Costa Rica, Day Seven: August 21, 2014

Volcán Arenal aka Arenal Volcano

A majorly early day, we had to be up the 4 flights of stairs by 6:45am. There is still no sign of anyone fixing the elevator. Our driver (Ernesto) and guide (Jorge) arrived just after 7:00 and we were off. We had 3 stops to pick up others. At the 3rd, there was a slight holdup since one of the women fell in the lobby. She turned out to be ok and sat behind us on the bus.

map-arenalThe total bus trip to Arenal was about 4 hours and I learned a LOT about the folks sitting behind us, including entire highschool dating scene.

We made a stop along the way at Aroma Tico in Tilaran for a bite to eat, then we were on our way again, always climbing up the steep roads.

Arenal volcano was dormant for hundreds of years but in 1968 it erupted unexpectedly, destroying the small town of Tabacón. Due to the eruption three more craters were created on the western flanks but only one of them still exists today. Since October 2010, Arenal’s volcanic activity appears to be decreasing and explosions have become rare, with no explosions reported after December 2010.

We finally arrived at our spot on the Arenal Volcano to hike through a bit of the rainforest/meadow. Tom said our hike was 2.5 kilometers (about 1.6 miles) – not so bad but it was all UP. It wouldn’t have been so bad for me, except someone had put in “stairs” for much of the way.

These stairs were made of the mud from the trail, held back with vertical pieces of metal, They were uneven height and many reached nearly to my knees so these were very hard for me to climb.

When we got to the top, our bus was waiting. We didn’t have to go back. HOORAY. There were other busses there letting people off to hike down. I wonder if that would be easier?

We went to lunch in La Fortuna and had another tipical meal, except we could choose the meat (or vegetarian) off the menu. I had pork chops along with the casado, plantains, salad, fried plantains, white cheese and corn tortilla. We all had rice pudding for desert. It was a wonderful meal and I was stuffed.

Next stop was the hot springs at Baldi Hot Springs.  There are 25 pools that are large and small, hot and cold with walking paths between them and beautiful landscaping.  We were here about 2 hours, then it was time to eat again.  I just wasn’t that hungry, although they had a fantastic buffet.  I had only onion soup, salad, roll, pineapple and a tiny piece of cake.

Then, the long, long ride home and sleep!

My pictures:

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Bird (or big insect!) nests

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The lava flow shows up fairly well in this picture

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Aruba, March 7 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

The description:

Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

aruba

Semi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.


Our day:

Aruba, 8:00am–6:00pm

Weather Forecast:  Mostly Sunny High 82 / Low 79

Sunrise 6:52 am / Sunset 6:50 pm

From the Navigator:  Overnight Coral Princess maintained a southeasterly course and this morning we will make our final approach to Aruba.  A local pilot will assist in navigating the vessel to our berth in the capital city of Oranjestad.  This afternoon, with all the passengers onboard, we will let go our lines and maneuver out of the harbor, before altering course to starboard and setting westerly courses toward our next port of call, Cartagena.

When we woke up, we could see that we were approaching port.  I watched the process from the balcony, then we went down to deck 7 (Fiesta) to wait in line for disembarkation.

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Arriving at Aruba

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Of course, I checked in at Foursquare :)

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Container ships on the dock. In the distance, near the crane, is the Hooiberg volcano.

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The Freewinds often hosts local functions in the ports it frequents, such as jazz concerts and movie performances in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These events are usually free but often support island charities through entrance fees or suggested donations.[21] Local artists are often showcased. It also caters to different international conferences and events. The ship’s leisure facilities include a restaurant, lounge, cabaret, swimming pool, movie theater and beauty salon.

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More containers

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Arriving at Aruba

Off the ship, we went through the terminal and met our bus.  Turned out, Rosie and Jim were on the same tour.

We rode in the bus for a while as our tour guide mentioned some Aruba facts and showed us some points of interest.  One of the most interesting and pertinent facts for me was that all restrooms on Aruba cost $.50 to use except the Natural Bridge, which was $1.00.  Yuck!

One of the first things we saw was a roundabout with a McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food.  I also saw a store called Rat Land which I hope means something in Dutch than in English.

rat-land

Their license plates say “One Happy Island” but people are more happy when it rains.  They get very little rain there.  The island is very desert-like with lots of cacti, like we saw in Phoenix, AZ.

