Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Costa Rica Trip (Day 9)

January 4 - Home to Sacramento
Our airport shuttle didn't leave the hotel until 9am, which was the latest departure time we've had all trip. So we got to have a relatively leisurely morning to pack and eat breakfast, although I wasn't able to get my huevos duros (why does it take so long to boil eggs in this country???). We managed to fit all of our souvenirs into our bags, although the United staff at the airport did refer to my carry-on as "chubby" -- ha!

The airport shuttle passengers included some of the people Mr. E and I had been referring to as "los otros peligrosos" (the dangerous others) throughout our journey. These were folks on the parallel Caravan tour, who followed the exact same itinerary and schedule as we did but were led by a different Tour Director, occasionally stayed in different hotels (ours were better!), and had a staggered daily timeline so that our meals and local tours didn't overlap or conflict.

We had lots of time to wait at the airport, so we did some final shopping -- including the purchase of a bottle of Cacique Guaro at Duty Free ($10) -- and then Mr. E spotted the United Global Alliance Lounge, where we have access thanks to his United Premier status. So we got to wait in a comfortable environment, and I had a veggie omelette as an early lunch before we boarded our flight.

Oddly, we had a final security screening in the jetway during the boarding process. This was particularly annoying because it was unexpected; conducted by rather rude security staff; and included disposing of any non-Duty Free beverages, even water in a personal water bottle. Mr. E noted afterward that he'd had a similar experience when returning from China. Luckily, we had very friendly flight attendants, so I was able to refill my water bottle before the flight took off.

We had thought about hanging out at the United Club in Houston during our layover, but we had no time for any extra activities, due to the extremely long lines at passport control:

When we finally got our passports cleared, we still had to go through another security line for our carry-on bags. I was relieved to learn from a TSA agent that Duty Free liquids are screened in special equipment, so they don't need to be discarded like other liquids. Unfortunately, the [very slow] male TSA agent who attempted to screen my bottle of Cacique Guaro was unsuccessful. Because of this, I also was subject to additional screening, including a search of my carry-on bags and a pat-down. Fortunately, he had to ask his female supervisor to do the pat-down, and she was very sympathetic to my plight, as I lamented the loss of my Cacique Guaro. She instructed the other agent to do one more surface test on the bottle, which came back clear, and since nothing else in my bags or on my person set off any alarms, I was free to take the bottle with me. Victory!

During this entire ordeal, Mr. E was heading towards the gate and picking up some dinner for us on the way, since I didn't know how long my security issue would take to resolve. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and we returned home to two very vocal kitties who welcomed us with lots of purrs and snuggles.

Que bueno viaje!

Costa Rica Trip (Day 8)

January 3 - Manuel Antonio Park and Aerial Tram
Mr. E and I decided not to head into the park with the early group at 7am, so I had a chance to swim in the rooftop pool for about 40 minutes before we had our breakfast and joined the lines at the park entry around 8:15am.

After about a 20-minute wait, including a very brief check of our minimal bags by security at the entrance, we walked the Main Trail to connect up with the boardwalk Sloth Trail on our way to the main beach, occasionally passing some other folks from our group who were already heading out of the park back to the hotel. Lots of other visitors were accompanied by local guides with cameras, and we saw a cluster of people looking at something in a bunch of trees. White-faced monkeys! These critters weren't shy at all, as they scampered around in the branches and jumped across the wires:

We also spotted a sloth:

Once we reached the main beach, we saw our Tour Director, who helped point us in the right direction towards the looping Punto Catedral ("Cathedral Point") trail. The beach itself was clearly a popular and lovely spot:

The trail we followed leading up to the overlooks on Cathedral Point passed by another less-crowded beach, and we had close encounters with several more animals:

The vista points from the trail were worth the [very, very hot and humid] hike:

After we finished our hike, I took a dip in the warm water of the secondary beach, which was very quiet and tranquil. Mr. E stayed on land to guard my shoes and hat and take more photos.

We met some more monkeys and raccoons on the trail near the main beach as we headed back out of the park:

By the time we reached the Park entrance, the gates were locked and no one else was being admitted. Our Tour Director had warned us that this could happen, since the Park is so popular, particularly during the holiday season, and the rangers will only allow a maximum of 800 people at one time. Mr. E did some shopping at the little souvenir kiosks right outside the Park while I cooled off in the big ground-level pool of the hotel.

We left Manual Antonio at 11:30am and drove for about 90 minutes to the site of our Aerial Tram tour through the rain-forest, where we also had lunch. As we were eating, we saw a beautiful toucan perched on a narrow tree trunk about 10 feet away:

The aerial tour took us through both primary and secondary rainforest, and we learned about the impressive efforts in Costa Rica to not only stop deforestation but also to recover some of the growth lost to earlier development. Our guide identified many of the trees along the route, and Mr. E spotted another toucan in the tree-tops:

At the end of the tour, our guide led us a few feet from the tram loading zone to show us a gold silk spider finishing up its meal of a lizard right next to a gorgeous flower:

We departed the tram site and headed towards San Jose for our final evening. Our wonderful driver, L, spotted a pair of brilliant red macaws preening in a tree at the side the road!

Our final lodging was a Quality Hotel, right across from a quick-service roast chicken restaurant with an impressive cow out front:

Before dinner, Mr. E and I walked to a nearby grocery store so I could buy coffee for CPCA. I also found a treasure trove of mini Hit cookies, but I exercised some restraint and only purchased four packages to bring home! Our final dinner included wine, and Mr. E and I both also enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails from the hotel bar.

La ultima noche de nuestro viaje...


Costa Rica Trip (Day 7)

January 2 - Friendship Bridge, Rio Tarcoles, and Beach Traffic
Today was another day of mucho bus time, as we left Guanacaste and headed south along the coast to Manuel Antonio. We passed lots of horse farms and also some cows in the road, including one that was clearly in the Christmas holiday mood:

Eventually, we passed over La Puente de la Amistad ("Friendship Bridge") before taking a rest stop at the Monteverde Co-Op for banos and helado. I was able to order a lime sorbetto, which was very refreshing. Then back onto the bus for a bit longer to reach our lunch spot before embarking on our 75-minute cruise on the Rio Tarcoles.

This river journey was full of lots of crocodiles and different types of birds. We even saw two pairs of red macaws flying high above us -- they're the only birds that fly in pairs rather than in groups or flocks. We also saw some little lizards and an iguana.

The journey from the river to Manuel Antonio was relatively smooth and easy until the very end, when we hit loads of traffic leaving the park and surrounding the public beach:

Our fabulous bus driver, L, had to perform some major feats of driving prowess to navigate around the traffic, the narrow streets, and the tight corner to reach the San Bada Hotel, which is literally just steps away from the entrance to the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio.

We were all surprised by the heat and humidity as we got off the bus and headed up to our rooms. We were welcomed with a towel rose on the bed and then headed up to the 6th floor roof deck for another beautiful sunset and Caravan-sponsored Happy Hour:

We also had a nice view of the big ground-level pool from the roof terrace:

Before dinner, we gathered to watch a Caravan-produced video that provided some background on the Manual Antonio Park and what we could expect during our visit the next day. Mr. E and I decided to take a dip in the pool after dinner to cool off, and I also confirmed that I could swim in the other (smaller but straight) pool on the 6th floor the next morning.