Wouldn’t you know it? Just when we thought we were all set with our travel plans, the world goes and gets a virus. Too flippant? Sorry. It has been a rough couple of weeks. We last wrote about our trip to New York and Boston that ended on March 8. We were home just about a week and our governor, quite rightly, closed down businesses, schools etc. and we were sequestered to our home.
Thankfully, neither Sue nor I show signs of the Covid-19 virus, but we are both going a bit stir crazy from being inside (yesterday we walked 5 miles, just to be out in the fresh air). Our sense of humor is critical to our mental well being and in response to both working from home, we have developed an imaginary co-worker (Ragnar) who is a total pain in the ass. Every glass left on the countertop, every light left on, every door left open is Ragnar’s fault. I know, it isn’t much, but it keeps us laughing and not complaining about each other.
We should have been in Houston this week. If you do not recall, we were heading to Houston as the last of our one-week trips to someplace warm (or at least out of Chicago) over the ). Sue’s brother lives there and the grand plan was to show up for her niece’s birthday and catch an early season Mets game (so before they were officially eliminated from the postseason (damn Yankees fan)). The quarantine put an end to that trip.
Sue has a trip scheduled with another niece to Italy to celebrate her high school graduation. That trip is planned for the end of May, but, alas, we both expect that they will need to postpone that until who knows when.
Finally, our trip to Alaska in July is also looking uncertain. Even if we are granted parole from this quarantine, it seems unwise to board a ship with thousands of other people many of whom may or may not have been quarantined. Who knows if they could still be carriers, which makes it seem especially unwise as we were planning to travel with my mother, who is over 80.
So there we go, or there we don’t go. Whatever. We are shifting our thoughts from our travel plans to our attempts to recover the amounts we have already committed to these trips and sighing heavily for the trips not taken and the fun not had.
I hope this doesn’t come off as complaining. It is a bit, but we are grateful that we are all well and looking forward to the simple joys of seeing our friends, eating out, and being able to find toilet paper at the grocery store.
I took Friday off (so I only worked in the morning) and we set off for a wander around Beantown. My brother was kind enough to lend us his car, which at the time he did not realize he was doing. Short version of the story: I asked for the keys—he thought I wanted the house keys—we took the car. Luckily for us, he did not need the car and so no harm, no foul.
Our first destination was the Mapparium, which is a three-story glass globe (that is approximately 7 Jason’s tall—sorry everyone who doesn’t get that—it is a family joke) that you can walk through. It is in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. For those of you who have not heard of her, she started the Christian Scientist sect of Christianity. The globe is just incredible and I would really encourage you to follow the hyperlink as you are not allowed to take photos inside the globe. The photo on the right is in front of a print of it that they have set up outside the actual globe room. I don’t know why you can’t take photos, I think they told us, but as usual, I was mentally drifting at that point. (The image is copyright protected.) Because the room is perfectly spherical (OK, Jake, not perfectly, but pretty close) and since glass does not absorb sound, the room has two really interesting sonic features. First, when people stand at opposite ends of the walkway, they can hear each other perfectly even at very, very low whispers. If you whisper very softly, the people at the ends can hear each other, but people in the middle of the walkway cannot hear them. This happens because the sound that travels around the edge of the glass globe does not fade while the sound traveling straight ahead through the air does. The person at the opposite end of the walkway hears the sound that has traveled along the edges. Very cool.
The second feature is when you stand directly in the middle of the walkway, under (and over) the poles (and along the equator), the sound bounces in such a way that when you speak you hear it in both ears as if you are listening to headphones. You can move your head slightly and cause minor delays in one or the other ear. It is hard to describe but still is very cool. The total time in the Mapparium was about 20 minutes, which is only about 5 minutes more than it took me to write about it. Suffice to say that it is very much worth a visit.
As we left the Mapparium, the tour guide mentioned that next door in the church, there was the ninth largest pipe organ in the world. Of course, we were not going to miss that! So off we wandered in the Christian Scientist church. The very nice docent sent us upstairs into the auditorium where another very nice docent gave us a quick briefing on the organ. (13,000 pipes, made in Boston, played at services every week, monthly concerts on second or third Tuesday of the month, five organists on staff.) Once again, very cool. He also gave us a history of the building (based on a Turkish church, one full-dome, four half domes, built in 1904, inside was designed by a different architect because the one who designed the outside died, it originally seated 5,000 people and has no pillars). All in it is an interesting building. But it gets more interesting…It is called the Extension because it is an extension to the original Romanesque church that was built in 1894.
The extension dwarfs the original building. Together they are called the mother church as they were the first church built for the religion/sect. We spent about an hour touring the buildings, the tour guide spent most of his time talking about the buildings, but, not unexpectedly gave us a full primer on the religion. All in it was very worth the time.
