Costa Rica 2018-San Jose again

Since we haven’t seen almost any anticipated wildlife I decided to support the Zoo of San Jose- that is what most people write on trip advisor-  please, support the zoo by visiting it. OK, we visited it. It was hard to find. we had even to stop and ask where is the entrance-  you see where it is but where to enter? It is in a canyon by a mountain river in the middle of the city! Andrei drove like a hero through the very center of San Jose which is not recommended in any travel book. The area where the Zoo is is considered not too safe – but I considered it safe and of exceptionally beautiful mostly colonial houses! Which I saw only from car windows, for we had no time to walk around there. So the Zoo…it is small, it is very lonely. no visitors at all, it would be not bad if not for the small ant dense cages for owls and parrots and toucans…I was especially sorry for the toucans-  they were each alone in a cage. The parrots-  not so much,  they had company, at least.  Monkeys seemed very sad, and there were only 5 of them. But the worst part – they let you in a lion’s cage, the lion died a while ago of depression…So you can experience what he saw and how he lived all his life. Now a leopard is not doing well, I was shocked to see blood dripping from its mouth and the smell of that blood was all over. It gets into my nose once I remember this poor miserable leopard: A tapir – that was the most interesting creature in the Zoo – he is like a mix of an elephant and a black pig: In case yo get interested-  here the the entrance to the Zoo: This is the portico of the National theater – a proof Andrei drove through the main street of San Jose and I took the pic form the car window: Here are some more views in San Jose while we walked from the University area where we stayed the last night, the graffiti was wonderful there! A fruit stand. The peculiar fruits here are the  yellow-orange ones. they are the fruits with a little tail – and guess what is in that tail – a cashew nut! How many fruits have to be grown to have an handful of cashews…Here is Casada-  their traditional meal, like a menu dia in Spain. You can choose only the meat or fish or some seafood. But the rest of the plate comes like this and it costs around $5-$8: So – that was it, enough of good climate and warmth, back to our never ending house works…

Costa Rica 2018-Pacific Coast-Jaco

We reached Jaco also close to sunset. CR is so close to equator, that the sun rises at 6 pm and sets at 6pm. Our hosts form Samara warned us that Jaco is a the biggest resort town on the Pacific, closest to San Jose and therefore-  full of prostitutes and drugs. That it is not worth going there. But we went there because of the close proximity to San Jose and because we found a very good aparthotel Tuanis with a wonderful AC’ed room. There was a swimming pool in the yard and some rooms had kitchens. But we took the one without a kitchen to have areal 1 day vacation!It was this close to the sea on a very quiet street, the only sounds we heard were of birds. Well, one evening there were some loud sounds from across the swimming pool from the balcony – American youngsters were smoking pot – which is considered legal, kind of :-). We didn’t investigate this  in-useful info for us. And those wonderful sunsets on the Pacific! Jaco beach had a lot of surfers-  the waves here are of the right size! But as I was expecting crowds of people   -there were none. A little more than in Samara, but never too many. Maybe becasue we came on Sunday evening and were not envious to the cars going back from Jaco to San Jose on the other lane-  the traffic jam was literally for the whole 30 km from the bigger highway…A lesson can be drawn – never leave Jaco on Sunday.  There are some higher buildings in Jaco, not so many palm trees as in Samara. but there are a lot of green spaces there. they are fenced, not for people to walk on them – mostly for the cows or for just a small house in the middle of a big park. And we didn’t see any prostitute at all.  Mostly American and Canadian families with kids or just elderly people. Lots of restaurants, lots of shops. Te whole spectrum of prices. There are also casinos, night clubs. But that is not our world. We were happy to have a spacious and cool room for the heat there is rather humid and not so pleasant. We left in two night there the day before our flight and stopped on the famous Crocodile bridge. And yes, there are unbelievably many crocodiles: There is a trail and a national park by that bridge, but we didn’t have time for a hike.  Again – from the car window the views were perfect!

