When I think back to all the places I visited BB ("Before Baby"), and would love to re-visit with my son, South America tops the list.  It is rare to find a place with such beauty, tranquility, kindness and flavour!  My husband and I spent almost a month backpacking through Ecuador for our honeymoon and, even when I was stuck in a hut in the Amazon with the worst stomach flu I'd ever had, I still enjoyed every moment -- okay, maybe not every moment, but I don't hold a grudge against the Amazon and have even managed to make it into a funny and entertaining story.

In our guidebook was barely a passing mention of a lodge in the Amazon, called Liana Lodge, that turned out to be the highlight of our trip.  It was accessible only by water (after a 2-hour bus ride from the nearest town) and had no electricity.  But it was the perfect spot for us honeymooners.  The lodge had been created as a revenue source to help fund the animal rehabilitation centre the owners had built (called AmaZOOnico, open to guests of the lodge).  The construction of the lodge was very thoughtful: all the lumber used had been cut down by the government to build roads and no trees were cut down to build the huts and common areas - which means huts were built only where a natural clearing existed.  This gave each hut a real sense of privacy. 
We arrived in the middle of low season (late February), and the morning after we arrived all the other guests checked out, leaving just me and my husband to explore the jungle with our local Quechua guide by ourselves. A stay at Liana Lodge includes as many activities as you can cram in:  jungle tours (including some Tarzan vine-swinging), boat rides, AmaZOOnico visit, panning for gold, fishing, etc.

The day before we were supposed to leave, I became violently ill.  The kind owners used their single generator to run the blender to make me a jungle ginger cocktail to settle my stomach.  It tasted awful, but it worked.  We ended up staying a few days more so I could recuperate.  Our extended stay also scored us an invitation to a Quechua wedding of one the employees as they felt badly leaving us all alone.  All the old ladies ladling out the communal chicha (masticated, fermented yucca) had a great laugh at the tall gringo getting chunks of the "beer" in his goatee.  Fortunately, my stomach ailment allowed me a polite refusal of the drink. What an honour to be included in such a personal, intimate event.

We spent almost a week there and as we were boarding the canoe to go back to civilization, the resident monkey (whom I had christened "Manolo") bounded down the stairs to say goodbye.  Now I have my own little "monkey" and can't wait to introduce him to Manolo and all the wonders of the Amazon jungle.

Have you relived any of your "BB" travels?  How did it compare to your first visit?
7/4/2011 01:39:25 pm

We went to NY before kids and saw Broadway shows, stayed up late on Time Square and ate at very adult restaurants. When we returned with two kids and me 8 months pregnant, it was very, very different. No staying up late, no Broadway shows, very swollen feet.

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7/5/2011 02:20:24 am

At 15 & 11 years old, it's hard to remember before and after BB. It just seems as if traveling with kids has enriched our experience.

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7/5/2011 02:30:54 am

Yes, I remember being 7 months pregnant in Greece in August- the last pre-kids trip. But my oldest son does brag about technically having been there. It's nice to be able to be more flexible with the kids now that they are a little older. Greece is back on the list!

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7/5/2011 10:34:20 am

Well, this is more ambitious than any travel I've done before or after kids! But now that my boys are getting a bit older I'm finding that I can once again dream of the kind of travel I did before they were born (and lots of new places too). May you introduce your monkey to the jungle soon.

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