Tag Archives: vacation

Belize 2012 – Day Nine: Golf Carts & Sunset Cruises

11 Apr

Up and at ’em…at 10am the next morning, the four of us headed for breakfast at the Sand Box, a restaurant at the top of the strip overlooking the water:

The view from the breakfast table

Starving as we were, this place was perfect: huge portions, affordable prices. I opted for the huevos rancheros while J went for the 2-egg special with ham and fry jacks. J’s cousin went for the same dish while her friend decided on the breakfast burrito which, when it arrived, looked to weigh about 10 pounds. We were also sure to ask for some of their mind-blowingly spicy hot sauce. Last year, much to the amusement of the staff, J ordered some and proceeded to douse his breakfast with it. I watched as his colouring went from tan to beet red in roughly 7 seconds. Lesson learned, we just put teeny amounts all over our breakfasts this time.

Eggs & big, puffy fry jacks

Huevos rancheros

Hot sauce of doom

We wrapped up breakfast and wound our way through the back streets until we came to a golf cart rental store. J’s cousin and friend thought it would be a great way to show us the rest of the caye, since we’d barely seen the south end at all. We bounced and bumped our way around the place, outwardly gawking at the natural beauty of the place, drinking in the atmosphere. (And maybe secretly hatching plans to live there forever.) We passed children in their school uniforms playing on their lunch breaks, friends chatting in the street, fascinating houses (like the Rasta house…’nuff said), landmarks, signs and untouched, unspoiled coastline beauty.

The road less travelled

You make sure you mind your signage.

After our very entertaining – and informative (see pic above) – tour, we went for one last dip up at the Split with our company and then saw them off, back to Belize City. We’d planned to go on a sunset cruise that evening, so we checked in with Raggamuffin Tours and booked our spots. I had wanted to do this last year; unfortunately, due to time constraints we weren’t able to make it. I was so excited to check this off my list of things to do in Caye Caulker and it did not disappoint. Asked to be there 15 minutes ahead of time, we arrived and promptly began chatting with Ish: captain, bartender and salsa-maker. Good person to know on the caye!

Cap'n Ish, hard at work.

Fifteen or so of us piled onto the boat around 5:30 and half of us were asked to sit out on the prow. I leapt at the opportunity and J and I scrambled up to the top of the boat and perched ourselves, ready to be awed. I was a little concerned by the intermittent cloud cover, thinking it might mar a spectacular sunset. I needn’t have been so worried:

Tropical sunset

Gobsmacking. Awe-inducing. Stunning. If you were so inclined, perhaps religious.

Once the sun fully set, chips and the most delicious, simple salsa ever were passed around along with copious amounts of rum punch. The first hand was very chatty, but we found ourselves mostly talking to a charming, fun couple from Kansas. We talked for hours about travel and food: they had decided on a whim to come to Caye Caulker with their friends. They were quite clearly enjoying themselves – and really, how could you not? We implored them to take the short trip over to San Pedro since they had plenty of time to explore.

Back into port around 8pm, we found ourselves in need of dinner. We thought we’d head up to a little place where we’d seen whole suckling pigs roasting away, but found it sadly lacking. The host was also extremely pushy, so away we went, back to where we had disembarked: Sabre Los Olas, or “Over the Waves.” We considered sitting outside on the swing chairs, but after rocking around on the boat, sturdy chairs were more appealing. As we arrived late, a few options were off the table (at least you know the food is fresh!); however, we were still able to order conch fritters, blackened fillet and shrimp creole. Those fritters were certainly the best part of the meal, though the shrimp & fish were good, too.

On our way home, we popped into a grocery store to pick up some mix for the gold rum that we had in our hotel room. After taking what seemed like an eternity to decide on said mix, we ended up with pineapple lemonade. When we got back, we searched for glasses and found…tea cups. Okay. You make do with what you have. Pinkies out, we finished off our last full day with a night cap you’d only have in Caye Caulker.


Belize 2012 – Day Eight: How to Do Nothing…Perfectly.

