Morning Stroll in San Ignacio

Walking down the hill to downtown San Ignacio.

A slightly sprained ankle earned me an extra day off this week. Instead of relaxing by my hotel pool, I spent the first one catching up on writing and on processing photos. Plus, it was pouring and despite the gorgeous view from Cahal Pech Village Resort and the equally gorgeous swimming pool, I didn’t get to take advantage of it.

Today is my bonus second day off and I decided to spend half of my day in downtown San Ignacio. I ventured there earlier this week, but the roads were shut down, there were big trucks everywhere repaving the roads. This morning everything is back to normal and San Ignacio is its bustling little self again. Walking around town, seeing new things, observing the way of life and shooting – it’s my way of relaxing.

Here’s what I did this morning.

1. I had a Belizean breakfast at Pop’s

I loved Pop’s. My guide Anastasio from Pacz Tours tipped me off on it yesterday. Located on West Street, the street parallel to Main Street, it’s a super cute little diner-type restaurant and a real mom and pop restaurant.

There are only 6 booths that seat four people each, and only one main server but the place somehow runs very smoothly. The kitchen is open and you can watch the ladies making your breakfast, all fresh. Even Pop is back there, helping out.

Belizean breakfast at Pop's: Scrambled eggs with "chaya" (looks and tastes just like callaloo). refried beans and a side order of fry jacks. Oh and my bottomless cup of coffee.

A closer peek at my Belizean breakfast.

Throw on some Marie Sharpe hot sauce. I'm in love with her jams now too (Marie Sharpe banana jam = heavenly!)

Fry jacks are a typical Belizean food, usually served at breakfast. Deep fried dough that looks all puffy but there's nothing inside. You can stuff them, or eat them as a side with your meal (kind of like you do bread), or have them with jam, or cheese, or honey.

There are other Belizean options, besides the one I chose above. I watch a few having a plate of bacon or sausage, avocado slices and fried jacks.

Major plus at Pop’s: bottomless coffee cup – the coffee is not only delicious, you get unlimited free refills with breakfast. I decided to try their fresh-squeezed orange juice too, and it rocks. Only US$1 for a tall glass!

By 9:30am, the place is completely full and almost everyone here is Belizean.

What did this breakfast cost? $14 Belizean dollars.  That’s right, 7 bucks. The coffee was only US$1.

2. I browsed through a consignment store

There are lots of discount stores downtown. From Lebanese-owned department stores to Chinese ones for groceries, to Belizean owned for used clothes.

I have a penchant for clothes, as some of you know :-), so I decided to check out a consignment store.  At Delia’s Classified American Clothing, you can get a dress for $5.  That’s five Belizean dollars or US $2.50. The fancier ones are $10, the sales lady tells me. Everything is in good condition. And looks like it’s kind of popular with the locals because by 10AM, I’m leaving and more women enter the store to sift through the racks.

Delia's "Classified" American Clothing also carries other discounted household goods.

3.  I talked to some Belizeans at Flayva’s, a restaurant and Internet cafe.

Flayva's has a lot of flavor (had to throw that one in!)

I can never miss the sounds of Bob Marley anywhere I go. And I heard it passing by this colorful building. Okay, the “free internet” sign caught my eye as well. There’s a nice back garden patio as well and the staff is friendly. I could definitely return here.

4. I listened to some Punta music at Venus Records

I love African music. I grew up listening to it, from “makossa” to “soukous” and the list goes on.

Punta is one of the most popular sounds coming out of Belize. I discovered it myself last year. It’s the music of the Garifuna – African descendants who came to Belize and have their own music. If you’ve never listened to Punta or Punta Rock (the “modern” twist on Punta), you must. Check out Andy Palacio (rest his soul) on i-Tunes – he was Belize’s most famous artist. There’s also Paul Nabor, and the Garifuna Womens Collective (who I really, really hope to meet while here, somehow, before I leave! Hint to the powers-that-be-who-plan my days! :-))

5.  I relaxed by the Macal River

From the Police Station, walk down Main Street (also called Burns Avenue), and when you reach the intersection, take a right. Keep walking down and you hit the San Ignacio Market. Behind it, is the river. You can sit in the shade and take in the view of the water. You can swim too, as the locals do. The water is fresh and cool. No crocodiles here!

The Macal River is right by the San Ignacio market.

6. I stood on the street corner for a few minutes and people-watched Belizean-style

In the shade, of course. :-)

A corner on Main Street (or Burns Avenue) in downtown San Ignacio.

Some of the ladies were eating their breakfast outside their place of work, just watching the world go by and chatting away.

7. I burned my breakfast walking back up the hill to the San Ignacio Hotel

It must be 100 degrees today. It’s tempting to answer “yes” to one of the numerous taxi ride offers, but really, it’s so close there’s no reason to, even with my ankle because it’s gotten much better.

Licensed taxis in the area have green plates (but the cars are not necessarily yellow).

I have to say though, walking down that hill from the San Ignacio Hotel to town is way easier than going back up! In less than two minutes, my face looks like I just stepped out of the shower and my tank top is sticking to my back. A young Belizean girl in skinny jeans passes me, briskly and without effort. Have I lost my heat tolerance  living in the US? Or is it just hotter in Belize than in the Caribbean?

I see the rooftop of my hotel in the distance. On second thought, after I am done with today’s writing, I think I’ll go enjoy the pool, cool off and relax that foot.

The pool and my view as I write, at San Ignacio Hotel.

 

Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma has contributed writing and photography to CNN Travel, New York Magazine, AFAR, American Way, Travel Channel, BBC Travel, and others. She’s the new author of MOON BELIZE for Moon Travel Guides, and is completing a second title, MOON BELIZE CAYES. A serial expat, Lily’s lived and studied on three continents, including Africa–from her native Ethiopia to Côte d'Ivoire––and Europe, and is fluent in four languages. A former attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009, she favors all things culture, adventure and storytelling, and escapes Washington DC’s winters every year. Lily also runs her award-winning travel and photography blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.

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5 Comments

  1. Julie 22 July, 2011 at 9:31 PM #

    Now you’ve got me jonesing for fryjack and refried beans (and that pool)! And I think I read (probably in Sastun) that chaya is callaloo, so your tastebuds were right on!

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 22 July, 2011 at 11:09 PM #

    Hehe…hurry back! :-) Oh how interesting, I was surprised at how similar it looked. I wish I could find that book (Sastun) that Megan gave me! I think it got lost in my moves.

  3. Hal Amen 24 July, 2011 at 9:48 PM #

    Great shots. It’s 100 here in Texas as well–could use some of that pool. (wow)

  4. kay johnson 26 July, 2011 at 2:31 PM #

    your “Walking down the hill” shot is taken almost exactly where my truck ran out of gas a few days ago… providence works in mysterious ways, luckily, it was all downhill to the gas station! thanks for some GREAT shots of my adopted hometown!

  5. jay 26 July, 2011 at 4:59 PM #

    Reminds me of Playa Del Carmen market, peppered with folks from all over…juice from vendor 5 cents….omg.

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