Great expectations

We’ve had two years to get a lot of ideas about Belize; even so, we’ve tried to be open-minded and just accept people and places as they show themselves to us here – in other words, explore the place without preconceived ideas.

Except, apparently, for Placencia.

We clearly had expectations there – in hindsight now, pretty specific expectations, even. We hadn’t really ever spelled them out to each other, but it seems we both had the idea that the Placencia peninsula was going to be sort of like the Upper Florida Keys, or maybe even the narrowest parts of the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach barrier islands. In other words, a fairly wide piece of land, with a main road where you can sometimes see the water on both sides, and where along the way, you’d see single family homes, resorts and restaurants, and some condo developments, too.

seine bightMaya Beach was like that, except that its widest spot is only 1/2 mile wide – so while technically there’s a beach side and a lagoon side, neither takes up all that much real estate (the beach is narrower than its opposite).

The next town south, Seine Bight, is a traditional Garifuna village (that’s pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable, like Griff-fin-ah, not Gare-i-foon-ah). There are a few resorts here but mostly it’s home to about 1000 villagers, who live in what most Americans would consider sub-standard housing. To us, it was a very have/have not moment on the heels of Maya Beach. Yet, like most places we’ve been to in Belize, the village felt relaxed and the people seemed happy.

placencia-airportThe Placencia airport is interesting. The coastal road curves around the runway, so there are barricades on either side of the curve to halt traffic when a plane is coming in or taking off. We hoped we would see one during a run back and forth, but no such luck.

placencia airport

By this point, the peninsula is truly truly narrow – much thinner than we anticipated. By the time you actually get to Placencia Village, you can practically throw a stone from one side to the other.

The vilplacencia-sidewalk-aug2002lage has the kinds of  quirky restaurants and shops you often find in tropical towns, and the sidewalk that runs all through town is interesting, with its colorful directional signs pointing the way to various venues. At the same time, though, it’s an actual village where people live, with a population of about 1000 Belizeans (typically Garifuna and Mayans) and others. That’s a lot of people and activity to stuff into that kind of space, which might explain why our overwhelming sense was of congestion bordering on claustrophobia, even on an early Saturday morning with nothing much going on.

We’d heard so many good things about the place; why weren’t we feeling it? We decided to go back to the hotel in Maya Beach for the rest of the day and come back that evening to give it another try – which we did, stopping off at a few spots as we walked through town again, and we still felt like Jeff Probst on Survivor: “I got nothing for ya. Go back to camp.”

I’m surprised to be saying it, but there’s my thoughts on Placencia. I’m guessing we’ll go back again at some point, and who knows, maybe without our own hype to get in our way. we’ll enjoy it more then.

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2 thoughts on “Great expectations

  1. Karen C says:

    Hey Jeff Probst, Where’s all the people, none in your pics. But thanks for posting the maps! Extremely helpful to those of us not familiar with the country.

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  2. Christine says:

    Awww…I’m sorry to hear that Placencia didn’t really live up to your expectations. 😦 I guess I didn’t have any myself when I visited, other than to go swimming in the ocean (sea?)! So, I was pleasantly surprised at how I found the whole town, especially how friendly and laid back and nice everybody was. I guess it wasn’t the most exciting place I’ve ever been to, but there was always something to do and new to see.
    I was especially interested in the Garifuna music & culture and was able to catch some of that at the Tipsy Tuna one Wed evening (supposedly they have a show/performance there every Wed). I wish I’d had your pronunciation lesson beforehand, because I was saying “Gare-i-foon-ah”, of course! 🙂
    I’m not sure if/when the “on” season is there, so maybe you were there during the “off” season? Or maybe it’s because there were 50 people in our group to liven up the place? lol
    If you are interested, here is the group I went down with from Roanoke, VA, where I live:
    http://www.bookbagsanta.com
    They take school supplies down to Belize every year at the end of July. This was their 15th trip, but my first time going with them and visiting Belize.
    Although I made a few day trips, I never actually stayed anyplace other than Placencia, so maybe my impression of the place was due in partly to that. Whichever way, I totally fell in love with it there and can’t wait to go back! 🙂

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