We decided to wander over to Boston College(He is so annoying. He does that every time!) University where Sue went to college in the late 1850s (again, so funny). It was a fairly chilly and windy day, but as we do, we just set off (in the wrong direction) and made our way over to Commonwealth Ave. As we passed by all the buildings Sue kept saying either “that wasn’t here when I was here” or “that is so much nicer than when I was here” until we came to the College of Communications (COC?) from which she graduated and she said, “Nope. that looks just as shitty as when I was here.” Having spent so much time inside a church we both felt like we needed some balance to our lives and so we went to a bar called The Dugout,(not just any bar, but a college hangout of mine) which when googled, came up with the following review: “Great dive bar, true Boston legendary hangout!” Apparently one of her professors held class in there. (The floor is no longer sticky and the bathrooms are way nicer than when I went there.) We spent the next couple of hours trying out some Boston beers (mostly Harpoon) and talking to the very nice young bartender who is studying to become an elementary school teacher (so I guess he wants to lose his mind in his 20s).
Once we had our fill and felt rebalanced, we started the 30-minute hike back to the car, through gale-force winds no matter which way we were facing. Then a quick hop up the Mass Pike and we were back at my brother’s house.
Needless to say, Sue didn’t let me get close enough to Fenway to spit on it. ;-(
Our last night in New York, I surprised Steven with tickets to Stephen Colbert. We weren’t sure we would get in because we got general admission tickets, not the priority ones, but after luckily standing outside under the overhang for “West Side Story,” since it was raining, we got the coveted wristband. So did a man who had been waiting with us—an actor who plays Vincent Van Gogh in a one-man play by Leonard Nimoy (who also lives right near my daughter in LA). Yes, he did look like him, but no, he was not missing an ear. A bomb-sniffing dog and metal detector later (How is it that I always manage to be in the line where the person in front of me doesn’t understand how a metal detector works and so needs 4-5 tries to get through it??), we were in the last row at the Ed Sullivan Theater waiting for Colbert.
Aside from the warm-up comedian, Paul Mercurio, who was funny in a get-the-audience-jazzed way, and a round of “Tequila” from John Batiste and Stay Human (who, btw, are really good as far as my untrained ear can tell), the man himself appeared. The show featured Anthony Mackie and Susan Glasser. Mackie was fun and interesting (although he and Colbert spent some time talking in the foreign language of fishing), and Glasser (who writes for the New Yorker about the Washington political scene if you were too lazy to follow the hyperlink) had thoughtful ideas about politics, which we try to not to mention here lest this blog becomes a rant.
After the show, it felt really late. We are used to watching the monologue and Meanwhile and then going to sleep, old people that we are. But, it was really not even 7 p.m. So we walked back toward the hotel and decided that since it was taco Tuesday, we would indulge. We went to Dos Caminos, because it was around the corner from the hotel. We didn’t realize it is part of a huge restaurant chain (which we tend to try and avoid so we can have a local experience), but it was good and the tequila list was extensive.
We said goodbye to New York on Wednesday and took the Amtrak train up to Boston. I figure with the airport transportation to and from and the waiting etc., the train is an even swap for a flight and it’s more comfortable. (free wifi and more space between the seats made it easy for me to work during the trip- YAY?)
Our lovely niece picked us up at the train and we just hung out with Steven’s brother and caught up.
Steven was working all day Thursday (remember, this is a working vacation) so I worked, too. (I did manage to have lunch with an old friend who lives here and I made sure that we went to a restaurant where I had my choice of MEAT as my brother, his family and Sue are all vegetarians so I am terribly outnumbered.) I did get in a long walk along a path nearby. I forgot the New England look so it a nostalgic few miles for me as I looked at the grand houses, pine trees, and stream. Oh, plus the high school kids practicing lacrosse.
It is Monday late afternoon—and if you are from the company I work for—it is after 5 p.m. I am sure. We arrived in New York on Saturday morning after another early morning flight. Every time we book a flight at 7 a.m., I think it will be fine. Just get up early one day and then we will have the whole day to spend in the city. But then the day of the flight comes and we have to get up at the crack ass of dawn and I curse Sue for letting me book an early morning flight. So what did we learn here? That is right—it is all Sue’s fault.
