Belizean Food

belfoodbelezanDespite the low GDP in Belize the food in the country is very rich and diverse.

When we were in Belize we had the privilege of trying food in a variety of settings…

Some places were very fancy like the Marriott Hotel in Belize City:

Some places like the bus stop were not really eating places, but no matter where you go there was always food in Belize:

At this meal Denise tries to learn how to make a tortilla.

At this meal Denise tries to learn how to make a tortilla.

My (John) favorite places were when we got to eat with the people at their homes. This is where you really see what people are eating:

The first thing you notice coming off the plane is that there are no chain fast food restaurants in Belize. There is really no need for them in Belize for mainly two reasons: One, regular Belizean food is so cheap they would never be able to compete on prices; and two, Belizeans don’t really like to eat their food quickly. The majority of the restaurants we saw had outdoor eating areas where the people would sit and watch the people go by, it was kind of like watching a parade but no one really was headed in any particular destination and no one ever marched to the same beat.

To list all of the food we had in Belize would be impossible but I did want to at least try to give a top ten:

10: Stew with beans and rice. Cost: $8 BLZ ($4 USD). This is a classic food in Belize. Typically it also includes potato salad, but one place called Eva’s served it with mashed potatoes that were so good that one time I just ordered mashed potatoes.

The classic: stew with beans and rice.

The classic: stew with beans and rice.

9. Chinese food plate. Cost: $9 BLZ ($4.50 USD). Surprisingly Asians own a lot of the restaurants and stores in Belize. The result of which is that you can get some really good fried rice in Belize, but for some reason you also get french fries included with your Chinese meals.

Chinese food was good, still don't understand why it had french fries.

Chinese food was good, still don’t understand why it had french fries.

8. Belizean Ice Cream. Cost $2 BLZ ($1 USD). With all the fresh fruit and chocolate in Belize it is no surprise that the ice cream in Belize is really good. There is no Baskin Robbins in Belize but if there were I think they would have to change their slogan to “365” because there were no end to the different types of variations we saw. The strangest one had to be the spicy tart ice cream. Ice cream should not be spicy.

AJ enjoying strawberry ice cream.

AJ enjoying strawberry ice cream.

AJ with caramel ice cream.

AJ with caramel ice cream.

7. Lemon Tarts. Cost $1 BLZ ($1 USD). Small convenient and sold at every bus stop. Guaranteed to make you feel like you were instantly transported to an island.

A ham and cheese Johnny cake and a lemon tart.

A ham and cheese Johnny cake and a lemon tart.

6. Johnny Cakes. Cost $2.25 BLZ ($1.125 USD). These hearty creations were originally made for sailors sailing across the Atlantic. Once hardened Johnny Cakes can last up to 6 months, which is plenty of time for a pirate to attack and loot quite a few Spanish ships.

5. Fry Jacks. Cost $5 BLZ ($2.50 USD). Fried dough, how can you go wrong? You can’t. They look and taste just like mini Indian fry breads and are great for a hearty breakfast right before a day exploring ancient ruins.

Eggs, fry jacks, and sausage made for a very hearty breakfast.

Eggs, fry jacks, and sausage made for a very hearty breakfast.

4. Conch Ceviche. Cost $10 BLZ ($5 USD). I had heard of this dish from before I had even set foot in Belize. Conch are mostly known in the USA as those shells that Hawaiians are always making into horns, but apparently the snail that lives inside them are edible. In Belize they pull out the snail, pulverize it with a hammer, chop it up with onions and tomatoes, and then serve it with lemon juice and chips. It reminded me a lot like coctel de pulpo (octopus cocktail).

Conche Ceviche.

Conche Ceviche.

3. Coconut Tarts. Cost $1 BLZ ($1 USD). Lemon tarts are good, but coconut tarts are just one notch above. Eat one of those and not only do you feel like your on an island, but you just became a poor rich man on an island.

It really is as good as it looks and no, I can't wait to take a picture.

It really is as good as it looks and no, I can’t wait to take a picture.

2. The lobster roll. Cost $2 BLZ ($1 USD). I couldn’t believe it when I saw them in the bus station. Someone was actually going to give me a fried lobster roll for $2 BLZ. I quickly bought all 5 that they had and to my surprise they had 5 more when we came back several hours later, which I also bought!

How can lobster be this cheap?

How can lobster be this cheap?

1. Chocolate bars. Cost varied. Hello! This is why we came to Belize and it did not disappoint. Any empty space I had in my (John’s) backpack on the way back was dedicated to the loading of as much chocolate I could get my hands on. It is eventually going to run out, but in the meantime I (John) plan on having a good time.

How can you ever go wrong with chocolate?

How can you ever go wrong with chocolate?

