The past couple weeks have been non-stop. It's too much for one post, so for now I'll stick to the goings on in San Jose.
We flew to Costa Rica to meet my parents. It wasn't the most terribly organized week, but it was lovely and very different than our normal days in Bocas. We stayed in the Marriot in Escazu, a nice, clean, highly professional place. We also joined organized tours, something Noah and I have never done. Lila, for her part, wanted only Granny and Grandpa. She slept in their room every night, sat with them during meals and didn’t bat an eye when Noah and I left for a couple hours together.
Everything was “I wanna sit next to Granny.” I wanna go with Granny.” Exactly how I was with my mother’s mother when we visited South Africa when I was just a couple years older than Lila. I also remember sitting in front of the mirror with her putting make-up on my cheeks and brushing my hair.
We chose a city tour of San Jose for our first day there. This began at the Teatro Nacional and Gold Museum in downtown San Jose. Just a tip: Don’t bother with this tour. We would have been better off just taking a taxi downtown and wandering around ourselves. We didn't have enough time in each of the places we wanted to see and spent far too much time peering through bus windows wondering "Hey! What's that?" while wishing we could stop at certain buildings, markets and other things instead of rushing on to our final stop, a gift shop, where we spent more time than pretty much any other place.
The theater is beautiful and while there, Noah bought tickets for the following Friday night performance of the symphony, which was just perfect. There, we listened to Beethoven's Leonora Overture (No. 3. Op. 72, to be specific) as well as Fantasia (piano and choral) all to be completed with Schubert's 9th Symphony. (Here I must add a public thank you to my parents for babysitting Lila so Noah and I could have a very rare night out. I think the last time I saw a symphony, I was six months pregnant.)
During the intermedio we milled about about in front of the theater along with the symphony and choir members taking a quick smoke break. One guy caught our eye because I swear he looked just like Jerry Garcia. He played bass, and I suppose I will always regret that I didn't look twice to see if he had all ten fingers. (After all these years, I am still amazed at that man's ability to play the way he did with only nine digits).
Our second day, we visited the La Paz Waterfall Garden near Volcan Poas and the village of Poasita. Here, you'll also find The Peace Lodge, which looks like a nice place to stay if you want something a bit more upscale. This tour was definitely worth it. The garden spans beautiful grounds on which you'll find birds, monkeys, a hummingbird area and, my favorite, a butterfly garden. I've been to quite a few butterfly gardens in my time and this one is without a doubt my favorite.
We dipped our fingers in dishes of banana mash, picked up butterflies and watched as they stuck out their long tongues to eat from our fingers. One refused to leave Lila's hand and had to be carefully removed before we left. All this, followed by a wandering through and past four different waterfalls. Up and down steps, hills and finally back to the bus to return to Escazu.
Noah and I visited Volcan Arenal, more specifically, the Tabacon Spa at the base of this live volcano.
It was an excrutiatingly long drive to get there. We spent the first hour and a half circling around San Jose picking others up at their hotels (another thing that drove me nuts about these tours). Then, we stopped at another souvenir stop for a whole freakin' hour. It did have a sweet little woodshop where you could watch artisans making and painstakingly hand painting details on to chairs, plaques, trays, rocking chairs and more. But really, a whole hour for this? I'd rather have spent the extra time at the spring. Top this with the painfully boring conversation between two men sitting nearby (They met on the tour.), which really hit a head for me when they starting commenting on how parents of 4 year old children could best help their children behave, mind you, neither of these men have children. And really all I wanted to do was get some sleep.
But a few hours in those gorgeous springs could soothe anyone.
Underground water, heated by the volcano and diverted into rivers flowing through the lush green gardens of Tabacon. A girl felt relaxed from the moment she walked through the front door. We moved from hot rivers to cool pools and wandered throught he maze of path through the garden. There was also a great water slide to zoom into the pool where you could then swim right up to a bar and enjoy a drink. The bartender, Edgar, told us he's planning a trip to Bocas sometime soon, so we invited him for dinner. He, in turn, told us the next time we come to Arenal, we'll stay in his place with the same view of the volcano as Tabacon. By the end of the day, all aggravation from the morning's ride washed away with a 40 degree Celsius flow of waterfall, and we chatted and laughed the whole way back.
One of those men I mentioned earlier turned out to be quite a character. He's a celebrity photographer from Las Vegas (lived there the past 40 years) and does contracted shoots for Playboy and the US Airforce. Ron Hart. He filled our ride home with stories of everyone from Ann Margaret to Jenna Jameson, Evel Knievel (somehow a relative of his) and I can't even remember who else.
Ron carried a small cooler filled with vodka and ice, started swigging from it around 9:30am (at least that’s when he got on the bus) and drank from it all day long. He also carried with him around 15K worth of photography and video equipment and spent a good portion of his time at the spa taking pictures. For my part, I got not one picture because I left our camera in the change room.
As one of the men left the bus, "He's gay," says Ron Hart.
"I'm glad you're getting off the bus before me,” I told him. “I wonder what you'd say about me when I get out."
"I'd say it's a shame you're already married."
"That's actually very sweet," I told him, surprised. "In a creepy sort of way."
This absolutely cracked him up, and it was that point he asked what i did for a living. "I'm a writer." And that is when he asked me to write his life story for him. "I've done all these things. Crazy things. And I'm a genius." He punctuated this last part by tapping rapidly against his temples.
I told him I'd e-mail him through his website. Straight From the Heart. “No you won’t,” he said. .And with that he hopped out of the bus, doors closed. Goodbye.
Knowing what I know now, I would stay in San Jose for a couple nights exploring the city and hopefully spending a bit more time with some of the Couchsurfers there. There’s a subgroup of the San Jose Couchsurfers called Los Comelones. They choose one night a month or so, chose one the best restaurants of the city, and all go out for dinner. We met a group for dinner at a place called Ozaki’s, an amazing Japanese-Peruvian fusion place where I had some of the best sushi of my life.
I'd stay at the Hemingway Inn, owned by another couchsurfer, and take a day trip or overnight to raft down the Pacuare River.
Then, I'd take a bus to Arenal and stay there for at least couple days hiking the falls, the volcano, repelling, zip-lining. The options to do are endless. From there, I'd go a bit further into the country to Monteverde to visit George, another Couchsurfer. He lived in Atlanta for many years and also has a wide knowledge of herbal medicine. Monteverde is a gorgeous cloud forest a good 45 minutes off the paved path. Apparently, right now, the Monteverde Music festival is in full swing.
Sunday morning, my parents caught their return flight to Atlanta and we hopped on a bus to drive through the pouring rain to Puerto Viejo where we spent two peaceful nights. Then once again, back to Bocas to meet up with Lauren, Monica, Jennifer and Tiffany, our Couchsurfers from Atlanta.
More on that later, though. This has been long enough.