This year for "ski week" -- an awesome school-free week over President's Day -- we all headed for the most obvious place for snow sports: Costa Rica!
We've been down there several times and each time, we fall more in love with this paradise and the amazing population. Nana & Papa came down with us, too - their first time, but "not their last," they say.
There were so many adventures that I can only bullet point some of them.
- Arriving to find out that a "reservation" for a car in Costa Rica means that if the family who had the mini-van before you decides to stay...then they get the car and you're screwed.
- And then being "saved" by Nana and Lisa by renting what we're assuming is some guy's family 12-passengar, manual transmission van. Somehow, they negotiated the deal in extremely broken conversation of spanish, english, and lots of gestures. We paid in cash at about 11 pm. Luckily there was already a crucifix dangling from the rearview mirror for us to pray that the semi-shady deal was legit enough and our van made it. And it did. It didn't start up for us on only one occasion -- and the guys from the guide shop where we were parked did this cool push-it-in-reverse to pop the clutch.
• Going to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens -- I went my last trip when I was watching an 11-month-old E. This time was just as amazing as in my memory. The 1000's of butterflies in the gardens. The swooping toucans. The lush rain forrest hike along 4 of the most picturesque waterfalls.
- Seeing dozens of White-faced & Howler monkeys jump from tree to tree over our heads as they crossed the lazy river we were rafting down. And then, after pulling the raft onto the beach at a local farm, eating the best banana bread ever. Yes, that is an objective fact.
- Zip lining TWO days with the kiddos (yep, even J). Once in Arenal and another time close to Manuel Antonio. Both sessions were so much fun. And included the most friendly staff...who made us feel totally comfortable with taking the kids.
- I can't believe that E did this 100-foot Tarzan swing on the first zip tour. I gotta say, WOW! What a brave guy. He even flipped around and did part of it upside down!! I know that it dropped my gut to the jungle floor and that was right side up -- and E came out of it jumping and grinning.
- J, who was still 3 at the time, didn't bat an eye at speeding through the trees tandem with a stranger (hmmmm, now that I write that out, it makes me question my parenting -- I swear it was very reputable and the guys were extremely competent and nice). She did rappels. She did a [shorter] Tarzan swing...twice! And what did she always say when you asked what she thought? "FUN!"
- Our hike through the Mistco Hanging Bridges, which were these single-file suspension walking bridges that cut though the rain forest and across these spectacular ravines. We saw so many birds, some howler monkeys (which sound more like lions than monkeys), and a real coral snake (super deadly -- so we stayed a good couple feet way from the hole it was curled in).
Seeing Arenal Volcano in its un-clouded entirety. They say it's fully or partially blocked at least 70% of the time and so we feel really lucky that one day, for a good hour or so, the clouds and fog receded to reveal the green cone towering over our little cabin at our hotel Lomas Del Volcan.
- The 140 miles between Arenal that took close to 6 hours to drive. I don't know how they get asphalt to adhere to some of those steep grades at the curves -- and don't forget our Tican Family Van was a manual transmission. I don't know if my nerves or my legs got more of a work out.
- The kids were troopers on those long drives (we had a couple other longer-than-we-thought drives too). I think J watched SING 3 times on that drive and E watched the same 10 min of INSIDE OUT precisely 1,875 times.
E [almost] learning the only Spanish that Papa knows (or feels he needs to know): "Una mas cerveza, por favor."
- Staying at the relaxed and beautiful Blue Banyan Inn again and the banana pancakes being just as good as when we stayed there last trip.
- J coming down with a 102 degree fever on our drive back to San Jose and waking up in the middle of a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam -- on a road with ZERO shoulder -- a trench on one side and a semi-truck on the other -- and needing to go potty RIGHT THEN. Mommy owned the situation, pulled J out of the car seat (don't worry folks, it was perfectly safe as we we hadn't moved for several minutes), and had her squat in a plastic grocery bag.
- Getting to roast my own coffee at the end of an amazing dinner at Lisa's coworker's house -- he moved there with his whole family. Of course, the food, the company and the house were all AMAZING -- but it was roasting coffee with a whisk and a heat gun that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
It's so hard to capture such an amazing trip, but those are the ones that bubble to the top at the moment. I'll let the pictures, the hightlights (short video), and the trip log (longer video), speak for some of the others and hopefully transfer a little bit of that Pura Vida mentality to y'all -- and remind me of it as well.