Tag Archives: Adventure

A Busy End To Summer Break…

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I know for most of you North Americanos there’s alot of head scratching goin on with the title of this blog. The summer school break here in Costa Rica begins around the third week of November and ends next week. The time off of babysitting has flown by. I’ll be able to extend it, though, by connecting with friends who are visiting, and I’ll actually be acting as a tourist myself.

My first visit will be with friends from my last job in North America. They’re staying at the Los Suenos Marriot, located on the central pacific…

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As you can see, they won’t be suffering too much. It’s one of the premier 5 star resorts in the country.

Then, a couple of days later a friend arrives and we have a week of scheduled touristy delights to savor.. first stop: double decker bus tour of downtown San Jose…

San_Jose-Costa_Rica

I’m really looking forward to jumping on and off the bus during the day to see sights I haven’t gotten to yet, plus share those that I love… here’s one I haven’t been to: The Jade Museum, which is supposed to have the world’s largest collection of jade objects.

jade-museum-costa-rica

The next day is devoted to the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, where we’ll see seven different large waterfalls, butterfly gardens, hold toucans and hummingbirds, and get alot of strenuous hill climbing back up the hill.

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Third day we’ll take a 4-hour bus trip to Manuel Antonio where the beaches in the park are supposed to be the most beautiful and clean in the country:

Manuel-Antonio-National-Park-Costa-Rica-11

The park is located at a particular geographic area called The Whales Tail:

Manuel-Antonio-Park

Fourth day we’ll begin our trek back home, stopping in Jaco for one night so my friend can go out and listen to live music and hang with the locals:

jaco_4

I can hardly wait to finally begin my time as a tourist in this beautiful country. So much of these past (almost) three years have been spent settling in, really. Every three months until I get my residency I’ve been on Visa Runs (leaving the country for Panama or Nicaragua) in order to receive another 3 month stamp. So, these Runs have been my opportunity to see a little bit of the country up until now…. and to get acquainted a bit with those two other countries as well (my fave is Nica land). If it weren’t for my familia here

favefamilia

and the opportunity to babysit my lovely granddaughters, I wouldn’t be as grounded as I’ve become… grounded enough to allow myself to be a tourist!

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Incredible April: Granada, Granny Nanny & Great New House

Astrologically, April was supposed to be a b___ buster, and for me that turned out to be totally true even tho I’m not the correct gender. First, I had to find and move to a new home; Second, I had to go on my second Visa Run to Granada Nicaragua; and Third, I learned what being a granny nanny really means… not actually in that order, but suffice it to say, the month was one helluva ride…

Here’s a coupla pics of my new home:

View from my new front door

View from my new front door

View to the left of my front door

View to the left of my front door

View to the right of my front door

View to the right of my front door

Beautiful, isn’t it? Situated above what is now a roaring river with the recent rains, it’s a pristine, private casita… all I would ever ask for. There are birds galore, the sounds of the river, and I’ve been adopted by one of the property’s dogs who comes and goes, occasionally dropping by for a hug and a scratch. A mot-mot nest is just over the embankment from the front door and there are now baby squirrels tumbling about the trees in front of the computer window. Paradise found. This being the second move for me within six weeks, has cemented my decision never to move again.

I recently enjoyed my second Visa Run to Granada Nicaragua where I went on two jaunts – one around the Isletas in Lake Nicaragua (of which there are 136 from a volcanic eruption), and the other on land in a horse drawn carriage around the town itself. I stayed at a new place for me – Hotel Patio del Malinche – http://www.patiodelmalinche.com/

This Hotel is the bomb! I’ve written a review in Trip Advisor about my experience there. Short story: the place is a beautifully restored colonial home that I can’t even begin to imagine living in as a family because of its size. The facilities are clean and inviting; the staff incredibly accommodating and friendly; it’s one block off the tourist drag; the price is great and the pool just the right size. It’s now my go-to hotel in Granada.

The trip to Granada was on Ticabus and I’ll never travel another way there because they take care of most of the immigration/customs process and it’s as quick and painless as it can get for a border crossing. Seven hours on a bus is grueling, especially when the overhead booming tv’s are trying to show movies that aren’t interesting to me…. although I will say that seeing Jurassic Park while traveling through the same type of landscape was a little bit weird.

