Day 3: Giverny, Monet’s Gardens, & Vernon

GIVERNEY

Sunday and we rise and shine, get a quick breakfast with an incredible array of choices on our ship, the Viking Kadlin, and hop on our bus for our excursion to Giverney. One always has to remember their headphones and it always happens that someone forgets.  This morning we depart at 8:45 am.

Monet actually came to Giverny in 1883 when he was 43 and eventually was able to buy the large house with two acres of gardens, called the “Clos Normand” by his family.

Map of Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet

Map of Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet

Happy cows next to Monet's property, Seine Valley

Happy cows next to Monet’s property, Seine Valley

We enter the gardens early and have them to ourselves.  The land was purchased in 1895 for the gardens.  Monet diverted the Epte to make a lily pond and the resulting garden, with flowers spilling onto paths, and the famous “Tea-garden” bridge flanked by a mighty Willow.  The gardens have 100,000 annuals and even more perennials.  Although Claude Monet is famous for his paintings, I believe he was a gardener extraordinaire.  Sit back and enjoy my photos of the gardens called Jardin d’ Eau (Water Garden).

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Plants everywhere, even growing underwater

Plants everywhere, even growing underwater

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Boat on the lily pond

Boat on the lily pond

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The famous weeping willows with water lilies covering the pond.

Japanese bridge in background; to right Kirk and Marcy

Japanese bridge in background; to right Kirk and Marcy

Even benches have an amazing esthetic

Even benches have an amazing esthetic

While viewing these beautiful gardens, some history of Claude Monet. Monet’s mother died when Claude was 16 and Claude was taken under his aunt’s wing. While visiting the Louvre in Paris, Claude observed many budding artists copying the old masters. But Claude, using a different approach, sat by a window and painted what he saw. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at universities, Claude found a teacher in Charles Gleyre in Paris and it was here he met Renoir, Sisley and Bazille.

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Over time, however, Monet became disillusioned by the teaching of Gleyre, finding it too academic for his independent spirit. During the 1860’s, Monet and Renoir started to work in similar lines and painted together. At the time Monet was so poor he was constantly having to borrow money. Renoir would bring food to Monet to keep him from starving, despite being very poor himself.

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Monet married Camille Doncieux in 1870. Prior to their marriage, Camille became the model for many of Monet’s well-known paintings such as The Woman in the Green Dress. When Camille became pregnant and gave birth to their son, Jean (1867), Monet became so despondent over financial woes he threw himself in the Seine to end his life, unsuccessfully. The Royal Academy refused authorization for Monet’s art to be included in their 1871 exhibition.

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Rudbeckia’s or black-eyed susans

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Monet became one of a group of artists labeled “revolutionaries” by the Salon and he along with Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir organized an exhibition of their own, the first Impressionist Exhibition (1874), at the time known as ‘Intransigents’. The critics were not favorable, saying their art was banal and they have never understood nature. The group was derided as incompetents and were attacked in condescending terms.

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By the accepted art world of the time, the group of impressionist artists were considered defiant, rebellious and adamant in their refusal of accepted conventions. Monet was described as a violent anti-academic and the most forceful of the group of radical painters, yet certainly considered the leader of Impressionist Plein-air painting.

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Dahlias, asters, cosmos, sunflowers are some of the flowers blooming this time of year.

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Monet struggled financially. At Argenteuil he had been evicted from his cottage for defaulting on the rent. Manet procured a new home for Monet. The 1874 Impressionist Exhibition made a loss. To offset the losses, an Auction was organized by Renoir and the results were disasterous.

In 1876, Monet had found a new patron, Ernest Hoschedé. Monet moved to new painting territory from Argenteuil to Vétheuil farther down the Seine River. Here a second child was born, Michel, and here Camille died a painful death, probably from cancer. She was only 32.

Monet invited the Hoschedés to join he and the bedridden Camille in Vétheuil so into their home moved Alice Hoschedé with her husband, Ernest, and their six children and three servants.  Shortly after Camille’s death, Ernest left Vétheuil while Alice continued to live with Monet. After Ernest Hoschedé’s death in 1891, Monet and Alice were married. By 1883, Monet and his household had moved from Vétheuil to Giverny and Monet was able to purchase the Giverny estate in 1890.

BEAUTIFUL VARIETY OF DAHLIAS IN MONETS GARDENS

Not sure what this plant, below is but I love the fuzzy, purple colors like little puff balls

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Now we come to the gardens in front of Monet’s home, Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet.  The pastel-pink stone farmhouse has been lovingly restored and is now a museum.  Monet lived for 43 years in this home.

Monet was 43 when he came to Giverney with Alice Hoschedés, her six children, and his two.

View from an upstairs bedroom on the Monet home.

Bedroom of th Monet Home with original art, including a Renoir

Dining area of Monet home in yellow.  Marcy on the left.

Copper pots in the kitchen.

Green shutters and steps accent pink farmhouse, Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet

Can you make out the haystacks to the right of middle of photo (below), actually called grainstacks.  Monet did a series of paintings of these grainstacks with different effects of light and instantaniety–grainstacks in winter, in snow, in morning light, in summer, on cloudy days and is well known for these grainstack paintings.

Marcy and I in front of one of the shops in the town of Giverney.

Charming town of Giverney

Below Marcy, Connie, Kirk

Monet lovingly cultivated his gardens and lily ponds and painted until his death (1926).

Monet’s art is at Musée D Orsay and Musée National De L’Orangerie in Paris.  If you are like me, you will love the beauty of these Plein air style paintings, water lilies, sailboats, women in the garden, luncheon on the grass, study of a figure outdoors — a sense you are outdoors in the sunlight, wind, clouds, light and shadow enjoying nature.

 

 

Day 2 Versailles Palace and Gardens

ARRIVING VERSAILLES 

Our cab ride to Versailles, a distance of about seven miles from Le Pecq, was quick and easy, getting us to the Chateau before the crowds.  Clear skies and sunshine greeted us as we drove through the town.

Statue of Louis XIV

Statue of Louis XIV

Louis XIV was known as the “Sun King,” chosing the sun as his emblem, in reference to Apollo, the Greek god of peace and the arts.  He became king at the age of 5.  It was under his reign that the small palace or hunting lodge was transformed into the royal residence.  It took 30 years to complete.

Entering the Chateau at Versailles -- see if you can spot Kirk, Bill and Marcy

Entering the Chateau at Versailles — see if you can spot Kirk, Bill and Marcy

The site of Versailles was originally chosen, among other reasons, so Louis XIV could shelter his love affair with his mistress, Louise de La Vallière, one among many.  Versailles became the official seat of Royal power May 6, 1682

Statue on the gate in front of Chateau

Statue on the gate in front of Chateau

Kirk, Marcy and Bill at the entry gates to the chateau of Versailles

Kirk, Marcy and Bill at the entry gates to the chateau of Versailles

A peek into the Royal Courtyard and the Palace

A peek into the Royal Courtyard and the Palace

The chateau was the kingdom’s political capital and the seat of the Royal court from 1682 until 1789 when revolutionaries massacred the palace guard. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were ultimately dragged back to Paris and guillotined. The chateau remained intact but most of the interior furnishings disappeared during the revolution.

As we waited for our tour of the king’s private apartment, we had the privilege of viewing the gardens early in the day before any of the tourists arrived.

Overlooking one of the many gardens in morning dawn; considered the epitome of French formal gardens showcasing symmetry

Overlooking one of the many gardens in morning dawn; considered the epitome of French formal gardens showcasing symmetry

The French countryside was peaceful and it was easy to imagine all the Kings courtiers in the gardens. Louis XIV’s court was 4000-strong and no expense was spared to employ the greatest artists and craftspeople of the day to create the most extravagant dormitory in history, surrounded by 800 hectares of gardens and lands (approximately 2,050 acres).

Apollo fountain depicting the Sun God Apollo rising out of the sea,

Apollo fountain depicting the Sun God Apollo rising out of the sea,

Known as the Marly machine, the largest hydraulic work of the era was undertaken under Louis XIV to supply Seine water to the numerous pools, fountains and waterfalls of the gardens of Versailles.  Behind the Apollo Fountain stretched the Grand Canal providing a luminous vista, and was the setting for water festivals and boats sailing on it.

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Sample tree-lined road on the grounds at Versailles

The King’s appartements shows how the king lived, worked, and played.

King's apartment

King’s apartement

King's fascination with clocks was this extraordinary timepiece

King’s fascination with clocks was this extraordinary timepiece

In his bedroom, the king slept, held ceremonies, had lunch (Petit convert dinner), with up to 150 courtiers and people invited from outside the court, watching (in the 18th century). By the 1780’s, the king’s life had become more private, but imagine having 150 people observing you as you arose, dressed, ate, and conducted your day.

The ceremony of dressing became a ritual during Louis XIV’s reign, where dressing, having your hair done and makeup applied was part of the act for the public to observe.  Even the queen giving birth was on public display in the queen’s appartement for crowds of spectators to watch, ensuring the newborn’s legitimacy.