A few other honorable mentions would also have to include freshly squeezed juice, chocolate cookies (what we would call brownies), pepper jack steak, and coconut sauce fish.

In the front is pepper steak, then fresh watermelon juice, and in the back is coconut sauce fish.

In the front is pepper steak, then fresh watermelon juice, and in the back is coconut sauce fish.

AJ eating some stew on a bus bench in Belize City.

AJ eating some stew on a bus bench in Belize City.

The Marriott had a very fancy restaurant but we didn't feel like paying $40 BLZ ($20 USD) for the buffet lunch.

The Marriott had a very fancy restaurant but we didn’t feel like paying $40 BLZ ($20 USD) for the buffet lunch.

On my morning walks it was hard not to buy a lot of pastries.

On my morning walks it was hard not to buy a lot of pastries.

Eva's was one of our favorite hangout places because it had free wifi and was centrally located.

Eva’s was one of our favorite hangout places because it had free wifi and was centrally located.

They called this a cookie.

They called this a cookie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually we did go home and we had to leave all that great Belizean food behind. In the mean time we will always have the memories and if we are really lucky we might even find a good Belizean restaurant one day.

You think we would have been more creative for our first meal back.

You think we would have been more creative for our first meal back.

Riverside Metropolitan Museum (RMM): City of Riverside Landmark #11

Location: 3580 Mission Inn Ave.
Date Established: 1912
Date Visited: 10/21/2014

The Riverside Metropolitan Museum has been used for many things over the years.

The Riverside Metropolitan Museum has been used for many things over the years.

The building that currently houses the Riverside Metropolitan Museum also known as the RMM has had various reincarnations. The building started it’s life in 1912 as a Federal Post Office. At the start of World War II it was taken over by the war department and in 1943 housed soldiers on temporary leave in Riverside. In 1945 the City of Riverside bought the building and used it to house the Police Department and the City Museum was housed in the basement. In 1965 the Riverside Police Department got it’s own building at 4102 Orange St. and the after a brief restoration the City Museum completely took over the space in December of 1966.

 

 

 

The RMM is City Landmark #11 and listed on the National Landmark registry.

The RMM is City Landmark #11 and listed on the National Landmark registry.

If you look up at the museum façade you can see some emblems of it's early post office days.

If you look up at the museum façade you can see some emblems of it’s early post office days.

This design drawing shows the opening of the new Riverside Police Station in 1965. (Courtesy Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke)

This design drawing shows the opening of the new Riverside Police Station in 1965. (Courtesy Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke)

This picture shows the museum circa 1961 when it was still being used as a police station (courtesy City of Riverside Library)

This picture shows the museum circa 1961 when it was still being used as a police station (courtesy City of Riverside Library)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some decorated Native American artifacts.

Some decorated Native American artifacts.

The Riverside Municipal Museum, now known as the Riverside Metropolitan Museum (RMM). Started on December 12, 1924, when the widow of National Biscuit Company (NABISCO) magnate Mrs. Cornelius Earle Rumsey donated her husband’s collection of Native American artifacts to the city. In the beginning the museum was housed in the basement of the old city hall building and was really more of an archive that guarded prominent artifacts donated by various citizens. It wasn’t until the mid 60’s and early 70’s by the efforts of people such as world famous naturalist, and Riverside resident, Edmund C. Jaeger, that the museum would start to grow and expand into a traditional museum with both permanent and rotating displays.

Today the RMM is a very prominent organization within the City of Riverside. It also has associations with national museum organizations including the Smithsonian. Besides the downtown location the RMM also owns the Harada House and the Heritage House. The permanent collections of the museum include it’s original Native American artifact collection, some city artifacts, and various stuffed animals. When I went to the museum there was a display regarding the Cahuilla Indians and a display upstairs regarding John Muir and his visit to Riverside.

Denise and AJ in front of the Temperance Water Fountain.

Denise and AJ in front of the Temperance Water Fountain.

At the bottom of the fountain it is interesting to note the "doggy bowls".

At the bottom of the fountain it is interesting to note the “doggy bowls”.

The Temperance Water Fountain was donated to the City of Riverside in 1907 by the Women Temperance Society in an effort to promote clean water. The drinking fountain part has been removed, but if you look close you can still see where the pipes were and at the bottom there are "doggy bowls".

The Temperance Water Fountain was donated to the City of Riverside in 1907 by the Women Temperance Society in an effort to promote clean water.

John Tortes Meyers was a Cahuilla Indian and a Riverside native who played in the major leagues from 1908-1917.

John Tortes Meyers was a Cahuilla Indian and a Riverside native who played in the major leagues from 1908-1917.

AJ and a friend imitate the Cougar roar.

AJ and a friend imitate the Cougar roar.

An early bicycle from the "City of Riverside in 50 artifacts" display.

