Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feliz Ano Nuevo

On this the eve of a brand new year, I want to thank all my blog readers, all our new and old friends in Canada, the United States and Costa Rica for being such great folks.

Thanks for helping us, for supporting us, for inviting us for meals and swims, beach days, giving great advice ... I could go on and on. Genny our cat thanks a very special person who went and visited her when she was boarding at the Santa Ana vet until we could pick her up after our arrival - you know who you are and we won't forget you.

Our first seven months in Costa Rica have exceeded our expectations - and we feel we couldn't have done it so well without our network of fantastic contacts.

Here's to a fabulous, wonderful 2012! Diana, Lance and Genny

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Shopping Day

Diane and John picked me up today and we went to Yamuni, a very good department store in Santa Ana. Besides clothing, they also carry linens, towels, rugs, fabrics, kitchenware and so on.

Was able to replenish my falling apart wardrobe with a sundress and a cotton top. They carry bathing suits too. Also bought three large plastic containers to hold cereal, rice, flour, etc.

Had lunch at Cow Town, a Tex-Mex restaurant, also in Santa Ana. I had the fish tacos and they were tasty. The portions are large and include sides like fries.

Across the street from Cow Town are several shops that sell pottery, wind chimes, woven baskets and so on. The shop we went into had three floors of painted and unpainted clay items. The owners' little girl graciously took us up all three floors. Ah ha! I spied a large collection of orchid pots so will tuck that information away for future use. I bought a couple of decorative items while there.

The highlight of the day was when John drove through a toll booth barrier bar because his toll booth automatic payment gizmo had run out of colones. He thought it still had enough on it to get through the toll. The sound of the vehicle hitting the barrier bar was impressive. They don't snap in half though but are designed to take hits so an attendant casually strolled out and realigned the bar, then collected the toll in cash. Vehicle unharmed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Was Crapped On (Literally) - A True Story

December 22 was Beach Day and we were delighted to be going again with our friends, Diane and John, and meeting up with the rest of the Beach Day gang. We're becoming such Beach Day addicts that we are planning on buying a proper cooler like the one D&J just bought.

Anyway, we were hauling our gear to a picnic table when .... splat! .... something wet landed on my head.  At first I thought maybe it was rain ... and I rubbed my head and it was sort of sticky. Then I had Lance take a good look and he wiped it with napkins and .... eeewwwhhh .... the napkin came away all yellow and brownish.

It was monkey poop!!!!

I changed into my bathing suit and went into the ocean pretty fast so I could wash the offending matter out of my hair with salt water before it made it's way into my brain ... well, probably that cannot happen but why take the chance.  I've heard that the monkeys will pee on the beach dogs so maybe they were sending me a message ...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Our first tropical Christmas and we both agree we are having a wonderful holiday, although every day in Costa Rica is like a holiday. We are thankful to have made many new and interesting friends who are so generous with their time and helpful advice.

On this Christmas morning, there is not a cloud in the sky, the lovely summer wind is blowing the palms to and fro, the bouginvillia bushes are heavy with mauve colored flowers and the morning bird symphony is giving us a free concert.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Atenas Festival de la Luz

The yearly Atenas Festival of the Lights was held on Saturday, December 17. This is part of the Christmas celebrations.

We went with two other couples and scored a table at Gelly's restaurant, newly renovated and beside the central park. We were right on the parade route and our server said we were welcome to occupy the table for the whole evening. As is usual in Costa Rica, the restaurant was open on three sides. The early evening was balmy and breezy, perfect for a parade.

We all ordered one of the specials on offer -  one or two burritos with greens, or lasagna with greens, and this included soda or iced tea. Then we had to try their gelato - lots of flavors and very good. Couldn't resist having lattes, capachinos and espresso and it was the strongest, most intense espresso I have ever had. The amount in the small espresso cup was more than enough for me. Lance loved it - I think he had about three and, hence, didn't fall asleep until about three (a.m.)  Final total for six people with plenty to eat and drink: 15,000 colones or $30 CAD, and that included a tip.

The two burrito option.

We had a blast that night. Watched the sun set and the activities in the park across from us. There were people selling fresh cooked BBQ, cotton candy, light sticks and so on. The parade started a bit late (natch) but who cares. It was December 17th and here we were sitting in a fantastic tropical setting in a wonderful small town and being part of everything around us.

Our view of the central park, dusk, before the parade started.
Lance surprised me with a gift of a star shaped light stick that he bought from a vendor! He knows I like that wacky stuff and it was a great hit, and not only with me but with one of our dinner companions (unnamed).

The parade consisted of different lighted floats and school marching bands. There were bands from Atenas, Orotina, Esparza and more. They were all being judged too - the judges' stand was very close to us. The kids in these marching bands are just incredible. We live close to a private school that has a marching band and when a festival is near, these kids practice hard and still do their schoolwork.

