Awoke at 5:30am, had breakfast at the hotel, took a cab to the bus station and was on the road by 8:00am for the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. Although as promised there was no air conditioning the trip was totally doable and the heat hit when we got off the bus. Our bags were taken to our hotel, Hotel Escape Caribeno and our rooms were little cassata scattered in a beautiful garden of lush perfectly groomed lush tropical vegetation. Adri said we need to be prepared to awaken to howler monkeys in the morning. The last howler monkeys that we awoke to was at Tical in Guatemala where we stayed inside the park on our Belize trip. Looking forward to la mañana for sure.
Tomorrow (6:30 am) we are heading out on a day long trek to a national forest with promises of lots of animal sightings. Will report back.
Saturday evening. 3/19/16
At 7:00pm we met our CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Adri who makes the word “gregarious” seem subdued. She is a bundle of comic energy and with out a doubt she will make this trip so memorable. We have a great group with a mother and 14 year old son from Manhattan, a couple about our age from the UK, one single young gal from Germany, two guy friends, one from Canada and the other the UK and two young gals from Dublin Ireland. So altogether with Adri there are 12 of us.
Will be a fun trip for sure!!!
We had a great dinner with just 7 of us plus Adri who provided continual comic antidotes about her adventures being a travel guide. I have found my food groove with beans, rice or pinto Gallo (which is beans and rice combined usually served at breakfast) and tortillas.
We’re taking off from the hotel at 7:00am for a long bus ride to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica to Puerto Viejo. Transportation will be a public bus without air conditioning so will get a real feel of regular tropical life.
March 19, 2016
Woke up to a beautiful sunny day with expected rain mid day so we will need to head out walking with umbrella and hooded jacket.
Started the day with a great buffet breakfast with lots of fresh fruit, Tica rice and beans, plantains in a sweet sauce, two types of eggs, sausage, cereal bar, rice pudding, bread bar and a selection of fresh juices along with delicious strong coffee. Not even close to the breakfast buffets in China but pretty darn yummo.
And speaking of a delicious breakfast I forgot to mention the ginormous cockroach that greeted us at the airport on our way to go thru customs. We both looked at each other and said “protein ” as Wayne stepped over him.
Spent most of the day wandering San Jose and due to it being the beginning of Samana Santa (Easter week) we encountered a huge parade of priests with a statue and full marching band. All while the bells of two churches tolled on and on. The full procession was about a block long.
Along our way we stopped for a couple of photo ops.
We meet our tour guide and group tonight and then all go out for dinner.
March 18, 2016While at the airport waiting for our flight we reflected on what a great meal we had at The Daily Grill on Century Blvd in Los Angeles last night for Wayne’s bday dinner. We started with an artichoke and spinach dip with perfectly toasted crostini which came after the home made bread right out of the oven which was divine but overshadowed the appetizer a bit. Wayne had the short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes topped with shoe string onion rings and those potatoes with the onions were delicious. Wayne loved the short ribs which were presented off the bone. I opted for a baked potato and everything I could imagine to top it with was on the side. What a feast I enjoyed. For Wayne’s bday they gave us a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and had two moist brownies on the side. Absolutely wonderful bday dinner and we will pop back in on our trip home.
We had a great night sleep thanks to a complementary night cap from the hotel for Wayne’s bday on a really comfy bed at La Quinta but unfortunately we had to be up at 4:00am to catch the 5:00am shuttle to the airport.
No traffic to the airport and the Trek thru the airport was a breeze with TSA pre check.
Our flight was a gem with the free tickets we won at Wayne’s 1/2 marathon in Washington and the upgrade to 1st class with air miles for the trip down. Sure hope I can score the same for our trip home.
Customs was a breeze and then we were met by Eddie from GAdventures and he called Juan our driver. Our trip to our hotel was rather long due to traffic congestion caused by a major road closure. It was a fun trip as Eddie quizzed us on our Spanish and gave us lots of good info about Costa Rica and our tour.
We arrived at Autentico, our hotel, and after going to our room to unload our bags we set out to find an ATM to get some Colones and then on to the supermarket to score a little hooch. Both missions accomplished we headed for the hotel bar to celebrate our arrival. I ordered a Tanqueray and Wayne had a Jack Danies on the rocks and paid $3.60 each or $2,000 colones. The exchange rate is insane with a $10,000.00 colone bill equaling $18.00.
We decided to just chill at the hotel and had dinner out by the pool. Wayne had pasta bolognese and I did the grilled vege plate. His was really good and mine was a lot of eggplant which is not my favorite vegetable. There were a lot of grilled red onions also so dinner was redeemed and moved to the palatable side of the plate. Wayne enjoyed the addition of the eggplant to his menu.
Will feel good to get to bed tonight as 4:00am was a long time ago.
Hasta mañana amigos.
My cutie 73 year old man in Costa Rica and my grilled vegetables.
At the Airport…
Flight from Guayaquil was nice and I sat next to a woman’s shoe distributer for So America. He showed me their new line of sandals and short of the fact that each pair had a 4″ plus lift they were pretty cute.
Got to Lima and when we finally got to the American Airlines window our flight to Dallas had been cancelled as the plane arriving from Dallas had been cancelled. Now if you all remember that we are flying 1st class (OK air miles first class) I at this point am suffering from a severe case of “Oh s..t we just lost our first class” which happened to us coming back from Europe in 06. Long story short, we will fly (two hours earlier than our scheduled flight to Dallas) to Miami in coach and then 1st class to Phoenix and then to Portland. All of our air miles will be refunded and we are sitting in the first class lounge pacifying ourselves with a well deserved libation. Except for losing our first class to Dallas we get to PDX one hour later than our original flight schedule which is way better than overnight in Lima and then flying coach all the way home.
