We ended up at the Cafeteria del Centro and had a good breakfast. The atmosphere wasn't quite TierrAdentro, but it filled the bill and nourished us for our day of travel ahead.
For our third and final night in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, we decided to go for broke and hit happy hour before going to the restaurant we'd decided on for dinner. Woo-hoo! As we were walking around checking our options, this sign touting two for one margaritas for $70 MX (approximately $5.60 US) lured us right into Ay Dolores! for a couple of drinks and appetizers before dinner.
We tried the tamarindo margaritas, which were excellent. Here's one of my favorite photos of the whole trip, which you'll recognize if we're Facebook friends.
To accompany our drinks, we ordered some of their delicious guacamole, fried cheese, and quesadillas. I loved that the guac was made with red onion and lots of cilantro and have since modified my own recipe likewise.
Our waiter was super friendly, and although I was sure I'd remember his name, sadly, my memory fails me now since it's been over a month. (Yes, I am getting old!) He was very proud of his English and spoke it well, which was a treat for us -- we could actually have a nice conversation, something we didn't get to do often while in this part of Mexico. He had another staff member take a photo of the three of us on his phone, and we also got one on our camera.
For our dinner, we went to Entropia, a French-Mexican fusion place that is the #2 rated restaurant in San Cristobal in Tripadvisor. We got this photo earlier in the day while it was still bright and sunny out.
And here's the interior in the evening.
We decided to stick with margaritas, and they were also offering a two for one happy hour special. Score! Don't tell our friendly waiter at Ay Dolores!, but these tamarindo margs were even better than theirs. And the waiter was obviously French. San Cristobal is a cultural treat!
Barry had a chicken dish that was served with black beans and yet more guacamole. There's no such thing as too much guac, though, right?!
I had the special of the day, which was a really, really nice fish dish, potatoes, and salad. The fish looks rather plain in the photo, but it was very fresh and perfectly seasoned and cooked. I'll never know, but when I ended up with a bad stomach 36 hours later, I wondered if eating this salad was my downfall. I did eat a few other salads in Mexico with no problems, but Montezuma's revenge finally caught up with me on the way back, in Palenque.
One slight negative of Entropia was the little children who came in during our dinner attempting to sell us things. It's pretty obvious that they really only want a peso or two, but they offer little trinkets for sale instead so it's not so obvious they are begging. There was a lot more begging and what I call "aggressive vending" in San Cristobal than the other places we visited in Mexico, from both children and adults. We didn't want or need anything they were selling, but I carried a few pesos in my pocket to give out to the kids. They would normally leave quickly upon getting a peso or two. It's too bad that they are living lives requiring them to do this.
Barry still had a bit of appetite after dinner, so we stopped for him to have a gelato.
I was too full, but it looked good. However, the flavors were unmarked, and having to ask a Spanish-speaking worker what every one was made for an interesting ordering experience!
On our last morning in San Cristobal, we were disappointed to find our favorite place for breakfast, TierrAdentro, closed. We kept walking by hoping they were just opening late, but when 9 am came and went and the door was still locked, we decided we better find another place. We noticed that many restaurants in Mexico don't bother posting their days or hours of business outside; if the doors are open, they're open, and if they're closed, they're closed. Simple as that.
We ended up at the Cafeteria del Centro and had a good breakfast. The atmosphere wasn't quite TierrAdentro, but it filled the bill and nourished us for our day of travel ahead.
After breakfast, we bought a couple snacks for the road. Can you say chocolate?
Not totally related to dining, but having heard what great coffee was grown, processed, and could be purchased, in this part of Mexico, I picked up this bag of organic coffee to bring home to Belize. It only cost me $70 MX (about $5.60 US) and was indeed a special treat. Long gone now, though!
Stay tuned for more from San Cristobal before we head back through Mexico to Belize!
This was our third full day in Hopkins and supposed to be a rest day after two tough days of hiking in the heat and humidity, but it didn't turn out to be very restful! Still, it was a fun day and gave us a chance to see more of Hopkins, finally.
