Costa Rica, Day Nine: August 23, 2014

This was another easy day.

When Tom was making reservations for Costa Rica, he set out searches on both RCI and Interval.  We had one week here at Coco Bay Estates, then we were going to move to Flamingo Beach Resort.  That was ok, sort of.  Then a second week became available here but we kept the second week at Flamingo and gave it to friends, Bev and Pete.

We mostly spent the morning online checking Facebook, I worked some on a final exam that is due at 9:00 am Monday – UK time on a Coursera course – and trying to figure out how to get to Flamingo Beach Resort.

flamingo-routeWe had all kinds of maps, including the Google one at right.  The trouble with all of them is the route numbers.  None of the roads here have signs that say what the route number is, or the name of any street.

The little directions that come with that map were also no good since we were to go through the towns of Filadelfia, Belén and Huacas.

Luckily, we had been through Filadelfia before, when we went to Palo Verde but the other ones had no signs letting us know where the town limits were, “Welcome to Huacas” signs or anything.  The maps would be better if they said turn right at the fruit stand or something.

We rented a GPS when we first got here but today it had trouble acquiring satellites and we would be driving along and it appeared to suddenly download new (or updated) software, then restart.

But, as always, we persevered.

2014-08-23 11.28.15 2014-08-23 11.28.29We set out about 11:30 am.  Before we even got to the little town, we saw an odd sight.

That boat, aptly named Fear Not,  is being towed by that backhoe(?).  The boat is taller than the electrical wires above so the guy on the left, in orange, is standing up, holding up the electrical wires with a piece of wood.  The woman is holding a piece of aluminum or metal.

 

We retraced our steps towards the Liberia Airport but when we got to that fruit stand, we turned right instead of left.  All new territory now.  Between the in-and-out GPS and sporadic signs to Playa Flamingo, after only one wrong turn, we made it to our friends place about 12:45.

flamingo_beach_resortWe met them in the lobby and then went and had a very nice lunch in the little outdoor restaurant.

We went out on their beach (white sand) and got a view of the buildings just up the coast.

I have to sat that their place is much nicer than ours on a whole – room is smaller – and more friendly/helpful people around.

Here, we’re kind of by ourselves on this mountain and have to drive to even get to the pool.  Most of the “staff” here seem to work for another company which is selling timeshares/vacation clubs/something slimy.  More on that later.

Our front light is still out and our elevator may or may not be working after nine days here.  We still have our 15 issues since day one and some new ones have been added.  Those will be in a summary after we get home.

But, I digress.  We had a great time with our friends but had to head home at 4:30 or so since it gets dark at 6:00.  On the way back we were stopped by police for a routine traffic stop.  Tom said it was right around Costa Rican Mother’s Day when all the family gathers at home.  That may involve drinking and/or fighting which may have triggered the traffic stop.  In any event, they let us go after seeing Tom’s driver’s license.

Most of the drive went well except when we went around a corner and there was a kid skateboarding in the street.

We got back to our place just as a big storm was brewing.

2014-08-23 17.57.50 2014-08-23 17.57.47 2014-08-23 17.57.45 2014-08-23 17.57.42 2014-08-23 17.57.28 2014-08-23 17.57.10 2014-08-23 17.57.07

.

And there was a huge thunderstorm.  The power went out on one wall where modem, router and telephone is.  Then the fridge went out but it came back fairly soon.

Someone came to our door to ask if we’d reported a fire.  Uh, no.  We wouldn’t be sitting around if the place was on fire.  We don’t even have a phone to report a fire.

Finally, our modem, router and phone came back and all was well for another day…

Costa Rica, Day Five: August 19, 2014

Not many pictures today – today is the day Michael had to fly home to go back to work :(

Up all the stairs – the elevator is still broken and there is no sign that anyone is fixing it – or will ever fix it.

We had breakfast here at Playas del Coco, then goofed around for a bit.  We did a survey of the pool area.  Very nice landscaping!

2014-08-19 19.30.27-1

The forgotten T-shirt from our ATV trip.

