Friday, February 20, 2009

Caribbean Crusin' with My Parents

This may seem weird, but after the drive home from the beach on Sunday, we actually needed Monday in San Jose to recoup. This was mostly for my dad. His driving skills are really being tested here in Costa Rica. On the way to the beach we were run off the road by a semi and have been driving windey roads through mountains in the dark. To my Dad’s dismay, there are no “shortcuts” to be taken when you hit traffic. You just have to wait! Monday evening, I invited Maureen, Lauren and Kate over for a pasta dinner. I wanted my parents to meet the girls who are constantly starring in my blog. I also wanted them to taste the Italian Gelato that we are all addicted to, so after dinner, we piled into 2 cars and drove over to Plaza Itskazu.
We left feeling very satisfied (ie stuffed).
Tuesday morning our goal was to be out of the house by 7am! With Ernesto? HA! My parents waited patiently on our extremely uncomfortable couch (the apt came furnished)

By the looks of our trunk we were leaving for a month. My dad even threw in the coffee pot.

At about 8am we started driving east. I wanted to show my parents the other side of Costa Rica, which really has a different vibe than the west. You could mistake the little town of Puerto Viejo for an island in the Caribbean. Everyone is on bikes riding the bumpy dirt roads in beach attire, carrying surfboards or lazily hanging out at one of the cute open-air eateries. There are no “proper” hotels here. The last time I visited, we stayed in the “hammock hotel” but I didn’t think my parents would be into that. I picked a place recommended in Lonely Planet called ItaIta’s Cabinas, and they were really cute 2 bedrooms with kitchen and covered front porch in a lovely jungle setting. It was just out of town on Punta Uva, a long fluffy white sand beach. Well, it used to be. Two weeks ago there was a horrible storm that hit, and when we walked out to the beach, I couldn’t believe it. The beach was exposed rocks and fallen trees. ok, plan B. I remembered that Kate recommended a place called Casa Verde and although it wasn't right on the beach, it was a lush tropical paradise

with great bird watching

a beautiful pool

and the rooms were large, clean and had porches with hammocks. Perfect!

Once we checked in, we spent the rest of the day hanging at the pool and walked over to Lydias Place for dinner, its a great open-air restaurant that has a different flavor than San Jose. Caribbean curried chicken and coconut rice.

Getting fresh seafood was no problem here either. You must try the cold ginger-lime drink that they make. So deliciously refreshing!

The locals were hanging at our table to see if they get lucky.

We went to bed after a game of Oh Hell and woke up early to see the sun rise. (I was still in my pj's)

It was so pretty.

My mom and I found a great spot on the beach piles of seashells had been washed up, and picked out some beauties! I plan to add mine to my sand collection. (Its growing exponentially by the way)

A local boy came around to our room early with what he called "papusas" that his mother made. They were still warm. Fluffy bread with cheese and sugar. $1

The morning hours we spent at the pool, damn Im getting a great tan!

My dad gave me a great book by James Patterson, I really like his writing (and the main character Alex Cross) and I had a lot of time to relax and read it. At about 1pm we rented bikes and headed south out of town. We wanted to take my parents to Maxi’s in Manzanillo. It’s an awesome seafood restaurant right on the beach. It was about an hour bike ride.

Ernesto would go ahead and stop at every little store along the way and would be standing there with beers for us when we caught up.
I love that Ernesto and my dad are such good buddies.

They talk so much shit to each other, Ernesto loves to say and DO things to my parents just to get their reaction. What would your reaction be?

Who would do that to their in-laws? They always laugh at him. My mom did a great job on the bike ride, although she got some blisters on her thumbs from gripping the handlebars so tight. pobresita! It wasn't exactly an easy ride. BUT, everyone agreed that the food was so worth it. My dad got a whole red snapper grilled I got marlin, ernesto and my mom got ribs, which they are also known for. I love the huge wood plates.

See the little pair of cat ears? I may have slipped that mare mare some of my food, she was so cute, patiently waiting. With all the open-aired restaurants, there are always cats and dogs sitting and starring at me.

We spent a leisurely 2 hours in the restaurant and then at 5pm started to book it home. Before we left I had to do a pic in front of this gorgeous green wall. It looks great with my yellow suit. I love the bright colors that they paint the buildings/houses here. Anything goes.

