On our journey, whether traveling around the world or around your block, there's lots to learn about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, so lets dive into a new ocean together!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

16 Days in Costa Rica ~ Part 3

The Tree House
Sarana Beach, Costa Rica
Lovely garden for breakfast
Owner of Hotel Los Jarnines
Hola!  Traveling can be tiresome.  We've hiked and zip-lined and para-sailed before, so we chose to rest and relax on our 16-day trek through Costa Rica.  NOTE: I'm also sharing a few 'downsides' as well as the 'upsides' because that is what I want to know before I spend my holiday in a foreign country. 

Besides the delicious food and lovely scenery, we met the nicest, sweetest friends--I call them friends because we didn't treat one another like strangers or tourists.  
Typical CR breakfast
LOVE their rice and beans

The first two days we spent exploring, relaxing, and eating at Playa Panama.  Days 3 and 4: Breakfast at Hotel Los Jarnines in the rain forest in Monteverde is special because their tortillas are homeade!  Rob couldn't get enough.  The owner was so sweet and helpful in every way.  I recommend this boutique hotel if you like out-of-the way places.  And yes, it is worth driving the rocky, narrow, bumpy road top to arrive at this beautiful destination.




Dinner at Bulabula Hotel
Breakfast at Bulabula Hotel

Robinski and I spent days 5, 6, 7 and 8 at the out-of-the-way Hotel Bulabula in Playa Grande (a gated community--lots of gates and locks in Costa Rica).  One afternoon we traveled by water taxi to the touristy, X-Pat town of Tamarindo.  
Reminder: The weather in Costa Rica was hot (90+) and tropical; most restaurants are open-air so mosquitos are invited to hang out (some restaurants even provide bug spray).  For those two reasons, we found a Subway with air conditioning.  Ahh, cool never felt so good.

The Subway was empty except for a young lady sitting alone at a table with her computer and a cup of coffee.  As we chatted with Tara, she shared that she is an American volunteer teaching English in Costa Rica for 2 years.  She lives with a Costa Rican family and takes the bus whenever she travels.  I think she enjoyed talking with us as much as we loved chatting with her.
Tara in Tamarindo

I talked about Lola's Restaurant on the beach in Part 2 (+ pictures), about 40 minutes south of Playa Grande.  This place is a treat not to miss.  Ocean breeze, sand between your toes, delicious tacos, and lots of friendly faces from all over the world.
Scrumptious dinner at Bulabula's Restaurant










Day 9 we decided to drive two hours south to Sarana Beach.  We discovered The Tree House right smack on the beach.  We substituted a small air conditioned room for an upstairs beach view with a large open window (+fans).  For me personally, two nights were plenty without air-conditioning, but it was my choice because I wanted to experience hearing the ocean's roar and feeling a sea breeze as I slept.  But getting up at 2am for a shower was not in my plan (either was the thunder/rain storm!).  NOTE: Think twice before sleeping without air conditioning in hot, tropical holiday resorts.

Todd, owner of Hotel Bulabula
and a happy American family!
dining el fresco at La Gato
until it started raining!

Day 12 we drove north to Playa Flamingo.  We stayed at Playa Sueno al Mar, a hotel that stands firmly on a cliff overlooking a beautiful bay and the Pacific Ocean that stretches as far as the eyes can see.  The large swimming pool gave my final approval.  After a swim and a shower, we ate dinner on the beach at Bahia del Sol.  Romantic, sweaty, and sandy, but at least we had 'sprayed' before leaving the hotel (you know, the bug spray!)

As delicious as the food was,  
Montezuma's Revenge somehow found me and I was in bed all day and 
had delayed reactions for over a week after I returned home.  
NOTE: 
Be mindful of what you eat and drink.  
Alas, there is still no guarantee of avoiding the Revenge.

Everywhere we traveled on our 16-day journey, we had a chance to 
share our testimony of God's love and faithfulness, 
give my 'Lady and the Sea' cards with a smile along with lots of hugs. 
 I have faith that the words we shared and the love we showed along the way
 touched the hearts of our new friends.  
God's creation and beauty could be seen everywhere, 
but it was the friends we met along our journey that made the difference 
between a good trip and a 
great experience.

Rob's dream vacations were Belize and Costa Rica.  
My dream holiday is Paris.  
What is yours?  
Believe me, I never thought I would be planning a holiday in Paris!  
But at 68, I realize that you are never too old for your dreams to come true.  
Two decades of missions trips have led to a few dream holidays.  
Thank you, Lord. 

My foot has held fast to His path,
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
Job 23:11  NASB

Until we meet again, my friends,
I wish you smooth sailing and oceans of blessings in life's daily journey.


Friday, June 20, 2014

16 Days in Costa Rica ~ Part 2


One of several long, dirt roads we traveled
A challenge, an adventure in faith.
There will always be the unknown.
There will always be the unprovable.
But faith confronts those frontiers with a thrilling leap.
Then life becomes vibrant with adventure!