I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog (because we forgot to take a photo) that Angela made us some absolutely melt-in-your-mouth blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Thursday. We hadn't had pancakes in an awfully long time, so they went down really, really easy. And she served them with real -- yes real -- maple syrup. Don't see that too often in Belize. Yum!
Today we were back to scrambled eggs, English muffins, and fruit, which was excellent as well. We were delighted to see mango and kiwi on the fruit plate for the first time. She also served us yogurt every day. These were really excellent breakfasts, especially for being included in our room rate.
After breakfast we headed down the road south a bit doing some casual bird-watching.
We were joined by a couple of dogs who seemed fierce at first -- a Rottie and a Pittie -- but ended up being friendly and just wanted to walk along with us.
We spotted some excellent birds including this Black-Headed Trogan and a while bunch of chatty Olive-Breasted Parakeets. We'd seen both before, but we never mind seeing them again.
We also met one of the cutest puppies you'd ever hope to see. Just tell me this little guy isn't adorable?
We did relax after our walk -- but only for a few minutes.
We knew we wanted to try the pizza at Driftwood Pizza Shack, after reading how good it was on Sharon Hiebing's blog. Our taxi driver from the previous day, Julian, had given us an idea -- why not take a kayak up? It seemed like a pretty long way, but the Caribbean was nice and calm in the late morning, so we figured we'd give it a try. One of the kayaks available at Beaches & Dreams was a tandem, so we grabbed that bad boy and took off.
When we got north of the village, where we knew the pizza place was, I started looking at any possible places along the shore through my binoculars. Before too long we spotted the sign and surfed in to the sand. The wind was up a bit from when we left, and thus the waves were starting to kick up a bit.
It only took us 55 minutes to paddle up there, so we were a little early for lunch. There were two local ladies working at the shack, and they didn't seem to mind that we arrived before their advertised opening time of noon. They were happy to take our order and serve us a cold drink. We had a great place to sit under a palapa.
Here's the menu (all prices in Belize dollars, divide by 2 for US dollars):
And here's what we ordered (medium size):
Here are some of the interesting sights around us as we waited for our pizza.
It took awhile, but our pizza was worth waiting for. It had a crispy thin crust and was really, really good. Thanks, Sharon, for the recommendation!
As I mentioned, the wind had started kicking up a bit as we finished up our paddle. During the time we were waiting for and then eating our pizza, it kicked up even more. By the time we got ready to leave, it was seriously choppy out there. Even worse, the wind direction was southeast, so we'd be paddling into the wind the entire way back. I was not looking forward to it.
I won't lie, it was a TOUGH paddle back. Very tough. It's not like we've been paddling a lot lately, though we have been lifting some home-made milk jug & sand weights (mostly Barry) and doing yoga (me). Still, nothing makes you a stronger paddler than actually paddling, and we just haven't done that much since arriving in Belize. We actually had to resort to tacking so we wouldn't get buffeted by the swells coming directly abeam (like our sailorly term?!) So we paddled a lot farther on the way back in addition to fighting the wind and waves. My shoulders were screaming, and by the end, even Barry was hurting and getting cranky.
We thought that Beaches & Dreams had the very last dock and palapa in False Sittee Point and had been aiming for that from a long way north. Just when we thought we couldn't possibly paddle another stroke, Barry looked over and realized we were THERE. It was the third palapa up from the end, not the last one! Whew! Never have I been so glad to be "home". We wasted no time in making a hard right turn and surfing FAST (no paddling needed in these waves) to the sandy shore. It had taken about twice as long getting back as it had getting to the pizza place, and I think I'd burned off all the pizza I'd eaten (two slices) by the time we pulled up on the sand.
But we were on a roll now, so why stop and take it easy? Instead, we decided to walk up the beach a bit on a reconnaissance mission to scout out a place for dinner. We had read in a Hopkins tourism brochure that the restaurant at Belizean Dreams resort had quesadillas and burritos, which are two of our favorites, so we decided to check it out. Turns out it was the northernmost resort on False Sittee Point, but still only a short walk for us.
