Day 2…Road Trip USA By Car…GPS Leads Us Astray…Biker Bar In The Mountains…Gettysburg, We Have Arrived.

Pennsylvania…What A Beautiful State To Drive Through The Blue Ridge Mountains.

After a great sleep, and a hearty breakfast in the hotel, we are off. I am super excited because we are heading to Punxatawney, the home of the infamous Punxatawney Phil, groundhog to the masses. I actually don’t know why this makes me so excited….but it sure did.

We do make a quick stop for some necessities at the Dupois Walmart…not blog worthy except that it was darn hard to find how to turn into it. We went past it a few times before we were lucky enough to watch the car ahead of us successfully navigate the road and hit the parking lot…we followed suit. After a brief shop, we are off.

Punxatawney is about 30 minutes away from Dupois, so we arrive there in no time at all. The drive is very pretty, and the town square is beautiful, and the town itself has numerous Victorian houses, but many are old and decrepit and kind of creepy. But, I am willing to brave anything to meet my groundhog. So we locate his den…in the town square of course…and head over to meet him.

Phil actually has it made…he only works one day a year. The rest of the time he eats and sleeps and does whatever groundhogs do all day. Every February 2nd, Phil is transported a short distance (remember this fact for a little later in my story), to Gobblers Knob. Here thousands of his fans gather to watch him predict the end of the winter…if he see his shadow, then there will be 6 more weeks of winter…if he doesn’t see it, well, Spring is right around the corner. Now I am not certain how accurate Phil is, but I do know that he has never been fired…nor has Canada’s own groundhog Wiarton Willy…so I guess we can trust them both for an accurate accounting of upcoming weather.

Phil resides in a very large burrow, with a private residence and a huge glassed in area where adoring fans like me can watch him and snag a photo. There are also many statues of groundhogs all over the town, each one decorated in different themes…they really know how to honor their groundhogs, don’t they?

I Am At Punxatawney Phil’s Den…Soooo Happy.
Phil…Live And In Person…He’s So Cute.
Phil At Work…He Looks Very Busy.
Me With The Statue Outside Of Phil’s Den…I Wonder If It Would Make A Good Hood Ornament For The Car.
Punxatawney McPhil…One Of The Many Statues Around Town Showing Phil’s Versatility And Wardrobe…I Love A Man (Or Groundhog) In A Kilt…

Now, I mentioned earlier that Gobbler’s Knob, the place where Phil actually makes his predictions on February 2nd (or as I see it, Phil’s one day a year office), is not far from here. Soooo….I decide we need to go see it. Of course we do. As a note, thousands of people come here on February 2nd for this event and it is the premise for the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, although the movie was not filmed here. Maybe, like us, as you will see, they couldn’t find it.

Into the car we go, having received directions from a local…plug the coordinates into the trusty GPS and we are off. Oh my, but the views are lovely, the countryside stunning…and soon…we are lost. What should have taken us about 15 minutes, has seen us driving for over an hour…in the wrong direction. We should have been heading southeast, but were cruising along heading north…thanks to the GPS giving us horribly incorrect directions. We finally concede defeat and decide to head towards a highway and get on with our journey. On the way we did stumble across an Amish bakery and stopped in for a coffee and a butter tart to go…oh my…how delicious it was. The ladies working in the bakery seemed to take quite the shine to my partner…smiling and friendly…but to me…they shot daggers out of their eyes and were cold…hmmm…perhaps my partner will find his future wife (wives) here.

Soon we hit highway 219…south…then onto highway 30 and drive towards our true destination for the day…Gettysburg. We are travelling up and through the Blue Ridge mountains, winding around corners and climbing up for what seems like forever. Along the way we stop for lunch in Somerset at a Ruby Tuesdays. There I tried a Blue Moon beer that you drink with an orange slice in it…delicious. It was to become a favorite of mine of this trip.

Picturesque Somerset….I Didn’t Take This Picture…But I Sure Was There.

We veer East, through the mountains, and soon we begin descending the mountain…my gosh its breathtaking. At one spot we come across Bikers Cove Bar right there, all by itself on the mountain side. Now since we need a bathroom break, we stop in and of course, order a beer. We are the only car in the parking lot…its all bikes. I am dressed as a tourist and wishing I had on my biking chaps and vest…I would have felt more comfortable. As it was, I just wanted to drink up and get going. It does have an amazing view of the mountains and valley, so worth the stop…no matter how brief. By the way, our travel down the mountain, that being the Blue Ridge Mountains, takes us over 28,000 feet from top to bottom…quite the decent. The bikers bar was at 2180 feet, so in a car it sure doesn’t take long.

My Views All Day…Around The Corner Is The Bikers Cove Bar.

Back on the road, we pass through Bedford, a really pretty little town with some interesting history and numerous historical buildings and homes. Originally a fort which offered settlers refuge from Indian raids, it eventually became an agricultural community. The Espey House here is a landmark as General George Washington used it as his headquarters while leading his 13,000 troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, which had started in the Jean Bonnet Tavern, just west of here. The Whiskey Rebellion was waged by farmers, who due to the high cost of pack mule transport, made more money selling whiskey than their grains. The government then issued high taxes on them for their whiskey sales and this caused the rebellion…sounds like they were true entrepreneurs. The area is filled with many springs…deemed to be medicinal…and this brought an influx of folks looking to be healed as well as the construction of numerous resorts and spas. President Buchanan himself made the Bedford Springs Hotel his summer White House and in 1858, he sent the worlds’ first transatlantic cable from his office there to Queen Victoria…pretty historic text message right there.

Historic Espey House
Bedford Springs Hotel…summer White House of President Buchanan

Another interesting town is Chambersburg. This place is steeped in history and the historical buildings are in great repair. This town was part of the underground railroad and there are many stories of the folks who hid here and many of the homes that were their refuge are in existence still. One interesting fact for my Canadian followers: Abraham Stouffer was born here…he founded Stouffville, Ontario.

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

We finally reach our destination for the next couple of nights…Gettysburg. I have wanted to see this place for a long time and as you will see, it does not disappoint. As a note: I will not be giving the history of Gettysburg in full as that is not my expertise nor intention with my blog. I will share with you my experiences, what I saw and learned and should you choose to learn more, then google away my loves.

The Lincoln Square….Dowtown Gettysburg…(not my picture).

Gettysburg is home to an historic Civil War battle, or rather several battles. The town and surrounding area were under siege for several days. This place is loaded with historic sites and buildings, many with bullet and cannon holes still showing in their walls.

It is really busy here with tourists, so rooms were at a premium and we wanted something in the downtown, so we could walk around and dine out in close proximity to our room. And so we take one of the only available rooms at the 1863 Inn. This is not a glamourous spot, but affordable, and clean so it became home for two nights. Rumor has it that there is a ghost here, that of George the handyman. He seems to haunt the 5th floor and likes to play pranks on guests by turning lights off and on, moving items in your room and locking you out of your room. We did not stay on the 5th floor, so we didn’t meet this playful spirit…thankfully.

The 1863 Inn…Right Downtown And Within Walking Distance To Almost Everything There Is To See.

Once checked in, we head out to explore the town. Right beside the Inn is the Jennie Wade house, (the building on the right in the picture above). This was actually the home of Jennie’s sister and its location was a poor one…it is in what was deemed no mans land…It was right in the middle of town on the main street, and the Union and Confederate armies were firing at each other from opposite ends of this street. Jennie was the only civilian killed in the war here; shot while in the kitchen baking bread. You can see the bullet hole in the door, the bullet that struck her and there is still a blood stain on the floorboard where she fell. She was just 20 years old. Sad, isn’t it?

Bullet Hole In Front Door…Jennie Wade House
View From Bullet Hole To Kitchen

We walk the streets filled with historic buildings and shops and restaurants. I am amazed by all of the sights and am excited for tomorrow when we really tour this town.

We find a bite to eat, and head to our room. Tomorrow will be a busy one so its early to bed for me.

Stay with me for day 3, when I meet 2 ghosts, find out what a growler is, and eat dinner in a haunted restaurant.

Live Your Life…Jan

Day 1…Road Trip USA By Car…A Movie Star Prison…Unique Beer Store…A Plan Is Hatched For Day 2.

On The Road Again…Let The Adventures Begin.

I love a good adventure and if it involves travel…sign me up. I have teamed up with my bike trip partner and we have decided to take a road trip by car through different States than on our previous bike trip…read my first blogs…you will love the stories.

We have a few spots in mind that we want to see and so we roughly map out our 2 week trip. As always, I am so excited to hit the road.

We head out from North Bay, Ontario and head South, planning on crossing the border at Fort Erie, Buffalo. We leave early so we can cross the border and make some good mileage once we hit the USA.

Our first stop is in Gravenhurst, Ontario for a quick visit and a coffee with some friends. Gravenhurst is a really pretty town, in what is known as cottage country, because it is surrounded by lakes and is situated on the shores of Lake Muskoka and Gull Lake. Originally named McCabes Landing, the name was changed to Gravenhurst by a post master who had read a book of that name and thought it would be a good idea…always good to follow your hunches, right? It was a steamboat hub in the 1860’s and in 1940-1946 it housed Camp 20, a Nazi Prisoner of war camp. Apparently it was rather easy going at the camp as the prisoners had the ability to swim in the lake, work for pay and many of them befriended the local townsfolk. This resulted in numerous marriages. Gravenhurst was the home of the famous surgeon, Dr. Norman Bethune and his birth place home is preserved today as an historical site. Worthwhile little town to visit if you are going by.

The Birthplace of Dr. Norman Bethune.

Off we go after saying goodbye to our friends, and only make a short stop outside of Toronto, Ontario for some lunch. Things almost ended here as we were very closely hit by another car as we were about to pull into a lane to pass the car in front of us. This car came flying by us, at a very high speed, full well knowing we were indicating we were pulling out and were already moving to the other lane. It was close. After much adrenaline finishes coursing through our veins, we carry on.

We are soon at the Fort Erie border crossing…and I actually have a current passport this time…(read my first blog series to see why that is even something worth mentioning). We cross over without any issues and we are now enroute to wherever we end up…sounds like a solid plan.

We travel through Buffalo and into Pennsylvania…oh my…what a spectacularly beautiful state this is. Lush forests and mountains…I love it.

Gorgeous Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was founded in 1686…it was inhabited before that but it officially became Pennsylvania in 1686. It became officially Pennsylvania when a land grant was given to William Penn by Charles II to pay an outstanding debt of 16,000L that Charles owed to Willams’ father. Charles chose the name, although William was embarrassed by it, feeling everyone would think he was vain and naming it after himself…what humility he shows. There are a lot of interesting events that occurred in Pennsylvania such as; the Declaration of Independence was drafted in Philadelphia, Edwin Drake first person in American to discover oil in Titusville and causes a boom…to name just a few.