The Royal chapel at Versailles was the setting in 1770 for the wedding of the future King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Upper story of the Royal Chapel

Balcony of the Royal Chapel

The Royal schedule was as predictable as a Swiss watch, with the King in his bedchamber and the Queen in her bedchamber rousing at 8 am for the ceremony of the Petit Lever and the Grand Lever (the act of rising and dressing in public view).

Ceiling mural in the Royal Chapel

Ceiling mural in the Royal Chapel

The Royal procession was then lead through the hall of mirrors to the Royal chapel for morning mass and returned to the Council Chamber for late-morning meetings with ministers.

Chambers in the King's apartments

Chambers in the King’s apartments

King's library

King’s library

King's desk

Louis XV’s roll-top secretary, took 9 years to make and is a mechanical marvel

After lunch (referred to as Petit convert dinner served in the King’s bedroom), the king might ride or hunt or visit his library. Later he could join courtesans for an ‘appartement evening,’ extra work session or play billiards before supping at 10 pm (called Grand convert dinner).  At 11:30 pm was the retiring ceremony (Coucher) — all done in public view.

One of many opulent carpets in the king's apartments

One of many opulent carpets in the king’s apartments

THE GRAND TRIANON

After a lovely lunch break outside under the trellis in a cafe tucked away in the gardens, we walked from the main palace to the Grand Trianon. Built in 1687, the Grand Trianon is a small palace of pink marble.  Built by Louis XIV to escape the pomp and ceremony of the court, the Grand Trianon was also the setting for Louis XIV’s love affair with Madame de Montespan.

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Looking from the courtyard to the Grand Trianon

A view of the gardens from a wing of The Grand Trianon facing the walkway

A view of the gardens from a wing of The Grand Trianon facing the walkway

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Bed chambers of the Grand Trianon

A Royal mistress was called a favorite.  Louis XIV’s favorites were Duchess de La Vallière, the Marquis de Montespan, and the Marquise de Maintenon.

Walkway of the Grand Trianon

Walkway of the Grand Trianon

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Malachite Salon in the Grand Trianon

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Rooms of the Grand Trianon

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Talk about contrasting colors — almost hurts the eyes

Famed for its French formal gardens in geometrical patterns, the marble Trianon was surrounded by tens of thousands of hardy and tuberous plants. The plants were planted in pots that could be changed every day and thus create a colorful and scented spectacle.

Gardens of the Grand Trianon

Gardens of the Grand Trianon

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Bill looks back toward the Grand Trianon

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Another view of the gardens with a wing of The Grand Trianon behind

Other famous occupants of the Grand Trianon were Napolean Bonaparte and his second wife Empress Marie Louise and King Louise-Philippe. General De Gaulle took on its restoration to host guests of the republic.

General DeGaulle photo in the "Trianon -sous-Bois"

General DeGaulle photo in the “Trianon -sous-Bois”

By this time, it was pretty hard to absorb much, but I do recall standing in front of a photo for a long time, thinking to myself the photo must represent more the actual affairs of men than all the grand, infamous lives of the king’s and the court that historians write about.  Notice the look of concentration on the Ministere’s face — looks like hard work to me.

Photo of Andre Malraux, Ministere des Affaires

Photo of Andre Malraux, Ministere des Affaires

Set for a State dinner

Set for a State dinner

THE PETITE TRIANON

The Petite Trianon was built between 1762 and 1768 for the private use of Louis XV and and his favorite, Madame De Pompadour, again to escape the rigors of the court in privacy.

The Salon de compagnie, game room and music room of the Petit Trianon

The Salon de compagnie, game room and music room of the Petit Trianon

Sofa and arm chairs placed in the Petit Trianon in 1868

Sofa and arm chairs placed in the Petit Trianon in 1868

Queens bedroom which was occupied by Marie Antoinette from 1777-1789

Queens bedroom which was occupied by Marie Antoinette from 1777-1789

Looking fashionable “avoir bel air” was common at court

Queens bedroom in Petit Trianon

Queens bedroom in Petit Trianon

In 1774 Louis XVI gave the petite Trianon to Marie-Antoinette and it became her refuge. It is surrounded by English-style landscaped plants.

View of Garden of Plants that Gardeners and Botanist Bernard De Jussieu began creating in 1750

View of Garden of Plants that Gardeners and Botanist Bernard De Jussieu began creating in 1750

One of four paintings in Grand Dining Room titled Fishing by Gabriel-Francois Doyen

One of four paintings in Grand Dining Room titled Fishing by Gabriel-Francois Doyen — Fishing? 

Elaborate wainscoting by Honoré Guibert in the Petit Trianon

Elaborate wainscoting by Honoré Guibert in the Petit Trianon

Eventually Marie-Antoinette began constructing the Queen’s Hamlet, a peasant village built around a lake with rustic workshops on the outskirts of her property.  The hameau included a working farm that raised animals and grew crops.

artist Olafur Eliasson Modern fountain installed at Versailles 2016

Artist Olafur Eliasson Modern fountain installed at Versailles 2016

Apollo Fountain at day's end

Apollo Fountain at day’s end

Sun setting on gardens at Versailles

Sun setting on gardens at Versailles

Days end at palace at Versailles

Days end at palace at Versailles

After touring this last palace, we ran-walked back to the entrance to Versailles to catch our cab for home.

A portrayal of what the Grand Canal must have looked like in the days of the Royal court

A portrayal of what the Grand Canal must have looked like in the days of the Royal court

What a grand palace and accomplishment for Louis XIV, the Chateau de Versailles, with its gardens, palaces, fountains, grand canal, it’s royal court, courtiers, spies, military guards, servants, 2,300 rooms, 300 sculptures, 2000+ Windows.  And the entertainment:  celebrations, fireworks, theater, ballet, hunting, music, board games, games of chance, billiards, Jeu de paume, boating — no time for boredom.  The Palace is a museum today dedicated to “all the glories of France.”  On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Versailles was signed here which establishes the independence of the United States of America.  There were 7.7 million visitors to the Versailles Estate in 2014.

Bill trying to read map but a sleep overtakes him after a long day of signtseeing

Bill trying to read map but sleep overtakes him after a long day of signtseeing

 

Arriving Paris September 8, 2016

Imagine the excitement.  After planning for months, thinking about packing, packing, driving to LA, flying overnight, landing in France at CDG airport, taxi’ng to the 6th Arrondissement [6e], we are finally in Paris.  We first check into our hotel for the night, Hotel Atlantis at 4 Rue du Colombier.  We are in the St-Germain-des-Prés quartier, near Saint Sulpice Chapel.

Hotel Atlantis

Hotel Atlantis

Kirk and Marcy are right around the corner in their apartment where they have been living for a week.  We have been up for 24 hours I am sure, so after checking in, we longed for a shower and to stretch out.  Bags are delivered to our second-floor room overlooking the street by an attendant.  The elevator had just barely enough room for Bill and I if we stood facing one direction with our arms at our side, no movement.  With the windows open, all the excitement of Paris floats through the open window.

Welcoming Bed in the Hotel Atlantis

Welcoming Bed in the Hotel Atlantis

Overlooking the balcony of our room to street below

Before I realize it, I am asleep when I awake with a start, hearing people shouting and chanting, more shouting, more chanting, horns blaring, sirens. Jumping up to look out my balcony window, I see a street full of people with signs, balloons, loud speakers, and I don’t understand a word they are saying.  But apparently we have arrived just in time for a protest march.

Parisians marching in protest

Parisians marching in protest

The loud speaker continues to interrupt my attempt to rest and marchers keep coming for blocks.  I believe it is related to education. So begins our Parisian adventure.  No rest in sight, we meet up with Kirk and Marcy at their apartment for cheese, bread and wine and a tour of their pied-à-terre.  On the 4th floor, they have views in both directions, a kitchen, a separate bedroom, and lots of space and Paris nightlife entertains them at night through the open windows.  We set off at last for our first dining experience. Kirk has scouted the restaurants and found one he thinks will work.

Marcy leads the way to our dinner at Pizza Chic

Marcy leads the way to our dinner at Pizza Chic

Alas, it appears our restaurant is chic with lots of people and without a reservation on a Thursday night, cannot seat us.  An excuse to wander the streets, passing the patrons eating on the street and peering into restaurant after restaurant.  We finally decide on another Italian restaurant.  It is our first night in Paris.

Kirk contemplating at our Italian Restaurant

Kirk contemplating at our Italian Restaurant

We are all ready to get some rest in preparation for our auto trip to Le Pecq where we will board our Viking Cruise Ship Kadlin.

