The fruit and vegetable markets in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico were a feast for the senses!  Although we do get some excellent fresh produce in San Pedro, the markets here have limited offerings compared to the bounty available right across the border in Mexico.  We wished we could have taken advantage of the many wonderful-looking, healthy foods for sale, but without a kitchen or any form of refrigeration, we savored the colorful produce bounty with our eyes instead of our palates.  Still, we thoroughly enjoyed our walks through the markets, dreaming of what we could create with these beautiful, nutrition-packed local foods.  Hope you'll enjoy feasting with your eyes as well!
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Fresh tortillas!
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A rainbow of purple, pink, and black beans
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Guacamole for everyone! Mmmmmmm...
Stay tuned for more from San Cristobal before we head back to Belize!
 
There are several areas in which vendors ply their colorful wares in on the street or in booths in the charming city of San Cristobal, Chipas, Mexico.  Today's post features photos from the "merchandise" markets (mostly textiles) from our December trip.  The fruit and vegetable markets will be featured in Part 2.  

I very much enjoyed strolling around these colorful markets and bought a few items at excellent prices.  Even Barry seemed to enjoy himself, and he usually hates shopping.  Bargaining is expected, though if the first price offered was very low, I usually just went ahead and paid it.  These people surely don't live easy lives, and I feel guilty if the price is too low.  These markets are just another reason to love Mexico!

Some vendors simply set up along the streetside...
while others have simple stands to display their wares.  I bought a small zippered change purse here, and just look at this lady's smile.  Priceless!
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Here is where I bought my pretty shawl/scarf for a great price -- no need to bargain
Here's a view of just a small portion of one of the larger markets.  I could wander around here for hours!  One thing that amazed us most is that these vendors have to set up and tear down their displays every night, hauling the clothing and other merchandise home in large bundles both ways.  It's a hard life, and that's one of the reasons I didn't want to haggle too much.  
I wish we'd had room to bring back more -- with prices so good, I would have loved to pack a bag full of these cute blouses!
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I just love all the color
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Love these bedspreads (tablecloths?) Whatever they are, the colors are gorgeous!
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Busy marketplace -- not only for tourists but locals too, especially with Christmas right around the corner
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Love these!
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And these -- look at the peacocks!
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Something for the kiddies -- and to keep all the Mexican dentists in business!
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Another purchase -- the turquoise scarf for less than $5 US
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And a fresh-squeezed OJ for Barry for 10 pesos (80 cents!)
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Birds and peacocks are a recurring theme - beautiful!
On our last night in San Cristobal, we finally decided we had bought enough small items over the course of our trip that we really needed a duffel bag since we were only traveling with smallish backpacks, and they were already very full when we left Belize.  So we bought this one, and we did have to bargain hard for it.  Compared to the other items we purchased for a lot less, we probably overpaid for this at approximately $16 US, but it was a godsend for the rest of our trip.  I guess zippers drive the price up!
Stay tuned for Part 2 as we explore the fruit and veggie markets of San Cristobal!
 
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One of many city parks
Merida, in the Yucatan state of Mexico, is a historic city with so much to see.  We spent our three days in the city walking until our feet were tired, taking in the interesting sights, local color, and architecture all around us.  Here's a sampling....
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Absolutely loved the color of this colonial home
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Statue in one of many city parks
We knew we were not in Belize any more when we saw this store!  I must admit, we did take advantage of the lower prices on toothpaste and a couple of other small things, but we were traveling so light we couldn't buy much.
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Red sky at night...
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Traditional bull-fighting ring. I think it's gruesome & gory, but it's part of the history of the area.
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Plaque showing founding of the city -- 1542. That's old!
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Pedestrian art walk downtown
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Busy marketing day
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Artisans' Marketplace
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Inside the Artisans' Marketplace
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There's not much you can't buy here, including beautiful flowers
The sidewalks downtown were very busy and slow to negotiate.  It was a couple of Saturdays before Christmas, so everyone was out shopping til they dropped.  I think all we bought was our Panama hats.
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Big outdoor food court
One thing we started noticing all over Mexico was the number of Volkswagen Beetles.  They were everywhere!  This is the car I learned to drive in, so I have always had a special affinity for them, and it was fun to see so many of them during our travels.  I am not sure what the deal is with VWs and Mexico, but they sure are here in droves!  Some beautifully restored, others not; in all colors of the rainbow.  We'd often count three or four in close proximity.  So here's the first of a few VW Beetle photos we'll share, and there will be more as the blog entries continue.  
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As I mentioned in a previous post, all public parks in Merida have wi-fi. Very cool!
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Park and church
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View of outdoor food stands from second floor of a museum
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Street view from above
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Typical Centro Merida street
I'm feeling a Merida FOOD post coming up next, so STAY TUNED!
 