Pennsylvania is home to many Fortune 500 companies such as Hershey …mmmm, chocolate…and Heinz. The top products that it produces are oil, potato chips, pretzels, mushrooms, apples and Christmas Trees…I didn’t know that one. It is home to the first World Series Baseball game where in 1903 the Boston Pilgrims (now Red Sox) played the Pittsburgh Pirates on their home field. Numerous famous people come from this State; here are a few: Kevin Bacon, Bradley Cooper, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Andy Warhol, Mark Cuban, Kobe Bryant, Taylor Swift, Fred Rogers, Lee Iacocca, Betsy Ross, W.C. Fields and Arnold Palmer.

We are taking a nice backroads highway, which allows us to travel quickly but still enjoy small towns and gorgeous views…most times there are mountains rising up to the skies on either side of the road…breathtaking.

One of the first larger towns we pass through is Bradford. Founded in 1879 due to the oil boom, it is the home of the famous (to racing enthusiasts) Kendall Racing Oil Refinery. It is also the home of Penn Motor Oil which many of us are familiar with. And the Zippo lighter factory is here as well as a subsidiary of Zippo, Case, who manufacture hunting, fishing and pocket knives. A small town but it certainly provides a lot of employment for folks.

Bradford, Pennsylvania

I must let you know that we are now driving through the Allegeny National Forest…what a beautifully dense forest this is. Protected finally in 1923, this is a 514,000 acre forest of primarily second and third growth black cherry, maple and other hardwood trees. Due to over forestation from the settlers and from timber manufacturers prior to 1923, this forest has lost much of its original tree growth and many of the animals as well. It has regenerated itself to become very full of vegetation again and the animal population has increased, primarily black bear, deer, wolf and cougars. This is a great thing. One interesting thing about this land is that although it is owned by the Government, they did not purchase the subsurface mineral rights, which are owned privately, mainly by oil manufacturers. This is causing a great deal of litigation to occur as the oil manufacturers set up on the land to access their rightfully owned minerals, but they are in effect trespassing and breaking the preservation laws of the National Park. It is interesting to watch it play out. Lets hope that the park is the ultimate victor in these battles.

Now this next little place has quite the story for me to share with you. So, we are travelling down the road and decide its time to stop for a quick beer…its almost 5:00pm and we have been driving all day. We come to a little place right on the highway called Tack Inn…sounds inviting to me. This is a restaurant/bar/convenience store and beer and liquor store/bait and tackle/hunting shop…way to cover all of the bases Tack Inn.

We sit at the bar and order our beer…the nice bartender asks if we want singles at $2.25 each or 6 cans for $8.00….I will let you figure out what my decision was. We start up a conversation with some of the guys at the bar…they are prison guards, just coming off shift and stopping in for a cold one. They work at the McKean Prison just down the road behind the Tack Inn. They told us that it is a medium security prison, but there is a section that is minimum security, with minimal guard interaction and no fences, housing about 70 inmates. They said it was like a club med for these guys, and that there was an airport runway nearby that allowed certain celebrity families to fly in to visit with them. You see there are some famous people doing time here…one being Wesley Snipes. Well…who would have thought that a little place like this could have such a high profile big house. We drink up and head back out onto the road.

Great Place For A Little Stop.

Next we find ourselves in Wilcox, which actually had a road sign that said to watch for blind pedestrians…hmmm…must be quite a few that live here? Since we did not purchase beer at the Tack Inn, we decide to make a stop at a little sign that said beer store. What a different place this was. You literally pulled in behind what looked like a house…and you are in a drive- through for the beer store…yes…I said drive-through. The nice man standing amidst the cases of beer asked us what we wanted, got our goods and once we gave him cash, he hands it over. I don’t know if this was a legit beer store or not, but it certainly is a unique one, and he gave great customer service. Score one for us.

Drive-Thru Beer Store…Yep…Its A Thing Here.
Beer Store Guy…Great Service With A Smile

Back on the road for only a few minutes, we hit a detour…which doesn’t bother us because its an opportunity to see things we hadn’t planned on…lemonade out of lemons theory at play here. The detour was on a gorgeous road through the mountains named Bootjack Road…I thought the name was really cool…I could live on a road named Bootjack. The detour took us to a really pretty town called St. Mary’s…very picturesque. We figured we had better tour around for a look see and saw many restored homes and historical buildings. Just lovely. Founded by largely those of Bavarian decent, this little city is full of architecture that reflects just that. It is the home of Straub Brewery, the 3rd oldest brewery in the USA, and it is still run by the Straub family to this day…7th generation…impressive. St Mary’s is home to wild elk and the smallest chapel in the USA…Decker Chapel…it is tiny and really cute.

Bootjack Road Detour…How Lucky We Were For This Little Change Of Plan.
Beautiful St Mary’s, Pennsylvania
How Adorable Is This?

We continue on our detour which has us exit St Mary’s and going through a little place called Squab Hollow…ok…this makes me feel like I am truly in the USA…I don’t think we have Hollow’s in Canada…am I right? Finally we end up back on the highway we had been travelling on and come out in a place called Ridgeway. At this point we are needing to find a place to sleep and some food…it’s almost 7:00 pm and we have been travelling for hours. We continue on and finally end up in Dubois, Pennsylvania.

Dubois is a little town, and we didn’t spend much time exploring it because it was so late in the evening. I did find out that it was the home of the Dubois Brewery, founded in 1897. Fun fact…the brewery created a brand call Dubois Budweiser. This led to a 60 year fight with Anheuser-Busch, who brews Budweiser. The brewery was sold in 1967, to the Pitsburgh Brewery, as there were no heirs to keep it running. The brewery itself was torn down in 2003.

After driving around the town for a bit (and seeing a huge car and bike show happening at the Harley Dealership…nope, we didn’t check it out), we find the Hampton Inn…a lot more expensive than we were looking for but we needed a spot so we took a room. Dinner was conveniently across the parking lot at the Italian Oven…and then it was back to the room for a drink and to plan where we were off to tomorrow.

Italian Oven, Dubois, Pennsylvania

It was then that I had an epiphany for the next day while I was in the hotel room…well, actually it happened in the bathroom. Now, as many of us do, I was reading while…you know…and I happened to be reading a ‘what to see and do in Pennsylvania’ brochure that was in my room. I flipped through and saw the usual things and then I saw it…and I yelled…”Oh my God…We need to go see this tomorrow. Its not that far away.” Of course, I had now peaked the curiosity of my travel partner and so upon my exit of said bathroom, I shared what had made me so darn excited. Punxatawny Phil, the famous groundhog who predicts the end of winter for the USA, resided in close proximity to where we were…and damn it…I was determined to go see him. In retrospect, I need to thank my travel partner for his never ending support of my crazy ideas…this definitely being one of them.

And so we settle down for the night…the plan for the next day is set…and I am sure I dreamed of Punxatawny Phil all night.

Tomorrow, we head out…do I meet Phil…do we get lost? Please stay with me on this adventure where all will be revealed in my next blog post.

Live Your Life…Jan

Heading Home To Canada…Flying Though A Major Thunderstorm…Lost In The Miami Airport…The Party Continues.

Crying As We Pull Out Of The Diria…I Don’t Want To Leave…Already Planning My Return Trip

Well the day has come…we are leaving Costa Rica. I want to head home to see my dogs, but I really don’t want to leave this magical place either…I wonder how the dogs would feel living here? Hmmmm.

We wake up early and enjoy our coffee on the balcony watching the sun rise in all of her splendor. We pack our suitcases and head to the beach for a final walk. It is hard to believe the week went by so quickly…they seem to drag on for an eternity at home. We enjoy a breakfast of what have become our favorites and staple at the Diria…gallo pinto (rice and beans with a secret flavoring made in every home here and every Madre has her own flavoring recipe which she keeps a secret….you will never taste any two the same but they are all delicious), assorted fruits, freshly made Costa Rican coffee and maybe a pastry or two. No….definitely we had pastries.

Next we take a little walk through the shops to get a few souvenirs for the grandchildren and I wanted a Costa Rican coffee maker. I use it every weekend and the handmade wooden mug I bought to go with it, and of course my Monkey coffee (read previous blog). All of the Ticos make their coffee this way and it is simple and makes a delicious brew. I look at it on my counter every day and think about my Tico friends.

Handmade Treasures…You Put The Coffee In The Cloth Bag And Slowly Pour The Boiled Water On Top…Let It Drip…And You Have A Delicious Brew…I Only Use This With The Wooden Mug….My Favorite Weekend Treat For Me.

Back in our room, we do a quick check to make sure we have everything and as I look into the closet…I yell…”Melanie someone has been in our room and left their jacket”…even as I type this I realize how ridiculous that statement is. Melanie walks over, looks at the jacket and laughs. “Mom, that is your coat…you bought it right before we left and hung it in the closet when we got here”. Oh boy…she was right. I had purchased a lightweight rain jacket just in case I needed it…and I forgot that I hung it in the closet…my poor daughter…the things I say to her. Bless her beautiful soul.

We head down to the lobby and when our shuttle arrives we load our suitcases and settle in for the ride to the airport in Liberia. I start to cry as we leave the Diria. I have travelled to many places and never have I ever been so sad to leave. Costa Rica stole my heart and I am feeling like I am leaving home….not going home. I let the tears roll for a while and make a resolution that I will return to this place and explore even more of the country for a much longer period of time…and perhaps live here part time. I still feel the same way 1 year later.

At the airport we check in without a hitch. Oddly, they were taping in masking tape all of the luggage going to the USA that had any type of coffee or food in it…they didn’t bother doing that to mine…and yes I told her I had coffee in my suitcase. Going through security was quick and easy…they are so very friendly. Oh…and there are plenty of police and police sniffer dogs in the airport…walking amongst all of us…the dogs sniffing bags and passengers. Its a little unnerving at first, because there were so many of them, and even though we have the dogs in our airports in Canada, there are only a few. And even when you are in the waiting area to board your flight, the police walk through with the dogs constantly. To be honest I wanted to pet them, but even I know that is a big no no.

We have a bite to eat in the airport and then we board our plane. Melanie and I settle in and we watch movies all the way to our lay over stop in Miami, USA. Its here where things get a little dark…the skies…they are pitch black.

Landing In A Thunderstorm Is Not Fun!

We were in the midst of a massive thunder, rain and lightening storm above Miami, and we were not able to land. The plane is shaking and hitting air pockets like crazy and the sky looks like it is night….pitch black except for the flashes of lightening that are long and huge. We circle Miami for over an hour and finally we begin our decent….in the pouring rain. We taxi to the spot where we leave the plane and walk out into the driving rain…it was awful.

Who Is Up For A Walk In The Rain To Catch Our Next Flight?

Once inside the airport….we….meaning I …misread a sign and Melanie and I head out the door and down the escalator…into the wrong area of the airport. We now can see where we should be…going through a security check point…but it is on the other side of steel security doors and we cannot get to it. I try asking this lovely lady Maria how we can get back into our boarding area….I tell her we have just come from Costa Rica…and she smiles and walks us to the check in counter…for flights going to Costa Rica….she did not understand English well and thought that Costa Rica is where we wanted to go….at this point I am soooo tempted.

