"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

March 7, 2018

Mar. 7 - Seventh Anniversary

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.” ―Hans Christian Andersen

Seven years ago today we pulled out of Port Lavaca on the adventure that has changed our life. We've definitely seen a lot, learned a lot, met a lot of wonderful people and enjoyed "almost" every minute of this great new life. In the past seven years we've traveled over 18,000 miles, visited over 300 towns, three countries, 22 states and providences, stayed at over 100 different marinas and anchored in 157 different anchorages and we look forward to all the years of new adventures to come. Here's the post I made to this blog on day one of our new life. (March 7, 2011) Here's a link to our travel map

Mar. 7 – Matagorda, TX
Day 1 – Departure Day
Matagorda Harbor Marina
We chose this day to leave because we like the numbers….3/7/11.  Three for the three decades we have been married and the holy trinity, seven eleven…the date of our wedding, add the numbers together and you get twenty one. A very lucky number. Add those numbers together and you have the holy trinity again. So…it had to be a good day to start our new adventure.

We left Nautical Landings at seven so we could get across Matagorda Bay before the winds picked up.  Earline, Janell, Mike, Kelley and some pretty sleepy looking kids were there to see us off. It was nice to have them come to say bye and take pictures.  

We had a nice day on the water. The wind did pick up around 10:00, by then we were almost across the bay and into the protective waters of the ICW. The only new site for us today was our first lock.  Which only operates if there is a hurricane or flooding in the area…so we just drove right through.

Emma, Kaylen, Jenna and Hayden (these little guys have grown SO much)
Thanks for coming out we really appreciated it.
Getting things ready to leave
These old Craig's List bikes were replaced in Florida, with bikes that were much better...we've been using them every day since.
Sunrise over Matagorda Bay 
The sea gulls thought we might have something for them
One of the five barges we passed today
Our first lock...we've been through 155 now

February 13, 2018

Costa Rican Sodas

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” —James Michener
When you visit Costa Rica and want a taste of good local food, you have to eat at a soda. Sodas are what Costa Ricans call restaurants that are usually small, family owned places that serve typical Costa Rican food at a very good price. Every town has a soda; you can find them everywhere, even on roads that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. Most of them hang a Pepsi or Imperial sign outside and are called something like “Soda Tipica”. It's where the locals eat.
Eating in a soda in Costa Rica is the best way to get a taste of true Costa Rican food and a glimpse into the life of a Tico (local). A typical menu at a soda include: entradas (appetizers), casados, pasta, arrozes and platos fuertes. Platos fuertes are usually a whole fish, steak or other meat special of the day.

February 9, 2018

Feb. 2 - Pura Vida

“No one but ourselves can free our minds.”―Bob Marley
“Pura Vida” (pronounces poo-rah vee-dah) simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, it’s more than just a saying—it is a way of life. Costa Ricans (Ticos) use this term to say hello, to say goodbye, to say everything’s great, to say everything’s cool. However, it’s not the words that reflect the true meaning of ¡Pura Vida!, it’s the way Ticos live. Not surprisingly, Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries in the world, mostly because its inhabitants don’t stress about things the way most foreigners do. Ticos have a very relaxed, simple way of looking at life. No worries, no fuss, no stress—pura vida to them means being thankful for what they have and not dwelling on the negative.

Although many people use the saying ¡Pura Vida!, until you’ve been to Costa Rica, you will not truly know what pura vida feels like. It’s an emotion, it’s an attitude, it’s happiness and it’s a way of life. Once you’ve visited, you’ll understand the true meaning of pura vida. "Pura Vida isn’t the cause of Costa Rica’s uniqueness, it is the expression of it."

Thanks for reading our blog and spending part of your day with us. The Pearl is also on Facebook - stop by and say hi or follow us on Instragram or Google+.