An early bicycle from the “City of Riverside in 50 artifacts” display.

This 1915 portrait of the Riverside Police Department features Chief Kirk, his daughter, and the rest of the department.

This 1915 portrait of the Riverside Police Department features Chief Kirk, his daughter, and the rest of the department.

In 1887 Hall's railway weaved through 10th, Main, and Date street.

In 1887 Hall’s railway weaved through 10th, Main, and Date street.

John Muir visited Riverside in the late 1800s and spoke about his many travels.

John Muir visited Riverside in the late 1800s and spoke about his many travels.

A crocodile skeleton from the John Muir exhibit.

A crocodile skeleton from the John Muir exhibit.

A walrus head and artifacts from one of John Muir's Alaskan trips.

A walrus head and artifacts from one of John Muir’s Alaskan trips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have some time I would encourage you to go. The museum is open most days 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission is a suggested $2, but not required.

Nim Li Punit “The Big Hat” Place

It was from this stella that Lim Li Punit got it's name.

It was from this stella that Lim Li Punit got it’s name.

Nim Li Punit  is Mayan for “Big Hat” which it got from one of the stellas at the site that has a ruler with a very large head piece. If I were to name the site I would have named it Monument Hill. It certainly had a lot of them. Almost every few feet you walked you could see the base stone for a stella. Walking through the site there were clearly three main areas. One area appeared to be a ceremonial plaza, the second a ball court, and the third a royal burial ground.

 

This stella talks about a king that took over after a big fire in 746AD.

This stella talks about a king that took over after a big fire in 746AD.

Some of the tools used by the people of Lim Li Punit.

Some of the tools used by the people of Lim Li Punit.

I found this old man charm kind of interesting.

I found this old man charm kind of interesting.

This was the largest of the stellas found in Lim Li Punit.

This was the largest of the stellas found in Lim Li Punit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nim Li Punit was recently discovered in 1976 by a archeologist named Norman Hammond. He was from the British Cambridge University Museum. There were excavations in the 80’s and the 90’s but the site today is mostly untouched. This is evident in the many rocks that are strewn about the area. The site is located in Southern Belize in the Toledo District. The Toledo District is known for its thick jungles and heavy rainfall. To get to the site you had to drive a half a mile from the main highway. It wasn’t too bad, but like most hill roads in Belize it was very bumpy. When we were there we were mostly by ourselves. The only people we saw were grounds workers who were using some of the old stones to make walkways.

The steps to the main plaza were kind of steep.

The steps to the main plaza were kind of steep.

AJ used the hop method to get himself up the plaza steps.

AJ used the hop method to get himself up the plaza steps.

Most of the area still looks unexcavated.

Most of the area still looks unexcavated.

Workers were piecing together the old stones to make new walkways.

Workers were piecing together the old stones to make new walkways.

John overlooking the plaza and ball court.

John overlooking the plaza and ball court.

AJ trying to find meaning in a stella.

AJ trying to find meaning in a stella.

A view walking up to the royal tomb plaza.

A view walking up to the royal tomb plaza.

an open royal tomb.

an open royal tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little hut protects the stella of a royal tomb.

A little hut protects the stella of a royal tomb.

Reading what I could on the stellas it looks like Lim Li Punit was kind of a coronation ceremony place. A lot of them certainly took place there. It looks like the city had it’s heyday between the 5th and the 8th century. In the 8th century it isn’t clear what happened but looking at the stella it appears that there might of been a bit of turmoil going on because the leaders changed a lot. Whereas in a 5th century stella you would have one stella dedicated to one king, in the 8th multiple rulers would use the same stone to mark their coronations.

 

 

AJ on the start game mark of the ball court.

AJ on the start game mark of the ball court.

To get up to Lim Li Punit you have to go up a half a mile up a rocky road.

To get up to Lim Li Punit you have to go up a half a mile up a rocky road.

You don't see many tapir warnings in the USA.

You don’t see many tapir warnings in the USA.

The view from the royal tomb area was spectacular. If you gotta go, this is the view you want to have for eternity.

The view from the royal tomb area was spectacular. If you gotta go, this is the view you want to have for eternity.

 

Museum of Belize, Belize City, Belize

musmussignOne of our main objectives while we were in Belize was to visit the Caracol ruins. The Caracol ruins is the largest archeological site in Belize. It has been know for few decades now, but it is still an active dig site. New things are being discovered there all the time. The site itself is pretty remote so I rented an SUV to get out there. The road however was a lot longer than I estimated it to be, not to mention it was very rugged, so I sadly had to turn back. As soon as I got back I booked a trip with a professional outfitting group and again was excited to go, but the morning I was scheduled to go I read this:

Because of the shooting Caracol was declared closed for at least a week.