Costa Rica 2018 -Pacific coast – Samara

At that point we already felt that we dot have enough to do in Costa Rica for 3 planned weeks. Thinking about how much work we have at home and to idle just in a tropical climate with no particular places of interest was not what we wanted to do. So what we did was we bought new tickets back. To change the ticket date it would have costed us $600 a piece (American Airlines), whereas to buy new ones was $200 a piece. The other thing was to rent a car – we still wanted to see the ocean. The car rental quoted us a price of $127 for those 5 days left. The place was in Liberia – which was not in Liberia, but some 30 km form it in the direction of its airport. Fort of all the rental place called Fox lied to us about their location. Our friends had to drive us back and forth on that road until we found. Maybe everything called Fox is prone to lying… :-). Then when we started filling the papers- the price rose to $400 for 5 days! I considered it ridiculous. the problem stemmed from our initial plans – we didn’t plan to rent a car ourselves, our friends did. So we didn’t research their conditions. Do not make our mistake-  get a letter form your credit card company telling that they are covering your car insurance on the trip. We had that letter since long ago, carried all over where we traveled-  never in any country did they need it. Costa Rica is the only one, it is very very bureaucratic, as we noticed, so it requires that letter…And ours was at home, not much help. But as we had no choice, we had to rent. Of those 5 days we drove only 3. Because after we rented it – we immediately drove to the southern part of Samara-  where we had a reservation for 2 nights in a Sunset B&B right on the beach! While on the road we noticed how this Northwestern part of Costa Rica is dry. The grass was mostly yellow and lots of  trees without leaves, some of them had flowers: But as we had no time to stop  – I took pictures form the car window. The next one shows their way of making fences – they stick a branch into the soil, evidently during the rainy season – and here you go, it starts even growing! Then they prune their fences:Once we got to the place, which is in Nicoya peninsular – we ran to see the sunset and that wonderful evening glow: Then in the dark already with a flashlight walked 25 min on the beach North to Samara to get to some restaurant fro dinner. Our B&B owners were also cooking dinners, making cocktails if someone wanted-  but we wanted to get a glimpse of Samara:Those were several restaurants starting on the beach sand and going deeper in a more regular interior. We liked the restaurant “El Gusto” with floors and sofa’s and on some evenings – with live music: Then the walk back, on a super dark beach, lit only by the Milky Way! It wouldn’t be so pleasant if there were more people walking because you could bump on them – but there is very few people in Samara. Most of them stay in town. As we saw plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops there. Our B&B had only three bedrooms, quiet and homey: Very few people on the beach and the water was awesome!  No wonder some people just go to Costa Rica coast, stay there and fly back home. The waves are of the right size, the water is so warm that even me with my slim body didn’t get cold at all. And you can see a line of rocks in the sea – they are not a coral reef, but solid lava form long ago. When the tide is low – is is fun to walk to them through shallow waters and check for some sea life. Sea urchins: The sun is very strong there-  definitely wear clothes or SPF: We were lucky that the tide was low at 10 am and at 11 am the next day – it was still not too hot to do the hike. When the tide is low during the midday –  it would be hard. The heat is hot there :-). The first morning we went to the tide pools-  we saw three very colorful puffers. But  we didn’t take the camera, were not sure how deep we would have to walk or swim in the water.  the next day we took the camera-  no fish…:-(. On the whole-  not many wildlife in this country, not much sea life. And the sand is not white. far from it. it has a portion of ashes, I think. because it is hard to wash it. Well – it was better in Samara than in Jaco. That is for sure. And here is Andrei waiting for breakfast:Our B&B hidden in the palm grove: Though the humidity on the peninsular coast is much lower that the southern coasts of Costa Rica  -it is still very hot. But we could sleep without AC, there is some breeze from the ocean. The second sunset we enjoyed tremendously: there was another adventure in Samara the last morning. I went to swim peacefully in the sea before breakfast – there was a neighbor’s big black dog running around. It didn’t dawn onto me that it can be dangerous. I went into teh waves- the dog behind me and started jumping on my naked skin…scratched it and also scared me to death. So be careful. because the woman owner is very careless and she just laughed when I told her what happened. it was my husband who saved me. Otherwise I don’t know how it would have ended. We still managed to hike to another town more south from Samara – Puerto Carillo, which seemed even better for solitude and rest: And then, bye bye to Samara, we drove for half of the day to Jaco. The roads are not so bad as we presumed. At least we didn’t drive on dirt roads and the paved ones were paved. But they are so narrow, you can’t pass a car is the driver of it decides to do some other activity  in the car than driving and goes to a slow motion…In conclusion – driving in Costa Rica no pleasure at all! So we decided – if we ever come there for the warm sea and the waves of the right size-  we will take a bus form San Jose.

