Sailing on the Pacific Ocean

It has been almost a month since my last post but things have been really busy around here. Vera, Vic, Larry, Linda and a whole host of friends arrived at the beginning of April and they were definitely in party mode. They are a great bunch of folks who love great food,   libations and camaraderie and just generally having a great time. From walking on the beach,  up the killer mountain to hanging out at the pool, there are events happening all the time. Well that’s my excuse …..

Our time is slowly coming to an end here in Costa Rica so we figured it was time to try out one of the sunset cruises that our neighbour Gord has been talking about.  We had a small group of eight  here at the condo which is the perfect number for a 40 foot sailboat.

Around noon we all walk  to the beach down “Pig Alley”  called that because of this enormous pig that lives  a leisurely life eating, drinking and hanging about until that dreadful day when he provides food for a number of his neighbours,  bacon, sausages, pork chops, pork roasts. With the many roosters and hens hanging around Coco a great American breakfast  is a fan favorite.

On the beach we pick up a “taxi”  that takes us out to the sailboat. There are no marinas here and all the large boats anchor in the bay and you need to be ferried out to catch your ride. It’s an interesting experience trying to get into a dinghy during high tide when the waves are rocking and then jumping onto the swim platform of the sailboat. Needless to say many are banged, jostled and all are drenched by the time you are on board. This was not the actual ferry we took as we were hurried aboard to catch the tide and didn’t get a chance to get a photograph.

Ferry out to the boat

The Polar is owned by Gord’s friend Ferit who originally hails from Romania, escaped to Canada where he worked for a number of years before he came to Costa Rica. There are a number of larger boats that will take up to 40 people with all you can eat and drink but they are definitely party boats.  This boat is smaller but it is intimate and perfect for a small group. Denis is the young crew mate who runs around raising the anchor, raising the sail, getting drinks etc, a lot like I did when John and I had our cruiser. Once everyone is aboard and settled we head north towards Monkey Head Island.

Sailing out of Coco

The wind in Coco varies daily , one day it howls, changes direction constantly,  provides relief from the heat but tosses things around and a few days later there is nothing…..not even a gasp. Today we are lucky and the winds are just right to raise the main sail.

Sails up

Sailing on the open ocean is a great adventure and the fact that we can raise the sails is a bonus. Sailing toward Heuvos Beach we pass a number of tortugas , manta ray, dolphins….just like in the brochures. A couple of beers along the way make the trip even faster.

Beer and wind

Huevos Beach is a lovely little beach where we drop anchor and some of us go for a swim or a snorkel or just have another drink. John jumped into his new fins and took off to look at the rocks while I jumped into the ocean to cool off and swim to the beach so neither of us had a camera. So picture in your mind the island from the original movie Swept Away, directed by Lina Wertmuller with Giancarlo Giannini where they are marooned on a remote island, fall in love and……well go out and rent the movie, the original not the Madonna,  Guy Ritchie version. This island is so beautiful, peaceful and remote.

snorkeling

Denis comes to pick us up in the dinghy and it’s time for lunch. Ferit  and Denis put on a great spread of smoked tuna with chips, Waldorf pasta with nuts and apples (do you remember the Faulty Towers comedy show about Waldorf Salad) and sandwiches. And for desert wonderful fruit kebabs (Watermelon, cantelope, mango, pineapple chunks) and the house specialty green mango slices with Linzano sauce.

Sailing food

After lunch it’s time to sail back and after raising the anchor Denis climbs up the mast to get to the jib. We are going to have a unique sailing adventure as not many of the boats put up the jib, too much work and rarely the perfect wind.

Denis on the mast

Ferit and Denis have the ideal job doing what they love sailing the Pacific Ocean and they have become good friends. We head back to Coco under full sail and high speed to watch the sunset

Captain and crew

The sail back is delightful, the winds are perfect, Wayne gets to steer while the rest of us enjoy. I think Paul (aka Leonardo di Caprio) has only sailed twice in his life but I think he will be back.