We talked with the bartender out by the pool at Belizean Dreams, who told us that the restaurant didn't open until 6:30. Huh? That's pretty late for a beach-front restaurant. We were going to leave, but he insisted on running into the restaurant to see if they could accommodate us earlier. Since we had an early lunch and so much exercise, we knew we'd be starving well before 6:30. Sure enough, they could take us at 5:30. When he told us what they were serving that night, though, lobster pasta, we again were about to pass. We'd just had seafood pasta the night before, so we were really hoping for a little Tex-Mex. But once again he insisted on running inside to ask the chef if they could accommodate us with some quesadillas. The bartender came back out with the news that they could do that. Very accommodating, that's for sure! So, we decided to come back later for dinner.
But first, it was now or never if we were going to explore Hopkins Village. So, it was time to grab a beach bike and go for a ride. See, I told you this "rest" day wasn't very restful!
We rode from False Sittee Point all the way to the north end of Hopkins Village (as far as the road went). We ran into the couple we'd met at the bus station on Tuesday in the village and stopped to chat with them for a few minutes. The road was bumpy in places, and my upper body was feeling really fatigued after the tough paddle earlier. I was kinda glad when the bike ride came to an end and we could truly just relax. This had certainly been one active vacation.
After the bike ride it was time to clean up and get ready to walk up the beach for our old folks' "early bird special". But first, a little swing in the hammock.
When we got to the restaurant, they weren't actually ready for us at 5:30. They said they just needed to sweep the floor, so we ended up going to the bar for a Happy Hour rum punch. They weren't actually ready for us until nearly 6pm. That was some thorough floor sweeping! But, it was okay because there was live music at the pool and bar area, and the weather was great.
When we were called into the restaurant, they were already serving our chicken quesadillas, and we were the only ones eating dinner. There were plenty of guests at the resort, but they were busy drinking and hanging out in the pool. So we had the restaurant to ourselves. The food was delicious, but the air-conditioning was way too cold, detracting from the meal a bit. Service was excellent -- I guess it would be, since we were the only ones there. Our server even went out to the bar to check on our much-delayed second rum punches. I guess the bartender had gotten busy and forgotten, but she managed to fetch them up for us!
They were offering carrot cake as the nightly dessert, so of course we had to indulge. The cake was warm, moist, and delicious. Notice the amount of icing compared to what you'd get in the US. I missed the icing, but I realize this was much better for me!
While we were finishing up dinner, a local Garifuna drumming and dancing group started playing. These guys were great and very representative of the traditional culture in Hopkins Village, home of the Lebeha Drumming Center, where new generations of village children learn the traditional skills. We really enjoyed listening to them and were glad we decided to dine at Belizean Dreams, definitely the place to be on a Friday night!
After an easy stroll back down the beach and some good conversation in the Beaches & Dreams palapa over the water, we went back to the room to pack up for our early trip home the next morning. We'd have to catch the 7 am bus to Dangriga in Hopkins Village, and since we'd missed Tony and Angela, who were heading out to eat right as we got back from our dinner, we left them a note on their gate about morning arrangements and crossed our fingers that they'd find it when they arrived home....
[To be continued]
Taking a break from our frenetic pace of activities, I wanted to do a post highlighting the wonderful dinners we had at the Barracuda Bar & Grill right at Beaches & Dreams where we were staying near Hopkins Village, Belize. As I mentioned in the first post about this trip, we found out that the restaurant was officially closing this week so the proprietors and chefs, Tony and Angela, could take a break (they will re-open in October). However, we weren't too late to attend a tapas party at the restaurant on Wednesday night, their last official night open before their break. It was a fundraiser for the Hopkins Belize Humane Society. Tapas would be even better than a regular dinner in some ways as we'd get to try 12 different dishes, and all food proceeds would go directly to the HBHS. Perfect!
