I realize that the DC area is supposed to be hit with snow again today, so I hope our trip to Costa Rica is a momentary escape for you. As I write this, it is still completely pitch black it is so early. I can’t see a foot in front of me. And despite the fact that it’s not the rainy season, we are getting some early morning rain which has gently cooled off everything. Indeed, Costa Rica is paradise. Getting here, to our final destination, was quite the challenge though. Here is what happened and what I learned.
1. Always check the exchange rate before you leave. While it didn’t take us long to get here, I was still exhausted upon arrival. My feet swollen from the flight, a couple of breakouts already developing under my skin (also from the flight), and my patience waning, I sent my husband off to collect our baggage while I made my way to the ATM to get cash. It only took a few moments for me to realize I had not even thought to look up the currency in Costa Rica (apparently, colones) and had even less clue about the exchange rate. I couldn’t even start to guess how much to get. I eventually just exchanged money there at the airport, but I felt like such a bozo standing there empty-handed in front of the ATM. I am normally more prepared.
2. Never assume your husband knows where he is going. We are traveling with my in-laws and they made our hotel arrangements for the first night. I assumed they had sent the reservation information to my husband. It wasn’t until we walked out of the airport, cash now in hand, that he looked at me and said, “Where are we going?” With no cell phone service and a very patient cabbie, we ended up driving to four different Marriotts before we found the right one. But that wasn’t before our cab got a very flat tire and the driver decided to continue driving on it anyway… Welcome to Costa Rica!
3. Always sit in the very back seat of the car. The next day, we hired a driver to take us the three hours from San Jose to our final destination. We had been advised to avoid renting a car if at all possible. Our driver, Freddie, took a liking to us and decided he wanted to get us there as quickly as possible…or so I assume given the number of cars, people, and bikes he (barely and illegally) passed while driving. Let’s just say I eventually migrated to the very back of the SUV so I could remain blissfully unaware of the others on the road and how close we were to them.
4. Never turn down “the best smoothie in the world.” Despite his haste, Freddie made a point of stopping along the way when he felt it was worth it. And I’m so glad he did! We stopped at the bridge under which live approximately 40 of the largest crocodiles in the world, including one measuring 18 feet! We also stopped at a small roadside stand where according to Freddie one could get “the best smoothie in the world.” I wasn’t hungry but I indulged anyway and Freddie was right. (Freddie is always right.) My mango-banana-pineapple smoothie was life-changing.
5. Always pause and take it in. Due to the multiple stops and despite Freddie’s best efforts, it took us all day to get to our final destination. It didn’t matter though. We experienced so much of Costa Rica in that time. We watched landscapes evolve and colors change. We met so many kind people, and learned to say “Pura Vida!” which Costa Ricans use as an all-inclusive expression for any situation. Finally, we arrived just in time for the most incredible sunset I have ever witnessed. We all paused and tried to take every second of it in. Of the sunset and of the day.
Now the sun is finally coming up and it has stopped raining. I’m pretty certain that’s a monkey saying “Good morning!” in the trees, trying to make himself heard over all of the birds. I’ll have more style-related Costa Rica news tomorrow, but for now, Pura Vida!