It’s now 8:15am on Tues and we are in Miami and will be heading home in under 30 min.
Watching the news and it is below freezing in 50 states this morning. Burr this is going to be challenging for me after all the hot hot hot we have had. The best consolation will be being home today.
Monday, the gateway day to home.
Yes and we are totally ready to head home!
After breakfast (included) and last minute final packing we took a cab to the bus station. It was about 10:15 and the next bus scheduled to leave was at 10:30am so we bought our tickets and once on the bus settled in for the four hour ride to Guayaquil. The bus was not exactly express, stopping along the way to pick up a few passengers and drop off a few.
Half way we stopped for a potty break and them back on the road.
It is always so interesting to watch the topography change and for the first half we had beautiful sunny skies and lush scenery. After the potty stop we descended into a thick cloud cover so travel slowed to accommodate the conditions. In a half hour or so we dipped below the cloud line and were in the jungle. A bit further and we hit the flatlands and were surrounded by sugar cane fields, banana plantations and then rice fields were everywhere. All I could think of was mosquito breeding grounds with all the standing water. The temperature also got really hot and sticky.
Bus station is just a short jaunt to the airport by cab and now the homeward adventure continues and shall be lovingly referred to as “the hurry up and wait” phase.
I’ve almost finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which I have been saving till now as wifi might be sketchy this last leg.
Our last Sun in So America.
We awoke at 7:30am and Wayne said, “we have only 30 minutes till the bus leaves”, and we both started laughing and agreed this free time felt sooo good! Yippee, no more schedules!!
Had breakfast at the hotel and when I checked my emails I opened a BofA alert that my credit card, which I haven’t used for six weeks, just bought a $200.00 plus train ticket in Italy. I contacted B of A who knew I was in Ecuador and all was handled immediately. The fraud gal I was talking with said the funny part was that a separate transaction fee in Italy of about $4.00 had been denied by B of A but the actual purchase hadn’t been denied till I called. She assured me that they would have caught the fraud prior to it actually hitting my account as it was still in the pending status. I really like how I get an email the moment my card is used. Also luckily this has been a total cash trip and we were not using the card to travel as it had to be shut down.
Out if the hotel and down the street to start our day adventure. Tomorrow we are taking a bus to Guayaquil for our flight to Lima at 6:30pm so thought we would check out getting tickets and times. Since the bus station was more than a walk away we hailed a cab and for $1.50 we were there. The bus leaves every 35 to 40 minutes and will cost us $8.00 each for the 4 hour trip. We also verified that it arrives in Guayaquil really close to the airport so a quick cab ride and we are there. After getting all our information we went back outside and checked out the local bus schedule as we decided it would be fun jumping on a bus and exploring. We chose bus line #7 as it listed the Mercado Libre and of course we needed to check that out. The ride up and down streets in local neighborhoods was fun and we jumped off at the market.
After finishing wandering the totally local huge market we went back out and scouted for a bus that listed something we recognized. This next bus took us way into the hills of Cuenca and Wayne was able to get a great city shot while the driver took a break with us as the only riders. Once back on the road we back tracked to the market and then to the old town center where we jumped off. Great fun adventure as always on the local city bus!!
An adventure always makes us hungry and it was time for lunch so we headed for the only restaurant with outside seating that we had discovered yesterday. I had the Cuban black bean soup with onions for $2.95 (repeat of yesterday) and Wayne had the $4.00 fixed price lunch. It started with potato soup and he chose the chicken breast with rice and vegetables (there were four entree choices) that came with juice and dessert. Quite the good value.
While we were eating the Ukrainian couple from New York (who are moving to Cuenca) that we met yesterday at our hotel came by looking for a table so we invited them to join us as we had the last two available outside seats. We had some great conversation and learned a lot about their thoughts on the situation in the Ukraine (their home country) and also about the research they had done on retiring here in Cuenca.
After lunch we took off to walk more of the city in bits and pieces. We would head out in a new direction, spot a church dome and head off. There usually would be a small plaza with benches and we would sit and rest (Wayne was almost more considerate about my limitations than I was) entertaining ourselves people watching for a bit and then heading off in a new direction. This city somehow did not suffer massive earthquake devastation over the years as did the rest of Ecuador so there is more colonial architecture in tack everywhere you look. Such an interesting, inexpensive, mellow, clean beautiful setting and with the mild climate we can understand why this town lures so many xpats here to live.
We contemplated where to go for our last dinner in Cuenca and decided on a popular (always a long line to get in) restaurant under the porticos. Since we eat early and most locals eat about 7:00pm we got right in and scored the last window seat. I had Mac and cheese with red wine and Wayne had a chicken mushroom crepe with white wine. It was fun watching the vendors setting up their wares for the Sunday night strollers. Sunday night usually brings out older couples, families with the kids riding their little trikes or toddling along and young lovers holding hands or snuggling on park benches. Lots of street vendors are selling goodies and here in Cuenca the caramel pop corn balls and flavored meringue served in ice cream cones are the favorite. In every Latin town this is one of our favorite times to enjoy the local flavor.
Perfect final evening memory finish to an absolutely perfect trip!
We slowly meandered the few blocks to our hotel and upon entering our room we were greeted with a plate of four custard type bites drizzled with honey. I think I forgot to mention that last night when we climbed into bed we were greeted by a hot water bottle and tonight was the same. Such a nice touch and my back and hip were so appreciative of the special attention. The Forum Hotel is a gem!!!