Paul and the jib

Even Captain John gets into the spirit.

Having fun

The sunset is one of the best treats here in Coco and while we have seen it from the beach and the condo this is the first time we have seen it from the ocean.  It has been a great day and we are tired from the heat of the sun, swimming and carrying on but the cruise home is so tranquil.

wonderful sunset

But the sun vanishes so quickly that if you blink you might miss it so don’t blink and you will see something amazing.

setting sun

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Nicaragua – The Last Day

On our last night in Granada, Chico mentioned that if we wanted to see a Nicaraguan market we should get up at 6 am the next morning and he would show us  where they sell everything from artisan crafts, food, clothing and everything else. It was a tempting offer but we had just spent 2 long days touring around the country and in some ways we were looking forward to going home to Costa Rica so we decided to pass. Guess we will just have to go back again to see the many sights that we couldn’t fit in this time.

The Hotel Granada is located right across from the oldest church in town and at 6 am we were woken to the ringing of bells. At first we thought this was nice and they were waking everyone to go to morning mass…..but the bells rang about 2o times before they stopped. Ten minutes later it started again and still they rang more than the actual time and gee it was early. Then another ten minutes of silence and  another round of bells at which time we both wondered whether the pirates from England were invading Nicaragua again. Thankfully the bells finally stopped and we both fell back to sleep. After sleeping in just a bit we met Chico in the restaurant for breakfast, I think he was glad to have slept in as well. The following is a picture of the church that we borrowed from vianica.com (this is a great site to check out all the places to see in Nicaragua) as we forgot to get our own picture.

Guadaloupe church

After breakfast we headed out to the Apoyo Lagoon which was created when a volcano erupted hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is very large, very deep and very blue. There are couple of stalls where you can buy souveniers. Masaya Lagoon

A trip to Masaya would not be complete without visiting the artisan market where there are a number of stands where you can buy items such as pottery, hammocks, art work, leatherwork etc.  As soon as we got to the market Chico suggested that we could take as long as we wanted to do some shopping but since neither of us are that crazy about shopping we figured an hour would be more enough time. Boy were we wrong…..we could have shopped all day.  As soon as we got out of the car a guy attached himself to us and chatted about where we were from,  how we were enjoying Nicaragua, what kind of things we were looking for and showed us around the market. He told us that he worked for the Nicaragua government to help tourists have a good time and steered us to specific shops and appeared to barter on our behalf. Apparently he asked John for a small tip as we were leaving but John didn’t understand what he was saying so he lost out. I am a little skeptical about the whole scenario but we did get some nice things.

Masaya Pottery

Chico mentioned that he had bought a ceramic statue the last time he was here and John wanted to go and see them. John and Chico both called them virgins but I have my suspicions. We picked up this one but unfortunately it broke on the way back so John bought some glue and will see if we can’t put it back together. It is now part of our new decor at the condo. The beads are from Mardi Gras in Louisiana that Danny brought back from his last trip.

Masaya Virgin

Another item that we bought was a painting of houses from Granada which we thought was nice and colourful and would brighten up our place. When we got back to Coco we took it into a gallery to have it framed where we met Marco and Alessandra from Italy….more in another post.

Granada houses

We must have shopped for about 2 hours when Chico came to find us and then it was back to Coco. We had an absolutely amazing time and were pleasantly surprised with our first trip to Nicaragua, the scenery was gorgeous, the people fabulous but I am sure we wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without our new friend Chico. Chico is one of the best guides we have ever had and we hope that we will get to see him and meet his family during our time in Costa Rica.