1 Apr

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the amazing aquatic adventures and the relaxed atmosphere, the thing that J and I remembered most about Caye Caulker was the pineapple grilled cheese sandwich we had for breakfast at Amor Y Cafe on our first morning there. It sounds a little weird, I’ll grant you that. Let me make the case for it, though: the cheese is mild and a little salty; the pineapple is juicy and sweet; and the bread is light as air, buttered and just toasted enough to get a nice crunch without being overly crisp. The cheese is gooey and when you bite into this gloriously simple sandwich, the cheese oozes out and mixes with the fresh juice from the pineapple slices. It was so good J spent the better part of the following year perfecting the Toronto-made version. (I was more than happy to be the guinea pig for these taste tests and even happier when he figured out the key to recreating it.)

So when we found ourselves back at the caye, we knew we had to head to Amor Y Cafe as soon as we could. They’re only open for breakfast and are busy from the time they open til they close at midday. The service is always friendly, if not always terribly expedient; but, you’re in Caye Caulker. Nothing moves too quickly there anyway. There is a fairly large breakfast selection and you can order any of the sandwiches to go, should you want a snack for later. We chose seats at one of the tables that’s right on the street – a great spot for people watching – and ordered our coffees.

The most important meal of the day.

We did, for just a moment, ponder ordering something aside from the pineapple grilled cheese, but quickly dismissed those thoughts. We put in our orders and soaked up the atmosphere. We recognized a few people from neighbouring businesses that we’d met last year, including the guy who gave us the most epic directions ever. (“I know where you need to go. See those two girls over there? Yeah, turn left at them and then walk til you see some trees…”) Not much later, our highly anticipated meal arrived. I must tell you: it was as good as we remembered. Maybe a tiny bit better.

Grilled cheese heaven.

Did I mention this thing is enormous? It’ll keep you going for a while.

Leisurely breakfast finished, we parked ourselves beach-side with some books and magazines. We were to meet J’s cousin and her friend some time in the early afternoon but had not been able to communicate exactly when. No matter: we sat in a lovely, shady spot between the two water taxi piers and spent a couple of hours doing…nothing. When the scenery looks like this, that’s a perfectly acceptable – and recommended – activity:

When they arrived in the early afternoon, we changed into our bathing suits and headed up to the Split. We spent the rest of the daylight hours watching the parasailers perform their stunts, swimming, drinking from our bucket o’ beers and generally enjoying ourselves immensely. When dinner discussions arose, we suggested heading back to Syd’s. Syd’s, however, was closed on Sundays (ah, travelling in a Catholic country. Gotta remember what day it is or you may find yourself outta luck) so we needed another option. That ended up being the Rainbow Grill, a restaurant with an enormous open-air dining room right over the water. Hard to beat that. I went for the curry chicken; J was feeling the chicken burrito. Both plates were gigantic but as we hadn’t eaten lunch (unless beer counts. And it could.) that was no problem. We polished those suckers off with no problem.

We parted ways after dinner, heading back to our respective hotels. We made plans to meet up around 10am for breakfast and said goodnight. Another fabulous day on a beautiful island with wonderful people.

Belize 2012 – Day Seven: Hey…There Goes The Car

25 Mar

How can our time in San Pedro already be coming to a close? Didn’t we just arrive? At least there was no rush for us to leave: our B&B, Change in Latitudes, was very accommodating, allowing us to leave our bags with them a little longer than check out time so we could spend another precious hour or two in San Pedro. Before we had to say our goodbyes, however, we still had some time left. Breakfast on day two was a sweet one of fruit and cinnamon French toast with hot buttered rum syrup. Were it feasible, that would be my breakfast every day.

Fresh pineapple, orange & papaya

French toast with a little powdered sugar on top!

It would be wrong to drink this straight, I suspect. And yet...

Post-breakfast, we hung out in the courtyard for a bit and met a lady who volunteered at the local animal shelter. Every day, she would go to the shelter and walk as many dogs as she could. Had we known about this opportunity earlier, we certainly would have taken some time to help out a worthy cause. We missed our pooch (a rescue dog himself) while we were away and it would’ve filled that pet withdrawal!

After a swim, the time did come – sadly – to leave. We hopped into the electric golf cart owned by the B&B and Renita gave us a lift back to the pier to catch the water taxi to Caye Caulker.  We had about half an hour to kill and were in search of lunch. There are tons of options available, but we were seeking out some street food and pupusas sounded like they’d hit the spot. We found a little cafe that could accommodate our schedule and ordered cheese, chicken and pork pupusas to go. Accompanied by a marinara sauce and slaw, these were cheesy deliciousness that made us very, very happy:

Perfect snack.

