Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Costa Rica: Snorkeling & The End!

Me Enjoying Pipas!

Our extreme Costa Rica experience was almost over! Snorkeling, shopping and a fabulous birthday celebration ended this amazing trip. We landed at Coco Beach at the Hotel El Colono, a beautiful tropical facility for the last four days.

Day 11 – January 17, 2020

The morning began with breakfast besides the luscious swimming pool before we left for an adventure. Enrique had told us the day before they had a day at the beach planned for today—the name of the beach in English was “The Poor Man’s Underwear Beach”—conjures up quite an image!

We piled into the van with Lucy directing, “Lin, get into the van” and greeting each one as we climbed in. We stopped at a Subways for sandwiches to take with us. Some people opted to go to a supermarket for their food. Lin squeezed in ice cream from the Pops ice cream shop, and away we went.

What an adventure with a change in plans—not “The Poor Man’s Underwear Beach” but La Playa Las Prisas and I didn’t get the translation down for that, and my translation app says “The beach in the rush!” Oh, well!

The Brahmas fascinated us!

We stopped at a roadside stand selling sandias (watermelons) and refreshing pipas drinks (coconut), and across the road was a herd of Brahmas which fascinated many of us. The young man running the stand allowed us to use visit the garden behind the stand and then to use the bathrooms in the house on the property. Again a wonderful serendity along the way!

As we drove there, we wove our way over a rough, rocky dirt road with several cars in front of us, but I wasn’t disappointed when we arrived—a beautiful beach, wave crashing and lots of locals in family and friend gatherings around us! It couldn’t have been better! It felt like Costa Rican life at its best!

After lunch, several enjoyed a dip in the ocean or a walk along the beach. Victoria warned us not to pick up seashells because they would confiscate them at customs—I have a jar of shells I’ve gathered over the years in our second bathroom, so that was a bummer.

Leisure and laid-back is how I would describe this day. Next to us, a woman engaged the day from a hammock, and we made eye-contact, such an easy thing to do. She offered her hammock to me for a relaxing swing, so I climbed aboard—I love hammocks.

Later I asked to take a picture of her group, and they jumped up enthusiastically, then Liz danced a little in the sand with one of the guys. After I took their picture, they took ours! What a playful, fun atmosphere!

We left this slice of paradise about 3:30 p.m. with sand in my shoes and my heart which means I will return someday!

From there we drove to Tamarindo, a hustling beach town for the sunset. Our group parked ourselves at outside tables at a restaurant and did our own things. Some walked the beach, others shopped and others relaxed at our table. beause it was an opportunity to check email. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the pelicans diving for their dinner and the horses and riders as they passed by!

I kept hearing this strange sound, and Enrique explained it to me as a Guanacaste yodeling, “Grito,” so I found the yodeler and he was eager to have our pictures taken.

As we waited for the sunset, I saw some young girls positioned their hands in a heart in an angle so it captured the sun, so I joined them and they took my picture. The sunset took your breath away—a truly tropical sunset.

Afterwards we enjoyed fire dancers down the beach. I talked to William, our driver, in Spanish and we shared some deep private issues in our lives. It was amazing.

During the evening, a trio came out and entertained us with live music which is always a treat. The evening ended with Pat singing her heart out with them—I forgot the tune, but it was a blast.

Day 12 – January 18, 2020

The next day began with breakfast by the pool and a fun time with Victoria’s family and close friends who came to join in the celebration of her birthday that night.

Afterwards, Lin and I wandered down to the beach, shopped, and I enjoyed a “sandia drink.” A young Costa Rican girl, Tatianna, sold me an ankle bracelet, and I immediately lost in the surf as I was walking the beach. I searched a little and realized what a futile effort, but I went back to Lin and told him. I decided to go up the beach once more to see if I could find her, but I didn’t.

When I got back to Lin, Tatianna had come by in my absence, and he replaced the lost ankle bracelet for me. She was still in the area, so I gave her another hug.

Lin had parked himself at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the beach, so I joined him there. A guy behind us name Will complimented us on our relationship because I had asked Lin when he wanted me to return when I went searching for Tatianna. Will serenaded us and truly became an ambassador for Costa Rica!

After more shopping on our way back to the hotel, we joined the group to go to a country club to spend the afternoon. We swam, ate Greek food, swam and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

We returned to our hotel to prepare for the evening’s festivities—Victoria’s birthday party at her aunt’s house, and what a party it was! They served delicious food out on the front patio. We danced the cumbia and the salsa. I dance with Lin; I dance with Victoria! We all danced together—the Latin way of enjoying dance and music! I called a short square dance tip to demonstrate to our newfound friends our much-loved pastime. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Victoria, then she brought up everyone who was having a major birthday this year, and we sang to them! What a great evening!

Day 13 – January 19, 2020

Again a delicious meal besides the pool of rice and beans, eggs and lots of fruit. I had to fill up for sure.

A group of us went for one last shopping spree. I needed a long-sleeved shirt to wear snorkeling. Somehow Lin left me, so I shopped alone and had a marvelous time. When I got back to the hotel, I transferred my pictures to Jerry’s laptop as a backup.

Our last afternoon adventure had arrived—a ride on a catamaran to snorkel with dinner and drinks on board and a guaranteed gorgeous sunset. So away we went, having to be tendered from the beach out to the catamaran which held about seventy people. During the trip out to where we snorkeled, we saw pelicans and dolphins. People opted to sit outside or in the cabin.

Lin decided he didn’t want to snorkel, so I went with Greg and saw some fish, but not the variety everybody else did. My stamina from being sick the last year hampered my ability to do much, plus I felt bad with Lin alone on the boat. When I got back, he wasn’t there! Some in the group encouraged him to get in the water, and he waved at me from on the beach.

By being on the boat, though, I got great pictures of each one of our group as they came back—Monica was the first in the water and the last one back.

We ate our delicious dinner as we cruised, and then the crew hoisted the sail for a quiet, peaceful journey. Clouds hung over the western sky, and some bemoaned our chance for a beautiful sunset, but what a sunset we got with the clouds and boats on the water.

We returned to our hotel deeply satisfied with a day on the ocean. We had a little ceremony giving Enrique and William each a gift from the group. They provided us an amazing twelve days I will never forget, so I felt they deserved it. For some of us, it was a teary time!

Day #14 – January 20, 2020

I hate departure days, but this one especially! We had melded as a group, and it was hard to say goodbye. Lin and I organized our bulging suitcase and went to breakfast. The van left for the airport for the first wave; we were on the second wave.

Marian and Lucy had extended their stay, so they weren’t leaving, so Marian rode to the airport with each group.

Our last trip in the van! We drove to Liberia and flew home with an uneventful return. This trip changed my life forever with the “!Pura Vida´!” attitude of the Costa Rican people and the gorgeous country they have.

Lorana, Victoria’s best friend, asked me if I would ever come back. My response, “Not if, but when!”

!Pura Vida!


~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE 211 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Costa Rica · My Thoughts

Extreme Costa Rica – Zip Line Adventure & More

Group picture before we did zip line
Zip Line Adventure, Costa Rica 2020

During this section our trip to Costa Rica, I had anticipated zip line, visions of soaring over the canopy of the rain forest within the shadow of Arenal volcano, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each day when I came out of my room in La Fortuna, my eyes turned to Arenal to capture a clear picture, but I never did. I was raised about twenty-five miles from Capulin volcano in New Mexico, so I have volcano-loving in my blood!

Day 8 – January 14, 2020

The day started with a unique breakfast to us in New Mexico—eating delicious food outside, but that was a highlight during this whole trip for me.

Lin on one of the bridges at Mistico Hanging Bridges
Lin on one of the bridge!

Our destination for the morning was Místico Hanging Bridges in the foothills of Arenal volcano. I ended up not taking my Canon Rebel camera because of possible rainy conditions but used my iPhone, and it did rain!

Enrique telling us about the rain forest
Enrique Sharing His Limitless Knowledge about the Rain Forest!

