Saturday, February 23, 2013

Another Week of Costa Rican Life!!

Before I get started on this past week, I want to give you links to 2 events from last week - a video of the Coatimundi's, which are just absolutely adorable!!!

And, one of the zip lining (even though it isn't either one of us or anyone we know, it'll give you a small snippet of how exhilarating it is!!

Well, it sure was a good thing we chose the days we did to go to t he Arenal Volcano because it just rained and poured and blew last Sunday and Monday!!  HOWEVER, never the ones to let that stop us, we got a surprise on Monday mid morning when our friend, Vern, showed up to ask if we wanted to go to the FREE hot springs down past the volcano.  Well, why not sit in beautiful warm water up to your chin even if it was raining!!!

So off we went....Vern, Oh-Gina, Mike & me!!  First a stop in Las Piedras for lunch at a "soda" and a wonderful full lunch it was for all 4 of us at only $14!!  The typical Costa Rican food is sooo luscious!!

Another stop at Vern's place so he could get his suit and share his beautiful spot with us!!  I could move right in!!  Actually, he said he'd let me too but where would Mike go??  LOL  Vern's just the nicest, sweetest man from east TX!!  I love his Texas slow drawl! And, to see his newly caught Crawfish!!

We then headed way down the east side of Lake Arenal (again) and just at the Tabacon Hot Springs, we pulled over and parked on the side of the road, walked a feet hundred feet, walked down some steps and VOILA we were in the hot river!!  In order to get into the pool we wanted to be in, we had to cross through the rushing river to get to the other side. Oh-Gina had brought along Max, her precious terrier, and he had his first encounter with water. At least it was warm bath water!!

After an hour and a half of refreshing warm soaking, we headed back north.  Since it was definitely "cocktail" hour, we scooted into the Arenal Lodge way, way, way, way up a hill with a beautiful view of the volcano to have a drink and walk the gardens.  We, again, came upon a lone coatimundi on someone's room deck and Max went nuts!!  Didn't know what to do with this new information!! LOL

Please excuse the wetness on the front of my shirt.  I still had on my bathing suit and hadn't dried out!! LOL

Heading further north toward home, we decided to stop and have dinner at Moya's Place in Nuevo Arenal.  What a great place!!!  And, the food was excellent!!  So, if you're ever up that way, do stop.  It's worth it!!

Tuesday was pretty much a stay at home day.  Mike took a walk and explored the hills and valleys around the area.  I read my book and studied my Spanish.  We actually don't get as much opportunity to use it here, as the locals like to practice their English or already do speak and beat us to the punch. Wednesday evening was expat night, again, at Hotel San Luis and we had dinner and drinks and visited with friends and made new ones!

Wednesday we decided to head back by bus into Tilaran for some groceries and to get the soles replaced on a pair of sandals that I've been carrying around for 8 months!! I love these sandals and we just had never connected with a cobbler.  As we had seen one the first time in town, we headed over there. And, on the spot, the gentleman replaced my soles while we waited!! Only about 20 minutes and $6 and I had NEW shoes!!! 

Thursday was the monthly meeting and luncheon of Ladies of the Lake, an organization of expatriate ladies from all around the lake.  Their main goal is to be a great source of information to all the expats in the area.  They meet in different homes and have about a half hour meeting where information is shared and upcoming events are announced.  I was glad that I got to attend at least one meeting while here. Certainly gives me a broader perspective of the area.

While I was gone, Mike took on an ambitious walk and walked all the way into Tronadora, about 3kms from our place.  As there really isn't much there to draw us in that direction, we haven't been back since our first day when we did our grocery shopping there.  But, it's certainly a well kept, community!  He didn't get back until about 5:55pm and I was going to call out the Calvary at 6pm because I had no clue where he was!! Well, I would have called him first to see if he'd answer. LOL

Yesterday we hung out at home again and got to truly sit out on our deck in the sun and look out over the lake.  What with the clouds, rain, and big wind, we don't really get a chance to do that.  So it was yummy!!  We read and talked until it was time to get ready to head up with Oh-Gina to expat night at Volcano Brewing.

It wasn't a well attended evening but we had fun none the less with those that did come.  How can you not have fun when you're hanging out in a sweet spot with new friends and making more new ones???  Ain't it the life!!!??

Today is the pool party down at Hotel San Luis but it's been cloudy, rainy, and chilly.  Certainly, NOT pool party weather.  So we stayed home again but we can certainly hear the Boom, Boom, Boom of the music up here.  I know they're having a great time without us!