It didn’t hurt that we ate these on the pier, watching the boats come in and out, the birds searching for lunch, kids playing soccer and everyone enjoying the sunshine.

Our taxi arrived at 2:30 and we hopped on for the short trip over to Caye Caulker. This was our first stop last year so we knew what to expect: lots of sun and an incredibly laid back attitude. People are very helpful, the food is plentiful and you can opt to either do lots or absolutely nothing at all. It’s a small island where 75% of the people walk, 22% bike, 2.5% use a golf cart and .5% drive. We saw all of one car on the island and when it would drive by, people would say, “Hey…there goes the car…”

We walked up to the beach house we’d booked, Barefoot in Belize. (We actually had a wee trespassing adventure before arriving, as we saw a sign for the beach house and it was right in front of a big, two-storey blue house that looked much like the pictures we’d seen online…but was definitely not it. Whoops.) Located at toward the south end of the island, about a 5-10 minute walk to the centre of town, it had its own pier, complete with hammocks. Works for me!

Sunset at Caye Caulker.

We got ourselves settled, took a little tour of the caye and wound up where, eventually, everyone winds up: at the Split having a drink at the Lazy Lizard. On any given day, this is where the vast majority of tourists (local and foreign) can be found. Beer and rum are cheap and plentiful, the music is cranked, snorkelling equipment can be rented for five Belizean dollars and you can just jump right into the water and have a swim. Lots of people park themselves at the beginning of the day in a prime spot and don’t leave until the sun goes down.

We found ourselves getting hungry around 8pm and decided to check out a place recommended by all the locals, Syd’s. We had contemplated going last year, but for one reason or another never did get there. Located a couple of streets off the main strip, Syd’s is a real gem. Family-run, the smells and sounds emanating from this little place are truly welcoming. (Not to mention the lovely staff.) J and I made our way to the back patio which is encompassed by lush plants. We had hoped to try the Saturday special of BBQ chicken; alas, we arrived too late. (They close at 9:30, so do get there earlier rather than later.) No matter: let’s try the fried chicken and get some different sides, we said. Oh, and a couple of Belikins, if you please.

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado, but I know good food. That chicken, my friends, was fantastic. Crunchy and crispy, screamingly hot, succulent and juicy: the trademarks of great fried chicken. The batter wasn’t heavy and had lots of flavour. Really, really excellent. Not to be outdone, the rice and beans were pretty much perfect. We had rice and beans just about every day while there and my mother-in-law makes a mean pot of rice and beans herself, but this was the best. If you find yourself at Syd’s do yourself a favour and make sure you get them:

A plate o' tastiness

Bellies full, we strolled back over to the main strip and back north toward the Spit. There was a political rally captivating most of the people on the street, including ourselves. We stopped to listen for a bit and took in the scene that had attracted both locals and tourists. We stayed for a bit and then moved on as I was anxious to get out to a darker spot by the water so I could see the stars.

We went back to our beach house to swing in the hammocks by the sea. There was quite a breeze that night, whipping our hair around all over the place. We kicked off our shoes, hopped into the hammocks and chatted away. After a while, we extricated ourselves and went to head in….except, I couldn’t find one of my flip flops. We searched and searched, even looking in the water but no. That sucker was gone. This was quite clearly a case of karma as I had seen a single shoe in the road earlier in the day and remarked, “Who loses ONE shoe? Really. How is that even possible?”

Now I know. Who loses one shoe? I do. My guess is that a gust of wind picked it up while we were swinging away in the hammocks. Or maybe this little guy took it:

Thief? Doesn't seem too likely.

Regardless, I had it comin’. So if you’re in Caye Caulker and happen to come across a silver flip flop that’s washed up on shore, it’s mine. Feel free to mock.

