Today I spent most of the afternoon at Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill here at Grand Caribe attending the "Lobstermania" closing party. And what a fine party it was! It was fun to see San Pedro friends and hang out chatting in the bar. The morning clouds cleared out, and the afternoon got sunny and hot. There was plenty of good food to go around and good music courtesy of Zac and Tanya. I enjoyed a few rum drinks, a lobster sausage, and a few hot French fries (thanks Debra and Bill for sharing!) Barry came by with Paisley during the afternoon to say hi, and her little nose was twitching with all the good food aromas coming from the grill!
I started with a pineapple juice and rum and a lobster sausage -- definitely a different use of lobster!
I was super happy when our good friends Debra and Bill showed up. They don't make it up our way all that often, so it is always a treat to see them.
Oceana also showed up with a booth, and I joined their organization and bought a cute t-shirt. It's such a great cause for those who care about the world's oceans and marine life.
And speaking of our animal friends, there were several canine friends in attendance at the party:
It was a great day and a great way to end San Pedro's Lobsterfest 2012. Thanks, Cowboy Doug, Leisa, Tacogirl, and all the Grand Caribe folks who made this day possible!
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!
Today was our day to renew our 30-day tourist visa, so we had to venture to town again, despite the messy road we blogged about yesterday and yet another 2/3" of rain overnight. Fortunately, today was absolutely gorgeous, with wall-to-wall blue skies, sunshine, and just a few puffy white clouds. The Immigration office in San Pedro normally opens in the morning at 8 or 9 o'clock (we've never been there too early, so I am not sure), closes for lunch from 12 to 1pm, I believe, and then opens again until 3:30 pm. We arrived at a few minutes after 10.
We saw a few folks waiting on the balcony outside the office, but that's not unusual, because it's a tiny office, and when it's full, sometimes people wait outside. But much to our surprise, the doors were locked up tight. And there was nothing posted on the doors indicating that the office was closed today.
The couple that was waiting outside told us that they were supposed to be open in "a while". Hmmmmm. How long is "a while"? We had a few other errands to run, so decided to go ahead and do those, in case "a while" meant an hour or so.
As we were leaving, the couple we had been talking to came down the stairs and told us that someone had just come out of an office and said that it would be opening at 11 o'clock -- they were having a meeting. Aha! We laughed about how they didn't post anything on the door to let us poor waiting folks know when they'd be opening. We took off on our bikes and hit the Maria's fruit and vegetable stand (seems like we are there almost every day) for a few more items, then the bank. By the time we were finished there, it was 10:48, so not too much longer to wait.
We pedaled back to the Immigration office, locked up our bikes, and waited on the second-story balcony outside. Fortunately, there was a great breeze, and as I mentioned, it was a beautiful day. We got to watch the goings-on at the San Pedro airstrip as we waited, as well as all the golf carts, bikes, pedestrians, and taxi cabs passing by on the street down below. Here's our view from the balcony:
After we'd been waiting a few minutes, the couple we'd been talking to before showed back up. Turns out that they are from the nearby island of Caye Caulker and read our blog. So if you're reading this, guys, hello! They were picking up their self-employment permits today.
At about 11:10, the Immigration office door finally opened. Fortunately, the employees all seemed to be in really good moods. Either their meeting was really productive, or the refreshments included some rum punch! It was good to see them smiling, though; it certainly made our visit there more pleasant.
As they say, when in Belize, you have to live on island time and be flexible!
Originally, we hadn't thought of purchasing a dehumidifier for our condo here, figuring we'd just use the air-conditioning when the humidity became too oppressive. We'd never needed a dehumidifier in other places we lived and just hadn't given the possibility any thought. But a very smart neighbor who had been living in San Pedro for a couple of years recommended we bring one, so we took note. After some research, Barry realized that we wouldn't be able to keep the A/C cycling on frequently enough to get the humidity to a reasonable level without living in a very frigid condo -- and busting our budget in the process, since electricity (called "current" here) is a lot pricier than back in North Carolina. Since we don't even like overly air-conditioned spaces and didn't want to live in the cold even if the budget allowed, a portable dehumidifier started looking like a very smart option.