Our first stop was the California Light House.  There were some mini-Stonehenge rocks there.  We couldn’t go in.  This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. It was formerly open to the public until a suicide occurred, which prompted authorities to restrict public access to the lighthouse.

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California Lighthouse

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At the California Lighthouse, looking at the sea

In Aruba, they make piles of rocks, similar to those we saw in Iceland.  In Aruba, tourists stack them up and make a wish on each rock they add to the pile.

rockpiles

Back on the bus, we went to DePalma beach.  That was down a path next to the Riu hotel.  All beaches here, like Barbados, are public.  The Riu had a “garden” of big rocks, surrounded by hedges and flowers, complete with a gardner tending these rocks.

Lots of activity there like wind surfing, parasailing, etc.  We walked past the little shops (they had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins!) and got on a flat-topped ferry boat for our semi-submersible.

The semi-submersible didn’t submerge at all.  The only “submersing” it did was when we walked down the stairs to take our seats by the portholes.  In some of the photos below, you can see the bottom of our craft on the top of the water.

Even their own website says that they do not submerge at all:

The Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine is a state-of-the-art semi-submarine developed in Australia for use on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique vessel does not submerge. You step down into the hull of this cruising underwater observatory and sit in air-conditioned comfort just 5 feet below the water’s surface, viewing amazing Aruba sea life through large clear glass windows.

They should call in non-submersible instead.  There must not have been a reef or anything because all we did was circle the shipwreck, the Antilla.

I was a bit upset by all the divers’ bubbles coming from underneath us.  That couldn’t have been safe for them to be diving under a boat, whether it submerged or not.

Whatever.

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Ferry “Stingray”

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. You can see a diver’s fin in the top of this picture.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. The jellyfish-looking thing in the upper right is air bubbles from a diver.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Sergeant major fish

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More divers’ air bubbles

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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From there, we drove to the Natural Bridge past Arashi Beach.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. The landmark collapsed on September 2, 2005.  We saw the newer Natural “Baby” Arch at the northeast shore of Aruba at the same site.

I thought I had a video of this arch but it might be on my other camera.  If/when I find it, I’ll put it here.  :)

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Natural Bridge area

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New or baby Natural Bridge

Everything where we were seemed so dry, so there was a lot of cactus.  We also saw some brown doves (close relative of the North American Mourning Dove) and egrets (a type of heron).

egret

The guide said that many of the beaches were made of coral.  They have a volcano on Aruba called Hooiberg, a Dutch word meaning Haystack.  It is actually a dormant volcano located close to the center of the island. The island of Aruba was formed as a result of volcanic activity.

Off to the Casibari rock formations.  Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throughout the ages.

Aruba is made of lava quartz diorite and limestone.  There is also granite but it’s protected.

 

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Tom under one of the Casibari rock formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Arashi Beach

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A little lizard on the rocks.

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We didn’t get to see the gold mill or downtown Oranjestad but we were happy to head back to the ship.  I was surprised and pleased when the crew gave us cold water and cold towels.

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Oranjestad from our ship balcony.

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Back on board, we took a little nap, went to the library saw the singers and dancers do a show called Motor City, another excellent show.

After dinner in the buffet, we went to the Princess Theater to see Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

http://youtu.be/OiTiKOy59o4

At Sea, Wednesday March 5 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

image

 

 

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 81 / Low 77

Sunrise 6:32 am / Sunset 6:06 pm

From the Navigator: After passing the Santaren Channel, Coral Princess will alter to an easterly course as we enter the Old Bahama Channel, which lies between the Great Bahama Bank and the Northern coast of Cuba.  We will continue to follow the north coast of Cuba before rounding Punta Maisi at the eastern end of the island.  We will then pass through the Windward Passage which lies between Cuba and Haiti.

I woke up about 8:30 and took a shower in that tiny shower stall.  A removable head shower would be better in tight quarters like that.

Tom was reading on the balcony. He’d brought me coffee, a croissant, banana and yogurt.  Nice!

After a bit of me writing this, Tom napping, we went up to Horizon Court for real breakfast.  We almost always sat looking out the windows over the bow.  It was such a nice view.

our-table

We wandered around a bit and went to the Wheelhouse where I’d planned to join the Princess Pop Choir.  Tom was going to wait but ended up knowing all the songs so he’s singing with us, too :)

wheelhouse

We’ll have rehearsals every sea day and a final show the last night.  James, the leader, said we’d get special pins to wear.  Oooh!

