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.
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.
Today was a relatively quiet day as we spent most of the day working. It is pretty amazing to think about the fact that I can do my job from anywhere. All I need is internet and mobile phone connectivity. I was on a call this morning that seamlessly connected Costa Rica, New York and Chicago. I am old enough to remember when the cost of international calls was measured in the tens of dollars per minute. Now, I pay $10 a day to make unlimited calls, send unlimited texts and use virtually unlimited data on my phone. Amazing.
We did take a bit of time out to go for a long walk on another beautiful beach–I have no idea the name of it. But, suffice to say that it is wonderful. The birds on the beach did not seem the least bit bothered that we were walking by. I believe the white ones are cranes, and the others are pelicans.
After our walk, we hopped back in the car, returned to Playa Flamingo and had lunch at Coco Loco. We sat outside literally on the beach and had lunch. (I had a watermelon slushy. I love watermelon slushies! Can it get better than sitting on the beach with a watermelon slushy? Not really.)
After lunch, it was back to “the old salt mine” called work. Although it is really hard to complain when my “office” is the patio and the background to my video conferencing is palm trees. Yes, I must admit, I did take time to gloat about the weather to my–no doubt former–friends in our Chicago office. Sorry, I don’t feel bad for reminding them that is was 90 degrees and sunny here, while it was 32 and snowing in the frigid tundra.
For dinner, we wandered over to a local beach restaurant called The Beach House.
All in all, a nice, quiet, working day.
PS. In case you were wondering a group of pelicans is called a pod. I believe these are the New Orleans basketball team on some sort of hiatus.
Before we arrived, Karl had already warned us that maybe we didn’t want to get out of our car when we got to the apartment. Instead, he suggested, we should honk and he would come out to help us because “there are a couple of dogs that may menace you.” OK. Mandy, the maybe part pit bull, seems fine. She hasn’t bothered us at all, except to sniff my hand and turn up her nose.
Next warning was about shaking out our towels, clothes and shoes to make sure scorpions didn’t attack. Karl was stung by a scorpion that had crawled into the apartment and settled next to his foot. When he moved, bam, scorpion sting! Very painful, but not dangerous. With his quick wits, Karl grabbed the chair he had been sitting on and crushed that scorpion. Don’t mess with Karl! Or at least, don’t sting him in his own home.
Third, after we had walked along the side of the road (no, there aren’t any sidewalks, don’t be silly), Karl said, “You have to watch out for snakes by the sides of the road.” OK, well, at least there was no story about poisonous snake bites and so far, we haven’t seen scorpion nor snake.
Finally, Karl warned us that if we wanted to go into the ocean, we should drag our feet across the ocean floor. Walking in the ocean is dangerous! Muy peligroso! If we picked up our feet, we might step on a sting ray, and uh oh. Another big ouchie.
The one thing Karl neglected to warn us about was body-slamming waves. Karl!
Now on to the fun stuff:
The good news is that Steven is feeling better (with the aid of painkillers). He can move around as well as an aged grandpa (which is almost is) and he smells like menthol, too. It’s probably because his lovely wife has given him several massages. I swear, his back muscles are like fossilized rope. Yucky.
Today, we went on an outing for lunch in Potrero. There is a brewery, Cerveceria Independiente, with a kind of outdoor food court next door. Steven treated himself to two cervezas (don’t tell Dr. Oscar). We both had burritos and we shared yucca fries. Those things are good! Way better than papas fritas. It was a hotbed of English. The couple who own the brewery are a Californian and a Texan, the customers all seemed to be English. Hey, I am trying to learn Spanish! I mean: Estoy entendando aprender español.
We (Karl, Guiselle, Sue, and I) decided to go the beach Sunday morning(ish). We packed all the necessities into a cooler. Beer, ice, beer, water, beer, snacks, towels, sunscreen, etc. and headed off to a beach called Playa Prieta (the dark beach). We all piled into Karl’s car and drove through town and up a road that began to climb up a large hill. It had a steep drop on the beachside of the road. We came to a space in the guardrail and what looked like a very wide gully wash. Guiselle said, “Turn here” and we trundled down a steep rutted dirt path. At the bottom, we found a gorgeous beach.