Home from Nicaragua

Nicaragua – Day 1

As visitors to Costa Rica we are required to exit the country every three months for 72 hours before we can return. Liberia is only one hour away from the Nicaragua border and there are a number of ways one can cross the border and come back in one day with the required passport stamp. It’s not exactly legal but it is doable, however John and I wanted to see a bit of the country. We heard that the country side is beautiful and there are a number of wonderful sights to be seen so we checked around with a couple of the tour operators in town. Most of the tours offered were only 1 day trips  which we thought would be too hectic and sounded too much like work.  We were hoping to do 3 days to for a more relaxed trip and have more time to see places other than the regular tourist traps.  Some operators suggested they could take us across the border and then pick us up a couple of days later but we wanted someone who spoke the language and knew the lay of the land. We checked out the Blue Marlin which offers mostly fishing charter but Juan Carlos recommended  someone who could do custom tours and that was how we met Chico. Francisco, known as Chico to his friends, came and picked us up  at the condo at 6 AM. This would give us plenty of time to pass through customs at the border which can be difficult unless you know the ropes. The trip to the border was a pleasant surprise. There were a number of large farms with Brama bulls, sabaneros (cowboys) and beautiful scenery. There is a ridge of volcanos that run down the middle of Costa Rica and people say that when they blow the country will be split in two and one side will be called Costa and the other, you guessed it, Rica. We had breakfast at the border buffet restaurant which offered gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, fried chicken etc and does a booming business with the traffic that crosses all day long. Nicaragua map Chico leaves his car at the customs lot in Costa Rica and rents one in Nicaragua as they would charge him a tax of more than $50 US a day if he took his own across. To get into Nicaragua one needs to exit the CR customs and then enter on the other side paying fees on both sides of course…..seems like governments across the world love to collect money. Then it’s a quick walk across the border to pick up the car and Rudolpho. Rudolpho is a Nico associate of Chicos who speaks excellent english and is extremely knowledgeable about all things Nicaraguan. He is going to spend the day with us, along with Chico, pointing out all the sights as we tour around and giving us insights into the culture, economy and politics of the country. First stop…San Juan del Sur. This is a small fishing town which is popular with bathing beauties, beach bums and surfers. There are a number of small hotels and cafes along the beach and has a growing tourist area. On top of a hill, just outside of town, there is a huge statue Christ of the Mercy that overlooks the harbour. It was built by a very rich Nicaraguan gentleman who had cancer and promised to build the statue if he survived. You can drive up part of the way but near the top you need to climb a steep hill to reach the top but the view is amazing. San Juan del Sur The statue is 24 metres high and when the clouds are soaring above when you look up it feels like you are moving as well. Christ of Mercy Driving in Nicaragua is a real treat as the main highway was only recently completed and is in much better condition than any in Costa Rica. There have been significant improvements to life here after the end of the civil war between the Sandinistas and the Contras….remember Ronald Regan and Oliver North. Daniel Ortega is in his third term as president which is against the constitution but life still goes on. Traveling from San Juan del Sur, en route to Rivas, we pass Lake Nicaragua which is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world. It is also the only lake with bull sharks which apparently swam up the river from the Pacific Ocean and became acclimatized to the environment. We also pass Isla de Ometepe which is an Indian word from Ome (two) and tepeti (moutains). The island was formed by two volcanos rising from the Lake: Concepcion which is an active volcano and Maderas which is not active.   You can see the steam rising from Concepcion on the left. Isla de Ometempe The wind was blowing like crazy and there were large waves and white caps on the lake.  Conception volcano There are a number of windmill developments along the lake which is a perfect set up with the huge winds that blow here. This development is a joint project with a Spanish company. Windmills on Lake Nicaragua On our way to Rivas the guys are kidding us that we have to ride bicycles through town. We were a little apprehensive as the temperature was around 35° C and much too hot to do any cycling.  Boy were we relieved when we found out that we are taking a bike cab with William doing all the work. Bicycle ride in Rivas Rudolpho is from Rivas and William is a buddy who took us on a tour of the town. The market is crammed with all sorts of street vendors selling everything from food, clothing and souveniers. The work is hard and William was soaking as he pushed us across intersections, up small hills and had to stop occasionally to avoid running into people or other cars. I asked Rudulpho if the bicycles had right of way and he laughed and said” who ever gets there first”.  market in Rivas Passing this church with the doors open William recommended that we go inside and take a look. It was certainly worth the stop. Even in this small town the church is very beautiful and ornate. Church in Rivas We are starting to get hungry by this time and we stop at a wonderful restaurant not far from town (sorry didn’t get the name). Chico and Rudolpho recommended the 12 oz steak but neither John or I thought we would be able to finish it so instead I ordered Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) and John had the grilled Mahi Mahi. There was probably enough food to feed 10 people.  The currency in Nicaragua is Cordobas , with 24 C to $1 US and each dish was only around 200 C which is approximately $8 US which was a great deal for the great and plentiful plates.  John tried the local beer Tonya which is light and has 4.2% alcohol. Next stop Granada which is a main attraction due to it’s colonial buildings and historical importance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granada,_Nicaragua One of the highlights is a horse drawn carriage ride through town. Rudolpho arranges it with another of his pals and comes along to help with the language issue and highlight some of the spots. These horses await right next to the central park which is  a feature in almost all the towns. There are a number of souvenier stands,  hotels and outdoor cafes all around. horse carriage in Granada Nicaragua is predominantly Roman Catholic and there are a number of churches and cathedrals in every town.  This is one of the oldest churches in Granada. Catholic church in Granada All the houses in Granada are built side by side with large beautiful wood doors with ornate gate fences and little windows so you can see who is at the door before opening….similar to the peep holes in doors in apartment buildings. Inside the richer houses there are a number of rooms and a grand court yard in the centre with colourfull plants and occasional water fountains. The homes are all painted different colours and may identify the family living inside. Colonial homes in Granada After a long day we are getting tired and head off to check into the hotel and Rudolpho heads back to Rivas by bus. We are staying at the Hotel El Almirante which is a lovely new hotel with a lovely courtyear with a pool, bar and restaurant. http://www.hotelelalmirante.com/  Hotel courtyard in Granada John decided to take a dip in the pool and relax a bit in the courtyard. John relaxing in Granada We had tacos for dinner at one of the cafes near central park as we were all still stuffed from lunch and then it was off to bed where we slept like logs. A wonderful day’s adventure and looking forward to tomorrow.

