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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some Misconceptions About the Climate in Costa Rica

The climate in Costa Rica is that of a “tropical savannah”. By definition, this means that the country has a wet season and a dry season. Also, it means that the average temperature in most parts of the country is above 64 °F (18 °C) in each and every month of the year. We are presently in the midst of a very dry, dry season.

The word “tropical” leads to misconceptions. All too many from northern climes assume that the country must be uncomfortably hot and humid. Others assume that it rarely gets uncomfortably cold. They are all wrong. It depends where you choose to live or to visit.

There are many regions in Costa Rica where one can live quite comfortably without either air conditioning or home heating. This is so where we live in the Central Valley at an elevation of about 2660 ft. / 840 m. near the town of Atenas. The average daytime high during 2013 was 84 °F. The average overnight low was 67 °F. The maximum daytime high was about 94 °F but it was accompanied by very low humidity. The minimum overnight low was about 59 °F, but it was accompanied by high humidity. Overall, the result was daytime highs moderated by low humidities - making for daytime comfort - and overnight lows moderated by high humidities - making for nightime comfort.

At lower elevations in the Central Valley average daytime highs and overnight lows tend to creep up and air conditioning might become desireable. But, there is rarely if ever a stifling combination of heat and humidity like that which occurs during the summer in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Conversely, at higher elevations in the Central Valley and ultimately the surrounding mountains, average daytime highs and overnight lows tend to drift downward. Above 4000 ft. / 1200 m., or perhaps a bit lower, a fireplace or some other form of home heating becomes desirable.

As one moves away from the Central Valley over the mountains and down to the Atlantic and Pacific coastal lowlands and beaches, both daytime highs and overnight lows begin to rise. They are often accompanied by high humidity, making air conditioning a necessity for those who are not acclimatized.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7th Annual Atenas Charity Chili Cookoff

The 7th Annual Atenas Charity Chili Cookoff will be held on Sunday, February 9, 2014, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Where: at Quinta Romavista, Barrio Mercedes - 2 km off the old Alajuela to Orotina highway #3.

This event has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. I will be there doing facepainting on the kiddies in the morning.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Passport to Paradise

Beach Day, Tuesday, January 14, 2014 ... the first Beach Day of the New Year, at Playa Doña Ana, Puntarenas. We met new people, including a couple from Victoria, British Columbia.

Thank you, Tom and Lee, for offering to take us with you. We stopped for breakfast along the way. The ocean this day was warm, with some swells. The first thing I always do when we arrive is jump into the ocean. I hope I never get tired of seeing the Pacific Ocean at this latitude and walking along all the beaches.

I made this silly video just for fun.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Renewing Your Canadian Passport

Time really does fly. It seems like not so long ago when I got my passport in Vancouver and now here it is, five years later and time to renew.

It is very simple if you live abroad. Well, maybe it is simple also if you don't live abroad. I filled out the Adult Simplified Renewal Abroad Passport Application (PPTC 482) for eligible Canadians applying outside of Canada. This is a shorter and simpler form, no guarantor needed, citizenship and identity documents not required. I filled it out as a PDF document so it looked nice and tidy, easy to read. I highly recommend doing the forms this way.

With the completed form, you must supply your most recent passport, the required fee, and two recent identical photos. We now have the choice of acquiring a 5 year or a 10 year passport, which is what I opted for. The fee for the 10 year passport is $260.00 (this includes a $25.00 Consular service fee). You can pay with a credit card. The credit card authorization form is filled out at the Canadian Embassy in San José with a further $9.00 fee for this service. I also opted to have my original passport returned to me because it has the stamp when we first arrived in Costa Rica and when I took that trip to Lexington, Kentucky, where one of my paintings was accepted for an art show at the Red Mile .... memories.

Here is the link to access the applicable forms: Passport Canada Website. Be aware that the requirements for the photos are different then for American passports so make sure you read what you have to do. I mention this because when we had our photos taken in Atenas, we selected the smaller version and had to have them redone. That was not much of a problem.

We went back to Studio Fotografico in Atenas, where the original photos were taken, and they just called them up on their computer and reprinted them in the larger size. Last weekend, they celebrated their 25th year in business and they gave me a cool keychain.

We took the bus to San José last Friday, with completed forms in hand, my old passport and the photos. You do not need an appointment. Their hours are from 0800 to noon, Monday to Friday. The Embassy is located at Edificio 5, Tercer Piso, Sabana Sur. The web site is here. Get off the Atenas bus just after it turns left from Sabana Park. You can walk to the Embassy but we opted for a taxi (doesn't cost much).

Service was fast and efficient. You will have to go through a security guard (similar to security at an airport) and leave all purses, bags, etc., in a locker. Check in with the receptionist. She will assign you to one of two very small rooms with tight security measures installed and there you will meet with a very nice person who will take your forms and approve them for completeness, etc.

One caveat: do not attempt even a teeny tiny smile on your passport photos. I did, and received a call saying my mouth was open just a bit in the photos and they did not know if they would be accepted but would let me know in a couple of days.

Hopefully, they will not be rejected and my new passport will be available for pickup at the Embassy within a week or two.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Guest Blogger!

I was recently contacted by fellow blogger, Kate, who is currently exploring Costa Rica for several months along with her husband, Shaun.

There are some amazing coincidences regarding this contact:

  • Kate and Shaun live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and my husband Lance was born in Victoria.
  • Lance and myself are from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  • Shaun works for the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • I worked for the Canadian Coast Guard for 30+ years.
  • Shaun is an engineer.
  • Lance is an electrical engineer.
  • We know some of the same people, yet have never met.
  • All four of us are presently in Costa Rica.