We got a great table with stunning view of the beach. Seated with us were Doug and Jeanette. Doug, who lives in Florida, is a frequent visitor to Hopkins, where he's developing some vacation cabins along the Sittee River. Jeanette, a British expat, is a Hopkins resident and owns a cute little shop in False Sittee Point that seems to offer everything from tours to Belikins. They were fun to talk to as we noshed on some delicious and creative cuisine.
The tapas were brought out in courses -- what a fun way to eat and enjoy so many different dishes. There was one serving for each person at the table; that's why some of the photos show four portions of each.
My favorites of the savory tapas were the fried calamari (loved the crunchy cornmeal in the batter) and the Beef Wellington bites. I am a sucker for anything in pastry!
Next came Angela's amazing dessert trilogy. They were all delicious, but the Chocolate Pecan Caramel Squares were the favorite at our table. Also served were a creamy Coconut Flan and a lip-smacking White Chocolate Grand Marnier Cheesecake with cherries.
It was plenty of food, and for just $35 BZD ($17.50 US) per person, a great deal too!
The next night, Thursday, Tony had promised to cook for Barry and me since the restaurant was closed, and I'd been so disappointed when I found out we wouldn't be able to order off the menu. So, we had a private meal -- what a treat!
We started with an avocado/rice appetizer that was really tasty and beautifully presented.
In addition to the great food, the view wasn't bad either. The wind had really kicked up this afternoon, so the sea was quite choppy.
Our entree was mixed seafood pasta (fish, shrimp, and lobster) with a side of cauliflower and carrots. It was absolutely delicious, especially when paired with a glass of Pinot Grigio. We hadn't had many vegetables since getting to Hopkins, so we were happy to get some. Tony and Angela grow their own herbs for use in cooking and for garnishes, and this basil was just beautiful.
We asked Angela if there were any of the delicious chocolate squares from the tapas dinner left over that we could have for dessert. There wasn't much, she said, but she was able serve us a small square each with a bit of vanilla ice cream. It was a wonderful way to top off a great meal.
We certainly appreciate Tony and Angela's time and trouble in serving us when the restaurant was actually closed. We hope to get back during their regular season sometime as the menu looked great, and we already know that they are both very talented chefs!
Our friend David had a golf cart for the week so suggested he drive the three of us down to a restaurant south of town for dinner. Normally we go to eat out right in town since we (and David) live north of the bridge and have no vehicles other than bikes, so getting to restaurants south of town is not impossible but inconvenient. David picked us up at Grand Caribe last night, and away we embarked on our adventure to Casa Picasso -- and with the roads in the shape they were in, it really was an adventure!
The road north of town had already been riddled with potholes, but thanks to 2.5 inches of rain on Tuesday, these potholes were now filled with water. And in some cases (cough...Reef Village...cough), deep water. We plowed through the "great lakes" as we headed southward, and as we approached the incline of the Sir Barry Bowen bridge, the golf cart stalled out. Oops! It really wasn't surprising considering that the water in a couple of the "lakes" reached almost to the floorboard.
A couple of locals in a cart behind us stopped to survey the situation (yes, the cart had plenty of gas), and Barry got out and pushed the cart back off the bridge and out of the way. I jumped out of the cart to snap a couple of photos, and before long, David got the cart going again. I even jogged over the bridge to keep the weight in the cart down as he drove it over the only real "hill" in town!
Even after we crossed the bridge into town and onto the paved road, the fun wasn't over as we had to negotiate the muddy, unpaved detour in town while Middle Street is under repair near Castillo's Hardware. And after getting through town, the road in front of the Belikin distributor and around in front of Casa Picasso is unpaved and puddly as well. We were very happy to see this sign!
We had never been to Casa Picasso before but had heard great things. And it didn't disappoint. The decor was bright and attractive, with lots of local artwork on the walls.
Service was polite, professional, and attentive. Since this is low season, we had the place to ourselves for much of our meal, though more diners arrived near the end of our meal.
The food was deliciously prepared and lovely to look at as well! The three of us shared two Tapas (which we forgot to photograph), but here are the descriptions -- I took a photo of the menu since we gobbled up the food so quickly!
