Monday was truly spent wrapping things up in Gorgona. We took our last long walk on the beach then came back to begin our packing and cleaning. At our usual 5:30pm, we were down having our last drinks overlooking the beach.
We were picked up right on schedule Tuesday morning by Road Runner to cart us off to the BIG city of Panama City. The traffic was absolutely horrendous, which is normal once you get into the real innerds of the city. But we made it after circling around for a bit to get to our hotel, Victoria Hotel & Suites, because many of the roads are one way.
Since our room wasn't quite ready, we mozied out to find a place to eat lunch. Right on the corner from our hotel was a quaint place called Manolo's, so we sat ourselves down to people watch since it was a very busy corner right across the street from one of the biggest casinos in town, the Veneto.
While we were waiting for our food, Mike and I were looking at a map on the restaurant window of the city. A very nice gentleman asked if we needed any help. We said no but then struck up a conversation with him and ended up having lunch with him. His name is Don Winner and he is the owner/writer of a website I had found very early on in our country shopping called, Panama-Guide.com. He was just delightful to get to know and to find out he knows our friend, Jack McCotter!! A very small world indeed!!
After a very hearty and delicious lunch, we headed back to the hotel to go to our room. We were very pleasantly surprised at how lush and nice it was!! We then decided to go for a walk and a bit of shopping. Successful on both counts!
At Happy Hour, we found ourselves at a restaurant bar called, Beirut. BEFORE our drinks were delivered, I headed out to find the restroom and just as I had spotted the entry my toe caught an unexpected step up and I found myself completely splayed out on the floor with a face plant in front of many people!!!
I hit my chin hard which snapped my head back. Stunned and with help, I quickly got up not wanting to embarrass myself any further!! Dazed, I went into the restroom and tried to gather myself. I was VERY lucky that all I ended up with was a bruised chin and a slightly sore neck!! But, alas, several days later and much traveling since then, I'm just fine! Again, VERY lucky considering. Must mean that these old bones haven't given out yet.
That evening, Mike and I found ourselves exploring the neighborhood. We had drinks at Istmo Brew Pub but meandered further down the street to a restaurant called, Chris'. We sat out on the patio and had a delightful mean before then heading over to the Veneto for some live Latin band entertainment, which we truly love!!
Wednesday dawned beautiful and bright. We were supposed to meet up with our friends, Ingrid and Roy and their new baby Ela, for lunch in the Punta Paitilla district but somehow it just didn't work out. We tried Hard!! Took a cab to Hard Rock Hotel, which is really cool!! Then walked through the new mall - MultiCentro until we finally found someone who knew where the restaurant was. So off on foot we went. Well, we were in communication and waited quite awhile for them but, alas, it ended up being the WRONG Darna location. So off we went on foot again but after walking in circles and crossing many a dangerous street, we called it quits!! It just wasn't going to happen. Dang! I really wanted to meet that beautiful new baby.
So instead Mike and I discovered the new mall. We found him a new water proof watch that we'd been searching for and then decided to go to the movies. We saw Lincoln and thoroughly enjoyed it!! If you haven't seen it, it's excellent!! Rooting for Daniel Day Lewis for an Oscar.
We then headed back to the hotel wanting to stick close to home for the evening. Our cab driver was awesome and knew all the shortcuts to get us back in record time!! As it turned out, Costa Rica and Panama were playing a World Cup match in PC that evening and the natives were all out!! We even saw the Panamanian Soccer Team's bus leaving for the stadium by cutting through their hotel entry, El Panama.
There were pep rallies happening in the streets with lots of police presence, as the fans can get pretty rowdy! We walked through both casinos to see what was happening there but decided to watch the game in a more intimate location. So back to Istmo Brew Pub we went. A great venue to watch the game with other Panamanians and expats/tourists. The game ended with a 2-2 tie so everyone was ok. Here's a link to a video of the pep rally https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6607547
Thursday off we went to the airport via cab, check in with no problems and off to the gate. Boarded right on time, had a nice ham & cheese snack with wine FREE on the plane. Copa Airlines is just fabulous!! Would recommend to use them as often as possible!
Once on the ground after only 1.5 hours, through customs, luggage retrieved, money exchanged into Colones, telephone sim card and plan purchased, off we went again by cab to the bus stop in Alejuela. Met the wonderful young man who coordinates and announces all the incoming busses. He took us under his wing, said sit down and relax and I'll come get you when your bus is here. And, that's exactly what he did!!