Doing laundry, updating the blog, some reading, and cooking dinner for Vern, Oh-Gina, and us tonight.  A simple spaghetti, fresh baked bread, and cole slaw with a scrumptious peanut butter and chocolate cheese cake from the Feria that Oh-Gina bought for desert!!

This coming week will bring us some heat, sun and beach as we're taking the bus over to Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast where our friends, Donna & Randy, have a condo. We will be taking the bus over on Monday - that should be an excursion all by itself.  Stay tuned!! LOL

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Place, New Friends, New Experiences!!

The happiness and exploration continues!

Before I go forth with our week's events, I had many asking about the picture I had posted of the "green" dinner.  The "green" goop was a creamy spinach sauce poured over Mike's tilapia.  He said it was delicious but I do agree it looks really scary!! LOL

The beginning of this past week we just enjoyed our little place with its beautiful views and read our books.  We did go down to the pool on Tuesday but within 45 minutes the clouds rolled in and we left.  It really hadn't been warm enough to enjoy the water without the sun. 

We also had to renegotiate a bit on our apartment lease.  During our first real home cooked meal here we found that the kitchen was truly lacking in cooking necessities.  There was no lid to the frying pan so I had to use the large wooden cutting board so that grease and spaghetti sauce wouldn't splatter all over the stove and countertops.  And so we began to determine that without more items, the kitchen situation was going to be very difficult. 

When booking the place, I knew we were paying a premium for high season.  We paid $600/mo instead of the $400/mo for low season. I also knew we were paying a premium for the small place because of the lake view.  However, if I'm going to pay a premium for a completely furnished monthly rental, then I do expect the apartment to be furnished so that the tenants (us) can actually live there.  We also knew it didn't have TV but we use our computer for that. BUT, the internet here is sporadic even though I said I needed high speed.  The whole purpose of renting for a full month is to keep expenses down to normal actual living costs, which includes being able to cook regular meals.  We're NOT on vacation! Truly, we're not.

Fortunately, our property manager was able to work things out with the owner and not only was our rent reduced but the few items we felt we really needed were purchased at only a cost of about $35.  So, the moral of the story is for those reading this that are landlords, make sure the apartment is truly furnished for normal day to day living if you're going to rent for more than a week at a time.  Please don't be penny wise and pound foolish!

With that all settled, we joined the expat gathering down at the San Luis Hotel restaurant/bar.  A good crowd assembled and we began meeting lots of new people.  In fact, we ended being one of the last ones there because we were having such great conversations.  It was also nice that we were offered a ride home rather than having to walk up that hill in the dark. 

Thursday dawned with lots of beautiful sun rather than the normal cloudy morning and the wind had died down.  Mike and I packed our bags for a 2 day trip to the other side of the lake.  We had planned this with our friends, Donna & Randy.  They are Realtors from back home that we've known for many years and they own a place close to the beach on the Pacific side here in Costa Rica.  They had arrived the day before us in here in the country and will be here until mid-March.

They wanted to make a trip up to do some fun stuff so we tagged along.  It was lunch time by the time they got here and off to Volcano Brewing Company we went since they had never been there.  Another scrumptious meal and off we headed around the north end of the lake.

We were headed to our home for 2 nights - Agua Inn & Spa.  What a sweet place and spot!!  There are only 4 rooms attached to a beautiful home that is shared with guests.  The owners, Trent & Juavier, are absolutely delightful!!! 

We quickly unpacked and changed into our swimsuits so we could head off to Baldi Hot Springs outside of LaFortuna at the other end of the lake.  As we drove the hour down, we saw amazing views of Volcano Arenal and the lake!!

We didn't arrive until almost 5pm, which was way good!!  Most of the tour busses had already packed up their day passengers and headed out leaving this beautiful place to us!!  Actually, it's also a hotel so there were still people around in the 25 pools but it certainly gave us the sense of more privacy and there weren't so many children around. 

As you proceed up the hill from one pool to the next they get warmer and warmer all the way up to 152 degrees!!!  But we couldn't personally verify that since we never made it up that far.  We really enjoyed the pool, waterfalls, and swim up bars. 

At one of the bars, Mike & I were stopped by a couple as we were leaving.  The husband asked me if he could take a picture of Mike with his wife.  Why, you ask?????  Well it seems that the wife thinks Mike's the picture of her dreams!!!  They were a delightful couple from Bogota, Columbia.  We just laughed and laughed at that one!!  And, it was Valentine's Day!!  What was she thinking??!!!

