Although we knew that September 10th is a holiday in Belize, St. George's Caye Day
, we hadn't actually planned on attending the parade. I knew there was going to be a parade, because, well, Belizeans have parades for just about every occasion! They need absolutely no excuse to gather and celebrate, and I remembered finding out that there was a September 10th parade last year after we'd already missed it. But we had no idea what time it started.
Turns out it started right as we were finishing up our shopping at Greenhouse. We were literally trapped, as the police and fire truck were coming right along Middle Street as I exited the store with my purchases. No problem -- the parade was colorful, festive, and fun, though ear-splittingly loud (sirens, drums, and pounding music). It was a much shorter, smaller parade than the mama of them all, the Independence Day parade on September 21, which we blogged about last year
Thank goodness we were trapped on the shady side of Middle Street as it was another very hot and sunny day. The poor kids marching, playing instruments, and dancing with their school groups were dripping and swabbing their faces with hand towels, and I felt for them in their polyester uniforms. Hot!
But I'll let the pictures tell the story...
Here comes the parade -- there's no escaping now!
Miss San Pedro
All the kids were so cute!
The kids did a great job with the drums, but they were LOUD!
And speaking of loud, the music blaring from these speakers was ear-splitting...I felt bad for the kids marching right behind this truck!
My poor ears! The noise didn't seem to bother any of the locals -- perhaps they are already half deaf from past celebrations!
Here is where we got trapped -- I'm the one in the ball cap between two young men in the middle of the photo.
Between today and September 21st, everyone in Belize will be in a festive spirit as the "September celebrations" are a really big deal here. As they should be -- this is a young country that is very proud of its independence.
Today we read on Facebook about the Isla Bonita school first-ever "lighted golf cart Christmas caroling parade" happening tonight in San Pedro Town. It sounded promising, and since we'd had to skip the official San Pedro Christmas parade over the weekend since it was raining (hard), we decided it would be fun to give this one a try and to see some of the Christmas decorations in town at the same time, since we don't get to town in the evenings too often.
The parade was advertised to start at 5 pm, so we hustled to get everything together to ride our bikes into town after Paisley's afternoon playtime on the beach. Barry wanted to try riding our bikes instead of taking the water taxi back, as we've always done when we've been in town after dark in the past. We would take our headlamps for riding back in the dark. When we tried them out, mine wouldn't light; it appeared the batteries were dead. When I removed them, I noticed some corrosion on one of them; must have been the salty, humid air here. I should never have left the batteries in the headlamp when I wasn't using it -- my bad. So we'd need to make an extra stop in town for more Triple-A batteries before heading home.
We had a nice ride into town along the beach and bought a four-pack of batteries at Caye Supplies, a fine variety store in town. After many purchases there when we first moved here and needed quite a few basic household items, we heard from our friend Robert recently that we could be getting a 5% local discount, so starting today, I asked for it (we'd bought a few items there earlier today on our grocery ride also) and got it. Sure do wish I'd known this before as we could have saved a little money early on. Better late than never, I guess!
After picking up the batteries, we started cruising around town looking for the parade. No sign of it. However, parades and other events are known to start a bit behind schedule in Belize, so we didn't worry. Barry snapped a few photos of holiday lights in town while we waited around.
San Pedro Town Council building
Official San Pedro Christmas tree in Central Park
Replacing the batteries in my headlamp
Festive holiday decor
By this time it was getting dark, and we continued riding around the main streets of town a couple more times to make sure we hadn't missed the parade. Unfortunately, we saw no signs of it, and we didn't know where the school was or where the parade was supposed to start. The nice picture on Facebook simply said it would be on the streets of San Pedro starting at 5pm. All we can figure is that it started south, and we didn't ride south of the old football field. Or the start was delayed more than an hour.
We were disappointed, but didn't want to wait around too much longer since we figured we might never find it, and we were getting hungry, so we decided to head back. Part of the purpose of the trip was to test out our headlamps and riding home from town after dark, so we could at least accomplish that.
It was plenty light in town with street lights, so we didn't need the headlamps until we crossed the bridge. At that point, we put on our headlamps to continue the rest of the journey back to our condo, another two miles or so.
Just north of the bridge - the last street light
Barry took off pretty quickly, but when I started riding, I immediately realized I couldn't see anything. It was like riding completely blind, on a road full of potholes like moguls and puddles as well, where sight is an extremely important sense to have in order to dodge 'em! I started clicking my headlamp and ended up putting it into a low-beam mode, which provided even less light, and I couldn't get it back to full power. Yikes! Barry, in the meantime, had completely disappeared up ahead somewhere. Hmmm, tonight was not going so well.