February 8, 2018

Feb. 1 - Costa Rican Food

"Step through new doors. The majority of the time there's something fantastic on the other side." — Oprah Winfrey

A big part of breaking out of your routine and experiencing someplace new is exploring the local cuisine. Every meal we had in Costa Rica was amazing...the foods was mostly simple but very favorable and extremely good. Here are some of the local favorites in Costa Rica. We didn't try all of them, but we did enjoy quite a few, plus a few other delicious dishes.

Rondon - Composed of whatever the cook can “run down,” rondon dates back to earlier times of subsistence diets in the Caribbean. It’s fundamentally a coconut soup, made with fish along with a variety of tubers like sweet potatoes and yucca. Hands down a favorite Costa Rican dish.
Naturales - Wherever you are in Costa Rica, you’ll see standalone kiosks dedicated to juicing tropical fruits. Climb on a stool - if you can find an empty one and take your pick. Mango, pineapple, blackberry, melon, and banana are the usual favorites.

Cacao Fresco - When cacao pods ripen, they look like little yellow footballs. Crack them open and you can eat the tender white flesh covering the cacao beans. The fruit’s sweet and tangy taste will give you a whole new outlook on what you thought chocolate was.
Picadillo - A typical Costa Rican side dish made of diced vegetables that are parboiled and then fried with onions, carrots, garlic, and sometimes a little ground meat.  
Arroz Con Pollo - Rice and chicken, mixed with vegetables normally accompanied with salad and fries.  It's kind of like a Latino fried rice. You can find it in most Central American counties.
Patacones - These are smashed and fried plantains, used a lot like a tortilla chip. Used for dipping or topping like a nacho. In other countries such as Nicaragua, these are called tostones. 
Chorreadas - These are Costa Rican corn pancakes that are eaten as a snack, breakfast or appetizer. They are delicious when paired with coffee because they are normally made sweet.
Ceviche Tico - this dish is clean, light and refreshing. Fish (typically sea bass) cut into tiny cubes, mixed with diced red onion, cilantro, and red pepper, then marinated in citrus juice. The dish is served with soda crackers or fried plantains.
Gallo Pinto – This is the Costa Rican take on rice and beans. Served up with a few dashes of Salsa Lizano, the national sauce that’s tangy and smoky with a hint of cumin. It is usually served with breakfast.
Rice ‘n’ Beans - Wait, didn’t we just cover this? NO! The difference represents Costa Rica’s cultural diversity within its own borders. This dish is set apart from gallo pinto because it incorporates coconut milk, red beans, thyme, and spicy Panamanian chilies.
Chifrijo - is a popular layered dish of rice topped with black beans, twice-fried pork bits and pico de gallo. Served with fresh tortilla or plantain chips. It's a popular appetizer at bars.
Granizados - This is a cold treat of shaved ice and layer it with powdered milk, condensed milk, and any flavored syrup that tickles your fancy. Popular at the beach.
Trits - Ice cream sandwiches made with a generous portion of vanilla ice cream swirled with fudge ripple and nestled between two cookies that tastes somewhere between a sugar cookies and a graham crackers. It is a wonderful treat.
Casado - Translated casado means “married.” This dish is found in nearly any soda (small diner serving typical Costa Rican dishes), casado is the fixed pairing of white rice, black beans, a vegetable side and a protein…like fish, chicken beef or pork. It’s Costa Rica's version of the blue plate special.
Agua de Sapo - Translated it means “toad water” it’s a refreshing twist on lemonade made with brown sugar and ginger. I never saw this anywhere, but I think I would love it.
Coffee - Costa Rican coffee beans rank as some of the best in the world. The rich volcanic soil at high altitude lends them their characteristic silky body, and the taste of the beans ranges from crisp fruitiness to smoky chocolate. Ever cup we had was wonderful and we brought home 2-3 pounds to enjoy. We probably should have gotten more.

Thanks for reading our blog and spending part of your day with us. The Pearl is also on Facebook - stop by and say hi or follow us on Instragram or Google+.