Our songs, complete with choreography, will be:

Oh, What a Night

Waterloo

Isn’t She Lovely

It’s Not Unusual

We Are the Champions (might not be in the final show)

Sweet Caroline

We Will Rock You

We will be wearing black and white (where have I heard that before?!?) and our pins.

I have some black shorts with me but I didn’t think that they were performance-ready so when we were walking around later, I bought some black capris (and a *few* other things)

We talked to one of the young crew members, Hannah from Southhampton.  We’d seen her at the show last night.  Turns out she lives right up the street from James but they’d never met until this cruise.

After choir, we wandered around a bit, toward the atrium and into a couple shops (see black capris, above) , watched a bit of “Goofy Golf” and ran into some folks Tom knows (Jim and Rosie).  Goofy Golf consists of hitting a golf ball down a stairway with a right turn and hill at the bottom.  The ball was supposed to go into a plastic cup…eventually.

Back to the cabin for some reading and email, Then I decided to go out to a deck to read, instead.

We sat by the Lotus Pool for a while, then out on the deck.  I think I rested my eyes in both places.

lotus

It was formal night but I didn’t feel like going to the bother so we just got a bit more dressy, but nowhere near formal.

We ate in the buffet, anyway, and the main meat offering was roast lamb.  Yummy!

We were a bit early for the show, but there was a string trio playing in the Wheelhouse across the hall.  We went in there – they were playing Mozart, Vivaldi, Ravel, Strauss but the thing that got to me was when they played Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion.

Several years ago, Alice and I were talking about skating and I mentioned that several of the skaters were using the music of Astor Piazolla.  She’d never heard of him so I played some of his music over the phone for her.  She immediately fell in love with his Oblivion and ended up buying the music for herself.

I couldn’t believe that this little group was playing this, another reminder of my Alice.

There are several versions of Oblivion on YouTube, none with string trios, so I liked this the best since it showed off a violinist:

We went into the show in the Princess Theater – it was completely full – so we sat in the 3rd row.  It was wonderful.   The show was called What a Swell Party and featured music of Cole Porter – how can you go wrong? I was just amazed at the talent the singers and dancers have.

After the show, we went out to see what was running on MUTS.  It was the end of Jobs and we stayed for the rest of that and into the beginning of the next showing.

After getting a glass of ice water, we went back to the cabin.  A reminder that we change our clocks forward tonight.

Lots of promising activities tomorrow, including choir practice.

And, on TV tonight – Great Expectations.  I loved that book.  The movie (2012 version), not so much.

I read about a paragraph of mine (Pigeonwings) before I fell asleep.

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Tuesday, March 4 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

ft-lauderdale

 

What a day!  I spent most of the first part being nervous that we would miss the ship.  There were phone calls from employees that weren’t sure what to do while we were gone, emails…

At 11:00 we were supposed to check out and housekeeping came by to check on us and I told her  “soon”.

My sandal broke, the part next to the heel separated from the sole.  <sigh>

Finally, we checked out at noon and set off to find the place to return the rental car that we never really used.  A wrong turn or 2 and we finally got there about 1:00.  Tom called for a taxi.  We waited and waited.  Tom called again.  Finally, the driver got there and we reloaded our luggage.

Fortunately, the port was only about a mile a way but there was a lot of traffic to the port and all cars had to stop and everyone had to show IDs.  That slowed everything up.

Dropped off our luggage and finally got in the terminal building.  It was nearly 2:00.  Tom had been thinking we had until 4:00 to get onboard – I reminded him that this ship sailed at 4:00.  We had to be on by 3:00.

Fort Port Lauderdale Embarkation 

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 77 / Low 69

Sunrise 6:41 am / Sunset 6:23 pm

From the Navigator: As soon as all the passengers and crew are onboard and all pre-departure checks have been completed, the Captain will give the order to let go our mooring lines.  Once clear from the berth, Coral Princess will make her way out of the harbor before disembarking our pilot and altering our course to starboard.  We will then set southwesterly courses through the Straits of Florida toward the Old Bahama Channel, as we make our way towards Aruba.