One of the floats

All the bands were great - some were small, some were bigger - but they all had their own flair, their own costumes and they all deserved a ribbon. In between the floats and the bands we saw Santa Claus (several times); Mary holding Baby Jesus and riding on a very calm horse led by Joseph and followed by the Wise Men; people throwing candies into the crowds .....

We all agreed that the very best marching band was an eclectric group that seemed to meld hip hop with ... I don't know what ... but when they set off fireworks from the ends of the glockenspiels (is that what those are?) the crowds went crazy.

Some of the bands featured drummers twirling those big, huge drums (bass drums?) around and around by the straps during part of their march.

The big finale at the end of the evening was the fireworks display, set off at the side of the Catholic church which thankfully did not burn down. A good time was had by all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Very Busy

Into our seventh month and we have been incredibility busy socially. We are so fortunate to have many wonderful friends and making more all the time. We feel privileged to be invited into their homes and sharing meals and good times.

Enjoyed Beach Day on Monday - how could one not enjoy it. Lots of waves to body surf in, good food, good friends. I'm going to have to get some more bathing suits. Going to the beach a couple of times a month is such a great idea - we get the best of both worlds living in the Atenas area and visiting Playa Dona Ana.

See the cart in the photo? The fellow sitting in the shade operates his little business making granizados -  he shaves ice off a big block, puts it into a cup, adds powdered milk (if you want it), more ice, condensed milk and then covers the whole thing in flavored syrup - they are SO good. Cost: 1 mil (1000 colones), or about 2 Canadian dollars. I hope he is at Playa Dona Ana every time we are. Granizados can also be had at the Atenas park.

I'm still looking for a pipa guy - the vendor takes a young coconut (pipa) from iced water, machetes off the top, sticks a straw through the flesh and there you have it - a refreshing drink. I think there is a vendor in the park - just haven't found him yet.

Jose, one of our gardeners, dropped by last Saturday and we gave him his Christmas bonus. We sat around and had coffee and practiced our Spanish with him. He showed me how to better prepare pineapple tops for planting. I wasn't removing enough of the lower leaves.

We had a large bunch of bananas that were ready to be picked and he showed us how to do that too. His first method was to just punch through the pseudo stem, then he pulled one completely over with his arms. We fetched him a saw - much better. Jose has arms like a weight lifter. So he sawed the whole banana plant down and then it was an easy matter to cut off the banana bunch.

Our first tropical Christmas is only ten days away. I draped a strand of lights over the lime tree stump and that is our Christmas tree.

 I so do not miss the craziness of a modern Canadian Christmas - all that endless mall shopping for stuff nobody needs, all that money spent, people making themselves crazy preparing too much food. It used to be simpler and that is how we want our Costa Rican Christmases to be - more meaningful and involving people, not products. Of course, it must also involve good food! but that doesn't mean I have to prepare it. Lots of businesses out there do it better than I can and we're helping to support the local economy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Scent of the Coffee Flowers

Last night, I noticed the most amazing scent floating through the air. It was strong, yet sweet. I thought maybe it was the sugar cane but the sugar cane grows too far away from us to get the scent.

Our friends at dinner last night told me it is the coffee flowers that are smelling so good and the coffee beans are being picked now.

We walked into Atenas this morning and for the first time I noticed a field of coffee plants en route. The beans were colored red and I could detect the same sweet smell. It gets stronger at night.


Sixth Month Review

We have been here for six months now and still feel the same way about this wonderful country as we did upon arrival. We don't regret the move for one minute.

It is so beautiful. We are meeting lots of Ticos and making new Gringo friends from all over North America. Our Spanish is coming along in baby steps but that is still more than we knew when we arrived.

We agree that Atenas and the surrounding area seems to be a perfect place to live. It has the quiet rural atmosphere that we both like yet is close enough to the airport, San Jose, larger towns, the beaches and so on. Atenas itself offers lots of restaurants, groceries, shops, and services for day to day living.

The dry season has arrived - not much rain, sunny and warm days, cool nights and I love the brisk breezes that blow most days. We have started walking into Atenas more often.

Started tomato, basil and melon seeds. Finally won the battle with the leaf cutter ants by using an organic insecticide called Omitox but will still have to keep watch that they don't set up more colonies.

We have days at the beach with interesting friends.

Plus, we can buy this brand of cheezies here:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Name That Bug!

I was quietly tying up some tomato plants the other day with strips of old blue fabric when I became aware of eyes looking at me.

This insect is about 3 inches long with wings and horn-like antenna and was attached to one of the tomato stems that I was tying up. I'd love to know what it is and why it is smiling, if anybody can tell me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving, American/Costa Rica Style

Canada's Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 10 this year but we didn't do much (read "nothing") to mark the day. In Canada, we used to go to one of the local hotel's Thanksgiving buffets because we had no family living or visiting us in our area so I could never see the point of cooking all that food for two people. Friends would meet us at the hotel and it worked out great for all concerned.