Happy New Year from Costa Rica

According to one zodiac prediction – “Women under the sign of the snake do well in housework but are irritable” – so I am definitely not a snake. You’re going to have to think about that!! http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/snake.htm

It’s Chinese New Years….the year of the snake and a great excuse for a cookout. Actually any excuse will do but this one is as good as any.

It’s a full house with a couple of new folks, mostly Canadians from Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and a few from Louisiana. It takes a little while before the new guests  get themselves settled and everyone tries  to make it a little easier by showing them where to get the freshest seafood,  the wonderful variety of fruit from the local stands and the delicious bread from the Tico  bakery. Then there’s  the decision to be made about taking  a tour to the volcanos, ziplining, horseback riding or just taking it easy, at the pool or  the beach which is right across the street. In the afternoon everyone gravitates to the pool and the major decision then is whether to have a beer, margarita, pina colada or just a glass of wine. It’s so tough here in Costa Rica but if you make the wrong choice you can change it the next time.

So while a group of us were lounging by the pool and chatting about the new year we  decided it was time to do another pot luck. The main rule about a pot luck is make it easy and stress free. Usually everyone makes something and there is a ton of food and this was no exception. The menu included: watermelon salad, pad thai, pot stickers, grilled mahi mahi, asian chicken, mango with black beans, potato salad, cauliflower and fresh strawberries stuffed with cream cheese. Holy smoke that is a lot of food for about 13 people.