Because of the shooting Caracol was declared closed for at least a week.

Well, that ended that idea. We thought hard on things to do and ultimately decided to go to Belize City. When we told the outfitting group that we were going to Belize City they kind of laughed at us. They said there was nothing interesting in Belize City. They said that tourists only land in Belize City and that they leave because it is boring. We went to Belize City despite the warnings, and found many things to do.

The Museum of Belize and the Central Bank of Belize are on the same grounds.

The Museum of Belize and the Central Bank of Belize are on the same grounds.

The Central Bank of Belize.

The Central Bank of Belize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe, history is not the image Belize wants to convey to tourists. Or perhaps Belize wants to keep their rich heritage all to themselves, but we found A LOT of things to do in Belize City. So many things in fact that it is going to take several blog posts I think to cover it all.

This blog post however is going to cover the Museum of Belize. Which was actually the last thing we did in Belize, but if I was just arriving in Belize I would probably make this my first thing to do because it gives a really good overview of almost everything Belize has to offer.

The door locks to the museum are really thick.

The door locks to the museum are really thick.

The Museum of Belize is housed in the old prison house which is on the same grounds of the Central Bank of Museum. The museum is in walking distance of the Tourist Village, but definitely outside of the normal area you would probably see a tourist. Whereas most touristy things to do are to the left of the big cruise terminal, the Museum of Belize is the right of the terminal.

As stated before the Museum of Belize used to be the national prison. As such the walls to the museum are really thick and the gate to get into the museum is a heavy metal gate. Luckily, there was staff by the door or we would not have figured out how to get into the museum. Inside the museum it is divided into many different sections. It was a brief visit for us but we did at least walk through each section.

This shows what an old prison room looked like. Very small and not very hospitable looking.

This shows what an old prison room looked like. Very small and not very hospitable looking.

The old section locks are still in place.

The old section locks are still in place.

musprisondoors

The front door of the Museum of Belize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trains did not last very long in Belize because they took a lot to maintain.

Trains did not last very long in Belize because they took a lot to maintain.

The first section we went to was dedicated to the money and transportation of Belize. Belize today is an interesting country in that there are only 4 paved highways crossing the country. In days past many different ways were tried to deliver goods and people throughout the country.

The currency of Belize as probably as equally as interesting. Belize is a independent commonwealth of the British Empire. However, when the country first was settled the only money they had were Spanish coins and not that many. In order to facilitate trade with the small amount of currency they had they would take the Spanish Reales (silver coins) and cut them in 8 pieces which they called bits. Two bits were equal to about 25 pence and now you know why the song says “a shave and a haircut, two bits.”

A display on how the Real was cut into 8 pieces.

A display on how the Real was cut into 8 pieces.

Different Belizean currency.

Different Belizean currency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money today in Belize is printed at the Central Bank and on the front shows Queen Elizabeth II who is the sovereign Queen of Belize, but on the back the money shows historical scenes of Belize. Changing money is easy for Americans because the money is tied to the U.S. dollar at a two for one rate.

A map of the Mayan World.

A map of the Mayan World.

The second part of museum is the Mayan section. This is by far the crown jewel of all of Belize. I saw a lot of pottery at the various archeological sites, some stellas, and only tiny pieces of jade. Until, I went to the Mayan exhibit at the Museum of Belize. I found out that the Central Bank of Belize is the holder of all the Mayan jade discovered in Belize. I also discovered that they have a lot of it! After seeing that much jade I was beginning to thing that maybe the warnings not to go to Belize were some kind of passive aggressive way of protecting their jade. Jade to the Mayans was more precious than gold. It was the ultimate treasure and only royalty was allowed to keep it.

Yax is the symbol for green.

Yax is the symbol for green.

A full Mayan jade necklace.

A full Mayan jade necklace.

This death mask idol was used to protect a burial site. The red bark covering it is poisonous to the touch.

This death mask idol was used to protect a burial site. The red bark covering it is poisonous to the touch.

The jade head buried with this Mayan royal in Toledo was the largest piece of jade discovered in Belize.

The jade head buried with this Mayan royal in Toledo was the largest piece of jade discovered in Belize.

The presicion to cut these pendants is amazing.

The presicion to cut these pendants is amazing.

These jade pieces are Olmec and probably the oldest pieces of jade carved in Belize.

These jade pieces are Olmec and probably the oldest pieces of jade carved in Belize.

I never saw this much jade in Toledo.

I never saw this much jade in Toledo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pumpkin shaped offering pot.

A pumpkin shaped offering pot.

Vases like this were used to serve a variety of Mayan drinks.

Vases like this were used to serve a variety of Mayan drinks.

An old man shaped out of pottery.

An old man shaped out of pottery.

A flat offering pot.