We almost made it before dark. We had about 2 miles to go, luckily cars were shedding their light on the road, but at times it was tough with the huge pot holes and no street lights. We were popped when we got back to the cabin. We immediately changed into our bathing suits and went into the pool. We laughed about how nice it was that we could stand be with each other for such a long period of time.

The next day we were checking out of our hotel, but didn't want to drive back to San Jose in the hot sun, so we drove north to the little beach town Cahuita and went into Cahuita National Park.

It is a beautiful beach and has well maintained sand trails where you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife...and we did. White-faced monkeys and the howler monkeys pictured here

We also saw this monkey
Before starting our drive from HELL back to SJ, we bought watermelon and mango from a fruit stand.
It really was a scary ride home. Driving through Brauillo Carrillo Park we were in the mountains and up in the clouds...clouds so thick that we had to stop the car a couple times. Its not like we could pull over either, there were no shoulders, only cliffs off the mountain. Yikes! Semis whizzed by us, obviously they had fog lights, but our rental was not equipped. My dad was doing the best he could and we may have given a few too many suggestions. The tension was as thick as the clouds. My mom pulled out her rosary and in the end, we did not die.
My parents left at 7am Saturday morning. We went with them to the airport. I really enjoyed having them here with us. My dad said, "Its always an adventure with Cindy"  Thats what I like to hear!  Anyone else want to come here for an adventure?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mis Padres Travel Costa Rica

I can't believe my parents have been here a week already. Neto and I were waiting for them at the airport  Monday night in San Jose. They arrived on time and were happy to see our smiling faces. Especially when they saw my homemade sign. "Welcome Mom and Dad Arnold" I wanted to make sure they didnt miss us. (the pic is not the greatest, it was taken through dirty glass)
They are our first visitors (hopefully not our last, hint hint) in our new apartment. The first 2 days we spent in the city. Ernesto entertained them during the day while I was at work. We walked in the park in the mornings and then they relaxed, went to the downtown market and did some shopping. At night and we made dinners in our cute little kitchen. (I really love our new apt. minus the horribly uncomfortable couch)
One night we went to the casino across the street. It wasn't crowded and nobody won big = not too exciting. My mom and I wasted a bit of money anyway on the slot machines.
For the 12 day visit, we thought a rental car would make the most sense since we wanted to cover some land, and with the good rate my dad found online at FOX car rental (I have never heard of it either) it would end up being cheaper than all those bus tickets (not to mention more convenient) The rate was $78 for the week! ok plus tax and the mandatory insurance =$178! still a great deal!

Since there are 4 of us, and not too much luggage we went with an economy car. We took a bus out to the airport to pick up the car. My parents aren't regular public bus riders, but they are really good sports and up for anything, as long as they have their spanish translators with them.
My dad feels a bit out of control since he doesn't know the language, but he's "doin a good job". He even made up some of his own words. My favorite is the money here. They are called Colones. [co-lo-nez] He has been calling them Ca-lo-knees.   He brought his GPS which has a Ca-lo-knee converter.  Needless to say we have been laughing about this all week.

At the car rental office we were told my dad needed his passport, not drivers license to rent the car. UGH! ok, back to the apartment, back to the car rental place. On the road by noon...