Gord prepared the pad thai in his extra large wok  using tamarind paste which is sold all over Costa Rica. Tamarind trees grow every where  and  you can see a number of  pods littering the path on the way into town. In Coco, kids will sell the paste and the little plums from the trees which they use to make a sour drink that is very refreshing.  In Thailand it is used in the cooking combination: hot – chili peppers, sour – tamarind, sweet – palm sugar and salty – fish sauce, for the well known rice noodle dish. You can easily get most of the asian ingredients for this dish including the fish sauce, tofu, bean sprouts and sesame oil.

pad thai

Another wonderful dish was the watermelon salad (la sandia ensalada) which also includes feta cheese, onions and parsley. There is a truck that drives around Coco selling the melons fresh from the fields (3 for $1 US) or you can get them from any of the fruit and veggie stands.

Watermelon Salad

If you have read some of my earlier posts you will know about the mangos that grow in the trees across the street that are eaten by monkeys and people. I love mangos because they have both a sweet and sour flavour (if that’s possible),  are incredibly refreshing and will go with just about anything from fish, pork and chicken.

mango salad

Another of the plates was the fresh strawberries filled with cream cheese. Strawberries is one fruit that is not easily come by here but these looked absolutely amazing.

strawberries

We set up a number of tables in the rancho and everyone brings their dishes and digs in. I was going to take more pictures of the food but I was afraid I wouldn’t get any if I kept going.

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During dinner all you could hear were comments like “this is so yummy”, or “wow I need to get this recipe” and “is there any more?”

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After dinner we usually finish off the vino and tell a few jokes, some of which are a little cleaner than others.

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A toast from John and it’s time for bed after a long and exhausting day.

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Kung Hei Fat Choy !!

Toros and Tope de Caballis (Bulls and Horse Parade)

It’s festival time in Playas del Coco…..and that means horses, dancing and drinking….and that’s no bull.

One day,  we were passing the fruit and vegetable stand which is next to the public school and across from the empty field,  we saw a sign “Toros” (Bulls). The bull riding was coming on the weekend as well as the Tope de Caballis (Horse Parade). Here in Costa Rica, there is bull riding and not the bull fighting like they have in Spain but it seems there can be a lot of blood and gore. The bulls are a big event here with the show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The main event was on Saturday and costs ¢10,000 Colones  ($20 US) per person to sit in the stands. The show includes the bulls, local dancing, clowns and parade queens. There are also food and beer stands and a whole lot of fun. We weren’t able to make it this time but will definitely attend the next time which I hope is soon.

The Province of Guanacaste is steeped in cowboy culture. Unlike much of Costa Rica that is covered by rain forest and mountains, Guanacaste is dry coastal savannah with cattle ranching the predominate industry, apart from tourism. A tope is a horse parade where the local sabaneros, or plainsmen, show off their superb horsemanship amid loud brass bands, firecrackers, throngs of onlookers and blaring salsa music. Particularly popular in the dry season from December to April topes are a traditional excuse to have a big party, drink and show-off on horses. Topes are often combined with Costa Rican bullfighting events and a country fair.

When the Tope is in town everyone gets a little loco. On Friday and Saturday morning we heard a bunch of fireworks but on Sunday, the day of the Tope, at 5:30 in the morning we were awoken by a musical band. It was a hoot (excuse the pun). The band started at our end of town and drove down the street waking everyone and getting them all excited, except those who were a little hung over from the previous night’s activities.   After asking a number of  different people when the parade would start and getting a different answer every time we deduced that the parade would start sometime in the afternoon.  So we wondered down the beach around 11:30 AM and waited for something to happen. There was an obstacle course set up on the beach where teams of kids would race through and get sprayed with water. The start included a large ball where one of the kids would get in and get rolled to the start by their team mates.

Beach fun
We sat on the board walk for awhile and watched the commotion. There were chicos selling all sorts of goodies: sombreros, sunglasses, food, cold coconuts, candy floss, beer….you name it. There was a bull and donkey where people could get their pictures taken and this woman obviously had modeling experience.

Picture with the bull

John, naturally,  had to get a close up of the bull.

That's no bull

The kids seemed to be a little afraid of the donkey.

Beach donkey

A band started up just about 1 o’clock which started to get everyone excited. The music reminded me of the Cuban band “Buena Vista Social Club” and had the same sort of rhythm.

