Costa Rica, Day Four: August 18, 2014

Palo Verde National Park.

Awake at 1:00 am to use newly restored iPad hotspot to do church work.

Up with the sun and hiked up the 4 flights of stairs to wait for the bus to pick up up at 7:00 am. We saw lots more damage from rocks falling in the night.

filadeflfiaWe rode for a couple hours until we reached the small town of Filadelfia. We waited outside the park for quite a while for 2 women and a young baby. They would accompany us for the rest of the trip.

On the way to our main event, we passed several soccer games and a LOT of sugar fields. We passed El Viejo Mill (Azucarera El Viejo, S.A), a Costa Rican company dedicated to growing sugar cane and sugar production. The company annually produces 50 thousand tons of sugar in the forms of raw, white, and special; by the industrial processing of half a million tonnes of cane grown by over 500 farmers in the Tempisque Basin. The sugar here in Costa Rica goes mainly to the Coca-Cola Company and for producing energy. I was very surprised that there was no rum production like in Barbados and other sugar-growing countries.

After many dirt roads, we stopped at the Palo Verde Restaurant and had juices and coffee while we waited for others to arrive. Since we were going to Palo Verde, I assumed (you know what they say about assuming!) we were close to beginning our trip. Well, no. Back on the busses. More narrow dirt roads.

Finally, we got to the Temique River and into our small boat. One of the women getting in commented to Michael that she had sat behind him in the plane from New York. Small world.

bats2Right off the bat (no pun intended!) we saw these weird little bats. They line up on a tree and pretend to be a snake, even moving slightly to simulate a snake writhing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

monkeyWe saw lots of white-faced capuchin monkeys – several came right inside the boat. The Capuchin monkey is named after the order of Capuchin friars – the cowls of these friars closely resemble the monkey’s head coloration. I’ll bet those friars are happy to hear this!

 

 

 

jclizardAlso, we saw Jesus Christ lizards, so nicknamed for their ability to run on water at an average speed of 8.4 km/h (or 5.2 mph), for about 10 to 20 meters.

We saw lots and lots of iguanas of various colors, in the trees, on the ground.

 

 

 

 

crocodileWe also saw something that looked like a hawk but were told it was a black vulture. We also saw blue heron, egrets, and of course, crocodiles. The crocks saw we were there and slowly circled our boat.

In the photos below, the guide is showing us a huge grasshopper with red underwings.

After our boat tour, we went back to the Palo Verde Restaurant for what is called a “tipical meal”. We had Casados (black beans and rice) with chicken, beef, salad, fried plantains, white cheese and corn tortilla. Casado, the name referring to the eternal “marriage” of the beans and rice.

A l-o-n-g bus ride and we were home again, ready to rest up for the next day!

My pictures:

 

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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)

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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.

November 17, Leaving NoLa Behind

New Orleans

Not too much exciting in the morning.  Mostly posting yesterday’s blog post and pictures and packing up.

Tom went to Walgreens for some last minute stuff – again – and he got me the pink fleur-de-lis studded T-shirt I wore to board the ship (official boarding picture coming later).

We got our stuff together and headed to the lobby to check out.  Lots of folks coming in, off our ship!  Many had been on a B2B (Back to Back):  the same cruise we’re doing plus a week like we did on this ship in 2009 to Belize, Roatan, Costa Maya.

There was some snafu at the port and the taxi couldn’t get us all the way to the luggage drop off so he sort of stopped in the street and took our luggage across the street for us.  Then a porter took it the rest of the way.

We got into the building and into Group B.  We were at check-in within about 10 minutes and on the ship within about 30 or so.

Embarkation pictures were taken in front of a green screen which I thought was weird since I knew that we’d eventually have the ship behind us.  Whatever!

We were early enough that we got a nice round table by a window in the Garden Cafe on 12 and had some lunch.

Another couple from Anaheim, CA joined us.  They’d stayed the night at Harrah’s and this cruise (except for port charges) was comped to them.  Depending on how well they do in the casino on this cruise, the port charges may be waived.  She explained to us about how Indian-run casinos pay out compared to non-Indian and said that Harrah’s paid like an Indian casino and didn’t know why.  She was using a “buffalo machine(?)” as an example as my eyes started to glaze over.

The announcement came that our cabins were ready so there was a mass exodus.

We opted for the stairs.  On our last Jewel cruise, Michael had us walking up and down the stairs most all the time and it looks like we’ll continue the tradition.

Checked out the balcony, took some pictures, Tom took a little nap.

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Tom napping

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Watching the busy port

I was reading on the balcony, and this machinery rolled by on a little track.  I got a couple pictures and the guys on it said hello.  I guess it will be to wash windows later, or the ship?  We’ll see!

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Another couple dropped by – part of their luggage had been delivered to our closet.  We opened ours and – Voila! – their stuff was in there.  They tried to tell us that maybe we were in their cabin, too, but that didn’t go over too well.

At 3:15 we went to the Tsar’s Palace for the mandatory life boat drill.  We didn’t have to take our life jackets or stand on deck waiting for stragglers.  Hooray!