We stayed and truly enjoyed ourselves until about 9pm, making the $35 entry fee a better value. Before heading back north to our place, we drove into LaFortuna for a bit to eat at a pizza place that was really good.  The east side of the lake is truly a more touristy area and caters to them!  Where we have our apartment is truly off the beaten path and more of a local residential area.

Friday dawned beautiful and sunny again without many clouds in the sky.  That's a truly rare thing here because of the clouds that usually flow over the volcano and down along the coast of the lake. But not the 2 days we were gone!! 

A leisure morning was spent talking with our hosts, drinking fabulous CR coffee, eating a splendid home cooked breakfast, and reading our books.  But, then it was time to decide how we were going to spend the day.  So at 11am off we headed down toward the Volcano and all that it had to offer.

Along the way, we encountered a large group of Coatimundi's!! What fantastic little creatures they are!

Upon reaching the base of the volcano, we decided that Randy, Mike & I would do the Tram up the mountain and the Zip Line down.  All 3 of us love to do them.  Donna, not liking heights, went further up the road to the butterfly and insect sanctuaries.

What an awesome fun thing to do!!  We have had several friends and relatives who've done this adventure and truly enjoyed it.  Well, we did too!!  The longest line Mike & I had ever done so far had been 1250ft. but the longest one here was 2,440ft - a half mile and at a speed of 45mph!!  What was also terrific was that there were actually 8 lines of which 5 were over 1200ft.  If you've never done this and enjoy thrilling rides, this is for you!!  Would do it over and over!


Donna was waiting for us in the cafĂ© when we finished.  We all had a leisure drink before heading back to "home".  It was our goal to get back before dark to enjoy a drink on the terrace and relax, which we accomplished magnificently!!

Dinner reservations had been made for 7:30pm at the Gingerbread not far from where we were staying.  This restaurant had been recommended to me by Suzan Haskins, a writer of International Living, and was fully reinforced by our host, who told us if we didn't eat there, we were missing a chance of a lifetime!!  OK, we got the message loud and clear!!

We were greeted immediately upon reaching the open air front door and ushered to our chosen interior table.  What a delightful ambiance our surroundings were!!  Eyal, the owner of the establishment, is quite a character we had been told - sort of larger than life.  Meals are prepared in fine fashion but don't start getting picky about how you want yours done.  You'll be SOL, as Eyal won't hesitate to tell you that his food is the best and if you don't like the way he does it - oh, well!!

We had no problems because we knew his character. But, no need to worry, the food was outstanding!! Albeit, a little too much pepper for Mike but he suffered through and had a good meal.  And, the 2 bottles of wonderful Malbec didn't hurt either!!  LOL  All in all, a truly wonderful experience and a fabulous time!

This morning we decided after checking out to drive back down south a bit to visit and see the 500 year old Ceiba tree that we kept passing.  What we didn't realize is that it was quite a hike up a huge hill with no real path at all.  Donna only got about 2/3 up before she decided she was going back down and I had on totally wrong shoes to do this kind of a hike.  Oh well, I managed!  It was a beautiful tree and I'm glad we did it!

I'm trying to upload pictures of the tree but it won't let me do it for some reason.  Seems with this program, if I've tried uploading those pictures before, which I did yesterday and they wouldn't load because of our weak signal, then it won't let me upload them EVER!!  I've tried and tried!! So you're just going to have to do without any pictures of the tree...... Arghh!!!!!

We then headed back north to bring us home.  And, they needed to get back to their home on the coast by dark.  We made plans for Mike & I to take a bus over to their place week after next and spend 4 nights with them.  They are going to show us the coast areas and then bring us back.  Another fun excursion to look forward to!!

After some down time at home, we walked down to San Luis hotel and met up with other WA friends of ours, Lesley Chapman & Craig Hinman, who were here for a month on vacation.  It was great seeing them and we had a fabulous dinner out at Volcano Brewing Company, our 3rd time in a week!! A great place to entertain and hang out! 

They had to leave early this morning to drive over to Liberia for their flight to Panama City for 2 days before heading home.  I do hope all went well because we had one hack of a storm last night and it's still going on.  Rain, wind, and power outage.  Be safe!!

So there you have it - another full week of our explorations and discoveries!