Lolas Art in Sein Beit, Belize

DAY FOUR — The small (1200 people) town of Placencia is about a four mile cab ride from The Inn at Robert’s Grove. This isn’t a typical resort town — not yet anyway. We don’t see many souvenir shops or much of any shopping. Some friends we’ve made at the resort lead us to De Tatch, a thatched-roof no-wall restaurant down a tiny meandering street, past one-room houses on stilts.

The menu is simple — fish, shrimp (curry or jerk style), rice or mashed potatoes. It was terrific and the portions so big we shared one order. Our tab, including a couple of drinks, less than $25 US.

The best part: dessert. There’s a genuine gelateria in Placencia called Tuttifrutti that’s run by Lorenzo Testa, who moved here after being in the same business in Rome. It’s Belize’s gain with flavors from mint chocolate chip and cappuccino (Lorenzo told me his favorite is vanilla) to sour sap, coconut, banana, and mango. The ice cream alone is worth a trip into town!

This morning we head off down the road in the other direction toward Sein Bight Village, a half-mile dusty road walk from the resort. Only about 300 people live here, local artist Lola Delgado tells us. The kids are out for lunch when we arrive, riding bikes, kicking around a soccer ball, playing basketball with a makeshift backboard. Clearly, this is a poor village, but I’m struck by how friendly everyone is. The kids all say high; the adults all wave.

“Tell people it’s very safe to bring their children here and that Belizeans are very friendly,” Lola Delgado says. Just walking through this community would be an education for American kids — seeing how kids their ages manage with so little, living in one-room houses, only a small market with shelves that aren’t full, lots of trash. That said, it is nice to see Belizeans so welcoming to tourists.

But this place isn’t for everyone. One single mom I meet has a very unhappy teen with her — not only are there no other teens (though lots of younger kids), but the day is windy and overcast. Her plans for tanning are dashed — at least today. And as with all vacationing parents, she’s not happy if her daughter isn’t happy.