Friday, December 31, 2010

costa rica - day 6 - san josé

was up at the crack of dawn in full attack mode over the loss passport. as she was upending every crevasse of her ginormous carry-on, i was contacting casa colina and various lost & founds to no avail. when i heard a shriek, i turned around to see the most lovely navy blue cover in her hand. OMG what a relief. i was already planning on staying a few extra days to wait for an emergency replacement, so traveling back today didn't sound like a bad idea after all...

with all the excitement, we missed breakfast but still had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. after packing up and printing our boarding passes, we took a stroll into the main part of town to grab one last lunch and shop for various knick knacks at mercado central.

spotted our first mickey D's on the main thoroughfare and it was a double decker doozy. we opted for something a little uh, more local and settled on soda chelles for a blackberry smoothie and a jamon y queso sandwich.

our cab picked us up from casa 69 at 2:30pm sharp and we were on our way to juan santamaria international airport. it's always bittersweet making the trek home, but i was thrilled to experience central america for even a short amount of time. six days is much too little to spend here in order to get a good glimpse into the people, the culture, the food and the way of life. alas, i hope to be back!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

costa rica - day 5 - santa teresa/san josé

slept in on tuesday morning, managing to get breakfast in just before the 10am cutoff downstairs. today's fixins include mango, watermelon & pineapple to go with gallo pinto (a costa rican staple) topped with two fried eggs. since we are headed to san josé by way of the 2:30pm direct bus, we race into town to look for souvenirs and to the beach in search of sea shells for my mom.

we say our last goodbyes to casa colina, then head to an arbitrary intersection where the bus arrives twice per day for san josé. even though it's about a 6-7 hour trek, it's not that much slower than taking a shuttle since you still have to get on the same ferry. plus, you pay about $8 vs. $55 for the shuttle.

we take the ferry from paquera to puntarenas - where the bus boards as well - and get back on the same bus when we return to land. top left below is our bus, top right are some of the mangoes locals are peddling at the docks:

we arrive at the coca cola bus terminal in san josé around 9pm, then cab it to our hotel (casa 69) where we groggily check in. most of the restaurants in the neighborhood are closed, so believe it or not we do take out at pizza hut and make it an evening in our room, complete with dessert of cream cheese rolls + ice cream.

however, we're thrown for a loop as heidi can't find her passport and we start retracing our steps earlier that day. i do a bit of research online that evening and locate the US embassy in san josé, as we make plans to visit first thing on wednesday morning in case her passport doesn't turn up at casa colina. this makes for a nervous night...

costa rica - day 4 - santa teresa

monday morning brought about complimentary breakfast of fresh fruit and an omelette w/basil & tomatoes before dashing off to a yoga session at 9am at horizon hotel, a soothing, ocean view oasis with a highly acclaimed yoga center.

technically, this is my 2nd experience w/yoga, as i took an intro class at santa monica yoga a few months back to satiate my curiosity. we incorporate a couple of stretching exercises and yoga poses for our training in parkour, so it's always interesting to learn different types of movement. unfortunately, this was no introductory class, as the session was of the vinyasa variety, so all the basic stuff is understood here and they were moving fast and furious. basically, i just tried to keep up without farting or drawing attention to myself. luckily for me, the view from the yoga deck was absolutely breathtaking:

afterwards, herbal tea was available for the guests on the patio, so it was a good time to take a breather and enjoy the scenery, which included the triangular tranquility pool directly below:

headed back to our crib, but not before passing thru brisas del mar, where the view during the day is a wonderful companion piece to our vantage point the night before.

strolled into town for lunch, where we stumbled upon artemis café, a cute outdoor mediterranean bistro/coffee bar. more importantly, it's located a few shopfronts down from a gelateria, so you better believe this was the spot we were dining. sadly, i was so hungry, i have no captures of the beer-battered mal pais fish sandwich & waffle fries i tore into. but trust me, it hit the spot. for gelato, i opted for the coffee/stracciatella (akin to chocolate chip except completely different) combo...

joint massages were booked for 4pm, so it was a relaxing yet interesting session. outside of two facials that have had accompanying neck/shoulder massages and a thai massage at wat po that had my masseuse airborne attacking my body from above, this was the first full body massage where i've had to remove all clothing. on top of that, my person was a dude, so the cheek fondling went to new heights. since i don't know what's customary, i decided to keep quiet and enjoyed the end result - a blissful state. but he never gave me the heads up that it was over, so i sat there in the warm breeze spacing out until heidi acted the masseuse and started acting inappropriately. after the shenanigans, i was able to capture the sun setting on santa teresa.

dinner was at las piedras, an argentinian BBQ joint that cooked up all their meats on an open fire grill. plus, any place that claims "it's the shit" is a place worth trying. i lucked into getting the last steak of the night, so i slathered on the chimichurri and gleefully ate my meal while our table neighbors were salivating as they dined on chicken - no slouch, mind you. we enjoyed our meal accompanied by a charming couple absolutely lit from red wine, as i compared childhood stories with the tattooed one born at st. mary's hospital in san francisco.

costa rica - day 3 - santa teresa

sunday morning brought about an inhumane 5:30am shuttle pickup from our hotel to santa teresa, a beach village on the shores of the nicoya peninsula. it's not necessarily a far distance, but the poor quality of the roads and the need to take a ferry brings the one way trip to about 6 hours. we're also treated to the first time arenal volcano has been visible, so all in all the early start time was worth it.

after a bumpy and rollicking 2.5 hour drive thru the mountains, we arrive in puntarenas to take a 1-hour boat ride to paquera, where it's another 1.5 hour drive into mal pais/santa teresa. and where it's sunny and warm!

we arrive at casa colina, a charming 4-room bed & breakfast run by dave (surf instructor at tropicolas surf school) and ariana, who runs a horseback riding outfit nearby. the location is superb, as it's set up on a hill overlooking playa carmen. in fact, here's the view from our bed:

the rooms are wonderful - bright and airy with the wooden shutters opening up wide for panoramic ocean views. the king bed has mosquito netting (if you want to sleep with the shutters open), there are two rocking chairs window-side (where i downed many an imperial) and there's a safe to store your valuables. downstairs is the communal area - replete with a dining area, hammocks, tv room, kitchen and books (in both english and german).

the vibe in santa teresa is wonderfully carefree and relaxed, so it's a refreshing change from all the activity in la fortuna. we head into town - meaning a 5 minute walk to the main street - for lunch at soda amistad, where i inhale a pineapple smoothie along with some arroz con pollo.

afternoon is spent checking out the surrounding neighborhood/beach and hanging out with the other travelers, leaning on them for what's good to eat, what's cool to check out, etc. dave mentions that brisas del mar is the only meal in town - plus it's literally next door - so i happily use my xmas gift (thanks mom & dad!) to splurge on the best dinner of the trip. the location, ambiance and service is second to none and extremely romantic: it's on a secluded bluff extending and overlooking the beach, so it feels like you're eating in outer space with only your companion(s) around.

started with a caipirinha to kick off the night, followed by a fresh ahi roll w/asian cabbage in rice wrapper, the mixed seafood grill (had to take advantage of our proximity to water) and ended the meal with a brownie topped with vanilla bean ice cream. it was an unforgettable meal and one i certainly hope to return to...