DAY 1 of Cruise

I can’t wait to find a cafe for morning cappuccino.  Our small table is right on the street where workmen are installing a Metro sign.  Always in Paris workmen are hammering, sawing and busy with construction.  Imagine our surprise when the cafe owner asks us politely to move our table toward the street just a pinch; not quite far enough, just another inch.  We comply, with no idea why he wanted our table moved two inches.  Then the owner pulls up the floor boards directly to the left of us to expose a large cavity beneath the restaurant.  A delivery man pushes in several loads of food and supplies that are stacked on a lift that disappears down the cavity, the floor boards are restored to their position and we are charmed by the ingenuity of the French to utilize every inch of space.  We continue with our cappuccino

Always so elegant, even on the sidewalk at table for two

Always so elegant, even on the sidewalk at table for two

First cappuccino and croissant in Paris

First cappuccino and croissant in Paris

kirk has arranged a van to pick the four of us up and drive us to Le Pecq.  But when I fry to fit myself and one luggage piece in the minuscule elevator, I end up jamming the elevator door.  I can’t seem to get the elevator to move and I can’t get the elevator door open.  Baffled, I finally decide I better get downstairs somehow so I force the door open, grab my suitcase and sprint down the stairs.  Kirk is waiting and the van is double parked.  Between Bill and I, we manage to shuffle the rest of the luggage down the stairs while waiting for the attendant, who has gone to see what the problem is.  Out the door we run and down the street.  Soon we are on our way through the French countryside and before we know it, arrive in Le Pecq where our ship hostess, Mimi, gives us a big welcome.

Our first glimpse of Viking Cruise Ship Kadlin

Our first glimpse of Viking Cruise Ship Kadlin

Our main task now was to find our staterooms, get unpacked, explore the ship, eat lunch, and be ready for our first tour of St. Germaine en Laye.  Remember what the first day of school was like?  Excitement, dread  new clothes, new classmates, learning so many things — I felt all of it.  So excited to be on our ship, home for eight nights, to see and learn as much as I could.

Our stateroom

Our stateroom

Our stateroom shower room

Our stateroom shower room

We were ready for lunch.  Our dining room was beautiful and the staff gracious and almost over-the-top with meeting our every need.

Our beautiful dining room aboard ship

Our beautiful dining room aboard ship

Cups, utensils, neatly lined up waiting for the 300 guests

Cups, utensils, neatly lined up waiting for the 300 guests

Our first tour was to St. Germaine en Laye just a short bus ride up the hill to the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, begun in 1124 by Louis VI as a fortified hunting-lodge in the forests of St Germain.  Next to the Chateau is a park with a view of Paris and the Seine.

Overlooking Paris from park next to Chateau, St. Germaine En Laye

Overlooking Paris from park next to Chateau, St. Germaine En Laye

War with England and subsequent actions resulted in the village and the chateau being burned between 1337 and 1346.  Charles V, the richest monarch in Europe, demolished the burned buildings, and between 1364 and 1367, rebuilt a château on the site of Saint Louis’ defensive walls.

Inside the Chateau

Inside the Chateau

Between1230 and 1238, the chapel was erected, separate from the other buildings, and the entire complex was surrounded by a defensive wall.  The chapel survived the burning of the original chateau.

Chapel at Chateau St. Germaine En Laye

Chapel at Chateau St. Germaine En Laye

Today the Chateau is an archeological museum which we did not go through.  We were on the run to catch the bus up the hill (we missed the first bus), then catch up with the first group from our ship, then a quick view of the chateau and chapel before we were ushered back on the bus.  Except for those of us that preferred to walk back down, which, of course, Kirk, Marcy, Bill and I did.

Trekking down steps and road to our ship

Trekking down steps and road to our ship

We stopped at a church to read the plaque (which was in French) but I was more intrigued by the beautiful, old tree that shaded the courtyard.

Beautiful, old tree

Beautiful, old tree

The chapel

The chapel

Kirk, Marcy, and Bill studying the plaque

Kirk, Marcy, and Bill studying the plaque

We rushed back down the hill, but not so fast that we didn’t stop to enjoy the goats in someone’s yard along the way.

Goats on the path down

Goats on the path down

Our first day with Viking was passing too quickly.  Back on the ship, we showered and dressed for dinner.  But first was cocktail hour (we skipped), safety briefing (all on deck with life jackets even though the depth of water was hardly enough to drown in) and Welcome Briefing with our Program Director Mimi.

Briefings every evening with Mimi who charmed us all

Briefings every evening with Mimi who charmed us all

Mimi not only briefed us on the following day’s events, but kept us laughing with her stories.  Mimi was down-to-earth and outstanding at her job and was a favorite among all the passengers.  We had our first of many dinners on board, with staff bending over backwards to fill every empty glass, bring any tantalizing dish we desired, and enough food for an entire day with dessert.

Typical dining experince

Typical dining experince

Then we were off to talk to the concierge about arranging a taxi to take the four of us to Versailles the following day while most of the passengers had an excursion to Paris, about 40minutes by taxi from Le Pecq.

Swans on the Seine outside my stateroom window

Swans on the Seine outside my stateroom window

How was one to sleep?  So much had happened in the last 48 hours and tomorrow we would leave for Versailles early to arrive before the crowds.  Well, I don’t think we did sleep much that night.  We were too busy thinking of all we had seen and all that was to come.

Watching a barge go by from the upper deck

Watching a barge go by from the upper deck

Barge passing us

Barge passing us

Coming Up.  Day 2  Versailles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Sayulita, 2015

It was an hours drive north from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita.  We drove through dense jungle terrain lining the road and a few small, rural towns selling coconuts at roadside stands and other fruits and vegetables.

Looking down the hill from Casa Hermosa.  Very steep and treacherous so Bill and I hold hands when traversing up or down to prevent falls.

image We arrive by a taxi van and drive right past the Casa.  The taxi van tries to turn around on the steep street but his engine just stalls and tires spin.  The driver backs up to have another go at it and finally gets enough traction to drive up and turns into a driveway.  Now all the driver has to do is back his van up the hill which also proves difficult but on the second try, we are headed in the right direction, back down the hill.  We unload the suitcases as fast as we can as another car is waiting behind us on the one lane road.  I wonder how the emergency brake can hold the van from rolling down the hill.

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Everwhere Casa Hermosa has beautiful curves and artistic finishes like this wall onto the street, undulating like a serpent and ombré sun burnt walls.

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Casa Hermosa sign with walls are topped by lovely ironwork which also serves as a deterrent to any would-be thieves.

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Once inside the gated walls, you enter the Casa’s upper floor through these doors.

image The living room

We all rush to explore the Casa Hermosa, pick bedrooms, unpack suitcases, shower and get comfortable.  The temperatures are warm, but the humidity makes us damp and our clothes cling to us.  We find the plunge pool is the best way to cool down.  While getting into the pool we Yelp at the cold water but once submerged we feel cool and comfortable.

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image Our bathroom opens to pool

image From our shower, looking over wall toward plunge pool and open sky

image Steps down to lower floor  needless to say, we immediately made the first house rule.  Anyone descending stairs must have one hand on the bannister.  This saved us many times as not only was the street to town treacherous and steep, but these stairs were steep and twisting so that falling, especially at night, would have been all too easy.

image I loved the different tiles on each step.  Every detail in the Casa was chosen with an artistic eye for detail and executed beautifully.

 

image Looking from the entry toward the BBQ area — more steps.

image Looking down the steps to lower floor.  The two bedrooms were on the lower floor, each with its own bathroom.  The entire Casa was planted with plants that seemed well tended and were growing beautifully.  Wish my own plants at home looked half as nice.

image View from main floor patio

image Summer Jane, Bill and Bill dressed for dinner just leaving Casa Hermosa on left and heading down steep hill to town, about a ten to fifteen-minute walk.

image Drinks on the beach before heading to town

imagePiñata’s line the sidewalks waiting for buyers for Christmas Eve, a tradition in Mexico

image On the streets of Sayulita

image What fun we had watching the kids swing at the piñata. Billy was laughing the most I heard from him so far as an older girl swung with all her gusto and made a hit each time, despite the piñata being raised and lowered.  We watched until it was dark and the piñata’s had all been razed by enthusiastic kids.  Every night the zocalo was filled with children and adults celebrating.

image After dinner, this is Summer Jane’s favorite ice cream stand.  You can see Summers back and Bills back as they make their choices from the delicacies.

image  The plunge pool is to the leftimage  From the top of stair looking out.  The Casa had a huge palapa roof that covered the main living area, but there were some areas with no roof.  The entire Casa was, therefore, open to the outdoors  that is the reason for the high walls with ironwork above them.  To keep the bugs away while sleeping, the bedrooms did have screen Windows and if you kept the bedroom door closed and door to bathroom closed, you could sleep with no mosquitoes bothering you.

image  Connie and Summer Janeimage  The boys ordering drinks at our beach bar.  We found this nice bar where we could sit and watch the last of the surfers before sunset.  The bar was the size of a small room with a patio that faced the ocean.  Chairs were lined up at the edge and there were always people filling the chairs to catch the last of the day on the beach.  I got a kick out of the people painting their restaurants and bars right up to the last moment before Cnristmas Eve.  This evening I watched a young man paint lettering and designs on the sand bags at the edge of the patio while patrons watched the sun set.