This was the second time in Granada and the second time I used Tierra Tours for jaunts around Granada. (Another Travel Advisor review) The Isleta Tour was incredible, not only for the views, but for the history of Granada and Nicaragua. Evidently 136 islands were created as a result of a volcanic eruption; must have been one heckofa boom! These individual islands are either inhabited by individuals or are for sale. The price of each varies but the mean is around $300k… not much for your private island, and that includes a house already built if you’re lucky. I guess the only drawback is the need to drain the septic tank regularly as they’re particularly small. Electricity and dish reception for cable and internet are already installed on most of them as well. It’s seen as a way to make money by the government and the places I saw in this teensy tour were a mix of magnificent mansions and/or very nice homes, or the tico-type…. course, most of them have to put up with these tours passing by regularly all day long… just sayin. Here’s some photos from the tour:

View from atop the Pirate Fort to one of the small islands on the Isleta Tour

View from atop the Pirate Fort to one of the small islands on the Isleta Tour

Oropenda nests

Oropenda nests

Kingfisher

And then we went on a horse-drawn carriage tour through the urban areas of Granada. Let me tell ya, if you ever want to know more about William Walker and his imperious/egoic challenge to the countries of Latin America, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Walker_%28filibuster%29

He was an absolute creep who burned down Granada en total. We saw many burned churches that have been restored, with the surrounding stairs or gates still showing the charring.

We also saw the original train station that ran from the port of Lake Nicaragua in Granada to other primary locations in the country carrying fruits, tobacco, vegetables, etc. When the only female President of Nicaragua created the national roads system in the country, which coincided with the train system breaking down for the last time, the station was mothballed until it’s current President decided to restore the building and create an Art Institute that could be utilized by high school aged students.

Original train station, currently converted into an Art Institute/School for high schoolers

Original train station, currently converted into an Art Institute/School for high schoolers

Quite fancy wooden train carriage for the politicos and rich

Quite fancy wooden train carriage for the politicos and rich

Steel train carriages for the poor

Steel train carriages for the poor

While touring, the driver/guide also showed us these little burial containers for the ashes of family members who died during the Sandinista uprising. They were aligned along a main arterial of the city away from the touristy avenue. We were also shown a huge, and I mean gigantic, area where the original hospital was located. It had been destroyed in an earthquake. Current plans for the location include restoring the reception areas and utilizing the remainder of the area for a University for Art, the City Hall, plus outdoor areas for vendors/ferias and indigenous art markets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought this was a wonderful coincidence when taking a picture of a family playing in Lake Nicaragua

I thought this was a wonderful coincidence when taking a picture of a family playing in Lake Nicaragua

You can barely see the heron trolling on Lake Nicaragua's shoreline

You can barely see the heron trolling on Lake Nicaragua’s shoreline

 

Aside from all this frivolity, my son’s father and my ex-husband died unexpectedly mid-April. Thus my nanny granny note in the header. The day I moved into my new place my son left for the US for ten or so days. Two days in my new casita and I was off to Granada for one full day, returning to do the nanny stuff… an incredible spate of time in which the connection with the family overall was strengthened and I learned to let go of the children when parents returned. That was surprisingly difficult to do. Mostly all mine during the day, when the parent/s returned, it was time to let go and step aside. I’ve read so many books with nannys who get possessive… now I understand that fine balance between granny and nanny that I’d objectified for decades. Long live healthy successful nannies, is what I say! They deserve special grace for their ability to meet and understand this very specific challenge. So my son is now returned, and I’ve now the wonderful opportunity to simply chill in my new place. I’m in earth heaven here.

 

 

Tortuguera, Costa Rica…

My second trip this month was with family to the Atlantic side of the country, into Tortuguera country… where you would expect a dinosaur to jump out from the jungle or a snake to fall from a tree at any moment.

It's wild Jurassic Park territory!

It’s wild Jurassic Park territory!

