Posts Tagged ‘Costa Rica’

What happens in Costa Rica stays in Costa Rica and unfortunately, this pool stayed at our hotel when we came home. However, the memories of a wonderful adventure came back with us. The pink bricks around the pool contrasted beautifully with the blue water while the trees provided shade from the bright sun. In another pool, we stood cooling off while sipping a drink. Nice work if you can get it. We did and it was.

for Life in Colour: pink and Squares: bright

It was an excellent visit but like all good things, it came to an end and I’m driving home today. It’s good to get away and it’s good to go home and thankfully I have people I love at both ends of the trip. Thanks for sticking with me while I was gone. I’ll have some doors for tomorrow and be back visiting.

While exploring places to visit in Costa Rica near Manuel Antonio, I found Rainforest Spices, a sustainable spice farm that uses companion planting. The person who arrived at our hotel to drive us to the farm was the owner, Henry Karczynski. On the trip, he told us how he took the farm from devastation to productivity, from a monoculture of vanilla to one of diversity with vanilla, cocoa,cinnamon, and other spices. It’s a fascinating story and I strongly suggest you spend some time on the website reading about it.

At the farm, we took the tour, which you can see a bit online. When we arrived spices, including tumeric, were drying in the sun. We were introduced to chocolate by the tour guide showing us the inside of a cocao bean, which you can see if you go here and scroll down a bit. Look at the top right. The inside looks a lot like the inside of the sci-fi slimy pod and then…then the tour guide told us to try it. Big pause. There were only four of us and no one moved. Then I decided to bite the bullet (so to speak) and tried it. What a relief! It tasted fine.

Anyway, none of this is pink. But as we walked through the verdant farm, we saw growing pineapples. That’s something else I’d never seen and I certainly never imagined they’d look like this. Yeah, now the pink part. 🙂 However, I’m compelled to add that the chocolate bar they gave us made from their own chocolate was the best I’ve ever eaten. If you’re ever in Costa Rica, this farm comes highly recommended by us!

for Life in Colour: pink and Squares: bright

My time away’s coming to an end but even though I’m writing this in advance of my trip, I’m sure I’ll be having a good time. Thank goodness for books on CD that will make the drive home less boring!!

After my parents giving me a horse when I was in grade school, probably the best, most unexpected present I ever got was a week-long trip to Costa Rica with our older daughter. Besides spectacular scenery and unusual animals, there were all sorts of interesting, beautiful plants and flowers, like this one. I have no idea what it is, but it’s pretty cool AND it’s pink. However, if you ever come across something like this on another planet or somewhere in outer space, get away from it as soon as possible!! If you’ve watched enough sci-fi movies, you’ll know this but just a reminder.

for Life in Colour: pink

No idea what we’ll be up to today, but coffee is likely to figure in there somewhere or perhaps today’s the day we’ll go to the tea house.

Costa Rica was beautiful but hot. Cafe Milagro turned out to be a favorite hangout not far from our hotel. Costa Rica is known for its coffee, but this lime drink was possibly the most refreshing thing I’ve ever drunk.

for Life in Colour: yellow

One Christmas some years ago, I opened a card from our older daughter that said “Good for one week in Costa Rica.” I thought it was a joke. A year later, after one aborted attempt due to a cancelled flight, we spent five wonderful days near the Manuel Antonio rain forest. On the way back from a day-long cruise where we saw whales, ate and drank well, and went scuba diving, we were treated to this glorious sunset.

for Life in Colour: yellow

Another month, another first Monday, another “Nature” theme!  The challenge for this theme isn’t finding a photo, it’s deciding which photo/s to use.  Since I spend quite a bit of time outside, I have more photos of nature than of anything else.  This has been a year blessed with lots of travels.  After my annual trip to visit my parents in Arizona, my older daughter and I spent a wonderful week in Costa Rica, a delayed Christmas present from over a year before.  Besides having a great time, we saw some fabulous sunsets.  Here’s an example of one.  Grab a tropical drink, sit back, and enjoy.