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Chetumal waterfront
Recently our good friends and fellow bloggers Bill and Debra (http://takingbelize.blogspot.com/) invited us to join them on a day trip to Chetumal, just over the border in Mexico.  Chetumal is known as a good place to shop for those of us living in Belize, as there is a better variety of goods available, and prices are much lower than those in Belize.  And of course there's the wonderful Mexican beer that is illegal in Belize.  'Nuff said!  So even though we'd already booked our reservations in Crooked Tree for the very next day, we didn't want to pass up a great opportunity.  It was certainly an interesting day but not without a few snafus.

The first problem was entirely my fault.  We'd planned to take the water taxi from Grand Caribe to town instead of walking since we needed to catch such an early ferry to Chetumal (7:30 am).  All the southbound water taxis go past Grand Caribe's dock at 40 minutes after the hour, except one.  I didn't pay attention and was thinking the first taxi of the day would pass at 6:40 am.  So, there we were, out on the dock at 6:35 am -- quite early for us to be up and about -- and my heart sunk when I saw the posted schedule and realized that the early ferry would have passed by at around 6:25 am, not 6:40.

We had no real choice than to start walking the two miles to the ferry terminal, as we figured a land cab might not even make it up to Grand Caribe in time to get us there.  So walk we did, and it was already sweltering, especially at the fast pace we were having to keep.  We were hoping that maybe a golf cart would go by and offer us a lift, but the only one we saw was just ahead of us on the road.  If we'd been one minute earlier getting to the road, we might have been in luck, but as it was, we weren't passed by a single vehicle before we reached the bridge into town -- guess it was just too early.

I called Bill on our cell phone and told him where we were.  Plan B was that if we missed the 7:30 ferry, we'd walk around to the other ferry terminal on the lagoon side of Ambergris Caye and take the more expensive 8am boat instead.  Fortunately, we did make it to the ferry terminal in time (though drenched with sweat) to fill out our exit paperwork and board the boat.  And in actuality, the boat didn't leave the dock until 8 am after all.  It's very possible that they post a 30 minute earlier departure to make sure that passengers are there in time to fill out the paperwork.
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Walking to town -- quickly
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Ferry schedule
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Whew...we made it, and my hair was dripping wet!
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Barry on the ferry (that rhymes!)
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Debra and Bill looking calm, cool, and collected
On the trip over, we were able to exchange some Belize dollars for Mexican pesos.  100 pesos is roughly equivalent to $7-8 US dollars, depending on the exchange rate you get.  In this case, the boat took a "cut".  As usual, you pay for convenience.
It was a very bumpy ride as the wind was coming from the north, the direction we were traveling, so we were bouncing up and down in the hard seats.  We finally figured out that if we sat on the life preservers under the seats in front of us, we could keep from wrecking our backs, but it was definitely uncomfortable.  Note to self:  Make sure to check the wind direction before heading to Mexico on the ferry again.