A flat offering pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beautiful multi-colored clay pot.

A beautiful multi-colored clay pot.

The Mayan alphabet.

The Mayan alphabet.

An image of Lord Cacao.

An image of Lord Cacao.

A Mayan Chocolate Farmer.

A Mayan Chocolate Farmer.

A Mayan scimitar and axe head.

A Mayan scimitar and axe head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third part of the museum was the historical room of Belize. It described Belize’s very twisted history. Belize was originally declared part of the Spanish empire by the Spanish, but after failing to discover any gold they quickly left. English pirates started to settle the area in the late 16th century. Fearing a new English empire the Spanish formed an armada to wipe out what they described as a “infestation of pirates.” The Spanish lost and a colony was born. A land of constant turmoil their have been many events in Belizean history. The museum doesn’t have many artifacts but it does a good job of describing the main players and events through some interesting posters.

A painting depicting the English arrival in Belize.

A painting depicting the English arrival in Belize.

Julian Cho was a Mopan Maya from southern Belize who struggled for Matyan justice in Belize.

Julian Cho was a Mopan Maya from southern Belize who struggled for Matyan justice in Belize.

A sample memorial altar.

A sample memorial altar.

The caste war was a rebellion by the Mayan to take back their land (they lost).

The caste war was a rebellion by the Mayan to take back their land (they lost).

Chicle (gum) was an early Belizean export.

Chicle (gum) was an early Belizean export.

Slaves helped defend the English when the Spanish invaded.

Slaves helped defend the English when the Spanish invaded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The last section was the bug room. There is no way to get around it, Belize has a lot of bugs. There are literally thousands of different species of bugs in Belize. Of all shapes and sizes we saw several cases of different bugs and butterflies. AJ got kind of excited because they had magnifying glasses and he got to use them to examine the many different bugs on display.

Belize has many different beautiful butterflies.

Belize has many different beautiful butterflies.

AJ examining the bugs.

AJ examining the bugs.

The harlequin bug is a really big bug.

The harlequin bug is a really big bug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my idea of a Mayan treasure hunt.

This is my idea of a Mayan treasure hunt.

Overall, the museum was a blast. We also had fun in the museum gift shop getting rid of the last of our Belizean currency. We bought lots of chocolate and a Belizean cook book. I don’t know how soon we will get back, but I figure if I need to I can at least cook up a little bit to remember my adventures.

Cahal Pech, San Ignacio, Belize

Cahal Pech is probably one of the easiest accessible archeological zones near San Ignacio (because it is within San Ignacio), however, without a common measurement distance is very hard to measure. I could have taken a quick taxi ride for about $5 BLZ ($2.50 USD), but I like to find things on my own so I decided to walk. Looking at a simple map the archeological site of Cahal Pech was very close. Only about 3/4 of a mile away from the church. Since there are hardly no street signs in San Ignacio Belize my directions were as follows: “From the church go to the highway and make a right. Look for the stadium and pass it, continue by following the signs.”

First part was easy. I already knew where the church was (click on photos to expand):

calchurch

I think the LDS church was the second largest church in San Ignacio.

Luckily the highway was not far away. The thing is highways in Belize are not like highways in the USA. Where I come from we have big freeway systems with multiple yellow striped lanes. In Belize the highway is a paved road that if your lucky can fit two cars going in opposite directions. The good news is it is very easy to find a highway in Belize because there are only four of them in the whole country.

The next thing was the stadium, but again the stadium was like the highway in that I think the term gets lost in translation in Belize. But I found it, and sure enough just around the corner was a sign that pointed the way to the archeological zone.

The "stadium" had lots of ads on it about HIV and chagas (little tick disease).

The “stadium” had lots of ads on it about HIV and chagas (little tick disease).

Along the way to Cahal Pech there are these signs guiding the way.

Along the way to Cahal Pech there are these signs guiding the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then this was my site for about a half a mile:

The road up to Cahal Pech was very rocky and steep.

The road up to Cahal Pech was very rocky and steep.

Not much of a view going forward, but the view going back was awesome:

You can see very far from the top of Cahal Pech

You can see very far from the top of Cahal Pech

The grounds of Cahal Pech are beautifully maintained, which was kind of a mystery to me because besides myself I only saw two other people. One maintenance man and a security guard.

Main entrance and museum. Admission to the site is $10 BLZ ($5 USD).

Main entrance and museum. Admission to the site is $10 BLZ ($5 USD).

A map of the site.

A map of the site.

Lot of pottery, but also a lot of empty shelves.

Lot of pottery, but also a lot of empty shelves.

The first thing I did at Cahal Pech was to visit their museum. The museum was kind of small and had a lot of empty shelves. I would later come to find out that there used to be a lot more things to look at in the museum but that Cahal Pech has had unfortunately a bad history of looters. Some locals told me that there used to be a jade mask in the museum, but that one day an unknown looter shot the guard and stole it. Very sad.

