Costa Rica, Day Eight: August 22, 2014

A “Rest-Up” Day after Arenal Volcano

We spent a leisurely morning checking the internet and email.  In the early afternoon, we got a snorkel trip lined up for Sunday.

Then we set out to find Playa Hermosa.  Not too exciting.  When we found the beach, an aging hippy materialized from nowhere and demanded money to park on “his beach” so we just left.

When we first came down, I wanted only carryon baggage because our flight times were so tight and there wasn’t much time in New York to get from one terminal to another.  I also hate paying checked baggage fees!  JetBlue doesn’t have them but our flight from DC to NYC does.  So…we didn’t bring some stuff we would normally bring to a place like this, like snorkel, mask and especially fins.

There is no way I will use a snorkel they provide as a loaner.  I’m ok with mask and fins but not snorkel.  So, we spent the rest of the afternoon in dive shops around looking for two snorkels.  The price we paid for those was more than we would have paid for the checked baggage to bring ours from home in.  Oh, Well.  There was still the time in the airport to consider.

Since it was a boring day, I’ll share some food info…

casadoAs I mentioned earlier, beans and rice is the basic variable in almost all Costa Rican cuisine. A typical meal is the casado, the name referring to the eternal “marriage” of its components. Consisting of rice and beans, meat or fish, fried plantains, and a carrot, tomato, and cabbage salad, this basic and well-rounded meal strikes a good nutritional balance.

The plantain, or plántano, is the typical Tico (Costa Rican) snack. It looks like a large banana, but can’t be eaten raw. It is sweet and delicious when fried or baked, and will often accompany most meals. When sliced thinly and deep fried, the plantain becomes a crunchy snack like potato chips.

Arroz is a dish of fried rice which may be offered with chicken (pollo) or shrimp (gambas). For breakfast, it is common to be served a hearty dish of black beans and rice (gallo pinto) seasoned with onions and peppers, accompanied by fried eggs, sour cream, and corn tortillas.

 

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.

Panama Trip, a Day Early!

Our trip was scheduled to start Monday with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, FL.

On Saturday, we realized that there might be a lot of snow where we live, so Tom was able to reschedule our flights for Sunday instead.  Really fast packing on Saturday, only 3 hours sleep on Saturday night.

Sunday was iffy, though. You wouldn’t believe it possible but I played handbells at 2 services of my church yesterday,  left after ringing at the prelude to the second service, got a cab to Reagan airport, and made it to Florida by 4:00 PM!

While still at the Fort Lauderdale airport, I took these 2 screenshots:

2014-03-02 16.24.56 2014-03-02 16.30.22

About 8:00 last night, we got the notification that our flight for “today” was cancelled. I think we made the right call by coming a day early!

Not snow!

Not snow!

After the hustle of getting to the airport on time, the flight was fairly calm and I could nap some.

We even got into Ft. Lauderdale about 30 minutes early.

In the airport restroom, I saw 2 young ladies dying their hair.  I guess they were away from home and maybe didn’t want their parents to know.  That’s a sight I’ve never seen before, though!

A cab ride to the hotel.  I think I fell asleep almost immediately.

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.

New Orleans, LA, January 10, 2013

New Orleans

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Neither Susan nor I have been to new Orleans so we decided to go a day early to see what’s what…

My flight from DCA departed on time and arrived a little early at MSY…through a thunderstorm. The landing was a bit bumpy but I’ve bee through worse.

Walking to baggage claim, I saw a TShirt I’d have loved to buy but I figured they’d have them everywhere.  Of course, they didn’t.

I got to baggage claim and Susan was there.  Her plane had arrived an hour earlier but she’d had to have a connecting flight and left much earlier in the morning.

My suitcase didn’t take too long to arrive but it was wet from the rain :(

Susan had already reserved a shuttle, so we went outside and got on. Unfortunately, we had to wait for the shuttle to fill up before we left.

Because of the rain, we couldn’t see much of the city, but we were first off the shuttle.

We’re at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and we are next to the Mississippi.

After a short nap (during which I started coughing – they had duck feathers in the pillows), we headed over to the Riverwalk Marketplace.

Riverwalk

 

 

The Riverwalk was a major disappointment. Most stores of the stores closed, no restaurants open. We got chocolate for later.  They turned the lights out on us at 6:30PM!

Gordon Biersch

We decided to look around for dinner and headed out to Gordon Biersch.   I had Pineapple mojito. Moroccan chicken. Bread pudding with ice cream, pecans, whiskey sauce.

We went to Walgreens for some incidentals.  Even they have beads and masks for Mardi Gras.  The parades start the 19th this year because of the Super Bowl.  I got a TShirt and Alavert for that cough.