This past weekend, we started teaching our 7 and 8 year old nephews Spanish. They actually insisted on it, when they spotted our collection of children’s Spanish books, which included translated versions of Madeline, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), The Little Mermaid and so on. They looked up words in our pocket dictionary, giggled as they called each other various insults in Spanish, and practiced reading aloud. The amazing thing? Their supple little brains soaked up everything. The word Que is pronounced with a hard K sound, not like Cu in Queen. Two LLs make a Y sound. Me Gusta means I like. I would say it once and they would remember and move onto the next question. “Christine, how do you say butt in Spanish?”  Ask your uncle.

I bring this up, because I caught myself daydreaming about how cool it would be to really sit down and teach these boys. I could download some lessons, we could watch Finding Nemo dubbed in Spanish, and they could memorize the lyrics to Feliz Navidad. Then I remembered.  Right.  I’m leaving in a week.  Oops.  Well there’s always public schools.   Good luck boys!   (Just kidding, they will definitely get some Spanish themed Christmas gifts from Auntie this year).

So where the heck are we going? Well as I announced in last week’s post, ultimately our goal over the next 6 months is to find our way through South America.  On the way, we’re are planning to stop for a few weeks in different countries, renting apartments as we go.  Here is Part 1 of our itinerary:

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideas

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I need some sun, beach and warm weather.  We’ll be renting an apartment for a bit, while I shake off this New England chill I’ve recently acquired.

It’s a tourist town, but I’m hoping to settle in off the beaten path.  Then we’ll definitely check out the fish tacos and ceviche.  I look forward to reintroducing the dogs to the ocean.  Last time, they were very shocked to discover that gulping sea water was a bad idea.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasBelize City, Belize.

If I could find a beach hut with wifi, we’d be all set.  Belize has great snorkeling, which I haven’t done in quite a while.

Belize City is the largest in Belize with a mere 70K population.  I imagine this will be the beginning of the transition from the bustling cities of Mexico, to smaller fishing villages and less dense development.  We’ll likely take a few trips to the rainforest, cave systems and Maya ruins.

Then a nap.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasAntigua, Guatemala

The entire city of Antigua is a World Hertitage site, and I hope it lives up to what I’ve read.  We’ll be taking classes here for a few weeks and I plan to fill up my camera’s memory card.

It’s a large tourist destination (because it’s gorgeous) but we’ll be spending a little extra time here because of all the cheap language schools.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasTegucigalpa, Honduras

To be honest, we weren’t sure where to go in Honduras.  It’s one of those things where we aren’t sure what to expect.

Tegucigalpa is the educational center, with several universities, so it seemed like a good bet.

Honduras also borders the Caribbean sea, so don’t be surprised if we ditch school and head down to the beach for a few days.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasSan Salvador, El Salvador

More Spanish classes, plus a bustling city life.  San Salvador has 6 lane highways– it’s big.  Plus it’s located at the base of a volcano, how cool is that?  When you think of San Salvador, do you imagine cosmopolitans?

When the smog gets to be too much, well head to the western coast and explore the Playa Los Cobanos.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasManagua, Nicaragua

A friend of mine went to Nicaragua several years ago, and I’ve been dying to go there ever since.  He told me about this lake with two volcanoes and fresh water sharks.  At the time I google earthed it to comfirm he wasn’t making this stuff up.

During this trip, we’ll likely be stopping in Managua, then heading out for a week completely offline.  A side trip to the Spanish city of Granada is in the works too.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasSan José, Costa Rica

Everyone loves Costa Rica.  We’re starting out in San Jose, and then moving out to see a little of everything.  Hot springs, Volcanoes, Beach, Nature Reserves and so on…

Oh and the coffee.  Is that reason enough to visit a place?  I’m voting yes.  But actually, what I’d really like to do?  Learn how to surf.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasPanamá, Panama

By the time we make it here, I predict we’ll be a little tired.  It’s a huge milestone in our trip, the last destination in Central America before we make the leap to South America.  Of course we’ll enjoy the city, get settled in, but I’m sure we’ll have one thing in mind– what waits for us in South America!

Sounds a little ambitious now that I laid it all out, but the one thing I found as I researched this trip, is that Central America is not nearly as scary as everyone makes it out to be.  The next question:  How to get from Panama to South America.  Hint:  You can’t drive there.

If you were going to Central America, where would you want to visit?