On the boat we filled out our entry papers for Mexico, which were all in Spanish.  Fortunately, one of the ferry employees was available to assist.  The audio-only Spanish lessons we'd been taking didn't quite prepare us for everything on the form, but with his help, we got it done.
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Our first look at Chetumal out the tinted ferry window -- the water was the most gorgeous clear blue
Upon exiting the boat, we were instructed to put our backpacks out in a line so the drug-sniffing dog could give them the once over.  Much to our surprise, Barry's pack was the one the canine focused on.  Then we remembered he had some yummy homemade snack bars (containing peanut butter) inside.  No wonder!  To prove he had nothing stronger than peanut butter bars on him, he had to unpack his bag for the authorities wielding impressive machine guns, then was waved on his way.  We were not frisked or searched in any way, nor did we have to go through a metal detector.
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Barry's pack was the red one to the far right -- already pulled out of line
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I was relieved that we made it through step 1 on Mexican soil
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Our ferry and Chetumal in the background
Little did we know that we would have to fill out yet another form once our bags were checked.  I guess one form was for Immigration and one for Customs.  Barry and I were so slow filling out our form that one of the attendants grabbed them and did most of it for us.  I guess there was another ferry coming right behind us, and they wanted us out of the way by then. 
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Working on the all-Spanish form
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Bill (in green) and other visitors waiting in line to check in
Finally we were all checked through and on our way.  This was Bill and Debra's second trip to Chetumal, so it was great to go with them since they knew the ropes.  They brought rolling suitcases along to load up with all their purchases.  We didn't do that since we knew they would be hard to haul on the ever-crowded water taxis in San Pedro.  We had our small backpacks and figured we could carry shopping bags for any purchases that wouldn't fit into them.
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Emily, Debra, and Bill
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Clock Tower from afar
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Clock Tower close up
Our first destination was Sam's Club -- yep, just like back in the US of A.  Debra and Bill knew that we could walk there, so off we went, taking in the sights along the way, including this charming dinghy dock.
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It was a gorgeous day for walking now that we could go a bit slower than our earlier hustle to San Pedro town
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Chetumal is the capital of the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico
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More dinghies
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Sam's Club right across the "Avenida"
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Even if you don't speak Spanish, pictures are universal
One very interesting thing about the ladies' room here: all the toilet seats had been removed!  Needless to say, that was a shock and not so pleasant.  
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Sam's Club looks much like in the US, but most everything is in Spanish
Barry and I are not Sam's Club members, but Debra had just renewed her membership.  We found a really nice package of two "extra firm" bed pillows, which they bought for us, and we paid them back.  The pillows that came with our condo furniture were way too flat and squishy, so this was a great purchase.  I been hoping to find a foam mattress topper as well, but came up empty handed on that one.  Bill and Debra bought food items, batteries, and refilled some prescriptions at the pharmacy.
Next on the agenda was catching a cab over to the "American Style" mall for additional shopping.  I should mention that with daylight savings time being active in Mexico (but never in Belize), we would have one less hour than typical for a trip to Chetumal.  So instead of our boat leaving at 3pm, it would leave at 2pm.  This meant that we were in a bit of a rush the entire time we were there.  
Our taxi driver drove like a maniac, fast, weaving, and passing on the right. Then again, it seemed like everyone else on the roads was driving the same way.  This is definitely a place I would not want to drive.  