We were heading to the famous Volcano Arenal first, which is about 3 hours Northwest of San Jose in a town called La Fortuna. As soon as we climbed up the mountains we were in the clouds. We stopped at a cute outdoor place for a late lunch with 'typical food' and a bottle of red wine to warm us up, it was chilly up there! Again my dad whipped out his GPS to make sure we knew the altitude. We were at 2800 feet.
Driving into the town of La Fortuna, where the volcano is, was like driving back in 3 months ago, when it was the "rainy season"! No! I don't want to go back! Since December we have been in the "dry season" and it has been perfect weather-80 and sunny! Due to the rain and cloud coverage we weren't able to catch even a glimpse of the Volcano peak. It was a bit disappointing, but the good thing was that I discovered a great place to stay called Vista del Cerro. If it wasn't so cloudy, you would see the monster volcano right here out our window:
It was a great little place. The rooms were spacious and clean, the staff was wonderful, the grounds were beautifully landscaped, plus it was centrally located. For the 4 of us, it cost only $65 including breakfast! That night we ate dinner at Lava Lounge, an attractive place on the main strip that lured me in from the street with its warm lighting and open air dining tables. We munched on some apps, had a few drinks and played our favorite card game "Oh Hell"
We decided if it was still shitty weather in the morning, we'd head for the beach. And that is exactly what we did... after visiting the 200 foot waterfall, La Catarata de la Fortuna. We figured we'd better see something there before we split town. Neto and I had come here last year and thought my parents would enjoy it.
Its quite a steep decent to the bottom, my mom's legs felt "shaky" when she reached the bottom. I told her to "just wait for the climb up!"
But the view is totally worth it when you get to the bottom, and if you have your bathing suit, the cold water is very refreshing.
Ernesto had an idea to incorporate a quick workout and get to the top again as quick as possible. That was a tough 5 min and 15 seconds, let me tell you....I was sweating my ass off!
When driving away from the waterfall, this little boy started racing us. Even in his rubber flip flops on a loose gravel road he was keeping up with our car. It was so funny, Ernesto stuck out his hand with a tip for him. He deserved it.
The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal and Neto thought it would be cool to drive around it. Before we left I took a pic with my parents with what we could see of the volcano.
As we drove, the day started clearing up and we saw some of the most beautiful views so we had to stop and take pictures.
My dad is amazed by the amount of pics I take. You can tell in his face I was taking too many. I think I may have won Barbie's title of "picture-ass" on this trip!
I told him a blogger needs many options! (I caught some candid shots, one he forbid that I post here-email me if you are interested in seeing it) We were happy when we saw signs to Tom's German Bakery, it had gotten so sunny and we were ready to get out of the car. We stopped there for a beer, brautwurst, coffee and [too die for] apple strudel. It was a lovely place.
We had no idea how huge the Lake was when we decided to drive around it. Two hours later, we were finally heading south to Esterillos beach, on the pacific side. I had stayed at the Encantada cottages back in December with some friends and we absolutely loved it. Its a perfect relaxing getaway, the grounds are lush
and scattered with hammacks and right on the beach.
Our room was $89, including a continental breakfast. The rooms are spacious and clean.I now know why the hotel/restaurant next door is called El Pelicano. The whole day pelicans are flying over head in clean formations. It was really beautiful. Somehow relaxing.
El Pelicano is also where we ate dinner both nights (there are only two options, this is a very unspoiled beach) and they served us the best seafood. My dad was a happy man. When he is at the beach he wants seafood. Now this would have not been in my volunteer budget, but we did a bit of splurging this week, and my parents were very generous as well (thanks mommy and daddy-I love you) Other than eating delicious seafood, we relaxed to the fullest, yet stayed active. The hotel has boogie boards so we all gave that a try.
Neto is really good and rode a wave the whole way in. My dad and I tried our best, but the only thing I caught was a plastic bag.
I am 100% on board with Ernesto's CrossFit workouts and being at the beach was actually a cool way to incorporate 'somethin different' Workouts on the beach. love it.
Friday: 200 meter sprints and 25 pushups. Repeat 3 times.
Saturday: we did 25 handstands (as long as you can stay up) and run a fast mile .
whew! Sweating MAO! We also played a lot of cards and I brought Bananagrams. If you like scrabble you'll love this. Be careful, it can be addicting, I love that is easy to travel with! My dad doesn't go anywhere without his laptop, and with the free wi-fi at Encantada it was nice to relax and get online.
Ernesto definitley won (hands down) for being online the most. Before leaving Atlanta he bought the ipod Touch and talk about ADDICTED. It is pretty damn cool, I guess I can understand his fascination.
My mom was in heaven because it was a great beach for "shelling" her favorite sport!
She has so many shells at home that she could never use them all (even though she tries) but still, she can't resist to pick up more. She was out there at sunrise to start her search and she really found some beauties!
Valentine's Day was Saturday and I was inspired by someone else's writing in the sand so I made a 'card' for Neto. He snuck up behind me and took a pic and ruined the surprise. Its the thought that counts right?
A heart outlined in shells I collected, so sweet!
Esterillos has the most beautiful sunsets, I know I posted similar pics when I was here last time, but LOOK!
crazy beautiful sunsetsAfter I took my usual 10 pics, Neto and I got a little creative.
The drive home was a bit long partly due to some traffic on a Sunday night, and partly because we missed an exit to the highway and ended up going through a town instead of around it.   


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