Again, Enrique shared his knowledge of plants and animals along the way and referred to his trusty bird book! He pointed out “Walking Palm Trees” that fascinated me.

Waling Palm Tree
Walking Palm Trees

Throughout our hike, we crossed sixteen bridges over the rain forest. Here’s a map of the park:

https://www.misticopark.com/mistico-map

Some longer bridges swayed with the people’s weight and movements, and that was a little alarming. It ended up being a four-hour hike, raining off and on, and my shoes hurt for the first time on the trip.

Eyelash Viper
My Photo of an Eyelash Viper

Standing on one of the bridges, Enrique spied an Eyelash Viper curled up in a tree a safe distance from us—how amazing. I was so glad it wasn’t close to us!

“The eyelash viper, known for its beautiful ‘eyelashes’, is also well-known for its aggression and lightning fast strikes.
An eyelash pit viper bite contains a dose of hemotoxic venom, capable of killing adult human beings and large mammals. Their bright colors help them camouflage in bushes, berries and fruits. 
Mostly found in central and South America, this snake can be highly aggressive and fatal when their survival is under threat.”

https://www.aboutanimals.com/reptile/eyelash-viper/

After our unbelievable trek through the rain forest, we ate a late lunch at the Smithsonian Observatory:

“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”

“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”

https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/en/rooms-rates/smithsonian/

I enjoyed arroz con camarones for lunch – rice with shrimp! I added a guanabana shake and coconut flan—what a decadent meal but I enjoyed it to the max!

Our group at the Smithsonian Observatory with Arenal volcano in the background
Our group at the Smithsonian Observatory with Arenal Volcano in the background

The view from the observatory deck was breathtaking but cloudy so we didn’t get a clear shot of Arenal volcano, probably the best place to photograph it! We were so close to it there! We ventured out on the deck when it wasn’t raining then ducked back inside. Coatimundis and turkeys wandered around on the lawn below the deck and we took lots of pictures.

On our travels that day, we stopped at a waterfall, but I didn’t go down—the four-hour hike did me in, so Liz and I had a nice visit. We picked up Victoria, got our bathing suits and went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens “The Springs Resort & Spa” for a lovely soak in the many pools and a relaxing evening.

A topic of conversation all day centered on our activity the next day: the zip line. We had some in our group who definitely decided not to go, but a couple people wavered all day, so us veteran zipliners gave speech after speech trying to entice them. Who would go? Who would not? We enjoyed a late dinner at the spa and ended a wonderful day and anticipated another highlight of this trip—zip lining across the rain forest the next day.

Day 9 – January 15, 2020

 Zip line day was finally here, and it was a rainy day, but, hey—we were in the rain forest. Three newbies of our group decided to go, and I loved seeing their expressions after each zip line–totally enjoyment and awe!

Lin and I had done a zip line in Juneau, Alaska in 2007 and the equipment was totally different. We wore heavy gloves and used our hands on the cable to break the ride. It was much simpler this time!

Our fun-loving group immediately clicked with the crew at Sky Tram Adventures, laughing and teasing as we had the harnesses and equipment put on. We rode up the hill in a small tramp and received training before we started.

The rules were simple:

  1. Lean back and knees up
  2. When the line wiggles (by one of the employees watching you come into the platform), spread your legs as you come into the landing platform to break
  3. If you stop before the platform, turn around go hand over hand back

So away we went! There were seven zip lines, and the first one was short and easy to practice on. On the next one, it seemed to go on forever and it rained, but my glasses protected my eyes. I traveled really fast on that line and also burned the nail on my right-hand thumb because it was too close to the pulley! I learned where to put my hands and had no more problems afterwards. Then next one, I did some crazy antics: I broke too quickly and then started wiggling my legs. After that, I just let it go and went like a bullet! The workers on the platforms really stopped us!

A couple of people rented cameras mounted on their helmets, so, thanks to Liz, here’s what it really looks like: https://youtu.be/73OjUH09L50

The employees’ shirts said, “Xperience Creator,” and they certainly did it! We had so much fun with Pepe and Juan.

Flying above the canopy of the rain forest, seeing Lake Arenal and the Arenal volcano over my shoulder and enjoying the sight overwhelmed me!

As a group, we bought our pictures that Sky Tram Adventures took and some are included in this post.

That evening after our action-packed day, we returned to The Springs Spa for another great soak and social time with our group. My zip line adventure met all of my expectations.

Day 10 – January 16, 2020

After breakfast, Lin, Marian and I opted not to go on the chocolate factory tour—it was a hard choice, but instead we returned to downtown La Fortuna to shop and enjoy the local flavor.

Lin had square danced on the plaza in 2001 when it was dedicated, so we took pictures of him standing next to the plaque. The church, San Juan Bosco church interested me, so I visited it and took lots of pictures.

After shopping, I topped the day with a guanabama ice cream cone from Pop’s and our time in La Fortuna’s plaza ended.

After our group returned from what was a fabulous tour a chocolate factory, we left the hotel and traveled around the lake, heading towards the beach in a four hour drive. We saw coatimundis a long the side of the road and beautiful lake scenery. We stopped at Lajos Restaurante for lunch on the lake. A short distance from the restaurant, we stopped at a German Bakery for delicious German sweets.

As we drove Enrique continued his instruction about the area we were driving through: We took a shortcut on a rough road and cut off fifteen miles, driving through cattle country. We experienced a change in climate heading towards the dry western side of Costa Rica. We drove along the peninsula of the gulf of Nicoya.

Enrique shared a story of the area: Costa Rica supported Taiwan in the United Nations, so they built a bridge over the gulf of Nicoya, named the Friendship Bridge. Six months later, continental China wanted support from Costa Rica and built a soccer stadium which took one thousand Chinese to build. The bridge became the Ungrateful Bridge.

Sadly Enrique shared the itinerary for the last four days of trip. It hit me—we’re on the last leg of our fabulous trip! Oh, my God!

Then we arrived at our hotel on Coco Beach, Hotel El Colono, and ate dinner at Papa Gallo (Father Rooster), an outside restaurant. It was Victoria’s birthday, so we started a three-day celebration of this big event.

Sometime along the way, Lucy began an enjoyable directive as we loaded the bus, “Lin, get on the bus! Jerry, get on the bus!” This became our mantra for the rest of the trip as we loaded and unloaded the bus . Also, sometime during our adventure, Marian named us the “Dirty Dozen, and we applauded her for our nickname

Whew! We just enjoyed three action-packed days in the rain forest of Costa Rica, and I didn’t want it to end!

Costa Rica · My Thoughts

Extreme Costa Rica: Mawamba and Our Animal Adventure

Welcome to Mawamba Lodge, Torteguero, Costa Rica

We headed towards Mawamba to enjoy three days of animal adventures. That sounded so African—what did it mean? Dennis, our guide, told us its meaning but I forgot (and didn’t jot it done in my journal) It didn’t matter! What a tropical paradise!

Day 5 – January 11, 2020

Excited about this mysterious place, we got up at 6:00 a.m. We checked out and had breakfast, then it became a waiting game. The large greyhound-type bus finally arrived at 9:30 to take us from Guapiles to the canal to catch a boat to travel the canal to Torteguero, the quaint little town and home of the Mawamba Lodge.

We wove our way through the countryside—only two ways into Torteguero: boat on the canal or plane! A youngster in the seat in front of Lin and me serenaded me the whole drive. His name was Mati, and we ran into him and his dad often during our stay.

On the bus ride, Dennis explained the different excursion packages offered to the lodge guests.  Our package included all meals, a boat ride to the Torteguerro National Park that afternoon and a walk around the luscious grounds of Mawamba Lodge the next morning. Lin and I both wanted to do the two optional excursions: the early morning wildlife boat ride and the evening jungle walk.

Arriving at the muddy bank of the canal at La Pavona, we gathered our backpacks, and now I realized the brilliance of Victoria’s suggestion to downsize to a backpack. The mud made roller bags useless!

