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Travel Journal: Costa Rica Day 2

Costa Rica is on Central time, which makes things easier - no jet lag. Okay, I want to back up and start at the beginning so I don't forget anything:
My mom came to pick us up at 8:30am, and we were still scrambling a few things together. But, we managed to get out the door with only a few minor casualties:
a) Jeremy forgot his Lactaid
b) Jeremy forgot a banana on the counter and now we keep looking at each other and saying, "I wonder how rotten that banana is now," or "Hm, I wonder if our banana has sprouted any fruit flies yet."
c) Since we didn't open our wedding gifts before we left, we didn't see if anyone got us the binoculars we registered for, and consequently we have no binoculars.

All three are minor oversights with minor inconveniences. Costa Rica - and especially the resorts we've chosen - are very friendly for lactose-intolerant types like our friend, Jeremy. But, I digress!

So...mom picked us up and got us to MSP. We got through check-in and security really quickly, and got to Phoenix just fine. Once in Phoenix, we had a couple of hours to kill until our next flight, so we played some travel Scrabble, and got some lunch. We also picked up some food to carry on the plane for dinner, since we know that all America West serves are sandwiches and two-dollar Pringles! Such bullshit!

So, we got on the plane for our 5-hour flight to San Jose. There were these two meatheads across the aisle from me that I was worried would bug me by being obnoxious chach-balls, but my irritation was minimal. The only thing that REALLY pissed me off on the flight was the $5 "entertainment fee" that America West charges for their stupid headsets. WTF? $5 to watch The Bourne Supremacy and an episode of a Charlie Sheen sitcom?! Of course I totally paid it because the alternative was reading my book for 5 hours. Which would be okay, except that I was beyond exhausted from all the wedding stuff and my eyeballs felt like they were on fire. So I paid the $5, but I kept the damn earphones so I wouldn't have to pay $5 on the way home (because yeah - not only do they charge you $5, they come around afterward to take back the stinkin' headphones! Whatever!). I also broke down and bought two-dollar Pringles. Don't judge, I needed a snack. Alright, enough about how much America West sucks and on to the good stuff.

Our flight was a little late, so we go into San Jose at about 11. When we came down the escalator after the immigration desk, there was a guy at the bottom hodling a dry-erase board with Jeremy's name on it (and some other people's, too). He gave us nametags that identified us as customers of Destination Costa Rica, and directed us to go first to baggage claim and then outdoors to meet with our driver. Except that we are AWESOME and once again did not have to check any bags! We bought some great new backpacks at REI and were able to carry everything on. I brought just the necessities, but I still have room in the backpack for any extras we bring home.

I kept it very simple: 2 pairs of capris, 1 pair of long pants, 3 t-shirts, 2 tank tops and 1 long-sleeve button-down shirt. I bought a pair of Chaco sandals for shoes, and that's it. Pajamas and a few toiletries, and that's all I brought. Oh, and a poncho because it's the rainforest! I brought no makeup, which is good except that I look like a washed-up hag because I'm still so worn out from the wedding. Especially disheartening to see pics of yourself looking like crap after feeling so queenly-looking at your wedding.

Anyway...so, we skipped baggage claim and headed outside where there was a driver holding a sign with Jeremy's name on it - just like in the movies! He led us to a parked van that said "Turismo" on the side, and gave us the vouchers for the rest of our trip: transfers, hotels, resorts, etc. When we check-in we just hand them the voucher and all we have to pay for is any food or extras. Sweet!

Our driver (I think his name was Rodolfo) then took us into San Jose for our first night at the Santo Tomas Hotel. On the drive in, we couldn't see much, just pitch dark countryside, but there were some indications of the crazy driving conditions: bus stops on the shoulder of 3-lane highways, a truck in the right lane with two people trying to lift a bed liner back into it that appeared to have fallen out, and another truck in the right lane (up the road a few miles) driving in reverse. ON THE HIGHWAY. Nice.

Once in downtown San Jose, there was a lot more to see. Mostly pretty ugly. Lots of low cement buildings, rusty tin roofs, debris on the streets - it's just not a very attractive city. At night, the windows and doors of all the shops are closed off with those rolldown metal doors, which just adds to the weary, menacing feeling. Buildings all seem to have a lot of protection: barb wire, gates, etc. I wonder if it's because it's so warm here - people don't have such solid windows and doors to keep out the cold and any bad people, so they have to use iron gates. Though that still doesn't explain the big metal doors!

