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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Lunch - Behind Closed Doors

Yesterday - Saturday - was our day for eating lunch at a new-to-us restaurant.

It was my turn to select a restaurant and my choice was Los Jardines Vivero y Café. This restaurant is next door to Super Rosvil El Liceo where I would be able to pick up a few groceries after lunch.

As is quite typical in Costa Rica, you cannot judge a “book by its cover”. This is what the entranceway to the restaurant looks like when it is closed (from their menu cover):

It’s just an unassuming brown wooden gate. You wouldn’t give it much more then a passing glance driving by. Once the gates are open, it is the most charming place.

Whoever designed and executed this restaurant is very creative. Tables are set out in nooks and crannies all over the place, mostly outdoors and with rain coverage such as umbrellas. Everywhere I looked I saw something whimsical and unexpected.

The staff are very friendly, welcoming and attentive. The restaurant opens at 11:30 am and I suggest getting there at that time, which is what we did. It started filling up fast closer to noon. 

We started with sangria:

We both ordered paninis. Lance chose ham and cheese:

And I chose mushrooms and pesto:

The yellow sauce is mustard and mayo and it’s for dipping the chips in which, by the way, are really good. Before our main courses arrived, we were presented with a plate of plantain chips with a warm bean dip on the side - gratis.

Neither of us could finish our paninis so we asked for para llevar (take away) and that will be our dinner tonight with a salad.

I know that Grecia expats meet here most Wednesdays for lunch. 

Highly recommend this restaurant. They require Covid-19 compliance - temperature measurement, hand washing and mask wearing. Masks can be removed when you sit down.

Click on images to enlarge.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Olga’s Place, San Ramón, and Pequeña Polonia, Atenas - Costa Rica

One activity we have always enjoyed doing is going out for breakfast or brunch. We’ve eaten at all of the restaurants that are open early for breakfast in the Grecia and surrounding area and had run out of places to eat at.

Lance came up with the great idea that we should start eating lunch at restaurants instead of breakfast - and our choices expanded enormously. So once a week each of us gets to choose where to have lunch.

First choice was Lance’s and he selected Olga’s Place in San Ramón, about a 35 minute drive from our house. I can recommend this restaurant - good food and fantastic views. We sat outside on a small covered patio. Our server was very nice and helpful. She suggested we have the red sangria and it was a good recommendation.

Menu photos:

My choice was the shrimp a la Diabla (and it was indeed spicy!):

Lance opted for pasta with jumbo shrimp:

Views from the restaurant:

We had occasion to drive to Atenas this past week - the town where we lived for six years when we first moved to Costa Rica. We had a craving for cabbage rolls and new reading material and the best place for both of these is Pequeña Polonia (Little Poland). This is the restaurant originally known as Kay’s Gringo Postres, owned by Kay and Tom Costello. It was one of the first restaurants we ate at in Atenas. There has always been a free lending library there and we’ve never run out of reading material in ten years.

The present owners are from Poland via Canada. Their menu reflects their background - the cabbage rolls are so good! I always order them with the dill sauce.

Take-away cabbage rolls with two salads (carrot and cucumber) and mashed potatoes:

More books to read:

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - September 2021 / Covid-19 Update

During September, visits to this blog were received from the following 12 countries:

The total number of countries and non-independent jurisdictions from which visits have been received remains at 133. Of this number, 13 are non-independent jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, etc.

The level of interest in my video "Landing at Juan Santamaría Airport, Costa Rica" has spiked in the last few months. It was first posted to YouTube and to my blog on August 26, 2017. Between July 2019 and February 2021 the number of views has risen from over 4400 views to over 6400 views - or roughly 95 views per month. Since February 2021 until now the number of views has reason to over 8000 views - or roughly 200 views per month.

The following is a summary of weather for the month in the area where we live:


Covid-19 Update

The following table updates information which appeared in my blog entry posted on August 28, 2021:

Since my last post, the death rates in Canada and the United States have dropped by marginal amounts (0.10 and 0.04 percentage points respectively). That in Costa Rica is unchanged. 

If you want to see how some other country is doing in comparison to those listed, then visit the website of Worldometer. Numbers for populations, reported cases and reported deaths can be obtained from that site. All that is then needed is some simple math to calculate the percentage death rate for the other country and the death rate in that country compared to Costa Rica.

If you want more comprehensive and up-to-date information and statistics on the situation in Costa Rica, including various locales in Costa Rica, then the La Nacion newspaper is a good source. If you do not understand Spanish, then you will need a web browser (Google Chrome, Safari, etc.) which is set to translate to your language of choice from Spanish.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Howler Monkeys, Playa Espadilla and a Fairchild C-123 CIA/Iran Contra Cargo Plane

On September 15, we loaded Kermit and our suitcases into the car and headed off to Playa Espadilla, Quepos, on the Pacific Coast.

On the drive to the coast, we stopped for lunch at El Avíón restaurant. This is a fun place to have a meal and the view is spectacular. I ordered ceviche and Lance had pasta with clams and prawns, which he said was excellent, as was my ceviche.

You must go to the restaurant’s web page (see link above) to get views of the Pacific Ocean and to learn the history behind how and why this airplane ended up where it did in Costa Rica - it’s really interesting.

Some restaurant photos:

The bar area in the fuselage:

The restaurant was not too far away from our accomodations, Buena Vista Beach Villas, a small boutique hotel with eight units - steps away from the ocean. Many Costa Rican hotels/resorts offer excellent discounts during the green, or rainy, season. Our room was 30% off. It was a unit away from the restaurant so it was private and quiet. The rooms are comfortable with air conditioning and a large outdoor covered patio.

