We awoke to pleasant rays of much needed sunshine, bid a hasty "adieu" to Turtle Inn and carted ourselves back toward town to Captain Jaks, a modest but charming property recommended to us by a friend in Playa. We were immediately greeted by Tamalyn Martin, a young woman from Texas whose parents had recently acquired the cabanas from the original owner, off to seek his fortune in Panama. Their plans to retire to Placencia were a few years off and she had just recently moved down to care for the property and run the business in the interim. She appeared to be happy and settling in well and after showing us to our accommodations, a sturdy two story, two bedroom wood cabin, she pointed us in the direction of her daily breakfast spot.
While we certainly didn't need the second bedroom, we chose this cabin to take advantage of the ocean breezes on the second level.
View down the lagoon from Captain Jak's spacious dock.
The beach is just across the street from Jak's, about a three minute walk from our cabin.
After a bit of trial and error and directions from a local woman of the village, we found Yoli's, an enormous palapa covered bar set out over the water at the very southern-most tip of the peninsula. What struck us immediately was the unusual building techniques and materials used in the structure. The skeleton, consisting of milled hardwood posts and beams, was more in keeping with the supports of a New England barn than the typical Caribbean shacks that dot the coastline. We also noted that the bar and all of the furniture was handmade, carefully crafted of various colorful hardwoods, native to the region. Clearly, this was a labor of love that was meant to last. On a later visit, we would meet Regan. An expatriated U.S. builder, skilled craftsman and husband to Yoli, Regan built this restaurant and every table and chair with his own hands. We had a chance to tour his workshop nearby and see some more of the beautiful furniture projects he has in the works, dramatic bed frames designed for a friend and fellow developer in Placencia.
By chance, we found Yoli's Aunt who sent us off in the right direction with homemade muffins and sticky macaroons to snack on.
Bartender Eric whips up a mean Bloody Mary! My favorite way to start the day!
My adorable husband, clearly in his element!
After the obligatory email check in at The Purple Space Monkey, we wandered around town getting a feel for the place and slipping happily into the laid back Placencia lifestyle.
We strolled along the boardwalk, Placencia's pedestrian "Main Street".
We bought cinnamon sticky buns from "John the Bakerman".
We inhaled a typical Belizean lunch of stew chicken, rice and beans.
We bought sweet bread in Miss Beulah's living room.
We read quietly on the beach and soaked up some Caribbean sun.
We found just the right thing for Rob's sore back.
We observed the daily life and routines of the villagers around us.
Dusk was rapidly approaching and preparations for the lobster festival were now in full gear. A long, well-manned bar was set up under a large tent where we bought a stack of tickets good for dozens of $2 dollar local drinks and ice cold Belikins. Elyse Dial, local Placencian and unflagging organizer of the Lobsterfest, gathered this year's participants in the fishing tournament to read the rules and detail the prizes in each category. Perhaps due to the weather, the turn-out for the tournament seemed a bit slim but the group, while small, was enthusiastic and attentive.
Raquel Battles, who lost both of her parents to cancer, donated water safety and survival packs to all of the participants of the event. The red soft-sided coolers contained crank-able waterproof flashlights, small first aid kits and other items useful to a fisherman or anyone in need on the open sea. In honor of her parents, Sonia and Edlin Leslie Sr., The BlissfulSage Foundation was established to bring information about cancer awareness, prevention and treatment to residents in the more remote areas of Belize. Earlier in the morning, a 5 mile run/walk was held with proceeds to benefit The Edlin Leslie Sr. Hospice Care Program and Project Ensure, an initiative of The BlissfulSage Foundation to bring financial assistance and the nutritional supplement "Ensure" to needy children and adults battling cancer in southern Belize.
We grabbed a quick dinner at the always jumping Barefoot Bar, tossed back a few too many potent $2 dollar One Barrel and Sprites and then checked out the talent at The Purple Space Monkey karaoke contest. The grand prize of $1000 Belizean dollars brought out Placencia's best singers and tempted more than one tourist. In the end, a young local girl with a golden tongue and lungs of steal won over the judges and the crowd as well. Reluctantly, having reached "last call" we called it a night. I was loathe to admit it, but air-conditioning would have been a blessing. The winds that had churned up the seas and battered the shoreline finally called it quits, leaving us in a stifling, hot stillness and making it nearly impossible to sleep. We stripped off all clothing and as many covers as possible and tried not to touch each other. So much for our romantic long weekend!
Adding insult to injury, the electricity cut out first thing in the morning, leaving us without even the small relief of fans. The heat drove us out into the streets where the steady hum of generators let us know that these "blackouts" must be a regular occurrence. Within the hour, the electricity came back on and the town returned to life. Today, Wendy's Restaurant seemed the best option for breakfast, its cold AC a small consolation for a sticky, uncomfortable night. Enormous servings of hot, flaky fry-jacks stuffed with eggs, beans and cheese arrived at the table and instantly, our day started to look up. I tried the seaweed shake, famous to the region, and while it was delicious, sweet and cold, I failed to find the appeal. Perhaps my tastebuds had been dulled by the previous evening's rum consumption.
Back at the fairgrounds, Lobsterfest 2008 was well under way and the return of bright sunshine had everyone in high spirits. The Kendall bridge has been washed out again but somehow the craftsmen and bands all managed to make the trip from the mainland. Quite a few tourists had arrived in the past 24 hours insuring a profitable day for the local restaurateurs and vendors selling their wares. Booths were set up to support the various local not-for-profit organizations. The firemen sold t-shirts as did the Placencia Humane Society. The local chapter of the BTIA sold shirts and hats emblazoned with the official 2008 Lobsterfest design and, this year, added a lobster cookbook to their fundraising efforts, full of mouth-watering recipes submitted by local residents and chefs.
Following a late lunch of grilled lobster, baked beans, creamy coleslaw and, of course, rice and beans we cooled off with a few beers at Yoli's and then dashed over for the end of day weigh-in. The rough seas and hot sun were not kind to our fishermen, each coming back in varying shades of either green or red. Today's efforts, hindered by high swells and choppy surface waters, returned meager results. Out of the nine boats in competition, only three managed to return with fish that met the minimum weight requirements to qualify. Still it was fun to watch and cheer for the participants who, at very least, went home with food enough for a fine feast.
Placencia locals and tourists alike got in on the fun, despite the bad conditions, helping raise funds for the Placencia BTIA and bringing much needed revenue to this tiny village recently devastated by tropical storm Arthur. Congratulations to Elyse and all the people who worked so hard to make this event a great success. Although we had to leave on Sunday morning, we were glad to be in attendance for much of this event and pleased to help support this delightful village. Visiting an area for the first time, during events like this Lobsterfest, provides a wonderful opportunity to really see what a community is like, what the residents celebrate and are most proud of. Whether it's a small festival like The Blessing of the Fleet in Stonington Connecticut or a grand celebration like Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, your enjoyment of the area is sure to be heightened by the excitement generated by the shared experience.
(Or, maybe I just like a good party!)