We hopped out of the car, found a nice shady spot and settled in. After a while, Sue and I decided to go in for a swim. We waded out until the water was about chest high and started body surfing the waves. The waves were in the 1-3 foot swell category and we were having a grand old time. We saw a perfect wave approaching and got ready to body surf it. There is some disagreement between Sue and I over the height of the wave. I think it was approximately 80 feet tall, Sue says 3. (Sue is correct.) I assume you understand that I was correct. Either way, we rode the wave –Sue successfully, me not so much. I mistimed my swim and was ahead of the crashing wave. It landed right on top of me and used my body like a basketball against the bottom. I stood up right away and thought, wow, that one hurt a bit, but no big deal. Until I tried to breathe. Guys: I had the same feeling we get when that girl knees us in the balls after we say that thing to them that they don’t like. Only it wouldn’t stop. I was hunched over in knee-deep water and told Sue that I needed a bit of help. We walked back to the blanket and I lay down wheezing like an even older man than I am.
I figured it would ease up if I just relaxed and allowed my breathing to calm down. After about 10 minutes it was clear to me that wasn’t going to happen. We piled back into the car and went to the local hospital. Which is, of course, closed on Sunday–I guess because no one ever gets hurt in church. Karl and Guiselle quickly figured out where that the nearest 24/7 hospital was (about 3 km away), and we headed there. By now I was really very uncomfortable; I could breathe and didn’t feel dizzy or faint, but I could not seem to get enough breath to catch up.
The hospital staff was great. They got me on a gurney, hooked up the oxygen, gave me an IV and then started to ask about what had happened, my details and my medical history. All in perfect English. They explained everything to me first, then to Sue and then to Karl and Guiselle (in Spanish) so that nothing was lost. Once my oxygen level was stabilized, they took x-rays of my back and neck. (Yes, Phil, they did find a spine despite what you have been saying all these years). They quickly ruled out any broken bones and diagnosed that my muscles were just very inflamed and were locked in spasms. The spasms were causing me to be unable to expand my lungs.
They gave me a muscle relaxant, some Valium and told me to rest. After about 45 minutes, Dr. Oscar came and explained that he spoke to the clinical director and they were a little concerned that there could be bruising on my lungs. While they thought it was unlikely, they recommended that we have a CT scan, however, their hospital did not have one and the nearest one was in Liberia about an hour away. We (Sue and I) discussed the low probability of the bruise and the potential problems that would occur if the bruise started to cause problems when we did not have access to a CT scan locally. (Also, Karl had called 911 when the hospital was closed and was told, “I don’t know that area,” so that did not inspire confidence in case of breathing emergency.) I thought to myself, the reason I have experts in my life is to rely on their opinion, and while it would mean a two–hour roundtrip in an ambulance and missing the Super Bowl, we decided it was the wisest course.
The hospital provided the ambulance and a very kind nurse practitioner (Sofia) for the trip. The clinical director was already at the hospital in Liberia. When we arrived, she met us at the ambulance, dealt directly with the medical staff in the Liberia hospital (who, by the way, all spoke perfect English). Because it was Sunday night, the usual wait time for a CT report is 2-4 hours, but she arranged with the pulmonologist that she would video the CT scan and he would read it immediately so that if there was nothing wrong, we could get back on the road without wasting too much time.
There was much good news. First, the CT scan was fine, second, and just as importantly, I was able to stream the Super Bowl on my phone during the return trip ;-).
All in, a busy first day of the trip.
A few very well deserved Thank yous.
First, of course, to my wonderful, brilliant, calm under pressure and clearheaded wife. (You’re welcome, husband.) She took control, knew when to ask me if I needed anything, dealt with all the paperwork–apparently my birthday is May 30, 2020, (OK, so I was a little worried) just so you know 😉
Second to our fabulous hosts Karl and Guiselle, who got us to the hospital, made sure all the translations came through and even made us dinner when we got home at 9 p.m.
Third, Dr. Oscar and all the medical staff at the BeachSide Clinic. They were just fabulous. They patiently explained everything at least 3 times (to me and Sue in English and to Karl and Guiselle in Spanish). They were attentive and kind. When I was uncomfortable, they had three guys come and move me about 3 inches, but only after explaining exactly who was doing what and with Dr. Oscar watching just in case. They were so kind in fact, that when we were leaving the Liberia hospital, the clinical director asked Sue if we wanted to stop for dinner as we had not eaten that day.
Fourth, the hospital staff in Liberia, all of whom were patient and explained everything to me in English and made sure I knew what was happening and when it was going to happen.
Getting hurt in a foreign country is scary –especially one where you do not speak the language, but the care I received was just amazing, both medically and personally.
Uncle David–Sorry if I got any of the medical stuff wrong.
After taking a 6:30 a.m. flight, we arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, at 11:30 a.m. You gotta love a country where the immigration people ask you for the address of where you are staying and you say, “No sé, In Playa Flamingo next to the Super Massai,” and he says, “Good enough. That’s an address here.”
