Drying out in Costa Rica…..

Published: December 13th 2005
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View from the B&B in DecemberView from the B&B in DecemberView from the B&B in December

The day it was snowing in the Northeastern U.S!
It has been a very busy few weeks which has put me a bit behind in writing my blog. With Thanksgiving and many guests and friends here over the past few weeks, I’ve barely had time to check my email, let alone update my blog.

My original intention was to start this blog entry by announcing (unofficially, of course) the end of the rainy season in Costa Rica given it has not rained in the past week and an half or so. Well, with the rain last night, today and this evening, my intended announcement may have been premature. Yes, it has been glorious here lately with much sunshine, gentle breezes and nearly clear skies with temperatures hovering around 75 degrees or so. And, I have been told by several people “in the know” that the rainy season has ended but now I am not so sure. I think it is over and perhaps the rains of the last day were simply the result of a low pressure system that will soon move on its way giving way to the sun again.

It has been an incredible few weeks though. Everything dried out, flowers seem to be blooming again—perhaps after being drowned by an unusually wet rainy season—and in the last few days I’ve noticed an amazing perfume-like scent in my yard. I have not been able to figure out from which plant/flower this smell emanates, but walking around my yard reminds of being at the perfume counter in large New York City department store, perhaps Macy’s or Bergdorf’s. You smell all kinds of scents but you are just not sure from which perfume bottles the smell is coming from without asking the lady at the counter.

While the change in seasons is not as dramatic here—going from the wet season to the dry season—as one would witness say going from the fall to winter in the northeastern U.S., it is still a change nonetheless, and a noticeable one at that. After months and months of rain each day and this year much of the day, not just in the late afternoon, the pilgrimage of the Sun Gods back to Costa Rica is a welcome relief. The clouds clear, the distant hills and mountains become more defined, seeming almost closer than they really are, and the birds seem to be more numerous based the cacophony of sounds I’ve noticed lately. Certainly, after feeling cold (well, cold by the standards of a country fairly close to the equator) and wet for months, the bright sunshine and warm temperatures is enough to make anyone feel better, whatever the aliment—real or imagined—might be.

Gardening time

Since I’ve had a few days to dry out, I’ve finally started to pay attention to growing things around here, particularly our exotic vegetable garden. Two weeks ago, I rustled up the seeds that have been waiting on a shelf in my office for many months to be let out of their dark packets and start their lives anew. Beth brought a bunch of seeds, around 25 packets of various varieties, from the U.S., and I’ve set them up in our greenhouse. I am not familiar with many of the vegetables such as things like “Kyoto Minzua” and “Purple Tomatillo.” She also had seeds of a few things vaguely recognizable to me such as “Sugar Snap Peas” and “Green Globe Artichoke.”

So, I went about organizing the greenhouse, printing up labels so I wouldn’t forget which seeds were in which container and I’ve fastidiously watered them daily for the past two weeks. While all seeds sprout on their own individual time tables, I was very pleased to see about 80% of them coming up already with “Yellow Bush Beans” and “Swiss Chard” not only coming up, but growing to about two feet tall in a very short time. I’m no green thumb for sure, but a combination of the good climate, extremely rich soil I used for each container, and my loyalty to their growth through regular watering, has given me confidence that we’ll have a rich assortment of vegetables in no time at all. I will, however, plant stuff that I am familiar with such as tomatoes and cucumbers!

With the sunshine in abundance, I also did more work on the flower beds in the front of the house, planting some interesting, multi-colored plants throughout. It’ll definitely make a good impression on our friends and guests alike and provides a warm welcome for Angel Valley Farm Bed & Breakfast!

Santa is Coming

It is definitely Christmas-time in Costa Rica, not surprising given the country is about 90% Catholic. Unless I’m already forgetting when the Christmas season kicks in, at least the commercialism aspect of it, in the United States,
Side yard and garden taking shapeSide yard and garden taking shapeSide yard and garden taking shape

it seems to rear its profit-inducing head early here. Ticos seem to put their Christmas lights on their homes earlier here and many homes in our neighborhood already have their Christmas trees up. I recall as a child that we put our Christmas tree up around mid-December, perhaps even as late as December 20th, (Ted & Peter: correct me if I’m wrong please!) but in Costa Rica I started seeing them pop up by mid November!

Also, in Costa Rica, Ticos put their trees outside on their front porches, making it obvious to identify who’s got the Christmas spirit, or not. I’m not sure why they put their trees outside but I have my theories. It could be that the typical Tico home is small, not allowing much space for a tree. It could also be that, being smarter than us gringos, they put their trees outside because they don’t want the falling needles as the tree whither away, all over their homes. It might be that they want their neighbors to know they have the Christmas spirit. However, my guess is that because most Tico homes do not have chimneys, having the tree outside makes it much easier for Santa Claus to make his rounds! Their trees certainly aren’t as grand or as elaborately decorated as I’ve seen in the U.S. or some other countries, however, everyone even the poorest of families spend some money on decorating their homes and having a tree.