When we got seated in our boats, we all donned life preservers for the ride on the canal to Torteguerro and Mawamba. Dennis, our guide, pointed out any animals he sighted a long the way: crocodiles on the banks, cranes, and blue herons. I didn’t have my zoom lens on my camera, so I missed the chance to get close up shots of these animals. We had our first sighting of a JC lizard, a Jesus Christ lizard, but I got a better picture later!

“Thanks to super speed and specially-designed feet, the basilisk lizard can run on water. . .an ability that makes it deadly to insects, and has led people to call it the “Jesus Christ Lizard.”

ttps://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/00000144-0a2a-d3cb-a96c-7b2fc1020000
Brahma Grazing

Brahma cattle grazed above us in pastures. I kept looking for more animals which would be my stance for the next three days. This amazing canal ride ended, we gathered our bags, met as a large group from the boats, got the room keys and wandering off to find them. Our group was scattered.

As we approached our room, a hammock hung on the porch, welcoming us there. We were a duplex with lovely neighbors. I loved the spacious rooms. The windows opened up wide with the loud Caribbean Ocean pounding on one side and the quiet courtyard on the other.

After settling in, I realized I had forgotten to bring any bras to change into—oh, well! I just went el natural!

We wandered through the tropical grounds at the Mawamba Lodge and found the open-air cafeteria. Our group sat at a table that became “Ours” for every meal. The buffet provided a variety of choices, and again I enjoyed the tropical fruit.

After lunch, we rode a boat to the Torteguero National Park office and purchased passes. Then Lin and I and our friends from Albuquerque walked down the mains street of the village of Torteguero and shopped. Because they don’t have any cars there, the street is really a narrow path.

The Main Street of Torteguero

Because we signed up for the evening jungle excursion, I searched for long pants because I hadn’t brought any with me in my backpack, and I found a pair. Mosquitoes love me, and I worried about getting bit. We enjoyed a coconut water drink as we walked the main street of Torteguero. We watched a group of men playing a dominoes game, and this usually docile game was loud and rambunctious!

Caribbean Sea

On our way back to Mawamba, we walked along the beach and saw the Sea Turtle Conservancy. I loved seeing the waves crashing on the North Caribbean coast—the power and magic of the sea!

When we got back to the lodge, we donned our swimming suits and met our friends at the pool. My little singing friend from the bus, Mati, joined us with his dad, and we enjoyed his enthusiasm for the water.

After a shower, our group ate dinner then sat outside at the bar talking and looking at each other pictures.  It started raining before we left, so we got wet getting to our rooms, but I welcomed the sound of the rain as I fell asleep that night.

Day 6 – January 12, 2020

The day began early with us waking up at 4:45 a. m. and out the door at 5:00. In my excitement and drowsiness, I forgot my glasses, so I had to return to our room in the dark to get them. Needless to say, I had trouble finding our room because of dark and poor lighting, so I went up the stairs to a room to see if it was ours—it wasn’t!

As I came down the stairs, the rough soles on my water shoes caught on the cement and pole vaulted me into the walk. I landed hard on my left breast and jammed the thumb on my right hand and a toe—ouch!

I did find our room and my glasses, but what a way to start the day!

Dennis was our guide, and the early morning boat excursion overflowed with animal sightings: blue herons, egrets, spider monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, more JC lizards, blue herons and iguanas! Whew!! Dennis told us there are so many iguanas, there comes a time he doesn’t even point them out!

We returned to the lodge in a downpour, so I was soaked! And it was only eight o’clock! The group ate delicious breakfast, then Dennis led us on a tour of the grounds, identifying all the beautiful tropical flowers, and we saw a toucan and a couple gigantic resident iguanas!

 After lunch, we had another boat excursion and this time, Lin and I sat right up front. And again, we relished the abundance of animals: egrets, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tiger heron, and blue heron.

We’d all been anticipating seeing a sloth and we saw two: Victoria spotted one on the excursion, and there was one on the Mawamba grounds.

A Sloth Sighting–Yahoo!

 It sprinkled a little, but I didn’t want the peaceful ride down the canal to end! I marveled at the high canopy of the trees—one of the beauties of Costa Rica!

At 5:30 p.m., we struck out on the Jungle Night Walk. Again, we took a boat but this time to a specific area which had raised concrete walks above the watery jungle we walked through. How amazing! People had iPhones out taking pictures. I took my Canon Rebel, but it didn’t work well in the dark. I hesitated using my new iPhone 11 because I was afraid I would drop it. We saw spiders, some poisonous and a variety of frogs. Dennis, our great guide, had everyone turn off our flashlights to experience the sounds and darkness of the jungle—it was incredible!

The day ended with a lovely dinner. Then afterwards, several of us got into the pool and relaxed after our action packed day. They kicked us out at 9:00 p.m., so it was back to our room for a shower. I found a strong Wi-Fi signal and checked my email and posted my pre-written blog for the week.

What a delightful, animal-filled day we had!

Day 7 – January 13, 2020

I hated to see our time at Mawamba end! This was a travel day, so we were up at 7:00 a.m. We packed and had breakfast. After breakfast, Lin and I went to the miniature pineapple bush on the grounds that Dennis showed us the day before to see if we could see any baby iguanas he said live there—no luck!

We took our backpacks to the boat, loaded up and started out for La Pavona. We traveled just a short distance out and Dennis realized he forgot his phone, so we turned around quickly and retrieved it.

A Canal Sign

 The boat ride on the canal back to La Pavona proved uneventful with no anima sightings. These canals are the highways in this part of the world, and this familiar-type sign really depicted that! When we got to La Pavona, we waited awhile for our bus, so we sampled local goodies!

When the bus arrived, quickly Lin asked me to take both of our back packs. He gets car sick sitting in the back of the bus, and Dennis helped him get on the bus first. In the confusion, I grabbed the two backpacks and took off. Thank God, Victoria grabbed my water, and Lucy collected my purse!

Then the bus drove us to Rio Danta Restaurant, an affiliate of Mawamba, and Enrique and William greeted us there. We ate lunch, jumped into our familiar van and headed towards La Fortuna, a three-hour drive. It felt so good to be with Enrique and William again.

As we drove, Enrique shared some vital information: this was his 1076th trip to La Fortuna! Then he shared his knowledge about Mt. Arenal which used to be an active volcano. It was inactive when he was a child, but it had a massive eruption in 1968 and was active for about 45 years. This made the city of Fortuna a big tourist attraction. He shared that around Fortuna is the most typical rain forest.

He reminded us of the three elements of a Costa Rican town: soccer field, school and church!

 In 1974, Costa Rica built a dam for hydro-electric energy that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It not only provides 40% of the electricity for the country but helped the people on Pacific side of Costa Rica which is the driest part.

Enrique’s dialogue continued with so much information. He noted that he’s seen a lot of change in his lifetime. He also warned of a possible papaya shortage in Costa Rica because of my husband’s voracious consummation on this trip!

As we traveled, we noticed fields divided by lines of trees, so we thought farmers planted them to define their farms. Enrique corrected this assumption: the farmer puts a piece of wood into the ground with barbed wire on it, and the wood grows! So much water!

Enrique pointed out a pineapple plantation as we passed it, and said out of the top exports of the country: coffee, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane, sugar cane is the only native!

As usual, Enrique had planned a great stop where we shopped and saw lots of iguanas!

We checked in at Hotel Sierra Arenal, a small beautiful hotel, ate dinner together downtown and spent the evening shopping around the square at La Fortuna.

Another fantastic three days in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Costa Rica: Highlights of Our First Four Days!

Lin and Larada at the La Paz waterfall, Costa Rica
Welcome to Costa Rica from Lin and me at the La Paz Waterfalls in the rain!

The travel blog posts for our Costa Rica trip will be highlights instead of daily journals. 

