Monday, July 18, 2011

Liberia and Tamarindo

We drove north from Las Cañas to Liberia - we had heard that Liberia was a the laid-back capital of the north, and wanted to see the town.  We also have friends who enjoy going to Liberia for shopping, and they bring all kinds of things back to St. Thomas.  And, after having spent two years in Liberia, West Africa, well, I wanted to see Liberia, Costa Rica.

I'm sure it's a nice town.  But there were too many American chain stores (Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC, on and on) - there were too many American tourists - there were no vacancies at the inexpensive hotels we checked out.  Neither Richard nor I understand the point of going to a foreign country and looking for things you can find at home - what's the point?  Why leave?  Why not just stay home and stick with everything that's familiar, if that's what you want?  The point of travelling to new countries and new places is to experience new things, new people, new foods, new ways of life.

So we went to a nice restaurant, and had casados - the quintessential Tican plate of food that includes a protein, beans and rice, plantains, some kind of cooked veg, and some kind of salad - often all topped with a fried egg.  (We always skip the egg.)  It was explained to us at one point that casados means "the married house" or "marriage" - because it has a little bit of this, a little bit of that, all together on one plate, everyone/everything getting along.  (I like the symbolism of this plate of food.)  I had the mahi with fresh lime, Richard had the pork chop, and it was delicious and too much food for me to finish.  We then opted to drive to the coast, and see what was new in Tamarindo.  Lovely drive through ranch land, then through the coastal hills, and all of a sudden we were on the Pacific coast.

We had stayed in Tamarindo three years ago.  At a lovely spot with a lagoon and a resident crocodile, as well as an on-site French bakery.

You know that saying, you can't go home again?  Well, we couldn't afford the little hotel.  The lagoon dried up, and the crocodiles moved out and hiked to the river (okay, they didn't hike - but they did leave the lagoon and go off to live in the river).  The French bakery was closed for the day.  Tamarindo is no longer a cute little beachy village, but is now stuffed with stores catering to tourists, with the American food syndrome (TCBY in Tamarindo??????),  and way too many tourists on the beach and in the streets.  Plus surfers who are really just surfer wannabes, because this is just not a big curl kind of beach.  It just wasn't the pretty town we both enjoyed.

 So we found one of the few Tican-owned places left, Marielos' Cabinas, and got a little room for the night.  One of the things I really like about the place is the artwork - the buildings have the traditional painted wooden trim, reminiscent of the traditional oxcarts - the wild exuberant colors with flourishes and somewhat abstract botanical designs.  There are low chairs painted in matching style.  The whole effect is much more soothing than the "upscale" hotels that one could find anywhere in the world.  We chatted with proprietor Marielos, a retired professor - she laughed and said we've arrived in "gringoland" and that the community finally got together and banned the high-rises that are going up all along the coast, full of retiring Americans.  We totally agreed with her!

 We wandered on the beach a bit - grey sand, courtesy of the volcanic rock that gets mixed into the sand.  We went out for dinner at an Argentinian-owned Italian place (it was okay).  And we're thinking of French bakery breakfast tomorrow, and then heading south.  To the more Tican Costa Rica, which is what we like, and why we're here.

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