On Thursday, our American neighbors invited us to their house to take part in their Thanksgiving celebrations. We had a great time - met new people, learned some new Spanish words and phrases (oh, if only I could keep them glued into my brain for future use), and indulged in some really great Thanksgiving dishes.

Turkey, ribs, mashed taters, yams, green beans, cranberries, salad, gravy - I've probably missed naming some dishes - but rest assured I tried every one of them. Desserts - four kinds with real whipped cream to plop on top, wine, espresso.

The company was superb, the food was divine, the view was amazing. Good thing the walk back to our house was downhill because walking uphill would have done my food laden body in.

Can't beat this view.

View from our hosts' house.

Fantastic Thanksgiving food, with a Tico twist - note the bananas. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dinner in La Garita

Last night, we went to La Casa del Vinedo in La Garita. John and Diane picked us up and thank goodness they are used to driving on the Costa Rican roads in the dark of night. When they first moved here, the roads had no center or side markings and no shoulder railings. The roads around here are steep and ess-curved, kilometer after kilometer. And since it gets dark here around 6:00 pm all year, we were driving in the dark this night.

Today the roads have center and side markers, plus shoulder railings, but still no lights. Diane has told me tales of driving through heavy fog at night before the road improvements and looking down into a dark abyss where there were no shoulder railings to keep one from plunging off into the black nothingness.

The area of La Garita is between Atenas and Alajuela. If you take the Atenas bus to San Jose or Alajuela, you pass through La Garita. La Casa del Vinedo also grows grapes and sells wine. I always like the Costa Rican restaurants with their rustic designs and access to the outdoors. Diane and Lance ordered steaks, I had fish (pescada) and John had a pizza. Everything looked and tasted good and the portions were large enough that we all took home leftovers. We shared desserts too, and had wine and beer.

There are two resident kitties at this restaurant and one of them attached itself to my lap for quite a while. And before anyone says animals should not be in restaurants and public areas -  phooey - how many of you have house pets that have full access to your kitchen, kitchen counters, sleep in your bed, etc.

My Feline Pal



Kitty looking out to the dining area.

My Pal

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Now We Have Two Gardeners ....

We didn't mean to end up with two gardeners but it seems that we have. Jose was the original gardener of this property. He did more than just cut the grass. He also pruned, planted bushes, sprayed for bugs and so on. Just after we moved in, he showed up and spent an entire day with a helper cleaning everything up because the house had been vacant for a couple of months so the plant growth had really gone wild.

Then Jose moved too far away to come here every few weeks or at all. Enter Luis, who was walking around the area looking for work and we exchanged phone numbers, which was about all we could exchange at that time given our poor Spanish skills. Some time later, we get a phone call from our Canuck friend John.

Turns out Luis phoned John to tell him he wanted to work for us, John phoned us and it transpired that Luis also does work for John - a truly amazing coincidence.

So all is fine. We have a grass cutter. Then Jose turned up at our gate not long ago to say he would be back in a few weeks to do landscaping, and he was here yesterday as promised.

There is/was a very old lime tree at the front of the property. It was on it's last legs (roots?) partially because of it's age but also because the canopy was covered in a life smothering vine that grew right into the wood of the tree. Luis said, and another gardener had confirmed this earlier, that the tree was dying and did we want it cut down?

We said, or thought we did, we want to check with the owner first. So, as I was frantically emailing the owner, Jose was happily chopping the whole tree down in front of me. But he did leave enough stubs to put flower pots, bird feeders, orchids on what is left of it.

Thank goodness our landlady has a good attitude: "It is what it is"!

Here is a dove, or a pigeon, at the new unexpected bird feeder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Previous Couple of Weeks

Just thinking back over the last few weeks:

We are now transitioning into the dry season and can expect more winds coming from a different direction - the north or the north northwest - which pushes the humid air coming from the west and southwest offshore. Already, we have experienced far less rain than we did in late October. My tomato plants suffered during those weeks but have bravely ripened a few tomatoes for us. I'll reseed again soon.

Halloween is a non-event in Costa Rica, which suited me fine. I had grown weary of buying overpriced, teeth rotting candy in Cloverdale and watching Genny being scared by the constant ringing of the doorbell. The young tykes are really cute and they finish trick and treating early but when the 16 year olds start showing up, it's time to shut the lights off and lock the door.

Instead, All Souls Day on November 2nd is observed with Catholic masses and Ticos head to cemeteries to pay respects to departed loved ones. Here in Atenas, all the crypts in the graveyard were covered in flowers. One of my taxi drivers drove me by so I could see. By the way, if anyone is interested in what happens to one after death in Costa Rica, go here to The Real Costa Rica and you'll get all the info.