Beach Band

We decided to walk into town and check out a good spot to watch the parade and ended up in Coconuts which is a local bar that caters to gringos but has a railing with a great view of the street. It’s a great spot to people watch and check out the action.  We had a few beers and something to eat while we waited…and waited…..and waited. Some one mentioned that the parade should start around 2 but in true Tico fashion it started at 4.  Our friends Gary and Diane were sitting at the Lizard Lounge but decided they couldn’t wait any more.

Gary and Diane

Suddenly we hear loud music coming from  the restaurant next door and the dancing begins. This couple was really getting into the swing of things and had some great moves.

Dancing in the street

People were getting set up all along the street. Trucks and cars pulled in where ever there was space, set up coolers and got ready for a good time. The truck across the street dropped the sides and had obviously had been here before. There was only enough room for two couples to dance at a time so they had to take turns. The dancing reminded us of our friends Nury and Eli who tried to teach me some of the local moves. And this is before the parade has even started.

Couples dancing

The parade starts at the end of the beach just south of town and travels up the beach and into town with people lined up all along the route.

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When the parade turned into town they hadn’t closed off the street so it was a tight fit with cars, people, horses all trying to go somewhere.  The parade queen and king were the first to come past us and they certainly weren’t hard to look at.

Parade Queen

Parade Master

And then the rest of the horses follow,  the town is jumping and even the horses got into the groove. Unfortunately dancing horses don’t come across well in still photos so check out John’s video .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-MLFJXQ5Tk

Horses in the street

Horse Riders

Some of the riders kept nipping at liquids to keep them hydrated during the long ride.

Drinking horse rider

Everyone had a great time and everyone got into the action. There was one guy who stopped his car right in the middle of the road, had a dance with a woman in the crowd then got back into his car and drove off. This was a wonderful adventure and we hope to see this again real soon.

Parade Rider

Lost in Translation

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be spending Christmas in Costa Rica I probably would have said you were crazy, but here we are, so I guess that makes us  crazy. I must admit I am enjoying it though especially since the weather in Toronto is pretty cold and snowy. One of the things I love to do every day is check the weather back home and it is usually a lot worse than here. I know that must make me somewhat sadistic but its a favorite topic of conversation in the pool while having a cocktail and hearing about the storms in the mid west.

Now that  the new terminal at the airport in Liberia is finished when you arrive, you get to hang around in air conditioned luxury, while you check through customs and pick up your bags.  The old terminal was just one large shed with a huge fan. Once you leave the building you are immediately hit by the heat and you start to swelter. After a couple of days  new comers start to relax,  soak up the sun and  laugh about how wonderful it is here and how bad it is at home.  Today for example the weather in Parry Sound is -6°  C and here in Coco a balmy  30° , but I am not doing this to torture everyone back home but to describe how hot it is here at Christmas (okay a little torture).

Santa comes to Playa del Coco as well but in more appropriate clothing. Check out that jazzy Christmas shirt. Everyone got a cracker from Santa to open at dinner. Domenic’s family had never seen crackers until he had Christmas dinner with some crazy Canucks.

Domenic and Santa

I think Santa and Charlotte got together to pick a present for Nicole, a hot wheels car with a track that went through the mouth of a dinosaur. It was a big hit.

Santa, Charlotte and Nicole

Most of the supermarkets here cater to  North Americans and offer a lot of the traditional foods that we eat at home. It was interesting to see the meat sections packed with turkey (Pavo) but because they are  imported they are not cheap and cost anywhere from $2.00+ per pound  and are usually frozen. Gordon had an interesting experience when he thought he ordered an 18 pound turkey from the Auto Mercado, asked them to thaw it and he would pick it up the day before Christmas. It seems the the order missed something in translation when he picked up the turkey only to find it was still frozen. I know that would  increase the stress level for any chef at this time of year but Gordon managed it beautifully. I didn’t get the details but I think he thawed it in a cooler covered with bottled water overnight.

