Monday, February 25, 2008

Belize City

February 10-12. We spent our last 2 nights back in the Best Western Biltmore in Belize City. Sunday we just relaxed. We swam in the beautiful pool and played cards, cribbage, and read.

Monday we spent $1.50 on the bus into Belize City and then $15 for a taxi for about a 10 minute ride to Old Belize. This a very good small museum covering the history, ecology, and culture of Belize. Outside there were videos showing these areas plus tourism. They even provided a guide to talk about the exhibits. (This was a good complement to the things we had already learned.) Some new things we learned. 1) Major exports: sugar (60% of exports), mahogany, citrus (mostly oranges & grapefruit), bananas, and fishing (lobster & conch). 2) 42% of Belize's plants have some medicinal value. 3) Sugar cane makes molasses, then brown sugar, then white sugar, and then rum. 4) From the 1600's to the 1800's mahogany was logged and taken by boat to England to be made into fine furniture. Caribbean and African slaves were employed in this. Their families remained and became one of the ethnic groups, caribe. 4) The first car in Belize City was in 1903 but there were very few until the 1970's because people couldn't afford them. 5) The other ethnic groups are Creole, a mix of African slaves and European; Mestizo, a mix of Spanish and Yucatan Mayan; Mayan (3 main groups); and Garifuna, a mix of former Nigerian slaves and Carib Indians from St. Vincent. In the same location was Cucumber Beach, a beach and "water park" with a slide and bouncy water thing. It was a school day so was empty but looked like it would be fun to go to.

A Ride with Natives: Someone had told us that no bus went to the museum. When we got there we asked if the bus stopped there. It did. We waited with 2 other men for the bus to go back to Belize City. After about 5 minutes a car stopped because the driver knew one of the men. They both were getting in the car when the man asked where we were going. We said the swing bridge in Belize City. The driver said he was going very near there. So, here we were basically hitchhiking without the thumb and in a foreign country - not something we'd think of doing in the US! But it was a lovely drive and good conversation. The driver was probably in his mid thirties and a videographer for a TV station and a Catholic Church. He also worked on other movies in Belize. He was very articulate and was one of the only natives we met who didn't have a British accent.

We walked over the swing bridge, famous because they actually swing the center perpendicular so tall boats can go through. There were lots of boats on the open water side of this bridge.

We could've gotten food from one of the many street vendors but chose to go to Big Daddy's in the Commercial Building next to the bridge. It had been recommended by Slickrock and Frommers. It looked like a family thing with homemade food. Here's our delicious salad, stew chicken, rice and tamale.

There was a great grocery store about a 10 minute walk from the Biltmore called Brodie's where we got our food. Sometimes we had a sandwich for breakfast because that's all they had! We were very flexible. We just needed to eat. One night we opted for a Chinese restaurant a little further down the Northern Highway. Tuesday we headed to the airport and said goodbye to Belize. It had been a very good trip. I've already started a list of things to see and do on the next trip some day.

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