Okay, so - we wound our way through San Jose to the Santo Tomas. Rodolfo got us in the gate, then took off. The young man at the front desk didn't quite seem to know what he was doing, but we got started checking in. And then BAM - the power went out in the whole place. He kind of looked up and said something like, "Oh, hehe, whoops," and then just went on as if nothing had happened. I asked him if the power went out a lot and he said, "Yes," without even looking up from his paperwork, which was lit by the emergency lights. He got everything all filled out, then excused himself to go check on our room. He returned a few minutes later and sheepishly admitted that he couldn't check the room, because he couldn't SEE the room. Heh.

We followed him down a hall to our room, which was tiny. I guess the place used to be a plantation home, andd they converted it into a hotel. So, the rooms weren't mean to be hotel rooms. Thank goodness for Jeremy's keychain flashlight - we were able to at least go to the bathroom and find our PJs. I was so exhausted that I didn't even wash my face or brush my teeth. We fell into bed, where I tossed and turned for several hours before finally falling asleep.

This morning, we woke up at 7am to get ready for our 7:45am transfer to the Tabacon Lodge, north of San Jose. I threw my hair into a ponytail and we grabbed a quick bite of the hotel breakfast: fresh fruit, 1/2 pastry and some coffee. Jumped into another Turismo van and spent the next hour going around San Jose to pick up 3 other couples who were going to the same area. Driving in Costa Rica - and especially in San Jose - is insane. It's not as fast as Italy, but seems almost scarier in its randomness.

It took us until about noon to get up to Tabacon. The drive was cool - we got to see the countryside (sugarcane fields, coffee, etc.) - without the hassle of driving. I am SO GLAD we didn't rent a car; it's much more relaxed this way.

Up until we got to the Tabacon, the trip had been ok. Not great, but ok. I was (and still am) exhausted from the Wilker Wedding Weekend, and my neck and shoulders are sore, and I was just on the edge of becoming a crabby baby. Until we got to the Tabacon.

Even pulling up in the van, we both looked at each other like, "Sweeeeet!" It is a really gorgeous and swank place. We went into the main lodge, which is yellow plaster walls, Spanish tile roof and bamboo-stalk ceilings inside with open-air walls. During check-in, they handed us a glass of fresh-squeezed juice (tasted like mango). Yum! Our room wasn't quite ready, so we walked down the road to the hot springs and spa. It's about 1/4 mile down a hill, and because we're guests we can go anytime we want. There are several rivers and waterfalls at the hot springs (they seem to be all man-made, but the springs themselves are legit). There is a pool with a bar (never been to one of those!), a restaurant, and two spa areas for massage, facials, etc. They also have a bungalow where they have yoga 4 times a day. AWESOME.

Since we were hungry after our long car ride, we had lunch at the restaurant. I ordered a pejibaye soup and a salad with tomato, avacado, hearts of palm, tofu and cucumber. The menu said the pejibaye soup was non-dairy, but it tasted so creamy I was worried - both because I had let Jeremy try some and because I didn't want to eat too many calories. But, I talked to the waitstaff, and it was made with soy cream. Sweet!

We had to kill time until check-in at 3:30pm, so we grabbed our suits and went into the hot springs. They are so warm! Tabacon is landscaped beautifully, and they've channeled the hot springs into all these little rivers with paved paths and bridges that go to all the rivers and pools. It was magic. The springs send steam up into the trees and it's really gorgeous.

Today was mostly cloudy, with just a peek of sun. Since it's the rainforest, there are little showers and sprinkles every so often. The temp was good, a little chilly at times, but nice overall. It was a good day to hang out in hot springs and warm pools! We had a pina colada at the wet bar, went down their little waterslide, and then went back up to the main lodge to check in to our room (#423). When we got in, there was a sculpture made of bath towels on the bed of two swans with their heads together forming a heart, and decorated with birds of paradise with a note from our friend, Michelle (who is also our travel agent). There was also a bottle of red wine on the table, along with a basket of fresh local fruit. After what The Tribe did for our wedding night hotel (upgraded our room and left us a HUGE basket of goodies and champagne)...and now this! We are so spoiled!

Once we got into the room, I took a wonderful hot shower and got into the complimentary bathrobe. I LOVE hotel bathrobes! They're so clean and cozy. We laid around until 7:30, and went back down the hill to try the dinner buffet. It wasn't very good, so we didn't eat much. Our waitress must have noticed how little we ate, because when she brought us the bill she said she had only charged us for one! Nice.

We had one more pina colada in the Lodge bar, and now we are in bed, listening to the sounds of the jungle outside. It's 10:48pm now, and I have to go to sleep - we have to wake up at 7am for our whitewater rafting trip!

Posted November 9, 2004 9:30 PM | On This Day: 2003


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