The weather is humid and hot, beautiful and wild. The Lodge we stayed at – Mawamba Lodge – (grupomawamba.com) offers round-trip bus transport to and from San Jose barrios and hotels, the last leg of which is by boat through the canals to the Lodge which is only accessible by boat or plane.

Boat that transports passengers from bus dock to lodge and back again.

Boat that transports passengers from bus dock to lodge and back again.

But let me introduce you to our guide, Frank. He met us on the bus as it left downtown San Jose and stayed with us the entire trip which lasted three days and two nights.

Frank Simms, our tour guide in Tortuguera. Find him at frank-simms.com, or call 506.8826.3305. Fully fluent English/Spanish, Costa Rican, heckofa nice guy.

Frank Simms, our tour guide in Tortuguera. Find him at frank-simms.com, or call 506.8826.3305. Fully fluent English/Spanish, Costa Rican, heckofa nice guy.

Known by all the locals, positive and totally fluent in English. He’s a Costa Rican tico with exemplary English skills and knows the country of Costa Rica inside and out. Frank’s available for private tours of all types and can hook you up for a tremendously comfortable tour of all or parts of the beauty found throughout the country (frank-simms.com) … but back to our trip…

Places to stay in Tortuguera. The little town is at the bottom.

Places to stay in Tortuguera. The little town is at the bottom.

Here you can see all the lodges located on this wonderful bank of land located between the ocean and the main canals of Tortuguera. Here’s an aerial picture of the Lodge:

Between the canal and the ocean.

Between the canal and the ocean.

It’s a large place and extremely well kept. Our itinerary on the first day included stopping for breakfast after pickup in San Jose; a look at banana plantations along the way; arrival at the dock where our boat delivered us to the Lodge after a 20-minute or so trip on the water; a get-acquainted with the property chat from the Lodge General Manager, lunch (way yummy food!); swimming in the huge pool; a boat ride to the little burg of Tortuguera with a walk back to the Lodge; and dinner.

Our second day included an early morning (optional) 5:30am tour of the local canals where lots of nature was seen and experienced in an open boat; an afternoon tour of the gardens, the turtle enclosure, butterfly enclosure and frog enclosure; and another open boat tour in the afternoon (included) of the canals…. where sunburn instead of the cold air during the morning tour was heartily enjoyed by all participants! Swimming, breakfast, lunch and dinner were included as well. Along the way during all of these activities, even in the restaurant, Frank was very busy answering questions, taking photos (of which you’ll see some of his work on his website), spoofing with the locals and other guides, and generally making everyone feel very comfortable. Here’s a picture of the kids enjoying one of the boat tours:

5:30am tour Tortuguera canals - Kids trying to stay warm in front, Frank the tour guide in back.

5:30am tour Tortuguera canals – Kids trying to stay warm in front, Frank the tour guide in back.

Interestingly, there were only those in our group who were actually Costa Rican… the Lodge was full of Europeans, people from Denmark, Germany, the US to name a few. So… Very popular international destination.

The ocean is wild, fierce and strong on this side of the country and particularly along this stretch of coastline. There are four types of huge turtles who come here to lay their eggs, so there are ecological outposts here to protect the turtles predators (including humans) and hatchlings as they make their way to the water after leaving the nest. Females return every four years to lay eggs and the males never return. We were told not to swim in the ocean as the undertows were particularly strong here.

The little village of Tortuguera is about five blocks long and two, maybe three, wide. Teensy, caribbean-like in the colors of people and buildings. You can find all kinds of souvenirs here, including fine jewelry and art. There are sodas and a couple of restaurants and a local school that serves all ages.  It’s provincial and the poverty is evident, and I hoped in my heart that the money spent in the little town helped those who looked less fortunate.

Our last day included breakfast (If I could have bought the bread back home, believe me, I would have…. I seriously considered stuffing my purse with it!) As it was I had two pieces of toast and then two pieces of french toast for breakfast… my syanara (sp!) to bread for a while – with memories I’ll cherish… After breakfast we gathered our luggage, got back on the boat, arrived at the dock to meet our bus, then stopped for lunch before arriving back in San Jose.