A hustling, bustling port – not just cruise ships.  As far as I could tell, we were the only cruise ship there.

A lot of people got there about when we did but the lines moved fairly quickly…until it was time to actually board the ship.  That’s when you swipe your new card and they add your picture to the record for to be sure you’re who you say you are when you come back from port.

We got on the actual ship and were directed to the left.  We followed lots of other folks and ended up at an elevator.  Up to our cabin and our first 2 pieces of luggage were already there.  The third was only a few minutes later.  Very speedy!

I like this ship – Coral Princess!

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The cabin is (or seems) bigger than the one on Norwegian (NCL).  There is a desk instead of a couch (NCL).  The couch wasn’t very practical – the desk really is.

We have a walk-in closet which is really nice.  We haven’t even filled it halfway up (yet).  It’s at a right angle to the sleeping area which makes it seem like a separate room.

The bathroom is small.  I think the shower is smaller than NCL’s but I don’t spend that much time in there.

The end tables by the bed have actual drawers instead of open shelves.

The chairs on the balcony recline.  They’re fixed on NCL.

No coffeemaker, though.  NCL had one in the cabin.

We have a TV guide telling us what is on for the whole trip.  The new Hobbit movie will be on later.  Glad we didn’t see it in the movies.

Pool/Beach towels are in the closet.  We return them to the cabin and the steward brings us new ones.  We didn’t have to check them out and return them to the pool each day.  Hooray!

This ship has a self-service laundry on each deck.  I’ve never seen that on another ship.

We went off for muster  Here, we had to take our lifejackets and put them on at one point.  NCL, we didn’t take them.  They showed us how to jump off the side, if necessary.  Um, no.

I noted for future reference that many women on here wear white long pants.  Not likely!

Tom went off to a meeting, I did some church work – uploading Sunday’s sermons.

I took a little video of the sail away and some regular pictures.

http://youtu.be/snOVmXcPO-0

 

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The sheriff’s boat, acting as pilot

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Tom came back and wrote some emails.  I think I napped.  I didn’t feel like getting dressed for dinner so we went to the buffet.  It seemed smaller than NCL but then I realized that they didn’t have the pizza and burgers mixed in.  The buffet was all real food.  Among other things, I had prime rib.  Yummy!!!   We got to sit right ”up front” in the center of the stern.  Very impressive!

We walked around a bit, trying to get our bearings.  This ship has a lot of wood on it, more “real” than the mostly metal ones I usually see.  Teak tables, wooden doors.

I understand that this ship line used to be P&O from England before they became Princess.  There are British hints all over, from the afternoon Tea Time, to the huge selection of teas at dinner.  There are also pictures from the P&O line on the walls and 2 grenadiers guarding the casino.  Tom thinks that P&O might have stood for Pacific and Orient – I’ll look that up when we get home.  (Note – it is Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company)

I had wanted to go to the 7:45 Welcome Aboard show but there was some email to be sent.  I think I rested my eyes.

Then, we went out and walked around some more – by Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) which seems to mostly be showing a variety of things.  There are 2 movies later this week that I’d like to see.  They put cushions on the deck chairs and give out blankets, popcorn,  cookies and milk.  It’s also right by the ice cream, pizza and grill so not too much chance of hunger.

We walked all around a couple of decks.  It seems like we’re nearly alone on this cruise.  Except for embarking, we’ve seen very few other people.

At 9:30, we did see  the show.  I thought that they would do snippets from upcoming shows but the singers/dancers did a “welcome to Princess” type song and dance and the comedian told some jokes.  The cruise director, Susan Rawlings,  told us a bit about what was coming up.

Walking around some more.  We decided to get some pizza but they were just closing up.  Back to the buffet – Horizon Court – and I had some fruit (and another egg roll)

There was a note on our bed after dinner that they would be happy to deliver whatever fruit we wanted to our cabin.  Nice touch.  Also, a Princess tote bag.

We had chocolates on our pillow!

Just a bit of church work, should have taken about 2 minutes, tops, but it took 11, thanks to this s-l-o-w internet connection.

I think I fell asleep almost immediately.  If anything, I read one paragraph in my book.

Costa Rica, Day 7 and Home

Early, early wake up time.  We have to be at the airport by 5:00 am so we were up at 4:00 am.  We got things we had taken out repacked – mostly electronics we wanted charged.