When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.
~George R.R. Martin

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A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.
~John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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One of the big draws of Costa Rica is the rain forest and our bit of it was found not only around our hotel, but in Manual Antonio National Park, Costa Rica’s smallest national park. Small it may be, but it’s home to an enormous variety of wildlife (of the animal variety) as well as beauty. In 2011, Forbes named it one of the 12 most beautiful national parks in the world.

Once you’ve paid your $10, you can wander the park trails yourself and relax on the beautiful beaches. But unless you have superhuman eyesight, if you want to see the wildlife, take a tour! The guides can spot things you’d never even know were there. Without Berny, we would only have seen monkeys and some lizards. With him and his telescope, we saw…well, you’ll see.

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Right inside the park entrance was this lovely guy, waiting to welcome us. Taking photos through the telescope assured getting up close to whatever we saw.

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To say something or someone is vanilla is anything but a compliment, implying bland and tasteless.  However, as we learned during our tour of Villa Vanilla Spice Plantation near Manuel Antonio and Quepos, Costa Rica, real vanilla is anything but bland!

Have you ever eaten a baby?  If you’ve used real vanilla, you have.  An orchid that has to be pollinated by hand, with the flower only open once during one morning, the vanilla plant grows around other plants/trees.  Like a human baby, the seed pod, the fruit of the plant, takes nine months to develop, although unlike a baby, the vanilla pods then have to be cured for several months. (Human children are often not cured for years.)  Amanda Fortini has an interesting article for Slate that will tell you more about the (fallacious) connection between vanilla and bland.

Villa Vanilla began as a monoculture farm until a series of disasters brought vanilla production in Costa Rica to a screeching halt.  When owner/manager Henry Karczynsk began again, the farm became a model of biodiversity, what I would call large-scale companion planting.  Besides vanilla, the farm raises cinnamon, allspice, several kinds of pepper, tumeric and more, all planted together in a beautiful area.

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The vanilla most of us use is either imitation vanilla or vanilla flavoring. The artificial flavors of the former come mostly from wood byproducts and often contain chemicals. Vanilla flavoring is generally a combination of imitation vanilla and pure vanilla extract. These two make up most of the vanilla on the market, one of the reasons I brought back the largest bottle of vanilla I could from Villa Vanilla. Kept away from light and at a constant temperature, my vanilla will continue to age beautifully.

Villa Vanilla also raises cacao. Cacao pods contain approximately 30-50 seeds that are sweet, somewhat soft and that look very much like the things you should avoid in a sci-fi movie. However, you can eat them and we did. I’m proud to say I was the first one to try…right after the tour guide put one in her mouth! Once harvested, the long process continues until the end product emerges as nibs or cocoa powder. Although not for sale, the dark chocolate we were able to try was fabulous, the best I’ve ever had and nothing like even the best candy bar.

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Villa Vanilla raises Ceylon cinnamon, not the common cassia. Cinnamon is produced by growing the tree for two years, then coppicing it, cutting it back to the stump. (The next year, about a dozen shoots grow from the stump.) The outer bark, which can be used for tea, has to be cut off by hand. The inner bark, about 0.5 mm (0.020 in), is removed for what we know as cinnamon, in either sticks or ground. The rest of the wood is burned.

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Spices drying…

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The farm…

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View from the farm…

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A delicious cheesecake sample made with Villa Vanilla products…

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Although a tour of a vanilla plantation sounds a bit…well…vanilla, it was anything but bland.  The farm is a model of the beauty of biodiversity and the spices that come from it have vibrant color and flavor.  The tour turned out to be one of our favorites.  I can’t wait to begin using the spices I bought, although I regret that I couldn’t buy any of the chocolate.  Perhaps one day…

Although green is the predominate color where we are near Manuel Antonio by the Pacific Ocean, there are vivid counterpoints of color everywhere. Here are a few that particularly caught my eye. Just don’t ask me what they are. All I know is that they’re beautiful.

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This vacation is unusual in more than just being in a new country. It’s also the one of the very few times we’ve done a tour of any kind, other than our own. Yesterday, we did two.

Since we love to ride, the horseback riding tour grabbed our attention immediately. The man at the desk, when told we were good riders, recommended a new tour, Cowboy Tours, run by a friend. He asked, “You like to gallop?” When we said yes, he booked the tour.
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