And we each tried a different entree, all of which were wonderful.
David's entree: Malaysian Style Rendang Pork Ribs -- Tender pork ribs, braised in lemongrass, ginger, garlic chili sauce, fresh coconut, turmeric & coconut milk, served with coconut turmeric rice and acar (Malaysian style pickled vegetables)
Barry's entree: Vegetable Lasagna -- Homemade rolled pasta layered with fresh vegetables, tomato sauce and cheeses, served with an organic salad & garlic bread
My entree: Curry Rice Noodles with Sautéed Vegetables (v) -- Asian inspired curried, sautéed rice noodles with fresh seasonal vegetables & local chaya
Portion sizes were generous, and I even had enough to take home half of my entree for lunch the next day. We skipped dessert, but I have a feeling those would have been lovely as well. Maybe next time! Our waiter served us complimentary shots of Limoncello after our meal, a perfect way to end the meal.
Here's a big pond on the road right outside the restaurant:
On the drive home, we remembered to take photos of some of the worst road moguls and ponds up around Reef Village. Wish we'd gotten these shots earlier while it was still light, but I think you will get the idea. Fortunately the golf cart held up just fine this time with no more stalling out. It is worrisome to realize that this is just the beginning of rainy season here, and the the window on grading the road has probably come and gone, as it may not dry out for many months now. The road just doesn't drain properly and is badly compacted from all the vehicles driving on it when it is in this condition.
Despite the challenges in getting there and back, we had a lovely evening and can recommend Casa Picasso to anyone who enjoys upscale, eclectic dining. This is really a gem of a restaurant that reminded us of nicer places "back home" in the US. The owners, Adam and Jackie, couldn't be any friendlier, and they've created an attractive and unique spot with an obviously talented kitchen staff and excellent service as well. Check it out!
Waiting on the water taxi
Friday was our 27th wedding anniversary, so we decided we'd splurge on a dinner at Red Ginger at the Phoenix. We had stayed at the Phoenix on our very first trip to San Pedro in celebration of our 25th anniversary and had our anniversary dinner at Red Ginger then, so it seemed fitting to go back again two years later. Given all the rain lately and puddly roads, we even splurged on the water taxi instead of taking our bikes. This meant that I could actually wear a dress and not arrive at the restaurant sweating and messy!
The restaurant was just as attractive and classy as we remembered, and the food every bit as good -- and a visual treat as well. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, a rare treat as pricey as wine is here in San Pedro. Since it was our anniversary, they even gave us one of our desserts on the house. Thanks Red Ginger!
Our waiter told us he'd done some wedding photography in the past, so we were happy to have him to take our photo together.
We shared a molten chocolate cake and caramel apple cheesecake for dessert. Very decadent!
Last night we were dinner guests of Bernie and Doris at Blue Water Grill to celebrate Doris' birthday. Also in attendance were Doug from Grand Caribe, a very funny and colorful guy from Montana, usually seen sporting a cowboy hat; and Rene and Caroline, other friends of Bernie and Doris. Rene and Caroline run Sundancer Properties in San Pedro and were married on the beach at Grand Caribe the very day we arrived in town (August 27th). We had a delightful dinner with plenty of good conversation, many laughs, and an abundance of Merlot. Since some of you will remember my lamenting not having any wine since our arrival, you will know that I enjoyed this!
Barry and I had walked into town for the dinner (approx. 2.5 miles, so we earned our dinner!), but took Coastal Express home since it was well after dark (9:30 to be exact, what party animals we are!) It was our first time on the water taxi, and we thoroughly enjoyed the fast ride to the Grand Caribe dock. Only wish it could have lasted longer.
In other news, our shipment of belongings from the US has arrived on the island! We are anxiously anticipating its delivery to our home tomorrow morning. We were hoping for this afternoon, but the container didn't get unpacked in time. We are so ready to have our bicycles as our feet are getting really tired from the walk into town each day!