Day 1 – January 7, 2020

I was anxious to go Cost Rica! After months of anticipation, I spent a sleepless the night before our departure, too excited. I rose to the demands of the next day, and we had a lovely leisure travel day. We flew out of Albuquerque, NM, arriving in Houston, TX at 12:25 p.m. On the flight, I worked on a book project whose deadline was crunching me. A couple from Albuquerque accompanied us, so we had lunch and enjoyed ample time before our flight to San Jose at 5:25 p.m.

While we waited, Lin and I played a Cribbage hand to show our friends the game. We knew the Colorado contingency of our tour had the same flight to San Jose and wondered where they were. Right before boarding, they arrived at the gate. Again, I worked on the flight to San Jose.

When we arrived, we easily went through customs and were greeted by the organizer of our tour and our guide, Victoria and Enrique. They whisked us off to the hotel. When we arrived there, I thought Lin and I would stay there, but Victoria told us, “You’re going to my mom’s house!”

See, Victoria is my husband’s ex-wife, and she knew Lin and her mom wanted to see each other, so away we went and what a welcome we got. We spent the rest of the evening visiting.

Day 2 – January 8, 2020

I started the second day with an education on how a Costa Rican shower works, but Lin forgot to give me vital information, so the water stayed hot. I was quick in and out!

We started our day with a delicious breakfast, featuring an abundance of native fruit. Enrique picked us up, and we drove to the hotel to gather the rest of the group. We met our driver, William, who kept us safe throughout the trip and quickly became a major part of the group.

On our drove to the Waterfall Gardens, we had a Costa Rican serendipitous moment: we saw a traditional ox cart and driver who posed for pictures for us! The colorful cart and his pride fascinated me.

On our drive, Enrique shared his knowledge of the history of Costa Rica and some philosophical statements: “Time is not important. The weather is the same,” and “Let’s wait until the clouds of the day clear off.”

He noted  

  • Spain forgot them for three hundred years. They never had to fight for independence, but that left them “an abandon child.”
  • The coffee industry received its boost when the Pope okayed it.
  • Their last revolution was in 1948, and they have no army.
  • They have nine active volcanoes, and Volcano Poás is erupting now.
  • Thirty percent of Costa Rica is national parks which has preserved it and gave rise to the eco-tourism boom.
  • Enrique shared a Costa Rican term, “mejenga” which is an informal pick-up type soccer game.

Our next stop was a coffee plantation to relieve ourselves, grab a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee and learn about how coffee is grown and produced. Enrique, our guide, had wonderful stopping points throughout our tour, starting with this one.

The winding road reminded Enrique of a local sentiment: “You can see your own license plates.” We soon saw what he meant.

Our next stop, the Waterfall Gardens, is a wildlife refugee center where they rehabilitate animals and return them to the forest. We saw a variety of native animals like toucans, sloths and macaws, but the highlight for me was the blue Morpho butterflies. Some in our group gently place their finger next to the docent’s, and this stunning creature moved over. The enclosure where the butterflies live is a verdant rich garden.

Blue Morpho Butterfly
The Blue Morpho Butterfly

“As its common name implies, the blue morpho butterfly’s wings are bright blue, edged with black. The blue morpho is among the largest butterflies in the world, with wings spanning from five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent blue coloring is a result of the microscopic scales on the backs of their wings, which reflect light. The underside of the morpho’s wings, on the other hand, is a dull brown color with many eyespots, providing camouflage against predators such as birds and insects when its wings are closed. When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and disappearing.”

https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/blue-butterfly

Being introduced to this butterfly early helped because we saw it in a variety of places.

After seeing animals, we had a delicious lunch of native food and again fruit was the focus for me. During lunch, the rain started—it ended up to be a wet afternoon. We continued through the refugee seeing white faced monkeys, scampering around and playing in their enclosures.

We saw another type of monkey that Enrique did a unique trick with; he had attached a mirror in his bird book, and he attracted one monkey over to him. The mirror fascinated the monkey.  Enrique told us about a time he did that with another monkey, and the monkey tried to turn the page in his book—how about that!

I am so sad because I took a picture of a jaguar there, but it didn’t come out. This regal creature curled up like my cat, stretched, arched his back and curl up again!

 From there, we hiked in the rain. Victoria told us to bring our rain ponchos, and I misunderstood her, thinking she was talking about the next day, but I bought one in the gift shop. It became a regular part of my daily backpack gear.

We saw the beautiful La Paz Waterfalls (Lin and my picture at the beginning), but I had to take a break, because being sick the last few months my stamina lagged. I loved how our newly formed group ignored the rain and participated!

 From there, we drove to Sarchi, the cradle of Costa Rican art craft. We visited an old ox cart factory and bought souvenirs because we had been advised this was a great place to purchase them.

Lin and I went a little overboard, buying two beautiful leather rockers and a replica of an ox cart. Lin had been anticipating the ox cart purchase for months.

The day ended with a lovely dinner in a roadside restaurant and back to the hotel to drop off the group. I had the first of many guanabana shakes with dinner. Guanabana is a delicious tropical fruit.

A tradition started on our ride back to the hotel—Greg started telling stories of accidents and near-miss events, and these stories continued for days.

Because of the wet day, Victoria and I brought group members’ tennis shoes back to her mom’s house and tried to dry them in the dryer. We overloaded the dryer so it stopped working, so, I dried mine and Lin’s with my blow dryer. Victoria dried some of the groups with a blow dryer, too!

Day 3 – January 9, 2020

 Again, my morning started off with shower excitement. This time I had a cold shower. It was at this point that Lin realized he forgot to tell me the key to showering—turning the knob all the way went to cold water. 

We ate another delicious breakfast, teeming with fruit. Afterwards we took pictures and loaded up the car and drove to Enrique’s house where his daughter fed us delicious homemade tamales. The rest of the group met us there, and we put our luggage in a second van which followed us whenever we changed lodging.

Then we took the Pan-American highway south. It was built during World War II to link the North American continent and was paved in the late 60’s. The highest point is in Costa Rica.

Enrique told us it was summer there now and the less rainy season–hard to believe after getting soaked the day before. He entertained us with a story that ended with “My great-grandfather told me, and he didn’t lie.”

We traveled through Cartago with Enrique sharing a story about how San Jose took being capitol away from Cartago. Lin flagged a “Pops” (pronounced Popes) whenever we passed one, and we were told it has the best ice cream in the world!

As we traveled, Greg continued relaying his stories of accidents: scuba, RV, motorcycle and snowboarding events. At one point after a motorcycle accident, a bystander asked, “Is he dead?”

After rising in elevator, we left the Pan-American highway and wove our way into the Savegre Valley on a dirt road, ending up at the Savegre Hotel, an oasis in the forest, for two nights.

From the sumptuous menu, I selected Trout Almandine for lunch, and then we took a long treacherous hike to waterfalls again—water and waterfalls are a major feature of Costa Rica. At various rocky spots, the men in the group helped me. After the hike, we met in the bar for refreshments, then a hilarious scene happened. We all got on our iPhones and AirDropped pictures to each other.

We had spacious rooms there, but it was cold, so Lin and I turned on our portable heater before we left for dinner. Dinner for me was grilled trout—delicious food. After dinner and social time, we returned to our room–talk about cold. The little heater didn’t do the job, so I slept in my warm-ups.

Day 4 – January 10, 2020

We were up at 4:45 a.m. to go on the quetzal bird watching tour—I first heard of this bird 40 years ago on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. In all my numerous trips there, I never saw one, so this excursion excited me more than any of the others.

Quetzal Bird
Quetzal Bird

We had a little problem with this excursion, but Enrique handled it. Melboni, our guide, joined us in our van and off we went to the first place, an avocado tree where the quetzal birds frequented.

I was so disappointed. I have cataracts and eye issues, so I never saw one with the naked eye, but our guide had a high-powered binocular where we could see them, and he could take photos on our iPhones.

So, the drill became: the guides for the different groups helped each other, and when a bird was sighted, they shared the location on a walkie-talkie. Then all the groups ran back and forth. It was hilarious to participate in and watch!

