Costa Rica

The quick trip to Costa Rica is coming to an end. The people were all so friendly and helpful. I had some great food and the scenery was beautiful. I’m pretty sure there is a gecko living in the hotel room as there is some mysterious chirping noises at night. Once night, stuff started falling from the ceiling so I know there was something up there. Tamarindo was a great first experience to Costa Rica, and I know I’ll be back to explore more. Perhaps my planning wasn’t perfect. Rainy season really does mean it will rain a lot. And when it rains the mosquitoes are out to get you. Pretty sure I had over 20 bites on the first day. It was hot and humid every minute of the day, sunscreen and bug spray was always a must but I can see why Costa Rica is considered to be a Blue Zone. A Blue Zone is an area where residents enjoy an extraordinary long, healthy lifespan. Residents in a Blue Zone can often live to over 100 years old.

I’m going to miss my breakfast buddy.

I watched a lot of ants carry a lot of things around. And they are really hard to actually vidoe.

i felt like this crab really wanted help getting back to the ocean.

PS-it made it back to the ocean.😁

Tamarindo Estuary Boat Tour

After heavy rain for hours all night Thursday, the skies cleared up early in the morning for our boat tour. It is only a 5 minute drive to the estuary, and we enjoyed a 2 hour boat trip looking for animals and exploring the mangrove forest. Mangrove trees are only located in tropical locations because they can’t withstand freezing temperatures. The tide from the ocean will cover all of the roots at high tide. We were lucky to be in between tides so we could see the puzzle of roots reaching for the ground. We also had great timing to see hundreds of crabs. The heavy rains over night meant they spent a lot of time out of the ground. I’m amazed at how big of a hole they make. We saw birds, crocodiles, crabs, monkeys and one raccoon feasting on some crab. Near the end of the tour, the guide parks the boat and we walk through the forest to find the howler monkeys. Our tour guide did a great job at waking up the howler monkeys from their nap. He was able to make a sound like they do which made all of the male howler monkeys call back. Once back at the boat, he took a pineapple out of the cooler and cut it up for us to enjoy on the ride back.

Crocodile waiting to get a crab

Tenorio Volcano National Park

We decided to do a full day trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park. It is about a 3 hour drive from Tamarindo. We did a private tour to keep the number of people in the van to a minimum. We had two tour guides who I’m pretty sure were a father son team. We believe they were both named Warren. (The man that picked up from the airport was also Warren.) They picked us up at 6:30 AM which meant it was too early to get the free hotel breakfast. The one thing that Warren and Warren really liked, was dogs. They know some of the dogs on the drive that aren’t fed. So we made a couple of stops on the way to feed dogs. They dogs looked so happy to see them come with food. They also made a stop at a bakery to get us breakfast.

Part of the reason the drive is 3 hours is because there are very few traffic lights. I think we saw maybe two total in the whole drive. Our guides were great at pointing things out on the drive. The tour in the park was to see the rain forrest and animals. The guides explained that we would see more animals outside of the park entrance because of the people in the park. They really did take their time in finding us animals before we entered the park. They would setup a telescope so we could see the birds up close. We made probably over 10 stops on the way to the park to see different birds. We saw sloths, monkeys, snakes, termites, butterflies, beetle, lots of birds and a poison dart frog. The guides were very excited to see a couple of king vultures perched on a tree. They said they usually only see them flying around. We saw some tracks of a tapir in the park but luckily didn’t see one. I didn’t know what a tapir was but it is basically a 400 pound animal that can attack without warning It looks a lot like a pig.

The park was 5 km hike out and back through the rain forrest. We were lucky on the way out to the waterfall because it was dry. Although it was extremely humid and climbing up and down a lot of stairs was quite the workout. We made it to the waterfall and you could start to hear some thunder in the distance. We continued on a little bit to see the Blue Lagoon but the guides recommended we head back after that. The thunder was getting closer and we were in the middle of the rain forrest. The thunder was getting so loud you could feel the ground move and then it poured. I’m glad they had us turn back when they did because that would have been a very muddy difficult hike. Overall it was a great day tour with Warren and Warren. The only downside was the younger Warren lost his phone on one of the stops. We looked for a good hour but he never did find his phone.

All of the following photos are animals we saw in or around the park.

Pictures of the park.

Although we were all soaking wet, they stopped at a restaurant for lunch on the way back down the volcano. We were the only people there for lunch but it was probably one of the best meals I have ever had on a trip. There wasn’t a menu but they made you a fresh juice with local fruit and then a typical Costa Rican meal.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

It has been almost three years since my last international trip but I was able to sneak away from work for a quick week to Costa Rica. The weather won’t be ideal but that won’t stop me from getting outside and seeing the animals and flowers. It isn’t often that I don’t pack a jacket or pants for a trip. It is rainy season and will be in the 90’s and humid everyday in Tamarindo. The lightning storm as the sun set on the flight down was fun to watch.

Tamarindo is on the Pacific Coast side of the country. It was about an hour and ten minute drive from the airport. The sun sets at 6:00 PM so it was a pitch dark drive to the hotel. This is one of the first trips I haven’t rented a car so I thought I would get to take in the scenery but I couldn’t see anything. I wonder if they don’t turn on a lot of lights at night because it uses energy and it attracts all of the bugs. Speaking of bugs, I have had to get used to having a number of different bugs in the hotel room. I’m still a little concerned that I can’t find where the last cockroach went.

The first day was just spent walking on the beach and seeing Tamarindo. The ocean is so warm that it doesn’t really cool you off at all. I’m pretty sure I could spend all day outside just watching for monkeys or birds.