We bought some moisture absorbing bags at WalMart, $22 CAD for a box of three. They are supposed to last 60 days but here is what they look like after two weeks so I guess we had a lot of moisture in our clothes cupboards. The crystals at the top absorb moisture which drips down into the bag at the bottom.

We discovered a new mall in Heredia - Paseo de las Flores - and our friends John and Diane picked me up one day and we went shopping. I bought Lance some badly needed clothes and I found some stuff for me also. The food court was enormous. I have to go back again soon so I can see all of the shops. It really is a big, big mall. Heredia is the capital city of the province of Heredia, and it is home to one of the largest colleges in Costa Rica, the National University of Costa Rica.

I also recently went shopping at one of Atena's Ropa Americana shops and found three cotton shirts for me. I should have listened to the shop keeper who suggested I try them on first. One is way too small (the tag says "petite", didn't notice it), one is too large but I like it because of the color and the larger fit lets the breezes in, and the third one fits more closely. So two out of three ain't bad. Final cost: $20 CAD.

Had another fabulous Beach Day this past Monday at Playa Dona Ana. About 25 like-minded souls showed up. We bobbed in the ocean, yakked, ate our lunches, fed the monkeys. If anyone reading this wants to join us, let me know.

That is Lance on the left.

I cut down a really big bunch of bananas from one of our trees. It must have weighed 50 lbs. at least or so it felt. Dragged it down the hill to our house and we hung it from one of the roof rafters outside. All the bananas are ripening amazingly fast, we can't eat enough of them to keep up. Our gardener Luis took some home with him today and I've set up two bird feeding stations in our lime tree where the over-ripe bananas are going. We are attracting birds we've never seen before.

So, as the sun sets gently tonight in Costa Rica and the air is filled with tropical scents, I wish everyone a peaceful night.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Amazing Sunday

Our gardener, Luis, invited us to his house for lunch on Sunday. Luis also does work for our Canadian friends, Diane and John, so that is our connection. Our Spanish is so bad right now that Luis phones John who phones us with messages from Luis. John's Spanish is very good.

We felt very privileged to be invited.

Diane and John picked us up and off we went in the direction of Palmares - after that, I was totally lost. We climbed up, up and up through the most amazing scenery. The day was perfect so we could see for miles.

Ticos' houses are quite often modest compared to North American standards. Small, but perfectly able to house a family. I think we North Americans are too spoiled and greedy and want this, that and the other thing, the bigger the better .... and then we get deep into debt trying to pay for all that stuff, a lot of which never gets used. For instance, Luis is making a covered patio outside the front of the house but the work gets done when they have a bit of money, not before. So it takes much longer to get what they want but no money is owed at the end.

We were fortunate to be served a typical Tico meal: olla de carne and it was so good! Beef, cilantro, onions, celery, red bell peppers, carrots, corn, chayote, yuca, ayote, sweet potatoes, plantains, and potatoes.  The bowl of broth with beef is put in front of you, a big plate of rice is on the side, along with a big plate of the cooked vegetables. You put whatever you want into the bowl of broth and enjoy, enjoy! Costa Rica coffee served alongside. This is a very hearty meal.

I'd like to try making olla de carne - Diane did and she said it came out more like a stew so there are obviously some tricks to getting it right.

Diana, Lance, John, Diane enjoying olla de carne
Our host, Luis, and Lance

Luis prepared the meal for us as his wife was at church, so we met her a bit later. Here are his wife and children:

The young lady on the left along with the little boy are neighborhood friends. We met their son but he was not around to be in this photo. So, second from the left is their youngest daughter, then Mrs. Luis, and then their oldest daughter.

After lunch, we took a walk to Eco Torunes Lodge, which is a resort with two swimming pools, cabinas, restaurant, and mirador (lookout).  It is located atop a coffee finca. This is a coffee cooperative of 11 farm families and they sell export quality coffee, either whole bean or ground. You can go for a tour of the shade-grown coffee and see how coffee is grown. We didn't have time for the tour but we were shown one of the cabinas that are available for rent and it was really nice - bedroom (king bed), bath, living room area, kitchen and a view that was hard to beat.

The two pools are down the side of the mountain and you can walk down to the pools or just jump into the (very long) slides. The views all around were amazing - we could see Atenas. This resort is where mostly Ticos stay but, because we know Luis, we could stay there at Tico rates.

Back to Luis' house - and it was all uphill but not so bad and myself and Lance led the pack. Ticos are very affectionate people - here are two photos to prove that:


The first one is of Luis and his youngest daughter, and the second one shows John on the left, Lance and Luis with his arm on Lance's shoulder, and the youngest daughter again. It is quite common to see teenagers holding their parents' hands as they walk around town, mothers and daughters arm in arm. Men greet men with hugs and handshakes.