February 7, 2018

Jan. 31 - Puntarenas & Atenas, Costa Rica

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” ―Dagobert D. Runes

Our time at the Finca La Amistad Lodge came to an end...we really enjoyed practicing our Spanish with Janet and Isabelle. Maybe next year we'll be able to carry on a real conversation in Spanish. We drove down the west side of the volcanos and over to the coast to Puntarenas to check out the water. It's located on the Gulf of Nicoya...as close to the ocean as we're going to get on this trip. We enjoyed seeing the boats, adding another lighthouse to our list of lighthouses and eating lunch over looking the harbor. The weather was nice, the roads were great and it was nice to see a little bit more of the Costa Rican countryside.

The Puntarenas Lighthouse
Boats in the harbor in Puntarenas
Our next stop was Atenas, it sits at an elevation of 2300 feet above sea level and is known for having one of the best climates in the world. The views were incredible on the way up from the coast. I can see why so many expats from the US live in the area. The town is situated on the Central Valley's western edge, just 16 mile from Costa Rica's International Airport outside of San Jose. It made a great place for us to visit before flying home. The views from our hotel were breath taking...we could lay in bed and enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside. It was amazing.

The views along the road from Puntarenas to Atenas
Atenas is surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations and is known as a very prosperous agricultural center. The central park in the middle of town is a popular site to relax and people watch. The palm trees above the park are full of parrots and toucans. Cafes and shops are around the park offer popular Costa Rican cuisine and traditional Costa Rican clothing.

The square in Atenas
The Barons Resort
The view from our room
The view from our bed. We saw a lot of beautiful birds view here.
More views from our room
The view from the parking lot...looking towards Atenas
The full moon coming up over Atenas and San Jose

February 6, 2018

Jan. 30 - Rio Celeste Waterfall

"If you tiptoe into cold water, you're missing out on the rush of plunging in headfirst." —Simone Elkeles

As I said before the road from the lodge to the national park is more like a river bottom. We wound up the mountain very slowly, awarded with some amazing views of the country side...not that Stan had a chance to take his eyes off the road to look around. The 3 1/2 miles took us over 30 minutes. You definitely need a four wheel drive vehicle in this area. 
Rio Celeste is located inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park, legend has it that it got its exceptional color after God finished painting the sky and dipped his paintbrush in the river. The more scientific explanation is that volcanic minerals produce the striking color. The river is born at a place called Los Teñideros, where two streams merge, causing a chemical reaction that is visible to visitors as the water changes from clear to an intense shade of blue. 

Because the park is at a high elevation, it hosts primary cloud forest as well as rainforest and is a critical habitat to various endangered species and home to an abundance of wildlife, such as white-faced monkeys, anteaters, tapirs, sloths, white-nosed coati (a raccoon-type animal) and a variety of exotic birds.
The hike started out on a well-maintained trail that led us through a scenic canopy of trees, we were told there are white-faced monkeys in the area but we didn’t see any. It could be they don’t like to come come out and play in the rain. The trail soon turned into a muddy slippery mess as we approached the waterfall. Even before we descended the steps to the bottom of the falls we could see the dazzling pool of turquoise blue water. It almost looked like something out of a fairytale. We were told that the color is even more intense when there is less rain. 
Past the falls the trail continues to wind along the riverbank, taking us upstream. The further upriver we got...the steeper and muddier the trail became. We eventually reached the Los Teñideros where the color is generated. It's the confluence of the Buena Vista and Roble rivers. We're beginning to get use to playing in the rain, it seems to comes and goes during the day...everyday. 

Some of the roughest trails we've ever seen
The Los Teñideros  
Green Eyelash Viper - A guide pointed out this snake next to the trail...it's very deadly. 
We were just a little messy at the end of the hike. 
This is video show an aerial view of the Rio Celeste

Relaxing on our deck after a long hike
Janet and Stan on our deck. Janet runs the lodge and was so nice...all the Costa Ricans we met were extremely friendly.