Costa Rica ~ Part 2

Our flights from Columbia, SC to the Liberia airport in north Costa Rica went smoothly.  After renting our 4-wheel drive we headed down a nice two-lane highway for Playa Panama.  We missed our turn, thanks to me, the Map Whisperer, so it took us a bit longer than the twenty minutes the friendly car-rental Costa Rican had said. Note: car rentals are inexpensive, but the INSURANCE will kill you. We opted for everything since we were traveling in unfamiliar territory, but we opted not to have a GPS, thus the Map Whisperer was created (me).


Casa Conde Del Mar, Playa Panama
Costa Rica



I had the huge pool all to myself
most of the time.
After lunch, a long swim, and delicious dinner, it was around eleven o'clock that evening when I began the search for my mini-iPad.  Dumped everything out of my purse.  Nowhere to be found.  Mini-panic.  Called Delta.  Only recordings.  Sent email.  Concerned.  Prayed.  Helped.  
Beautiful beaches abound
Bright and early the next morning, after a yummy Costa Rican breakfast, we drove twenty minutes back to the airport (no wrong turns this time).  Rob was cool the whole time.  Delta greeted me with big smiles and handed me my 'lil i-Pad within ten minutes.  Whew! Yay!  Note: ALWAYS double check the pouch in the airplane seat in front of you.  I always do...except this time. 

Day 3 we headed inland for the rain forests of Monteverde.  Most of the roads were good.  Except one.  Turning off the main highway, we traveled on a two-lane road that led us through a small town.  My eyes were glued to the map when Rob turned left instead of staying on the safe-looking road.  When the pavement turned to dirt,  I softly said, "I'm pretty sure I told you the wrong way."  The Map Whisperer was willing to take the blame.  MW's translation: Please turn around.

"This is the right road," Rob stated like a professional tour guide.  Slowly, the road narrowed.  Suddenly there were mini-bolders sprinkled with pot holes as big as mini-ponds.  "Are you sure I didn't tell you the wrong way?" I asked.  Silence.  The map was of no help, so I threw it in the back seat and gripped the door handle.  I was determined to be the good wifey...quiet, calm, soothing, comforting, all the while wondering why there was no one else on this narrow, scary road.  Then behold!  We saw cows!
We were not alone after all on
the Rocky Road to Monteverde
A few miles later, a tour bus came rolling down the hill, heading straight for us.  Rob swerved to make way for Mr. Tour Bus Driver.  We might be on the right road after all, we were both thinking.  Then a few more miles up the road, a second tour bus came barreling around the corner.  Rob pulled over, stopped, and looked at me and said, "I was beginning to wonder about this road."  "Me too!" I announced, still shaking.  We laughed as he jerked the shift into gear, pressed a few magical buttons, and 4-wheeled off to Monteverde.

Clouds gathered overhead.  Thunder and lightning.  Then the rain fell.  Then I had to go pee...well, I needed to go to the toilette.  We drove through small villages, but no Costa Ricans in sight.  We passed a zip-line resort.  Closed.  "Can you hold it, or do you want me to pull over?" Rob asked.  "Pull over and do what!?!?" I answered.  "Then you'll have to hold it," Rob answered as he dodged another pot hole.  He was too focused on the muddy roads to sympathize with me.  Dang.

"Look!  Pull over!" I said as my eyes beheld a little mobile trailer that had a flashing sign in English, OPEN.  I ran in, pointed to the bana sign.  The sweet Costa Rican angel said, "Si."

We finally pulled into Monteverde at dusk. I wanted to kiss the ground, but stayed focused on the map that led us to the quaint, cozy boutique Hotel Los Jarnines.  "Yes, that is the main road to Monteverde," she replied when I asked about the bumpy road.

We were hungry so we found a small, romantic restaurant...just what Mr. 4-Wheel and the Map Whisperer needed after a long day on the Rocky Road to Monteverde.  Faith for the day and food for the evening never felt so good.
Loved this quaint restaurant

Delicious food, romantic atmosphere
Coffee plantation showed us how to
make coffee, sugar, and chocolate!
After two days of touring a coffee plantation and sightseeing, we drove the same road back down the mountain, but this time we knew it was the right road.  Note: Life Lesson: Even if our road is rocky, when we know we are on the right road, it makes all the difference.  

The sun was shining as we headed back to the Pacific coast.  I have to admit, the Map Whisperer did a great job for the remainder of the 16-day journey.  There were a few more dusty roads along the way, but the most fun was eating on the beach at Lola's Restaurant, where Rob met Miss Lola in person:
The dirt road to Lola's on the beach



Rob sneaking up on Lola!
As we drove down every highway I noticed small houses built right next to the roads; doors and windows open for any breeze to flow through the small hot rooms; covered porches lined with chairs, sofas, and tables for families to lounge.  Clothes hang in almost every  front yard.  House have high, rod-ironed, bob-wired fences surrounding their property to protect against theft.  I was impressed with how neat they keep their property.  Costa Ricans appreciate their belongings.  A good lesson for all of us.

