Sunday, July 11, 2010

Costa Rica

Every year Charlie travels to Costa Rica on business, and every year I drop plenty of hints that I'd like to go with him. This year I did! Charlie used his airline miles to book tickets for Isaac & I and we turned it into a fun little family trip. We had a great time and I would be more than happy to accompany him again next year.

We were on our way out the door to the airport Saturday morning when Isaac ran back to his room and insisted that we bring his little suitcase that was still (hidden!) in the closet. He loves pulling it all around the airports with him.

Isaac has become quite a seasoned little traveler in his few years of life. He loves watching all of the airplanes and airport trucks out the windows of the terminal, and he loves being on the airplane too. He was such a good kid on this trip and we think he had a lot of fun too.

After arriving in San Jose, getting our rental car, and checking in at the hotel, it was a little past 10:00 pm. We set out searching for a place to eat dinner and ended up at TGI Friday's. Everything else was either closed or totally packed with the Saturday night party crowd. TGI Friday's turned out to be a pretty happening place too! Nothing like it is in the US. They had the disco lights flashing and loud techno music playing and all the servers were dressed totally crazy. Isaac LOVED it! (I tried to upload a video of his dancing but it was taking way too long.)

Charlie's distributor in Costa Rica is a small family run company, and when he is there they treat him like family too.  On Sunday they invited us all out to their country home for the afternoon.  Their whole family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. - gets together every week for Sunday lunch.  Everyone was so warm and welcoming.  We had a great time!  They have a big outdoor eating area with a large round grill where the uncles cooked up all the meat and everyone just sat relaxing and talking.  All of the kids had fun swimming and going down the water slide.  There was a little swing set out back that Isaac had fun playing on too.  After lunch we went to see the horses and Isaac got to join the big boys in a soccer game.

Since Monday was Memorial Day, Charlie took the day off and we drove to Manuel Antonio - a national park/rain forest on the beach.  We checked in at the Hotel Parador, where we were handed glasses of juice complete with tiny umbrellas, and were escorted to our room on a golf court.  It was a beautiful room, but the real highlight was the gorgeous view of the ocean.

Within about 5 minutes of checking into our room, Isaac discovered the balcony and then decided to see what would happen if he threw Chick Hicks (a Cars character) over the rail.  What happened was I got to go down and spend 10 minutes searching through the bushes for it!  Not so fun.  This happened not once, but TWICE.  But the second time was truly an accident otherwise I might not have ventured back into the jungle looking for it.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach and at the pool.  We got pretty lucky with the weather while we were there.  This time of year is their winter and the rainy season, but we had clear skies for most of the trip.  It was hot and humid, but not unbearable.  The ocean water was rather warm, but I actually like it that way!  Charlie does not.  And Isaac?  Well he just doesn't like any ocean water at all.  He loves the pool, but something about the ocean is scary to him.  The water was super calm and warm, so I tried bringing him in but he still freaked out.  He just had fun playing with his trucks in the sand and walking in the little streams of water that ran down the beach.

Back up at the hotel Isaac had a blast playing in all of the pools.  The main pool had a shallow area with a very gradual slope and Isaac loved tip-toeing deeper and deeper until it was right at his chin and then I'd pull him up.  He never did quite warm up to the alligator statue though.  It was funny to see how cautious he was around it.

At dinner time we headed out in search of the "restaurant inside an airplane" that we had heard about.  We knew Isaac would love it!  It is called El Avion and is an old 1980's military cargo plane.  The interior of the plane is the bar, and the restaurant seating is all outdoors.  It was dark out, but in the day time you would have a beautiful view of the surrounding rain forest and the ocean.  Charlie ordered red snapper and Isaac was totally intrigued to see a whole fish sitting on a plate.  He even ate a few bites.

Walking back to the hotel after dinner we found a couple of frogs swimming in the pool.  Isaac was ready to jump in there with them!

Perhaps one of the most memorable events of our trip occurred later that night as we were relaxing before bed.  Charlie & I were both on our laptops and Isaac had fallen asleep between us on the bed.  Suddenly we felt the whole place shaking and we turned to look at each other as it lasted for what felt like a few more minutes, but in reality was probably just a few seconds.  A 6.3 earthquake, with an epicenter less than 10 miles away from where we were sitting.  I think the thought that was going through both of our minds was that we were in a third world country, on the fifth floor of a hotel, and who knew what kind of building regulations were in place.  Images of a demolished Haiti flashed through my mind as I prepared myself for the worst.  But nothing happened.  Nothing at all.  We turned on the news and refreshed our google searches at lightning speed looking for any news, or tsunami warnings, but there wasn't much to be found.  I must say, having lived most of my life in southern CA, I have experienced my fair share of earthquakes, but that one in Costa Rica was by far the most terrifying!