I turned around and walked my bike back a short distance to the Paradise Theater, where there was enough light to see what I was doing. I twiddled with the headlamp until I got the high power restored. About that time, Barry rolled up. He had finally realized I wasn't with him and come back looking for me, thank goodness. We played around with the angle of my headlamp and realized that I had had it angled completely wrong to see the road (duh!) Once I angled it properly, I could see great! Whew...I had a momentary panic when I thought I was going to have to ride back completely blind -- and mostly on the beach path (which can be very narrow in places), no less. That would not have worked at all!
The ride back now that I could see was actually a lot of fun. I rode behind Barry so had the benefit of his light as well. It was definitely a little more challenging than riding in the light of day, but we had no problems and made it back just fine. We did hear a lot of barking dogs along the way, so I guess dogs don't like small moving lights in the night. Fortunately, they were all behind fences.
I'll be interested to find out if this parade actually did occur and where we went wrong! Maybe next year....
Sometimes it just seems like the powers that be are conspiring against you. We had been looking forward to the annual San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade all day, and thought we had the perfect plan. In addition to parade day, it was Barry's birthday, so a nice meal at one of our favorite restaurants was in order. We'd take the water taxi into town plenty early enough to get into Wild Mango's right in time for a drink, then have an early dinner when they started serving at 6pm. What we forgot is that for some inexplicable reason, there is no southbound water taxi in the 4 to 5 pm hour, which seems strange to me since that is getting on prime cocktail time. We got out to the Grand Caribe dock in a light sprinkle, only to see on the posted schedule that there is a 3:40 taxi and a 5:40 taxi, but no 4:40 taxi. Sigh!
At least we got to see this lovely rainbow as we contemplated what to do next.
We headed back into the condo to hang out for another hour. I poured a Belikin, and we sat and talked until time to head out for the 5:40 taxi. Now, in the past, it seemed that the taxi was always quite a bit later than the posted time; like fifteen to twenty minutes later. So, we didn't really rush and left our condo bound for the dock at 5:45. Another boo-boo. Right as we were walking towards the dock, the taxi zoomed by, leaving us in the sand. If anyone else had been departing, we could have made a run for it, but we were the lone southbound travelers. Foiled again, Batman!
So now what? We realized that our plans were completely shot; we'd be lucky to get a table outside anywhere on such a busy party night; and we only had our bikes or feet to take us the two miles into town unless we called a land taxi, which would have taken awhile and cost more than we cared to spend. So, we started walking down the beach. Since we'd thought we were taking the water taxi, I didn't have on my best walking sandals and knew I'd have a blister or two long before we made it to town.
We cut over to the road right around Legend's Burger House, and not long after, we were offered a golf-cart ride by some kind locals heading in for the parade. Raul and his wife told us that they managed the Cocotal Inn
right up the way from our condo. During the ride, we enjoyed talking to their grandson in the back seat and realized that we've seen him riding his bike to school when we go on our morning runs. What an articulate and polite young man and so different from many kids his age in the US. They were very kind folks and got us to town much more quickly than we'd have made it all on foot, so we were very grateful for the ride (as were my only semi-blistered feet!)
Once in town we wasted no time hoofing it the rest of the way down to Wild Mango's, but as we figured, they only had one table left, and it was inside, so we decided to try Caliente's. We really wanted to sit outside so that we could view the parade from the table. Their deck tables were full, but they were able to accommodate us by moving a small table out to the balcony from inside. Perfect! We had a nice view of the water through the docks, as well as inflatable Santa on the roof of a dive/tour shop.
We had a good, hearty dinner and a couple of drinks. I really liked their "Pedro Collins", like a Tom Collins but made with rum, and only $8 BZD ($4 US)!
Barry's chicken, rice, and plantain
Oops, don't forget the margarita!
My snapper, potato, and plantain
You know how old people get cold even in warm weather? I now present the birthday boy.... :-)
Okay, so the breeze on this 78 degree evening made it feel a leetle chilly, but at least I'm not wearing FLEECE. Haha!
At one point there was a shower during dinner. Fortunately, like most showers in Belize, it was quite brief, and we'd finished eating, so our food didn't get diluted.
What do you think, would I have made an attractive nun?