The nationals are friendly, kind, and humble because they live "Pura Vida" ... the "Pure Life" ... a simple, pure, and happy life.  It is evident in their faces.  

Our journey continues next time in Part 3 ~ Faith, Food, and Friends.  Until then, I wish you Pura Vida!
Playing on Playa Pirates, Costa Rica
Stand at the crossroads and look...
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16  NIV


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

16 days in Costa Rica ~ Part 1

First 2 and last 2 days in Playa Panama, Costa Rica

Two roads diverged by the sea,
and I -- 
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

Part 1

Trekking through Costa Rica for sixteen days 
in a small 4X Suzuki was Rob's idea, 
and I'm glad I decided to go along for the ride.  
Costa Rica was on Rob's Bucket List so 
he made the flight arrangements, 
found several boutique hotels online, 
rented the 4X, and the rest 
we made up along the way.


Part 1 
will give you some suggestions on 
what to pack to make your travels easier, 
whether you're traveling through Central America or 
the USA.
 I'm not a professional travel guide, but 
I've been around the block a few times...
...Russia, Siberia, Greece, Israel, Estonia, Sweden, 
to name a few.

Standing next to our rented 4X Subaru with my teal backpack and Rob's basic black
First, travel light.  
Rob told me while packing for our first trip to 
Russia and Estonia back in '91: 
"Take only what YOU can carry."  
As I slowly began removing items that I thought I needed, 
I later realized this was good advise for women 
who think they must bring several outfits per day, 
loads of make-up, skin and hair care, and  jewelry galore.  
As for me, I've learned to be a light traveler because 
I dislike having to come home and unpack.


Since this trip's destination was Costa Rica in the summer, here are a few suggestions.



Plane travel: White casual roll-up pants that 
I only wore on the plane (Old Navy); 
striped vintage t-shirt
 layered with a beige pullover (Free People) because 
planes are always cold; 
walking shoes (Sketchers Moving Foam) that I only wore on plane; 
watch, earrings, bracelet. That's it.

Backpack and purse (TJ Max)
Blue clothes carrier* fits perfectly in backpack.
Zipper carriers* for undies and cosmetics fit in backpack with ease.
Don't forget your journal!
*I bought mine at AAA on sale but you can find them at TJMaxx
Backpack
In my clothes carrier: 2 pairs of White Stag walking shorts, white and tan (Walmart for $7.98); 
2 vintage cotton striped tops (Loft); 
2 sleeveless tops (Belk); swimsuit (TJMaxx) and a 
cover-up (also used as a sundress). 
Shoes: walking sandals (Easy Spirit @ Belk); 
I lived in my blue flip-flops.
Cosmetic/accessory carrier: 3 oz. bottles of shampoo, moisturizers, lotions, wash cloth 
(some smaller hotels do not offer these items), 
razor, deodorant, etc. 
Undies carrier: 8 lower, 3 upper (sports bras), 
nightie.
It was Costa Rica's rainy season so 
I stuffed a roll-up rain jacket in it's little pouch 
but didn't use it--too hot!


Purse: 
In case of emergency I carry my make-up case 
(only wore lipstick and eyeliner most of trip); 
med-case for my 3 prescriptions and vitamins; 
small butt pack with passport and money; 
small wallet; toothpaste/toothbrush; 
mini-iPad; iPhone; pen/journal.  
Bored yet?  
I'm almost finished.  
Breath mints, kleenex, sani-cloths, comb and hair clip.  
I'm leaving something out, but I can't remember what. 
Oh, yes...on day 8 we did our laundry at the Bula-Bula Hotel.

White sleeveless,
morning or evenings
Costa Rica


Blue striper wears morning or evening
(wore this hip hat once at
a coffee plantation in the rain forest 
Monteverde, Costa Rica
I wore these flip-flops everywhere.

  











A Necessity I forgot: 
anti-diahrea pills in the event that 
Montezuma's Revenge finds you. 
Rob went to a local pharmacia to get me some help.  
Day 13 found me in bed all day, and 
MR followed me home for a week, so pack the pills!



Part 2 will take you 
On the Road with Lady Traveler and her 
sidekick, Robinski (Rob's Russian nickname).  
Hold on because our journey could make you a little car sick.  Faith, Food and Friends will be the topic of Part 3.  After all, isn't that what traveling is all about?

Running on the hot sand at Playa Pirates, Costa Rica


Until next time, 

I wish you smooth sailing and 

oceans of blessings 

on your hot, summer days.

Put your hope in the Lord.
Travel steadily along His path.
Psalm 37:34 NLT
www.sharonleaf.com