Friday, October 19, 2012

Costa Rica: Day One

Friday, October 19, 2012

Even though our flight didn't leave until 11:30pm out of Seattle's SeaTac Airport, I took the entire day off work. I know myself well enough to know that even if I went into the office, I wouldn't have worked a single minute. I gave myself the day to run a few last minute errands, packing the last few items, getting my hair cut and my nails polished. Joel worked half a day in the office, then came home to finish up his packing. We were 100% packed and ready to go way too early. We were then forced to sit on the couch and watch TV to entertain ourselves until it was actually time to leave. Nothing makes time go slower than waiting to leave.

Jackie and Chris arrived not much later. They always seem to pack their luggage too full and have to empty it of a few items when they get to our house. So we spent about an hour weighing things and deciding what they should carry on, leave in the suitcase, and leave at our house. It was about this time we figured out they accidentally left our big camera at their house. Joel and I had forgotten it in their car after SWANK. By now it was too late to drive up to their house and get back in time to catch our flight. Joel was about to drive to a Best Buy and buy a new camera, but after some discussion we decided we could make do with our point-and-shoot camera and Jackie's fancier point-and-shoot camera.

I had been drinking this entire time and was finally starting to feel a buzz. I had decided to start drinking as a part of my plan to sleep most of our red-eye flight. I was going to have another beer at the airport and then pop a benadryl and sleep the entire uncomfortable flight. Julie drove us to the airport and I couldn't have been more excited. The last time Joel and I went on a big trip was three years ago, so we were long overdue. After getting checked onto our flight and through security, we went to our gate and found the closest bar. They were closing shortly, so we only had time for one beer. Oh well, it is a good thing I had prepared at home.

Cheers - To an amazing time in Costa Rica!
Our first flight left Seattle at 11:30pm and arrived in Houston, Texas at 5:36am. We had a two hour lay over which always seem so long to me when I book flights, but when I am actually in the airport, it goes by pretty quickly. I guess I forgot that it takes about half an hour to exit the plane and another half an hour to board the plane, which only leaves you an hour to get from gate to gate and grab any food, coffee, or other item you want for your next flight. Surprisingly I didn't sleep very much on this flight. I think I dozed in and out, which is usually what I do on flights. I just can't get comfortable enough to actually sleep. So during our layover I bought some food and coffee, figuring I was already awake, I was going to awake for the next flight as well.

The big, beautiful blue sky (I believe we were over the Gulf of Mexico at this point.)
Just enough room for my Kindle, my breakfast, and our customs paperwork.
Joel is very excited we are almost there!
Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our second leg of the journey left Houston at 9:03am and arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica at 11:48am. We had already completed our Customs Forms on our flight, so we breezed right through the customs and onto to get our luggage. Once we exited the airport, there were so many people asking us if we wanted a taxi! It was overwhelming! If I didn't know any better I would have thought they mistook me for a famous person, there so many people crowding the walkway trying to get you to pick them for your transportation needs. We were smart and pre-booked our transportation from San Jose to La Fortuna, which is about a two hour drive north of the Capital. Our driver was standing among all the other people holding up a sign with Jackie's name on it. I almost asked him to let me take a picture with him (I had never had someone waiting for me with my name or the name of someone I know on a sign), but decided not to be silly. We followed him to our van and in no time we were whisked from the airport and onto the "freeway".

Joel and I at the San Jose airport, waiting to pick up our luggage, so excited to finally be in Costa Rica!
Joel in our van.
Jackie and Chris, in our van, headed to La Fortuna
A beautiful church we passed along the way.
I have never been so thankful not to be the driver as I was on this drive. It was my first exposure to driving in Costa Rica and it is not something I would excel at. First of all there might be lines painted on the road, but it doesn't mean you should stay between them. If there are people walking in the roadway, small children or old adults, just drive right past them as if they are not there. If there are teenagers standing on the yellow center line waving their arms, just get as close as you can with out actually hitting them. As a driver in Costa Rica you should also pass other vehicles as frequently as possible. It won't matter if you are on a hill, going through a curve, or if the road is only one lane wide, just pass that car no matter what you do. I am pretty sure I was entertaining Joel, Chris and Jackie with my panicked looks, bracing myself on the seat, and just plain closing my eyes to avoid witnessing the horror of what was about to happen.

We did get to see lots of the country side during our drive and our driver told us all kinds of facts about what we saw along our route. We stopped at Mi Rancho Bar Resuaurante Chicharronera, the Diermissen Molina Family Restaurant, that was clearly a local favorite. I took the advice of our driver and ordered a favorite Costa Rican dish which was very similar to Chinese fried rice, but more Costa Rican. (As if that helps explain the dish at all...) We drank our first Costa Rican beer, an Imperial, and enjoyed a break from being on the move. It was a bit humid outside but the fans in the restaurant kept us cool. We finished up our meal and got back on the road.

Cheers! First Costa Rican beer
Everyone is happy to be here!
House Special Rice with Chicken
Our first animal spotting - a White-Nosed Coati
When we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Mountain Paradise, we were greeted with a warm towel, fresh tropical drinks, and such service that put right at ease. We were quickly shown to our rooms and left to relax after our long journey. Joel and I couldn't believe our eyes when we first stepped into our room. There were two beds, one king and one queen. The king was surrounded by sheer curtains that could be pulled together to completely enclose the bed. The feather pillows and duvet felt so good as I laid down for the first time in what felt like forever. There was a big screen TV that hung above the two huge doors that opened onto our patio with our private Jacuzzi tub and gardens. The bathroom had a separate room for the toilet and two showers. Yes, two showers. One was a typical stall shower but had so many shower heads it was almost a massage and the second shower was a waterfall. Yes, you read that correctly, a waterfall! When you turned on the faucet, the water would pool in a rock bowl until it overflowed and fell like a waterfall down below to the rock floor. I had never stayed at a place like this and we thought for sure they had upgraded our room or something.

Welcome Drinks!
Our beautiful room & pool! I can't wait to use that swim up bar!
We decided to head over to Jackie and Chris's room to see what they wanted to. We were in a surprise. They had a bigger room! They had two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. We were shocked! The also had a waterfall shower, but their waterfall cascaded into a tub below. They had one king sized bed and in another room they had two queens. Joel and I were mad that they got the bigger room at first, but then we decided it didn't matter, our room was amazing and we would take it!

By this time we were all getting hungry, so we walked over to the restaurant to order dinner. I decided to order the special of the day, fish. I had no idea this would mean the entire fish! I didn't know what to do when my dinner arrived and the entire fish was on my plate, starring at me. I hate to eat meat off the bone, left alone while it watches me do it. My first day in Costa Rica was going so perfectly, why did dinner have to turn out like this!? Jackie could tell I was panicking and considering sending it back, but she talked me through it. After a few deep breaths and lots of courage building, I ate that fish! It is was pretty good and I am very proud of myself for not coming undone.

My whole fish dinner
Jackie ordered the lobster - did you know Costa Rica has fresh lobster, grown locally!
We spent the rest of the night hanging out and relaxing before our big day we had planned for tomorrow. It felt so good to sleep in a comfortable bed after all that traveling!

We had an elephant in our room! I love towel animals!
We love Costa Rica already!

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