The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: July 2008 (page 2 of 2)

Guanacaste Beach Trip

Well it was off to another beach for four days this last week. This time we went to the Guanacaste area, specifically Panama Beach in the Papagayo Gulf which is up on the northwest/Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica. The drive took about five hours from our northwest of San Jose starting point (Santa Barbara). Most of it is on Highway 1 which I have mentioned before and not exactly what you would envision as the major highway through Central America. But happily further north it actually flattens out and is wider and much more pleasant to drive. It goes through fields and dry forests with volcanoes and mountains further off in the distance. A really pleasant drive actually.

Tame Deer at restaurant
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We stopped on the way at a restaurant just past the town of Canas called Hacienda de Pacifica and what a neat little jewel in the middle of the forest. It was an old farm owned by a prior president of Costa Rica and now a restaurant. The food was good but the open dining room and lovely old furnishings and outdoor decks were just lovely. Plus there were tame deer wandering around as well as chickens, ducks and geese. The children fed the deer by hand and fought off the rather aggressive chickens – Charlotte was very scared of them! A children’s playground and various cages of iguanas and parrots also entertained the little ones. It really makes a nice stop.

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The main town in the area is Liberia which our brief excursions to found it a nice place with all the basic necessities. One day we went for supplies and ended up eating at a Peruvian restaurant. The food was excellent and really flavorful. I think this is our favorite in the whole trip! I had octopus on a bed of mashed potatoes covered in tons of crispy garlic – delicious. Potatoes figured heavily in the menu as did corn and garlic. Everything was excellent and I am going to have to find a Peruvian cookbook to try out some recipes at home.

Anyway Panama Beach is about 20 minutes further on from Liberia and past the airport. We found a lovely hotel (not part of a large chain) which was about the same price as big or small ones; $100 a night per room or so.

http://www.grupocasaconde.com/en/ccm/tarifas.aspx

The hotel was right on the beach and had lovely pools. Little clusters of four rooms were around the grounds and each room had huge vaulted ceilings with teak beams and wooden chandeliers. They also had televisions, coffee makers and hot water in each room. Sadly they also had the requisite ant problems that seem to plague every place we have stayed here. But very clean rooms and helpful staff.

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Hotel grounds looking toward the beach.

The grounds were lovely and we saw howler monkeys next to our building and more types of geckoes and lizards than I have ever seen in one location. Brilliant greens, browns, striped, spotted – incredible. There were also lots of big iguanas, one of which hung out often on the swim up bar and could really make you jump if you did actually swim up to it!

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Hotel pool jacuzzi cave and waterfalls (the children are inside)

There was a restaurant on site and a nice breakfast is included. We had dinner there and found it OK but very over priced for the quality. And do NOT order the house white wine as we were stunned to discover this was $10 a glass – and tiny glasses they were of very poor plonk. But it was nice to not have to leave the hotel at night and to be able to sit overlooking the ocean and palm trees to eat. The downside of the open plan was again the presence of unwelcome guests – a few flying cockroachy things and crabs scuttling around and of course many geckos.

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Panama Beach

The hotel had a private entrance to the beach complete with armed guard. The bay is beautiful with sweeping beaches and hills dotted with small villas. Again though the sand is not wonderful as it’s black and kind of muddy/silt that sticks unpleasantly to your feet. The water had a lot of small pieces of sticks and debris in it the first day but cleared up later. Another big river ran into the ocean in the bay and of course fills it with all the run off. The beaches were pretty empty but it was during the week and in the green (rainy) season and we hear they get pretty full at weekends.

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Ben on Panama Beach

The weather was somewhat rainy but only for two evenings and since we had spent all of the days in the pool and wandering the beach we really didn’t mind. The hotel provides large umbrellas in stands to help get you from building to building and each block of rooms has lovely outside patio areas to sit out in. This was the first place we really had to use insect repellant though as the mosquitoes were pretty heavy. It’s nice not to be bothered with them in the Central Valley region and we shall miss sitting outside and not being eaten by bugs as we do in Tennessee!

