Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Costa Rica Recap : Part 1 : Alajuela

Man, oh, man. 

Costa Rica began 2 months ago & I am still recovering. 

Two weeks was a long time, but it didn't feel like it when we were there. When we were there, it went by in a flash. There was so many things to see & do & experience. Once we got home though, we realized just how long a two-week trip affects our life. I had to catch up on so many things at work, Jim had to catch up on some farm projects, & Jack took a toll. He ran away twice on my brother! Thank goodness for small-town communities that come together at a time like those. He was brought safely home, thank GOD. 

Anyways, I better get going on describing this trip.There's a lot to talk about!

Our first day of the trip included traveling from MN to FLL. We left Minnesota on our Spirit flight at midnight or so. We landed in Fort Lauderdale at about 4am. We had a six hour layover staring us in the face, but we knew it was coming, so we knew our first step was getting a Lyft ride to a Denny's diner. (We loved using Lyft! The drivers were great & showed up quickly after we "paged" them. Such an affordable way to travel - this ride was $13.20, including the tip! Use my referral code ASHLEY008475 to get your first ride free!) We got breakfast there & ate as slowly as possible, so we could use their WiFi & take up time until the sun came up. The sun was barely shedding light on the world when we began our 2.6 mile walk to the beach. 
This was about a mile & a half into our walk.
The picture does not do that sunrise justice. The blues, pinks, & purples were gorgeous. God was really giving us a treat that morning.
We were trying to guess which celebrity owned those big yachts.
The walk was nice after such an early morning flight. The weather was still cool enough to enjoy it. And we never felt like we were unsafe. The area is pretty upscale, with hotels & restaurants. There were many other exercisers already out & about. But when we seen the beach, we were ecstatic. Our very first trip together included Fort Lauderdale Beach, so it was awesome to be back! 

I loved watching the sun rise over the water. Such a cool way to begin a trip. But man, we were tired! We actually had this as our plan: 1) Denny's 2) Sleep at the beach.
So sleep we did! We parked it on a picnic bench & slept. One beach employee probably thought we were homeless & he made sure to make a ton of noise with his skid loader. We, thankfully, got in a good nap before all that started.
See James? He's sitting on the picnic bench we slept on. We used our personal bags for pillows, & I had a zip up to keep me warm, but I should have brought something warmer. It was chilly near the water! 
We made sure to get a picture of us here, as we were in this same spot years ago on our first trip! Still together & going strong, four years later.

Except our lives could do without Jim's shirt choices. I had to beg him not to wear neon, as it ruins our pictures. I suggested not wearing shirts with huge words either, cause those are distracting & touristy looking. But he snuck this one in... Good thing he's handy, or else I might just toss him & his shirt in the ocean

We used Lyft again to hitch a ride from the beach to the airport. This ride cost us only $13.27, including the tip! Leaving the airport was easy, but we were worried about getting back in. We had never left an airport before on a layover! But it was a breeze. Thank goodness our bags were checked & we didn't need to lug them around. I highly recommend checking your bags if you have a long layover somewhere. Normally, we just use carry-on's, but we knew we did not want to sit at the airport for 6 hours, or haul around bags to the beach.

We got to our gate with time to relax, people watch, & grab some snacks. 
I tried out this drink for the first time... I don't drink pop or sugary juices - I'm a water girl. So I thought I'd add some flavor in my life & try this Hint Watermelon Water. Man, was it good! I loved it. There was literally just a "hint" of watermelon taste, & it was so refreshing. They had other flavors there, too. I want to try the crisp apple next.
Our plane was yellow! Minnesota must not get the fun planes, cause our tarmac is full of white or silver planes. Fort Lauderdale had such colorful planes. I could not wait to get on this thing!
Jim has never played cell phone games before, but he made sure to get one on his phone to keep him busy on the flights. This was his favorite - it's called Coin Dozer & it's just like his favorite fair game. He is still playing it months later. I find it to be the most boring thing on this planet.
Yeah, our plane said "Howdy" - gotta love Spirit! Welcome to Costa Rica!