Checking out, we were able to get free “breakfast to go” bags that included cereal bars, juice, bananas and muffins.  Pretty good.

The Holiday Inn had a 24/7 shuttle so we got on that within 5 minutes.  It was only about 8 minutes to the airport.  It was a good thing we were there early because the line to pay the departure tax was pretty long.  Luckily, we had gotten a porter to move our bags because he was very helpful in showing us where to go for the departure tax and how to fill out the forms – then where to check in.

We got through security in plenty of time and I got a few pictures of the mountains outside the departure gate.

I ate the banana and the muffin.  I should have had the juice since it was confiscated in a final security just before getting on the plane.  The bottle was all sealed up but they took it anyway.  Oh, well.

I was very happy on the plane.  They showed the movie Water For Elephants.  I had read (and shared with everyone) this book several years ago.  I was glad to be able to watch the movie but it did cut into my naptime.

We arrived in Atlanta on time and went through the whole Customs/Immigration ordeal.It wasn’t as bad as some places we have been through.  All our luggage arrived and that’s a good thing!

We stopped for a real meal at T.G.I.Fridays, then on to our gate.  We were there about 30 minutes, then the gate changed so we dragged our stuff up the hall to the new gate.  Boarding was pretty easy, then we taxied out for takeoff.

Then, we stopped.  The pilot said that there were storms in the DC area so we couldn’t land there.  He figured that the storm was colser to Reagan airport and those flights were probably diverted to Dulles (our airport) and Baltimore.  Whatever.

We sat, with the engines off, on the field.  No engines, no A/C.  They passed out ice water and told us to close the window shades to keep it “cooler”.  Right.

Finally, we were able to take off.  Although I could see that we passed through some thunder storms, the flight was fairly smooth.

Into Dulles, got one suitcase.  The big one is nowhere. Finally, that showed up and we got a taxi for home.  Then off to get our dog ant the trip was over.

There will be more pictures later from Tom’s camera plus the ones we took with the waterproof carmera in the Rainmaker rainforest.

Fairwell to 

Costarica

Thanks for reading!

Costa Rica, Day 7 and Home

Early, early wake up time.  We have to be at the airport by 5:00 am so we were up at 4:00 am.  We got things we had taken out repacked – mostly electronics we wanted charged.

Checking out, we were able to get free “breakfast to go” bags that included cereal bars, juice, bananas and muffins.  Pretty good.

The Holiday Inn had a 24/7 shuttle so we got on that within 5 minutes.  It was only about 8 minutes to the airport.  It was a good thing we were there early because the line to pay the departure tax was pretty long.  Luckily, we had gotten a porter to move our bags because he was very helpful in showing us where to go for the departure tax and how to fill out the forms – then where to check in.

We got through security in plenty of time and I got a few pictures of the mountains outside the departure gate.

I ate the banana and the muffin.  I should have had the juice since it was confiscated in a final security just before getting on the plane.  The bottle was all sealed up but they took it anyway.  Oh, well.

I was very happy on the plane.  They showed the movie Water For Elephants.  I had read (and shared with everyone) this book several years ago.  I was glad to be able to watch the movie but it did cut into my naptime.

We arrived in Atlanta on time and went through the whole Customs/Immigration ordeal.It wasn’t as bad as some places we have been through.  All our luggage arrived and that’s a good thing!

We stopped for a real meal at T.G.I.Fridays, then on to our gate.  We were there about 30 minutes, then the gate changed so we dragged our stuff up the hall to the new gate.  Boarding was pretty easy, then we taxied out for takeoff.

Then, we stopped.  The pilot said that there were storms in the DC area so we couldn’t land there.  He figured that the storm was colser to Reagan airport and those flights were probably diverted to Dulles (our airport) and Baltimore.  Whatever.

We sat, with the engines off, on the field.  No engines, no A/C.  They passed out ice water and told us to close the window shades to keep it “cooler”.  Right.

Finally, we were able to take off.  Although I could see that we passed through some thunder storms, the flight was fairly smooth.

Into Dulles, got one suitcase.  The big one is nowhere. Finally, that showed up and we got a taxi for home.  Then off to get our dog ant the trip was over.

There will be more pictures later from Tom’s camera plus the ones we took with the waterproof carmera in the Rainmaker rainforest.

Fairwell to

Costarica

Thanks for reading!