When we returned to the hotel, we ate, showered and packed. Enrique had gotten us an extra excursion, so we drove up the hill to Batsú which was a garden the hotel owner’s son made to attract birds. We saw hundreds of humming birds and many other birds.

Afterwards we ate lunch and left. We divided our group up with three people going in the luggage van because of the incline coming up. The Savagre Hotel was at 7100 feet and the main road went up to 9800 feet. We headed towards the Caribbean slope and Guapiles.

Ater we picked up our three travelers, we stopped for relief and refreshments. The camaraderie of the group started to solidify with people sharing their goodies. It rained for most of the four hour trip to Guapiles. We played twenty questions with a person sharing two truths and a lie, and that entertained us for miles.

When we arrived at the Hotel Suerre, we quickly went to our rooms to repack our bags because Enrique and William were going home with our big luggage while we went to Torteguero. Victoria had suggested we take only a backpack to Torteguero because we traveled there on a boat.

After turning over our big bags to Enrique and William, we ate a late dinner, showered and went to bed early—delighted with our trip so far and looking forward to our next adventure!

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you!


~ Take a look at my website, http://www.laradasbooks.com/

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

I’ve Fallen in Love Again!

me on the beach at Tamarindo
Me on the beach at Tamarindo–trying to make a heart around the sun! Arthritic fingers don’t work!

            We just returned from a trip of a lifetime—two weeks in Costa Rica, and I’ve fallen in love again—with Costa Rica and its people. It was perfect with twelve people in our tour. We traveled in a van, and our luggage followed in another van whenever we moved to a new hotel.

            Enrique Dodero, a Costa Rican native, guided this group that lovingly became known as “The Dirty Dozen.” His knowledge was endless about his country, history, animals and more. He carried a worn book about all the birds in Costa Rica, and he knew the names of so many.

            Victoria Zempel, a native of Costa Rica, organized the group from the USA with people from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Georgia. Most of us didn’t know each other before the trip but became a cohesive, agreeable group that grew into a family!

            She originally planned this trip for some church friends, but it didn’t work for them. Victoria was ready to throw up her hands and forget it—after several months of planning with Enrique.

            Her husband, Greg, stopped and suggested, “Call your friends. I bet you could get a group together,” and that’s how this adventure happened! Thank God for the couples that it didn’t work! After we confirmed the trip, there was a space open for one other couple, and we invited friends from Albuquerque who came and enjoyed the trip.

           The couple days we spent time around San Jose seeing sights near there. Then we drove to both coasts—the wet and humid Caribbean and the dry and hot Pacific. We also saw the mountains of Costa Rica.

            Here’s our awesome itinerary:

  • January 7 – flew into San Jose
  • January 8 – visited Waterfall Gardens and Sarchi
  • January 9 – drove along the Pan-American highway going south to Savegre Lodge and took an amazing hike to water falls
  • January 10 – went on Quetzal bird watch. Drove to the Caribbean slope to Guapiles
  • January 11 – 13 – went to Torreguero by boat and stayed at Mawamba. Enjoyed three different excursions seeing so many animals on the canals
  • January 13 – drove to La Fortuna
  • January 14 – stayed in La Fortuna. Saw Arenal Hanging Bridges. Arenal Volcano was cloud-covered. Visited “The Springs Resort,” a beautiful place with lots of hot water pools in the middle of the forest
  • January 15 – stayed in La Fortuna. Experienced the Arenal Sky Tram and Zip Lines—unbelievable experience soaring over the canopy of the rain forest in the rain. Returned to “The Springs Resort” and soaked some more
  • January 16 – drove around Arenal Lake to El Coco Beach on the Pacific side
  • January 17 – stayed at Coco Beach and drove to La Playa Las Prisas. Afterwards drove to Tamarindo—beautiful sunset
  • January 18 – stayed at Coco Beach. Enjoyed shopping and the beach. Went to Country Club and swam and had Greek food. Celebrated Victoria’s birthday with food, dancing and laughter
  • January 19 – stayed at Coco Beach. Shopped and went on catamaran and snorkeled. Delicious meal and then breathtaking sunset on the ocean
  • January 20 – sadly flew out of Liberia home

I was asked at the end of the trip what was my favorite part. It was hard to answer. We saw so much, but I did come up an answer: the Quetzal bird watching tour!

I’ve been going to Mexico and Central America for forty plus years, and I first learned about the Quetzal bird in Mexico, studying Mayan folklore and mythology.

“The Quetzal bird of Central America (Ket-zal) and the rattle snake shared the position of most revered creatures by the ancient Maya. The feathers of the iridescent Quetzal were used in Royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests. The Quetzal symbolized the movement of Creation and the will of the Creator come to earth. As the Serpent moves side to side on the ground, the Quetzal flaps and glides through the jungle. That is it moves up and down in it progression. The Maya knew that Creation moves from Day to Night or Creation to Destruction in a wave like pattern.”

http://www.mayanmajix.com/quetzal.html
Quetzal bird near Savegre Lodge, Costa Rica
Quetzal Bird we saw!

On this trip, I finally saw a Quetzal bird after forty years! What an experience that was!

Larada & Lin soaked on the hike along the Rio La Paz to the waterfalls
Larada & Lin soaked on the hike along the Rio La Paz to the waterfalls

It rained and rained the first day, and we were soaked as we hiked. We saw the beautiful Caribbean ocean where it was humid and wet. The Dirty Dozen traveled through the mountains where I was cold. Heading towards the Pacific Ocean coast, the climate changed to hot and dry!

This group spent several hours in our faithful van with laughter and lots of stories. Our driver, William, kept us safe and sound on a variety of road conditions. We rode in a boat in the Torteguero Canals seeing crocodiles resting on the shore. As we walked in the rain forest/jungle at night, the sounds overwhelmed me. We soared above the canopy on zip lines. Some of the group had the opportunity to ride in a ox cart. This experience went beyond and above my expectations!

We saw so many animals: macaws, toucan birds, iguanas, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, eyelash viper and coatamundis. I’m sure I forgot some!

So, over the next couple weeks, I will share my Costa Rican love affair with you! I won’t do it day-by-day but give you the highlights! Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What was your experience?


~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 10, 11 & 12 – Cork, Ireland, Back to England & Home

            Our 12 day British Isles cruise was drawing to a close with stops at Cobh, Ireland and back to Portland, England. On July 31, 2019, we docked at Cobh in County Cork, Ireland, famous for being the last port Titanic saw before its disaster.

Cork County Excursion

Our last excursion in Ireland, Kinsale Village & Countryside Villages, left the ship at 8:30 am, so we up early and to breakfast.

Annie Moore Statute, Cobh, Ireland
Statute of Annie Moore and her 2 brothers!

In our walk to the tour bus, we passed a famous statute of Annie Moore.
           

“Annie Moore was born in 1877 in Cork City and left Queenstown (Cobh today) on the SS Nevada on 20th December, 1891 with her 2 brothers. On 1 January, 1892 (her 15th birthday), Annie was the first immigrant to be processed at the newly opened Ellis Island centre in New York.”

From Legend in the Heritage Center, Titanic Experience Cobh

Again, I enjoyed driving through the Irish countryside with luscious green checkerboard pastures edged with rock fences. We saw many castles during our cruise but saw a unique one traveling to Kinsale with a gold tree on top and an American flag blowing in the breeze!

I loved a stop we had before Kinsale–Charles Fort, situated on a hill overlooking the bay and Kinsale.

Charles Fort (IrishDún Chathail) is a trace italien fortification, a bastion fort with one section of the curtain wall built in star fashion. It is located on the water’s edge, at the southern end of the village of Summer Cove, on Kinsale harbour, County CorkIreland.[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Fort_(Ireland)

Kinsale was a beautiful colorful village. Sailboats drifted in the bay as we parked the tour bus. We had the opportunity to stop at the Actons Hotel for tea, but Lin and I opted to head downtown to shop and sightsee. Lin went shopping on his own, and I wondered through shops, enjoying the Irish goods.

