Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Costa Rica–Day 2

 

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Since we were up at 3:00am the day before and travelled until about 4pm, we were pretty tired and all went to bed early in hopes of Kerry making it safe to our hotel.  I think I woke up at about midnight and thought…”what if he still isn’t here, had car trouble (or worse) but couldn’t get ahold of any of us because we were dead asleep”…I checked my phone and Rob’s phone, saw no missed texts/calls so I just went back to bed assuming the best.  We were happy to see him in the morning ready to go!

Our hotel in La Fortuna  (Arenal Springs Resort and Spa) was great!  La Fortuna is situated close to the Arenal volcano so the area is well known for their natural hot springs.  It’s a popular tourist stop to visit the natural springs, but I opted to find us a hotel that had it’s own springs.  I’m sure it isn’t quite as “natural” as the real thing, but they claim they leave all the natural minerals and what not in the water.  A lot of the hotels in the area are made up of many small cabins rather than one large building.  Our cabin was recently upgraded.  The main bedroom had the above spa or “personal hot springs” as the bell boy said.  I’m not sure anyone would really take the time to fill that thing up.  It was huge.  The same bedroom also had an outdoor shower, and indoor shower, another Jacuzzi in the bathroom and a large sitting area.  The adjoining room was also a nice sized room with it’s own full bath.  Hammocks for each of us and beautiful views! 

We were all up pretty early so breakfast, and coffee, was first on our list!

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Kerry cracked open this unknown (at the time) fruit to find a slimy glob of seeds.  We did ask what it was before he tried it, but even knowing what it was, I’m not sure I would have been able to eat it.  He said it was delicious (it was Passion fruit).

We had reservations for our zip-lining tour on this 2nd day.  It was about 25 minutes from our hotel and the majority of the drive is a pot-hole ridden dirt road.  Horrible conditions, but I think  Rob truly enjoyed the drive.  We had a large SUV with full coverage insurance so he took the road at a good speed and passed several cars going way too slow!

We zip-lined with Sky Adventures in Arenal.  Here are the stats on the zip lines:

  • Sky Tram: 4100 ft. (1250 m.)
  • Zip Lines: 8
  • The longest cable is 2493 ft. (760 m.)
  • The highest cable is 656 ft. (200 m.)
  • Duration: 2.5 Hour Tour
  • Located in the Rain Forest
  • Average Temperature: 82 °F. (28 °C.)
  • Wind Speeds: Up to 10 mi/h (16 km/h)
  • Altitude: 2460 ft. (750 m.)

A brief safety lesson and we were on our way!

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First we take a tram up to the top.  I tried to use my mad Spanish skillz with the guide, but was only half successful.  I realized that for the most part I am understood, but then they rattle something off back to me in Spanish and I get lost in the first few words.  It’s still fun to try.

Here’s a picture of all of us after the first real cable (there is a small practice one before a crazy plunge over the ravine).  The guy taking our picture couldn’t stop shaking.  Interestingly enough, Rob actually had a work connection with him.  Rob always find someone he knows…and although he didn’t “know” this guy, it still counts in my book. 

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Last time I was at this place they told me they were making a bar towards the end of the zip line tour.  I thought they were joking since the guides tend to make a lot of jokes.  But, they weren’t because this time they  had the bar.  As of now they were just offering us some fruit juices, but it was cool anyway, a good place for a photo op I guess.

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Careful not to take a big step back!

It would be fun to take some pictures while ziplinging but I would be way to scared of dropping my camera.  But, the views are absolutely amazing.  And, we got a rare glimpse of the top of the volcano while we were there.

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We all thoroughly enjoyed the zip-lines!  We headed back to the town of La Fortuna afterwards to walk around a bit and grab a bite to eat.  Shelly took another great picture of the volcano over the town.

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After all the excitement it was great to go back to the hotel and relax in the hot springs.  We had some sushi poolside and I made friends with the waitress who didn’t speak much English….more Spanish practice.  Everyone we met in Costa Rica was very nice and helpful.  Pura Vida!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Costa Rica–Day 1

Back in February, when we were enjoying our vacation to Florida (rough life, I know!), Rob’s sister, Shelly, proposed another trip to us.  Costa Rica!  I believe the conversation went like this: “Do you guys want to go to Costa Rica?” and before knowing any details I immediately answered “Yes!”.  And once we had the details, it just got better.  One of Shelly’s friends from medical school has a time-share type arrangement with the Four Seasons in Costa Rica.  His family lives there for 2 months every year so that their children can attend summer school in a nearby city  and work on their fluency in Spanish.  Well, this year they were unable to make it for the first week of their allotted time so he offered it (free!) to Shelly and Kerry!  It is a three bedroom, giant, beautiful condo and the Affield’s offered for us to join them.  To sweeten the deal and make the decision easy, Rob had enough frequent flyer miles to get us free flights.  Combine this with the enormous help from both sets of grandparents and we were on our way!   We left May 1st and stayed until May 7th.