When we met Luis' youngest daughter (I am sorry but I did not catch all of the their names this time) she went to each one of us in turn and gave us a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

John and Diane brought several cans of wall paint for their casa and also the meat for our olla. They have visited Luis a lot in the past and always bring something useful, such as tile for their bathroom, etc. We came bearing two bouquets of flowers for Luis' wife and dessert, not knowing what else to bring - being newbies.

I think Mrs. Luis liked the flowers because she gave me this when we left:

Mrs. Luis likes to paint! like me! This is a glass bottle that she painted the design on.
 This is my new treasure. I might bring her some acrylic paints next visit. Not only that, we left with this:

Half of a big squash, the other half was given to Diane and John. And we were also given instructions on how to cook it. Plus, the seeds are to be planted into the ground to give us more squash.

This blog entry was a bit hard for me to write, because at one point Luis' wife said, in Spanish, to Diane and John, "You are our friends and family, and now Lance and Diana are our friends and family", and she held her hand over her heart  - I am parphrasing here but I think that is what Diane's translation was. It was obvious I was moved by this declaration, because Mrs. Luis came over to me and gave me a big hug.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Atenas Taxi Drivers Are The Best!

Look what Mario, one of our taxi drivers, left at our gate today:

Banano, papaya y pina
(I am sorry - I have a Spanish keyboard but haven't figured out how to do the accent over the letter "n" in pina)

All local, all picked today. I love papaya - when it is ripe you can spread it on hot toast like it was jam. I also love this food trading that goes on in Costa Rica and so I'll have a bag of our oranges ready for Mario and his taxi driving partner Jorge.

While I'm on the subject of Atenas' taxi drivers, I was in Atenas today getting groceries, was ready to go home and got into a cab whose driver seemed to know me but I sure didn't recognize him. He knew where we lived and finally he said, "Diego" - it was the Diego of the lovely curly locks and he looked totally different! He had shaved off every bit of hair on his head. Not just a close cut number 3, but a harsh shave. If my Spanish was better, I would have loved to ask him what his momma and girlfriend thought of that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bleach - A Costa Rican's Best Friend

Here in Atenas, we have been experiencing the October green season for about the last two weeks. Rain and lots of it - torrential at times - and for most of the days. My tomatoes are kaput I think but I'll just start new ones in a couple of weeks.

Doing laundry was a challenge. I have a washer, but no dryer. Because of the cost of electricity, not many people have dryers. Why bother when most of the time you can use the power of sun and wind to quickly dry clothes. The spinner on my washer really removes a lot of the rinse water.

I would hold off doing a wash until it looked like the day might give me an hour or so in the morning when I could hang clothes on the line. But they never really dried fully and so I would resort to this:

This worked not too bad. We have an area at one side of the house where a few wash lines are set up and protected under the very wide eaves but the damp air prevents much drying.

When I do washing, I always use bleach as it kills mould spores as does using cold water. We also keep a spray bottle filled with a diluted bleach mixture to use when cleaning the shower.

Got a bit of a shock the other day when I was going through clothing hanging in the closet - pulled out two suit jackets (one mine, one Lance's) and they had mould on them. We couldn't save Lance's so out it went. Mine wasn't as bad so I hung it outside and brushed the mould off. Then I let it hang in the sun and wind to kill the spores. Before sealing it up in a plastic storage bag, I'll go over the jacket with white vinegar. This closet has air vents to the outside but we still have to check our clothes frequently - live and learn.

Also discovered mould on some stored briefcases and purses. Cleaned them up and they are now in sealed storage bags - the kind you suck the air out of. We also need to get some products called Damp Rid and Dry Out for the closets and storage areas.

This is all part of living in the tropics - once you learn what to do, there is no problem. I would say it beats shovelling snow any day. Besides, the weather has been fabulous the last few days so I've done all my laundry and every bit of it is dry!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Tuffy Update

For those of you who may not have been following my Costa Rica blog since I started it (about a year ago), Tuffy is a stray cat who appeared in our Cloverdale, B.C.,  home backyard. We thought Tuffy was a female and also a fighter -  she had scars on her head and one broken fang. Somehow, this cat wormed her way into our home, aligning herself with our cat, Genny (I think cats are expert at this). I was only hoping she was not carrying kittens along with herself.

We all got attached to her - a lot. I tried to find out who her owners might be - delivering bulletins to over 100 of our neighbors, no response. We had her ear tattoo checked out at our vet but it didn't lead anywhere.

When it came time for us to move to Costa Rica, we knew we were bringing Genny with us but to bring another cat was out of the question. Tuffy's next move was going to be to a cat shelter.