As with most community meals everyone brought a dish: Pat and Joe brought bruschetta and mashed potatoes, John and I brought some of our favourites, chicken liver pate, cranberry chutney and steamed broccoli. As I mentioned, we can get a lot of our favorite foods while others are hard to come by. We were able to get the chicken livers (higados de pollo) easily but we weren’t able to get either fresh or frozen cranberries and had to make due with canned so the flavour was there but the colour and texture weren’t the same as at home.

It seems unusual to see folks cooking roasts in ovens for a number of hours and also having the air conditioning cranked to the max. It’s the only way to do it without melting. Can you imagine cooking an 18 lb turkey at 325° for about 8 hours in 30° weather ? Gordon seems to have found a way to cook the turkey in slightly less time by deconstructing it. He removes a large portion of the dark pieces, the legs,wings etc and roasts them separately from the white meat which results in a shorter cooking time as well as nice juicy dark meat. With the bones he has removed he makes  stock which he uses to baste the turkey and make gravy. How resourceful.

Roast turkey in Coco Beach

It seems in most of our meal pictures there is a box of Clos wine . They come in white, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere and are light, easy drinking wines that are imported from Chile but is “cheap as chips” as Jamie Oliver would say.
Turkey with all the sides

Even in Costa Rica the family can sit around in those paper hats that make everyone look dorky.

Group dinner

Once again the food and company was so good we didn’t get pictures of the wonderful desserts, chocolate cake and peach cobbler, that Domenic brought but I can tell you they were yummy.

As with Christmas all over the world we all ate and  drank too much and I can’t wait till New Years.

Boys will be boys

Condo Number 6 at Las Calas Rojas is owned by Sly and his wife Rachel from Quebec. We met them last April 2012 when they were here with their son Frank. They had just purchased the apartment and were in town to get it ready for renting. They cleaned it from top to bottom (they have an upper apartment which has a vaulted ceiling and the highest point is about 12 – 14 feet high). They repainted, which hadn’t been done since the condos were built, bought new furniture and worked very hard to get it into shape which is even more difficult with the heat. Frank had taken some vacation time to help his parents with the work, and now it has finally payin off for him. He is here for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays with two of his friends. Frank came with one of his  friends Giovanni and got right into the spirit of Costa  Rica and two other friends came a couple of days later. They are getting out and about and having a great time.

One day they came back from lunch and announced that they were going to have a dive lesson in the pool. None of them had been scuba diving before but there are a number of local shops that will provide a one hour PADI course that will teach them the basics after which they can go out on a dive trip for a couple of hours.  http://www.summer-salt.com/   One of the guys was taking blood pressure medication which he indicated on the questionnaire that they are required to complete before they can take the course, that and the amount of cervasas they were drinking since they got here meant he had to have a physical before he got the OK to dive. Unfortunately for him, the doctor recommended that this was not a good idea.

So the instructor shows up at the condo with 4 sets of diving gear to give the guys their lesson. First he shows them the gear, all the individual pieces,  what they are for and how they go together etc.

Scuba Lesson in the pool at the condo

A little one on one attention is always helpful. The instructor is  french which is very helpful since Frank and his amis speak some english and very little spanish.

One on one instruction

Now that they have the equipment basics it’s into the pool for details on how to breathe. They will need to know how to remove their regulator , throw it behind their back, find it and put it back in their mouths. They will also know how to breathe regularly, watch their buddies for signs of danger, clear their masks and what to do in case of emergencies.

Into the water for more scuba instructions

Then it’s time for a swim around the pool. I would think this is the hard part since the pool is pretty small especially with 4 guys following each other around.

Can you talk under water?

The lesson has  got the attention of our neighbour Nicole. She likes to know everything that is going on. Nicole has a set of goggles that have frogs on them and we call her the “la ranita” the little frog. She looks just like a spanish Shirley Temple.

Nicole watches over the divers

Nicole loves to be the centre of attention

A couple of laps around the pool and they are ready to go diving.

Mr Macho