Sunday, July 8, 2012

(Insert Witty Title Here)

Yeah, I wanted to come up with something clever about Costa Rica.  I couldn't.  So I'll let YOU use YOUR imaginations to come up with your own clever, witty title for this post, the first of an as yet undetermined number of posts about my recent venture down into the tropical realms of Central America.

I decided a chronological review of my numerous adventures would just be boring.  Instead, I decided to categorize these posts by themes/topics, using my hundreds of photos as a guide.  (No, I'm not joking- I really did take several HUNDRED photos while I was down there.  Not to worry- I won't be posting several hundred photos here, even if you DID want to see every last one of them.  But I will be posting the highlights for you to enjoy, including brief explanations of what they are so you have at least half a clue as to what went on...)

To begin with, some of you may know (or have guessed by other pictures posted on this blog) that I love architecture.  I don't profess to be any kind of knowledgeable guru on the styles/history of the subject, but I am always interested in beautiful/creative buildings.  So, I decided that this first post will focus on the various places in Costa Rica that we visited.  Just so you don't get bored with buildings, I have included pictures of the scenery as well, since that is also an indicator of the places we have been.

(Author's/Editor's note:  Please excuse the photo layout- I'm still not used to the new Blogger and have had some issues trying to get the photos where I want them. Keep your fingers crossed...)

First stop, San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.  It is a large, bustling city of nearly 400,000 people (at least, if Wikipedia is to be believed).  

Even here, you can't escape the Golden Arches.

I loved the mosaic feel of these sidewalk tiles!

Many of the stores/restaurants had this kind of open front- I really liked the feel, the atmosphere this kind of setup gave to the city.
I just thought this wave, created from concrete, arching over the store that sold swim/scuba-type gear, was so cool!

The Gran Teatro Nacional (Grand National Theater)- this building was right next door to the first hotel in which we stayed.

  And here we have the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, a very nice, opulent hotel (as you can see, we got our towels folded in the shape of swans!).  This was easily the nicest hotel of our stay.

 Next, we have the Poas Volcano crater.
 Where's the crater, you ask?  Somewhere hidden below/behind all that whiteness.  Sadly, thanks to the altitude of the crater and the fact that we were in a tropical country that was in its rainy season, the heavy cloud cover prevented us from seeing much of ANYTHING.  Oh well.
Erick, one of our tour guides, is trying to explain about the volcano- it's history, it's activity, etc.- despite the fact that we can't really see anything of what he's talking about.

This church, in one of the towns we drove through, is actually made of metal.  True story.
(Just in case you were wondering...)
Next, we come to La Fortuna.

Here I am at the lookout point for the Fortuna River Waterfall.
This picture does not do justice to the HORRIBLY steep climb- both up and down- we had to endure to get to the waterfall.

 The two waterfalls of the Fortuna River, plus the area we were allowed to swim in.  Despite the excruciating hike, the views were incredible!

 I'll admit, I had to steal this next photo- because I didn't have a waterproof case for my camera, I did not take it with me on our kayaking tour on Lake Arenal.  So, this photo isn't of anyone in our group.  But it does show the lake that we kayaked (with the Arenal Volcano in the background).  And the kayaks in the photo are at least similar to what we actually used...

After a morning of working out our legs, and an afternoon of working out our arms, we got to enjoy an evening here, at the Baldi Hot Springs.
Yes, there is actually a bar located in the middle of several of the springs.

I absolutely loved this giant jacuzzi!

Arenal Volcano, as seen from the patio of our hotel room in La Fortuna.
After La Fortuna, we headed onto Monteverde, stopping along the way to plant trees as part of Costa Rica's reforestation project.
One of the many breathtaking views, with a Pacific Ocean inlet peeking out from among the clouds in the distance.

In case you can't tell, I'm pointing to the tree I planted, which I lovingly named
Limón Bolívar (even though it may or may not actually be a lemon tree.  I never did find out for sure.)

Coffee bean fields.

This was one of many incredible views seen on our horseback riding tour in Monteverde.

After 4-5 days of almost constant rain and/or cloud cover, it was nice to finally spot a patch of BLUE SKY!

The courtyard of our hotel in Monteverde.
 After Monteverde, we went to Jacó, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
Our hotel.

 The view from out hotel- yes, the ocean was that close.  Sadly, due to dangerous riptides, we were not allowed to swim at this beach.
 Downtown Jacó. 

We WERE allowed to swim at this serenely beautiful beach at the Manual Antonio National Park

This shot, taken on the beach by our hotel, is easily one of my most favorite shots of the whole trip!

After Jacó, we spent a day souveniering in Sarchí.  The town is famous for making most of the souveniers sold throughout Costa Rica.  As such, it is a very artsy town, as you can see by the pictures below.
 (On the left, detail of a mural of Sarchí.  On the right, the actual church depicted in the mural.)

These are just some of the murals that covered the outside walls of the first store we went to.  All of the murals were just beautiful!

One of Costa Rica's national symbols is the ox-cart, representing the labor and hard-working mentality of its people, throughout history and in the present day.  Here in Sarchí, they have made it an amazing art form!

(I know I'm short, but that was also a REALLY big wheel!)

This is a cement "tile", painted to look like the ox-cart wheels so prevalent throughout

 So, there you are- your first visual taste of my many adventures in Costa Rica.  Stay tuned for the next installment, hopefully to come within the week!