To the rescue: my fantastic niece and her equally fantastic husband in Toronto, Ontario! Tuffy flew Air Canada direct from Vancouver International Airport to Toronto International and met her new family, niece, nephew-in-law, great nephew twin boys, and the very lovely resident cat, Rocky (aka Rockstar).

A quick health checkup trip to the vet revealed the surprising news: Tuffy was a neutered male! So I guess we need to review those wall charts showing how the sexes differ. Six months on, Tuffy is living the life of, well, Tuffy ... and here is a very recent photo of The Tuffy living la pura vida in Toronto.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Excellent Restaurants and Service in Atenas

Saturday night we dined at Pizzeria Alida's with our friends Diane and John. I couldn't find a web site for them that I could link to, but it is on highway 3, past the blinking orange traffic light, on the east side of the highway. You can Google the restaurant name and read all the reviews.

They advertise when they are open by placing empty wine bottles on a table at the entrance to the longish driveway which leads up to the restaurant. The grounds have lots of native trees and plants. The restaurant is designed in the usual style here - open sided so you can sit and enjoy a sunset, mist over the mountains or, in our case, torrential rain.

Service was excellent and we were made to feel very welcome. Tables are covered in linen cloths with linen serviettes. The dining room is large with a brick pizza oven in one corner. You can watch the pizza crusts being made and spun around in the chef's hands. All pizzas are thin crust, my favorite. There are other Italian items on the menu but pizza was what we all wanted. They also have a very good wine list.

Here is what we got for $20 CAD per person: two different large pizzas (large enough that we had take-home boxes), two appetizers and two bottles of wine. We shared it all amongst us. Everything was excellent. We were even served complimentary liqueurs at the end of dinner. Water glasses had lime slices on the rims and the straws wore little paper covers at the sipping end.

I can't imagine paying only $20 per person in Canada for the kind of meal we enjoyed that night. The cost would have been much more. I would go back here any time. We have a lot more pizza selections to work our way through.

We also met some Texans who were vacationing here and staying up at Picaflora, where the power had been out all day and they couldn't cook at home so they went out to eat. Apparently there are lots of Texans who come down here to live or to vacation. It's not a very long flight from Dallas and Houston is shorter still.

Then, on the following day (Sunday) we went into Atenas looking for a breakfast spot and decided on the Soda Las Tres Hermanas in Atenas Centro. We've had breakfast there before but what we didn't know was that they serve a kind of buffet on Sunday. This is a very small soda and the food is just great.  They offer a selection of gallo pinto, omelettes, what I thought was scrambled eggs but turned out to be potato salad, pork chops, carrots ..... hmmm, what else did I see ... oh yes, salad, chicken breast and more. We loaded up our plates and the final tally was 4000 colones or $8.00 CAD - for both of us!!!! That also included two excellent coffees and a ginger ale.

There are three tables inside, a few stools at the counters both inside and out. The kitchen is small but those ladies hustle around and produce such good food. The place was bustling all the time we were there.

Oh yes, Mario Castro was our taxi driver (tel: 8911-08-18) who, along with Jorge Calderon (tel: 8743-08-06), operate their taxi from 4 am to 9 pm every day. They are the best - if either of them cannot pick us up, they phone someone who will. The gates to the restaurant grounds were closed when we arrived and Mario phoned his dispatcher who phoned the restaurant to send someone down the lane to open the gate. Now what taxi service in Canada would do that?

Amazing - this country is amazing!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Singin' In The Rain

Not singing exactly - more like "wow! amazing!" We are finally getting our first taste of the true green season in Costa Rica. Up to now, we've been wondering where all the rain was that everyone talks about.

From June to last week, it was nothing but sunshine, high temperatures and afternoon thunderstorms with  periods of rain.

Now, it has been raining almost non-stop for about four days. If it's not a fine mist, it's torrential downpours. Maximum temperatures in the last 24 hours have been 75.7F and minimum 67.5F.  We needed the quilt on our bed last night - I've been wondering why a quilt was stored in our closet (rental house, fully furnished).

Power outages are occurring more often too - we cancelled a restaurant pizza meal the other night because the power went out and we could not call for a taxi on the house phone. Why don't we have cell phones? It's something we have to look into - but I think you cannot get one unless you have residency.

We've been curious as to why this big cement hole was right outside the back door:

With all this rain, we now know it is a drain to syphon off rain water that comes down from the back of the property, which is at a higher elevation than the house. The street gutters are huge - deep and very wide and it sounds like we have a river running beside our house. Torrents of rain are flowing down the street.

The higher elevation of the back of the property, where the banana trees are, has also been designed to control water flow with berms, thereby directing water flow out into the street gutters. It's really impressive how everything has been carefully thought out.