The first thing we did after getting through that grueling interrogation was hit the bathroom to change into shorts. Bye bye jeans for nine days! Customs was just as tough. The luggage went through the x-ray machine in 10 seconds and next thing we knew we were at the Budget rental car.
By 1:30 p.m., we were with Karl and Guiselle in Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste, and then we were walking on Playa Potrero. We had a delicious dinner at home, talked until we couldn’t stay awake and ended the day happy and exhausted.
We are a day behind. Stay tuned for Sunday’s adventure …
I woke up today to see snow on the ground; true, was only a light dusting, but I am reminded once again, that I live in Chicago in the winter (my feeling are summed up by this song). On the bright side, tomorrow will be mid-40s and more importantly, I have started the countdown to our first trip of the year.
Our trip to Costa Rica starts on February 1, so at this time I have 28 days to get through—really 27 because it is already evening here and we leave very early in the morning on the 1st. I am counting the days. As Sue mentioned, she will be learning to Scuba dive, sitting on the beach, taking day trips who knows where and living the Pure Vida while hitting the cerveza. (I am really hoping to have some work. Honest!)
I will be working.
I am in no way complaining. I will sitting (hopefully outside) at Karl’s place in shorts, a T-shirt and wearing sun screen—not bad for February. However, since I will be working, I am beginning to worry about being connected and all the things I will need to lug down there in order to be able to work.
Let’s start with my laptop, of course. I will need power, micro and USB-C cables for various peripherals, and a long Cat-5 Ethernet cable in case the WiFi isn’t so good. I am also thinking I might bring along a WiFi repeater that I have stored in the junk box downstairs. We don’t use it at home, and if the WiFi isn’t so good, perhaps I will set it up somewhere to get a boost (so I can sit outside of course). In the next week or so, I will have a look at Playa Flamingo to see if there is a coffee shop that says it has WiFi, so that if the coverage isn’t good at Karl’s, I can head there and get connected. Then me being me, I will need backups for pretty much of everything—just in case.
I will need a working mobile phone. Like most people these days, I live on my phone. (He is worse than the Millennials and Gen Z.) My company does not have a phone system; we all work on our cell phones and have a soft number assigned for work. I hope we have decent phone coverage there, but if we don’t it works fine on WiFi (see the discussion above about the WiFi extender). I will contact my provider and arrange for an international call package. I get a half gig of high speed data per day on the plan for $10, so unless I need to use the phone as I hot spot, that won’t be an issue.
All in I am really excited for the trip. This post has taken me 30 minutes to write, which means I am 30 minutes closer to the warm sunny weather. In my head, I see this:
We are incredibly lucky, because we have so many trips coming up that it is difficult to focus on just one. In a later post, we will get into the twists and turns of planning our Alaska family vacation and I will begin to illuminate you on my trip with my soon-to-be-high-school-graduate niece to … Italy. So stay tuned. I know you won’t want to miss all the excitement.
But for now, it’s less than a month from our first trip: Costa Rica, here we come again. Our incredibly hospitable friends Karl and Guiselle are graciously allowing us to stay with them again. Now they live in Playa Flamingo, so the sites will be different. It is the hottest area of the country, but it’s also the beach, so I’m sure we will be fine. Steven will definitely be “working,” (no, really, he will) – seriously I will be working, we are going to Costa Rica to get away from the miserable Chicago weather – and I hope to have a paying project or two myself. So far, we have only had a dusting of snow followed by days warm enough to melt it all. Yay! But we know that cannot last, so we are grateful to be thinking of the tropics.
Even if I am working, I will be pursuing scuba certification in the mornings with Rocket Frog Divers. We may have mentioned that Steven is certified and that I gave it a shot in Hawaii, but this time I think the water will be plenty warm and I will be doing the full course including classwork and pool work. I am determined to get it done, seasickness be damned. We haven’t planned much beyond that, but who cares. We may do a cave tour, we may see some sea turtles, we may walk on the beach and enjoy the sun. We will definitely be relaxing with friends. Maybe I will even be brace enough to try out my very limited Spanish.
Steven will have his own challenge. While I am used to spending vacations through the kindness of friends, he is more of a hotel guy. We’ll see how long he lasts sharing a space with three other humans (and some cats) Cats!!! No one said anything about Cats!. If it weren’t for all the other trips we have coming up (and friends, family, and dog), I would probably rip up my return ticket. I guess, we’ll see how the rest of this year goes before we make that drastic move. In the meantime, sun, sand, surf, and a cerveza are on the horizon.
