Sunday, August 7, 2011

At La Giaconda, in the Cielo Azul room!

Saturday we finally left Puerto Viejo, and headed north to Puerto Limón - also just called Limón, except that there may be another town called Limon, which of course confuses the tourists driving around (like us).  We arrived in Limón in good time, and found the Park Hotel, where we've stayed previously.

Now, towns and cities in Costa Rica have a lot of one way streets - and they don't always alternate, sometimes there are two or three same-ways in a row.  So once we found the hotel, we didn't want to go all around the block again - so we just backed up around the corner.  Except the curb at the corner also had a storm drain that was kind of hidden by long grass in the gutter.  Which of course we hit.  Which did something to the tire, and we backed up with major hissing going on.  And the tire quickly going flat. 

I went inside and got a room.  Some nice man had just arrived at the gym across the street and saw what happened, and he came over and helped Richard take off the flat and put on the spare.  Then Richard came in and joined me in our nice ocean-view room.

Puerto Limón is NOT a touristy town - it's a major port, where a lot of the bananas are shipped out - and probably pineapple and other produce.  The town is kind of old and dingy and run-down - but also interesting, because the population is more diverse than many towns in CR.  Plus there isn't a beach, just a rocky coastline.  The usual central market, which has tons of stands that sell the same things over and over.  There's a park that supposedly has sloths in the trees, but I've never seen them.  The trees are full of parrots, which fly all over squawking, and don't stay still long enough to have their photos taken.  I guess you could call it a tough and gritty town, for lack of a more colorful description.  But interesting for a day or two, although there isn't much to do other than walk around and watch people.

We drove back toward San Jose via Siquerres and Turrialba and Cartago, the way we had headed to the Caribbean.  Past the banana plantations, along lovely green fields and rows of trees and then the central hills.

We kept hearing a clunking sound - we thought maybe it was the rear door, which seems to get a bit loose with driving.  We checked the doors, which were all closed.  We checked the back seats, which were down for our luggage, but no, that wasn't the sound.  Richard said he couldn't find the lug wrench from when he changed the tire, and we thought maybe that was somewhere clanking around.

We stopped for coffee in the middle of nowhere again - and it was one of those lovely places we find in Costa Rica - a small restaurant and bar, looks like nothing special from the outside - and then you walk in and look around and stick your head out the back door, and find a beautiful garden full of flowers and trees and butterflies and hummingbirds, with a view of the river - just a little bit of paradise in the back yard of this restaurant with wonderful coffee.  I always marvel at these lovely places.  This one was for sale, and I don't really want to run a restaurant - but it was the most beautiful location, and I would seriously consider it if I wanted to live in Costa Rica!

We kept driving, heading west, and hit wonderful views of Volcan Turrialba, which was out today (as in not hidden behind clouds) merrily puffing and steaming away.  I took a bunch of photos as we drove through.

 We also drove through various coffee farms in the middle of the valley - the central highlands are a great coffee growing area.

We stopped at a coffee shop in the area between Paraiso and Cartago, where we had stopped before - and our friendly proprietor recognized us from a few weeks ago, shook our hands, asked how our travels east were, were we coming from Limón, etc - we had our little conversation in Spanglish, and then had our afternoon snack.  But most exciting - when we got out of the car, I noticed that the lug wrench was on top of our car, on the luggage rack.  Yup, we had driven about 100 km with this big metal thing rattling around on top of the car - making noise, but not falling off, despite our going from sea level at the coast to, oh, about 2000 km up in altitude!!!  Wow, how crazy is that?

We took a new way into San Jose, got lost, figured it out, and arrived at Casa 69, the B&B we've stayed at previously.  But the kind of room we had booked wasn't available, the new owner wasn't very friendly, and we decided to go elsewhere.  So we're now at La Giaconda (the name for the Mona Lisa painting), and we're staying in the blue room, named Cielo Azul (Blue Sky).  Lovely room with a huge king-size bed, old furniture, a separate little sitting room (between the front entrance and the bedroom), and a shower that looks like a huge plastic tube with more nozzles and faucets than I can figure out.  Same neighborhood as Casa 69, but much friendlier.  And with a very friendly guard dog named Shila, and a very sweet guard cat Berta.

So we're settled in, having had bagels for dinner at Bagelman's (this is what Jewish people eat when on vacation, LOL).  We'll explore new places in San Jose for the next several days, plus shop a bit, and then head home.

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