Last day in Lisbon

Yesterday was our last day in Lisbon before starting the journey home. We started the morning by taking a tram tour of the some of the famous hills in Lisbon. We figured it was much better to do a tour instead of waiting in the very long line for the public tram to go the same route. It was a pleasant tour and we had a seat the entire time and could watch the driver. Some of the streets are so narrow that one one tram will fit at a time and people have to give way to the tram because it is so close to the houses. Everything was going smoothly until we got to one area where a car didn’t park properly. The tram tried to get by but the driver ended up calling the police to tow the car. So we had to wait about a half an hour for that fun to end.

After the two hour tram ride, we headed to the train station. It is a 40 minute train ride to Cascais which is on the Atlantic Ocean. The train is only $1.50 so it is a bargain to take the public transportation. The town was better than expected and it was one of the cuter towns we went to. They had cute cafes to eat outdoors and a nice park. Monday was a national holiday in Portugal so the park was full of locals playing in the park. You could basically bike the same trail from downtown Lisbon to the same town we were in so we decided to walk back on some of the trail next to very nice beaches and pretty blue/green water. I’m sad the trip is coming to an end but I have loved seeing new places and always look forward to planning another trip.

I have been keeping a collection of some of my favorite tile from Portugal. This is only a small percentage of all the tile I have seen the last couple of weeks but I love the tile here. Here are some of my favorites.

Lisbon, Portugal

We made it to Lisbon a couple of days ago. I’m not sure I was ready for how big and loud a city can be after being in a very quiet beach town. Lisbon is by far one of the liveliest cities I have ever visited. It feels very artsy and I’m sure a big party scene at night. I do like walking the old streets of Lisbon and trying to see where the locals live. Lisbon is one of oldest European cities, however the earthquake in 1755 destroyed about 85% of the buildings and killed thousands of people.

The city is built on 7 hills. To help navigate all of the hills, we have been taking trams and elevators. The trams are very crowded and we usually have to stand but it is better than walking up every hill. There is a lot of graffiti in the city but I think it gives good character. The city feels very safe and everyone is very friendly here. Everyone speaks good English and I almost forget that I’m in a different country because I’m always speaking in English.

My favorite walk was through the old part of town by the castle. One house had birds sitting outside singing. Most people have their laundry outside drying. There is a big festival in June so most streets have plastic garland hung. I’m amazed by the beautiful tile on buildings and the stones on the ground. Pictures just don’t really capture how beautiful the individual streets are.

Today we checked out a different neighborhood in Lisbon. Belém is about 5 miles from where we are staying. Since the weather was pretty perfect this morning, we walked there. They have a nice trail along the river. It was nice to see everyone out riding a bike and running on the trail. I would go for a lot of runs on that trail if I lived here. Belém is where the famous Portuguese pastry Pastel de Nata started. We waited in the line that was a block long to get the original pastry. I feel like everything we did today was wait in line because we then had to wait in line for another 30 minutes to get a sandwich to go. Instead of walking the 5 miles back, we wanted to try a tram. We opted to wait for the more modern AC tram…but once we got on, the AC wasn’t working. The tram stopped after a couple of stops and told everyone to get off and we had to run to a tram that was waiting for us that had the AC on. Luckily we ran ahead and got a seat because the tram was packed full of people. One of the reasons I wanted to visit this neighborhood was because there was supposed to be a nice botanical garden there according to our hotel. Once we got there, a sign was posted that it had been closed since October 2018 for restoration.

Tavira & Faro

A couple of days ago, we went to Tavira and Faro. Faro is the largest city in the Algarve and it where most people fly into. It was so windy there that we really didn’t stay that long. Tavira is pretty close to Spain and is actually a very cute town to walk around. Tavira is a pretty good place to get on a boat and do some bird watching around some wildlife. However, the water was choppy and we really didn’t want to get wet. They mention that you can get pretty wet if the water is choppy.

We spent the last couple of days just relaxing around the town we are staying in. We played some padel, which I actually really like. It is very similar to tennis but a lot smaller court and there are walls you can play the ball off of. The rackets are smaller than tennis rackets and the tennis balls are slightly different.

Lagos & Ponta da Piedade

We went to Lagos and Ponta da Piedade yesterday. Ponta da Piedade has easily been one of my favorite spots in Portugal. It is right outside of Lagos and they have great trails to walk around to get views of the natural rocks. As you go down the stairs to the water, there is actually a water taxi station that is very busy. It is crazy to go to sights that don’t have fences or railings to keep you from falling off the cliffs. All of the sights are free so they don’t have any idea how many people visit.

Parking has been no problem in some towns, and other towns, it has been too difficult to find a spot. I can’t imagine how summer months are with all of the tourists. Yesterday was around 100 degrees outside so I was happy when I got close parking spots.

National Park North of Sagres

Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park

After visiting Sagres, we decided to drive north for awhile. The area we toured was the Vicentine Coast National Park. This park covers a lot of area and has beautiful beaches. Most of the drive doesn’t include views of the water but through very dry looking land. Occasionally you will see some cork trees or wind farms but generally there isn’t a lot to look at. You do go through some very small towns on the way. The beaches are also not usually close to the highway or to the parking lots. Most of the beaches require you to climb down steep hills to get there. So I actually didn’t go down to many of the beaches but took in the nice views from up high.

Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de S. Vicente, Portugal

Officially made it to the most southwestern point of continental Europe. And there was a German foodcart there where you could get the last bratwurst before America so of course we had to try it.

We didn’t go into the town of Sagres but we did visit the fort and walk around the tip of Portugal. It was pretty hot on the walk around the fort and the flies were terrible. It isn’t really that fun to walk around trying to swat a bunch of flies but the view was worth it. The water is so blue and green that I really can watch it for hours.