Wisdom can come from anywhere if you are open to it. For me, wisdom came from a trip to the Waffle House on Airline Drive in New Orleans. We have just returned from a mini-vacation in New Orleans, with the family. Yes, we took the “family” to New Orleans … probably should have left them behind (Bourbon Street isn’t exactly kid-friendly). And so we found ourselves driving to the airport on Easter Sunday … and nothing was open but the Waffle House. And so, we found ourselves drinking french roast and downing a double hash-browns with cheese and tops, with grits and chocolate pecan waffles.
Up To Date At Last
At last, my journal has caught up with the date. Most of the time, I have been too busy to make entries in my journal, too tired to write. I had hoped to keep this journal in real time, but found it hard to drive and blog at the same time. Perhaps we should have hired a driver, or paid for escorted transfers between hotels. Rather we preferred the freedom from other people’s schedules, not to be hurried when we wanted to linger (even if foolhardy) and to be able to skip faster at other times.
This morning, we lingered. We had to wait for a replacement car to come from San Jose to replace the rental car which turned out to have a dead battery. I lingered over coffee and sat on the hotel veranda looking out at the clouds and the rain forest. The temperature was cool and refreshing after the hot jungles of Arenal. We lingered for what seemed like ages — until 9:30 AM. At last, the driver arrived and we switched vehicles.
Sweet Nectar For Some – Sugar Water for Others
We awoke in the mist at 5:30 and put on a pot of Cafe Britt coffee. We were leaving on a 6:00 am bird watching tour. Guess what? It was raining again, a cool wet rain and mist that you can feel in your bones, in your clothes, and everywhere. Our perky young guide warned us that the birds didn’t like to fly in the rain, but she was nevertheless hopeful. I knew why. She had stacked the deck.
Every road seems to come back to the Pan American Highway eventually. Our trip from Flamingo Beach to Villa Blanca Cloud Reserve and Hotel was no different. We checked out early, as the drive was over 4 hours. We decided to take it straight with no stops.
Not All Costa Rican Food Is Good
We stopped for fresh pipas frio (cold coconut) and were on our way. The road was fairly straight, going through meadows and pastures where the real costa Ricans work. At one turn in the road we saw a line of tables by the side of the highway with baked goods. The patrons appeared to be of darker skin, likely native indians (indigininos). While I filled up with gas for the push into the mountains, Rose purchased a sampling of bread and pastries.
As resorts go, Flaming Beach Resort and Spa was beautiful. It had the large pool, the pool bar, the spacious rooms with balconies and the long sand beach with views of the Catalina Islands. It was the type of resort you would expect in the Carribean, although we were on the Pacific Ocean. There were palm trees and coconut trees (we have fresh pipas from the tree picked by a local man who climbed the tree and knocked it down for us).
Breakfast continued to include fresh fruit, to which was added bread baked on premises and a new twist — an omelette station – Yum
From Roots to Sculpture
It was time to depart Arenal. It was 4 1/2 hours to our next Hotel. We did not know the condition of the roads (turned out to be more Costa Rican highway – well paved 2 lane roads with narrow or non-existent shoulders). The route to Flamingo Beach is amusing, since there is essentially one road with few choices to turn off. And so, you see signs for “tourist traps” many miles before they emerge whetting your appetite and inspiring you to pull off the road and part with your dollars and collones. One such place was aptly named “Toad Hall”. I pictured the “frog” in the Wind in the Willows driving his car down the open road. It was really a small hotel, cafe and gift shop on a steep hill overlooking Lake Arenal. We had the coffee (so so) and some Yucca chips (delicious). No toads in site.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Morning began with another cup of perfect coffee and ripe fruit: bananas, papaya, pineapple and watermelon. We woke up earlier than planned and decided to catch the 7:30 am tour through the canopy at Arenal EcoGlide. Rose checked out TripAdvisor to check whether the place was safe. When you are suspended 200 feet above the ground in a harness attached to a thin wire and travelling at 15 km/hr, you want to be safe.
One would think that “canopy tours” we saw everywhere were about nature and exploring wildlife among the tree-tops. That was the furthest thing from the truth. Yes, you were in the tree-tops, and yes it was beautiful up there, but there was NOT a word about nature on the tour. Rather, there were words about safety, how to hold your hands, how to lean back and cross your legs, and mostly, how to brake with your gloved hand.
Sleeping at the base of an active volcano would seem to be a hair- raising experience only for the foolhardy and strong of heart. After spending three days at Arenal Volcano i can safely say it is certainly one for the strong of heart. In this place only the fit survive. Every walk, even the short walk involves a steep climb or even a precipitous descent. What leads down (and most interesting paths to visit waterfalls do) must eventually lead back up. After 3 days, we certainly felt it.
And so, we came to appreciate the agua calientes or hot springs at our hotel. Behind the dining hall, previously pictured, there are a series of pools, descending from the mountain in decreasing temperature. As you climbed through a lush garden path there were semi-private pools of hit mineral water. The temperature decreases as the water exits from the hottest point on the top and descends to the next pool. The final pool is the coolest, followed by a clear water pool for swimming.
We touched down in El Salvador at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning. The flight, despite the auspicious beginning (lines at 2 AM in JFK), was pleasant and uneventful, except for one thing … the early morning cup of coffee. I never dreamed that coffee could be SO BAD! The airline coffee, which is usually mediocre at best, was actually toxic. One would expect a little jolt, but the TACA Airlines (note the Central American origin) coffee, after an initial sip was left un-drunk. Rose nearly spit the coffee out on her lap, gasping for air. The omelets were tasty, but that coffee. …
If you are going to be stranded anywhere, it is better to be stranded in an apartment on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, than stuck in the Moscow airport. Last night as we were preparing for our Red-eye flight to Moscow and then onto to New York City, JFK International Airport, we were barraged with email and calls from friends and family advising us to “stay put”. The miracle of technology enabled us to get the information, plan an alternate flight (by calling the New York office of Transaero Airlines), and then continue to do business. We have declared our “vacation” over and resumed full time work; implementing our “business interruption” strategy.