We retraced our journey back to Cobh and saw the strange castle with the gold tree again.

We returned to Cobh and had three and a half hours to explore this lovely seaside port with its colorful square two and three-story houses, stacked along the edge of the bay. We walked a steep incline to St. Colman’s Cathedral, a truly breathtaking sight and toured this beautiful cathedral perched above the city on a hill.

We ended up in Kelly’s pub and savored a coffee and scone and wonderful Irish music. We stayed for a couple songs then continued our walk down the street.

Two musicians entertained a crowd on one corner, so we stopped and enjoyed the Irish music. We came to the end of the shops, so we ended up back at Kelly’s pub and enjoyed the musician there again. Lin requested some traditional Irish music he had remembered from his bartending time in an Irish Pub in New Jersey. The singer loved Lin’s tip in the shape of a free Guinness and Lin’s resounding enthusiasm.

On the way back to the ship, we quickly went through the Heritage Center to see the exhibit, Titanic Experience Cobh.

“Queenstown (known as Cobh today) was Titanic’s last port of call before disaster struck. The legendary ship has left an undeniable mark on this maritime town.”

ounty-antrim/belfast/articles/titanic-in-cobh/

We reluctantly boarded the ship, knowing we were leaving Ireland. As our trip was winding down, we became worried about our souvenir purchases and limitation of bags on our plane trip home.

When we boarded the ship days ago, they took our passports—that had never happened before. So, I stood in line to recover them with hundreds of other passengers; I read my James Joyce book, The Dubliners, as I waited. The time passed quickly.

Lin napped as we left Ireland, but I went up to Deck 13 and grabbed a fish cake for a snack and watched as we left Ireland—a country that has become a significant one in my life.

We had a delicious oriental dinner in Shogun’s and went to the 7:00 PM show of Elements which was a combination of all the entertainers. Then the show ended with the traditional finale with the crew coming on stage. Again, it was awesome!

Lin ended up buying an extra bag to carry onboard the plane—so many souvenirs! We stopped and listened to music in one of the bars and was in bed by 11:00 pm.

Back to England & Corfe Castle

On August 1, 2019, we woke up back in Portland, England and had one more excursion, English Countryside & Corfe Castle. We left the ship at 10:15 am and had another wonderful trip through countryside settings.

Corfe Castle was overwhelming and memorable. The other castles we visited were still intact—Corfe was in ruin. As we neared the ruins at the base of the hill, we walked through a Medieval Village with men dressed as knights educating families gathered around.

We had a serendipitous experience with an Oriental man. I asked him to take a picture of Lin and me, and from then on, he adopted us. At one place, he instructed us where to take the best picture, and he was right!

The place the Oriental man suggested!

After our tour of the castle, we had tea and scones in a Tea-room and shopped around the square.

Rabbit Identifying the thatcher of this roof!

While driving back, our tour guide educated us about thatched roofs and the images the builder put up to identify the thatcher, so we watched for different ones. So here’s the rabbit!

When we returned, we toured Weymouth, seeing the beach area teeming with swimmers, and then we went to Portland and drove up to where the Olympics symbol is now placed.

Wow! One of the jelly fish!

We arrived back at the ship and didn’t want to board because this was the end. We noticed a family looking over the pier into the water, so we went over and investigated—there were at least 20 jellyfish swimming around.

Last Night on Ship

After dinner, we took turns packing our suitcases in the limited space in our stateroom. Lin went first and did a masterful job of getting everything in, but he did need the extra bag he bought. My turn came, and I worked hard and succeeded but desperately needed the extra bag I bought. We showered and relaxed and put our bags out by the door to be picked up.

Travel Day Home

On August 2, 2019, our travel day home was uneventful, thank God! The Norwegian cruise line shuttle gathered us up at the dock, and we drove back to Heathrow in London. We flew back to Denver and returned to the hotel we had stayed in twelve days earlier. We spent the night and returned home on August 3, thankful for such a wonderful cruise and so many memories of the enchanting British Isles.


~$500 Black Friday Giveaway ending November 26! TWO DAYS LEFT—HURRY! Hey, here’s a chance to win a $500 Amazon eGift Card just in time for BLACK FRIDAY from The No. 1 Site for #Reader Giveaways~~The Kindle Book Review. Just click the link and enter (everyday if you want). It’s easy & fun. If you love #reading, enter now; giveaway ends Nov. 26, 2019. Click here for details ~> https://buff.ly/2NDNtRQ

~BLACK FRIDAY SPECIALS! Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft


~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 9 & 10 – Dublin, Fair City

We had two days in Dublin on our 12 Day British Isles cruise, and we were in excited! The first day we decided to tour on our own since we had been there two years ago. The second day we took an excursion out to Powerscourt Garden, rated by National Geographic as #3 in the world!

Day 1

            On July 29, 2019, we woke in Dublin, Ireland at 6:45 am, ate breakfast and were out to the pier to catch the shuttle by 8:00 am. Impatient to get to Dublin, we had to wait until 8:30 am before taking off. The shuttle took us to Merrion Square where there’s three statues celebrating Oscar Wilde.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde_Memorial_Sculpture

            Immediately, we bought Hop-Off-Hop-On bus passes for two days which included the night tour. We hopped on the bus and enjoyed a tour of the city heading towards the Guinness Storehouse. We sat upstairs in the open air and enjoyed Dublin. We circled around Trinity College, the Irish Whiskey Museum, Christ Church and the busy Dublin streets. I enjoyed the beautiful flowers decorating many businesses on the decorated city streets.  

We went to the Guinness Storehouse to buy something Lin had planned on for months—socks! When we were in Dublin two years ago, he bought socks at the Guinness Storehouse souvenir shop and wanted more.  They wouldn’t let us into the souvenir shop without buying a tour ticket. One of the workers there told us we could probably find them at any of the Carroll’s Irish Gifts souvenir shop, but especially the big one on O’Connell street.

            So off we went on the bus towards O’Connell street but again enjoyed the tour along the way. We went through Phoenix Park, seeing “the Wellington monument, the largest obelisk in Europe at 62mm high.”

http://bit.ly/37cJUed

The first Carroll’s Irish Gifts souvenir shop we visited didn’t have any socks, but the second one did. There I also bought a beautiful silver ring and a plaque of my favorite Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken!”

            From there, we walked to the Temple Bar Pub, enjoying being on the street with the people. We had hoped to eat lunch there, but they were swamped, so we took pictures and walked to the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1198.

            Notice our first stops in Dublin were either pubs or breweries!

            The Brazen Head Pub was too busy, too, so we crossed the street and ate lunch at O’Shea’s Merchant restaurant where we had eaten two years ago. I had clam chowder; Lin had lamb stew—gigantic bowls and so delicious!

  After lunch, we discussed our options for the afternoon and decided to ride the bus over to the EPIC The Irish Emigration museum. We had ridden by it in the morning on the shuttle from the ship, and it looked fascinating.

https://epicchq.com/

            The afternoon had gotten away from us, so we when we got there, we only had 30 minutes until the last Hop-Off-Hop-On bus would leave the museum, so we couldn’t do the tour—how disappointing! I grabbed a book about the museum, and we put it on the list for our next Dublin trip. Good thing we went outside quicker than 30 minutes because the bus came early.

            When we got back to downtown Dublin, we enjoyed a walk through a lovely neighborhood and found a delightful café, the Busy Feet & Coco Café. My stomach problems surfaced—severe stabbing pain, so this was a great time to stop. The wait staff was truly international (Polish and Brazil), friendly and talkative. Lin enjoyed hot chocolate and chocolate goodies, and I had a latte. We paced ourselves during our time in Dublin, and Lin was so understanding with my stomach problems.

Our break eased my discomfort, so we walked along the Liffey River and bought souvenirs. There are 23 bridges crossing the Liffey, and I took pictures of several!