The Costa Rican airport was busy busy busy. We got off & had to go through a long line at customs. It went by quicker than I thought, & people watching kept me busy. 
We got our bags, and it was time to find our rental car from Adobe car rental. (Go to Two Weeks in Costa Rica for the sweet discount that we used!) We seen all the other car companies there, except Adobe. We were being rushed out with the crowd, away from the car rental desks & we felt lost. Once past the crowd that was waiting for incoming passengers, we seen a man with a small Adobe sign in hand. I asked him if he was with Adobe, and he said yes & asked for our names. He found us on his list, walked us to the shuttle, loaded our bags, & we were on our way to the car rental company.
A picture of our Kia Picanto taken later on in the trip. It was the perfect car for us, & it handled all the crazy back roads nicely. And when I say "back roads", I mean "roads that the locals hardly ever use." Hours went by before we seen another car on the road at some points. This baby took on steep hills, huge rocks in the road, bumpy gravel paths, pot holes, & even a river. Is a 4x4 nice on a trip to Costa Rica? Yeah. Is it necessary? No.
This is where we were introduced to Costa Rican time. Things went by slowly, but thoroughly. Once we got our car, we looked around & thought the area seemed rough. (It's funny, cause when we returned the car later on, we thought the area looked nice!) We were overwhelmed. The traffic was a little crazy & the whole area felt cramped. We definitely got lost right away. We ended up in a housing area, with steep roads, fumbling our map. GPS didn't work - heck, our phones didn't work. We knew that this would happen coming in, but didn't realize how much we'd need GPS til we were lost within a few minutes of being on our own. We had attempted to stop at a store and get a sim card, but we had no idea how to get off the busy road or where to park or even if the place we were looking at was a store. 
We managed to get on the road to get us to Alajuela, or so we thought. 
Here's a quick description of the next 4 hours: LOST, traffic, busy, crazy, attempted to get a sim card at the grocery store, got sim card, got excited, put sim card into phone, still didn't work, brought phone back into store, learned that my phone needs to be unlocked by my provider (Cricket, whom I love! I'll write a post about them soon.), but I need a working phone to do that, got lost some more, asked the police for help, they tried to help but were equally confused, they had to leave cause they got a call, went down a random road, a man was standing outside, waved to us, we were like "Okay, what does this guy want?" but he ended up being our host, got a little attitude from him about being so late to check in (Sorry, dude! We just got lost for hours in a foreign country with no GPS or way to contact you!), & finally parked the car. I'll use a Minnesotan word my mother hates here: Oofta!
There's our place! Very secure.
Despite being a little annoyed at our tardiness, our host was very kind & helpful. He showed us our room & we settled in. This was definitely not a luxury accommodation. It was a good value though, at only $25/night. The room was fairly clean. The bathroom was a little iffy & I completely avoided the kitchen. The pillows were limp, and the bed was cheap. We relaxed for a bit, but it began getting dark out. We did not want to drive anywhere, so we asked our host if it was safe to walk somewhere. He said yes & suggested a place up the road. We felt decently safe on our walk. We have no idea what the place was called, or what we ordered, but it was good. 
Rice with shrimp, fries, & yummy veggies. The carrots were the best!
We were zonked, so bedtime came early. But it was not a good sleep. We heard large animals on the roof all night. It was probably an iguana or monkey or something, but it was loud. Once we woke up, James told me he stayed awake almost all night listening to some animal in our closet.  
I, of course, spazed a bit. "What was it!?" But he did not know, & was too afraid to check. So I crept to the closet and opened the door. I was expecting some exotic mammal to maul my shins, but nothing was there. Either James is cuckoo, or this critter vacated the premises. Both ideas are a little frightening. Needless to say, I was ready to high-tail it out of there. 
Our host was great, but looking back now, I would love to have stayed at our San Joaquin place instead. (More on that place later.) 

So there you have it. We safely got to this beautiful country & barely survived our first night there. I'll have plenty more posts coming soon on our two weeks in Costa Rica so check back.

Warm Wishes,

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