The bus was a newer, very comfortable large bus and for the next 4 hours we watched the scenery as we headed northwest up to Tilaran. A rest stop for about 30 minutes, which was needed badly for baños and a snack. Upon arriving in Tilaran, we were met by our property manager, Coryn, who quickly got us into her truck and shuttled us to the local grocery store where we picked up a few essentials to get us through the evening and morning.
Our place is a small apartment connected to a home on a quiet side street in the small village of San Luis between Tilaran and Tronadora. There are 2 small "pipas" or small convenience stores, a hamburger/fish taco restaurant and a nice upscale but reasonable restaurant called "Brisas del Lago", which has been written up in Trip Advisor and is quite nice. In fact, that's where we had dinner our first night after unpacking a bit. The only "glitch" was that they only served wine but no beer.
On Friday we got up to an earlier sun rise than we were used to (6:45am) and watched what seems to be the "norm" here. Clouds with sometimes a bit of misty rain that comes over the volcano Arenal to our south and then winds seem to blow them out as the morning progresses with lots of sun and wind to replace them.
We did our normal routine when arriving somewhere new, we walked about trying to get our lay of the land. We first ventured down to Puerto San Luis hotel with restaurant/bar. It's all down hill and about a 15-20 minute walk, which meant it was all up hill coming back! A great way to get our exercise!!! It really is a sweet spot and they have a wonderful hot tub and pool that we found out will only cost us $2/ea to use on a daily basis. Sweet!!!!!!!!!!! We had lunch, which was decent and a reasonable price compared to what we've been used to.
We've been told that everything was so much more expensive here compared to Panama. Well, so far we haven't found that to be completely true. At least from our buying/renting parameters. I'll go into that more later.
Our friends from WA, Craig Hinman and his terrific lady friend, Lesley Chapman, will be joining us here next Saturday night on their way home and will be staying at the San Luis hotel so we were able to tell them it's a good spot!! We can't wait to see them!!
The next item on our agenda was to figure out the bus schedule. San Luis is quite a small place tucked along the lake and almost at the dead end of Tronadora, so it seems busses only run every 2 hours into Tilaran where there is a bigger bus stop going in different directions.
After climbing back up the hill from the hotel to the paved main road, we waited for a bus at the bus stop. When one didn't come for a bit, we hailed a cab, which was very fortuitous for us!! Victor, who lives in Tilaran, not only took us to Tronadora, he waited for us to do our grocery shopping, helped load the box into his cab, took us to our door, AND brought the box up to our apartment!! And, only wanted $8 for his services. Mike gave him a $2 tip, which is not normally done here but we just couldn't do that in good conscience.
After unpacking the groceries, off we went again up into town San Luis for more exploring. What we found out was that our little town in "beer free" meaning that don't sell beer nor serve it!! We couldn't believe that I had booked a month stay in a "dry beer" community!! How absolutely awful for Mike!! LOL We could buy it in Tronadora and Tilaran and it is served at the hotel bar.
Yesterday we took the bus into Tilaran to try and find a few things we couldn't get in Tronadora and to explore the bigger town. What a delightful place!! Laid out around the square with a beautiful newer church, nice sidewalks, smiling people, clean and neat streets, an abundance of shops with some high quality ones as well, and many restaurants and bars for the "tico", which is what the Costa Ricans call themselves. Here's a link to a video of Tilaran. https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6606486
We found a cobbler, so now I can take my sandals in next week to have them resoled. We found a simply divine small vegetable shop where the owner was as friendly as could be. He even prepared the pineapple that we bought so we didn't have to deal with the waste!! And, the prices were incredibly inexpensive compared to Panama. That was the one thing we missed in Pedasi and Gorgona was the good fresh fruit and vegetables. Not here, they are abundant!! We bought a large pineapple, 2 cucumbers, a mango, 2 bananas, and a large pepper all for only $4!!
We're finding that meat, dry goods, and wine/beer are more expensive than Panama but not more than what we would pay in the states. We just might have to become more vegetarian in our daily lives, which is NOT a bad thing!! Having everything really fresh and readily available is just awesome!
As it just so happens, the ONLY micro brewery in Costa Rica is just up the road from us about 6km!! The only bad part is that we have to take a cab because the busses don't run up that way except twice a day. So we did the only thing we could do and that was to call Victor who came and took us up and then picked us back up 2 hours later.
It was so good!! A great atmosphere, delightful, friendly service, good food at a reasonable price, and some good beer! Mike had 3 different ones and liked the brown beer best. We were treated to a taste of a freshly made blended royal mojito that was just sooooo yummy!! A truly great evening and must do again!
Today is lounging around enjoying the peace and quiet but might go down to the pool shortly to take advantage of such a glorious day!
More exploring this week and I'll let you know all about it later.
Lovin' this journey!!