Belize 2012 – Day Six: Chocolate, Bacon & Rum

23 Mar

Day two in paradise. Awoke to blue skies, steady breezes and temperatures in the high 20’s. We made our way down to breakfast around 8:30 and found our little table set with coffee awaiting us: pretty much the only way that morning could’ve gotten better. We were greeted by the staff and were promptly brought out a bowl of fruit to start our breakfast. Renita introduced us to Seth, a 20-something recent journalism graduate who was taking a month off before plunging into a full-time job. We chatted about travel and Belize and about the camera equipment he took with him everywhere he went. In the meantime, plates with beans, scrambled eggs with cheese and Johnny cakes were placed before us. As we munched away, I mentioned to Renita that I had found a chocolate manufacturer via Twitter in San Pedro and that we’d love the chance to visit. “Oh! You mean Belize Chocolate. I have Chris’ number in my phone. Let me just call him up and see if I can arrange for a tour.” Just like that, we had a tour of an organic, fair trade, locally-grown chocolate factory.

Have I convinced you to go to San Pedro yet?

A few other guests joined us and we all headed down to the south end of the island, roughly three miles from the B&B. Orlando, our taxi driver, was very entertaining, pointing out local landmarks and describing the various foliage which could either heal or seriously harm, apparently. We arrived at the Belize Chocolate Company and were greeted by one half of the team, a British ex-pat named Chris Beaumont. (His partner, Jo, works there in the afternoon.) He took us right into his work space and explained the basic chocolate making process. It was all we could do not to dive in greedily as he showed us the raw cocoa beans, the various stages the beans must go through in order to become beautiful, silky chocolate, the just-picked oranges that would be incorporated into some of the chocolate…seriously. It was tough even at 10:30am.

They make a number of different chocolate bars on-site and we had a little taste of each: dark, ginger, orange, chili and sesame. They were all (predictably) wonderful, but J and I agreed that the significant heat of the chili and the creaminess of the sesame were our favourites. We bought some to bring back to his dad as a thank you gift for driving us to, from and around the mountains, though it was hard to part with it.

The raw product

Oil gets reincorporated back in for a shiny finish

I'll take them all, thank you.

A quick note about the grounds. Even though making chocolate for a living is most kids’ (and adults’) dream, if I worked there I don’t know how I’d ever spend any time inside. This is the view Chris & Jo enjoy:

Sure beats a pavement and cement intersection.

What does one do after a morning spent sampling chocolate? One finds lunch, obviously. We headed to George’s, a local spot recommended to us last year by Josimar, the always-charming Jack of all trades at the B&B. Located just a couple of blocks away, George’s is a great spot for local food cooked up by George himself. It’s not the sexiest spot for lunch but man, is it ever good! J went for the stewed fish lunch; I opted for the stewed chicken. Importantly, both came with plantains and not just any plantains: of all the ones we tried all over Belize, these were the best. The caramelization on these puppies was just perfect:

It came with 2 plantains...I ate 1 before remembering to take the picture.

We passed the afternoon reading, swimming at the pool next door and chatting with Renita. (Tough life, I tells ya.) She mentioned that Red Ginger, an affiliate restaurant to Blue Water Grill where we’d eaten the night before, had excellent food. A little more upscale than the other restaurants in Belize, their food had gotten excellent reviews of late and she had enjoyed it immensely as well. Sold. Later that evening, we moseyed north up the beach, past the centre of town where kids were enjoying the enormous play area while their parents caught up with friends and music played through giant loudspeakers.

The staff at Red Ginger was unfailingly charming and courteous during the several hours over which we dined. We started off with a round of Ginger Punches, an evil concoction of white, dark and coconut rum, pineapple and orange juices, Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, a dash of bitters and tiny pieces of shaved ginger as a garnish. Those little pieces of ginger were a genius addition as they helped to balance out the sweetness of the rum and the juices. This cocktail will appear at our next party, that’s for sure.

For dinner, we ordered the grouper ceviche. Mixed with mango juice, ginger and cucumber, this was a lovely and refreshing appetizer served in a beautiful martini glass with a compartment for ice underneath to keep the ceviche properly chilled.

Next up: snapper fillet with Caribbean garlic-cilantro mojo, served with coconut rice and  wilted spinach and bacon-wrapped scallops with a maple cream sauce on a bed of pappardelle pasta and julienned zucchini and carrots Bacon-anything usually gets my vote as is, but wrapped around scallops and served over fresh pasta with a sweet maple cream? Oh my, yes. Really, this was a stellar meal in a beautiful restaurant. If we’d had room, certainly we’d have indulged in dessert but we were pretty full as it was. Shame, really, as the rum-glazed bananas and the trio of crème brulée looked fantastic.

