Sunday, January 11, 2009

Christmas in Costa Rica - 2008

We have been wanting to do something a little different for Christmas ever since we were married. We knew we wanted to involve the kids as well. Well, this turned out to be the year we did it. On December 21st at 12:45 AM Jan, Brian, Missy, Melanie & Charlie boarded a Lacsa airliner headed for San Jose Costa Rica.

After a brief layover in San Salvador we finally landed around 9:30 am and promptly started the tours after clearing customs. The first day was spent wandering around downtown San Jose where we saw the Teatro Nacional, The Gold Museum, and the Cultural Plaza which was filled to the brim with people strolling around listening to a band playing and spending the afternoon with their families. We had read about a typical Costa Rican lunch called a casado, which we really wanted to try out. This we did this first day. It was an interesting if not uninspiring mix of rice, beans, meat, and some sort of funky salad. Being sleep deprived, it all seemed pretty good.

During the course of the next 13 days we made it down to Manuel Antonio National Park where we hiked through the jungle and saw howler and capuchin monkeys, both 2 and 3 toed sloths, wetland crabs, numerous iguanas, a boa, butterflies, and thousands of tourists. One of the nice things about the park is that once you've paid the entrance fee you are entitled to spend the day at their private ocean beach. We all enjoyed frolicking in the sun, chasing off the capuchin monkeys that tried to steal everyone's belongings, and a little snorkeling.

We spent Christmas Eve in Quepos, a small beach town near our hotel, eating at Rancho Leon then returning to our hotel, the fabulous Si Como No, to read the Christmas story and go to bed. The tico's celebrate Christmas with family on Christmas Eve with Christmas day not being too much of a big deal. Our driver picked us up and took us to Turu Bari park where we did some zip lines - Jan too! Later, we returned to our hotel in San Jose to prepare for even more adventures.

Over the next several days we attended a Costa Rican bullfight where we ended up on national television. We attended church on Sunday; Jan was pressed into service as the organist as they didn't have one. We visited Poas volcano, Irazu volcano, and Arenal volcano and were able to see all three including a few lava flows down Arenal. At the base of Arenal is the Tabacon hotsprings, a river heated by geothermal forces, which we swam and played in for a few hours before a glorious buffet dinner. The fog set in on our return trip and we, at times, thought our number was up, but our driver did a fantastic job and we made it home in one piece.

New Years is also traditionally a family event, at least until midnight when everyone breaks out the fireworks and lights up the skies. One would have to actually see the festivities to completely understand just how crazy they actually were. We decided to participate and picked up some fireworks while in Barva to light ourselves.

Mel and Charlie wanted to go off and do a whitewater rafting adventure while Missy, Jan, and I went into town on the bus to see a couple of places we missed and eat one more time at Nuestra Tierra. Jan had read about a special soup which she wanted to try and this particular restaurant was famous for it. We both tried the olla de carne soup which turned out to be a beef/vegetable soup that tasted pretty good but wasn't worth chasing around for.

Finally, on our last day as we were heading to the airport, Jan asked the shuttle driver if he knew where the LDS Temple was located. He said yes and agreed to take us there (it was very near the airport anyway). We snapped a few pictures then checked ourselves in. Even in the airport we managed to have some fun. As we were sitting around waiting to board, we noticed some children speaking French. Charlie had served his mission in France so he started chatting with them. Finally their mother came to see what was going on. Soon she was chatting and laughing with us in English. She and her family were from Belgium here visiting her brother and sister in-law and was taking their children back to Belgium for a visit. She and her husband had lived in Kentucky for several years and her English was quite good.

Lastly, we do want to mention the lovely people in Costa Rica. Everyone we met was kind and willing to help us anyway they could! We would highly recommend visiting there if you get the chance.