Here is Kate's blog entry. It's fun to get a younger and different perspective on Costa Rica. Make sure you go and read her blog and thank you, Kate, for initially contacting me.

"When I first stumbled upon Diana's blog, I was immediately struck by our similarities. We are both from British Columbia, both Diana and my husband have worked for the Canadian Coast Guard, and we are all currently living in Costa Rica. With all of these connections, it goes without saying that I was delighted when I found out I'd be guest posting on her blog.

Unlike Diana, who has settled into a routine within her Costa Rican lifestyle, my lifestyle here is far from routine. I am currently backpacking around Costa Rica for 5 months with my husband. We have been travelling for 6 weeks now, and at this point our 9-5 routine back in Canada seems like a different memory.

So far on our adventure we've travelled up and down the Pacific coast, checking out various surf towns, and having some amazing adventures. We've surfed in Mal Pais, seen the waterfalls of Montezuma, snorkelled in Tamarindo, and danced the night away in Playa del Coco. Despite all of the fun, we have so many places still to explore. We plan on continuing our adventures inland to the volcanos, to the rasta vibes of the Caribbean, as well as popping in to say hello in both Panama and Nicaragua.

Throughout our adventure, we've developed some tips and tricks to travel smart, and get the most out of our Costa Rican adventure. So, I thought I would share a couple with you guys! Here are our current top 5 tips for travelling throughout Costa Rica.

Transportation: Although Costa Rica has a public transit system, we have found that it is challenging to use while lugging around Shaun's surfboard. So, we primarily use shuttles to get around. Spending time to research the various shuttle options can save you both time and money. For instance, it is much cheaper for a larger group to pay for a private shuttle, and a smaller group to join a shared shuttle. It's also important to ask around at different places, and towns to see what your options are. This week, we tried to get a shuttle for the two of us to Mal Pais. In Playa Coco they quoted us $450, yet when we called a company in Tamarindo, they quoted us $120.

Banking: You can rack up a lot of service fees by taking money out of the bank machines here. Many places, especially in touristy towns, have also started charging an extra 10% to use your credit card. We try and balance between both, by limiting how often we use the bank machine, and using our credit card whenever we find out they don't charge the extra fee.

Food: Although the lure of the touristy restaurants can be appealing, the food we love the best is always at the local "sodas". Sodas are often Mom and Pop type restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican food. Casados, Ceviche, Patacones, Gallo Pinto?? You just can't go wrong.

Water: We often see tourists walking around with armfuls of 6L water bottles, because they don't want to drink the water here. At 4 bucks a pop, this can add up over an extended stay. Unlike many Central American countries, the vast majority of the water here is safe to drink. Aside for Mal Pais, we have consumed the water everywhere we've visited, and been just fine. If you are unsure, or concerned, just ask someone who works where you are staying. They'll let you know!

People: As a first time backpacker, I couldn't survive without the knowledge, encouragement and camaraderie of the people I have met while travelling. Lonely Planet, and other guidebooks will only get you so far. Make sure that you talk to people everywhere you go. You never know who you'll meet, what knowledge you'll gain or what sort of connections you'll make. This can be done virtually as well. Blogs, forums, and Facebook groups are great ways to connect with people. Just look at Diana and I, our virtual connection with both her, and you, has already made my trip more memorable!

So there you have it, a couple of basic pointers from us to you. If you ever need any help with your travel plans, or want to read more about my adventures pop by the blog Love to see you there!

A huge thank you to Diana for letting me share my experiences with her readers. It's always wonderful to connect with new people!

Pura Vida!



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas, 2013, and The New Year

Christmas is an easy holiday here in Costa Rica, at least for us. When I think of all the work involved in having Christmas in Canada, I prefer our new style.

There are a lot of artificial Christmas trees here and we don't have one, because it would be another "thing" that has to be stored and hauled around if we move. I have two strings of LED lights and they go on the hedge and look nice twinkling in the dark tropic night. We will put them away on January 2nd.

This year, we participated in the Atenas Angel Tree Project, an initiative started by Tina Newton, owner of Su Espacio. This project provides the disadvantaged children of Atenas with a Christmas present and a party with pizza, cookies, a visit from Santa, an entertainer ... all the things we took for granted when growing up. The childrens' gift requests are printed on a paper angel, along with their age, and hung on a tree. We selected two - a boy and a girl. The boy wanted a ball (soccer, we assumed) and a truck and the girl wanted a remote control car (cool!). I heard that one little boy asked for nothing more than a new pair of shoes.

We found everything in one shop in Atenas. Then I made 50 cookies for the party. Over 355 children were there. Thank you, Tina, and all the volunteers who make this a big day for the children to remember. It was a pleasure to go shopping for the two kids, especially because it was not done in a giant mall and we were supporting a local store owner.

For Christmas dinner, we invited neighbors Tony and Rose Mary and our Canadian friends, Diane and John. Our tiny oven was a challenge for my ambitious main course (seafood baked in pineapple shells) and dinner was served a bit later then I wanted. I would like to try the recipe again in a full sized oven. Lance kept everyone calm with his excellent piña coladas. Rose Mary brought appetizers and Diane contributed her brownies with ice cream. Even Barney the cat and Scruffy the dog joined us - they walked down to our house with Rose Mary and Tony (their owners).

We received our annual fruit basket from our taxi driver and friend, Mario. Love the grapes! Mario's daughter recently married Jorge ... I did a post on the wedding in November.

And now it is 2014 .... we are looking forward to the new year in Costa Rica. The dry season is here, lots of tourists, school is out .... beautiful days as usual.

Guests arriving
Scruffy says, "Hurry up!"
Barney and Scruffy arrived also


Seafood in pineapple shell, corn salad, and stuffing. Placemats were banana leaves.


Mario's fruit basket