Anyway, we got to the Park South Hotel at about 10:30 a.m. and asked to drop our luggage. Much to our surprise, our room was ready so we checked right in. After a quick unpack and a deep breath, we set out on our way with no particular destination in mind. We wandered down 5th and around and about and stopped in for our first NYC food break—pizza! Afterward, we found our way to Madison Square Park and the National Museum of Mathematics. We were very disappointed to realize that it was a museum for kids. Bummer. We quickly checked the google and re-routed ourselves to the Whitney Museum. It was a bit of a hike, but 1.5 miles and a pretty chilly 45 minutes later we were in line. Steven forgot to mention my favorite thing: We got in free! A man with a corporate account had two extra tickets. Bonus for us.
The Whitney was great. In addition to their usual collection, they had an exhibition of Diego Rivera and others who were influenced by his murals. It was wonderful. We spent a couple of hours wandering through and then headed out. We walked north on the High Line all the way to 30th street and then straight across Manhattan.
We had dinner at an Indian place around the corner (don’t eat Indian food in NYC unless you like it bland. Every time I do it, I am disappointed. The food was good, but not at all spicy.) and ended the evening with a 9:30 show by George Coleman at the Jazz Standard club which is right behind the hotel. Mr. Coleman is a not-so-spry 84 years old. In fact, he needed to be walked onto stage by a helper and there were times that I thought he might fall off his chair. He has clearly lost some of his skills, but his band did their best to make up for his shortcomings. Decent show, but barely an hour and I was really hoping for more. Oh well.
Sunday was another chilly day, but us being us, we didn’t let it get in our way. Once again we laced up our boots and started our journey by grabbing a bagel and schmear at Bagel and Schmear which is next door to our hotel. Yum! Great bagels. We headed downtown to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. Very interesting. It is less of a museum and more of a guided tour of a tenement building that includes the history of the residents/businesses in the building. We enjoyed it, but it isn’t something I think I would do again.
We headed west on Delancy on one of our pie in the sky/it seems like good fun searches. I read on Atlas Obscura about a small piece of Manhattan called Hess’s Triangle that the city tried to buy and the owner fought tooth and nail for years not to give up. It is now a small triangle in the middle of the sidewalk on Christopher Street and is still privately owned. Bear in mind it was about 1.5 miles to get from the tenement museum to Christopher Street, solely to take a photo.
We headed back north towards the hotel and realized that we were a bit hungry and in need of a small sit down. We found a bakery just off Washington Square Park that had hamantashen. These were not your usual hamantashen, no poppy seeds and raspberry jelly to be found anywhere. We had six between us. Three halva, two apple and one chocolate. A perfect break. Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel and were back in time for Happy Hour.
For dinner, we headed to midtown to see my Uncle David & Aunt Marcella. We hopped the 6 train up to 59th and walked a couple of blocks to their apartment. We had dinner a very nice French restaurant called Match 65 a few blocks away. It was a great evening full of interesting conversation and great food.
Great start to our trip. Tomorrow is a work day. ;-(
We woke up after a good night’s sleep for Steven, finally. I always sleep well, but this is a big deal especially with his muscles aching. Our hotel comes with breakfast, so I ran down to get coffee. The staff is so kind. The waiter/all-around helper, Coca, brought the coffee upstairs for me on a tray.
When we were ready, we went outside and had a delicious, French-inspired breakfast while taking in the view of the Pacific and a big iguana. Ah, this is the life. Oh wait, I meant Pura Vida!
We took a long walk on the beach and ended up at an outdoor market/Chicagoesque summer fair. We don’t really need any souvenirs since we already have Costa Rica fridge magnets from our last trip, but we did get some coffee and chocolate grown and made by an American who is from the original hippy generation. A vegan who, with his wife, grows cacao and spices that the sell in the market. He did tell us how not eating dairy wouldn’t show right away, but it would pay off in the long run. He proudly announced that he was 72. I didn’t want to say anything, but I would have guessed 75. So much for veganism when you have spent 40 years in the sun.
We also bought a couple of water apples, which I had never heard of, but which have the texture of an apple but a more subtle flavor and one big pit in the center.
We were chilling on the deck, when we heard that Guiselle and Karl wanted to come over. Excellent! We hung out by the ocean and then luxuriated by the pool before they got hungry. We ended up at Wine & Soul. a wine and tapas bar that was just opening. It seems like lunch places close by 3, but dinner places don’t really open until 5, and we were in that in-between time. We got their just as it was opening, but we didn’t mind waiting. The owner, from Normandy, was very kind and we had a delicious lunch and bottle of Pinot Grigio. Plus, we saw monkeys! First time this trip. After saying goodbye and thanks again to our fabulous hosts, we lounged so more and got ready for dinner. We went to the tiny restaurant Steven mentioned yesterday, Antichi Sapori, where we had delicious plates of gnocchi and were served by the very enthusiastic and very busy owner, who hails from Sicily. His wife does all the cooking and they work nonstop during high season and then return to Sicily to recharge.