Finally we find someone who shows us where we need to go….into a huge line up and another security check…at this point we are both tired, grumpy and just wanting to land in Toronto. Once through security, we find out our flight is delayed due to the weather so we end up waiting a few hours that wasn’t in our plan. We eventually board our plane…I don’t think we really spoke too much at all on this leg of the journey…just watched movies and slept.

Finally…our tanned feet touch down on Canadian soil…we soar through security and head outside to call the shuttle that will take us to the hotel where we had left my car and booked a room for tonight. We get to our room, and after I go out to check on my car, we settle in for a good nights sleep…welcome home to us.

We are about 4 and a half hours away from where we live, but its only Saturday, so we decide we will drive through backroads towards home and spend the night in a quaint town called Collingwood….why rush home when we can have one more day of vacation.

Collingwood is home to the Blue Mountains…a ski resort area that is a wonderful place to walk around and check out the unique shops, restaurants, bars and the scenery.

The Village At Blue Mountain, Collingwood, Ontario

We look in all the trendy shops and eat lunch at a great little restaurant, Camino Taco….We had falafels and we are both remembering our wonderful experience at the Falafel House in Tamarindo…sigh. We see everything that we wanted to see in the Village and we determine that we don’t want to stay in Collingwood so we head to another small town, Wasaga Beach, only to find that nothing was really open. So, being the spontaneous world travellers we are, we decide to head to a beautiful city, Orillia.

Beautiful Orillia, Ontario

We find a motel online….The Maples… that looks okay for a good price and decide we will head there. When we pull in it looks old and kind of sketchy, but we just need a place to sleep so, we get the owner to show us around and decide to take it. It turned out to be just old, but clean and quiet with really comfortable beds.

We freshen up and head downtown to find a place for dinner. We chose really well because we had a delicious Middle Eastern meal and so many laughs…let me tell you about it.

Samfir is located right on the main street downtown. It is welcoming and odors coming from the kitchen make your tummy rumble immediately. Named after an island on in the Red Sea, this is a very relaxing place to stop in for a bite to eat. The decor is cozy and warm and there is Egyptian music playing softly in the background. The owner’s wife seated us and brought us some wine. We placed our order and it was served by the owner and chef himself…Samir Hannah. What a character this guy is….hilarious, welcoming, hospital and a great chef….reminds me of the Ticos already.

Chef Samir at Sanafir Restaurant in Beautiful Orillia, Ontario. (I did not take this photo).

We finish our supper and are waiting for our tea to come when doesn’t this great song come on. Melanie and I immediately begin to belly dance in our seats…bodies swaying, arms moving methodically to the beat….well we felt that it looked rythmic anyway. Samir, laughing, walks over, having been watching us, and says that if we must dance, then we need to stand up and do it properly. We decline this very enticing offer…I am certain the other patrons were thankful. Samir then tells us we must have dessert…we say no…we couldn’t possibly eat any more…and then he leaves and comes back with a huge slice of his homemade baklava and two forks…we devour this delicious treat. There is always room for dessert, right? We spend some time talking with Samir and his wife and then we settle up our bill and leave. If you are in Orillia, this is a great restaurant for both the experience and the delicious food.

Melanie and I decide that we will go out for a quick drink before we go to sleep…you know…call it an early night…so we walk over to a pub just down the street. Little did we know that this would turn into quite the night….that didn’t end early.

What A Night We Had Here….Fionns, Orillia At The Waterfront

Our motel was located really close to Fionn MacCools and so we thought this would be a great spot for a quick tipple before bed. We get some seats and order our drinks. We spend the time talking about our vacation and then….our waitress says she can’t serve us any more. What? We have only had a glass of wine and we aren’t unruly yet. She tells us that the DJ is about to start and she is now the bartender. At this point Melanie and I realize that the place is now full and the DJ starts up the tunes. The place starts to really rock. There is much drinking and dancing and we sit there, order more wine, and take it all in.

At one point Melanie says she is heading to the bathroom…which is across the dance floor. I sit and wait for her return…and then I see…her dancing up a storm on the dance floor with a big group of people. What is going on? I hardly am able to figure it out when a couple and their daughter take a seat at my table with me. Of course we start talking, and then…the woman grabs me and hauls me off to the dance floor, where I begin dancing with her and several of her girlfriends. At one point Melanie and I lock eyes and just smile…this is classic us…just going with the moment and letting things happen.

We stayed to just about close and then figured it was a good time to leave…we had been dancing non stop for hours. Soooo much fun. The staff here were great….excellent service and making sure everyone was in the spirit of having fun. Lakeshore Fionn MacCools’s…the place to go for a really fun night.

We have a great sleep in our no tell motel room…all kidding aside, we really did. The next morning we get up early, because we are heading to the Mariposa Market…and you must get there early to get the freshly baked goods before they are sold out.

The Mariposa Market is an absolute must see in Orillia. A combined bakery, kitchenware, souvenir and coffee store, it is a true delight to all of your senses. Row upon row of cakes, cookies, pies, breads, donuts, tarts, fudges….you names they have it…and it is all made right there…fresh every day. I can almost smell the deliciousness as I type this.

We quickly pick up our baked goods, browse the kitchen wares and make a few purchases, grab a delicous fresh brewed coffee and head to the car. Of course, a few of the baked goods were eaten immediately…we called it breakfast.

Now it is time…truly time…to head home. We only make one stop…for me to buy a new duvet for my bed…(if you read the first blog of this Costa Rica series you will find out why).

I pull into Melanie’s driveway and help her unpack her bags from my car. We hug…knowing that the end of this amazing adventure has finally come. We have lifetime of memories, friendships and stories to tell.

I go home and am so happy to see my dogs…they were happy mom was home. I know that I have experienced something that will live in me forever. Costa Rica is all I think about…the one place that I have been blessed to visit that I long to return home to.

If you ever think about going there…just go!

My next travel series is another trip through the USA and will involve moonshine, ghost stories and creepy little towns. Will you come along for the adventure with me?

Live Your Life…Jan

Costa Rica…Part 7…Our Final Day…Jacquars and Monkeys and Sloths, Oh My…A Vendors Market I Will Never Forget…Did I Meet Mr. Right?

The final full day of our time in Costa Rica has come, but we are not looking at it that way…we are instead up and taking in everything the day will bring us. We go for a leisurely stroll on the beach after breakfast…the water is warm, and the waves really do call out to come and surf. We don’t have time today…we are booked on a full day excursion to see the site of Diamante…and oh what a great day it was.

As we climb into our shuttle van we are surprised to see Mariella there, the guide we have had on both of our previous adventures…read my blogs, and you can hear all about it. You see we had said our good byes yesterday after the estuary tour (see I told you to read my previous blogs) because she was booked to take a tour to Arenal Volcano today. What this beautiful soul did was switch with the tour guide we were supposed to have so she could come with Melanie and I and make sure we had an amazing day….bless her beautiful heart.

So we head out and make a stop to pick up another couple who are joining us for the day. They are late and we wait and wait. Eventually the husband comes out and says his wife will be right out…and we wait and wait. Thirty minutes later she arrives and hops in. I cannot believe that in any other country but Costa Rica would a tour wait that long for a late client, but we did, and away we went.

The couple were friendly and chatty so the conversation flowed on our drive. We headed toward Playa Matapalo and the Diamante Eco Adventure Park and Animal Sanctuary….yep…all of the bases are covered on this excursion. We are on their Discovery and Culture tour…it is not improperly named I will say. There are so many other types of excursions to take from ATVing, ziplining (a Superman zipline for the not faint of heart), horseback riding and so much more. Check out their website for all of the details...https://diamanteecoadventurepark.com.

Playa Matapalo is North of Tamarindo, and is a little before another popular tourist spot, Playa Coco. It is a breathtaking area and is remote enough that animal life is abundant. Turqoise waters and lush jungle…it is perfection. There are a few resorts here, the largest being the Riu Guanacaste and the adjoining, newer Riu Palace. Both are luxury resorts with plenty to offer their guests, but this is not the place to be if you want to head off resort and walk about town to bars, shops and restaurants…its jungle all around you. But you will find plenty of bars, restaurants and shops on the resorts to keep you busy. For a really great tour of the Riu, check out the YouTube video of TheDufresnes…a Canadian couple who moved to Costa Rica and put out some great videos of the sights, the how to’s and the reality of living in Samara, Costa Rica. They recently went to the Riu and shared a great video of their experience. There drone work is impressive nd they are pretty funny folks too. And as a note if you are going to Samara, Costa Rica, the Dufresnes own Sea Casa Vacation Rentals there…a beautiful spot to hang your beach towel and have a nice place to call home for your vacation…(no, I am not sponsered…but I will be visiting them when I go back to Costa Rica) seacasasamara.com.

We head to the top of this mountain on a very steep and narrow road…these drivers are amazing and fearless and there we park our van. We are now entering the Diamante Animal Sanctuary.

Steep Roads…Hang On.

This sanctuary is the largest in Costa Rica and is home to all species of animals…all of whom are in need of care: some rescues from science labs, some from the wild and some brought to the sanctuary by Government agencies….all can never be rehabilitated enough to return to the wild. The habitat for each of the individual species is designed to firstly replicate their natural environments and secondly to allow visitors a chance to view the animals up close but in a very natural setting. It is something like I have never seen; massive, beautiful, natural, organized and somehow it seems free…even to the animals. I want to work here forever. Actually, our guide Mariella did work there and she has an amazing rapport with many of the animals…many come to her when they see her and the birds come over to talk to her. I told you…she is a beautiful soul.

Mariella Talking To One Of The Birds She Cared For…He Remembers Her And Came Right Over To Have A Chat..

One of the very first inhabitants we visit are the jaguars…they are about to come out of their inner den after a nap. Let me just say this…if you are walking in the jungle and a jaguar decides you are his prey…just give into it…you won’t win. This enclosure held two brothers who were found after their mother was found dead. They walked out and towards where I was standing…it is all glass, top to bottom all around the visitors area by the way…and one stopped and looked at me for just a moment…that is all I needed to feel the blood drain from my face. He was strong, muscular and had paws the size of a large round pizza pan. And the top of his head was as high as my chin…and I am a tall woman. Wow…what a magnificent animal. He and his brother played a little and then climbed on the trees in their enclosure…let me say…climbing a tree is not going to save you from one of these guys…they are agile and fast. On a good note…they are rarely seen in the wild, and do not usually make chase on humans, as long as we stop destroying their food sources.

Jaguar Brothers…So Powerful And Beautiful

We walk for a few hours through the sanctuary, through numerous enclosures of frogs, snakes and reptiles. I walked quickly through those. The bird areas are more interactive and in the Toucan enclosure you walk right amongst them…wonderful. There are even Toucans from the jungle perched on the exterior of the enclosure hanging out and likely looking for food…or maybe a mate. There is a crocodile enclosure as well and the crocodiles are huge and for those who feel brave enough…you can zipline right over their mud pond…I did not. The butterfly enclosure has you walking amongst thousands of the most vibrant colored butterflies you have ever seen and they land on you and go along for the walk.