            In the morning, we had stopped at a bookstore, and I saw a paperback copy of The Dubliners, had it in my hand a couple times, but finally I put it back. After our memorable day in Dublin, we went back to the bookstore and I bought it! There was a great statute inside The Temple Bar Pub of someone reading The Dubliners!

            We wrapped up the day in Dublin with the evening bus tour winding our way through the sights of Dublin at night. It sprinkled a little but only added to the atmosphere. The bus tour took us back to Merrion Square, and we took pictures of the Oscar Wilde statute. We caught the shuttle back to the ship and boarded about 9:00 pm—a full day of Dublin, Fair City!

Day 2

            Our second day in Dublin would take us out of the city to a beautiful garden. We slept in and enjoyed a leisure breakfast. After eating, we went up on deck 13 to try to find familiar landmarks in Dublin with our binoculars.

            Lin wasn’t feeling well, so he napped. I woke him at 1:40 pm, and he got ice cream.

            Our afternoon excursion was “Leisurely Landscapes & Powerscourt Gardens.” As we waited for the shuttle on the pier, it started to rain. When we arrived at the gardens, mist hung over the garden.

            The Powerscourt Garden was breathtaking in color and design. National Geographic has identified these gardens as number three in the world!

The first stop was the Powerscourt House. Looking out towards the gardens and the Triton Lake, statutes of Greek gods circled the walk. We saw the Italian Garden, Pepperpot Tower Valley, Japanese Garden, Triton Lake, Pet Cemetery, Dolphin Pond, and Walled Garden. At first, we walked with the guide through the garden and admired the flowers.

Then we took off by ourselves and wandered in the woods. We walked to the top of the Pepperpot Tower and took pictures of the area. I specifically enjoyed the Pet Cemetery and the names of the pets. Again, we didn’t have much time after the tour, so we did no souvenir shopping.

            On the drive back to the ship, it poured. As the ship pulled out of the port, we sadly waved goodbye to Dublin. We ate dinner in Windows restaurant and celebrated our wonderful time in Dublin!

Molly Malone Statute

You can’t go to Dublin, Fair City and not celebrate Molly Malone and this song. Enjoy for a moment!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=tightropetb&p=dublin+fair+city+%2B+lyrics#id=2&vid=bd90f7c9b001c15faed913ed4f1b3b73&action=click


~$500 Black Friday Giveaway ending November 26! Hey, here’s a chance to win a $500 Amazon eGift Card just in time for BLACK FRIDAY from The No. 1 Site for #Reader Giveaways~~The Kindle Book Review. Just click the link and enter (everyday if you want). It’s easy & fun. If you love #reading, enter now; giveaway ends Nov. 26, 2019. Click here for details ~> https://buff.ly/2NDNtRQ

~BLACK FRIDAY SPECIALS! Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft


~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 8 – Holyhead & Conwy Castle: Exciting to See!

            Lin and I woke up on July 28, 2019 to a rainy day of drizzle and clouds. It wasn’t that bad but set the atmosphere for the day. This was our only port in Wales, and we were headed to Conwy Castle!

            I loved the drive through the countryside and the small towns, and again we had a fantastic tour guide, Sara. The roof lines in the cities fascinated me with chimneys and angles, and then what did I see—a McDonald’s sign! Again, sheep grazed lazily in luscious verdant pastures in the countryside.

A unique sight on the drive along the coast caught my attention, a beautiful cottage on an island,

“Ynys Gorad Goch, Private Island Coastal Cottage, Menai Straits, Anglesey.

: http://www.walesdirectory.co.uk/holiday-cottage-s/S8425.htm

            Back at home, Lin and I had researched, and Conwy Castle was our first choice for this port, but when we booked our excursions, it was sold out because of its popularity, so we went ahead and booked a tour to Penrhyn Castle & Gardens. Our Norwegian cruise line agent told us to go to the Excursion desk as soon as we got onboard to see if we could change tours. To our amazement, they created another tour to Conwy Castle, and we made it easily!

As we came into Conwy, the street views captivated me—so I took several photos. Sailboats drifted lazily in the bay along the road.

First View of Conwy Castle

As I first saw Conwy Castle, it didn’t look the same as the pictures on the Norwegian excursion website, but quickly I saw the beautiful setting. The touring of Conwy castle was awesome. When I wended my way up one of the towers, the small steps and dark staircase concerned me about possibly falling. A wonderful young man from Florida helped me by using the flashlight on his iPhone. I never thought of using mine because I had trouble accessing it on my iPhone 7. With his help, I didn’t fall.

We went through the many parts of the castle: West Barbican, the Northwest Tower, Great Hall, Prison Tower, and Inner Drawbridge. We saw a well 91 feet deep that still has water in it.

A seagull with an attitude

On top of the towers, we had breath-taking vistas of the castle, the city and the bay. Three bridges connect Conwy Castle to the city: a highway, a walking bridge and a suspension bridge. The seagulls entertained us on one tower with their insistent nature.

When we finished the castle tour, we enjoyed part of a walking tour Conwy with Sara. We stopped at St. Mary’s & All Saints church and saw an unusual grave sign, “We are seven” which referenced a Wordsworth poem:

http://www.greatorme.org.uk/conwy7.html

At one point on the tour, Lin and I quit to stop at an ice cream shop, the Parisella Ice Cream Parlor. Lin loves his ice cream and had to sample Welsh ice cream. I had Welsh Honey and Honeycomb ice cream that was beyond delicious. We had a delightful break visiting with a multi-generational family from Florida and enjoying our treat.

Street view of Conwy

Conwy’s streets fascinated me!

After the ice cream parlor, we stopped at a souvenir shop, Conwy Gift Shop. Our time was running out. Lin still had part of his double or triple scoop of ice cream, so he couldn’t go inside, so I went into the shop and scouted out possible souvenirs. I ended up buying bright red polo shirts with the colorful Wales’ flag on it for both of us.

Leaving Conwy, I took this picture of the Llewellyn the Great statute:

“This is a statue of Llewellyn the Great, grandfather of Prince Llewellyn, the last native Prince of Wales, who led the people of the mountains of Snowdon against Edward the 1st of England and swept the English from Wales in 1256. This statue stands in the town square of Conwy, North Wales.”


https://www.flickr.com/photos/bmott/1386358542/

On the trip back to the ship, we went through the city with the longest name, the tour guide said, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch

 After researching it, I found:

“The long form of the name, with 58 characters split into 19 syllables, is the longest place name in Europe and the second longest official one-word place name in the world.”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

            Here’s the translation of the name:

When we got back to the Holyhead pier, we looked for shops to continue our souvenir shopping but didn’t find much. Boarding the ship was quite a trick: the tide was way down, so we had to crawl onboard! Being short, it wasn’t that difficult for me, but the taller people had quite a time!

Then we had fun taking promotional photos for our 2020 New Mexico Square and Round Dace Association festival. First, we tried to take one from our cabin through the window, but it didn’t work, so I went out to the pier and took one.

When we got back on board, we ate a light lunch, took a nap, woke at 5:00 pm, dressed up for once and ate dinner at Windows, one of the nicer restaurants. After dinner, we went to the Excursion desk to talk about our next port—Dublin. Also, I bought two deposits for future cruised and saved $250 off of my onboard bill.

We had some time before the 9:00 pm show, so we gambled in the casino and had a fun time—not winning millions but I stayed ahead. The evening show was the “Beatles Invasion” and it was great!

Our next port excited both of us—Dublin which is our favorite city! Lin and I had spent several days there two years ago and were looking forward to our two day return on this trip! So, next week it’s Dublin!


~$500 Black Friday Giveaway from November 4-26! Hey, here’s a chance to win a $500 Amazon eGift Card just in time for BLACK FRIDAY from The No. 1 Site for #Reader Giveaways~~The Kindle Book Review. Just click the link and enter (everyday if you want). It’s easy & fun. If you love #reading, enter now; giveaway ends Nov. 26, 2019. Click here for details ~> https://buff.ly/2NDNtRQ

~BLACK FRIDAY SPECIALS! Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft


~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 7 – Belfast, Northern Ireland – We Saw Giants!