Soggy Acres

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cucarachas!! Cucarachas!! la la la la la la la

Yes, it was only a matter of time before we saw cucarachas in the house - this is the tropics, after all. But I was feeling pretty smug that four months had gone by without a sighting. I'm very careful to sweep the floors every day, keep the counters clean, and make sure all food products are sealed and covered.

Until last week, when I got up in the middle of the night to get some juice from the fridge .... turned on the kitchen light and there they were. Huge. Four of them - on the counters and the floor.

Next day we bought a can of cockroach spray and started spraying in the kitchen. Seems they were living under the refrigerator as that's where they came running out of. There were more than four of course. Since then, haven't seen any more but we'll keep a close watch and spray routinely.

Apparently, these cockroaches can also fly! Ugh. I think tropical cockroaches are much larger than their northern brethren. I remember the ones I saw in Jamaica were huge also.

Anyway, insects are a fact of life here - they do good things for the environment. But cucarachas boarding with us? NO!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Costa Rica Musings

This is normally the rainy season in Costa Rica, especially September and October, but this year has apparently been very dry. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, we've been waiting for all the rain to fall, but it hasn't happened - at least not to the level we were used to.

My experimental tomato crop is a success, so far - some of the plants are already producing small green tomatoes and lots of yellow flowers on the others. I threw red pepper seeds into the ground around the tomatoes and they are also coming along. Planted garlic bulbs from the feria and they are sending up green shoots which can be cut off and used in salads or pasta. I've also got some melon seeds drying to plant later.

We have banana trees at the back of the property, and two of the "trees" have produced bananas and we're waiting for the hands to mature enough to cut down. Our lime tree is just about finished producing, and the orange tree is ripening and throwing off juicy oranges to the ground.

I walked into Atenas twice this week with the wrong shoes, suffered blisters for it - have to get proper walking/running shoes.

On my last walk, a local lady who was also walking along indicated I should walk with her (lots of "walks" there). So I did, and between my so extremely very limited Spanish and her also limited English (this is after all a Spanish speaking country), we figured out this: She is from Panama, married to a Tico, she knows we are from Canada, it's important to learn Spanish, the lovely blooming plants growing wild everywhere in the fields are what we know as "Impatients", or "Busy Lizzy", we figured out we were both going to "Atenas Centro" - she was wearing those Tica high heels so couldn't walk as fast as I could.

Then as we were almost to Atenas, a car drove by and the driver beeped his horn - it seemed to be someone my walking companion knew, she indicated I should get into the car - which I did - probably foolish after the fact - but I knew the route we were driving on and my companion indicated to the driver to stop at the Pali, he did, she got out, I got out and said "gracias", she waved, he waved - and I think that is small town life in Atenas. Anyone driving a car and passing someone they know always beeps their horn.

I was on my way to the feria, and got lost - not surprising I got lost in a town with six square blocks - I get lost everywhere. Fortunately, I saw my friend Diane getting out of her car on her way to an appointment, and she pointed me in the right direction.

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada - so I send best Thanksgiving wishes to my family and friends back in the home land.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where Does The Time Go ....

October already - we've been here four months. The time has flown by and we love Costa Rica more than ever.

Monday was another Beach Day and just as enjoyable as the last time. We went with Diane and John, fellow Canucks who live in the Atenas area. We provided lunch - I enjoy thinking up different kinds of picnic food to prepare. It was the first Beach Day for them so they got to meet the beach group of like minded folk.

If anyone is interested in bobbing about in the warm Pacific at a safe and clean beach and enjoying the company of really nice people, you can put your name on the mailing list here: Retire For Less in Costa Rica. Paul and Gloria Yeatman will make sure you are kept informed of activities.

One thing we have learned is that Costa Rica is a country where networking is very important. It's how you find out where the best butcher is, where to get your clothes altered, the best dentist, vet, doctor, etc., etc. Oh, and restaurants (my favorite). So there I was on Monday, floating on the salty brine, and trading info with my new gal pals. It was great.

The sea on Monday was really calm so I was less than successful trying out John's boogie board. Santa: bring me my own boogie board along with a pair of boogie board swim fins (which apparently I need).

Here's some photos of Monday's beach day - I also made a couple of videos of the monkeys but I have no luck loading videos into Blogger.

The picnic area at Playa Dona Ana.

Happy Beach Day folk.

October 3, 2011

Yum! This is what Gloria and Paul were cooking up for lunch.

Beach dog and beach cat. They don't belong to anyone and always show up for  a meal, please sir. They are very polite and well mannered. If you want to adopt a wonderful pet, help yourself.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Visit to Archivo Nacional

On Thursday of this week, we bused our way to San Jose to pick up our mail at ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica). We decided that every time we do this, we will also combine it with visiting some landmark in San Jose.