We are sad to be heading back to the snow (Sue is sad, I am on the verge of “accidentally” missing the plane and just staying here until the next one leaves… in May).
As an aside: We are not surprised to learn that Tamarindo’s knickname is Tamagringo. As I said yesterday, this is the English-speaking capital of Costa Rica. Beautiful, but very touristy.
Sue and I made the decision yesterday evening that we would like to spend the weekend on our own. Karl and Guiselle are fabulous hosts, and they cheerfully put up with us for an entire week. But we decided that since we were in Costa Rica, it would be nice to spend a couple of nights not imposing on friends.
After a quick discussion, we decided that we would head to Tamarindo, about 30 minutes from Playa Flamingo. There is a national park just outside of town that is known as a leatherback turtle sanctuary, so it seemed like a reasonable place to head. Sue took up the mantle of travel agent and quickly found the Hotel Casa Blanca which is inside the national park and literally right on the beach.
I worked in the morning and then we packed up our stuff, said our good-byes to Karl and Guiselle and headed off. As I said it was only about 30 minutes, but absolutely a world away. Tamarindo is tourist central. Apparently, there is great surfing and the streets are filled with tourists, ranging from surfer refugees to weathly retirees to 20 somethings on week/weekends away with their buddies. (I decided it is the English speaking capital of Costa Rica.)
We checked into the hotel, dropped our luggage and went for a walk down the main drag
to find something for lunch. Our hotel host recommended a little soda place–soda is the term used for a small lunch stand like resturant–think of a food truck type place, but not mobile. However, all four tables were taken and we were not inclined to wait. We continued down the street and found a local brewery and settled onto a table on the patio that overlooked the beach. About 2 minutes after we arrived two ladies asked if they could share our table. We agreed and after ordering we got to talking. They are from the Netherlands and were spending two weeks touring the country. They are neighbors, both with partners and small kids, but were traveling by themselves. After lunch, we walked back to our hotel via the beach.
The restaurant next door to the hotel was closed for a special event, that we quickly figured out was a wedding as we could watch the entire proceedings from our balcony. The party started at about 5 p.m. and as I am typing this at 10, it is still going strong. At some point, we will write our thoughts on the music that they chose, but that humorous soliloquy is for another time.
We chose an Italian place for dinner called Antichi Sapori Sicilian Cuisine. It is about 0.7 miles away and right in the middle of town. We walked over, but alas, it was totally full–all six tables. The owner looked heartbroken that he could not seat us and apologized profusely. We took it in stride, made a reservation there for tomorrow, and I guess Sue will write about it then. We decided to go to another place called The Dragonfly. We confidently walked about half a mile in the wrong direction, doubled back and found it down a dirt road just past a mini-golf place. Once again, it was full with an hour wait. We had thought through this possibility when were walking up to it as we passed a taco place called the Green Papaya taco bar. We walked back over to it, were seated right away and had great burritos. The staff there were straight out of central casting for surfer refugees, our waiter was British, most of the others seemed American.
We walked back to the hotel and settled in to listen to the end(?) of the wedding.
It’s a tough life when you have to work in the sunshine while looking at palm trees, but that is what we did day. That is until about 5 p.m. when we decided it was time to walk on the beach and have an Imperial while we watched the sunset. I am Steven’s driver and nurse, but it’s really not a bad gig. He is only a semi-whiny patient and I am adding up all he owes me while I am the patient, caring wife.
If you think it’s difficult to work when the tropical beauty is calling, it is. But then you realize you are lucky because you have jobs that allow you to work in the tropical beauty instead of at home where it has just snowed about 6 inches.
Steven is doing much better. He has run out of the good meds (read pain killers) and started taking Advil BUT, he was definitely keen on my running to the farmacia for more muscle relaxants. Did you know you can get muscle relaxants over-the-counter in Costa Rica? Maybe I should have asked for the opiods. Ha. No way. I just read “Dreamland” by Sam Quinones about the opiod and heroin epidemic. You can, however, just ask for the muscle relaxants .(Conrelax anyone? I don’t know what’s in it, but Steven’s aching muscles seem to like it a lot.)
We went back to the beach where we walked yesterday, because why not? It’s convenient, the parking is easy and free, and we can sit at Las Brisas, have a beer in the shade and just chill. I can’t comment on the food, but the chips were crispy and the company was good 🙂
Karl had also warned us about the “watchy” or “watchee” (or “watchie”) who is the guy who tells you where to park and then offers to watch your car so nothing terrible happens like an accidental break-in. The watchee (my preferred spelling) came out after we had parked a few meters away and I waved him off. Oddly, the car was parked just where we left it and was unmolested.