2014-08-19 09.00.592014-08-19 09.01.06
2014-08-19 09.02.25
2014-08-19 09.02.56
2014-08-19 09.04.50
2014-08-19 09.06.10
2014-08-19 09.09.44

2014-08-19 10.57.57
2014-08-19 10.58.18
2014-08-19 15.50.34

map-to-airportAfter a bit, Michael packed up his backpack (except for the T-shirt, above) and we headed back to Liberia for the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport.

We got there in fairly good time.  Good thing – there were no check-in machines so Michael had to stand in line with his carry-on backpack after he paid his departure tax.

liberia-airport-2The airport was redone a few years ago and is so much nicer than the one at San José, Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, where we were 3 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After being sure he made it through Security and up the stairs to his flight, we got some coffee to go and headed “home”.  On the way, we stopped at the pharmacy for some cortisone cream.  The pharmacist there had helped him with an eye infection and she was helpful again.

After that, the Alto Mercado for groceries and a dip in our pool.

Costa Rica, Day Two: August 16, 2014

I woke up about 7:00 with a dream of my mother telling me if I didn’t wake up soon, I’d miss pickup Michael at the airport. Uh, no – he’s arriving at 1:00 PM.

I went out on the terrace to see if the internet connection was any better. No. I rebooted the router and modem. Didn’t help. Rebooted the computer. Also didn’t work. We decided to call for help. The telephone message said “Invalid Account”. Tom wanted to call the front desk using his phone and we decided it would cost way too much since it would be the same as calling from our house, an international call.

Our list of things that don’t work, or we think they should have, grows longer. There are lots of candles, but no matches. We WILL carry on, though.

I took some pictures now that it’s daylight, mostly of the rock that envelops half of our apartment, and possibly is blocking out our internet. Lots of little lizards running around on our front rocks and dirt.

We went to the front desk area and met Brian who heard our long “to-do” list. He claims that the internet is down for some sort of repair all over the area. While we were there, the internet came on for a few moments.

From there, we drove to the airport to pick up Michael. He was the first one out of Customs/Immigration! Headed home and got some lunch at “our” place. After short naps, Tom went back down and the offices were closed so we couldn’t sign up for tours tomorrow. Michael is only here tomorrow and Monday so we need to get some plans going.

It was a slow kind of afternoon and we decided to go back to the pizza place for dinner since they had been so helpful the night before. On the way, we got stuck in our elevator AGAIN. Tom tried calling the number in the elevator but no one answered. Finally it moved. We vowed to never take the elevator again, at least unless someone was on the outside to push the button from there.

The power went out but only momentarily. We need to get matches for those candles!

Since there was no internet, I decided to download some fun apps to play and re-download one which shows the stars.

Michael and I were playing games which meant I missed the notices that said I’d used 40% of my Global Data, 25%…5%… Poof!

 

Costa Rica, Day One: August 15, 2014

We got up at 3:30 am for our trip and to walk Mimi. She didn’t seem to mind at all that it was still dark out. My stomach felt queasy so I didn’t have anything to eat – or any coffee. Oh no! Without coffee, there may be a headache later today.

Our taxi arrived on schedule at 4:30 – things are going well…so far.

Our flight was only 37 minutes which was a good thing because our second flight was 3 terminals away, another security check and only 2 hours. The plane was very small so we had to give them our “carryon” luggage to pick up later on the tarmac.

For such a short flight, it was pretty smooth. We landed at JFK, picked up our luggage, literally on the tarmac and weaved our way through makeshift canvas walkways to try to find the Delta terminal. Very crowded. Finally left security there, went outside to try to find the AirTrain. Lots of stairs so the rollabout suitcases had to be carried. The signage wasn’t that great, either so we had to ask for help – several times. We finally made it to the JetBlue terminal with a bit of time to spare.

The next flight was smooth, too. HOORAY! I’m not good with turbulence to say the least. If someone is screaming, it’s always me. The row of young women in front of us and behind us thought that the flight was an airborne bar. They had been drinking before the flight and continued during the flight. The steward even ran them a tab, something I’ve never heard of on a plane before. The ones ahead of us were watching a show calledPaternity Court on TV and it was quite hilarious, apparently.