We casually made our way back to the B&B through the buzzing streets of San Pedro, passing both locals and tourists out enjoying a Friday night on the caye. We were to leave the next afternoon for Caye Caulker, a full-on hippie paradise where life is even slower than in San Pedro. While I looked forward to it, I was saddened by the thought of having to leave a place that I could call home. Maybe one day…

Belize 2012 – Day Four: Holy *%^@, There’s Another One!

12 Mar

We arose to another stunning day in Belize. Warm weather, birds singing, empty stomachs. Having learned my lesson from the previous day, when I ordered breakfast I skipped over the continental breakfast and went for the two eggs (sunny-side up), refried beans, bacon and fresh tortillas. I’ve mentioned a few times that I am notoriously picky when it comes to how my eggs are cooked and am disappointed when my egg order shows up (almost inevitably) overcooked. These, however, were absolutely perfect with bright orange yolks and nearly-translucent whites, cooked just enough. Rip off a piece of tortilla, smother some beans on it, top with some egg yolk, a piece of bacon and a little bit of the ubiquitous Marie Sharp’s sauce. Repeat. Heavenly breakfast.

J and I took a leisurely tour of the grounds, hanging out with the animals and taking pictures of the vibrant flowers planted everywhere:

One last dip in the pool and we were back on the road. We stopped in for a brief visit with J’s uncle and then it was on to…the zoo! The Belize Zoo is a sanctuary for native animals, most of whom were rescued. For a “little zoo” it certainly had a plethora of animals from all walks of life. We saw tapirs, an ocelot, an enormous crocodile, snakes, spider & howler monkeys, birds of every variety, coatimundi, deer, grey foxes, a puma and, most impressively, the jaguars. Mesmerized is the only word that suits our reaction to seeing these gorgeous animals. We were under the impression that there was only one, which we saw lounging on a tree branch:

Maxin' & relaxin'.

But as we all clamored to gawk at this beautiful creature, J’s dad yelled out, “Holy *%^@, there’s another one!” We looked down to see:

Hello, kitty.

This, apparently, was Buddy Junior and it was Mom lying on the branch.Hi, Buddy Junior, nice to make your acquaintance. My but you’re close to my toes…

While Buddy Junior was close, the zoo also affords visitors the opportunity to interact with the animals. You can pay a relatively affordable amount of money to play with and feed a baby jaguar (DO IT!) and, when you’re done your tour of the zoo, you can hold a boa constrictor. This was not my cup of tea in particular, but J was all for it. I have some great shots of him with a snake draped over his shoulders, while his mother stands behind me and looks on, horrified.

Our next stop was Old Belize for a late lunch. It’s a cultural centre just outside Belize City with a little museum, a gorgeous port filled with yachts and a man-made beach. Because it was nearly 4pm by the time we got there and we were starving, we ended up skipping over much of the tourist-y/learning stuff. Right for the food – that’s what we really wanted anyway. I can read on my own time: feed me now! I was in the mood for shrimp, so I opted for the deep-fried shrimp. As always, the meal did not disappoint. The view didn’t hurt, either:

Cucumber Beach

Back to our hotel in Belize City, we had a quiet night in with our second bottle of complimentary champagne. (I hesitate to call it that, but hey…it had bubbles.) We repacked our bags in preparation for the next five days that were to be spent out in the cayes: Ambergris and Caulker, two of my favourite places on Earth.

Belize Bubbles!

foodNURD is Officially on Vacation!

18 Feb

Hey, all! I’m off on vacation for a couple of weeks, so foodNURD won’t have any updates for a while. J and I are off to Belize for the second time in two years. Spectacular country with amazing people and, importantly, delectable fresh food. Looking forward to getting my fill of fresh seafood: conch and shrimp ceviche, grouper, red snapper…it goes on. Not to mention excellent, homemade Latin American faves like panades, salbutes and garnachas! And let’s not forget the $2.50 Belikin beers…

I’ve posted a few pics below for you to feast your eyes on. Many more to come upon my return!

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