Originally, we weren’t sure if the condo was going to be available until Sunday, and we were arriving Friday, so we made plans to travel inland before ending our trip at the Four Seasons.  This is the same thing I did last time I went to Costa Rica.  And, I would do it again.  We flew into the Liberia airport and then traveled east to the middle of Costa Rica.  The middle region is a lot more lush and tropical.  Like a rainforest.  Unfortunately, the drive is horrible.

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The road conditions are actually pretty good.  For the most part, they are well paved.  But, they are tiny.  Two lanes the whole way (no shoulders), and what this map fails to show is the constant hair pin curves as you wind your way through the rainforest.  And it seems that after every hairpin curve is a one-way bridge.  Sometimes, there are just random road blocks cemented into the ground with a warning a mere 10 feet before the block.  And to add to the chaos, there are random animals:

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Right before the driving got really bad, which coincides with the lake, we stopped for lunch….and margaritas!

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It’s the same place I stopped a few years ago when I made the drive.  Creature of habit I guess!  But the food was delicious, and so was the margarita.

We only stopped one other time for a picture of the lake.  I have to say though, pictures never do the view justice.

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Everything is so lush and green in this area.  Quite a contrast from the coastal towns.

I think it ended up taking Rob about 3.5-4 hours to make the drive.  He did an excellent job navigating it all, it would have taken us much longer with me behind the wheel!

And here’s why Kerry is not in any of the pictures.  While the Affield’s were packing their bags on Thursday night, Shelly happened to glance at the passports before she packed them up and realized that Kerry’s was expired!  It was 10pm and their flight left at 6am the next morning.  I can only imagine how that all unfolded but, in the end, Kerry flew to Atlanta with Shelly as planned.  Once in Atlanta they parted ways.  Shelly came with us to Costa Rica and Kerry headed downtown to the Atlanta passport office.  He had made an appointment online the night before for 10am.  He said the place was busy but within 4 hours he had a new passport.  He then changed his flight (for the second time) to fly into the San Jose airport and arrived there at 7:40pm.  He then hired a private taxi to make that horrible drive, in the pitch dark, to La Fortuna, where we were.  He said his taxi driver made the drive in less than 2 and half hours.  That would be insane.  But, he made it to us at 10:30 that night.  Amazing. 

Day 2 coming up….

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Track & Field Day 2015

This year we had both Ellie and Austin’s track and field days on the same day.  We started at 9:45 with Ellie’s second grade class.  After sitting down in our seats for only 5 minutes we knew we were not dressed appropriately.  Even though we all had long pants and jackets, we called my dad to bring us more blankets (Grandma and Grandpa Smith split up the cheering duties so Grandma was with us while Grandpa tiled the kitchen backsplash).  Even with the extra blankets it was a drizzly, freezing mess.

But Ellie and the rest of the students were all too excited to notice so we had to suck it up too!

First up for Ellie was the shoe kick:

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that’s her shoe flying through the air at the top of the picture.  She actually practiced a bit in the yard the night before.  I think she came in 2nd for this.

Next up was the hurdles, which she placed 3rd in and I did not get a good shot of this action.

After the running events were the more funny events.  The options were sack race, tire roll, hippity hop, and hula hoop.  Ellie chose the sack race.

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She came in second for this race too.  She was pretty excited with her three bracelets (you get colored bracelets instead of ribbons at Eagle Creek).  But the best was yet to come as all the classes battled it out in the tug of war.

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Ellie has a pretty tiny class so I was worried they were going to go down pretty fast but I guess what they lack in size they make up in might.  Her class actually went undefeated and took home the championship trophy after four rounds.

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It is so fun to watch these kids give it everything they’ve got in these tug of wars, and even more fun is to watch some of the teachers as they coach and cheer them on from the side.

After congratulating Ellie and her friends we headed home to warm up, eat lunch, and put on more layers!  We went back at 1:45 for the start of Austin’s.  At first I thought we were going to be fine temperature-wise since we all added several layers to our wardrobes, but after a few light rain showers we were no better off.  But, once again, the kids couldn’t have cared less so on with the show!

Austin’s first event was the Fling sock.  I believe he came in 4th.

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After the fling sock it was back to the running events were he placed 2nd in the hurdles.  I think it’s his favorite.  And once again, I don’t have a picture of the hurdles….I must cheer a lot during that event!

After hurdles he did the hippity hop.

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He bounced himself right off after his first few hops but rallied for 3rd.  I love this picture and the smile on his face because what I’m most proud of for Austin is that this year I think he finally was able to let go of his fear of losing (a little bit) this year.  I could tell he was able to just enjoy the day and not worry about whether or not he had earned any bracelets yet.

I think right as the 4th graders started their tug of war, the rain started in a bit more.  The adults were all quietly hoping for a cancellation but the students were cheering louder than ever.

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After two quick wins things were looking good for Mr. Wieners 4th graders.

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And just like Ellie’s team, they ended up undefeated and champions of the world!

What felt like dreary and cold day ended up being a great day for the kids! And after a steamy 30 minute shower I was able to stop shivering.