We woke up to a cloudy morning and headed into Placencia village on foot. We saw lots of birds along the way, so the walk was leisurely, with many photos taken -- stay tuned for a "Birds of Placencia" post to come later. We took in more sights of the town, which was very quiet at this time of day. Wish we'd had sunshine for better photos.
Saw these interesting fan palms all over Placencia
There are many walkways and walls decorated with broken tile here -- so pretty
Friendly pooches greeted me on the village "sidewalk"
Pretty flowered tree in front of a colorful house
We ate breakfast at De Tatch, since we'd enjoyed it the night before. We had excellent veggie omelets and toast served with delicious local guava jam. The coffee was excellent and half the price of many San Pedro restaurants ($2.50 BZD vs. $5 in San Pedro). We must have been hungry since we forgot to take any photos! A squall passed through while we were eating, so we were glad to be under a roof. The rain had stopped by the time we left.
After breakfast, we walked around some more and stopped in at one of the local groceries. We checked prices on a few of the items we purchase frequently and found them to be much better than in San Pedro in all cases and better than Brodies in Belize City in many cases as well. Too bad we couldn't bring a suitcase of groceries back to San Pedro with us!
What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in low prices...at least compared to San Pedro!
When we got back to Casa Placencia, we ran into the couple staying in the one-bedroom apartment there. They were from the St. Louis area and had been in Placencia for the month of January. They own land in Maya Beach and plan to build eventually. We ended up chatting with them for close to an hour, sharing experiences and information.
We were looking forward to taking a bike ride up north and planned to ride to the Maya Beach Bistro for lunch as Jacki had given this restaurant her highest recommendation. Our room came with two nice (new!) beach cruiser bicycles, so we had one of the workers doing some construction at Casa Placencia adjust the saddle and handlebar height for us, then we took off.
We stopped in at the car rental place next to the Placencia airstrip and made arrangements with Winston to rent a car later that day so we'd have it early in the morning, as we were planning to drive up to Red Bank to see the Scarlet Macaws
that typically feed in the area from January through March. Winston said he'd come pick us up at 4 pm to come do the paperwork, then we could drive the car back. Nice!
At Casa Placencia - one more cuppa for the road
Our bikes in front of Casa Placencia, and a super large fan palm
As we pedaled away, we noticed incredibly dark clouds over the sea and knew we'd be caught in a squall very soon. Keep in mind that January through May is "dry season" in Belize, so we were surprised by a day like this. We heard from many people here that the weather during our visit was highly unusual for this time of year, and turns out that San Pedro was also getting unusual amounts of rain. Sure enough, it started to rain as we got just a little ways up the road, so we took cover under the overhang at the Maya Island Air terminal. A couple from England was doing the same. The rain came down in sheets for a short while, but stopped within ten minutes (very typical for rainstorms in the tropics).
Hiding from the rain
We continued riding north through Seine Bight, where many locals live. We were enjoying the paved road, which wasn't totally smooth but beat the cobblestones and sand of many San Pedro roads. I was wishing for my bike helmet since we were on a higher-speed road than anything in San Pedro, but everyone was very courteous and gave us a wide berth when they passed, and the road had a nice shoulder, so we were able to stay far to the right.
It started looking like rain again, so we stopped along the way at Blue Crab Beach
just south of Maya Beach. This is a small beachfront resort run by the couple who make the Goss Chocolate we enjoy so much. We'd hoped to say hello to Linn, but another couple who had also stopped for cover there said that there was a note on the door that she would be back around 2 pm. This time, the rain only amounted to a light shower with heavy winds, so we only waited for a few minutes, then hit the road again.
Riding north of Placencia - pretty roadside and great road
Taking shelter at Blue Crab Beach -- love this chair!
Our next stop was the Maya Beach Bistro, which was in a beautiful setting right on the beach. Unfortunately the wind was so strong, they had had to put down their wind shades, thus obscuring the view. There was a large table that got their orders in right before us, so we had to wait awhile for our lunch. While we were waiting, we enjoyed a Panty Ripper (pineapple juice and coconut rum, a very popular drink in Belize). Barry had a baguette with shrimp, bacon, cheese, and banana, which he said was delicious but a bit heavy. I had the blackened fish tacos with black beans and rice. Mine was tasty, but the fish was a bit overcooked. So, this did not rate as our favorite place to eat in the Placencia area, and the prices were similar to nicer restaurants in San Pedro (i.e., higher than most Placencia eateries) but Jacki swears by the dinners there, so we would probably give them another try if we were to visit again.
Maya Beach Hotel Bistro
Barry's baguette and home fries
My fish tacos, beans, and rice
The view behind the Maya Beach Bistro
After lunch we turned our wheels southward and headed back towards Placencia. There were still no cars at Blue Crab Beach as we rolled by, so we weren't able to say hello to Linn -- hopefully on our next visit. The ride ended up being around fifteen miles, which is pretty long for a beach bike. Traffic was light and conditions pleasant, but I was wishing for my usual saddle by the end, since I wasn't wearing bike shorts. Owie!