The staff are excellent, friendly and helpful. Loungers are available on the beach and drinks and food can be ordered and delivered right to you.

We stayed two nights. The ocean is so close that we could hear it at night - there’s nothing better then falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

We ate all our meals outdoors:

View from our covered patio:

View of hotel from the beach. Our room was on the lower right.

Kermit enjoying leisure time on our patio, he gets over excited.

Some of our delicious meals:

Beach video:

Sunset photos:

There were two doggies at the hotel - one was the resident dog (an old fellow):

And the other one was this sweet little girl. She would gang up with the old fellow to chase horses on the beach.

She lives not far from Buena Vista and when her owner goes to work, she spends her day at the hotel. Here she is keeping Lance company. She would visit us in our room and also sleep beside my beach lounger.

The local monkeys are early risers - both the howlers and the capuchins. They can be difficult to spot but I made a video of them from our patio climbing through the palms. The haunting sounds of the howlers are not something one forgets.

We are also putting together a car cam video of the trip.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Bicycles and Breakfast

On Sunday, August 29, 2021, we decided to drive to La Casona del Maiz to have breakfast. We have eaten there before and I have mentioned it in previous posts. Excellent restaurant for tipico food.

We made videos with our car cam of the drive to La Garita, where the restaurant is located, and our drive back home, with a stop to pick up some groceries.

Video part 1 - from our house to highway 118 south to Alajuela, then highway 3 towards Atenas. Bicycle riding is very popular in our area and weekends are the time for groups of them to travel the roads. This is unfortunate for those driving vehicles. We are required to give riders a 1.5 meter clearance when passing them. This puts cars squarely in the oncoming lane. As you will see in the videos, roads can be narrow, twisting and with little or no shoulders. They often do not ride in single file as they are supposed to do but in groups that occupy an entire lane. For this reason, we usually avoid the highways on weekends.

Video part 2 - Highway 3 towards Atenas. We are now in the area called La Garita where many viveros (garden shops) are located. I was told that the reason for this is because there are many aquifers here, which provide lots of water for the garden shops in the dry season. Also in this area is the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Centre (formerly known as Rescate Zoo Ave). We highly recommend visiting this worthy centre and there is a good restaurant, Kivu, on site also.

After breakfast, we proceeded north on highway 1 and eventually turn off to highway 154 east to Grecia.

Video part 3 - Continuing on highway 154 east to Compre Bien to pick up a few groceries. Then back on highway 154 east, until taking a shortcut route to our house. The entrance and exit gates open automatically with our Quick Pass system - a tag on our windshield.

I hope you enjoyed riding with us!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - August 2021

During August, visits to this blog were received from the following 10 countries:

The total number of countries and non-independent jurisdictions from which visits have been received remains at 133. Of this number, 13 are non-independent jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, etc.

The following is a summary of weather for the month in the area where we live:

As can be seen from the table, the maximum rainfall on any one day so far this year occurred in August. Total rainfall for the month was virtually the same as that in August 2020 but more than twice that in August 2018 and August 2019. If history prevails, we can expect much more rain total rainfall in each of September, October and November. Temperature highs, lows and averages were about the same as last year. 

Click on images to enlarge.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Unique Health Care System in Costa Rica

In my blog post earlier this year regarding Covid-19 (March 15, 2021), the numbers indicated that Costa Rica was doing better than Canada and the United States. The focus was on mortality. If you caught Covid-19, what were your chances of survival compared to Canada or the United States? It appears that Costa Rica continues to do better.

As the table below indicates, this continues to be the case:

Back in March, I speculated that this might be because on average those who live in Costa Rica spend more time exposed to outside air than those who live in Canada or the United States. I did not clarify, but I had in mind that one or the other or both of central air conditioning and central heating is relatively common in both countries. This might not provide a particularly healthy environment for controlling the spread of the virus.

Now comes to light another possible reason why Costa Rica has been faring better. It has a unique health care system. Specifically, Costa Rica has a health care model which combines a tiered universal medicare system with an unrestricted private care system: see Atul Gawande, "Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us. What’s the Secret?”, The New Yorker magazine, August 23, 2021.

While Canada has a universal medicare system, it is not tiered like that in Costa Rica. Moreover, Canada severely restricts the services which can be provided by private enterprise. In the United States, the private care system is essentially unrestricted as it is in Costa Rica. However, while the United States has a medicare system, it is restrictive and far from being universal. Neither Canada nor the United States has a health care system which reaches down to individual households in a proactive manner as described by Atul Gawande.

We have experienced the proactive approach in Costa Rica. Two examples: (1) as described in my blog post on March 19, 2021, Lance got a personal telephone call out of the blue from a doctor at our local EBAIS to schedule an appointment for our first of two Covid-19 shots. I might be wrong, but I doubt that any person in Canada or the United States ever got such a call from any health care authority. (2) shortly after moving to Grecia/Hacienda El Paseo in 2018 and signing up with our local EBAIS, we were surprisingly visited by two medics.

As the New Yorker magazine article indicates, these medics are referred to as “ATAP" (Asistente Técnico en Atención Primaria) - trained community health care workers. They wanted to give us flu shots which we respectfully declined because neither of us had ever had flu shots (or ever had the flu over a period of decades). They also gave us pills for intestinal parasites - very common in tropical countries.

They also inspected our property indoor and out for cleanliness, etc. Their only recommendation was that we get rid of an outdoor pool of water which could provide a breeding ground for some mosquitos that are responsible for dengue fever - a fever which is survivable but not pleasant. We got rid of the “pool”. The pool was a relatively small plastic, rectangular container on the ground filled with water (usually rain water). Various species of birds found the pool and relished the opportunity to take a bird bath. That’s why we kept it until advised by the medics not to do so.