Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sundaes, Snakes, and almost the LAKE!

When I left Jackson Lake last weekend to head to NYC. I had a feeling that when I came back the lake would be ready... and well, I wasn't far off. We are counting down the days until we can hop in and wake board!!! I had my first taste last summer and now I am ready to see if I still got it!!! Woo hoo!Also, it is only appropriate that where I was staying in Brooklyn on Jefferson Ave. (thanks Sarah) is just a few blocks from Macon St. and Decatur St.
NYC was great! I went up for a top secret project which was fun, challenging, and successful. I saw many a lovely friend and dinned at some of my favorite spots. Most memorable was Lula's Sweet Apothecary!! I had a sundae!! Yes, I did! An entirely vegan sundae! Also, I still am forever recommending the salads at Wild Ginger and her sister locations... yum!Saturday day and night were especially great, my last day there and such a treat, I saw several friends including Meredyth Sparks and her show at Elizabeth Dee Gallery. I was lucky to assist her back in December with some sewing advice and she commisioned me to make a few door snakes which are in the gallery for her exhibition! Everything looks so great and you should all go see it!
Saturday night a friend of a friend was having a salon of sorts. A small group of people showed up for a lovely night of performance in celebration of the upcoming Girls In Trouble tour. We all congregated on the upper west side in the lovely apartment of a former opera singer with an equally lovely family and home. There was art and history everywhere, and it was a perfect setting for Malinda's dance and story telling. The foyer was just large enough for her to move and spin her tails (tales). :) Stephanie Rabins of the band Company gave us a heart felt grouping of songs which made me long to sit in a porch swing and listen to the rain. She was excellent. Lastly, was Girls In Trouble. They made me miss life 3 years ago when Alicia and I would often play a few songs together in the kitchen, or one or both or us had people over doing the same. They were so great!! She especially is so easy to watch and loose track of time as their music effortlessly filled the space and stilled, at least in that small living room, all of the city's restless energy. I am so glad I went!!Back in Georgia and planning for whats next. Family is coming this weekend, the following I am headed to St. Croix. More about that later!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Costa Rica for a week: howler monkeys and the smallest ants you have ever seen!

Marlo and I knew we wanted to go to Central America on our trip and it was a toss up between Tulum, Mexico and somewhere in Costa Rica. After countless stories of people running into other folks from Brooklyn in Tulum, we settled on Montezuma, Costa Rica. But, guess what, we still ran into people from Brooklyn!!!! It was magical though, and I have no regrets on our choice of destination.

It was so much fun, even planning our trip, Marlo and I sat on the phone simultaneously selecting our flights and arriving at the seating chart at the same moment in order to choose our seats in the same row.

We arrived in Costa Rica on a Wednesday, went through customs and immigration, exchanged some money, stepped outside and quickly became the dumb tourists that we were. Looking for the bus, we were told by an enterprising taxi driver that the bus had stopped running and that we should pay him to take us to Puntarenas. Which we did, and it wasn't until we arrived in Puntarenas and saw the buses running that we realized what had happened. The other uh-oh moment was when we saw that the ferry we were supposed to be on had left 10 minutes earlier and the next one wasn't until 9 pm. With not much else to do we went to the nearest restaurant and had what Marlo still calls the best meal of the trip.... some shrimp thing. My best meal came later, that night, I had salad and french fries.Meanwhile, this youngish guy is hollerin' at us out the window, making sure we know the ferry tickets are now available. Later I went down to talk to him, he helped me call our hotel in Montezuma that we were scheduled to stay at that night. After talking with him (Christian) and the hotel staff, Marlo and I decided it would be safer to stay in Puntarenas that night and take the first ferry in the morning. Christian wanted the equivalent of $6 for his troubles and pointed us towards the hotel. I was a nervous mess, but glad in the end that we didn't end up at 10pm on the other side of the ferry in the dark trying to navigate the one more hour trip to Montezuma.

The hotel was comfortable and safe and Marlo and I awoke with so much excitement and anticipation to catch the ferry to Paquera that we got to the the dock super early and had time to visit the same restaurant for breakfast.
I failed to mention how beautiful the drive was form the airport in San Jose to Puntarenas. IT WAS! Rolling hills, bright green... even though this is the dry season in Costa Rica. Skinny cows with really large ears.... we got to travel on the much talked about new highway, which we wouldn't appreciate the novelty of until later.