At some point, as we were landing, they were looking at the map and thought that we were 4147 miles above sea level, rather than feet. Apparently we were coming in from outer space.

On the jetway, heading to the terminal, one revealed that she had been smoking vapor cigarettes in the bathroom.

I hope they have a wonderful 10 days here – if they remember any of it!

The airport went smoothly, very similar to Barbados with Customs and Immigration. Lots of people offering to help (for tips, of course) but we knew where we were going and were able to weave our way thgouth the crowd.

We found the van for Avis. As soon as I got in, the headache struck, big-time. A combo of no coffee all day and the air freshener in the van. It was so strong, even I could smell it.

Our trip to Avis went well. I got several Extra-Strength Tylenol in me. Our car is a black Nissan sedan. We’d requested manual but they didn’t have any. That turned out to be a good thing later.

The rental agent, Douglas, set up our GPS unit to take us to our condo and we were off. We found Coco Bay Estates and got through the security gate which consisted of a guard, an orange cone and a stop sign (arrete in Spanish)

2014-08-14 09.00.26

Check-in went well, the people friendly and helpful. We followed their van up to our place for the next 2 weeks. I say “up” because our place is carved out of the side of a small mountain. The road has several hairpin turns. The final one to our place involves a hill and at the top, you can’t see the road or anything coming below. AARRGGHH

Here’s a PDF of our site_map.  Our parking spot is on the 4th level of “Segovia”. We had to take an elevator down to our place on one – 102. There was a sign in the elevator that said if the power goes out, it will reset itself. Uh-oh.

The van driver showed us into our place and around, although some of the stuff turned out later to be untrue. One the surface, it’s very nice here with 2 big bedrooms, each with it’s owh bathroom. There were only 3 hangers for the 2 bedrooms so we could have 4 people here, sharing the 3. There are no drawers for storing clothes so I stacked up my clothes on open shelves in a walk-in closet.

A nice living-room area with comfy sofa, washer-dryer, nice patio with glass doors in every room. The A/C works well. Hooray!

I fell asleep for a nap almost immediately.

We decided it was time to go get something to eat. Turns out, the restaurant here closed at 3pm. <sigh> We would have had to drive there, anyway. The roads look unsafe to walk on, even without the hill. So, we decided to go into town to a grocery store. It was about 5pm local time (7 at home) and dusk. We retraced our steps from earlier and saw a grocery store. This was a very local store, everything written in Spanish, which was to be expected, but we had trouble finding things – we never found peanut butter. We did get hangers, though so we now have 13.

When we got out, it was completely dark. People walking in the narrow streets, and riding bikes…and we got lost. We must have missed a street or 2 and our GPS wasn’t recoginzing any of the items I tried typing into it, in English OR Spanish. Our place wasn’t listed under lodgings. At one point, had we continued on the street we were on, we would have driven into the Pacific Ocean.

We were both getting very testy. I had a little headache still, was hungry from not eating all day (that earlier stomach queasyness) and exhausted. It was 10 pm (midnight our time) when we stopped at a small pizza place. Our waitress spoke Italian so she couldn’t help us with directions at all but pointing at the menu got us a pizza. From my long-ago Italian college class, I was able to dredge up enough to get Tom an orange juice. I just went with agua. She was able to find another patron who knew enough English to give us directions.

We changed our order and got the pizza to go. Back to our place, gathered up some of the groceries – the ice cream was melted of course. Into the elevator (no AC) and it wouldn’t move. It took a few minutes but we finally got that going. Into our place and Tom went back for the rest…and called me from the elevator. It was stuck so I went out in my barefeet to push the elevator button from the outside to make it move.

When he went back for the rest, he walked up and down the 4 flights of stairs to avoid the elevator.

Finally, about 11:00 (1 am, our time), after putting the groceries away, we had cold pizza for dinner.

