Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Costa Rica

I've just returned from my trip to Costa Rica to visit my sister Lizzie. It was a fabulous trip for heaps of reasons: seeing my sister after a year apart; feeling warm after a long, cold English winter (it was snowing when I departed, and now its 14degrees! I think I'm destined for warmer weather now, thank heavens); Costa Rica is a fabulous country – so beautiful, diverse, friendly and easy to get around.

Miami?

I'll begin at the end, to explain why I'm sitting in Heathrow airport right now a day after I should have been here. I arrived at San Jose airport on Monday and was told that the plane was 2 hours late. Hmmm. Upon reaching the counter the lady says that it means I miss my connecting flight to London, hence I have a 24 hour delay, so would I like to stay in Miami or San Jose for the night at their expense? I would have gone back to my sister but it's a 2hour cab ride away from the airport, so I thought, well I've never been to Miami so I'll go there. I'd just started chatting to a couple of guys in the check-in line and they were in the same situation. So at least I had some people to hang out with.

I got to stay in the Sheraton in Miami, which was so awesome – king sized bed and all that. The two guys were from Chicago and had been to Miami, so we headed out that night to South Beach. We went to the Delano hotel, which is owned by Madonna, and it was by far the most amazing club (or whatever it is) I've ever been to. You walk into the hall of 20m high ceiling which have white flowing drapes hanging from the roof down a long room. There are a few different bars and 2 different DJ sections, a huge pool with beds around its edge you can hire (for $1200!) and it is all opulence. I had a good time dancing there, even met one of the DJ's, and then we headed to another bar which was jam packed with girls in the tightest clothing I'd ever seen. It was certainly and interesting experience, being in Miami for a night. There were loads of people out, even though it was a Monday night! Crazy place…

The next day I hung around the hotel, and the mall attached to it, until I went to the airport to catch my 8pm flight to London. And here I am, still waiting, this time for my plane to Newcastle.

Costa Rica

Now back to Costa Rica…

I got to Costa Rica without any trouble on my 3 flights and 2 hour taxi ride to where Lizzie is living. Wow she is so lucky where she is- living at Los Suenos, a Marriot resort, with 3 luxury pools to choose from, the amazing marina packed with million dollar boats, a few bars, restaurants, a coffee shop and a golf course (if one could afford to play there). All the staff there are so friendly, and so many of them know Lizzie now she has been there so long. She lives with the family she nannies for in an apartment within the resort. Very nice place.

Los Suenos Marriott Resort (Pacific Coast)

For the first few days I helped Lizzie to look after the kids she nannies for – Abby who's almost 3, and Max who's 8 months. Gorgeous kids, but such a handful! Totally wears you out trying to keep up with them.

On the Saturday we got to go out on the boat (Lizzie is working for a family where the Dad is the captain and the mum is the chef). The boat is so amazing. It's a multi-million dollar marlin fishing yacht, 125feet long, with a permanent crew of 5 people and it can sleep 14. What luxury. It was amazing cruising along in the boat.

We headed into Jaco a few times, which is the closest town to the resort. It is a surfing town on the beach, filled with restaurants and souvenir stores, American college students and not much else. It is a fun place though.

Food

The food in Costa Rica was so amazing! Fresh seafood was especially good, and soooooo cheap! Eg. $8 for a whole red snapper, cooked to perfection. Yummmmmm, I miss the food so much already. English food is not very inspiring, I can tell you.

The Caribbean

On Monday Lizzie and I headed on a bit of a trek via taxi and bus to the other side of the country, the Caribbean side. 8 hours later we arrived in Puerto Viejo, and very small coastal town quite close to Panama which is filled with surfers who never leave and people of Jamaican decent (meaning there were lots of Rastas there!). It is very different to the other side of the country where Lizzie lives. The Caribbean coast was even more laid back, the roads were atrocious, and the town had really only one street with some restaurants and bars on it. We stayed in a cabin that looked directly onto a famous surfing break called the Salsa Brava. Wow, what a view. The cabin was, well, lets say basic. We had an encounter with a cockroach and a sea crab that hidden in Lizzie's clothes, and we had to cope with cold showers.

There was one Rasta guy who seemed to always be sitting in a tree by the road. Every time we passed him he called out us. But seriously, he was always in the tree, and was well camouflaged at night with his black skin, so it was a bit disconcerting to hear the tree talking!

On our full day there we hired bicycles, and snorkelling gear, and rode south for 8km to the most beautiful beach, Punta Uva. The rainforest came right down to beach, and we sat under palm trees on the sand. We had a bit of a snorkel, and Lizzie tried out surfing on the small reef break there. It was so beautiful.

San Jose

The next day we caught the local bus to San Jose, the capital city. We'd befriended a Canadian girl who spoke fluent Spanish, and she negotiated with the dodgy taxi drivers to get us to a 5 star hostel called Pangaea. It had a pool, bar, free internet and free phone calls to the USA & Canada (not much help to us, but cool nonetheless).

We woke up early the next morning and walked into the city, where we found the central markets. They were awesome, full off amazing fruits and vegetables that we couldn't identify, meat, seafood and everything else under the sun. We saw a little food counter packed with locals and sat there for some Gallo Pinto, the traditional breakfast of eggs with black bean rice. Very yummy. Breakfast for 2 with coffee came to a huge $3. Very cool. We bought lots of jewellery there and I picked up some $4 sunnies. We caught the local bus back to Lizzie's place (a huge $2 fare!).

Back on the pacific

We went on a canopy tour the next day, a gift from the manager of the Marriott who we were chatting to at the pool one day. It was very fun, - you wear a rock climbing harness and get attached to different cables which fly you through the canopy of the rainforest. Some of the trees were so gigantic. Lots of fun.

After the canopy we headed to Manuel Antonio, which is famous for its national park. We saw monkeys and a type of raccoon, and a sloth. We hung out on the beach swimming cause it was so hot. We had walked through the rainforest but almost fainted from the heat in the. Swimming in sweat. Beautiful place especially when viewing from the water!

My last full day in Costa Rica was spent down at the resort pool, called the beach club, with Lizzie and one of the guys off the boat Martin. So relaxing lying by the beautiful pool, swimming up to the pool bar for a cocktail or hamburger, and finding some free wireless to connect to. Lizzie was friends with the pool barman, and he and is his mate invited us to go for a ride on some jet skis. So off we went at sunset around the coast. It was awesome fun, but all my muscles were aching the day afterwards from struggling to stay on the thing!

That night we went to the Marriott bar, very classy, and drank mojitos and ate ceviche (popular Costa Rican dish of marinated raw seafood) and nachos with Martin and the two Costa Rican guys from the pool.

And its over.

So my trip has been awesome, and I really don't want to step outside the airport in Newcastle and be back in the cold again. It was so great just feeling warm all the time! When I was in Costa Rica it felt like England couldn't possibly exist. Costa Rica with its wealth of natural beauty, and great weather, is a completely other world to the UK. It was a great interlude in paradise.

I highly recommend going to Costa Rica if you get a chance. There is loads to do (I barely scraped the surface), people are very friendly, and it is cheap and easy to get around. A four hour bus journey cost only $7!

Update: I've made it back to Newcastle, with a 1 hour delay and my suitcase was left behind. Should be here sometime tonight. Brightside: saves me lugging the thing home. But till then I don't have a phone and all that jazz.

And it's lovely and sunny here, and 10 degrees isn't too bad I guess.