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Max in ocean.

So lovely pools and hotel grounds, beautiful beach to look at, monkeys and lizards and jungle look, average food, and pleasant drive made this a nice break.

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Britt Coffee trip

sarchi

Grandma and Charlotte

We had another trip back to the Britt Coffee Tour with Grandma today. It’s somewhat slapstick but the people running the tour are very pleasant and comfortable cracking jokes in both English and Spanish. It’s neat seeing and learning so much about coffee after years of drinking it rather ignorantly. The coffee pickers use pannier/baskets attached to their waists so they can pick the coffee with both hands. A large basket ends up holding 25 pounds of beans which eventually equates to 200 cups of coffee. A fast and skilled picker can harvest 10 – 15 baskets a day (they only pick in the morning so the beans can start being processed in the afternoon). The beans are washed and then patio dried and roasted for various times. Beans destined for decaf coffee are sent to Germany from here as the equipment to take out the caffeine costs millions and Costa Rica does not have the resources for it. After the caffeine is removed, the beans are sent back for roasting and packaging. The caffeine ends up as a white powder and put into soft drinks and medicines etc. We also discovered that using fully boiling water in a coffee press makes the wax on the bean dissolve and leads to headaches and stomach aches – the water should be just under boiling for best results.

Coffee Plant:

coffee plant

This time the tour was quite full with people from all over Europe, US and South America. It was interesting to see the wide mix. The tour also includes lunch in a really good onsite restaurant. It’s some of the better food we have had here with fresh salads and soups plus salmon and vegetables. The soup was roasted pumpkin and green tomato which turned out to be delicious.
We all had cappuccinos and iced coffees for the children afterwards. Charlotte (2) loved hers and by 4 pm still wouldn’t take a nap and was overly animated and bouncy – obviously they didn’t use the beans that had vacationed in Germany!

Post Trip Tea Party on the balcony of our house:

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Butterfly Farm

Butterfly Farm

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My step-father used to spend a few months at a time in Costa Rica and loved the country. Sadly he died last year on July 3rd and so we have been remembering his various antics recently. I have a large batch of emails he sent to me a couple of years ago describing his favorite places to go in Costa Rica and rentals etc. One of his recommendations was The Butterfly Farm, and so a couple of days after Grandma arrived we visited. It is just west of San Jose in a town called Guacima.

http://www.butterflyfarm.co.cr/cres/index.htm

The people running it are very friendly and helpful and our tour guide was really knowledgeable and sweet. We watched a movie about the farm and then wandered around an enclosed butterfly garden that was filled with hundreds of different butterflies. My favorite were the brilliant blue morphos that glitter almost an iridescent blue as they fly. It’s hard to capture pictures of them because when they land their wings are folded with only a rather dull brown side showing. The guide showed us all kinds of tiny eggs and newly hatched caterpillars on plants; most of which we would never have noticed or realized they were eggs.

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Then it was on to look at the caterpillars and all the types of chrysalises for varying butterflies. The range is amazing and beautiful to look at. Many look like jewels hanging. We saw quite a few in mid-hatch or waiting for their wings to dry before flying off.

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The last stop is the packing room where we watched women counting and checking (with a bright light) all kinds of chrysalises and then packing them into foam filled boxes ready to be shipped around the world. The butterflies take 10-15 days to hatch and so they can ship them quickly to exhibits in Europe and the US. They even said some were shipped to Tennessee and we remember seeing some identified as being from Costa Rica in the Chattanooga Aquarium butterfly garden.

We did think it a little sad that the butterflies won’t lay eggs unless they have the correct plants on which to do so and thus they simply die and are replaced by new ones in the worldwide exhibits. I guess it’s job and financial security for the Butterfly Farm.
Anyway it is a neat place with wonderful butterflies and a good chance to learn more about the whole cycle. The children really enjoyed this place so thanks Gramps!

butterfly

blue butterfly

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