Here are some of the sights we saw during the 10-minute taxi ride to the mall.
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Beer store!
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Domino's Pizza sign and guy riding a bike without a helmet on a very busy Avenida (scary)
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Haven't seen one of these for awhile (there are none in Belize)
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Chevrolet and Office Depot sign
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Very similar to a mall in the US, no?
Here are some shots from inside the mall.  We were headed to Chedraui, a department/grocery store along the lines of Wal-Mart.
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And here we are!
We did find one mattress topper here, but it didn't seem to be of nice quality nor very thick, so we passed.  We were able to score some of the other things on our shopping list, like a salad spinner and plastic cover for reheating plates in the microwave.  Such simple items, but I'd been unable to find either of them in San Pedro.  It was our understanding that each person could bring one liter of booze into Belize duty-free, so Barry and I chose a nice tequila (on sale, no less) and Triple Sec, both of which are very expensive in Belize.  Can you say margaritas, baby?
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The bakery was tempting, but we managed to escape with nary a pastry
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Chedraui
Bill and Debra were buying a lot of food here, so we told them we'd meet them at the food court, and Barry and I headed on down.  We had hoped to go to a decent Mexican restaurant while we were in Chetumal, but as I mentioned before, we were on a tight schedule, so the food court it would be.  Fortunately, there was a taqueria there that ended up having yummy made-to-order tacos.  I was able to order from the Spanish menu, pay, and get my change from the cashier who spoke only Spanish.  The tacos were less than $1.50 US each, a great deal.  Barry went in search of another money exchange to make sure we had enough pesos for both of us to have lunch and drinks.
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The food court, very similar to a US-styled one
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Yep, even a McDonald's and Panda Express
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Here is the taqueria where I ordered two "chicken fajita" tacos.
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They were absolutely delish -- I added fresh salsa and guacamole on top
Barry was able to get some more money changed, so I went back and ordered cuatro (4) of the same tacos for him.
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Change dollars for pesos here
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Barry loading up with condiments
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Barry's "chicken fajita" tacos
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Debra and Bill couldn't resist the lure of the Golden Arches
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But I say, when in Mexico, eat tacos!
Thanks to one of the best Belize bloggers around, Rebecca (http://www.sanpedroscoop.com/), we knew there was a little casino in the mall that served Mexican beer for cheap.  So our final trick was to find it and grab a Corona or two before we caught a cab back to the ferry.  Time was getting really tight by now, so we had to make tracks.  Amazingly, we found it and managed to chug down a couple of beers in record time.  Beers were only about $1 US, maybe $1.25, if I recall correctly.  No problema.  It was great to drink a beer other than Belikin for a change.
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We had to put the cameras away after a casino bouncer told us photos weren't allowed -- too late!
We were able to find a taxi quickly when we left the mall, but the guy didn't know where the water taxi terminal was!  Or maybe he just didn't understand our garbled Spanglish?  In any event, he ended up taking us to the bus terminal.  By this time we were really worried about missing our ferry.  We kept saying "Rapido, Rapido" and "taxi agua" (water).  Barry was sitting in the front seat and was able to help the most with directions:  "cerca de Sam's Club" (near Sam's Club).  We were getting a bit frantic, and it felt like we were on an episode of The Amazing Race.

Finally, we made it to the right place and paid our fare (taxis are cheap, cheap, cheap in Chetumal!)  While Debra and Bill were checking their suitcases, Barry and I proceeded to Immigration to check out of Mexico.  The Immigration officer just shook his head when he saw our papers.  He told us we were supposed to have paid a $25 US exit fee (per person) at a local bank.  What?!  We had done our research ahead of time and knew that there was NO exit fee for folks staying for less than seven days and returning to their country of origin.  We tried to reason with the officer, but he would have none of it.  When Bill and Debra arrived, they were told the same thing.  One of the ferry employees was there trying to expedite things as we were now past time for the boat to leave.  He agreed that we should not have to pay the exit fee, but his hands were tied.  

Finally we were told to walk over to a bank, pay the fee, and come back with the receipt.  The ferry worker said "Hurry" as we hustled off.  A local was going with us to show us where the bank was.  I was wondering if this was all some elaborate scam that they were all in on together.  Even the local agreed we should not have to pay.  It was really sickening.  We've all read and heard immigration horror stories, but no one expects it will ever happen to them.  

As we walked down the road, the ferry worker came calling after us.  There was no time for us to get to the bank, and a young lady working with the Immigration officer could take our money and get us our receipts "later" (ummm, right...).  So, we had no choice.  We turned around and headed back to the immigration office.  I waited outside while Barry did our business.  He came back out with our passports and quickly hustled me down towards the boat as quickly as possible, leaving Bill and Debra behind to check out.  I thought he was acting a little strangely, but I didn't understand -- I figured he was just pissed off, as we all were.

When we got about halfway down the promenade and no one was within earshot, he told me that he didn't pay.  He said there was a lot of confusion in the office, so he just got the stamp and high-tailed it outta there!  I have to give him credit for that bold maneuver; after all, we were in the right, and he was simply trying to avoid being scammed.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out as the young lady working with immigration and the ferry worker ran to catch up with us and said "He says you didn't pay."  Since there were men with machine guns standing near the boat, Barry had no choice but to give them the money.  It was worth a try, right?