What a trip. What an incredible geographic and biological education. It was all busy and interesting enough to keep all of us entertained. Not expensive at all for the value received. Highly recommended. I’ll leave you with this last happy picture:

Fantastic Fun at Tortuguera!

Fantastic Fun at Tortuguera!

Beware Poisonous Caterpillars in Costa Rica…

Crapola to the max, man…. I didn’t shake out the clothes on the line before bringing them into the house…

This is what died a month ago inside one of my blouses:

A poisonous caterpillar in Costa Rica

A poisonous caterpillar in Costa Rica

And this is what happenned when I put the blouse on without realizing there was a dead poisonous caterpillar inside the arm of the blouse…

Results of a poisonous caterpillar encounter

Results of a poisonous caterpillar encounter

The results are insidious… what started out as a major ‘ouchie’ cuz of the quills embedded in my skin, ended up continuing to move around my body with results akin to the above. Not pretty, certainly, and itchy painful besides. It happened yesterday afternoon and the pic above was taken this morning… it’s now 24 hours later from the event and I’m experiencing small blisters and peeling skin all over just this one side of my body… this is one of the things that you ‘learn’ and isn’t in any of the books I’ve read about Costa Rica… The lesson: keep away from spiny looking caterpillars! Jeesh. They’re pretty, but trechorous (sp)!

 

Visa Run to Grenada, Nicaragua…

Yes, it’s almost that time again… another Visa Run this coming October to extend my stay another 90 days.  This time I’m going to Grenada, which means the Penas Blancas border, hothothothot weather, and new adventures. I’ve not been through this border before. From what I’ve heard, I better be prepared with water on hand, a hat, and lots of patience.

I’m gofrontera-penas-blancas-460x270ing to take Tica Bus there and back. Since the earliest bus is at 3am, I’ll stay at their little hotel, located above the bus station, the night before. The cost is minimal, but you get a clean room with private bathroom for only about $20, so it’s worth it!  The trip has a couple of options – one of which is Executive Class and the other Tourist Class. I’m gonna take the Exec bus because it’s faster, they stop for breakfast, have a bathroom on board, and help you through Customs… well, at least they point you in the right direction.

photo of tica bus

As you can see, the bus is plenty plush and comfortable. Sometimes, though, they have the a/c cranked up to uncomfortable levels, so as hot as you know it’s going to be in Nicaragua – no matter where you go – it’s prudent to bring a sweatshirt, at least….. some people even travel with blankets!

I found an incredible site online as I was searching for potential places to stay in Grenada…. wikitravel.org/en/Grenada_(Nicaragua). It’s a thoughtful listing of lodgings, activities, eateries and asides regarding everything Granada broken down from budget to very comfortable options.

I’ve chosen Casa San Francisco Hotel which has a Visa Run special at 3 nights for $139/single and $159/double, which is an outstanding deal for this boutique hotel.

Casa San Francisco

hotelcasasanfrancisco.com. It looks like a great spot in a great location. With a pool, a/c, cable tv, wifi, and an ambiance that feels personal, I’m really looking forward to this vacation!

Enchantment…

For years I’ve awoken in the morning and with my first cup of coffee pulled one of the cards from Doreen Virtue’s Healing With The Angels Oracle Cards, asking as I shuffle them three times before cutting to the card I’m going to pull “What should I concentrate on for myself today.” Last week I pulled “Enchantment” and I’ve not pulled another card since because whenever I see or remember that card something wonderful has happened in my life that I’ve saved in my heart-centered treasure chest to share on this post…

heart-shaped-clouds

1. Thunderheads were forming over the mountains across the valley – huge, frothy white clouds expanding as I watched. All the sudden there was a darker cloud that floated in front and formed itself into a heart! that looked just like this. Took my breath away because of the simple awesomeness of the moment and the transcendent realization that you don’t have to look for Enchantment, just be willing to accept it as it occurs.