I entered the info for WiFi do finish up my “church work”. The computer showed a strong WiFi signal. Excellent. Except it didn’t actually connect to the Internet.

Luckily, I have a data plan on my iPad and I’d added some Global Minutes. I used that as a hotspot to connect my computer to the internet and finish that work.

Off to bed and dreams of my mother scolding me for sleeping too late.

Traveling to New Orleans

New Orleans

For the first time ever, I got most of my packing done the night before.  I still work up about 4:00 am, with my mind racing, thinking about what needed to be done.

We got to the airport in record time.  Our flight was at 11:45 and we were there by 9:45 am.  Another first.

We found a table with a very interesting woman from Indianapolis on her way to Boston and chatted a bit, had some coffee and breakfast-y stuff.  Read a little, just relaxed.

Then I heard the final boarding call for our flight.  I hadn’t heard any of the others.  Raced over the gate and were the last ones on.  A poor guy waiting in stand-by almost made it on.

It was a pretty uneventful flight.  There weren’t even any events like coffee or peanuts :(

Even though we couldn’t carryon our carryons due to being last on the plane with the overhead bins being full, you’d think that they’d come off first on the carrousel but no.  I don’t know how last on became close to last off.

We got the shuttle bus Route #2 and headed for our home for the next few days.

The Wyndham Avenue Plaza Resort was the first stop! Their website says:

New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the prime vacation destinations in the world with a host of fun attractions, unforgettable special events like Mardi Gras, and epic nightlife complete with live jazz and blues seven days a week. Located in the historic Garden District, Avenue Plaza Resort is only minutes away from some of the most exciting urban districts, including the famous French Quarter, hip Magazine Street, scenic Jackson Square and St. Charles Avenue lined with grand architecture.

Just outside the door to these charming vacation suites you can easily catch the convenient New Orleans trolley line that travels straight to Canal Street and the French Quarter in just minutes and out to the fashionable Uptown district near Tulane University and Loyola University. You can also stroll through the Garden District to experience a real taste of the South, with the beautiful homes and historic landmarks that characterize this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.

We were greeted right off the shuttle by a most helpful gentleman who reminded us of some of the above and got us in to the registration desk.

After checkin, we got to our studio apartment, which is bigger than our first apartment was.  There’s a view of the pool out back, a courtyard and the “Ashley House”, which was built above ground. Despite being built in the mid 1800s Ashley House and its entire historic memorabilia survived the massive flood waters that devastated New Orleans.

It once housed prisoners of the Civil War, and is reputedly haunted by an ethereal woman in the parlor, a phantom pianist, and footsteps sounding in unoccupied parts of the house. Numerous “cold spots”, unusual electrical disturbances, and doors that are operated by unseen forces have been reported.

Though the ghosts in residence claim it was they who held the flood waters at bay, salvation was more likely due to the original designers building the property above ground because the common superstition of the day was that feared diseases such as malaria and yellow fever originate from the ground!

We’ll actually have to go check that out!

trollyAfter we got settled, we headed out four our first streetcar trip to Canal Street.  We got off at the end of the line, walked around a bit, then got something to eat at a Marriott.  Back on the streetcar for our new home.

I did a bit of work while Tom went out junk-food shopping.

Major nap, then shower, then bedtime.

We’re staying in the Garden District.  From http://www.neworleansonline.com/tools/neighborhoodguide/uptown.html

The Garden District is a dynamic community grounded in a strong sense of tradition. Some of its homes are still known by the names of the families that built them over a century ago, and official flags designating Mardi Gras Royalty are a common sight here during Carnival season.

Laid out in 1806 by Barthelemy Lafon as an open, semi-urban system of interrelated parks with basins, fountains and canals, the Garden District was “one of the earliest expressions of the Greek Revival to appear in New Orleans,” according to noted architect, the late Samuel Wilson, Jr. The streets still bear the names of the nine muses of Greek Mythology, and many of the mid-19th century Greek Revival and Italianate homes built in this classical setting remain.