I already mentioned that we are passing on our latest dream vacation: Southeast Asia. Instead, we have decided to jet off somewhere warm the first weeks of February, March, and April. I know what you are thinking: Isn’t it warm in April. NO! April is the beginning of the last third of winter here in Chicagoland. That week, we are planning a trip to Houston to see family and then on to Mechanicsburg, PA, for Passover seder with the other side of the family.
Did you ever notice that places you don’t consider tourist destinations are expensive to fly to? Four hundred dollars to fly to Harrisburg, PA?!?!?!?!? Four-fifty to get to El Paso!?!?!? And I don’t get to check a bag and I have to sit in the back of the tiny plane? Yuck. I really want to go to Big Bend, but we may end up folding it into a roadtrip.
OK, that leads me to the toughest decision. I really want to go to Big Bend, but I really don’t want to spend $450 a person flying to El Paso. I think that’s off the table, but then where to? Somewhere warm, but not expensive. San Diego? Tucson? We need a place with reliable, fast WiFi so Steven can “work.” We’re still pondering that one. Steven has to work during the week, so we want to go somewhere that I will have things to do, unless I manage to find some work. Anyone looking for freelance writing or editing? I’m your woman!
We did get the February trip solidified. We are headed back to Costa Rica courtesy of our friends Karl and Guiselle, who have moved to Playa Flamingo from Arenal. Can’t go wrong with sun, surf, and friends. I don’t know if it will work out, but I may have to try scuba again. Plus, I have been Duolingoing for a while, so maybe I will even be able to speak to someone in Spanish. This time, I want to see turtles.
I am excited to go to Houston, not because I like Houston, but it’s been more than a year since I have seen my brother, sis-in-law, niece, and nephew. Way too long. It’s more fun to spoil them in person and it will almost be our niece’s birthday. Crazy aunt and uncle fun time!
After our night at El Toledo Coffee Farm, we headed to Karl’s suggested spot: Hotel Costa Verde. We loved it there, it’s beautiful and the views are spectacular, but we–of course–did have some quibbles.
We loved the fact that there was an adults-only building and swimming pool. Nothing wrong with kids, but I don’t really find them all that relaxing especially because I work with them (I loved not having kids around – like Sue, I love kids, but on vacation, it is nice to be away from them – oh by the way – I just figured out how to change the font color…be afraid…very afraid).Our room had a kitchen and sitting area, so it was more like a little suite decorated in eco-friendly and wooden decor. We also had a lovely deck with views of the pool, ocean, and trees. The whole set-up felt very private and quiet. Aaaaah.
Another great feature of the hotel: sloths are everywhere! (No Mom, she is not talking about me…she is talking about the animals) OK, well, they are in the trees and that is where they stay, but they are easy to spot and pretty cute. Also: monkeys! Fun to watch while you sit by the pool with an icy tropical drink. The bar is right there and you can order food from any of the restaurants owned by the hotel.
One the odd things we wondered about right away was the two queen bed setup. I saw it in the other rooms in our building, too. How many couples are going to Costa Rica, staying in the adults only area, and want to share their room with another couple? Maybe more than I think, but that wouldn’t be my first choice. The good thing about the second bed was that it served as a dresser, since there wasn’t one in the room. Get rid of the second bed and put in a king and some drawers for clothes. Just one woman’s suggestion. We also had to get used to the idea that the bathroom is not air conditioned. The bathroom window had only a screen and the bathroom door could not be left open (which I guess is good or we would have been air conditioning the outdoors). The AC also only works with the key; a nice feature so that no one is leaving it on when they are not in the room.
Costa Verde has two distinct decor themes and I’m not sure how, or if, they are related: airplanes and liquor bottles. We stayed in the cockpit cottage one night and it was totally cool. The liquor bottles are embedded in the concrete walls an serve as the light fixtures on the walkways and in the rooms. I’m not sure what Grey Goose or any of the other booze had to do with anything, but it looked good.
The staff were friendly (as is the Costa Rican way) and always smiling. There are a lot of stairs in this place since it’s a hilly country, but the poor guy who carried our luggage didn’t even seem to sweat in the 90-degree humidity. We also had a delicious fruit plate for breakfast one morning and were warned that we were over-ordering. Yes, one fruit plate was plenty.
The hotel has several restaurants, although they are not right on the grounds. You can get a ride from the hotel to them, but none are very far. You do have to be happy walking uphill by the side of a windy road that doesn’t always have sideways, but we had no problems, except sweat.