Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Honeymoon Synopsis -- Part One

We safely returned from Costa Rica earlier this week and wanted to update our blog with details of our trip before we forget them like everything else. I can’t even remember what I did two weeks ago… I remember wearing a white dress, though…

Anyway, Costa Rica. We departed early on Monday, November 25.

Day One
We arrived in San Jose around 12:30 PM. We knew we had to get to the Hampton Inn “across from the airport” because that’s where the shuttle to our first hotel would be picking us up in a few hours. So, we walked out of the airport past all the eager-to-getyourmoney-help you taxi drivers thinking we’d walk. Soon figured out that wouldn’t work, so made a full lap of the airport back around to the drivers and hopped in a cab. A few minutes later, we’d reached the hotel and decided to go the neighboring establishment for lunch. Denny’s. That’s right. Our first meal in Costa Rica was at Denny’s.

A little pricey if you ask me...

The shuttle picked us up around 4:00 PM. We boarded and were immediately greeted by a man and wife/woman from Texas who had brought a full bar onto the bus with them. Thanks for those vodka sodas, guy. We had to say good-bye to the bar partway through the ride, though, as their end destination was not the same as ours. Another guy on the shuttle with us, we learned, was an American who lived in the town we were headed to (Tamarindo) and owned a bike shop. Fate, you sneak! How did the universe know we wanted to rent bikes while in Tamarindo? Perfecto.

We got to our hotel around 9:00 PM. The entrance was dark; we walked in past the office (closed) and down a short path to an open area where the pool and bar/restaurant (also closed) were. A staff person was waiting for us with a flashlight. He spoke no English, but had a piece of paper with my name on it, so I let him know it was me and he led us to our room. Very formal check-in. The pathways to each room were paved or boarded and surrounded by tropical plants and greenery, which allowed for an element of privacy. Our little house was toward the back of the property. It was simple, but charming.

Our room at Hotel Pasatiempo

After we dumped all our stuff into the room, we walked into the town of Tamarindo, found a bar where we ate some food, drank a couple Imperials and watched the Redskins lose. Then we crashed – it was a long day of traveling!

Day Two
We woke up early and enjoyed our first complimentary ‘tico’ breakfast at the hotel. Ticos are what native Costa Ricans call each other. So, the tico breakfast is a typical Costa Rican breakfast, which included eggs, rice and beans, toast and fruit. Pretty good. Also, delicious Costa Rican coffee. Can’t forget that.

Tico Breakfast

After breakfast, we walked to the beach – Playa Tamarindo – and stayed for a few hours relaxing and swimming. The weather was beautiful and the water was warm. That was my first time swimming in the Pacific Ocean! Around lunch time, we walked back to the hotel so we could continue relaxing – but by the pool with drinks in hand. That evening we did a “hike” where we walked a very short distance back a dirt road at the end of town that led to a “viewpoint.” It was pretty cool, you could kinda see across the gulf.

Playa Tamarindo on a beautiful, sunny day

We went to a place called El Coconut for dinner that night, which was recommended to us by our bike-shop-owning-shuttle-bus friend. The food was pretty good. After dinner, we grabbed some more wine and went back to the hotel. And that was pretty much it for day two.

Day Three
After enjoying our tico breakfast, we walked into town to the bike shop. Rented ourselves a couple bikes and started pedaling toward a nearby beach called Playa Conchal – aptly named for its “sand” made entirely of shell pieces.

Renting our Bikes

The ride ended up being about 12 miles. It was beautiful riding down the Costa Rican country roads. Passed a chicken or two, a tico or two hundred. About five miles in, we had to turn off the paved road onto a dirt road. Still enjoying ourselves, we bumpily rode along until we reached a small intersection. We paused to figure out our route. As we slowed, we noticed a herd of cattle passing to our left. How quaint! There was even a cattle dog nipping at their heels which made me think of little Romy…

Anyway, then things got interesting for a minute. To our right, a group of Ticos stood off in the distance. And when I looked their way, I could have sworn they were pointing a gun right at my face. I remained calm – shocking, I know – and told Jon what I was seeing. We shuffled our operation across the street and out of their line of sight. Jon didn’t admit until later than he was pretty sure it was, in fact, a gun pointed at us though he didn’t think they were doing it maliciously. Still – wtf?! We hopped on those bikes and pedaled fast to get the heck outta dodge. Scary.

A little while later we made it to the beach. It was really beautiful and there were not many waves, which made for nice swimming. After relaxing and swimming for a bit, we got lunch at a restaurant facing the beach. We were about ready to head back to Tamarindo, so our server said he would coordinate a taxi for us that could accommodate the bikes. I was obviously not going back down that dirt road to find crazy Ticos waiting for me! It also looked like an afternoon storm might roll in (which it did).

Picturesque Playa Conchal

Then things got interesting again. The “taxi” rolled up a half an hour or so later – an old, rusty, rust-colored pickup truck. Jon loaded the bikes into the bed of the truck while I sucked down my margarita real quick. When I walked over, Jon was climbing into the non-existent back seat. His seat was the truck’s speaker box. Umm… ok. The very old driver, who spoke no English, put the front seat back in place so I could climb in front. Off we went… at 5 km per hour. Poor Jon was stuck on that speaker box as we crawled down the roads to get back, while our driver fielded many calls from his horse-neigh-ringing cell phone (which only led to even slower driving). We’d been told at the restaurant that the taxi ride would be $40, which we thought was a little steep anyway but figured whatever. Well now that we were in this interesting situation, neither of us really thought that $40 was fair. We silently agreed to give the old man only $20 when we got to our destination.

When we arrived, we handed him the $20. He fumbled in Spanish (no Ingles, remember) trying to tell us that the cost was $40. I did take three years of Spanish in school, so I knew what he was trying to say but didn’t remember enough vocab to express our dissatisfaction. I tried pointing to the truck and spewing out a few words to give him an idea. But it was mostly just an awkward face-off. Then Jon, who knows next to no Spanish, just throws out, exasperated, “TRUCK MUY PICANTE.” If you don’t know Spanish either, then this might seem normal to you. But if you do know even a little, then you probably know what he meant to say was the truck was pequeno, meaning small, but in fact he told the man his truck was hot and spicy. I had to stifle my laughter for the sake of the face-off, which we eventually won, the old driver succumbing to the language barrier and leaving us.

The day did turn around after that. We returned the bikes then walked out onto the beach for sunset. We found some lounge chairs at a beachside restaurant and ordered a few margaritas and watched the sun go down. It was very pretty. Afterward, we got pretty ourselves and went to a place called Dragonfly for dinner. It was probably the best meal we ate during the entire trip. It was fabulous. After dinner, we went back to our hotel that was hosting an open mic night. We sat and enjoyed the music and a few more drinks for a while before calling it a night. And that was day three.

Delicious Dinner at Dragonfly

That’s all for now – part two coming next!

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