This trip, we decided on going to the Archivo Nacional (National Archives) in Zapote because they had an exhibit on of early photos and documents of Costa Rica, dating from as early as perhaps 1853. We took a taxi from Casa Canada to the Archives.  AM Costa Rica, a daily English language news source on line, featured an article on this exhibit and that's how we found out about it.

 It took us a while to get in the door, because we were trying to explain why we were there in terrible Spanish and get past the guard with his Magic Wand. Eventually, they let us in and sent a lovely curator who explained the exhibit to us in English. Embarrassing ....  she apologized for her English which was very good and here we are with just a few words of this country's native language. We tried to apologize to her.

Then we took another taxi to PriceSmart, which is like Costco, only the yearly membership is $30 US, not $50 CAD which is what we paid for our Costco membership in Canada.  I decided to sign us up for this thinking that maybe once a month I would take the bus to the PriceSmart in Alajuela and stock up on basics. Then if I go to the feria in Atenas most Fridays, I could get the perishables (fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese). I think I need to get a wheelie cart though.

This particular PriceSmart in Zapote is huge. We got there just before noon so decided to have lunch at their fast food counter. We both got the two pieces of chicken, fries and drink combo - huge portions - we could easily have split one order. Then off to shop - then I realized they don't provide bags - so whatever we bought had to fit in my small fabric shopping bag.

I was particularly looking for gel ice packs - didn't see them. We did stock up on razor blades, found some local Gouda cheese, saw Hebrew National hot dogs which are supposed to be the best, but decided against them because we had a long ride home and what if they went off.

I found shorts! yahoo! for six dollars U.S. and they fit, only bought one pair but now wish I had bought all the colors offered.

This shocked me: a display of lighted Christmas trees for sale along with kids' gifts. I know Christmas is a big holiday here, but this does seem early.

Then, taxi to the Coco Cola bus depot, bought two bottles of water from our now well known snack vender who recognizes us, and seems to be able to speak Spanish, English and French (he said to us "comment allez vous?") so we think he recognized that we are Canucks.

Here are some photos of the fruit drinks we had in San Jose and of the Archives building.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Playa Dona Ana

Last week, we had the good fortune to visit Playa Dona Ana with a great group of people of like minds as ourselves.

If you are already living in Costa Rica and want to join up with Beach Days, contact Paul and Gloria Yeatman at BY CLICKING HERE.  I've been following their web site for quite a while and finally got to meet both of them at last week's Beach Day. We don't have a vehicle so I asked Paul if anyone in the Atenas area was going and could we carpool with them.

Instant response from Sally and Len! Yes, they had two seats to offer in their SUV and we arranged to meet them at 0800 in front of Don YaYo restaurant on highway 3. Sally and Len are super people and we liked their beagle dog, Sprocket, who slept peacefully in his travel crate behind us. We drove the highway 3 route to the coast - the original road - the scenery is so amazing, just beautiful. We climbed up so high, lots of s-curves, then dropped down to the Pacific Coast. Len and Sally filled us in with all the local history of every area we drove through.

I think the drive took about 45 minutes - the traffic was light and road conditions good.

And there it was --- the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. So we have moved from the Pacific Coast of British Columbia to here.... and en route, over the years, we have experienced the Pacific Coasts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Mexico.

CLICK HERE to read more about this beach and where it is located. There is a small charge to park and get into the beach area. The first things we saw at the park gate were monkeys, beautiful white-throated capuchins. The park attendant was feeding them monkey snacks and they were taking them out of his hand. They are, of course, wild animals so they are very cautious. One female had a tiny baby clinging to her back.

Playa Dona Ana is an excellent beach to visit. It is very clean and safe and has a security guard. Workers  were raking the picnic area and beach the whole time we were there. They have washrooms, change rooms and showers. There are a lot of covered picnic areas with BBQ grills. No restaurant so bring your own food and drinks.

And bring bananas for the monkeys! We did and it was such a thrill to have these small monkeys gently and politely take bananas pieces from our outstretched hands.

The picnic area is heavily shaded with lovely trees so you can sit and read or nap. The day started out cloudy, the sun eventually came out, there was a brisk breeze off the ocean - it was marvelous. More humid than in Atenas.

I saw brown pelicans fishing and frigate birds riding the thermals. There are howler monkeys in the area but we neither saw nor heard them this day.

Ah, the water! So warm and salty. Perfect for body or boogie board surfing. The rip tides are very strong though. I couldn't get enough of the ocean and suffered for it the next day with a bright red burn. We need to be using much stronger sun block.

We met really nice people, made new friends and will do this trip as often as we can. One image that remains in my mind is of a Tico father and his son at the beach that day. Dad played with his boy for hours in the water and later they had a nap together on the beach.

Thanks again to Sally and Len!


Picnic area

At low tide, it's possible to walk around this rock formation to the other side, which is where the surfers go.

Resident park kitty. Apparently the capuchins like to  chase it with sticks.