After the muster, we went out on deck just to watch the last-minute luggage coming on board and ships and barges on the river.

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Tom under a lifeboat

About 4:00 we set out to find the Chapel since Tom was going to meet some folks there.  It turned out to be tucked away next to the Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13, forward.  I went out on deck to get some sunset pictures and listen to the band during the “Party Like a Norwegian!” SailAway.

About 5:00 the ship finally began to turn around for it’s journey down the Mississippi amid lots of cheers from the folks at the SailAway.  I must have napped just a bit…

Got some good pictures, and some sunset pictures.  I overheard one confused young woman who thought we were heading the wrong way on the river.  Hmmm… Do they teach geography anymore in school or did she plan to go to Ohio?

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Sail Away

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Sail Away sunset

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It started to get a bit chilly on 13 so I headed down to the cabin for my hoodie.  Tom was already there and so was our luggage.  Yea!

Major unpacking and figuring where to put stuff.  Everything away, suitcases under bed. Made good use of the hanging shoe bag I usually carry around. Done.

We’re doing “Freestyle Dining” so we can eat wherever/whenever we want.

On the way to Azura (6, Midship) we ran into the Photo Gallery (7, Aft).  We saw our Embarkation pictures and decided to get those.  When they added the ship in (remember we were in front of a green screen) it made it appear that portions of the ship were “bunny ears”  behind my head.  Luckily – thanks to the green screen – that’s being adjusted.  Isn’t technology grand?

We went to Azura about 6:30, when lots of folks apparently wanted to eat, too.  Because we had to wait for 30 minutes, we got coupons for free soda or champaign in the bar.  We learned that “only Pepsi products” are available on Norwegian.  Luckily, we don’t have a very strong brand loyalty to anyone.

The wait was less than 30 minutes and we had a nice table for 2.  We both had French onion soup.  He had salmon, mashed potatoes and green beans and I had BBQ chicken breast, Caribbean vegetables and sweet potato fries  Yummy!

During dinner they announced that the Saints had won.  Lots of fans on this ship!

We chatted with the folks next to us – they’re from Canada.  She was from Canada originally, he was from England.  They’d been married 36 years and this was their first cruise.  She wanted to cruise the Mediterranean and this is a “trial cruise” to see it they like it.

Their daughter, son-in-law and grandchild live in London so they only see them a couple times a year.

Dessert time.  We had coffee, of course.  I had key lime pie, Tom had lemon sorbet.  Mmmmm.

8:20 – we hustled off to the Stardust Theater to see the show.  Since we were already on 6, Midship we’d just head to 6, Forward.

Unfortunately, we had to head through the Casino to do that.  We saw the Anaheim folks from lunch and said hi but they didn’t see us.  Maybe they weren’t doing too well and wouldn’t be comped.

I always hate going through the casino.  It’s always too smoky!  I understand that our next cruise to Panama on Princess won’t even allow smoking in the casinos.  Yea!

I held my breath and we got through ok.  The Stardust Theater was pretty full so we sat in about the 3rd row.

This preview show was called “A Taste of Things to Come” and was pretty good.  The cruise director (Alex) is from Uruguay.  He gave away some champaign to newlyweds (1 and 2 days each) and some jewelry to a couple married for 62 years.  The man thought it was 66 until his wife corrected him.

The house singers/dancers were quite good.  I always prefer live singing/dancing/music to recorded so I’m pretty easy to please.  They did a song and dance about vacations that showed a lot of good energy.

A comedian came out and he was pretty funny, although I don’t like when they comment on latecomers and possibly embarrass folks.  Other than that, he was funny – and wore a silly suit.

The band was from the Philippines but they managed to channel the Beatles and did I Want To Hold Your Hand.  Apparently, they do a Beatles tribute show at some point during the cruise.  They also appeared around the ship singing I Want To Wash Your Hands at meal time.

A selection of characters from Nickelodeon shows sang and danced.  Most, except for Spongebob Squarepants and Dora, the Explorer I didn’t recognize but the kids in the audience did.  Maybe this is the Norwegian answer to the Disney ships?

The singers/dancers came back for a selection of Mamma Mia! songs like Waterloo, Dancing Girl, Mamma Mia and more.  Love it!  There was a *bit* of singing along.

Back to the cabin by way of Guest Services (7, mid) and Decks 12 (walking around we ran into the Canadian couple) and 13.

The first day, at least, we got a lot of exercise walking and climbing.

Sat on the balcony a bit.  I tried to get picture of the pilot boat leaving us but it was just too foggy.

We saw a bit of the movie Chicago on TV.  I have the movie on my iPad so it didn’t matter that I shut it down early.

Tom went to bed and I got online to do my “Pender work”.  I like to keep that site updated daily, no matter where I am.

I read for about 1 minute maybe, then fast asleep.

Today’s Stats:

Sunday November 17th, 2013

New Orleans, Louisiana

Today’s Forecast:  Chance of Rain, 81F/27C

Sunrise: 6:29 am

Sunset: 5:02 pm

All Aboard: 3:20 pm