Let the parade begin! Barry raced out to a nearby dock to snap most of these shots, while I stayed and watched from Caliente's deck, and had a nice chat with a Canadian couple at the next table. We were impressed with the work that went into decorating these boats, and the pictures can't really do them justice.
Slightly different view of Pirate boat
This one looked especially exotic from where I was sitting, moreso than the photo shows.
The winning entry -- from the San Pedro AIDS Commission. Nicely done!
Part of the central park crowd as viewed from the dock -- what a festive night!
Even wider crowd shot -- seemed like everyone in town must have been here
After the last boat had passed by and Barry was coming back up to join me, he ran into our neighbors Tim and Jean, who kindly offered us a ride home in their large Polaris. We had been planning on walking around some in Central Park and taking the water taxi back, but a ride sounded great. Jean mentioned that there was a cupcake stand in the park, and we hadn't had dessert, so they stopped so we could nab a couple of birthday cupcakes, along with a few more photos in the park. Although I had hoped we could walk around a little more and see more of the booths and decor, there's always next year. It will give us something to look forward to, and I am sure we'll plan a bit better so that we can get to town earlier. San Pedro really knows how to throw a festive party, and it's fun to be among a sea of smiling faces.
So fortunately, the night ended on a happy note, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself. The cupcakes, which we devoured when we got home, were yummy too!
Emily and Jean heading into the park. I've never seen so many golf carts!
Heavenly Cupcake stand
The cupcake guy was darling. What a smile!
Hey, it's Ms. SanPedroScoop! Our buddy in blogging... :-)
The town Christmas tree in Central Park
Today was Belize's Independence Day, 30 years to be exact. This was a HUGE holiday and cause for celebration here, and we were delighted to be a part of it. We walked into San Pedro town to take in the parade, which began at around 2 pm. The roads were absolutely deserted prior to the parade start, because it seemed that nearly everyone in town was either IN the parade or AT the parade, so the golf carts were mostly all parked, and all we saw on the way there were locals walking to the parade, like us. Since today was a national holiday, there were no dump trucks or other commercial vehicles around. What a pleasure!
Walking to town on a hot day without much breeze
Front Street, where food was being cooked and sold. The smoke way down the road was from chicken being grilled.
Emily on Front Street
Middle Street, normally very busy, was a ghost town
Other direction of Middle Street
Once we got to town, we staked out a spot on Back Street, where the parade began. We watched the entire parade from here, and it was such a great time. I've never seen so many smiling faces, dancing bodies, bright colors, or enthusiasm anywhere. The sirens, drums, and music were loud, but it was well worth taxing our eardrums a bit to be a a part of the fun. Barry took a zillion pictures and said it was the best parade he'd ever seen. I concur!
After the end of the parade went by, we started walking back to our condo, only to realize that the parade had now wrapped around to the Boca del Rio beach road, our route home, so we got to see much of it again! It was a hot and sunny day, so the marchers didn't seem quite so fresh by this point, but there was still plenty of cheer in the air. We were delighted to see one of the cooks, Cherette (I hope I have spelled this right), from Grand Caribe all decked out in a very fancy purple butterfly costume, dancing and marching in the parade. She saw me before I recognized her, and gave me such a friendly wave. Living on a small island is a neat experience as you actually see people you know when you're out and about!
Here's a slideshow of the parade photos Barry took. I think you'll agree that the colors are incredibly vivid. He did a great job at capturing the experience!
On the way back, we decided to stop in at the Palapa Bar, just a hop, skip, and a jump south of Grand Caribe, for some liquid refreshment, as we were hot and tired. This proved to be a great decision, as a bunch of people arrived soon after us to liven up the atmosphere, and we soon found ourselves enjoying conversation with an interesting young British woman, who was on "holiday" with her boyfriend for five months! They had started in Mexico and were going to wind their way through Central America, then South America, followed by New Zealand and Australia. What a tour! She said that they had scrimped and saved and worked extra hours for quite a while to save for this long trip, which is the type of thing that is rarely done by US citizens. She was planning to work in Australia for six months before returning home to England after that. Very cool!
Interestingly too, one of the workers at the Palapa knew of us and that we'd been on the island for 3-4 weeks, even though this was our first time stopping in since we moved here in late August. Word really gets around on a small island! Here's a photo he took of us there:
It's hard to tell from this photo, but this palapa is out over the ocean - such a lovely setting!
Palapa Bar -- an Ambergris Caye tradition