Day 7 – Belfast, Northern Ireland—We Saw Giants!

            Back to our British Isles 12 Day Cruise and up to Northern Ireland and the capitol of Belfast! We ended up spending little time in Belfast and more in the countryside on our way to the Giant’s Causeway. I walked in the footsteps of giants!

Port at Belfast, Northern Ireland

            Our day started early with breakfast, and I made a quick clothing change from leggings to jeans because a woman warned me in the elevator that it was cool outside—I was glad I did! The port was right next to the ship and disembarked on Deck 5, a boon for us because our room was on that deck.

            Again, we had an exceptional tour guide on our excursion, Kathleen, who entertained us with her vast knowledge of the area and the folklore. We wove our way through the edge of Belfast to the countryside and beside the sea. I took lots of photos.

            We drove through Ballycastle, “. . . a small seaside town in County AntrimNorthern Ireland. It is on the north-easternmost coastal tip of Ireland, in the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballycastle,_County_Antrim

            Dunluce castle loomed majestic on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. As we drove by, I wondered about the remains and found this out!

  “Dunluce Castle (from IrishDún Libhse)[3] is a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland, the seat of Clan McDonnell. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim (between Portballintrae and Portrush), and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunluce_Castle

“The romantic remains of Dunluce Castle lie teetering on the craggy headland. This 14th-century stronghold was abandoned in 1641 after part of the kitchen collapsed into the sea during a storm. Small wonder this place is said to have inspired C. S. Lewis to create Cair Paravel in The Chronicles of Narnia. Is that epic enough for you yet?”

       
https://www.ireland.com/en-us/destinations/northern-ireland/county-antrim/articles/a-giant-journey/
Our First Glance at the Giant’s Causeway!

            When we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway, we decided to walk and didn’t take the shuttle. The walk was downhill and gorgeous. Plus, we each received an audio tour of the Causeway, and the stories told by the narrator were priceless, entertaining and hilarious—so much Irish blarney for sure! The narrative added to our hike!

            The brochure we received spoke of the stories: “The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who left behind an ancient home full of folklore.”

            It also said about the science: “It’s not surprise this place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the Giant’s Causeway is the result of intense volcanic and geological activity.”

            We marveled at the sight, took pictures and enjoyed the sight. Lin hiked farther up the coast, and I opted to stand in line for the shuttle—walking up the hill wasn’t an option for me. Again, he timed it right and arrived just as I climbed onto the shuttle and joined me.

            We shopped in the souvenir shop and boarded the bus to return to the ship.

            On the way back, my camera’s battery died, so my photo of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge isn’t great.

“Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge – suspended across a 20-metre chasm, this precarious bridge was initially erected by salmon fishermen, but is now one of the highlights of the Causeway Coastal Route.”

http://www.laterlife.com/travel/visit-irelands-causeway-coastal-route.htm

            When our excursion ended, we decided not to go into Belfast butto eat instead. We had a delightful fish and chips lunch talking football to another Philadelphia Eagles’ fan (my husband is a life-long fan) and other football enthusiasts. Lin and I played Cribbage and I won, then we napped.

            I woke up first and worked on a couple of ongoing projects of mine. We went to the late show and saw a violinist. Afterwards, we went upstairs to Raffles, the buffet, for snacks, and here we had one of those memorable experiences!

            Seated at a table next to us with her parents, a little Italian girl greeted us enthusiastically, and her mother told us she spoke no English yet talked to everyone. She spied two little American girls several tables away and ran to greet them with a hug. She scooted back to her parents, seeing a little black boy eating with his Dad. She stopped to hug him on her way back to her table.

            After her greeting, the black boy played peek-a-boo with through a chair and scared her. She squealed with delight and gave him a kiss.

            Her mother explained her daughter had been in daycare all day with the three other children, and she pleasantly described her daughter, “She’s always like this.” What I saw was friendship across the world! Skin color didn’t matter.

            My husband talked to this friendly little lady as we left, telling her Mom to translate, saying, “you have a wonderful life ahead of you!”

            What a glorious ending to a great travel day–the Giant’s Causeway and scenic northern Ireland and an international ambassador who demonstrated what true diplomacy looks like! I went to bed with a smile on my heart! Have you had a travel day like this? I’d love to hear your stories!


   

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Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft

Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

I HAVE 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

My Thoughts · Scotland · Travel

Day 6 – Greenock & Stirling Castle–Unicorns Everywhere!

My musings about our 12-day British Isle cruise is a joyful time. As I look back at the pictures and the journal I kept, I get to relive this wonderful trip all over again. I hope you enjoy this sixth day of our adventure!

On July 26, we slept in a little and had breakfast in Windows, one of the specialty restaurants, and had Salmon Benedict, sitting by the windows enjoying the ocean side view.

The View on Deck 12

After breakfast, we went to Deck 7 and took pictures, then up to Deck 12 and took more pictures—clouds hanging over the hills! The ship moved inward to the dock with land on both sides and a wonderful morning of picture taking. We docked at about noon.

My stomach flared up in before we left and didn’t feel good all day—I just continued!

We were welcomed by a bagpiper and this big Scottish friend. Also we laughed at the welcome sign at the terminal at the door of the terminal—what fun!

Lin Shopping to Add to His Kilt Outfit!

The terminal had great shops and we left the ship early enough to have time to shop before our excursion. Lin added to his kilt outfit: a beautiful black vest, white shirt and long white socks. I joined the shopping spree and bought a beautiful jewelry set made of heatherwood: a necklace, bracelet and earrings. Lin ran our purchases back to the ship and we left.

We boarded our bus to drive to Stirling Castle, our excursion for the day. Ian, our guide, shared his Scottish knowledge for one and half hour—lots of information! We drove through Glasgow, a city’s name I knew from an Abba song, “Super Trouper!”

Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusivecrag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification in the region from the earliest times.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_Castle

The castle was well-worth the wait! We toured several spectacular areas inside the castle with numerous fireplaces & decorative unicorn shields and/or tapestries over the fireplaces.

We craned our necks to see amazing ceilings with wooden carvings.

We went through the Great Kitchens with life-sized figurines working at their tasks, and a beautiful green view of the surrounding area. The cloud-covered day added to the mystique.

We wandered around the walkaway at the top of the castle, seeing the cemetery near by and the grand vista of the area!

Lin and I in Queen Anne’s Garden

My favorite part was Queen Anne’s garden. We wore our 2020 New Mexico Square and Round Dance Association Festival t-shirts and took pictures in the garden. The array of flowers was beautiful!

We crammed as much as possible into the allotted time at the castle: Chapel Royal, the Great Kitchens and walking around a walkway around the top of the castle.

So when I got to the gift shop, it was closed. I opened the door and begged the clerk to let me in for just a few minutes. She reluctantly agreed, so I ran through the shop and ended up buying a small unicorn—in memory of all the unicorns displayed throughout the castle!

Bridge at Glasgow, Scotland

The ride home through Glasgow was delightful, and I took a great picture crossing a bridge there. When we returned to the terminal, we checked email. Once we boarded the ship, we ate dinner quickly, so we could see the musical production in the Stardust Theater, “Rockin Nights,” a lively tradition to Soul music!

We chalked up another delightful day in Scotland, wandering around a lovely castle, loving the mysterious unicorn interest at Stirling castle and admiring beautiful wooden carved ceilings!

Have you ever had a castle experience? Do you get a sense of history when you step into a castle? Then add unicorns to it! What an experience!


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

Two memoirs, a historical fiction, a nonfiction and three cookbooks! It’s your choice! Just be sure to select at least one. Also, I have bundles where you save money when you buy more than one! Also, FREE SHIPPING now in the USA. Visit my Etsy Shop for all my booksLarada’s Reading Loft

Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

I HAVE 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42