Costa Rica 2018 – Bijagua

Bijagua ir towards the north of Costa Rica, in between two volcanoes – one of them is called Miravales. But we didn’t see any of them – it is a place of lots of rains. The drive to there was beautiful, through little towns on the northern side of Lake Arenal, then through green landscapes dotted with big trees of impressive forms:The churches in those little towns were mostly of modern type – no old buildings there. This one had a peculiar sign inside-  to me it was an unusual sign for a church: Those trees are mostly without leaves but they have flowers of some bright color. But we never stopped close to them, so no pics… But we stopped in one nursery still by the lake-  and enjoyed the colors of their plants: Lots of houses are for sale there, locals said they are in real estate crisis. That does not mean that the houses are cheap – their prices are comparable to USA real estate prices in good areas. In several hours we reached our destination  -the little town Bijahua and our Air B&B on a mountain there:This house is comfortably built with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. the owner Carole was super hospitable! She met us with a big plate of fruit, local eggs, bread, other foods. But the weather didn’t love us there at all. Rains and winds almost constantly.  The valley with Bijagua town was down below – but we could hardly see it. Low clouds, rain and wind…The owners have a big field and not many trees. So they built a temple: A temple for love, she said. Aren’t all religions for love? This is the view from our porch: This is one of two trees still left and not used for furniture: The plant looked very much like “the thorns of Christ” as we call it. but this one without any thorns! Those looked like impatients, but on tall bushes: The hostess Carole: So why did we go there? it is a good place to start a day’s trip to Rio Negro, where they write you can hire a boat and see a lot of wildlife. But it was too rainy to reach the river-  the road is a dirt road. And close by, only in some 15 km there is a national park of Volcano Miravales-  there are trails in that park. As we had to do something even in the rainy day – we went to the park, paid $12 each for the trails and managed to do only the first and shortest one-  to the waterfall and the blue lagoon. The trail is called Rio Celeste:My face is tense here-  I was worried to get off the path – the crowds that went there were unbelievable! Like on the busiest day in Zion NP.  And the rain was pouring…We looked at the lagoon and decided not to go down to it-  too many people, too much brushing each other.This one is to show how crowded those steps looked like and we had to wait to get Andrei on the stairs alone! So ye  -we did not manage to do the other trails though we had energy for that – they were plain in mud, climbing up among roots, sliding and turning into a mud person. No pictures from trail, teh rain became so strong, it was impossible to take out  our cameras. Here is the only peculiar bird we saw in those two weeks of traveling in the Kingdom of Wildlife:Here we are going towards the Pacific coast – the skies cleared up, because strange  as it is-  there is not a drop of rain there on the Northern coast for 6 months of what we call our winter and they call summer. But then the next months the monsoons are huge! Whereas deeper inland among the volcanoes   -it is raining always.