We come to the sloth area and lucky for us, one of the moms is waking up, with her baby on her belly. They are just hanging upside down on the tree branch and slowly make there way over to a more comfortable part of the branch it seems, much to my delight. What an interesting creature they are…so comical, so peaceful and so slow paced…wait…that is how some would describe me…not!

After the animal tour is complete, we head up a small hill for the cultural portion of our adventure. We are about to step back in time and visit a traditional Costa Rican farmhouse or casita which is located in a beautiful Botanical garden. The casita replicates the true design, style and materials of a typical Tico farmers’ home for over 100 years.

We walk through the Botanical gardens on the way to the casita. The gardens are filled with medicinal plants, fruit trees and flowering plants. They are all clearly labelled and it makes for a really interesting walk through. A guide is on hand to share with you the history of how these plants were used and in many cases, still are to this day.

A Lovely Casita…I Could Move Right In

We head over to the casita and are greeted by our wonderful guide. Here he tells us how rural farmers produced coffee, chocolate and sugar, extracting them from the cacao tree, coffee plants and the sugar cane. Once we enter the casita we sit in comfy rocking chairs as our guide shows us the process of drying and grinding cacao seeds….yes we do get a sample….delicious and healthy.

He explains the process of harvesting and roasting coffee and also the process of pressing sugar cane into a liquid (Aqua Dulce) and also making it into sugar…white, golden and brown. We are rewarded with a deep and delicious cup of freshly made coffee. I don’t want to get up…it is very comfy here.

Sugar Cane Press…Harder Than You Think
Making Coffee For Us To Enjoy

Next we hop into our van which takes us up a very steep hill to a restaurant…yes our lunch is included yet again…I could get used to this. The meal was a huge buffet with anything and everything you could want and delicious too. But that view…man oh man…we sat high above the Riu Guanacaste nestled in a valley below and looked out at the lush jungles and the sparkling waters of Play Matapalo….breathtaking. Needless to say, Melanie and I could have sat there for a while.

The View Is Magnificent…The Perfect Spot For Lunch

With lunch over it was time to load ourselves into the van and head back to Tamarindo. It is only about an hours ride so in no time we are back at the Diria. Time for a quick dip in the ocean…at one point I remember Melanie, who was out further than me, taking a wave and bobbing back up and she points to me that it is coming at me. I prepare and then…whack…a wall of water sent me back without any effort on its part. I surface, sputtering salty water, with only my pride bruised. Melanie said I disappeared completely behind the wall of wave. No wonder this is such a great spot to come surfing. We laugh about it….splash around some more, watch our final sunset and then head back to the room to change for the night.

I should mention here something about the addresses in Costa Rica…there are none…well, at least not like we might be used to. If you are coming to my house I give you a street name and number and you can easily locate me. Not so here. There are street names…usually…but no house numbers. Its like asking for the police station and being told “its across from the barber.” “Where is the barber?” you ask. “Across from the police station”. You get it. Everything is located by what it is beside, or across from and it can be confusing. I mention this because when we decided to head to the Tamarindo Thursday Night Market, and we asked for directions…well lets just say we did get there… out of shear luck.

The Thursday Night Market is for everyone. It is shopping, and eating and drinking and music and there are games for children and it is just a wonderful time for everybody. It is in the parking lot of a plaza and it has over 50 vendors selling their products and crafts. And the food….oh my…do not eat before you go…it runs from 6 pm to 9 pm so you have plenty of time for sunset and then eat your way through the goodies for sale here. We met so many incredible artists I can’t even mention them all. One that caught my attention was named Rooster and his paintings done in coffee and ink are outstanding…one is hanging on my wall. I won’t spoil the story for you, but when you go there, find his booth and ask him the meaning of his name. Its a great little story.

Tamarindo Thursday Night Market…A Must Go To Event

Remember I had told you in a previous blog about Sharkys’. the bar that set us up on the Antares ship to compensate for an event they had to cancel? (See you really need to read those past posts right?). Well I met the owner and he remembered who I was and said how awful he felt for changing our plans and hoped that we had a good time on the Antares. He also said to reach out to him whenever we came back and he would get us on a Sunday Funday event. A really nice guy to make sure that everything had went well for us.

My daughter had been talking at another booth. As I turned around from talking to Mr. Sharky, I heard her say “This is my Mom”. I love a good intro…don’t you? I looked up and see that she is speaking to the Monkey Coffee vendor. He very kindly explained his products to me and gave me a sample…I was sold .”Two bags please”, I say. I honestly have not such deeply flavored coffee as this and I cannot wait to return to purchase more…and to be honest, I am hopeful that this vendor is there…we had a few attraction sparks between us…well, enough that my daughter sure noticed…made me feel happy. Who knows…maybe he…is my Mr. Right…and if not…it is a fond memory.

Soooooo Goooood!

Melanie and I drop our purchases in our room and head down the beach to El Be. It is dance party night there and we had so much fun. This place is now home to us and leaving is really difficult.

We head back to our room, at a decent hour, and decide we are hungry and want a snack for our room…its 9:55 pm. We head to our favorite convenience store…its closed. It seems nothing is open except…a Subway. We dash through the doors, barely noticing that the sign said they close at 10:00 pm. The staff were about ready to lock up…but in true Tico fashion, they smiled and made us our food and wished us a good evening. Bless their hearts.

We sit on our balcony having our sandwich and a beer and talk about the vacation that we have had and how we don’t really want to ever leave. Costa Rica does that to you.

Tomorrow we plan on a walk down the beach after breakfast and then we load onto our shuttle and head to the airport. Our flight leaves at 11:00 am.

Our journey in Costa Rica may be over…but the journey home has just begun…have you ever been on the wrong side of a security door in an airport with little time to get on your flight? Join me on my next blog to hear what kind of trouble Melanie and I can get into on a simple flight home.

Pura Vida

Live Your Life….Jan

Costa Rica…Part 6…Crocodiles…Horseback At Sunset…An Authentic Meal in An Indian Village…Gelato You Won’t Forget.

Crocodile…Just Relaxing In The Sun

Today we have another adventure planned, but it is alot more relaxing than yesterday. This is another tour that we booked at the tour desk in the Diria. I would recommend using them if you are looking for any kind of tour that you can imagine. The service is fantastic, the tours well organized and because we booked three tours at the same time, we were given a discount on the price. And our drivers were skilled and fun and Mariella our tour guide…well she is just the best. Contact them at the tour desk in the lobby of the Diria or at http://www.horizontesdelaperla.com ( Horizontes Del Perla Leisure and Adventure Tours).

Today we hop into the shuttle and there is just Melanie and me on this tour. We are heading to Puerto Humo in the Palo Verde National Park for the Palo Verde Safari Boat Tour on the Tempisque Riverr. The drive is only about 50 minutes from Tamarindo and it is a different kind of scenery, from the massive Del Monte pineapple plantations to rugged indigenous villages, it is a wonderful drive and not at all precarious like yesterdays’ road trip to Rincon De La Vieja.

The Tempisque river begins at the foothills of the Orosi Volcano, North West of Guanacaste and travels 90 miles to the South East Estuary on the Northern Nicoya Gulf. It is a very diverse ecosphere of plants, animals, reptiles and birds. It is very heavily silted and muddy and only shallow boats are able to traverse its waters. Interestingly, the river changes its depths in tandem with the tides from the ocean. On our trip, on our route down the river, we clearly saw the markings of where the water could rise to, since the tide was currently out. Within an hour, on our way back, the tide had risen and the water was well over those marks. Something I had never seen before.

The Muddy And Beautiful Tempisque River

There was a lot to see on the way to our river tour. The Del Monte Plantation was one…and it is massive. The fields of pineapples, bananas and cantaloupes seem to be endless and I really wanted to hop out and grab a handful of each. Del Monte contracts the pineapple farming out to the local Tico farmers, and pays them for their produce…they do not own these lands. It is really impressive to see what appears to be a farming co-operative amongst the Ticos operate on such a large scale.

Del Monte Plantation….Deelicious

Another thing we saw that was memorable was a lagoon of the Tempisque River. This entire area…and it was massive…was covered and packed with water lilies. In fact, Melanie and I thought it looked as though you could walk on them down the river. Spectacular. Costa Rica never ceases to amaze with these gems of nature. I will never forget the beauty of this scenery.

Just Beautiful!

We finally arrive at our adventure destination…the Palo Verde Safari Boat tour on the river. We take a few minutes to look around at the surrounding jungle, and spot a crocodile across the river, laying on the bank in the sun. This just made this experience very real…do not swim in this river. We board our trusty craft along with several others tourists on similar excursions and we head off. Its a nice leisurely pace and you can readily spot monkeys, crocodiles, numerous species of birds, reptiles and occasionally a coati (Costa Rican raccoon…super cute). Our tour leader shares his knowledge of the area and animals with us and gets us good and close to the crocs in the water. I readily can now recognize that those tiny bubbles in the water represent a crocodile under water, and I am happy to see them from the comfort of my boat seat. We spend a lovely hour on the water, eventually heading back to the dock. If you are looking for a really great way to spend a few hours on the Tempisque river…do it. It is well worth the memories you will create.

Once we have our land legs back, Mel and I climb back into the van and we head back home…but there is a stop…and oh my…am I ever glad there was.

We stop in front of a soda in the village of Guaitil. This is the home of the Chorotega Indians and they are world famous for their pottery. The centuries old traditions of their craft are maintained and all of the materials used in the production of the pieces all come from the earth…from the dyes of the Guaitil tree, the naturals mud and clay to form the shapes, the dung and mud firing ovens and even the pottery wheels and etching stones and sculpting tools are crafted from the earth and sometimes recycled products, like gears as a pottery wheel turning base. This historical knowledge, which was originally inscribed on deer hides for history books, has been passed down for generations and it remains intact…amazing…imagine no google searching for a DIY pottery bowl. A fun little fact…the Tamarindo Diria is named after the Chief Diria of the Chorotega tribe. Love this.

We are taken through a pottery shop and into what appears to be the kitchen and outdoor dining room of a local family. They also host tours that pass through here judging by the numerous tables. It was so peaceful and quaint. Our lovely Ticas had prepared a feast for us…likely the most delicious meal we ate in Costa Rica…of all authentic local foods…galo pinto, corn breads and a large pitcher of the delicious Tamarind tree juice…oh my. We ate until we could not have another bite, while the local children ran about and played and the assorted pups came to hide in the shade or beg for a morsel of our food. Our Tica hostess’s did not speak any English so we thanked them as well as we could in our minimal Spanish…but words in any language could never express our gratitude for the hospitality they had offered us.