Debra and Bill reluctantly paid as well, and we all made it onto the boat without being thrown into a Mexican prison.  We were all angry, though, since we knew we'd been taken.  Another passenger on the ferry approached us and asked if we'd had to pay -- turns out they tried to make her and her husband pay as well, but somehow they got out of it.  She said the officer was extremely rude to them.  Apparently they are pulling this scam on everyone with a US passport, but some manage to get out of it somehow or another.  This couple had been coming from Cancun so possibly had a slightly different situation than ours that he let slide.

Unfortunately, this incident ended the trip on a bad note.  At the time I swore I'd never go to Mexico again, but since I've had time to cool down, I now think I'd go -- but not for less than seven days.  If I know I have to pay the fee by law, I certainly don't mind paying it, but I strongly object to government officials taking advantage of visitors (especially those who have just spent good money in their country) and breaking their own laws.  Infuriating! 

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Finally made it back to the water taxi terminal -- I'm still smiling PRE-scam.
The ride back was uneventful (and smooth, with the wind behind us), and the Belizean Immigration and Customs officers were in good moods when we arrived back at the San Pedro dock, so we sailed right through.  We did learn something important, though:  while you are normally allowed 1 liter of alcohol per person coming into Belize, the Customs' officer told us that that does not apply to Chetumal because it is "too close" to Belize.  So it's okay to bring in a bottle from the US, Canada, or even Cancun, but not from Chetumal!  That really surprised me, and I wonder if it's written down in any law book?  I mean, where do they draw the line on where is considered "too close"?  But, she was in good spirits and let us through.  She did say that in some cases they would confiscate the liquor and was giving us a "warning" this time.  Just another reason not to bother with Chetumal again -- I was already tasting those margaritas and would have been so disappointed to have our purchases taken away!

Here is what we came home with:
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Really, really nice pillows. Worth the price of the trip, and only $18 US for the pair!
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Our goodies from Chedraui -- all very reasonably priced
So, as I said in the beginning, it was an "interesting" day with some good and some challenging moments.  I guess travel to a foreign country is always fraught with pitfalls, but there are many rewards as well.  We'll keep traveling, but we've certainly had our eyes opened.
 
We happened to arrive at Super Buy this morning right when they were unloading two truckloads of new stock.  One of the large delivery trucks had just driven off when Barry snapped these shots.  It's pretty crazy shopping here now as high season cranks up, as there are almost always numerous bicycles, golf carts, Polarises (ultra-loud souped-up 4WD golf cart-like vehicles), and sometimes trucks to dodge to find a parking place.  But the prices are good, so we keep coming back.  
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You can see the back end of one of the large delivery trucks to the far right of the photo
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Getting situated at the bike rack
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Plenty of new stock arriving
One of many interesting things about shopping on Ambergris Caye is that very few stores have designated parking.  Many shops have a bike rack, but there are no "parking lots" like back in the US.  So people park on the street and pull in right in front of the stores, wherever they can find a place.  It's quite chaotic at times with vehicles coming and going.  The thing that really irks me is when a golf cart parks right in front of the bike rack, blocking entry and exit.  If your bike is parked in the middle of a couple of others and a cart pulls in right behind you, you're stuck.  I expect we'll be seeing more and more of this sort of thing as high season cranks into full gear next week and the week between Christmas and New Years.  Hopefully after that, things will calm down a bit.
 
Yesterday we took our second day trip off-island for some shopping and a change of pace.  On our hike into town to the ferry, we were offered a ride in a golf cart at Reef Village, which we gladly accepted since we were running a bit late (as usual), and were having to keep up a very brisk pace in order to make the 10am ferry.  The driver turned out to be Dale, who owns the Funky Monkey restaurant/bar at the Cloister's, along with his wife.  Since he is from Ohio, he and Barry had something in common (aside from living in San Pedro!) and were able to have a nice chat.  We were very appreciative for the ride, as it got us to the ferry dock 20 minutes early instead of barely on time.