When doing our research, the main negatives of using a dehumidifier mentioned by reviewers were the heat and noise the unit generates in use. We figured the noise wouldn't bother us too much, as we've always preferred to sleep with a white-noise machine rather than hear the various things that go bump in the night, including our first Boston Terrier, Pepper, who snored like a truck driver due to her little squashed face, bless her heart. Paisley has more of a snout and is much quieter, but the white-noise habit has persisted. We always turn on the A/C or fan when we stay in hotels to keep the noise from the hall and surrounding rooms down as well.
As for excess heat put off by the unit, that could certainly be a problem since Belize isn't really known for cold temperatures (!!), but we figured we'd give it a try and could certainly switch to air conditioning when it was unbearable. And we didn't plan to use the dehumidifier during the heat of the day anyway, only in the evenings. Since we live oceanfront where there is typically a nice breeze, we prefer to open our windows and let the sea breeze blow through all day long, then close up at night for security reasons. This would be a perfect time to suck the water out of the air and dry the place out. So, it was decided; we'd give a dehumidifier a try.
We determined that a 50-pint unit would be appropriate for our approximately 1000 square foot condo and purchased a portable Energy Star-certified Frigidaire model for $200 in North Carolina last summer. We kept it in the original box and included it in our shipment (on a pallet) to Belize. We figured that wasn't a huge amount to spend if it would keep our clothes, wood, and other items from molding, and keep us feeling a bit drier and more comfortable in our island home.
The unit includes a built-in collection bin for water, or you can attach a hose and run it to any drain. It has wheels for easily moving it around on the tile floor. We have a floor drain in our shower and another in our bathroom, but neither had an electrical outlet close without running the cord in front of the sinks; not very convenient. And having the unit in the bathroom would not have been a good location for it anyway as it needs to be centrally located. Alternatively, we could have put it on the kitchen counter and let it drain into the sink, but it's a fairly heavy unit to lift up and down twice a day, and Barry's back didn't need the extra strain.
So, we chose to put it in the middle of the great room each night, then wheel it over to the wall, out of the way, during the day. And for months, we used only the built-in collection bin and didn't attach a hose. This worked okay; but the bin would often fill up before we were ready to get up in the morning and wake us up with an annoying series of five beeps to alert us of the full bucket. Barry got really tired of this.
Finally, his "MacGyver" side came out, as it always does, given long enough. He'd found a five-gallon utility bucket that washed up in the sea (very well seasoned!) and cut a hole in it. He then cut a short length of hose and attached it to the dehumidifier unit, then through the hole into the bucket, to hold it in place. This worked much better, and we weren't awakened by the annoying alarm beeps, which could not be deactivated.
But it still wasn't perfect. There was a "drip drip drip" sound as the unit ran and water dripped from the hose into the bucket. We could just hear the dripping from our bedroom, and it was annoying. "MacGyver" came to the rescue once again. A plastic ruler inside the bucket allowed the water to run down into the bucket without dripping. Brilliant, right?!
As for the noise issue, that is just as we thought, not a problem at all. The white noise helps to drown out any other noise coming from the condo units around us. The unit does put out some heat and raises the temperature in the great room a degree or two, but our bedroom stays pleasant with just a ceiling fan for now, especially since the humidity gradually falls through the night as we sleep, offsetting any small increase in temperature. As you often hear, "It's not the heat; it's the humidity" (that makes a person feel miserable), and we've found that to be true. Thanks to our dehumidifier, we have not had to use the air-conditioning since October. Then again, we are more heat-tolerant than folks from cooler areas in the US or from Canada. And living here since August has only served to increase this heat tolerance. Typically, the dehumidifier drops the humidity in our condo from the 70-79% range to 50-55%, depending on how we set it. This makes a huge difference in our comfort level as well and also prevents mold.
The only thing we may need to work on is finding a more attractive bucket, since it tends to sit around our condo during the day -- and it definitely doesn't add to the ambiance! Other than that, we're very happy with our decision to buy a dehumidifier and ship it down. It really has been worth every penny we spent.