Next we went into the front and sat down to watch a pottery demonstration. This young man had me in tears as he spoke of his learning the skills and techniques from his grandfather. And it was obvious that he was studying his craft with focus and with much pride for his heritage and to make his grandfather proud. It was so touching. Many people may think this is a just story they tell to get you to buy something…it is a story… based in history and truth and you cannot deny the centuries of love that goes into each piece that is created. Follow your heart on this one. Melanie purchased a beautiful bowl and I bought a wall plaque, with a turtle on it. We also learned that there is much meaning and storytelling in the designs on the pieces…the animal, the number of waves or lines…it all tells a story. Mine is proudly displayed in my home, where I can look at it everyday, and reflect on the memories of this incredible and humbling experience.

The Wonderful Village of Guaitil and The Amazing Sodas and Pottery You Will See There.

Now we head back to our hotel…what a special day this has been. Melanie and I decide to look for something cool to eat and we come upon The Groovy Box, a cute shop almost beside the Diria…that sells food, cold drinks, SUP boards for rent and gelato…they had me hooked just on the name. We place our order and then witness a most endearing scene. This shop is owned by a lovely older Tico and his son is working there with him. The older fella is struggling with the cash register, and it seems to be very new to him. The son patiently walks him through how to enter our order, calmly explaining everything to him, and letting him try it out as they go through the process. The love and caring that he shows his Father in this interaction makes Melanie and I both tear up. Here there is no such thing as rushing or impatience…we smile and nod, and wait for our order. I have to tell you that I am not alone in saying that this will be the best gelato you will ever have…and many others have written reviews that say the same thing. I also hear they make a mean cappuccino…on my to do list for next visit.

The Groovy Box…Where They Serve Up Deeeelicious Gelato.

We head to our rooms and quickly freshen up because we are heading to the beach…to ride horses. We chose to use one of the local Ticos and his lovely herd as we had seen them on the beach every day since our arrival. He met us at the Dira entrance on the beach, we saddled up and away we went. All the way down the beach towards the estuary…which you remember is where you might find a crocodile…are you sure about this I am asking myself. Our Tico guide does not speak English, but seems pretty confident about our route and so we follow. He leads us into the bushes a short way and then has us…walk our horse to the waters edge…for a photo. Oh my….all I am thinking is if a crocodile bites my horse…1: I am likely to try and save the horse…2: I am now on the ground with the crocodile…3: I will miss happy hour at Walters and be upset…ok…I am now motivated to get this picture and head back to happy hour in one piece…both me and my trusty steed.

After our photo shoot, we ride back down the beach, horses lightly running through the waves…and the sun is beginning to set. It just does not get any better than this moment. I look over at Melanie and I see that she is loving every minute too. Finally, our ride over, and after a quick gallop to the drop off spot, we dismount, thank our guide and our horses and head to Walters’. Our guide mounts his horse, gives a whistles and he heads back down the beach, followed by our mounts, untethered and free, heading home for some much deserved rest.

To Walters we go for a drink and there is our mariachi band. Over they come and play a song for us…we ask for another and the one guy asks if we mind if they play Despacito (a risque song to some).We say yes and they give us their all…a wonderful rendition. There are a lot of people here and they get up to take pictures and some sing along. When the band is done playing, we tip them…and then I tell the crowd that they owe these great musicians money too…after all they had enjoyed the performance we were given…so out came the colones (Costa Rican money) and the mariachi’s left Walters happy and with mucho dinero.

Of course we stop in at El Be for some of the fire show and some more drinks and dancing. I am really getting accustomed to this routine of ours, and loving all of the people we meet each night…we are become known as regulars…is that a bad thing really?

Soon it is time to get to bed. Tomorrow is our last full day here…I know…I am sad already too. But we have a big day planned…an adventure where we see soo many animals…including jacquars.

Costa Rica never ceases to amaze me….the days seem endless and easy. How will I ever leave this place I have now grown to love?

See you soon, and as always Pura Vida.

Live Your Life…Jan

Costa Rica…Part 5…A Day Of Adventure On the Side Of A Volcano…Zip Lining, Snakes, Waterslides, Horseback Rides, Mud Baths and Moonshine…And I Walk Alone…Lost In The Jungle.

Rincon De La Vieja, Guanacaste

Today we head out of Tamarindo on the first of our booked adventures. We barely remember eating breakfast because we are so excited to go. This also gives us the chance to explore more of the country outside of Tamarindo.

At 9:00 am we are in the lobby and loading up into the shuttle van…our ride for the day. There is myself and Melanie and three other ladies, our tour guide and our driver. The sun is up and shinning bright…and we are off. We are heading to an eco adventure site ; Buena Vista del Rincon for a full day of fun…and let me say, it was an amazing adventure.

Let me just tell you about our driver. He said his name is “Banana”…because he loves bananas. Not sure if this is true or not, but his smile was enough to make you really not care…and his driving skills…wow. He has been driving all over Costa Rica for 20 years and he can navigate narrow mountain roads, potholes and the ever incredible passing habits of the drivers on the roads and highways. You really felt comfortable with Banana at the wheel.

Our guide, Mariella, was a gem and has become a lifelong friend. She was funny, hospitable, knowledgeable, and really fun. She had us all introduce ourselves, and although the other three ladies seemed extremely uptight and already complaining, Melanie and I shared our story and immediately connected with Mariella. As note….Mariella now works for the Tamarindo Diria…as a tour guide…so when you go…ask for her to be your guide…and please say hello from Melanie and me.

Rincon de la Vieja…one of Costa Rica’s active volcanos and a National Park. The name of the volcano means “Corner of the Old Woman”. Legend has it that princess Curabanda took a lover (Mixcoac) who was the chief of a neighboring enemy tribe. When her Father found out, he sought out Mixcoac and tossed him into the volcano. Curabanda then lived in isolation on the side of the volcano, and gave birth to a son. She tossed him into the volcano so that he could be with his Father. She became a recluse and was known for her healing powers. Interesting story, isn’t it, although very sad on many levels. The volcano has an elevation of 6260 feet and is as I mentioned active. It actually had erupted on April 19th, 2019, just 10 days before we went. It has erupted again in June 2020. The National Park preserves 35,000 acres of jungle, which includes a dwarf cloud forest and is home to howler and spider monkeys, tapirs, sloths, pumas and jaquars. There are numerous hot springs and mud pots and waterfalls. You can grab accommodation at several lodges or resorts in the area and our adventure is taking place at Buena Vista Del Rincon Eco Adventure Park/Hotel and Spa. Check them out on face book or reach out to book your adventure at http://www.buenavistadelrincon.com..

We drive for about an 90 minutes…first on highways, then rural roads, then up the side of the volcano on a sometimes precarious road. We pass through tiny villages of maybe 10 houses, and see countryside and jungle that words cannot describe…so lush and alive…spectacular.

We finally arrive and see beautiful birds and butterflies of all colors, and are offered freshly made juice and organize ourselves for the first activity…ziplining. I wanted to try ziplining more than any other activity and was really nervous because I am hugely afraid of heights…so ziplining makes sense…nope. We get our gear on and start to walk the steep path up to the instruction platform. Now…for one second picture it…you are walking a path through a thick jungle (not a forest). It is hot and tree covered. You have no idea where you are and you are filled with adrenaline for the ziplining…and then you hear it…what can only be described as the loudest, longest and scariest growl I have ever heard. We all stop and look around, (to be honest I think we grouped up together really close) and our wonderful guide smiles and calmly tells us that that is a howler monkey, just letting the other howlers know we are there. Phew. By the end of our stay in Costa Rica, Melanie and I looked for the howlers every morning by the Diria and loved to hear them, but that first time….it goes right through your bones. Check out some YouTube videos of howler monkey growls…you will see how hearing that howl in the jungle for the first time is slightly unnerving.

We make it to the instruction area, get the lowdown on ziplining and head to the first platform. Everyone goes ahead of me and I see Melanie bravely slide off the tiny platform and fly through the jungle…at this point I am really scared. It wasn’t the height so much as the platform size and the fact that I had to almost hop up a little to get hooked onto the cables. The lovely man running the platform pointed to a larger platform and said to me…”go that way and do one run on a bigger platform”. If I was okay with that one I could walk back up and continue on from his perch. You see once you go on the first one from where he was stationed there is no turning back. There are 7 more to do and they get longer. I loved him in that moment. I did what I felt like was a walk of shame to the other platform, hooked on and sailed over the trees…I am so happy that I did…its an incredible feeling. When I made it to the end of the line, I knew that I did not want to do it again. I had fulfilled my desire and was done. So the guide at the platform pointed to a path and told me to walk down there to the lodge.

Here’s where things get a little…awkward. I start heading down the path…alone. I am feeling bad that I am not with Melanie, and hoping she won’t be disappointed that I didn’t share this adventure with her. After about 5 minutes…I realize…I am alone in a jungle and on a path that I have no idea where it goes. I take a few deep breathes and try to convince myself that my time in the forests of Northern Ontario, Canada have adequately prepared me for this moment. I come to a fork in the path…well of course I do, right?…and start heading down the left side…and then I stop because…it doesn’t feel like its the right way. I head back and take the fork to the right. I am now talking out loud to myself…a similar technique used in the Northern Ontario forests to announce your presence to bears, moose and the like. The howler monkeys start to whoop it up and I then realize there are jaquars and pumas and all kinds of fun creatures in this jungle…and me. At that moment I hear all kinds of scurrying sounds through the jungle…above me and in the bushes beside me. I walk faster now…and then I see a building and I hear all kinds of voices. I have ended up walking to the back of the water slide and am safe. I make my way around the building and see Mariella and I cannot tell you how elated I was to see her. She was impressed that I had walked down alone.

Our group finally gets together again at the water slide ( Melanie is laughing at my little adventure) and they prepare to do the slide. It is a cement slide about 12 inches high on either side of you and you go slipping down on your bottom, holding an inner tube as they release high pressures of water to get you moving. At times you get stuck…don’t stand up…because soon another tidal wave of water comes down and sends you further down the cement half tube. I saw numerous people make the mistake of trying to stand up and it was not fun to watch their mishaps. Also, as a note, when we had passed a portion of the slide on our way up to zipline, one of the ladies in our group saw a snake on the side of the slide…you see why I didn’t want to try it…and she wanted to move it off so it wouldn’t hurt anyone sliding by. As she went to go move it Mariella calmly said no just leave it and radioed for one of the Buena Vista staff to come and do the deed. You see it was a Fer De Lance Pit Viper…the deadliest snake in Costa Rica…at this point I need a drink. Ugh!

Melanie….She Rocked the Zipline…So Proud Of Her
Sliding Through The Jungle….Melanie

Next we head to the hanging bridges…an engineering feat to be sure…I still cannot figure out how they build these structures. It was amazing to walk hundreds of feet above the jungle floor and above the treetops. At one point we came across a family of howler monkeys; some above our heads, howling of course and some sleeping and eating right beside us…there were even a few babies to be seen…they are really cute and so agile.

Hanging Bridges…Spectacular Views

We head to the restaurant for lunch next and what a feast we were given. So much food and so many choices… it was all delicious.