Today stroll under the oaks of Coliseum Square or any of the smaller parks in the Garden District and you are likely to find locals playing with their dogs or reading on the grass. Walk down Magazine Street, the neighborhood’s commercial center, and feel the energy as antique shops give way to contemporary design studios, offbeat clothing stores, restaurants, and much more. Visitors can even find an old-world barber shop, operated by Irish barber Aidan Gill, who offers Guinness and whiskey with his hot towel shaves.

Dubbed the “Garden District” for its capacious showy gardens, this New Orleans Neighborhood is noted for its astounding scenery-just one of its numerous attractions. Visitors are amazed by the elegant homes and the stylish setting that lends itself to a very relaxing and enjoyable experience for all.

Heading Home from San Francisco

Our last morning involved packing – good thing we bought that new bag, a final breakfast at Pläj, a bit of final computer work, then a taxi to the airport.

Before we left, I just had to take a picture of the room key, made of birch, not plastic.

2013-06-19 10.00.21

A final picture of Tom at Pläj

2013-06-19 10.56.22

Our flight back to Midway was uneventful and our pilot didn’t tell us what we were flying over, so I watched a movie (The Producers) instead of trying to see the scenery.

Cover of "Airplane! (Don't Call Me Shirle...

Cover via Amazon

At Midway, Tom got some salads to eat but I wasn’t hungry since I consumed a whole bag of almonds on the first flight.  I was just waiting when I looked up and saw Sandi, a woman from my church choir back home, walking my way.  She was coming in from a business meeting in Denver, and on our next flight!

We spent quite a bit of time talking before the flight and she offered us a ride home from Dulles.  No looking for a taxi at midnight.  YEA!

Flight 2 was uneventful, too, so I watched Airplane.  Big differences from the services that they offered in 1980 and now.  At least we didn’t have to be worried about eating the fish…

At the airport, we waited for those checked bags, then they changed the carrousel so we moved to another part of Dulles.  Sandi’s daughter arrived and drove us home, exhausted, but knowing we had a very successful, if whirlwind, trip.

We Made It!

Friday night seems so long ago now but that was when I took our dog to her sister’s house – or what we call “summer camp”. Mimi is so fortunate that her sister and human family let her visit so often and that she’s never had to go to a kennel.

I got back from that about 10 and we had a quick dinner of sandwiches from the grocery. Then to finish up packing.

I got to bed about 12:30… Not too bad but we had to get up at 2:15 to catch our flight.

Our taxi arrived at 3 and we got to the airport by 4. Unfortunately, the flight folks didn’t get there until nearly 5 so we couldn’t check our baggage.

Finally, that was done, we cleared security, and got to the gate. One interesting thing about this flight was that we had used frequent flier miles on United. They got us the tickets through their partner, Air Canada, so we found ourselves flying from Washington, DC to Toronto before heading south to Barbados. Added a bit to the trip!

We did get some good sunrise pictures from the plane, though. The last few look like the wing is on fire. Maybe later I’ll make up a better story about those pictures :)

All went well and we got to Toronto in about an hour and a half.

Cleared customs there but didn’t have to get our luggage. Yea!

On to the next gate. The next flight had a bit of turbulence but I was proud of myself and didn’t scream although I did clutch the armrests pretty heavily.

We arrived and all was well. Got our luggage, cleared customs and immigration and off to Stoute Rental Car. We have been renting cars (and once, bicycles) from them for about 15 years.

And we’re off to The Crane, remembering to drive on the left. Around the roundabouts and up the road.

At last, we are home!

We got unpacked very quickly. We already know where everything goes. Computers set up, stuff put away, furniture moved so that the desk is facing the big doors to the ocean instead of the wall and smaller window to the ocean.

We went to the little grocery store here to tide us over until the real store on Sunday.

Tom did some email checking, I read and napped, then out to dinner at D’Onofrio’s (Italian). Yummy food then back home.

When we got to our front door, there were 3 tiny baby frogs. I wished I had my camera. I got lucky when we got in because there was a slightly bigger one in our kitchen sink. I got his picture!

A little TV, a little reading, then fast asleep.