Monday, January 28, 2013

Costa Rica



We spent the past week in Costa Rica. For some time now, we’ve wanted the boys to have a chance to hear Spanish spoken outside the classroom. After doing some research we decided Costa Rica would be our best bet, factoring in all the variables at play for us. We spent the week in the Arenal region near La Fortuna, based on Trip Advisor’s recommendation for family travel in Central America (we stayed here).




As we left the airport in San Jose, we passed a block where the street level windows were all protected by bars. Behind one of them a little dog wagged its tail madly. A woman walking down the street stuck her hand through the bars to pet him. As soon as we left the city, roadside stands selling strawberries and fresh cheese cropped up every half mile or so. The road we traveled wound past terraced coffee plantations, fields of sugarcane, pineapple plantations. Vultures alone and in pairs circled over every field.


Tiempo means both weather and time.






The place where we stayed has a cow, chickens, and pigs.  Every morning, Abbott helped with the milking while Cal collected the eggs that would later become our breakfast. The restaurant was open to the air on one side, and we watched all manner of birds as we ate our meals. It was paradise. With breakfast, we were served some combination of starfruit, papaya, melon, guava and pineapple, to eat and in juices; the starfruit and papaya were grown on the property.  Our morning coffee was Costa Rican. After my first cup I said, ‘Bueno!’ – and our server corrected me, ‘Muy bueno!’



We spent a day with a local farmer and his family, and I saw my first Costa Rican lemons. They reminded me of miniature melons on the outside. They're more globular and more similar to an orange than are American lemons. Together we made chimichurri for lunch, and empanadas filled with guava jelly and caramel for an afternoon snack. Abbott and Cal played with the farmer's daughters, who happened to be their exact ages. They rode ponies and played cards and hide and seek.



Every day we saw sloths.




Birds, staggeringly beautiful, were everywhere. We learned Costa Rica’s national bird is an ordinary robin, chosen because it can be found everywhere throughout the country, and because of its beautiful song.



Our first full day in the region we visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges with a guide. It was an incredible opportunity to observe and learn about the intricate life of a jungle; the symbiotic relationships, the plants’ efforts at maximizing their sunlight via such measures as ‘walking,’ above-ground roots. We swam in hot springs at the end of the day.



There were endless lines of leaf-cutter ants everywhere. I got used to seeing their movement in my peripheral vision; started seeing it with my eyes closed.





We traveled by horseback through the rainforest and past fields of bulls and dairy cows. Our guide, Enrique, pointed out that cattle grazing and deforestation go hand in hand. Enrique had a little dog that ran alongside us; he found an armadillo. Apparently, they can’t see or hear very well, so they’re easy to catch. Enrique picked it up; the poor animal growled and trembled until he let him go. We rode to a waterfall. While we changed into our swimming suits, Enrique cut up a pineapple for us to share, using a giant leaf as his cutting board. We swam, then sat on sun-warmed rocks in the water and took it all in as we ate chicken salad sandwiches. Not another soul was in sight. At the end of the day, we encountered a few Costa Rican children swinging Tarzan-style on vines, and they invited the boys to join in.










We spent a day floating down the Cano Negro, watching Jesus Christ lizards walk on water, spider and howler and white faced capuchin monkeys in the trees, basilisks and turtles on the banks, bats in the trees and, as everywhere else, paradisical birds everywhere.


me and a baby white faced capuchin at the ASIS Wild Animal Rescue Center

In the evenings, we sat in the last of the light as we ate, listening to the bird songs stop and the cicadas start up. We walked back to our cabin in the thick humidity, and read in hammocks on our porch before going inside to bed. We fell asleep listening to the cicadas, and awoke to bird songs.

20 comments:

house on hill road said...

it sounds magical. what a wonderful experience for all of you to share!

Jess said...

Oh My, Lecia.
This trip sounds like you found heaven.
I kept getting chills as I read and looked at your wonderful pics.

Andrea said...

Wow! Your writing and photos are so beautiful. The trip looked wonderful in the most true meaning of the word. It sounds like it would be a dream come true for my kids (my son is almost 7 and my daughter almost 5)... but guessing they'd appreciate it more when they are a bit older. Bookmarking into my travel dreams folder.

I've been following your blog for a while now (I can't remember how I stumbled upon it), and always look forward to getting your updates. Thank you so much for sharing.

Cat said...

What astonishing beauty. How lucky you were.

Jillian said...

Abbott's chilling in a hammock reading a book sounds exactly like my ideal vacation. <3

Chloe said...

It all sounds magical. The boys will remember this forever.

E. Jean said...

Wonderful photos and recounting of the trip. If you're open to sharing, I'd love to know where you stayed and if you'd recommend it. Costa Rica is on my travel bucket list.

Lecia said...

Thank you so much, friends.

E. Jean: We stayed at a place called Leaves & Lizards; we found it via Trip Advisor. It was their top recommendation, and we were not disappointed. The staff was friendly and helpful and the facilities were comfortable. Not luxurious, but very comfortable.

Janna said...

I was so excited to see your post! My son and I will be visiting Costa Rica in April with his 5th grade class, and I'm thrilled to share this adventure with him. Loved seeing what we have to look forward to.

emily said...

oh lecia! i think i'd just like to have your itinerary so that we can do exactly the same - it sounds spectacular!

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

What an amazing adventure, Lecia.

Darcy said...

looks like a wonderful vacation. i visited arenal years ago, in law school and found the whole area magical, nice to know that it's stayed that way. welcome back!!

Anonymous said...

Lecia, Thank you so much for sharing this trip! I'm blown away by the beauty of Costa Rica. It looks like paradise. It is apparent that you a genius trip planner. This seems like the perfect experience to share with kids and every minute seemed to be teeming with richness. I would love to plan a similar trip for my kids some time. Maybe I will bother you for the specific details. ;) Thank you!

KPiep said...

What a fabulous adventure! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I really enjoyed all of your pictures...especially that last one. You will always treasure these memories.

meganwf said...

What a beautiful post -- my sister just sent me the link as our family is traveling to CR over spring break. I really appreciated your links and pictures. We have talked with many friends who have traveled to CR, but none with children! I have one question I'd love to get your take on: shoes. Would you recommend the kids wear water shoes that cover their toes like Keens or something like wellies? I'm worried about blisters but also packing a lot. Any practical advice would be really appreciated. Thanks so much!

Lecia said...

Thank you, Megan! Closed toe shoes seemed to be important everywhere to protect from snakes and insects. Only a couple of times did we wear water shoes, and we were glad to have them. So: wellies are unnecessary; I'd bring sneakers and water shoes.

meganwf said...

Muchas gracias!

Johanna said...

how amazing! what an experience to be able to give to you boys. they will surely want to travel the world and learn about other cultures and lands, what a blessing! beautiful pictures and stories.

meganwf said...

One more specific question as we get closer to leaving for our trip...which hot springs did you visit, if you don't mind my asking? Counting down the days! Thank you.

Lecia said...

Megan: we stopped at the Arenal hot springs. Have a great trip!