Our day is not close to being over…we are now about to go on a horseback ride through the jungle. We mount up and head out…yeehaw…this is my forte for sure. We ride for about 20 minutes…up hills…down hills…on paved roads and on jungle paths. It was so amazing to look over and see the hills and other volcanoes and take in just how lush these lands are. And then we are told to dismount. Now, our wonderful guide for this part of the excursion ( who remains on his horse) is an elderly Tico who only speaks Spanish. So he literally nodded for us all to dismount…makes a clicking sound…and suddenly he and all of our horses turn around and take off…leaving us all standing at the edge of a path…in the jungle…with no idea where we are or what is happening. I am about to tell them that due to my safari through the jungle alone early this morning, I can lead them out…not really…when all of a sudden a Tico man pops out of the trees and motions for us to go with him. This appears to be our only option….so we follow him through the trees…and we arrive at…a beautiful oasis.

What a Place To Ride A Horse….I Am In Heaven

We are now at a mud bath and natural hot springs and we have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. Melanie and I quickly head to the mud bath and slather on the delightful volcanic mud, letting it dry and harden and work its medicinal magic. After we shower it all off, we head to the sauna, which was made with volcanic mud and shaped like a dome. Soothing. Next we wade into the first of three hot springs, starting with the coolest which was so warm and eventually working our way to the third warmest pool. There is a bar here, massage tables and music playing. We are surrounded by the lush jungle, with hills all around us, reaching high into the sky. There is a spring running by us as well…it truly is something out of a movie. Remarkable.

An Oasis In The Jungle

Soon we get ready to leave, and we are walked to what looks like a very steep drop off into the abyss of the jungle and yet again, left there without a word. Soon a tractor pulling a wagon comes for us, and we begin the extremely bumpy ride back to where our day began.

A Very Bumpy Ride…But We Loved It

While we wait for Banana to come with our shuttle van, Melanie and I check out the authentic outdoor kitchen…La Fonda. A local Tico tribe were cooking food over the open fire, had an ox grinding corn on a turn-style (and yes, he is very well treated and fed, and given many breaks), were selling their handmade pottery and goods and…making sugar came moonshine or Guaro. It is most commonly mixed with the Ticos favorite fresca and seldom drank as shots due to its potency. Melanie and I got shown the technique for making the “shine” and then our demonstrator asked if we would like a sample…ummmmm…yes please. It was sweet and potent…we asked for another. Our lovely Tica hostess kindly obliged…and warned us that too many of these will hit you later and you will loose days of your life. We drank our second tipple and thought we had better stop right there.

The Place To Go For Food, Handmade Goods and Moonshine

Mariella gets us all together and ready to head to the van which is patiently waiting for us. We hop in and rest on the ride back to Tamarindo. One thing that struck me as I looked at all of the houses and Ticos we passed. Almost every home had the entire family sitting outside in front of the house, listening to music and talking. Young and old…all ages together…just being together. This is an everyday thing here. It made me think that I don’t really see that in my own country…and that that is a shame.

Once back to our room, we get ready for dinner. We eat at the Diria again, because it is delicious and convenient ( you must try the risottto…yummy), and then head to El Be for some dancing and drinks….and wouldn’t you know it…our mariachi band came and played for us again.

What an amazing day…so many emotions, adventures, firsts for both Melanie and myself. Today I realize how blessed I am to be here, with my daughter and to just be alive.

Tomorrow we have another adventure planned…and its a doozy.

Are you interested in hearing our crocodile encounter story?

Pura Vida!

Live Your Life…Jan

Costa Rica…Part 4…A New “Friend” In The Pool…Excursions Get Booked…Falafel Restaurant and A Sudden Scare.

It is now Monday morning. You know our routine (if you don’t please read the previous blogs). And this morning we add on a quick swim in the ocean. Melanie went further than I…I am always fearful of things in the water, and I mean things like crocodiles. We are not far down the beach from the estuary where they reside and occasionally they take to the ocean…very, very rare…but none the less I was watching for them. Silly I know…since the water has many surfers and swimmers in it already.

Ride the Waves at Playa Tamarindo

I wanted to add here a cool thing that I forgot to mention about the Tamarindo Diria. They have a live beach cam, that shows both ends of the beach and you can tune in to watch, in real time every day, to see folks you know, the scenery and the sunsets. My sons watched us on the beach several times and it was great fun for them. So if you go to Tamarindo, be sure to tell friends and family to tune into the beach cam and watch your antics…you can access it on the Diria website. Nice touch, Diria!

So after our swim, we got dressed for the day and headed to the lobby to look at the adventure tours booth. We decided that we would do a couple of tours, one per day, to get us active and out into other areas of Costa Rica. We chose three: one to a volcano, an estuary tour (yep, more crocodiles) and an animal sanctuary and coffee tour. They were booked for the following three days and so today we had a free day.

We walked around Tamarindo, checking out shops, surf shops, gelato shop (yes, we had some and in the future I will share a wonderful story from this shop), and found a whole new section on the main street that we had missed; the rotondo. It is a really nice little area right on the beach with beautiful shops and many unique items made in Costa Rica. Melanie also bought herself some really cool long sleeved surfing suits…perfect for preventing a sunburn on our adventures. After sauntering around for a couple of hours, we head back to our room and change to go swimming.

One of the Beautiful Shops in the Rotondo…All Hand Made Bathing Suits And They Are Gorgeous….Suspiro Esmeralda Bathing Suits…on facebook …have a peek.
Melanies’s New Surfing Swimwear….She’s Rockin It…Hang Ten Hija!

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, the Diria, which is located on both sides of the main street, has several swimming pools. As a guest you are allowed access to all of the amenities, so we decided to check out the other part of the Diria across the street from our ocean front accommodations.

The pools are beautiful, and really quiet at this point. Many people head to the beach during the day and hit the pools in late afternoon and evening. After deciding which pool we wanted to hang out at, we set our towels down and hopped in. Melanie had never seen nor been to a pool with a tiki bar in it, so being the great Mom I am, I took her over to experience ordering a drink while in a pool…Turns out she is a natural…lol.

We walk around the pool, exploring its little islands and the waterfall. As we near one outcrop of land, I say to Melanie “look there is an iguana”. Melanie looks and sees this big iguana, napping peacefully in the shade. It was so cute and we spend some time just watching him. Since our drinks had run out, we head back to the bar.

We swim for a bit and then decide to walk around the pool again. Melanie and I walk over to where we had seen the iguana, and he is gone. There is a man cutting the grass so obviously his peaceful nap was disturbed. So Melanie is looking for him and I walk a short distance away and am standing in the pool, next to another little island. I look up…and see…the iguana…wide awake and standing right at the edge of the land. Before I could even tell Mel to come over…the iguana…slides into the pool. He is about a foot away from me. He swims right beside me and heads towards shore on the other side…not where Mel is standing. I am in shock…I didn’t know that they swam, and I was afraid that he might touch me…freak out…and cut me with his sharp claws….yes I processed all of this in a split second. I yell to Melanie “Mel…the iguana is swimming in the pool….the iguana is swimming in the pool”. Yep, I am slightly hysterical at this point. Mel comes just in time as we watch him smoothly exit the pool…as a note the pool sides are slanted in some spots for easy entry and exit…apparently the iguana got that memo. He strolls along poolside as if nothing happened. I now need therapy. If you think I was thinking about crocodiles in the ocean…guess what…I now fear iguanas in swimming pools. Looks like the only water I will feel comfortable in will be my bathtub. UGH!

The island directly left of the tiki bar is where the iguana was and….hopped into the pool. I was standing right beside it…about 2 feet away…He swam straight across to where you see the lawn chairs in the foreground of this shot…the pool sides slope into the pool…so he literally swam over until his feet touched and walked out of the pool….ah…those memorable travel moments.

We exit the pool…quickly…and the pool area immediately. We decide to swim at the pool on the ocean side of the Diria. So we head across the street, get settled in, grab a beverage and jump into the pool. It is refreshing and relaxing…well its refreshing…I am on iguana alert…high alert. Finally I relax and enjoy the water. I am swimming away and talking to Melanie and then I see it…I look over towards the lobby area of the Diria and there strolling right out the bush…onto pool side…right where I am swimming…is…an…iguana. Ok, that is it…I make the decision right then and there…no more pools for me today. And so we head to our room to get changed and decide what we will do for the evening. Just so you know, I still get goosebumps over this traumatic event…even when typing this story for you.

We decide on a falafel restaurant for dinner…and it was a good decision. Even though this place is very popular and busy, we are seated quickly at a nice table beside the half wall, which is covered with beautiful shrubs (this is important). We place our order and the drinks are quickly served. There is a young man playing guitar…I think he just stood up and played…and he was really good. We are sitting there chatting and enjoying people watching…when out from the shrub…which is right beside me…something pokes its head out…I scream, which causes Melanie to scream…which causes everyone in the restaurant to look at us. Once we get focused, we see the scary creature is…a cat. It heard our screams and did a quick retreat back into the bushes. Everyone in the restaurant was laughing and eventually, frayed nerves calmed, we did too.

I have mentioned that the customer service in Costa Rica is fantastic and our waiter certainly was no exception. He brought our food and scurried away, leaving us to enjoy our meal. When he returned a few minutes later he asked us how we were enjoying our falafels and we said…”we didn’t get any yet”. He looked hurt…not by our words but by the fact that we had been let down and not served our full order. He didn’t apologize or say a word. He merely walked to the kitchen and got our falafels made and then brought them to us. And ps…they were delicious…the best we have ever had. What is interesting about this is that our waiter did not make a big issue out of the scenario…he simply and wholeheartedly fixed the mistake. Really, we couldn’t ask for anything more than that. The look on his face was enough for us to know that he was genuinely hurt that he had let us down. Wow…think how the world would change if we all behaved this way…caring enough to make even the small wrongs right. If you are in Tamarindo you must go to the Falafel House on the main street…you won’t be disappointed. Check them out on Facebook.

The Falafel Bar…You Must Stop In For A Delicious Meal And Great Service…ps….Notice The Fence And Shrubs Where El Gato Poked His Head Out And Scared Us.

We walk over to El Be for our nightcap and then head to the room. Tomorrow is an all day excursion to a volcano…and spoiler alert we do far more than check out a volcano.

Have you ever walked through the jungle alone…I did and you can read all about it in my next blog.

Live your Life….Jan

Costa Rica…Part 3..A Day At Sea…Gourmet Food…Melanie and Jan Become Mariachi Band Fans

To the open seas we go…ahoy!

Some times things don’t go as you planned…and sometimes it turns out for the best. This becomes one of those times for Melanie and me. And it was one of the best adventures we had.

I had looked for things for us to do in Tamarindo in the weeks leading up to our trip and I came across an event called “Sunday Funday” Beach and Pool Crawl…sounds cool, right? It is held every Sunday…obviously… and is organized by one of the most popular party bars in Tamarindo, Sharky’s. For the low price of $40.00, you meet at Sharkys’ at noon, have a a couple of free pre-drinks…but of course…and then board a bus that whisks you and many party revelers away to 3-4 different places in the area of Tamarindo where you swim in pools or the ocean, eat, drink, play volleyball and dance….and repeat. You end up on a beach for a massive bonfire, margaritas and a dj for a beach dance party. Then you board the bus to party and dance all the way back to Tamarindo. I thought it would be fun, a good way to meet people and also to see some other spots around Tamarindo. So I booked it.