image  bIlland Summer Janeimage Summer takes a selfie

image Walking the streets after dinner.  See the pretty paper flags put up over the street for celebrating New Years.  Our first fish dinner had to be considered gourmet cuisine, although it was a locally owned Mexican family restaurant.  We looked out over the Zacalo from our dinner table.  The fish was fresh caught and exquisitely prepared.  All the food we ate was quite excellent.  We had everything from fish to Mexican to Italian to pizza and all outstanding.  Although Sayulita is a small Mexican town, I was told that it is inhabited by Americans and Canadians and a lot of the real estate is owned by same.  That makes sense as our landlord had an address in California.

image Great place for a napimage this view is shot from the couch Bill is laying on, above, and towards the kitchen trying to let you see the palapa roof and hanging lamps.  Very cool.  The top of the palapa had another small roof over it, for ventilation I imagine.

image More relaxing at the Casa

image Our Christmas Eve dinner was at this fun, little pizza place just down the hill.  Every night we would walk past and it would be packed so we knew it must be good.  We had to wait for a table so went to another little restaurant a few doors down for drinks.  Summer went a few doors the other direction for two bottles of wine because the pizza place didn’t serve wine but would serve our purchased wine. We loved the food at this little restaurant and the tomato and cheese plate was the best we had had; we were certain the tomatoes were fresh from a local farm, with fresh basil.  We loved our waiter and he jumped at the chance to have his photo taken.  We asked about desert and the waiter yelled, Cuenta (check in Spanish) so they didn’t make dessert either, just extra good food.

image  Christmas Day on the beachimage  The beach bunnies and Bill  I am waving with my sprained thumb.  I took the surf rider out with me and waited a very long time before I felt it was just right to jump in.  The next thing I remember was struggling to surface and gasping for air. I can only guess the wave caught the surf rider and me and flipped the surf board and me topsy turvy.  I swam like my life depended on it to get beyond the surf where it was calm.  My thumb still hurts, weeks later.  SJ had me ice it and that helped with the swelling but it is still swollen and I have learned how much I use my thumb, now that I can’t.

image  Summer ready for a dip

image  There she goes.  The water was warm as bath water and wonderful swimming.  During our last few days the surf was very mild and I managed to get in without getting my hair wet.  The first time I got in, I stood and looked for eternity, trying to decide if I could do it as the surf was rougher that day.  Then suddenly Bill poked me in the back and said “go, swim, farther, go, go, go” and before I knew it, I was way out beyond the surf.  We surged with each wave as it headed toward shore and bounced with the tides.  It was great fun.

image  Summer had a great swimimage  Beach peddler.  The people are so amazing that peddle their wares day in and day out, walking up and down the beach.  They take rejection so well, turning to go on their way to the next group.  It must be fatiguing and heavy to carry so much trudging though the sand.  One young boy rushed past me with a wheelbarrow peddling ice cream.  It was very difficult pushing a wheelbarrow through the sand with a heavy load but the boy didn’t seem bothered.

Here we have a beach band playing a song for us.image image  Bill and Summer Jane

image  Back at the Casa at sunset

image  Bill went to town and purchased shrimp, carne, some vegetables, rice, bread, peppers, beer and champagne and hauled it up the hill.  For Christmas Dinner, Summer prepared a sumptuous feast.  Here Bill and Bill Jr. are deveining shrimp.  They worked diligently for a good deal of time focused on their task.  Yum!  We had a delicious home-cooked meal.

image  I got to set the table and found some candles and Christmas ribbon for a festive table, some placemats rolled away in a drawer with Mexican pottery plates.

image After dinner we played a most unusual card game that Bill and Summer knew well and taught Bill and I.  It was a crazy game with some words I didn’t understand but Bill and Summer laughed a lot so they must have understood what the words meant.

image  Bill and SJ night on the townimage  Connie heading down the hillimage  Typical Sayulita streetimage  Scenes of townimage  Typical sidewalk taco standimage  Wall of flowersimage  Vegetables at roadside restaurant.  This will be someone’s dinner tonight

..image  Colorful businessimage  Business folds down when open and folds up when closed.  Or is it the opposite:  up when open, down when closed.   Innovative!

image  A local cafeimage  View from Espresso Cafe.  I discovered a delicacy here, fresh baked bread roll. You could have your pan dulce covered with Mexican beans or a sweet bread roll, which they toasted, buttered and sprinkled with sugar.  Once I had the sweet bread, I was hooked and put on several pounds sitting here in the morning eating a sweet pan dulce with cappuccino, facing the zocalo and watching the people and town square.

image I would sit at the counter facing the street with this view.

image  View from the cafeimage  Cafe El Espresso

The last photos below are of some of the beautiful plants at Casa Hermosa.

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image Doors to bedroomsimage Bedroom wallimage Even the door jamb had a   design.  The designer planned everything to have esthetic appeal.  Below are more of the beautiful plants.

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I just couldn’t end my story without a closeup photo of a typical steep street below.  See how the stones are placed so cars can get traction.  Also notice how hard this is to walk on, very uneven but practical.  After I abandoned my cute sandals for my practical sandals, I had no more trouble although Bill and I still held hands going up and down.

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Below are the entrance doors to Casa Hermosa.

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Time to say goodbye to Sayulita and Casa Hermosa.

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The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! 2015

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We arrive to Premier Villas and Spa, a condominium hotel, on the beach.  We are jet lagged the first day, but because we have purchased all inclusive, all meals, beverages, and room have already been paid for.  So I find myself on one of these chaise lounges for the good part of a day, dozing, watching people on the beach, and generally winding down.

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Above is The pool bar with the beach palapas beyond.  The staff works day in and day out getting the Villas spotless, serving us food and drink, and keeping everyone happy.  We enjoyed ordering snacks from the bar as we never were quite sure what we would receive.  Vegetables and dip turned out to be sticks of celery, jicama, cucumber, carrots with a red liquid we were told was “not spicy” and tasted a little like paprika.

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Above is the pool bar from the opposite direction with Puerto Vallarta skyline in the background.  Our villas were located just on the edge of the downtown, between downtown and the Hotel Zone.  Only seven stories, Premier Villas felt like a small family.  Never crowded, with lots of room on the chaises, and the palapas at the beach.

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Bill, above, might have just,come from a swim in the ocean.  We really liked the sandy beach and were very close to the ocean.

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Connie after enjoying breakfast.  The outdoor patio dining enabled us to have a beautiful view while enjoying breakfast or lunch.  Most of the time, the food was very good; sometimes a bit unusual, almost always catering to foreign taste.

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Here is our view from our patio dining table.  The ocean was as warm as bath water for swimming and not too rough to get in, although for tender feet the rocks made for a funny transition slipping first this way, then that way until finally emerging from the surf.

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Beautiful hibiscus flower near the patio.

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Above was a jetty that extended from our villas.  People always congregated at the end of this, sometimes fishing, sometimes looking in the ocean for ocean creatures, sometimes couples romancing, lots of photo shots, and Sunday a group of young men spent the entire day laying or sitting here watching life go by.

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Another view from above of our breakfast table.  We spent only two nights at the Villas and our only excursion was a walk two blocks to the malecon and walking another mile or so until we were too hot and tired to go much further.  Puerto Vallarta was humid, so even in the 80’s we got drenched in damp clothes quickly and were glad to return to our air conditioned room.  Then we got too cold quickly, and would go to our hotel balcony and watch the sun set, very relaxing and mellowing.

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Bill and Connie after a morning swim on our last day.  We had a nice breakfast after our swim.  The Villas had a yoga instructor on the beach every morning at 9 am.  What a great way to stretch.  Even I could do the stretches so not advanced, just right!  Now we await our van with Bill and Summer Jane to take us to Sayulita, about one hour north of Puerto Vallarta.

We loved our stay at Premier Villas and Spa.  The all inclusive was perfect for us to get the most out of two nights and two days.  Staff was very thoughtful and did everything they could to fulfill our needs.  We used room service several times and it was much quicker than I imagined it would be and everything came exactly as ordered.  On arrival, we were greeted with a short massage and champagne.  Drinks were prolific; no skimping here; as soon as our glass was empty, another glass came filled with same spirit or beverage.  This is an all adult property, very quiet.  The pool and pool bar closed at 6 pm.  But one could get up with the sun and have the entire beach to themselves.  Security was posted at both entrances and kept the vendors at bay and a watchful eye on the guests and their property.  We were even given a better price than quoted because they said we didn’t stay an entire second day.

 

Paris Pied-a-Terre and Paris Market

We arrived Paris eager and exhausted.  Our hostess, April Tash, met us on the Boulevard at 4:30 p.m. and spent over two hours chatting with us about the area, fascinating history of our apartment, and we even took a stroll of the neighborhood with April as she pointed out the boulangerie, pharmacie, wine shop, cafes, mini market, and the freshwater spring that still supplies the drinking water of the neighborhood.  Below are photos of our apartment, beginning with arriving at the door on the street, then to the inner courtyard, and finally up a flight of very old stairs to the second floor.