Along the way we saw the sign for Sunsail and the Moorings, companies that charter sailboats out of Placencia, so we biked down their road and looked at the docked boats on the lagoon. It was a beautiful setting with the mountains in the distance (though they were off to the right so don't show in the photo; you'll have to take our word for it.)
The road to Placencia goes all the way around the airstrip in a hairpin-turn shape, and we got to see a small plane take off over the sea as we rode by on our way back to Casa Placencia, which is just a little over a mile south of the airstrip.
Prop plane taking off right over main road and Caribbean Sea
hairpin turn in road with airstrip in the middle!
When we got back to Casa Placencia, the sun finally came out, so we took another walk into town to grab a couple of photos, then walked back to wait for Winston to pick us up.
Casa Placencia -- really cute place
Loved the house colors in Placencia
The purple house again, in the sun -- gotta love a purple picket fence!
The sidewalk running the length of the village -- not many tourists at all!
The empty beach -- love it
Seaweed is an issue as on Ambergris Caye this month, but the beach is still beautiful!
Placencia post office and mail delivery motorbike
Ritchie's bus rolling through town
Flowers on Casa Placencia grounds
Just when we were wondering if he'd forgotten, Winston showed up around 4:15 to pick us up. We ended up with a green Dihatsu and hoped we still remembered how to drive after five months with no behind-the-wheel time! The car rental was $82.50 US for one day. We could have gone to Red Bank with a tour company, but Jacki recommended the car rental and had arranged a Mayan guide to take us up to the lookout at Red Bank, which would save a bit of money over a tour and would give us more flexibility, so we decided to go with her suggestion.
After we parked the car back at Casa Placencia, we walked into town yet again, looking for the Hokey Pokey ferry dock. We planned to take this ferry on the trip back, but our map didn't seem correct as we found only a private dock with no Hokey Pokey sign, so we figured we'd ask Jacki exactly where it was. We walked around the attractive residential area around the lagoon and looked at homes and boats. Once again, I was reminded of the Florida Keys, and was struck by the fact that Placencia seemed cleaner and tidier than San Pedro.
Walking to Placencia village
Placencia street scene
Barry on dock on lagoon side - pretty area
We ate dinner at a local Creole restaurant, Omar's. Surprisingly, they didn't have a liquor license, so I had to walk to the Barefoot Bar next door to score a Belikin, which I could bring into Omar's ("no problem"). Beers were $3.50 BZD versus the typical $5 BZD ($2.50 US) in San Pedro - nice! We honestly didn't know that liquor licenses were required to sell beer in Belize as we've never encountered an eating establishment that didn't sell Belikin!
The restaurant was packed and loud, but the food was good and cheap. We both had versions of grilled snook, rice and beans, and green salad. It was certainly the least expensive seafood dinner we've had in Belize at $50 BZD total ($25 US).
Barry's Caribbean Creole snook
My grilled snook
We'd managed to save a little bit of room for a visit to the Tutti Frutti "gelateria", and it did not disappoint. The gelato looked beautiful and tasted even better. You could get two flavors layered in a small cup or three in a medium, so I tried caramel and peanut butter flavors in my cup; and Barry went with mint chocolate, chocolate chip, and Bailey's. This stuff is seriously rich and delicious, and the price was surprisingly reasonable. We paid $10 BZD ($5 US) for both cups. Unfortunately, the shop is closed on Wednesdays or we would have been able to visit again; as it is, we will have to wait for our next trip. This place is a MUST if you visit Placencia -- don't miss it!
The flavors all looked amazing -- how to decide?
Ya gotta smile when you're eating something this good -- and staying out of the rain!
We got caught in another heavy rain squall while we were safely under the overhang eating our gelato -- it absolutely POURED. But once again, the rain was short-lived, and soon we were able to walk back to Casa Placencia in the dark.
This was to be an early night since Jacki admonished us to get on the road to Red Bank by 5 am -- ouch! We are not normally creatures of the morning, but we really wanted to see the Scarlet Macaws. Barry actually had planned this trip mostly if not solely for that reason, while I was just as interested in seeing Placencia village, but I did want to see the famous birds as well.
Before turning in, we noticed a HUGE black insect (maybe 3" long and skinny) on the wall of our room. Yikes! Barry bravely trapped it under a cup and was able to humanely relocate it outdoors. Just a little reminder that we are in the tropics! Sorry not to provide a photo of said insect, but we were scared it would fly off if we took too long in dealing with it!
We set the alarm for the ungodly hour of 4:30 am before turning the lights out at 9:30 pm.
Stay tuned for Day 3 - Red Bank and the hunt for the elusive Scarlet Macaws