the lake. Our favorite item in the room was the “Shell Phone” which you could use to call the front desk. Starving, we came directly back to the dining area for lunch. The outdoor dining area was decorated with Guatemalan masks and traditional canoe shells, it was peaceful and breezy with great lake views.It took Santos, one of the staff members, about 2 minutes to connect with my son Micah; we ordered lunch en Español so we could improve our Spanish. Lunch was fresh and tasty and since we were staying Chez Coppola, I washed it down with a cute pink mini can of Sofia Coppola’s Blanc de Blanc. The packaging was as great as it was delicious. Santos told us there were canoes we were welcome to use down by the lake.

We walked down the path seeing lizards and snakes and hearing howler monkeys converse. We managed to launch the canoe and set off paddling into the middle of the lake. Being a Gold Arrow Camp alumni, I felt compelled to share my canoeing skills and expertise with my son. Stroke, feather, recover I chanted. We managed to have some semblance of teamwork and as the winds came up, we headed back to shore and docked. Since our time was short, we had to make the most of every second so we caught the hotel boat to take us across the lake to the town of Flores, which is actually an island in Lago Peten Itza, the second largest lake in Guatamala. It has a great mix of colonial style buildings with cobble stone streets and is filled with charming shops and restaurants. We wandered through the town, watched the local kids play soccer and set off on our mission to find 18 little gifts that represented Guatemala for my son’s class. We found a charming shop filled with brightly colored textiles, painted masks, and trinkets. Micah decided upon handmade Worry Dolls for the girls and wrist bands for the boys.

La LanchaWe watched the sun set and made our way back to the hotel by van in time for dinner. The lake is filled with tilapia, so I had to order this fish grilled on the Parilla. The outdoor dining area is filled with candles at night and I enjoyed dinner with a sumptuous bottle of Coppola’s red. After dinner we went to the loft to play a game of backgammon. After Micah beat me again, I told him we had to get to bed as we had an early start.

TIKAL We woke up to the screeches of the howler monkeys. We sat in bed listening to the sounds of the rainforest all around us. We had a delicious breakfast and jumped in the van to go to Tikal, one of the most important ancient cities in the Yucatan. We passed the time working on our Spanish with the driver. We arrived in Tikal, found a guide, and set off into the dense jungle. We learned about the life if the Mayans and explored the ruins, feeling every bit like Indiana Jones. We climbed up to the top of a few pyramids, overlooking the jungle. It was easy to see how the jungle was trying to reclaim the structures and what a job it had been to free them when they were discovered in the first place. The howler monkeys once again claimed center stage, their swinging from tree to tree and loud chatter made any other conversation difficult. We had a mission for the day, we wanted to see a Tucan.

After leaving the Mundo Perdido, we were in luck and spotted one through the trees. It is mind blowing to grasp the creativity and ingenuity of this ancient culture and it was a treat to spend time in their space. We headed back to La Lancha and ordered exactly what we had the day before cause it was that good and finished with more game of backgammon. Once again, Micah was the champ. We had planned a sunset horseback ride so there was time to grab the canoe and head back out on the lake. Today we felt like seasoned paddlers, and filled with confidence, we paddled far out into the lake. I had to beg Micah to come back in so that I could have a few minutes of rest before going horseback riding, we’d been going non stop since 630am. HORSEBACK EXPLORATION The normal guide for horseback riding wasn’t available but we chose to go anyway with the owner of the horses, his wife and daughter. That turned out to be an even bigger treat. Mario got us saddled up and we set off into the hills with his wife Otelia and daughter Angela.

La Lancha
We stopped at a scenic overlook and were joined by a family of howler moneys and 3 small babies. We sat and watched them play till the setting sun bade us to mount up and continue on. Mario looks after a heard of beautiful cows that were in a paddock we passed by. They were like the sacred cows in India, just better fed. The sun was almost fully set when we said Adios to Mario and his family and thanked him for such an amazing afternoon. We had another wonderful dinner, I finished my wine from the night before and we went to bed. Next morning we bid our goodbyes to Santos and Wilbur who had taken good care of us and headed to the airport. Sometimes I fear that staying somewhere “upmarket”can insulate and isolate you from the true experience of a place and a country, but La Lancha has done an amazing job of keeping it real while still indulging its guests in the better things in life.