 

two butterflies2. Butterflies have been flying around me as I’m walking around the finca, or sitting on the patio just enjoying the birds, cats, nature… they’re so playful and exhuberant and incredible acrobats. Their ‘shows’ are fantastic when played against the myriad trees, bushes and plants around the yard. I’d give them a 10 if it was the Olympics, just gasping at their ability to flexibly adjust in mid-air, mid-flight, mid-ecstacy.

 

greenhummingbird3. Whenever I’m at my computer there is a hummingbird who looks like this picture that hovers immediately in front of the window above my desk… what is it thinking? It tries and tries to find a way into my casita – or me – or the energy that’s being promoted at the time – I don’t know.  For whatever reason, this hummingbird is pure enchantment to me because it’s a sign there’s something special happening that’s attracting it.  When it gets tired, it rests on the branch of a tree and simply watches me…

 

Resting with Evangeline 4 mos

4. And, again, here’s me with Evangeline… I don’t know if she’s just a big four month old, or if this picture is a true representation of how short I actually am. Whichever, I am truly at peace with her and having her sleep in my arms is a treat beyond measure, truly enchanting.

I’ve allowed enchantment to reach my heart lately…  and I think it’s a portion of feeling gratitude for a life I cherish. We’ve all been experiencing enough options for grief lately that we need the balance of incredulousness and giddy happiness for it’s own sake.  I’m consciously allowing these moments, these instances, of pure pleasure  to reach my heart and  lift my spirits. They happen all the time… I hope you’re experiencing them too!

 

My Favorites in Jaco, Costa Rica!

JacopicSurfMy Number 1 favorite thing about Jaco is the beach… surfers, waves…. just listening to the waves crashing is a powerful experience… and then sitting on the beach watching the surfers is a component that simply lulls you into hours of relaxation filled with laughter and gasps. Pure entertainment…. unless you’d like to learn to surf yourself? They’ve got it all here!

Jacopic2A picture of the south end of this 2.5 mile long beach… looks like morning.

Jacopic3NorthAnd here’s a picture of the north end of the beach. This end has quite a few high rise condominium projects. As you can see, the city has been careful to retain the ‘green’ of the natural geography and that lends to the marvelously laid back morning vibe of this little town.

JacoPic1Here’s a picture of the middle of the beach, where you’ll find a nice little park with benches and some tables, plus a nice play structure for the kids.

Around ten it begins to get busy with lots of tourists doing touristy things, or getting ready to be touristy, at any rate.

And speaking of getting touristy, there are lots of things to see and do around Jaco. Since Jaco is only an hour and a half from the capital – San Jose – you’re not far away from zip lining, river rafting, national parks, deep sea fishing… you name it… And that leads me to my second favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoRobertoAn absolutely fabulous tour guide who can chauffeur you around the entire country if you like. Roberto has had 12 years of experience doing just that and as a Costa Rican knows this country very well indeed. What’s special about Roberto is his fantastic attitude, knowledge, willingness to help you out, and total English fluency! I’ve been in this country for a year and a half now and he is by far – in my experience – the person I recommend and trust to make sure my visitors have a relaxing and enjoyable trip. You can reach him via his email at roberto76543@yahoo.com.

So, now we come to my third favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoCatalinaGateLa Catalina Hotel. This is their front gate. As you can see, it is immediately on the beach! It’s on the southern end where the beach is quieter, but still right next to a surf school, so the scene, while quiet, is still fun to watch. They have units with complete kitchens totally stocked with dishes, pots and pans, regular sized refrigerator… and the price is fantastic!

hotelcatalinacr.com – 506-2643-1237

JacoHotelCatalinaThere is a road right in front of the gate. Little restaurants to the right and left. You can walk the beach to the shops in town, or wander through the meandering streets and check out interesting housing choices. At the far south end of the beach a bit beyond the hotel is a rock outcrop where the locals throw nets, hopeful of catching fresh lobster for local restaurants. Do you see the lounge chairs in this picture? Well, here’s your final photo treat… exactly what you see while sitting in them passing the time of day…

JacoCatalinaBeach

Can it get much better than this ? I think not. This is my oasis in the midst of an oasis… my home away from home… my respite from the city… my favorite walking routes… my favorite views. Hope you can come and enjoy it with me sometime soon!