Entry Door to 11 rue Moulin des Pres

Entry Door to 11 rue Moulin des Pres

Behind entry door a passageway to courtyard

Behind entry door a passageway to courtyard

Starting down the courtyard

Starting down the courtyard

The courtyard is very old and uneven

The courtyard is very old and uneven

Walking down the courtyard is stepping back in time.  Our neighborhood is a working class neighborhood with mixed tenants, some very poor and others well off.  April, herself, is Harvard educated and works at the United Nations.  Obviously April is not poor.  But on the courtyard, you see spaces in front of other apartments fixed up for a garden, a patio area with table, and other things, some looking a step above a tenement, some looking cared for, but very mixed.

Family's patio area in courtyard

Family’s patio area in courtyard

Window geraniums in Courtyard

Window geraniums in Courtyard

Gardening in the Courtyard

Gardening in the Courtyard

At the very far end of the courtyard about a block in length, is our apartment.  The stairs are very old and with each step, you sway one way or another.  The old steps seem to be holding the building up.  There is a very modern light switch at the bottom of stairs that is connected to a sensor so that the light turns off after you have left the stairwell.  Light is a necessity as the stairs are like an obstacle course.

Beginning ascent up stairwell

Beginning ascent up stairwell

Our Stairwell, looking down from the top, it curves in a U shape

Our Stairwell, looking down from the top, it curves in a U shape

Bikes parked along the courtyard; for some, this is their transportation

Bikes parked along the courtyard; for some, this is their transportation

Once you enter the apartment, you are transported to a Parisian pied-a’-terre.  Every inch is packed with practical application.  We found the ironing board stored under the sitting room beds.  The dryer [an old-fashioned clothes drying rack] was stored behind the pantry [an armoire restored to hold plates and a few food items].  The iron was stored in the upper cabinet above the sink along with the hot water heater.  The washing machine was behind a small cabinet under the toaster oven.  The refrigerator was behind a cabinet door under the sink.

Our kitchen

Our kitchen

April had hired an architect to update the apartment after purchasing.  The architect had to make do with a building that could not have any holes knocked out for fear the entire building would collapse.  Therefore, to run the AC, we open the window and hang the vent over the iron railing, and run the AC with window open.

Washing machine and dryer in one machine

Washing machine and dryer in one machine

Child's chair crafter by owner's father

Child’s chair crafted by owner’s father

I fell in love with the charm of our Parisian apartment.  We had windows all along the courtyard and could open them for fresh air.  The sun would pour into the sitting room and table in the afternoon.  Armoires were used to store clothing and as a pantry.

Beautiful armoire in bedroom

Beautiful armoire in bedroom

Pantry armoire [door is open and shelves are lined with blue checkerboard paper]

Pantry armoire [door is open and shelves are lined with blue checkerboard paper]

Even though we thought we were exhausted, we ventured out that evening to the rue de la Butte Aux Cailles filled with cafes and bursting at the seams with young people drinking, smoking and probably eating as well.  Everyone seemed under 30.  We wandered until we came upon a Thai Restaurant and a delicious meal.

Eating on the street at our Thai Restaurant, one of our favorites

Eating on the street at our Thai Restaurant, one of our favorites

Of course we couldn’t wait to shop at the open air market on Auguste Blanqui where every Friday, Sunday and Tuesday the sidewalk is transformed to a market that goes for blocks of produce, flowers, cheese, clothes, rugs, soap, roasted chickens and potatoes, fresh fish, cheese, olives, spices.  It was very trying for me to pretend I could shop, not knowing a word of French.  By this time my head was so muddled with Italian and other languages, all that came out was Gratzie, muy bueno, as I fumbled for the right French word.  Rather than rudeness, we encountered only patience and smiling tolerance at our befuddlement.

Vegetables at  La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Vegetables at La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Olives at  La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Olives at La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Spices, nuts and dates at  La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Sausages at La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

One man felt so sorry for me, he tried to show me how to use my fingers to hold up how many peaches I wanted instead of trying to say the number of kilograms.  He was very gracious.

Fish vendor at  La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Fish vendor at La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Flowers at  La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

Flowers at La Butte aux Cailles open-air market

We arrived home to our apartment with a bounty of fresh fruit, bread, and wine, plenty to provide lunch and breakfast [as the French seem to only eat a croissant and coffee for breakfast].

One-days shopping in open-air market

One-days shopping in open-air market

We later strolled the streets of our neighborhood and found some of the original streets and single-family cottages.

Walking historical streets of our Paris neighborhood

Walking historical streets of our Paris neighborhood

Cottage homes in our Paris neighborhood

Cottage homes in our Paris neighborhood

The neighborhood overflows with cafes and at any time of day locals flock to them to enjoy their cafe, wine, and smoke.  There are also small parks and a fountain.  There is a lot of very old history in this neighborhood, mixed with modern high rise apartments.

Fountain in La Butte aux Cailles

Fountain in La Butte aux Cailles

Closeup of Fountain

Closeup of Fountain

And so it goes.  Learning the language, learning the French customs, learning the transportation system — we have challenges and many rewards.  For now, I will say Au Revoir, until another day.

Looking from bedroom window to street below

Looking from bedroom window to street below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kirk and Marcy visit Palm Desert

Kirk and Marcy and “Jack” (their Rat Terrier) arrived for a visit to Palm Desert.  March 30, 2014.  Marcy is here to do spring riding on her bicycle.

Kirk and Marcy

Kirk and Marcy

"Jack" getting used to his new home

“Jack” getting used to new home in Palm Desert

Jack bored with the adults

Jack bored with the adults

Marcy and Red PJs

Marcy and Red PJs

Marcy joined the Sun City Cycling Club for their rides MWF mornings around the Coachella Valley.  The cyclists meet at 8 a.m. and usually return around noon, putting in 20-40 miles(the B+ riders).

Sun City cyclists getting ready for a ride

Sun City cyclists getting ready for a ride

Kirk wanted to visit Joshua Tree  Narional Monument.  After studying the maps the night before, we set out for Joshua Tree on a sunny, bright morning.  Kirk, Connie and Bill in the all-wheel drive Subaru headed down an unmarked dirt road that was the back way into Joshua Tree.  Over rocks, through ditches, around obstacles we drove.  Oops, in front of us lay an obstacle too difficult to surmount in the Subaru, not enough clearance.  Kirk said it was because of me we didn’t continue, which meant Kirk didn’t mind getting the Subaru stuck in the desert if it was he and Bill, but wasn’t about to get the Subaru stuck with his sister in the desert.  So around we turned and made our way back home, stopping at the Coachella Valley Preserve.  No dogs were allowed and we had “Jack” along so we were thwarted again.   Home to eat the lunch we had packed in the back yard, still a beautiful day.

Joshua Tree National Monument--the back road

Joshua Tree National Monument–the back road

Connie and Marcy tried the Sun City Pilates class in the Sunset View Clubhouse.  It was an hour and a half of deep stretches, rolling and keeping our balance on a ball, down-facing,dog, twisting in every imaginable position.

Pilates Class at Sun City

Pilates Class at Sun City

Kirk was willing to join Connie and Bill on the pickle ball courts to learn the fine art of Pickleball.

Pickleball Courts Sun City

Pickleball Courts Sun City

Bill and Kirk get up early to take a trip to the Salton Sea. They come home fascinated by the Sea. I learn the Sea is getting saltier and the only fish species that is surviving the salt is tilapia. I also learn the Sea is home to too many birds to count and is a stopping point on their migration.

Salton Sea Birds

Salton Sea Birds

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

While Marcy went on a solo ride on the back roads behind Sun City, Kirk and Connie headed out once again for Joshua Tree National monument.  Today we would join the Sun City Hiking Club for an “Easy” 3-mile hike, hiking boots and hiking sticks required.  This time we drove north of Sun City to the West Entrance to Joshua  Tree to the Split Rock picnic area, an hour and a half drive from Sun City, to begin our hike.

Hiking Split Rock

Hiking Split Rock

Kirk on Split Rock Trail

Kirk on Split Rock Trail

The weather was spectacular, crisp and sunny.  The hike was an easy loop in beautiful scenic boulders.

Split Rock, Joshua Tree National Monument

Split Rock, Joshua Tree National Monument

Kirk at the top of a split in rock

Kirk at the top of a split in rock

Kirk climbs a split in rock, Joshua Tree

Kirk climbs a split in rock

Kirk and I left the Hiking Club to continue to explore the Park.

Cholla Cactus, Joshua Tree

Cholla Cactus, Joshua Tree

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees

Kirk taking in the view

Kirk taking in the view

We took a short detour to Keys View to view the Coachella Vallley at our feet, the Salton Sea to the far south and Mt. San Gregorio and Mt. San Jacinto to the west.  This was a sparkling, clear day to be able to see as far as we did without haze and smog.