For several weeks leading up to our trip Charlie & I kept telling Isaac about all of the animals we were going to see in the rain forest.  He has become a huge fan of "Go Diego, Go!"  (or as he calls it "Dee-go GO!") and was really excited to be an explorer in the rain forest and look for monkeys.  We knew we had to get up early the next morning to catch them and sure enough - there they were, right outside our door!  We woke Isaac up and sat outside in the hallway watching families of monkeys climbing through the canopy of trees.  He was so excited!  On our way to breakfast we also saw a sloth curled up in a tree, iguanas lounging on the rocks, and a little frog hanging out in the hallway.

Isaac loved eating Fruit Loops for breakfast every morning because he never gets them at home!

And I loved eating gallo pinto for breakfast every morning, because I don't get that at home either.

Isaac thought it was really fun to ride on Daddy's back like a baby monkey.

We would have loved to spend more time exploring the rain forest or relaxing at the beach, but this was a business trip after all.  On our way back to San Jose that morning we spotted a road side vendor selling all sorts of charming wooden toys and trucks.  We just had to stop!  Isaac was in heaven and I'm sure would have loved to stay and play, but instead we just let him pick one to take home.  We weren't really sure how we were going to fit this thing in our suitcase, but we made it work.

We stopped for lunch at a Japanese restaurant where Charlie & I enjoyed some sushi (our favorite was the tropical roll with shrimp tempura, mango & avocado), and Isaac's lunch came out in this fun little boat.  We also went into the office with Charlie for a few minutes and Isaac had a good time exploring the warehouse.

That night we were invited to dinner with all of the family.  We went to a local steakhouse where one of the uncles told us he eats dinner at least once a week.  I quickly understood why as the food was delicious!  We ate grilled steak and chicken and all kinds of fresh grilled vegetables, bread, cheese, and fresh baked pastries for dessert.  The dinner lasted a couple of hours but Isaac was very well behaved, and played quietly with his toys and ate his french fries (fries & fruit loops were just about all he ate on the entire trip!).  I had the pleasure of sitting next to the grandmother of the family.  She was so delightful to talk to!  She was born in Lebanon, raised mostly in Canada, and later moved to Costa Rica where she raised her own family.  It was so funny to hear her tell me about all of the American reality TV shows that she watches and the Danielle Steel novels that she loves.  It was a fantastic dinner - great food & great company.

On Wednesday Charlie spent most of the day in the office, so Isaac and I were on our own.  Luckily there was plenty to do within walking distance.  There was a fun little park right across the street, and a mall with an arcade.  Isaac had fun shooting hoops, playing ski ball, riding a motorcycle, and all sorts of other cool stuff.  And in the end he even got a little plastic car with all of his tickets.

Vanessa, Charlie's main contact for the account, took us all to lunch.  My friend Amy had suggested a few things for me to eat while in Costa Rica, and I finally got around to eating them.  I had arroz con pollo (Costa Rican style chicken & rice) and banana con leche (which was like a frothy banana smoothie).  Both were delicious.  Thanks Amy for the recommendations!

As we were driving to the restaurant the sky was overcast and the air was feeling heavy and humid.  So it was no surprise when during our meal we started hearing the pounding of a tropical rain storm.  That pretty much killed our pool plans for the afternoon, so we ended up at the mall instead.  For dinner I was eager to get back to Rosti Pollo for one more salad.  I think I forgot to mention this place earlier.  We ate here earlier in the trip and I totally loved my salad.  This place is all about their roasted chicken, which is so moist and yummy.  My favorite thing about the salad though was the dressing, which I really wish I knew to make.  They called it Italian, but it was super light and not oily at all, with the perfect blend of spices and flavor.  It really was a pretty simple chicken salad but that dressing made it just perfect.

Thursday it was time to head home.  I was totally dreading the long day of travel - which ended up being even longer than we had planned - but it all went pretty smoothly.  As a mother, I've found that I can pretty easily forget my own feelings of frustration, boredom, tiredness, etc.  For the most part, as long as Isaac is happy, I am happy!  So the fact that we were stuck in the Miami airport for nearly 8 hours due to thunderstorms, really turned out to be no big deal because Isaac was so well behaved!  He just had fun playing with his cars, pulling his suitcase around the terminal, and watching the airplanes out the window.  And by the time our plane FINALLY took off, he was so exhausted that he fell right to sleep.

Isaac loved this "Big Lady" statue in the lobby of the hotel.

We had a great time and hopefully will be back next year!   

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