Costa Rica 2018 – La Fortuna

If you look at a big map of Costa Rica you will find several La Fortunas, as well as other same names. they seem to be in short supply of names. This time Leo drove us to the vicinity of Volcano Arenal. We reserved from Home Away a big house with 4 bedrooms if you can call then separate bedrooms – they had no ceilings, were all under the same roof and therefore the sounds traveled expressively! But the house was impressive, one of a kind. The owner Julian from Israel has designed and built it himself. The first spacious area there is his gallery   -he is a jeweler and artist, so there are interesting things to look at. Then there are two spacious bathrooms and a very spacious kitchen with the living room – a good place to stay for a big family or a group: The house is set up on a big piece of land, beautifully landscaped, with the owner’s house further down the property: This was an unusually clear morning: I am stating with the house here because it evidently left the biggest impression. Because when we drove to the other side of volcano where all the trails are and while we figured out how to spend our 3 full days there, nothing seemed as impressive as the house :-). Well, not exactly. The hot springs that we found under a bridge of our road to volcano – they were really beyond and above! This was a very warm river, formed into a waterfall and then rushing through stones with great energy down. And they were free! Except for the parking fee – this is a popular occupation of Costa Ricans as we noticed. They put on a bright vest and stand close to a place of interest where you have to park and have to pay them. But the fee was reasonable – $4. Whereas if we went to one of the developed hot springs the ticket per person could reach $95 and they reminded me from pictures the Disneyland. We went for a more natural setting! And for a healthy one –  the river gave us such a massage! Could not be better. I think those were the best hot springs I ever experienced, and we have interest in them: Over there by volcano Arenal we figured out that there is not single path anywhere around that we could walk on it for free!  We are not used to such expensive trails, so it was an astonishment. But then we agreed that the trails in the jungle require a lot of maintenance, so you have to pay. The one we took was further on the road than the entrance to the national park, it was $10 per person  and it was like this: This is how a fresh palm leaf looks like-  red! A super big tree which even had a name: There we heard some howler monkeys but that is it. Didn’t see any promised toucans or else. The trees in the jungle are very very tall, so you need to just sit and look up to their top branches with binoculars – then maybe… The next attraction was Zip lining. We bought it over the internet. It was $81 per person and so we flew down 8 rather long lines all attached to the harness:To tell the truth I was a little scared, but when I saw their equipment and how careful the guys were, how many of them ran around us to make it pleasant, I relaxed. We were taken up in a small wagon and could see Lake Arenal very well from there. The zipping  was arranged over a canyon full with trees – meaning over their tops far below: Lake arenal is an artificial lake. They  make electricity during the rainy period and they collect the water during the dry period and make electricity from solar panels. One of the pleasant and beautiful staffers in that zip lining business: And that was it for the fun in La Fortuna. Oh, almost forgot-  the last morning was not so cloudy so we managed to see the top of volcano Arenal and immediately its gas started creating a cloud and curling around its head and covering it again like Trump’s hair string: The volcano is active… Below  -papayas are growing, but not in our host’s garden:

Costa Rica 2018 – San Jose

The most expensive Central American country. Maybe because it is the safest and the cleanest? That we can’t say because we have not been in the others. We compared everything with Mexico, want it or not. Subconsciously.  Because they have some similarities to our eyes, at least from the first sight. And the first sight of Costa Rica was its capital – San Jose. Like Mexico city – it is in high altitude and therefore-  I needed a sweater for the mornings while walking there. The city is clean – that was my first impression. No dogs, no dog poop! Therefore I could look not down to the pavement, but to the buildings and they didn’t disappoint me! Lots of colonial restored houses, in a tasteful mix with contemporary architecture. Very good museums, very modern and with thoughtful displays. And people- they are extremely nice and pleasant. That, we felt, was a little difference with Mexico :-). Not to forget – Sopa Mariscos – the seafood soup in the central market! Our friends who have more experience than us trying different foods around the world said they have not eaten anywhere such a tasty soup. So there are reasons to visit the capital of Costa Rica. The main pedestrian road meets you with this sculpture:Their inclination for fat women could be noticed almost in every block: The first point of interest was the Theater! I could not take the picture of the facade because of the restoration of the square in front of it. The theater has lots of sculptures and frescoes, it is built by Italian  masters and is devoted to the Nation – as the guide said-  there are expensive tickets as well as inexpensive ones and anyone can afford to see a play or two and enjoy the lavish interiors! Bethoven with a Dove on his head and a coffee plant at his feet  -the plant symbolizes  the source of the money to build the theater: Then we walked around the central part of the city and enjoyed the buildings, parks and creative graffiti: This is the central library.  It has some Chinese flair in its architecture. The feeling was that Costa Ricans pay much attention to public education and culture.  Also  – to social programs. I loved this corner…: And the color combination on the Library building: The next stop was The Museum of Gold (Museo del Oro)! it is located under this main plaza by the side of the theater, with beautiful stair leading down and down through 3 or 4 levels all filled up with rich expositions: They let you take pictures of all the artifacts except for the very big safe -like doors to  the halls. Understandable. There is a lot of gold there. Ancient people in CR territories were creative and skilled. They looked for gold in the river beds, also for copper. They melted the two into an alloy and poured the liquid into clay forms to make those elaborate sculptures and jewelry:They were also masters of ceramics. The sad part – I felt a huge gap in between those old cultures, indigenous people’s creations and nowadays peoples creations…there were no handmade souvenirs to capture attention, as it is in Thailand or Mexico. So do not promise to bring souvenirs from Costa Rica :-)! Well, unless you buy some copy of an artifact from a museum store. The round stones-  ancient people made them without having iron instruments…For them they were like mascots, creating good energy to their homes and families:The next stop was Children’s museum – which we visited because it looked peculiar on the map and from there the city is nicely seen. It is on a hill and in an old very well refreshed and restored prison: We didn’t see the Children’s museum – it was closing. But managed to see the other two parts of the petal shaped building: the Prison and the Mafalfa exhibit. They usually have life size dolls to better picture realistic scenes. Those prisoners looked a little strange to me, I looked on the plate by the cell, it said – Sex cell…Mafalda is a cartoon character that we maybe have noticed with the corner of our eyes but never cared about it. it is created by an Argentinian artist.  Evidently it is a popular character in central Americas. Therefore a big exposition devoted to her and her friends with her apartment, playrooms, her car, etc.  Stained glass window in the prison building: Luckily we had two full days in San Jose, for i visited two more museums of the Big Three-  they sell one ticket to Museo del Oro, National museum and Jade museum. But you can’t visit all three in one day – too much, too saturating! So i went to the National Museum in the morning, to have a fresh head for that! The National Museum is also in a fortress. They seemed to have enough of them in this city!  It is also very well restored as well as the square in front of it:First of all they direct you to a big green area of the fortress where lots of Costa Rica’s treasures are flying around you – the butterfly exhibit. Their English name  implies that they like butter, but there they were eager to nourish on peaces of fruit, fresh and rotting:Here they are being born from their pupa’s: Lots of  different aspects of Costa Rican life are exposed in the museum. Starting from their history, from their ancestors and their beautiful golden, jade and ceramic creations: Then some colonial history:An after death  mask of some well loved priest indicates that maybe death is not so terrible-  I saw serenity and a slight smile in his face…A view from the museum’s balcony; The best part of National museum to me was the halls dedicated to their small island somewhere in Pacific. They have a wide screen movie which you can watch lying on comfy recliners and immerse in clear waters together with their ocean wildlife. Here is the museum’s yard: Then the Jade museum. It is in a modern building and is located in several big halls covering maybe 5 floors up! There are many more crafty objects from different shades of jade set up in creative expositions. But there are also lots of golden artifacts and a very big collection of ceramics, too. Two halls are made for you to feel as if you are in the rain forest – it is above you, from the sides and on the floors:So if you asked me which museum to visit if you have time only for one of them – it would be hard to answer. But any of them have some aspects of the other two, that is for sure! And also for sure you have to visit at least one of them to better understand the country. Here are some more nice buildings, this one-  the Post office:The Bourbon Market: Our hotel Suites Cristina, which I highly recommend! They pick you form the airport and they feed you a very good breakfast buffet!