Connie and Kirk at Keys View in Joshua Tree

Connie and Kirk at Keys View, Joshua Tree

For lunch we found the Natural Sisters Cafe in Joshua Tree.  Best homemade tomato soup and ginger carrot muffin to be found!  Kirk enjoyed their chopped salad, but probably enjoyed their Berry Pie and coffee more.

Totally Best Healthy Muffins

Totally Best Healthy Muffins

Apple Pie Organic Natural Delicious

Apple Pie Organic Natural Delicious

Natural Sisters Café Joshua Tree

Natural Sisters Café Joshua Tree

One evening we went out for a night on the town to Pacifica Seafood Restaurant overlooking El Paseo Blvd.  Everyone was pleased with the food and wine.  It was a leisurely two-hour dinner.

El Paseo Blvd. Palm Desert

El Paseo Blvd. Palm Desert

Looking up to the outdoor balcony of Pacifica Restaurant

Looking up to the outdoor balcony of Pacifica Restaurant

Kirk & Bill at Pacifica

Kirk & Bill at Pacifica

Jack also had fun taking walks to the Sun City Dog Parks where he met lots of new, furry friends.  Too short the visit, it was time for Kirk and Marcy to pack and head for the next stop in Phoenix.  Come back soon!

Happy dogs at the Dog Park in Sun City

Happy dogs at the Dog Park in Sun City

Down the Rio de Sierpe to the Pacific and Isla del Cano

SIERPE

Connie at the rail on Sierpe River Boat Tour

Connie at the rail on Sierpe River Boat Tour

We arose early for our one-hour drive to Sierpe, driving past plantations of date palms, green fields, small homesteads, grazing Brahma cows, plots of land growing crops, Ticos bicycling.  It was a sunny, humid morning and we arrived at an outdoor restaurant where travelers were gathering.  Our guide was busy gathering signatures and organizing our tour.  We were joined by various travelers in our boat heading down the Sierpe River through the mangrove swamps and out to the Pacific Ocean to Cano Island.

Chris and Dave on the boat to Cano Island

Chris and Dave on the boat to Cano Island

What amazes me is how a group of folks can become positively giddy at the sighting of an animal in the wild, all gathering at the rails peering for a look, hoping to catch a glimpse, straining and running from this position to that trying to see.  Our boat driver was a local Tico who spoke no English but grabbed my camera twice to take photos of the elusive animals I was unable to spot but he was able to photo.

White Faced Monkey

White Faced Monkey

Monkey in the forest

Monkey in the forest

On our particular trip, we sighted a crocodile, a sloth (I personally never could see the slow-moving sloth), monkeys, scarlet Macaws, a boa (curled up in a ball on a tree limb about which there was much discussion on how the guide was able to sight the snake as we flew past in our boat), some dolphins, and various birds.

Crocodile on banks of Sierpe River

Crocodile on banks of Sierpe River

Boa in the tree

Boa in the tree

We learned about the mangroves and our guide was able to pull a seed pod off a mangrove tree to show us how the mangroves reproduce.  A side trip down one of the mangrove canals felt mysterious as we floated along under the dense growth through the pea green opaque water, with roots hanging from the trees wondering what lay beneath the surface of the water, or deep in the mangrove forest, with only our imagination to guide us.  It was eerily quiet with occasional bird calls.

A mangrove swamp

A mangrove swamp like we toured

The result of the boat ride was to eventually arrive at a small island off the coast called Cano Island.  The Tour Guide asked who was NOT snorkeling and I asked where were the changing rooms.  Apparently I missed the announcement that if you were snorkeling to have your suit on before leaving the dock.  So two of us were dropped on the beach, which means the boat gets as close to shore as it can and you make a jump for it and run before the waves soak you and your belongings.

Passengers getting off the boats

Passengers loading on the boats are fun to watch

My companion, Marena, was a dark-skinned woman who spoke English but was distant and aloof.  Marena left me sitting on her pareo as she walked the beach.  There were lots of sand crabs crawling across  the sand, hastening my decision to sit and enjoy being on an island in the sun and surf and observing all the boats dropping and picking up passengers.  Little did I realize that sand fleas were busy finding places to bite me all over.

Connie and Bill on the beach at Cano Island

Connie and Bill on the beach at Cano Island

The rest of our group, including Bill, Chris and Dave, were dropped in the Pacific for snorkeling.

Snorkelers in the Pacific

Snorkelers Chris and Dave in the Pacific

There is something about sun and surf that relaxes and refreshes.  I lay under the palm trees watching the fronds wave patterns in the air, delicate green fans gently rising and falling.  I smelled the ocean and dug my feet in the sand.  I watched swimmers struggle with the surf and bob up and down in the ocean.  Before long the snorkelers returned to the beach.

Boat coming to load passengers

Boat coming to load passengers

Chris and Dave on Cano Island

Chris and Dave on Cano Island

Chris and I find a toilet on Cano Island [there are none]

Chris and I find a toilet on Cano Island [there are none]


Bill woke up that morning with a headache and stomach ache and looked peaked.  Since there were no restrooms on Cano Island, Bill took to the ocean to relieve himself.  Bill emerged from the surf rubbing the salt in his eyes when I saw a big wave heading his way and no way to warn him.  Before I knew it, Bill was rolling head over heels in the waves, tumbling like a piece of driftwood caught in the waves.  When he finally got his footing, he staggered up the beach towards me like a drunken sailor.  Bills snorkeling included getting separated from his group in the wide, wide ocean, using a lot of energy to reconnect by swimming a long distance, and up chucking in snorkeling gear, the “tourista” bug attacking full force.

Bill showers after getting knocked about off Cano Island

Bill showers after getting knocked about in the surf off Cano Island

Then as we attempted to get back on our boat, a wave pushed the boat sideway with a lurch, again almost knocking Bill over.  It was not the best day for Bill. Never one to give up, Bill gave it his best shot despite feeling sick.

Running to catch our boat

Running to catch our boat

Trying to board in the surf

Trying to board in the surf

Almost on board

Almost on board before the next wave pushes the boat

We lunched under the palm trees and had a great time spotting some scarlet macaws and chasing them to get a better view.  It was a carefree day.

Lunch on the lawn  along the river

Lunch on the lawn along the river

Roosters run through the grass

Roosters run through the grass

Spotting a scarlet macaw

Spotting a scarlet macaw

The boat ride home took a good part of the afternoon skimming the Sierpe River.

Loading for final trip home

Loading for final trip home

Dave enjoys the scenery on ride home

Dave enjoys the scenery on ride home

Dave enjoys conversation with fellow traveler

Dave enjoys conversation with fellow traveler

Chris drying off after her snorkeling

Chris drying off after her snorkeling

Since Dave was our only automobile driver, he had the responsibility of driving us back to our lodging in the rainforest, with Bill as his copilot.  Many Ticos were out on their bicycles this afternoon, pedaling on the sides of the narrow, two-lane road, a picturesque scene, and the plantations of palms stretched for miles.  We dined at Por Que No? on an outside deck, with fresh food and an engaging, friendly waiter and superior Piña Coladas overlooking the beach in Dominicalito.  Chris ordered the coconut Ceviche and licked the coconut clean. I think she liked it.

Por Que No?

Por Que No?

Coconut Ceviche at Por Que No?

Coconut Ceviche at Por Que No?

Dave at Por Que No?

Dave at Por Que No?

Custard Desert at Por Que No?

Custard Desert at Por Que No?

The next morning we packed and dragged the luggage up the 71 steps for our drive back to Alajuela.

Bill almost to the top of stairs at La Tierra Divina

Bill almost to the top of stairs at La Tierra Divina

Bill spent the night with a bad case of diarrhea and was so miserable he was ready for home.  Bill was back in the co-pilot seat with Dave at the wheel.  A stop in Jaco for lunch on Costa Rican Time took forever to get our food and check, at least 90 minutes or more.

Chatting with Australian girls in Jaco Cafe

Chatting with Australian girls in Jaco Cafe

Playa de Jaco is the central Pacific’s party town, with tons of bars and discos, and looked like a fun town for adventure.

How we ever found our hotel in Alajuela that afternoon is a mystery, as we took more twists and turns than one can imagine but somehow there it was, right in front of us at last, Pura Vida.  Once inside the gate and behind the walls, we were delighted with gardens and our two-bedroom casita with a big, open patio and outdoor kitchen.  We fixed beans and tortillas with our remaining fruit and fresh tomatoes.  Bed time was early.  By now everyone was feeling overwhelmed, tired, recovering from tourista and sand flea bites and revelie was at 4:30 am. Our hosts had breakfast waiting and packed, yogurt, fresh fruit, juice and granola bars.  My fresh fruit and orange juice made it through security–the girls were talking so much they didn’t pay attention.  Bills orange juice got confiscated.  Go figure. We were settled in to our Delta flightand on our way home by 8 a.m.