This time, instead of the large ferry we were on on our first trip to Belize City, we were on a much smaller boat; I guess the 10am leaving time is not as popular as the 11:30 we took last time.  
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Wished I'd remembered a book for our wait for the ferry!
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The skies looked threatening, but we never got more than a brief sprinkle all day.
The trip over was uneventful, and soon we were in the city.  This time we knew exactly where to go, so we didn't look or feel as clueless as on our first trip over.  Some of you may remember my trepidation about our first visit to Belize City, but I felt more relaxed this time.  Yes, there were still a few beggars and the ubiquitous taxi drivers offering us their services, but there did seem to be more police presence and security guards around, so I never felt threatened.  I still had no desire to spend any extra time there than it took to buy groceries at Brodie's (10% off on Fridays!) and several items in Hop Sing bicycle shop for Barry as you don't dare dawdle anywhere because of the panhandlers.  As a result, we were back at the ferry terminal quite early to buy tickets for Caye Caulker (which is a stop right on the way back to San Pedro), and eat the snack bars we'd brought along.
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Big boat, little boat. We took the little boat on each leg except from Caye Caulker back to San Pedro.
We caught the 1pm ferry over to Caye Caulker, and as usual, it looked like rain.  It always seems to be raining when we go to Caye Caulker or just make a quick stop on the ferry, but this time it did not rain on our parade.  Yay!  

We love Caye Caulker.  It is the way they tell us San Pedro used to be, with all sand steets, almost no vehicles, and very little traffic.  Sure, there were a couple of golf-cart taxis and the ubiquitous bottle truck (here all sodas and beers come in recyclable bottles that are returned for deposit, just like in the old days in the US), but most of the vehicles were bicycles, along with folks just walking in bare feet or sandals.
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Ferry we took
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Barry on the ferry...has a certain ring to it, no?
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Caye Caulker. Not much traffic!
Our mission here was to visit Debbie Cooper's gallery for some artwork, as we had seen her work online and thought it would be perfect for our condo.  It's colorful, with tropical themes, and reasonably priced to boot.  We met Debbie there and picked out a few pieces.  We bought two of her framed prints, including our favorite bicycle by palm tree scene.  She told us that the frames, which are wooden and painted in bright colors, are made by local Mennonites, of which there is a relatively large population in Belize.  The larger print of two toucans will be shipped to us via Tropic Air next week as she did not have the appropriate-sized frame in stock.  We also chose a small canvas from another artist, showing sailboats and palm trees.  I just loved the soothing blue and green colors on that one.  We still need a few more things for the walls, but this is a good start.  It was a lot of fun to meet Debbie and see her cute shop.
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Found it!
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I bought the sailboat and palm trees canvas to the left of the credit card sign!
By the time we finished shopping, it was about 2:30, and we were starved, so we stopped in at a local restaurant called Bambooze for a bite of lunch.  I loved this place because it was open air, and the chairs were swings! Such a unique concept, and transported me back to my childhood love of swing sets.  We had delicious grilled fish sandwiches with mango-lime sauce and a couple of drinks.
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Yes, I'm a kid at heart. This was FUN!
After lunch we walked around a bit before catching our 3:45 ferry back to San Pedro.  Unfortunately, we were lugging heavy backpacks full of groceries, so we weren't able to go as far as we would have liked.  We'll just have to go back!
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The "Convenient Store" LOL!
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Very different traffic scene from San Pedro
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It would be fun to ride a bike on these roads. No potholes!
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'Nuff said...
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It's the bottle truck, but not much else on these roads....sweet!
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Love the Caribbean colors!
The ferry from Caye Caulker was the bigger boat like we'd been on before and was packed with passengers who were coming from Belize City.  Poor Barry drew the short straw and was stuck sitting on the unpadded bench in the middle, as there were no more seats around the perimeter.  Thankfully this was the shorter leg of the trip. 
 
