Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Razor wire in the city of brotherhood - Belize City

Spoiler Alert: I could have titled this post "We should have taken better pictures in Belize City"

I don't think that Belize City is officially known as the city of brotherhood, but our cab driver and impromptu city guide, Jimmy, had brothers and sisters all over town. When we rolled in it was about five, and about 90 degrees, so we wanted to find a safe, air conditioned place to stay as quickly as possible. With that in mind we stopped at a gas station to look at a map, in hopes of finding a part of the city which looked better than where we were at the moment.

(Insert photo of dodgy looking gas station here)

I saw a guy filling up a '60s RAF Land Rover Lightweight, so I figured he would be a decent guy to ask about a place to stay. (I don't know why I thought that) As we were talking about his Rover another guy walked up and said his brother owned a great guesthouse not far away, and he would be happy to lead us to it. Not knowing if this was some sort of scam, and a little surprised at someone approaching us volunteering help at the dodgy gas station (see photo above), I deferred to the judgement of my long-established friend (Land Rover guy) and he approved of the guesthouse and the new plan. Whew.

 So, we bid a fond farewell to Land Rover guy, and set sail on the winds of fortune with Jimmy - by following his Nissan Sentra through some more rough looking neighborhoods. It got darker as we made our way into the part of town we had previously hoped to avoid, and then we had arrived! Jimmy's "brother" (who was middle-eastern and in his early 20s, Jimmy is black and in his 50s) came out and took the padlock off of the fence so we could come in. The guesthouse was very nice, and seemed to stay that way thanks to the 10' tall iron stake perimeter fence topped by coiled razor wire.
Like this, but in color, and with a nice guesthouse.
Or this, but with Berlin Wall razor wire.

We got a room, and Jimmy waited in the lobby for us to get ready. His "sister" ran a restaurant about a half mile away, and it would not be advisable to walk there, as it had gotten dark. Luckily, Jimmy was a cab driver, so he could take us. On the way to dinner Jimmy told us which alleys to avoid, which unfortunately comprised most of the neighborhood. Oh well, we had a driver, and the city was really interesting from the backseat of a car being driven by a lifelong local. He took us by some of the old colonial mansions by the waterline, past a church built with bricks imported from England, and past the Colonial Prison, which was now the Belize history museum.

We went to his "sister's" restaurant, which, like most reputation-driven local spots, had very minimal signage and dated decor. They also had some of the best red beans and rice I've ever had, and Belikin beer, the only beer produced in Belize. Jimmy was great, and though we never really "hired" him, we were both glad he found us and gave us a far more interesting look at Belize City than we would have otherwise. We bought him dinner, tipped him $20 for the tour and the ride, and went to bed excited to see Belize City in the daylight.

Jimmy's ability as a tour guide is beyond question, because by daylight Belize City had turned back into a pumpkin. We took a walk around the area with Kristen and Andrew, a couple we met at the guesthouse. It took about 30 minutes to see that Belikin was not only the national beer, but, for some, the national pass-time as well. Every block or so a drunk guy would wander up and strike up a chat. No one was rude or threatening, but it got old quick. With half a day to burn, we decided to join in the fun, and spent the afternoon wandering from restaurant to restaurant sampling the four different Belikin products: Belikin, Belikin Stout, Belikin Premium, and Lighthouse Lager. After extensive research Jill settled on the Belikin Premium, and I stuck with classic Belikin. That was the most interesting thing we discovered that day. That, and a stand selling tacos two for a dollar. The tacos were good.

Skip Belize City, unless you can find Jimmy...

I DO have pictures of the beer.