 

 

An interesting incense burner.

An interesting incense burner.

A happy looking pot.

A happy looking pot.

This chart showed how Cahal Pech was developed over 1000s of years.

This chart showed how Cahal Pech was developed over 1000s of years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of the main plaza.

View of the main plaza.

The name Cahal Pech means “Place of Ticks” (probably has something to do with the ads at the stadium). That was the name given to the site by archeologists from Pennsylvania in the 1950s. Somehow I doubt the Mayan named their palatial hilltop city after a bug infestation. Archeological evidence shows the site being inhabited as early as 1500 BC. One can only guess what was going on in this city a thousands of years ago, but looking at the location and ball court I am guessing that at one time Cahal Pech was a major trading post. From it’s hilltop location one can easily see the Macal and Mopan rivers. Anyone controlling that city could have controlled the trade for almost endless miles.

When I was there I had the pleasure of exploring the ruins all to myself. There were no barriers at all at the site. I was free to explore as much as I wanted to and I did. The site is very multi leveled. Like most Mayan sites there was amble evidence that the city had been rebuilt every 52 years. I saw rooms that appeared to be living quarters and others that appeared to be offering rooms. I also saw some rooms that appeared to be storage rooms (very dark and popular with the bats). I suppose if I wanted to do it the touristy way I could have driven up there. There is ample parking, but the hike wasn’t really that bad and it kind of gave me a more explorer feel to the place.

View of the main plaza.

View of the main plaza.

You can see how the walls were plastered.

You can see how the walls were plastered.

A tree grows in a smaller residential plaza.

A tree grows in a smaller residential plaza.

Looking at the cracks you can see that there are more buildings underneath the existing ones.

Looking at the cracks you can see that there are more buildings underneath the existing ones.

The hallways are shaped in a arch so that the ruler could come out with his headdress on and not rumple the feathers.

The hallways are shaped in a arch so that the ruler could come out with his headdress on and not rumple the feathers.

The drainage system still works.

The drainage system still works.

This looked to me like a bedroom of some sort.

This looked to me like a bedroom of some sort.

A plaza overlooking an offering room.

A plaza overlooking an offering room.

Inside an offering room.

Inside an offering room.

This picture shows the many layers of building at Cahal Pech.

This picture shows the many layers of building at Cahal Pech.

The stairs were very small and I had to walk sideways everywhere.

The stairs were very small and I had to walk sideways everywhere.

In one of the storage rooms. It was very dark, wasn't surprised to see bats.

In one of the storage rooms. It was very dark, wasn’t surprised to see bats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A video of me exploring a bit:

 

Belize Independence Day 9/20/14

indeflag(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

How Belize became a country is about as windy as the many rivers that cross it. There are two significant days for Belize independence day. The first is September 10th (the day of the Battle of St. George Caye) and the second is September 21st (the day when Belize became a constitutional monarchy).

As a parliamentary constitutional monarchy Belize was renamed in 1981 from the British Honduras to Belize, but still remains tied to the United Kingdom. The official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, but the real power rests in the Governor-General who is elected out of Belmopan, the capital.

Heard a lot of good Belizean music at the park plaza.

Heard a lot of good Belizean music at the park plaza.

Lots of people walking the streets on 9/20/14.

To celebrate their independence parties span between September 10th and September 21st. The day where everyone really celebrates is September 21st. We noticed the celebrations starting at about 8pm with people starting to fill in the plaza. San Ignacio is usually a quiet town, with almost no traffic, but on the night of the 20th it got really crowded. From the hotel balcony I could see lots of people walking between the two plazas.

For 2 BLZ (1 dollar USD) AJ got to jump for 20 minutes.

For 2 BLZ (1 dollar USD) AJ got to jump for 20 minutes.

At the park plaza they had bands and jumpers set up for the kids. At the police plaza they had different community groups doing different skits. Most of them ended with the actors stating “and now I am going to get tested for HIV for a healthy Belize.” (apparently the rates are high in Belize).

At 11:00 PM at the police plaza the crowd got even bigger and the mayor of San Ignacio came up and addressed the crowd. After the mayor spoke Ms. San Ignacio spoke, I think the people liked Ms. San Ignacio better (they clapped for her).

At about 11:30 PM a bunch of runners came into town and had torches. It was kind of like the Olympics in where there was a big torch at the police station and they all used their little torches to light the big torch. I don’t know what that was all about, but the people were really excited about it.

The mayor with Ms. San Ignacio.

The mayor with Ms. San Ignacio.

The torch runners going through the crowd to the police station.

