Lunch and a Sledgehammer, a Day of Chaos with Frances Ford Coppola

We knew better than to do this. It had disaster written all over it and when Frances pulled out and started swinging the hammer, we thought we were sunk.

Now a fantastic high end resort in the south of Belize, Turtle Inn is Frances Ford Coppola’s baby. It is not just some hotel he put his name to; he put blood, sweat and tears into building this perfect paradise on the shores of a tiny Central American country. He worked alongside the construction crews, hand picked furniture from Bali and oversaw this dream.


Then he tried to ruin it.


We had agreed to come for the “soft” opening of the resort. We had special guests who wanted to get away for the holidays but we were reluctant. Every bell and whistle in our heads was going off screaming, “DO NOT” arrive at a hotel that promises it will be done on time. They said, “You won’t see so much as a nail or a board. It will be perfect.” But we did it anyways.

We booked our clients into Frances’ private villa. We flew them in Coppola’s private plane. We sweated the weeks before but were constantly assured all would be well.

And to be safe, we arrived two days in advance of our guests and before the hotel opened. It was chaos. Hammering went all all day and night in preparation for the opening. We ate whatever we could pry out of the kitchen as it was being set up for the grand affair. We were still walking across scaffolding in the hotel lobby 24 hours before our guests were to arrive. We pitched in where we could, offering to help. It would be close, perhaps it would all work out. Perhaps, just perhaps, it would be perfect as promised.


And then it happened.

We heard the pounding.

The crashing.

The swing of the sledgehammer.

Frances didn’t like his villa.

So he knocked it down.


Oh shit!


Ummmm…..I said to the manager….can you tell Frances….ummm Mr. Coppola… please to stop knocking down his villa? Yes, I know it’s his but…ummm we booked people into that villa who are arriving in 24 hours….ummmmm HELP!!!!


To which the manger made a sheepish reply that, “ummmm perhaps we should find them in a different villa?”


This is how we met Frances Forld Coppola. He showed up to have lunch with us a few hours later. And we found him actually to be a delightfully, eccentric man, fill of life and piss and vinegar. He was barefoot and scruffy from not shaving and intent on building his dream, which obviously included the walls of his villa in a different location.

Eventually we all had a good laugh over it and took a photo indicating us as the first guests of Turtle Inn.

Turtle Inn Belize

Ridlon and Carin with Frances, First Guests at the Resort


Our guests arrived the next day and settled into a different villa, one with all the walls intact and everything turned out okay. Frances flew off in his plane leaving the villa to those who could put the pieces together again. Us? while vowing never to agree to open a resort again chalked it up to another great adventure.


To Your Adventures,


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