Since the ferry was 10 minutes late leaving Caye Caulker, we were cutting it very close to make the 4:30 pm northbound water taxi in San Pedro, and then the ticket clerk did not have change for a $50 BZD (equivalent to $25 US), so I had to charge the tickets.  We were the last people on the VERY crowded taxi boat (and the first off at the Grand Caribe dock), with full backpacks and our art work, so that was not very comfortable, and we were very happy to be back home.  Paisley was happy too, as she'd somehow gotten the door to her kennel closed behind her (and didn't realize she could just push it open, as it wasn't locked) so was "stuck" in there when we arrived after our day away.  Hopefully she hadn't been in there for too long without water, but she seemed no worse for the wear!
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Waiting for the ferry back to San Pedro
 
We started this beautiful, breezy morning with a beach run.  My knee was all better from yesterday's little spill on my bike, thank goodness.  A tip for all cyclists, runners, and walkers:  If you have to fall, fall in sand.  

We followed the run with our usual "pool down" (What's a pool down?), and our usual bowl of cereal -- this time with fresh mango and papaya.  Barry thought it was so pretty, he took a photo.  I totally agree; the tropical colors are gorgeous.  I promise this photo is not retouched!  
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After breakfast, we hopped on the bikes and headed into town for a few items.  While packing up our items from Super Buy South, our buddy Daniel, who works at The Phoenix, saw us and stopped by to show off his new ride, a very snazzy and super-clean Honda.  He was proudly sporting a couple of Belizean flags as well, since September 21 is Belizean Independence Day, and the entire month of September is filled with celebrations, with the town and businesses all decked out in red, white, and blue decor and Belizean flags flapping everywhere.
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We took this photo in Central Park, where the schoolchildren were celebrating Independence Day today.  You can read more about today's activities here: http://www.ambergristoday.com/content/stories/2011/september/16/patriotic-childrens-rally.
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Patriotic Children's Rally
Our final stop in town was at Castillo's Hardware, where we purchased a few small household items, parts for Barry's projects, and this laundry basket.  Barry had no problem carrying it back on his rear rack.  
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Note carefully the dappled sunshine in the photo above.  How quickly things were to change.  When we headed north to ride back to our place just moments later, we saw a huge black cloud coming our way.  Barry attempted to take a photo, but the camera's memory card was full (my fault), so that did not happen.  But it looked a lot like this approaching storm from a couple of days ago.
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A dark and angry sky
So far we've been very lucky and have managed to outrun these, but today was not one of our lucky days.  Despite our best efforts, it started raining just a short distance south of Chico Caribe, and we were absolutely SOAKED as we rolled past the entrance to Grand Caribe.  As we rode by, we received waves and "hellos" from many of the staff, who were standing under the overhang to avoid the rain.  I am sure they got a kick out of seeing a couple of dripping wet gringos who didn't have enough sense to take cover from the storm.  Too bad I don't have a photo to share!

When we got inside, I realized that I had neglected to zip up the top of my backpack after our final stop, so everything inside of it was wet.  I must have left my brain back in North Carolina as I have done quite a few stupid things like this since arriving in Belize.  Fortunately, with the strong breeze today, we were able to open up the condo, and everything hanging up dried quickly.  

In home improvement news, Barry was able to find the part he needed to complete the screen-door latch project at the hardware store today, so no real "MacGyverisms" were even required.  He finished up the project today, and it works great.  We can now have the front door open while letting the breezes blow through.
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From the outside hall looking in
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From inside looking out to the hall
 
We rode our bikes into town today after morning rain had passed.  To procure this haul took visits to two fruit stands, the beer distributor, bakery, and three grocery stores!  In the US, you would easily be able to buy all this in one large grocery store.  
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As we were leaving town, we noticed that the skies to the north and east were darkening again, and we had to make tracks to get back to our place before the rains came.  We made it just in the nick of time, and not five minutes after we got all the food and bicycles inside, it was pouring out.  Lucky us!
 
Now that we have our beach bikes (yay!), we can haul a lot more groceries, meaning that we can start really stocking up on things rather than only buying what we can carry on our backs.  Still, our cargo capacity is not unlimited, especially when we buy large items like papayas or pineapples, so today required two separate bike rides to town, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.  