On Saturday evening I received an email from the owner of Sharky’s’ stating that the event was cancelled…not enough tickets sold…we were there at the end of the tourist season so that made sense. What he did then was fantastic…he offered to either refund our money or for us to use the money that we had paid him towards another event…do you see what happened here? He could have refunded our money and be done with us….but he instead offered to promote another business, by which he has nothing monetary to gain, but instead to ensure we had a great day. This is Costa Rica…this is Pura Vida. He mentioned that we would be the only tourists on the excursion and if we didn’t mind partying with the Ticos he would book us in. We said yes…we said yes to boarding the Antares sailboat for a day on the ocean. He forwarded the information that we needed and we were excited beyond belief. You will hear more about the man that owns Sharky’s and what great customer service he provides in a future blog post. sharkystamarindo@gmail.com or beachandpoolcrawl.com

Sharky’s…where it is Sunday Funday everyday!

On Sunday morning after breakfast we headed over to the meeting spot, to get ready to set sail. We walked through Tamarindo and down some new to us streets to a place called El Chiringuito…in English…beachfront bar. This quaint little spot is apparently very busy in the evening and is a hangout for the local Ticos…in fact, some of their homes are right next door. We order a beer and wait to line up to board our sailboat. El Chiringuito is very relaxed, friendly and beachy…a great spot for a cold one on a hot day.

Can you picture yourself here…El Chiringuito

Soon we see line ups starting on the beach to our left, so we drink up and take our place in the line. We are checked in and then we wade through the ocean…up to our knees…to small boats waiting to take us to the Antares. Let me just say…I have helped run our family’s sport fishing charters on Lake Huron and been in some rough waters…but that little boat, filled with eager people on the rather big waves of the ocean…I have no words…but we were in capable hands and soon arrived at our destination.

Out of the little boat we climb and onto a rope ladder hanging on the side of the Antartes for us to scramble on board…I am certain my climb did not look smooth or steady to those on shore. We get ourselves seated on comfy cushions and bean bag chairs all around the parameter of the deck of the boat and before the anchor is hoisted, we are handed a signature welcome cocktail. I am loving this adventure already!

As we set sail, out comes beautifully plated gourmet food…there are 5 courses throughout our journey. There is an open bar, serving beer, wine, whiskey and fancy cocktails and…oh oh…shots. This has now turned into party mode as we slice easily through the waves, breeze in our hair, music playing and we dance and laugh and eat and drink some more.

Let me tell you a little about the Antares. She was built in 1947 and is an 80 foot Sparksman & Stevens steel hull Schooner. She has won many races around the world and eventually ended up in Costa Rica, having been purchased in Argentina and sailed under sail power only to the Caribean, using a sextet as a compass. The Antares is a family owned business and you will find it hard to find more hospitality than the crew of 6 provide throughout the trip.

This is about a 5 hour excursion…leaving around noon and returning as the sun is setting…unbelievable to be on the water, in a massive sailboat and watching the sun set in all of its splendor…perfect. Halfway through the trip we arrive at a beautiful bay and the anchor is dropped. At this point people are throwing themselves off the boat for a swim…the crew tossing pool noodles in for everyone to grab and … they also toss everyone a beer too. One of the crew gets in a kayak and paddles around the crowd making sure everyone is okay. You can also paddle board and snorkel at this point if you like. Its how life should be…until you have to climb that swaying rope ladder back up. Once back on board we turn around and slowly head back to Tamarindo…as we eat dessert and sip our wine. I never want to go home at this point…would you?

We watch the sunset and arrive back at our pick up spot around 5:30 pm. We hop into the small boats, and then wade back into shore. Melanie and I look back at the Antares, anchored for the night, and swaying in a beautiful dance with the waves, the setting sun dropping slowly behind her. We smile at each other, knowing that we have just been blessed with an experience that will become a cherished memory. I really recommend that you go out on the Antares…you will not be disappointed and you will get to see the shoreline of Tamarindo from the ocean…it is gorgeous. antares@TamarindoSailing.net. Highly recommend.

We head back to room to get changed and ready to hit up Walters’ and El Be…read Costa Rica Part 2 if you aren’t sure what I am talking about. As we settle into a drink and some dinner, we talk about what an amazing day we had and how will we ever do anything in Costa Rica better than this…oh just you wait. Tomorrow we book some adventures that will make you laugh, sit on the edge of your seat in suspense and in many cases smile. This isn’t just a teaser to get to you to follow my stories…this is my truth…and a teaser to get you to follow my blog.

At this point, I want to mention that a mariachi band strolled into El Be. They started playing and they were great. They came to our table and played a song for us, we tipped them and then they were on their way. Stay tuned for more stories with this group of talented musicians…they become a psuedo personal band for Melanie and I…how cool is that.

Until next time… when I get an unexpected visitor in the pool…

Live your Life…Jan

Costa Rica…Part 2…A Farmers Market…Sunset…Walters and El Be…An Amazing Saturday

As you know we are in our room at the Tamarindo Diria. We went out to a little store and bought some snacks and beers for our room and then sipped a pint on the balcony. We plan to just relax tonight and then start out early tomorrow morning exploring the town and getting our bearings.

Tonight for dinner we head down to the ocean side restaurant at the hotel. It is so beautiful. The sunset is almost complete so the air is a little bit cooler. And the breeze from the ocean and smells of the sand and water…I felt like I was in paradise and oh so very grateful. The food was delicious. The menu at the Diria has something for everyone and I would recommend you eat there at least once during your stay. We head back to sit on the balcony and have a drink and rest up.

A Costa Rican Sunset….spectacular

We wake up early the next morning, make a coffee and wait for the sunrise…oh wait…its already up. I now know that the sun rises at 5 am in Costa Rica and sets at around 5:30 pm. This is due to their proximity to the equator. Now that we know we will plan our wake up time accordingly.

Relaxing mornings…Melanie is doing it right.
Jan having morning coffee with ocean views and serenity…..sigh!

After coffee we head down to the buffet. It opens at 6:30 am for hotel guests, and those not staying here can pay a small price and come for breakfast after 7:00. The food choices are endless, the tables are mainly all on the edge of the open air space, with views of the ocean, the pool, the grounds and assorted birds, iguanas and squirrels. The birds fly through the restaurant and it seems to be part of the wait staffs job to gently shoo them back to the trees. Its amazing to sit amidst all of this and enjoy a great start to your day.

We head out to the main street and check out the shops, and vendors, locate the bars and restaurants and then we take a little side street. It begins to wind up a hill and it looks like it heads straight into the jungle…later we find out it does not…but since we weren’t quite ready for a jungle trek just yet, we turn around and head back down. It is then we discover a farmers market…This is the Saturday Feria…and it is such a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. Feria does mean Fair in Spanish, but it is what we in Canada call a farmers market. The market has local Tico (Costa Ricans) farmers produce (fruits and vegetables), dry goods, health care products, hand crafts, clothing, jewelry and food carts. It is relaxed and easy going and such a nice way to begin to immerse yourself into speaking Spanish and meeting the local folks. My daughter wanted to buy me something for my birthday and when we happened on the booth of a jewelry craftsman we found something so special. He asked me to choose the colors and stones that I wanted in my piece and he would make it for me…just come back in an hour…and no…he would not take a payment…he wanted to be sure that I liked it when I returned. Wouldn’t happen like that in most places in the world. Mel ended up getting one made for herself as well. We continued walking around and bought a few more handmade pieces and each a kit of healing products made by a beautiful lady. Her company is called Cura Sana and she creates natural healing remedies and skin care products and let me say… that Melanie and I have never used better products for sunburns or bug bites…and the face creams…don’t even get me started. I highly recommend her products to everyone. http://www.curasana.shop. As a note, to purchase the awesome sample pack that we bought (bottom left in picture below), enter” love your skin/beauty kit” in the search bar on the Cura Sana website. Also, you can find all of Cura Sana’s products on Etsy. I am not sponsered by this company…I would love to be…but I love their all natural products and wouldn’t recommend them otherwise. Shop away!

Purchases from the Ferma.

We also purchased some amazing sunscreen, which you neeeeed here, and an after burn lotion. We tanned but never really burned. These products are made by a Costa Rican company called New Body Costa Rica…and do they ever work. They are all natural and a little goes along way so they will last quite a while. You can purchase these products online, @newbodycr.com or email them at art@newbodycr.com. Again, not sponsered….but would love to be.

Melanie and I head to find a place for lunch before returning to pick up our jewelry. We find a nice little place around the corner and settle in. What is wonderful about Tamarindo is that dogs and cats wander freely in and out of the restaurants. Many have homes and this is their daily routine, because many of the store owners, residents and restaurant owners leave out water and food for them. So as we are awaiting our food we are delighted to see assorted pups enter, get there grub, take a swig of water and head off to their next culinary stop. Many folks coming out to eat also bring their pups with them. Nice. Melanie and I are huge animal lovers so this just adds to the enjoyment of our day.

After lunch we head back to the feria, and our necklaces are ready….I cannot tell you how many compliments I get on mine whenever I where it out…I am sure Melanie’s has the same effect. Oh, and as a note, the partner of the jeweler has a scuba school. Melanie was interested in learning to scuba and to go on a dive. I wasn’t but this couple offered to take us both and I could stay on the boat with him and learn to make a necklace…Mel would scuba dive with his partner. She even offered to come and do the pool sessions at our hotel. We took their info and although it sounded like a great day, we ended up on other adventures and didn’t have the chance. If I can find the name I will share it because they certainly were accommodating and very kind…and experienced divers.

My treasure….made of ayahuasca in the middle and bottom piece is Lapis Lazuli

We wander back towards our room, checking out some shops on the way. We figure that we will change for dinner and then head down the beach to find a beach front restaurant. I am soooo happy we did.

The first place we stop is Walters, a restaurant/bar. There is a guy playing guitar and he is good so we sit down and in her best Spanish (and Mel is much better at it than I am), Mel orders us each a drink and some food. What we didn’t know is that Walters has a happy hour…and the drinks we ordered were huge…I mean three times the size of a regular drink in Canada…and way more potent. The staff and service are fantastic and the food was great. A great place to stop in to relax and watch the world go by. waltersplace.tamarindo@gmail.com.

We also watched the sunset for the very first time….you have never seen anything or any sunset like the ones in Costa Rica. The sun is huge and it glistens off of the ocean and slowly makes its way behind the horizon, leaving in its wake a sky that is orange, pink, blue and purple and just spectacular. It is so fantastic that many locals and pretty much all tourists head down to the beach every day at 5 pm to watch the sun say goodnight. I sure do not blame them….it is etched in my memory and I am so grateful to have experienced it.