Anyway, we made it onto the ferry with no problems, it was already turning out to be a beautiful sunny day and the ride was nice and crowded. I snapped a few pics of our departed port city and the ride to Paquera.Once at the port of Paquera while I am trying to clumsily converse in Spanish with the bus driver Marlo has found us a taxi driver (Jose) who speaks a little English and will take us directly to our hotel. The drive was so nice and scenic. I fell in love with the fences. What they look like to me is live trees planted in a row all close together with barbwire almost grown over and into them. (Later learned these trees are called Jocote and they bear fruit.) The Jocote were all nubby on top where it looked like the branches had been continuously cut back. Here is where we realized the big to do about the new highway, there were so many pot holes that the drivers had to drive slow and snake around them, the whole hour long trip to Montezuma.I loved our hotel, so beautiful and set up a hill in the trees. There was a view to the ocean and little spots here and there to relax and sit in the shade. Monkey and iguanas in the trees!!
We hung out on the beach the rest of that day, lunch at Organico, and local beers later that night.
Note to anyone who wants to go here: be prepared to pay American prices for everything, NYC prices at that. I tried three local beers and because I don't know too much about beer I can only tell you the names and they all seemed pretty good to me: Imperial, Pilsen, Bavaria.
The next day, Friday, we planned our horse back ridding trip. I was a little worried for several reasons, are these horses happy? over worked? and will I fall off? Last and only time I rode a horse I was 7 years old. Anyway, we were reassured by the tourist office that the horses were well taken care of and very mild mannered. We took a van up the hill to the stables, met our guide, and mounted our beasts.. ha... with 2 other Brooklynites. Our guide, 18 year old, flip flop wearing, no English speaking, Jimmie, takes us on a beautiful dirt road ride through the farms and hill side to a secluded water fall swimming spot!!! Rope swing and all. It was so so nice. I was a little nervous on my horse on the way there, the way back I had a little more confidence and was trying to communicate with Jimmie in Spanish, about the time I was able to get out of him that he liked Metallica is when the horse decided to collide me with a tree. Here is a picture I drew that night in my journal about said tree.
I am still trying to figure out what kind of tree this was because it had branches growing straight down and the one my horse was headed for was growing straight down but had been broken off in a jagged fashion. I was glad for my gymnastic training because I ended up doing a back-bend off the side of that horse in order to avoid the pointy branch thing. Screamin' bloody murder I scared myself and the horse and he took of in a run. I managed to grab the reins, calm myself and him and wait for Jimmie to gather all my stuff that flew off me when I was doing my acrobats. I got a great big scrape all the way down my neck and chest and still have a scar to prove it. The hand motions for "take a deep breath" appear to be universal and I think Jimmie will always remember that crazy gringo lady who let her horse take her into a tree. By the time we made it back to the stable, the bats and howler monkeys were out.

The next day, Saturday, we took the local bus to the other side on the peninsula. Mal Pais and Playa Carmen were so, so beautiful and where the surfers hang out. We had another interesting language encounter with the bus driver and after several minutes of simple Spanish and hand signals, we got it sorted out. Saturday seemed to be the hottest yet and we were happy to stumble upon a sandwich shop with AC. Hiking up and down the beach in paradise can be exhausting.
The bus back, we got a little confused where we were supposed to transfer and after I proudly asked 2 people in Spanish when the next bus was coming, we determined that our wait was too great and decided on a taxi, but before we found a taxi we saw, what I think was, a pre-show for a rodeo down the road. Men and women dressed in fancy cowboy gear were prancing their horses in a high stepping manner up and down the street to the sound of a very energetic announcer. I don't think the horses liked this very much, they were foaming at the mouth. I tried to watch and educate myself, but I just got too upset for the horses. We got back to out hotel, Luna Llena, and crashed out.
Sunday, we took another bus down to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. That too was so nice, we thought we were in for an easy walk trough the jungle to the beach after our serious walking Saturday.... ah, but no, it was a HIKE! I loved it!!! Up and down, over fallen trees, under branches and termite nests. It was beautiful! We saw monkeys, a white tail deer, countless butterflies, and too many varieties of trees to recount... the beach too at the end was so worth it, it was the most beautiful yet with turquoise water, calm waves, and white sand. We sat in the shade at a picnic table and had our packed lunch of fresh bread with avocado slices. yum. The guide book said the hike would be 2 hours. Marlo and I were feeling pretty tough that we did it in an hour and a half. The way back we were even tougher at one hour.
That night back in Montezuma, I had my most favorite meal of the whole trip. The vegetarian version of the traditional Costa Rican casado: rice and beans, salad, plantains, avocado, and tomato. It was bliss for me and I could eat casado every day. Also no casado is complete without the local favorite sauce: salsa Lizano. It's kinda sweet, kinda spicy with a vegetable base. yum yum.
Monday we went snorkeling! AND! Our boat died! Halfway there in the middle of the ocean we had to shakily climb onto another boat. Our new boat made a stop by rainbow island. It was so neat. A little archway growing out of the water. All the boats stopped at a small island with an even still more beautiful beach. This one really was the best so far, small waves, clear blue green water, but no rocks at all, so it was perfect for swimming!! I loved it. Our guide made us lunch on the beach and we got another boat to take us out to the snorkeling spot. It was so great! So many tiny colorful swimming fish. I am so glad we did it. Also on this excursion was a 3 year old and a 5 year old. I found out, DANG! I can communicate really well with children in Spanish. I guess that is about where my level is, a 3 year old baby! ha ha!! She said "momma, where are the little fish?" and her mom said "in the ocean". AND I didn't even have to try to translate in my head....
Tuesday, our last full day, we took it easy, hanging around mostly in Montezuma which is about a 3 block radius total, lots of restaurants for the tourists, and souvenir shops, a book store/post office, and a grocery. We walked along the beach to another waterfall, I hiked up the slippery rocks and had a moment to myself in a small pool of chilly spring water. Back at Luna Llena that afternoon, the monkeys were active in the trees and I sat and watched them for a while. I discovered the source of all our bug bites.... tiny white ants living the the floor boards of the hotel. I was just glad they weren't bed bugs, but I am still recovering from like 30 bites.
The trip back to the airport on Wednesday was much easier than our trip in. We were in a van with about 6 other tourists. The ferry this time was a different one, it had cows on it. Marlo and I both napped a bit and enjoyed watching the farms and hills and countryside go by.

I was ready to come home, covered in sun burn and bug bites. But, I am so happy I went. AND I would love to go back, spend a month there, travel around a bit more. I wish we had monkeys in Georgia. Oh, and these red squirrels. ps. My other favorite tree which I learned from Jimmie is called wanacasa. Ok, so I just looked it up and it is actually spelled guanacaste. It's Costa Rica's national tree and it is so beautiful. Here is the drawing from my journal and a picture.