The torch runners going through the crowd to the police station.

indefireworksAt 12:00 AM with the help of the Mayor and Ms. San Ignacio leading a countdown fireworks were launched. The fireworks were really big and really close. There were several soldiers in the plaza, which was good because the crowd kept wanting to get closer to the fireworks, but if we had gotten any closer they would have been exploding on to our heads.

 

 

indebannerOverall, the festivities were really fun. For as much alcohol that was flowing the people were very calm. Everyone was for the most part very orderly and very happy to share with us their independence day celebrations.

Talking Takoyaki

So we are on our way to Belize tomorrow and I (John) decided I needed some Japanese food. If that makes any sense to you will be just fine with takoyaki.

The name takoyaki to me sounds like a Mexican-Japanese fung sheui thing, but it is very Japanese. It is actually a mishmash of two Japanese words. Tako means octopus and yaki means fried. Takoyaki is traditionally a fair type food in Japan served out of what looks to be aeblesiver pans (what the Dutch have to do with this I have no idea). Think of it like a savory donut made out of fish and pancake batter, yep I told you this would all make sense.

takocooking

No aeblesiver pan? No problem just use a mini-muffin pan.

I did not have a aeblesiver pan (even though you can get them pretty cheap on ebay), so I improvised a bit with a mini-cupcake pan. I then went to my local Latin American market (Cardenas) and bought pupusa (Spanish for octopus) mix. That along with some green onions, chopped seaweed, and seasame seeds, I was good to go.

If you want to try it yourself here is the recipe for the batter:
1 1/4 cups flour
A dash of fish sauce
A dash of soy sauce
A dash of salt
Two Eggs

takofinishedFirst put the batter in your pan, all the way to the top. Then in each cup put your seafood mix in with the green onions, seaweed, and sesame seeds. After waiting for it for about 2 minutes rotate with a fork, keep doing this until they turn into golden round balls.I topped my creation with mayonnaise (squeeze it out of a sandwich bag to make designs with it) and some oyster sauce. Not as good as walking the streets of Tokyo, but still pretty good. It wasn’t like I could read the signs anyhow. Which I should be able to do in Belize, because they speak English there.

Amatuer Chocolatier

After watching some videos on YouTube about Belize and it’s rich chocolate history I stumbled upon a video on how to make chocolate bars and decided I could do that myself. I would link the video but I can’t find it, but I will say it wasn’t hard. The hardest part was finding Cocoa Butter (which I learned is not the same thing as Coconut Oil). I have been experimenting with different variations and so far this has been what has been working for me:

50 Grams Cocoa Butter
60 Grams Cocoa Powder
4 Tablespoons Honey

First you need to make a double boiler. I did this by combining a metal bowl and a sauce pan together. The water can’t touch the bowl.
Then you need to slowly heat up cocoa butter. It is kind of tricky because you need to get it hot but not too hot. There is a whole process of tempering but I am not going to put that here. You can google it, or just eat your chocolate un-tempered.
After the butter is melted, you can add in the honey.
After the mix is well mixed together you add the cocoa powder.
To make milk chocolate add in crushed dry milk powder when you add the cocoa powder.

The key to the this is using only plastic or metal instruments and what ever you do, no water can get into the mix.

My favorite was almond and toasted rice. The peanut butter ones were good as well.

My favorite was almond and toasted rice. The peanut butter ones were good as well.

 

For molds I used the lids from plastic sandwich containers and ice cube trays. I liked the ice cube trays the best. It takes about 2 hrs. for the chocolate to properly harden.

The Last Day of Summer


Today was the last day of Summer for AJ. Come Monday it is back to school. Most kids dread it, I know I did, but I guess school is more fun than when I was a kid, because AJ is excited to go back. On Friday Denise went to AJ’s school and found out who his new teacher was going to be. Denise told me (John) who it was going to be but I already forgot, good thing I am not starting school on Monday!

 

From our spot on the beach we had a great view of the pier.

From our spot on the beach we had a great view of the pier.

Since Denise was gone on Saturday it was just AJ and me for his last free day of Summer. We are planning for a big trip soon so I didn’t have a lot of money, but I found a twenty in my wallet. You’d think that twenty dollars wouldn’t get you far, but thanks to Metrolink it got us plenty far. Two all day weekend passes for $20 USD were all we needed to get us to the beach.

What could be better than to spend the last day of Summer at the San Clemente Pier. The train literally leaves you at the beach. You get off the tunnel, cross under the bridge and there you are. The beach was busy but not crowded. We had fun playing in the sand, built the biggest sand castle of the day (with no shovel or pail, just seaweed and rocks), and kicked the soccer ball a bit. Traffic was bad on the 91 coming back, but we were on the train so we just zipped right by it. Definitely will be doing that again.

AJ got excited as we traveled down the coast to the San Clemente Pier station.