Goodbye cabina in the Rain Forest

Goodbye cabina in the Rain Forest

It’s going to take me awhile to sort out the best and worst moments of this vacation, but one thing is for sure, it was an adventure not to be missed.  “Pura Vida”

White faced monkey

White faced monkey

Reaching the Pacific

Reaching the Pacific via the Sierpe River

Scarlet Macaw takes flight

Scarlet Macaw takes flight

Scarlet Macaw on a treetop

Scarlet Macaw on a treetop

Ferry of sorts on Sierpa River

Ferry of sorts on Sierpa River

Views of jungle from Sierpe River

Views of jungle from Sierpe River

Cows on the highway

Cows on the highway

Last look at beautiful flowers at La Tierra Divina

Last look at beautiful flowers at La Tierra Divina

More La Tierra Divina Flowers

La Tierra Divina

Dominical and our Forest Immersion Cabinas

Dominical

Dave took the wheel as we began our drive to Dominical, heading south from La Fortuna  toward Alajuela on the outskirts of San Jose and then west towards the beaches of the Pacific Coast.  It was an all-day trip of driving, with stops for food, snacks and groceries.   We finally turned off the highway toward the rain-forested hills searching for our lodging, La Tierra Divina.  About two miles into a very rough dirt road, through creeks, over rocks, jolting our way up a mountain road, trying to follow directions that landed us by a large field at the top of the mountain, Dave pulled the car over.

Dave parks in a field while Chris and I go search for our motel

Dave parks in a field while Chris and I go search for our motel

Chris and I backtracked down the dirt road on foot to the last turnoff we suspected might be La Tierra Divina and sure enough, we had arrived.  Perched at the very top of the hill with a view of the Pacific sat two circular  cabinas and a deep blue plunge pool — a perfect setting.

Wooden walkway to La Tierra Divina with ocean view

Wooden walkway to La Tierra Divina with ocean view

Ocean View Cabina at La Tierra Divina

Ocean View Cabina at La Tierra Divina

Plunge Pool

Plunge Pool

Happy were we to finally arrive after a day of travel.  Next we discovered our cabinas were not here on the ridge with views of the Pacific, but on the rainforest floor 71 steps down.  Doing the bag drag, we hauled our luggage and groceries down the 71 steps to our “jungle immersion” cabin.

Looking down steps to forest floor

Looking down steps to forest floor

Our cabina to the left, La Tierra Divina

Our cabina to the left, La Tierra Divina

Chris with her cabina in background

Chris with her cabina in background

The cicada’s songs were deafening.  A mosquito net over the bed had me wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.  But first things first — dinner.

The shower in our cabina built from local stone

The shower in our cabina built from local stone

Heading back down the rocky mountain road, through several creeks, and into the town of Dominical (known as a funky, little surfer town),  it was so dark we had to literally guess the location of our restaurant, Tortilla Flat.

People enjoying Tortilla Flat Restaurant

People enjoying Tortilla Flat Restaurant

No door, only some rustic wood tables, a bar and a very large dog lying in the entry greeted us.   Fish tacos and Naturales hit the spot and when I flipped my tortilla plate landing the tortillas on the dirt floor, a fresh plate arrived immediately.  On our way back up the mountain, Dave stopped at a dimly lit hut that I hoped would sell tortillas.  There, in the almost near darkness, sat a young girl and after many attempts at communication, she came back with a stack of tortillas for me, with help from another lady in translating.

Connie down in the rainforest in front of cabina

Connie down in the rainforest in front of cabina

These “jungle immersion” cabinas were quite interesting.  Groping our way down the steep stairs in the darkness, I could hear many unfamiliar sounds and as we got close to the light of the cabina, got buzzed by a huge insect as I ducked my head.  The cicadas were attracted by the light.

Bugs in the forest

Bugs in the forest

Inside, we found millipedes crawling about the floor and one night, a huge spider entangled in the mosquito netting along with a small lizard darting up the wall.  At dawn the howling monkeys began their bawling and it sounded like the entire jungle was at war.  One afternoon, we were treated to a family of white-faced monkeys cavorting in the trees overhead and toucans flying back and forth.

Toucan at La Tierra Divina

Toucan at La Tierra Divina

Is that a monkey in the trees?

Is that a monkey in the trees?

Breakfast at La Tierra was served on the patio by the plunge pool– fresh banana pancakes with a homemade syrup and fresh fruit.

Connie enjoys the plunge pool

Connie enjoys the plunge pool

We liked to have wine and watch the  sun set over the Pacific, but every night as it got dark, toads as big as your fist would find their way to the plunge pool or the dog’s water bowl.

Look close to see three toads in Samson's water dish

Look close to see three toads in Samson’s water dish

Samson, a lab retriever mix, was the resident dog and his favorite game was to bring his bone tied to a rope and get in a tug of war with you.  Bill came to love playing this game with Samson.  Frenzy was their cat and she was always in a frenzy.

Bill and Samson playing tug of war

Bill and Samson playing tug of war

Samsons backside

Samsons backside

Cynthia, a local girl who could run up and down the 71 stairs with ease, cleaned the cabinas and served breakfast. Cynthia was lithe and at home in the jungle.

Cynthia

Cynthia

With our limited Spanish, we discovered that Cynthia lived “over the mountain” and rode her horse to work, an hour and a half ride each way.

Cynthia and her horse

Cynthia and her horse

Cynthia had gone to school to the sixth grade but was adept at using her mobile phone for communicating, finding the English translation for her questions.  Cynthia couldn’t quite believe us when we told her we had only a few inches of rain a year where we lived in the desert.  Cynthia’s face was filled with wonder as she tried to imagine this.

Cynthia trying to imagine our home in the desert

Cynthia trying to imagine our home in the desert

Our outing to Manuel Antonio Park involved an early-morning drive winding our way through miles and miles of resorts, shops, bars and restaurants lining the road to the entrance.   Once parked, we were set upon by locals that used our confusion to their advantage, insisting we must have a guide, or we must park here or pay there until I flatly ignored any more pleas and forged ahead to the park entrance.  Once inside the park, there were more groups with guides than you could count and we became adept at listening to their conversations and following their telescopes to the trees overhead looking for the bird or animal they had spotted.

Entrance to Manuel Antonio Park

Entrance to Manuel Antonio Park

Tourists straining to see the sloths overhead

Tourists straining to see the sloths overhead

Sloths at Manual Antonio

Sloths at Manual Antonio

Finding two male sloths in the trees overhead was a real treat as they actually moved as only sloths can [incredibly slow] in preparation for a showdown to determine dominancy for the territory and the female.  Because sloths are interminably slow, we finally lost patience and moved on but were assured a showdown was inevitable.

The beaches of Manuel Antonio are legendary, long stretches of white sand and the blue Pacific connected by trails meandering through rain forest.

Beach at Manual Antonio

Beach at Manual Antonio

View from the path to one of the beaches

View from the path to one of the beaches

Monkeys playing on the sign

Monkeys playing on the sign

After watching a group of monkeys playing, we landed at Playa Espadilla Sur Beach, ate our picnic lunch watching the surf and swam in the Pacific.

Our beautiful beach Playa Espadilla Sur

Our beautiful beach Playa Espadilla Sur

Chris after her swim

Chris after her swim

Dave after his swim

Dave after his swim

The humidity saturates you quickly with moisture so whether in the water or out, you feel damp, sticky and wet.  Even taking a shower and drying off leaves you damp as it is impossible to really dry.

Iguana on the beach

Iguana on the beach

Iguana in foreground with beach girl in background

Iguana in foreground with beach girl in background

By mid-afternoon, we were ready to head back to our “jungle immersion” cabina.  Our second night on the town was at Maracutu Restaurant with vegetarian and vegan cuisine.  I especially liked the hummus and fresh vegetables appetizer but Bill thinks his shrimp dish was responsible for his bout of “tourista.”

Chris at Maracutu Restaurant in Dominical

Chris at Maracutu Restaurant in Dominical

Across the street wass the social center of Dominical, the San Clemente Bar and Grill with a ceiling full of broken surfboards, Mexican-American food, fresh fish and lots of action.

San Clemente Bar and Grill, Dominical

San Clemente Bar and Grill, Dominical

We returned to our cabina after dark for sleeping. Bill killed millipedes and got rid of flying bugs and spiders while I made sure the mosquito net was firmly secure around our heads. We set our alarm to get up before the howling monkeys for our tour the next day of the Sierpe River, mangrove forests and Cano Island.

Looking up the stairs to climb before breakfast

Looking up the stairs to climb before breakfast

Interesting lizard displays his splendor

Interesting lizard displays his splendor

Closeup of lizard

Closeup of lizard

View of ocean from hike in Manuel Antonio Park

View of ocean from hike in Manuel Antonio Park

Looking out to the Pacific from breakfast patio

Looking out to the Pacific from breakfast patio of La Tierra Divina

Wonderful Host Family at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

LA FORTUNA, COSTA RICA

We arrived at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul on the outskirts of La Fortuna by noon, four cabins overlooking a tropical field with flowers, shrubs and small trees, beyond which tumbled the small river from Arenal Volcano.  On the small porch was a table, two chairs and a hammock for afternoon siesta.