In the morning we hit Maria's fruit stand, Super Buy South, and Popular Tortillas; and this afternoon we went to Castillo's hardware, Mash (groceries), Super Buy (more groceries), and Caye Supplies.  It had rained over an inch overnight, so in certain places the road was full of large puddles to dodge.  We are very fortunate to have fenders on our bicycles as the bikes we rented on previous trips did not, and we'd invariably be splashed with sandy colored mud after riding if it had rained recently.
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Heading to town
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Typical scene north of San Pedro Town
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Another typical scene
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Look closely to see a typical puddle after storms here. A lot of weaving is required to miss them!
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Home from trip #1
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Barry home from Trip #1
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Barry home from Trip #2 with quite a haul (that's a storage drawer on top)
 
Whenever you move to a new place, it seems like the list of needs is endless.  If you move across town or even across country, you are able to take a lot with you, but moving to a foreign country means leaving most of your possessions behind.  Although we're shipping a pallet of boxes down, it's not worth the cost to ship all the little things you need when setting up a new household.  Spices, condiments, various household potions and cleaning products, paper products; all these have to be bought fresh for our new condo in Belize.  Since we are living car-free here and our beach cruiser bicycles are in the shipment that we're waiting on, that means a lot of walking back and forth to town carrying what we can manage.  Yes, we could take a taxi or water taxi, but we're living on a budget, so we choose to operate on our own power whenever possible.  It's about 2 miles to town, and a lot of that is on the beach, so it's great exercise and quite a nice walk if there's a breeze and your load is not too heavy.

On our first two days, walking into town we battled mosquitos, as the breeze was nearly non-existent.  Today, however, the breeze finally picked up, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  No mosquitos bothered us at all, but the sun was shining warmly, and we were sweating profusely as we walked from place to place.  We had bank business in addition to visiting a multitude of shops.  In Belize most stores are small, so you end up going multiple places to do your marketing.  It's actually a lot of fun, but we are looking forward to having our bikes with baskets, which will enable us to travel faster and carry more.

Today we made it all the way to the south side of San Pedro for some good deals at the less expensive grocery stores there (Marina's and Super Buy South, which we noticed had lower prices on some items than the in-town Super Buy), and visited our two favorite places to buy fruits and veggies: Maria's fruit stand, and Zac's Healthy Belize (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Healthy-Belize/145912062138566).  At Maria's, we were helped by Jose and his son (also Jose).  The fruit there is fresh and inexpensive, and they threw in a free cup of freshly squeezed OJ.  As hot and sweaty as we were, that OJ might as well have been manna from heaven.  Yum!  Here is what we bought at Maria's for $15 BZE ($7.50 US), after eating two of the four bananas:
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Limes, oranges, onion, tomatoes, bananas, pineapple
At Zac's we picked up a great assortment of fresh organic veggies we'll enjoy for the next few days.  We have been eating mostly bean tacos (with tomatoes, onions, chipotle peppers, and cheese) for dinner since arriving here so were very ready to stock up on some green stuff as well as a couple of dragonfruit!  Here's what we got for $46 BZD ($23 US):
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Peppers, asparagus, dragonfruit, arugula, cilantro, mixed salad greens, Malabar spinach
We also visited the GoNature health food store (https://www.facebook.com/pages/GoNature-Health-Food-Store/173156749407154) for the first time and had a nice chat with the owner, Taz.  We ordered some whey protein powder and also mentioned a few other items we would like to buy there.  We were happy to see that she had some great healthy items, and a nice selection of locally produced items.  It will not be hard to eat healthy here at all, and the fact that most of the healthiest food is available on the south side of San Pedro while we're living on the north side will assure that we stay fit as well, since we have to get down there on foot or bike to purchase it.  Barry estimated that we walked about eight miles today while visiting seven different establishments.

Here are a few other assorted photos from the past two days here:
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The Chico Caribe pool feels especially refreshing after our long walks into town
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Little Blue Heron -- we see this guy every day we walk down the beach
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Paisley having a little lap time
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...and killing a coconut!
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Perfect weather for lunch on the veranda -- this sure beats a day in the office!
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The view!