AJ got excited as we traveled down the coast to the San Clemente Pier station.

The San Clemente Pier station is so close you just get off, cross the tracks under the tunnel, and you are on the beach.

The San Clemente Pier station is so close you just get off, cross the tracks under the tunnel, and you are on the beach.

This is what you get when you give AJ a camera.

This is what you get when you give AJ a camera.

 

AJ conquers the waves.

AJ conquers the waves.

We made the biggest sandcastle we could see on the beach and we didn't even have a shovel or a pail.

We made the biggest sandcastle we could see on the beach and we didn’t even have a shovel or a pail.

AJ escapes from the Riverside-La Sierra Station.

AJ escapes from the Riverside-La Sierra Station.

I was really happy not to be driving the 91 on the way back.

I was really happy not to be driving the 91 on the way back.

Hiking to Dante’s Peak and Visiting the Griffith Park Observatory

The bridge up the Dante's Peak trail.

The bridge up the Dante’s Peak trail.

Last Saturday Denise’s family decided to get together and have a picnic. Deciding we wanted to do a little bit more than a picnic we decided to go and do a little hike together. The original plan was to go all the way to the top of the Hollywood sign, but after research showed that it was going to be 6 miles round trip we opted for a shorter 3.5 mile trip up to Dante’s Peak.

The hike up to Dante’s Peak wasn’t too bad. We got there at 9 AMwhich was good for two reasons. One, it wasn’t too hot and two, there was still parking at the observatory. I think if we had gotten there 5 mins. later we would have been out of luck. The trail up to Dante’s peak is well defined and offers beautiful views over Los Angeles and all the way to the ocean. Just before Dante’s Peak is Dante’s View. At Dante’s view there are some benches and a water fountain.

Uncle Bob carries Madison up at Dante's View.

Uncle Bob carries Madison up at Dante’s View.

The family on the way up to Dante's Peak.

The family on the way up to Dante’s Peak.

John, Madison, and AJ taking a break to look at the Hollywood sign.

John, Madison, and AJ taking a break to look at the Hollywood sign.

From the Dante's Peak trail you can see all the way to the ocean.

From the Dante’s Peak trail you can see all the way to the ocean.

The Wrights, Aunt Judy, and AJ looking at the "Hollywoo" sign (when you get up there you will get it).

The Wrights, Aunt Judy, and AJ looking at the “Hollywoo” sign (when you get up there you will get it).

Berlin Forrest picnic area offers some great views of LA.

Berlin Forrest picnic area offers some great views of LA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AJ saw these guys exercising on top of Dante's peak.

AJ saw these guys exercising on top of Dante’s peak.

Once AJ saw people exercising up on Dante's Peak he had to do it as well.

Once AJ saw people exercising up on Dante’s Peak he had to do it as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After going taking in the views at Dante’s peak we went had a little picnic back at the trailhead in a little campsite called the Berlin Forrest (LA and Berlin apparently are sister cities). We also went to go and see the Griffith Park Observatory. The planetarium shows cost about $7 dollars, but everything else is free. AJ was really enthusiastic about the lecture on how to build a comet. I on the other hand enjoyed a nap in an air conditioned room.

We saw a Tesla Coil. Which was interesting but I didn't get it's usefulness other than it sparked.

We saw a Tesla Coil. Which was interesting but I didn’t get it’s usefulness other than it sparked.

The telescope inside the dome was big.

The telescope inside the dome was big.

This solar telescope focuses in light and provides really detailed pictures of the mountain range.

This solar telescope focuses in light and provides really detailed pictures of the mountain range.

A view from the roof of the observatory.

A view from the roof of the observatory.

This was the first US rocket to make orbit. It is full scale. As you can see, it wasn't very big.

This was the first US rocket to make orbit. It is full scale. As you can see, it wasn’t very big.

This is a view of the planets exhibit from the view of Pluto (which is still considered a planet in New Mexico).

This is a view of the planets exhibit from the view of Pluto (which is still considered a planet in New Mexico).

The Griffith Park Observatory is a great place to learn new things.

The Griffith Park Observatory is a great place to learn new things.

The murals from the 1930s show in pictograph man's progress in science.

The murals from the 1930s show in pictograph man’s progress in science.

A moon rock.

A moon rock.

hollycometmaking

AJ enjoyed the lecture, John enjoyed a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we finally left Griffith park at about 2:00 PM. The place was packed! There was no parking at the observatory and the park rangers were diverting all cars off the road to the observatory. For us it was a great time, we were going the opposite way of traffic by that time and except for some minor stop and go on the freeway got home great.

We got a quick view of the Centennial Aqueduct up on the way to the observatory.

We got a quick view of the Centennial Aqueduct up on the way to the observatory.