Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our La Fortuna (CR) Lodging Reminds Me Of... know, that somewhat questionable-yet-embarrassingly-addictive summer TV show, Bachelor in Paradise?
In which singles mingle and look for "love" in tropical locations with pavilllioned patios, pools, thatched roofs, lush landscaping, communal lodging, and exotic backdrops of palm trees and mountains.

Here's our sheltered pavillion at the Arenal Country Inn.

On the show, their resort is gorgeous with lots of palm trees:

Here's our more impressive fan palm tree.
Okay, their pool might have more bodies:
But our pool had more swimmers! (Look on the right for confirmation.)

For their comfort, they win in the interior lounging category.

Our accommodations were a lot more basic.

However our "hut" exteriors were quite charming. 

Gathering places on their show were cushioned.

Ours were not. But look at that scenery!

They have a lot of flowers to pick from on their resort.

But look at all the variations in ours!!

Finally, let's address their rose ceremony:
It's exclusive.  Our wrap-up awards ceremony later in the week found all of us recipients of a very special room deodorizer product with the name of Terror!

There you have it: them vs. us. It's pretty clear who the true winners are!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Volcano Numero Dos - Costa Rica

On our hike in Arenal Volcano National Park, (the day after Poas) it felt like we were entering the terrain from the movie, 
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! The path led us through grasses that were towerring over our heads, the vegetation looked as though it could consume us, and some of the trees were huge!

Our guide told us a fun fact about determining the age of trees: it can't be done based upon looking for rings in the cut stump because there are no seasons in the rain forest by which to guage age.

The hike was pretty easy until we reached the last stretch before the stopping point to pose for this picture with our group.

That's the Arenal Volcano behind us. Not erupting, but not dormant either. Reportedly, it smolders incessantly and at night one can see the red glow of spewing red hot lava.

Later this day was a highlight of going in a Sky Tram (some chose to zip line as an option) to get a closer look at the volcano and rain forest canopy below.

I made a new friend on the Sky Tram!

He turned out to be the zip line launcher.

The views from the top were awesome.

And the views looking down over the tops of the trees weren't too shabby either.

Believe it or not there was more adventure to come later this day: the hot springs! Perfect for easing the bones and joints back to pre-hike condition.

Those are concrete beds right in the water. The hot water is provided by underground lava connections... How cool, er hot, is that?

Coming: our lodging in this area and how it reminded me of Bachelor in Paradise.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Volcano Numero Uno (Costa Rica)

Unfortunately, we didn't see the first volcano we were scheduled to see! Yes, we were there but the weather was cloudy In Poas National Park. Vulcan Poas is stunning in all the pictures. According to the guide book, this 8,850 foot giant was formed long, long ago and is "ephemerally volatile with peak activity occurring in approximately 40 year cycles." The last eruption (minor) happened in March 2006 and again in January of 2009 (6.2 Richter scale) with devastation in much of the immediate region.

Here's our view of the crater:
Oh, well.

We did some "imagining" at the Visitor Center mural instead.

Once back in our bus, though, we saw some memorable sights.
A gorgeous waterfall:

A family of white-nosed coatis:

And also along the way, we stopped by a roadside restaurant with a fruit stand right next to it.

Here I had the tastiest, best fresh strawberry drink con leche that I have ever had in my life!

Seriously, the best drink I have ever had! It more than made up for the volcano we didn't see!

Coming: the volcano we did see...and it was so gorgeous.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spotted: The Most Famous Costa Rican Craft

Leaving San Jose and with the destination of La Fortuna and the National Parks meant we headed into the countryside. Our first stop was a coffee plantation and right near there was a "Bucket List" spotting of a careta - a traditional oxcart.
Oh, how I wish I would've captured the face of the man driving this cart!

Before you get to see the actual painted oxcart, some history: in the 1850s, these carts were used to transport coffee beans from the Central Valley over the mountains to Punteras on the Pacific coast. This trip could take up to 15 days. Spokeless wheels on the cart helped in the navigation through the mud.

In the early 1900s, the tradition of painting and decorating these oxcarts began - each region had its own particular designs. You could tell, at first glance, who the cart belonged to by looking at the painted patterns on the cart wheels.

Isn't it beautiful?

Then and now, there are contests involving the paintings on these carts.

These days, most oxcarts are becoming obsolete as a mode of transportation. How lucky were we to see one in use? Veerrrrrrry lucky, indeed!

In fact, these two (at the coffee plantation cafe, bakery and gift shop afterwards) probably sipped coffee from the beans carried on that very same careta. ☕️ Maybe, maybe not.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Color Blast - Costa Rica

Presently happening in Chicagoland: cold and snow. Really? My reaction is to blast you with colorful flowers in the La Fortuna area near San Jose in Costa Rica...

I'll close with the blooming poinsettia bush.

Winter, you've worn out your welcome here!
                Thank you, Costa Rica for your beauty in flora and fauna!