Our cabin, Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Our cabin, Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Gardens at Hotel Rancho Cerro De Azul

Gardens at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

All the cabins were built on the site by a friend of the family, even the furniture, basic, unpretentious and sturdy.

Basket of flowers in our room fashioned from towels

Basket of flowers in our room fashioned from towels

After unpacking, we found a restaurant downtown and had shrimp and seafood salads for lunch, a welcome treat, with an icy tea drink sweetened with sugar and lime.  My salad was an entire avocado with enough shrimp to satisfy anyone’s appetite, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and a dressing that complimented perfectly.  Bills seafood salad had large pieces of octopus, shrimp, tuna and clams.  Both were served with homemade rolls.  Um perfecto!

Traveling Man

Traveling Man

We dropped our dirty clothes at a laundry where they were weighed, washed, dried and folded for $6 and could be picked up as late as 10 p.m.  La Fortuna is built around a large town plaza a block in size that is a park for the people with benches, flowers, trees and grass.
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Around the plaza are small shops with crafts, souvenirs, restaurants, pharmacies, mini markets, super markets, and cafes open to the street, sodas with stools where you can grab a bite to eat, taxis waiting for tourists, and lots of people and traffic.  Streets are sometimes one way but no signs to tell you and driving was stressful for Dave as none of us could tell if we were on a one-way street.  Local drivers careen around cars parked in the middle of the street and seem to know exactly how to avoid oncoming traffic and miss pedestrians.

Our back porch at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Our back porch at Hotel  Rancho Cerro Azul

When Chris and Dave showed up that afternoon with the rental car, we were shocked to learn that not only did Kathryn and Chris come down with “tourista” vomiting all night, but Chris and Dave had a flat tire right after picking up the rental car and were robbed while getting it fixed at a gas station by very friendly, helpful Ticos.  Gone was Chrissy’s purse, INotepad, cash, her new binoculars and Bird Book and credit cards. At first we thought Dave was jiving us because it seemed like worse than a bad movie, but finally realized he was not putting us on.   Chris was most disturbed to lose her new binoculars and Bird Book.  We went on a shopping trip the next day to replace the Bird Book at twice the cost of purchasing it stateside.

Chris shopping in La Fortuna

Chris shopping in La Fortuna

After shopping, we found a soda where locals get inexpensive food with little ambience and local conversation.  Look for these sodas filled with patrons from Costa Rica and you will find good food at reasonable prices.  We ordered plates of fresh fruit, fried plantains, fish, natural fruit drinks and milkshakes and were perfectly satisfied, despite the diesel fumes from the road it fronted.

Lunch at the Soda, La Fortuna

Lunch at the Soda, La Fortuna

That evening we had reservations at Eco Termales Hot Springs.   Here we were enveloped by the beauty of the surrounding primary rainforests and the natural volcanic springs of thermal water, which have created pools with different temperatures ranging from 37° to 41° Celsius, and one fresh water waterfall, all forming part of an exotic natural spa.

Entrance to Ecotermales Hot Springs

Entrance to Ecotermales Hot Springs

We started the evening at the bar for Piña Coladas and a Strawberry Daiquiri, served in plastic drink glasses you carry with you right to the hot springs pools.

Mixing our drinks at Eco Termales

Mixing our drinks at Eco Termales

I loved jumping in the last pool which was the coolest, then under the natural waterfall which was cold, then back to the warm pool.

Dave getting ready to take a plunge

Dave getting ready to take a plunge

Down the path to the hot springs pools

Down the path to the hot springs pools

When we were cooked and mellow, we dressed for dinner right on the grounds, a fish, chicken or beef dinner with rice and beans and salad.  The trails at night are lit with spotlights and frogs croak, animals and birds I am sure are watching us from the forest.

Road into Eco Termales Hot Springs

Road into Eco Termales Hot Springs

We chose to go back to the pools after dinner, along with a bus load of Japanese students until we were thoroughly mellow and ready for bed.  This was a favorite activity of our trip to La Fortuna.

The next morning Chris and Dave were heading to Cano Negro National Wildlife Preserve for a tour on the river while Bill and I caught a taxi to Ecocentro Danaus, a biological reserve where you can see plants and animals in their natural habitat.  We spent a pleasant morning  here observing birds and learning their names, seeing sloths and iguanas in their tree top homes, a flock of herons, caimans, butterflys and plenty of plant life and native trees.

Bird watching at Eco Danaus

Bird watching at Ecocentro Danaus

Agouti, small rodent with no tail

Agouti, small rodent with no tail

Trees on the road to Eco Danaus Reserve

Trees on the road to Ecocentro Danaus Reserve

Horn-billed heron

Horn-billed heron

When our tour of Arenal never materialized, we were sitting on the entry of our lodge catching up on email when Fabian arrived and for the next two hours had us under his spell. Fabien spoke little English and we spoke little Spanish, but somehow Fabien managed to keep us enthralled.  We played card games, learned to say Spanish words, found coconuts that Fabien talked grandfather into cracking open with his machete and pouring fresh coconut liquid for us, went on a walkabout looking for the family’s horses and finally followed Fabien to the river waving sticks under the leaves to look for frogs, wading in the river and catching tadpoles in a little pool Fabien built of sand.

Bill and Fabian catching tadpoles

Bill and Fabian catching tadpoles

Intent on the hunt

Intent on the hunt

Cooling off in the river

Cooling off in the river

Fabien would point for us to follow him, or make noises like the sound of spraying to indicate to spray for mosquitoes, or hold up his hand saying “un momento” as he ran off to gather coconuts for us.  We were enchanted with Fabien.  It seemed there was nothing he could not think up to keep us busy and Fabien was only nine years old.

Fabien posing for the camera

Fabien being Fabien

That afternoon, we had only one hour when we arrived at Rio Fortuna Waterfall before closing.  After signing all the forms warning us if we had asthma or high blood pressure or heart problems we should not attempt the hike, and signing all the forms that the park was not responsible for injury or falls, we headed off.

Beginning the trail down

Beginning the trail down

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Down deep into the forest

Down deep into the forest

Down the steep trail we went into the forest where the sun had virtually disappeared, down, down, down, twisting this way and that as the trail worked its way down the side of Arenal Volcano.  I hung onto the chains that  marked the trails for balance and gingerly took one step at a time down the wood stairs and cement walkways.  Where the trail had been washed out by rain, makeshift ladders were improvised.  Fifteen minutes after beginning our descent, the waterfall was in sight.

The waterfall in sight

The waterfall in sight

Connie at the falls

Connie at the falls

Pool at the base of the falls

Pool at the base of the falls

A few brave souls were swimming in the pools directly below the falls.  We chose a lower pool where the water was calmer for a refreshing swim in tepid water.

Drying off after our swim

Drying off after our swim

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With twenty-five minutes remaining, we began our ascent.  Even though the trail out was very steep, because of the lack of elevation, it seemed much easier than it looked.  We arrived back at the entry at exactly 5 o’clock, content with our trek and swim to La Fortuna Falls.

The hike out

The hike out

Up and up and up

Up and up and up

Yeah Bo!  We made it!

Yeah Bo! We made it!

We spent the evening in La Fortuna for dinner.  Comical was I when I tried to get in the wrong car with the owners watching me from the bar.  Oops!  So sorry, I explained as I went to the next car, a look alike, and even that was not the right car.  We found a shop with a young girl doing a type of needlework on a loom and producing very lovely tapestries.  Her name was Vivien and she was delightful, such a warm smile and welcoming, with her Bible in the corner.

Vivien at her loom on the floor of her shop

Vivien at her loom on the floor of her shop

I couldn’t help myself from purchasing a set of placemats woven on her loom in bright turquoise and Orange like the beak of a Toucan.  People flock to the park plaza in the evenings and we were no exception, watching Dave eat his ice cream after his disappointing seafood salad filled with octopus which he was not crazy for.

Grandfather watches Fabien, Hotel Rancho Cerra Azul

Grandfather watches Fabien, Hotel Rancho Cerra Azul

Tatiana, hostess at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Tatiana, hostess at Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Mom, Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Mom, Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Too soon it was time to pack our bags for the trip to Dominical.  Our host family all came out to say goodbyes the next morning and there were hugs and photos from Mama, Papa, Tatiana and Fabien.

The whole family gathers to see us off

The whole family gathers to see us off

Tatiana gave us each a gift of a painted red frog as a remembrance.  Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul was a very special place to stay and a special family that hosted us.

The Rancho Cerro Azul Family say goodbye to us

The Rancho Cerro Azul Family say goodbye to us

Connie says goodbye to Fabien

Connie says goodbye to Fabien

Bird in bush

Bird in bush

Lovely home in Costa Rica

Lovely home in Costa Rica

Roadside cows

Roadside cows