For us, we’re definitely getting there in terms of holiday spirit. I’ve decorated the front of the house with lights, hung our stockings—with care of course—and next week, we’ll put up our tree, decorating with the many ornaments I shipped from the states. However, I’m not sure I’m putting the tree outside, for a few reasons. First, as a child I always loved peering through neighbors’ grand living room windows to see their trees (and aptly determining every time that we had the best tree) and I’d like to have that same experience here. And, second, and more important, is that there is no way a Christmas tree will withstand the antics of Osita and Reina, our continuously mischievous puppies!

It is going to be an interesting experience celebrating Christmas in a warm climate. I have never been beyond the northeast for Christmas, except perhaps a few times in Birmingham, Alabama at my brother’s house, and even there it got a little chilly. However, here, with the palm trees and the fact that I generally wear short pants all the time, it’ll be different to wake up Christmas morning to sunshine and warm temperatures. I have no need to re-create a Curry & Ives/New England Christmas in Costa Rica but perhaps I’ll make hot chocolate that morning and blare Christmas music. We have guests and friends staying here at that time, so will do everything we can!

Quick trip to Playa Herradura

As many people know, I get “the bug” to take off somewhere, to see another town, to check off another country in my long list of countries visited, and even sometimes to go to another continent, usually more often than I can afford, and this past weekend was no different. I usually have many things to do each day but this past Saturday I woke up, did a few chores such as feeding the animals and then found myself scratching my head about what to do next. I did not feel like answering emails, following up with business contacts, cleaning something, etc., and with an incredibly bright, warm day, I decided I needed to do something to take advantage of a beautiful day.

I have been to most of the big sea towns on the Pacific Coast including Puntarenas, Tambor, Jaco, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Dominical and a few others I’m currently forgetting, but I just had this longing to take a dip in the ocean on Saturday. So, I threw my bathing suit, a beach towel, a good book and my sunscreen in my backpack and hit the open road, destination unknown.

As I left my house I did quickly realize that I would need to be back home by dinner time or so given my dogs would be clamoring for their supper by then and while my area is very safe, I don’t like leaving the house unoccupied all night. So, that pre-determined my destination, a beach town within a few hours drive. Since I am still familiarizing myself with the vast network of roads in Costa Rica (yea, right!), I decided I’d take the main road to Puntarenas, the most direct shot west to the Pacific Ocean and then head south to find a small beach town for lunch and a dip in the ocean.
Valleys in AtenasValleys in AtenasValleys in Atenas

During my drive back home

While Puntarenas has a decently-long coastline with a number of places to pull off the road and hop in the ocean, it wasn’t as quaint as I was looking for and to me, feels like a big, somewhat grimy city next to the ocean. I wanted a place with thatch-roofed cabins and cozy restaurants and of course, great views of the ocean, but not too far away. This objective took me down the coast about an hour from Puntarenas and I ended up at Playa Herradura. Play Herradura is relatively small town just north of Jaco but with fairly few tourists and much less commercialism than Jaco. While Jaco is a long straight strip of a town a few blocks off the beach with all sorts of tourist traps, Playa Herradura is hidden from the main road and probably not well-noticed by most tourists, which is exactly what I was looking for.

I pulled into the one and only dirt road representing Herradura’s “main street” which paralleled the beach very closely, to find just a few restaurants and surf shops fronted by huge, expansive palm trees and in front of them, a wide beach with only a handful of sun bathers. I parked right in front the beach and behind me were two or three interesting looking places for lunch. What a glorious find! I found a nice restaurant and had a relaxing meal served by very attentive wait staff. As an aside, unlike other restaurants in the many countries I’ve been in, the waiters in most restaurants in Costa Rica are very helpful and seem to genuinely want to serve you. I also should point out that this was the first place I’ve been to in Costa Rica that had a real salad bar. I knew this country had more than five types of vegetables!

After lunch, I popped across the street and enjoyed an afternoon at the beach, away from tourists, away from hawkers selling all kinds of things, and most importantly away from anyone and anything to distract me from the ocean views and before long, a brief beach nap.

That’s it for now folks!

Pura Vida!



13th December 2005

Looking good down there
Bet you miss the snow and cold weather we're having these days (ha!!) It's not suppossed to snow in Virginia in December (and stick around). Enjoy your holidays. Eric
13th December 2005

Getting to Playa Herradura
Hey Jen, Bill and Callista! Getting to Playa Herradura is simple. Just follow the road to Jaco and about 10km north of Jaco, just hang a right at the "Playa Herradura" sign, and you're there! --Andrew
17th December 2005

Perfumes around the yard
Drew, You could be smelling a lily -or more likely an orchid blooming in one of the trees beside the house. I know that there were several different species I noticed in trees around the property. Many orchids emit fairly powerful scents to attract their pollinators from a long distancce. Follow your nose upwind on a not-too-breezy day and I'll bet you'll discover the source. Don't you just love a good mystery? -Paul ==

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