Our next stop on our beach walk back to the Diria became our nightly favorite… El Be…Just Be. It is this amazing beach bar and restaurant with live music, a fire show, comfy loungers and bean bag chairs amid the regular tables and chairs, a boxer (dog) named Zeta, amazing, fun staff and two of the most hospitable and fun owners you will ever come to know. Never have I ever been made to feel more like family so quickly as we did there. We met all kinds of wonderful people there and danced and sang and drank…a little…and never have I felt so free to just be as I did there…trust me…you will too. The owners have a love story of an American girl falling in love with a Tico surfer boy….and together they make an huge impression on everyone they meet. It will be my first stop when I return to Tamarindo…I guarantee it. Be sure to check them out on their facebook page and of course, stop in when you are in Tamarindo…because I know you want to go to Costa Rica.

Beach front hot spot…El Be and wonderful Zeta, resident pup….photos taken by the owner, Norman.

So ends our first full day in Costa Rica, and we are so happy to be here. Getting to sleep is hard, but we need rest because we have an adventure planned for tomorrow…it isn’t the adventure that I had booked…but as it turns out…it was far better and such a great experience. Lets just say…have you ever been on a real pirate ship?

See you next time.

Live your Life….Jan

Costa Rica…The Story of The Most Amazing Adventure I Have Ever Had…Part 1…The Idea is Conceived…The Plan Put Into Action…And We Arrive

Welcome to Costa Rica

Its been a good while since I travelled. After an unexpected break up, bouts of whoa is me associated with said break up….I decided on a snowy February day that I would travel somewhere warm…for my birthday in April. And on this snowy afternoon, began the thoughts of what will become my most memorable adventure and where I truly healed by broken heart.

I went to work and casually mentioned to a colleague that I was wanting to take off to a warm place…should I go to Cuba or Mexico or Jamaica…but none really appealed to me since I had been before. He said to me “you would love Costa Rica” and mentioned a place called Tamarindo….I started researching it right away….yes…at my at work…oops.

On the weekend, I picked up my daughter to go for lunch and I told her that I had a placed booked in Tamarindo and was set to go in April. I mentioned how great it would be if she was coming with me…and then, Melanie, aka my daughter said…”I will go”. I was shocked…Mel has never travelled anywhere before and didn’t ever express an interest to do so. I am so happy that she decided to come.

At lunch we begin to make a list of what we needed for the trip and create timelines for things to get done. Yes, I am spontaneous, but this trip did require a little organization. With our schedule in place, the first thing we need is passports…mine to be renewed and Mel needs a passport.

Over the next few weeks we get busy, passports, packing, money exchanged to US dollars, and I get things booked online…confirmation of accomodations, shuttle service and once the passports were in, booking our flights. I booked us on a flight that left early Friday morning from Toronto, Ontario with a 1 hour layover in Dallas/Fort Worth and then landing in Liberia, Costa Rica around noon. The return flight left the following Friday morning from Liberia, with a 2 hour layover in Miami and then landing in Toronto at 9 pm. When I hit that submit button, I was elated. This is the first time I had ever booked a flight for a trip…probably room for improvement but I didn’t care.

Flights to Costa Rica booked

The day to leave finally arrives. Our plan is to leave around 1 pm, drive to Barrie, Ontario and have something to eat and then head to Toronto. We have a park and fly hotel room booked there, but are planning to check in, park the car and then head over to the airport and just hang out there until its time to board the plane. Sounds perfect.

I get home from work at 12:30…and…omg…what is that smell? I look all over the house and then discover that my little schnauzer, Barkley, who is very old, had decided to spend the day on my bed, but had also had diarrhea all over my bed…ugggggggh. I can’t get mad at the little love, so I clean him up, clean up my bed, throw out my duvet and pack my bags in the car. I let Mel know I will be late and why…she still laughs to this day as to why I was late. By 3 pm we hit the road…latin music paying loud and we are singing along as if we know the words.

Half way to Barrie we stop for some gas and a leg stretch. We did step into the little mall for a quick walk around and Mel took a pic of me boarding our plane….

Excited me..I will even ride a mall plane to get to Costa rica.

We hit the road again, and soon we are in Barrie, Ontario. Here we decide to stop for a bite to eat and we soon find a little restaurant. We laugh and talk about what we might experience on our trip and are just generally annoyingly loud and happy, much to the chagrin of the other patrons. We eat up and head out again….next stop…Toronto.

Melanie enjoying her…supper?

We check into our park and fly hotel, get our reservation set to stay there the following Friday night and then take the hotel shuttle to the airport, a mere 10 minutes away. Once at the airport we have to wait 6 hours before the gates open for us to check in and board the plane. This was the most tiring part of the trip. We have been up since 5 am and now we need to sit on the floor, our luggage or the uncomfortable seats at the airport. None of the stores or restaurants are open, so we hunker down and sleep in weird positions off and on and try to put in our time. Finally, the coffee shops open at 6 am…thank you coffee for being in my life…and we grab a quick brew and snack and head to the check in. Everything was automated which was new to me, so thankfully Melanie could figure things out. And there was quite a bit of scrutinizing since we were travelling to the USA…safety precautions on their part and understandable. At last we board the plane and our excitement levels peak…again. We are off…Costa Rica here we come!

Just boarded the plane to Costa Rica…overtired and ready for adventure

We take off, enjoy the breakfast we are served, watch a movie and soon we land for our 1 hour layover in Dallas/Fort Worth. I love this airport. It is massive, but well laid out. Once you leave your plane you hop onto a monorail that travels the circumference of the airport. You disembark at the stop for the gate you need for boarding your connecting flight. It is fast and makes walking in an unfamiliar airport so easy. Oh, and we were so happy when as we board the flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, because the stewardess greets us in espanol…..hola!

The flight is only a couple of hours, first over the southern US states, and them over the Pacific Ocean….absolutely gorgeous. On the plane they ask if anyone would like to order a beverage and we order two mini champagnes to toast to our adventure. As we are clinking bottles, a stewardess comes over and hands us another bottle and says…”this one is on me ladies…this is my last flight before I retire…enjoy your trip and Costa Rica”. Wow, how cool was that. She was all smiles because she could see how grateful and excited we both were. Happy retirement to you wherever you are.

Cheers on a plane.
Spectacular views from the plane…oh look…there is Liberia.

We soon fly over Guatamala, Nicaraqua, and then…Costa Rica. We fly over such magnificent mountains and greenery…the likes of which I have never seen before in all of my travels. And finally we land at the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport. This airport is really the tourist hub for travellers visiting the Pacific coast and western Costa Rica. It is named after the man who served as President of Costa Rica from 1974 to 1978 to honor his work for the province of Guanacaste. The airport receives over 1,146,000 passengers a year and it has expanded greatly over the past 15 years. It has a contemporary look and feel and in kind with the hospitality in Costa Rica, it has a beautiful area just outside the main building for folks to walk their travel weary pets.

Out of the plane we go and into the airport. We grab our luggage, fill in the required forms and head to the check point to exit the airport. It almost looks like a grocery store checkout…manned by the policia (police). Melanie puts her carry on on the scanner and he waves her through…I start walking right through at which point the policeman says…”no, place your backpack on the counter”….oh my…I was so excited to get going I forget to follow the process. Thinking I would for certain be pulled aside, investigated, interrogated, sniffed by dogs and detained…the policeman behind the counter took my bag, handed it to me and was smiling…he knew I was just overly excited. “Pura Vida and welcome to Costa Rica” he says….and out of the airport we go.

Airport at Liberia, Costa Rica.

Immediately the heat hits you and takes a moment to adjust….we have just left snow in Canada so its a pleasant shock. Once you are on the sidewalk you are swarmed by shuttle drivers and cab drivers….some legit and some not. I am looking on my phone for the name of the shuttle company I have booked and these folks keep at us, offering us rides and they are unrelenting. And then this man walks over with a big smile and says “Jan?”. He has a sign with my name on it and his shirt is from the shuttle company I booked…he is our man. I booked online with Tamarindo Tours Shuttles. The process was quick and easy and they were responsive to my questions and to processing and confirming my booking and providing all details. I would highly recommend them. The cost was only $30.00 US each, and that was for a private shuttle, which is a great price. tamarindoshuttle.com

Look for this logo and company for your shuttle needs

He walks us over to our van and we are his only passengers. We leave the airport and check out the scenery. We have about an hours drive to Tamarindo. He makes a stop at a little store and asks if we want to grab some water, which we do. He doesn’t speak English well, and we are too tired to try out our limited Spanish just yet, but none the less it was a great ride.

I am crazy tired….can you tell?
Happy to have found our shuttle and ready to roll

The countryside was a little dry as Costa Rica was at the end of its dry season, but it was amazing none the less…mountains, farmland, small villages, colorful houses….just beautiful.

The ride was uneventful but for two small moments. The first was a small stop by the police…in the middle of the road. They had several vehicles stopped and pulled over, and eventually waved us through. This is a normal occurance here as the police are looking for illegal taxis and shuttle drivers. Not sure what would happen if you were in an illegal cab….but I highly recommend booking a with a legitimate company always.

The second moment was a little more exciting. As we rounded a corner on the road, we saw sparks flying and fire coming out of…a hydro pole. And the workers were perched precariously on a ladder trying to fix it. Mel and I are shocked but as in all things in Costa Rica…just chill and relax. We casually drive on by like it was just a little welcoming fireworks display…just for us. Wow.

We reach Tamarindo and let me just say it did not disappoint. It is a surfer, expat and party town but it has such an immediate charm.

Tamarindo is in Guanacaste province and is on the Pacific Ocean. It was a originally a fishing village but now is known for surfing and ecotourism. With a population of approximately 6500 people, Tamarindo offers all of the amenities one could ask for, 5 supermercados (grocery stores), 3 bankos (banks), an airport for regional flights and many shops, bars, restaurants and sodas (mom and pop authentic restaurants). It is bustling but the pace is slow and easy in Costa Rica, so you never feel rushed, or anxious about waiting in a line. It is a good place to have a fun but chill vacation.

I have booked our accommodations for the week at the Tamarindo Diria. It is a beachfront hotel on one side of the street (which is where we stayed) and a newer section across the street which includes three separate pool areas, condos, beautiful hotel rooms, and a casino. Both areas are accessible to all Diria guests and offers something for singles, families or couples. The breakfast is included with the oceanfront hotel rooms and let me just say…yummmmmy….delicious, plentiful and many items purely Costa Rican. The staff are so very hospitable and kind and humourus and always smiling. I highly recommend staying here if you go to Tamarindo. http://www.tamarindodiria.com.

Check in was easy, as was booking the Diria. A wonderful man named Randall carried our bags to our second floor room….and then…we swung open the balcony door…and just hugged each other and took it all in.

Pura Vida has begun…and so has our night…but thats for the next blog.

Stayed tuned for our adventures and some amazing places you must see in beautiful Costa Rica.

Live your Life. Jan