Friday, October 9, 2015

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher
We left Galway today traveling through County Clare on our way to Killarney in County Kerry.  We passed through an area known as The Burren. Burren is derived from the Gaelic meaning "Stoney place". We have left the bogs behind and find ourselves in a moonscape of huge limestone crags. But unlike Connemara there is a diverse array of plants including wild roses and orchids which live in the limestone crevices where heat is generated by the limestone. Adjacent to these plants can be Alpine plants. 

The Cliffs of Moher, also in County Clare, are majestic formations towering 700' above the Atlantic. While windy it was clear and dry. We walked beyond the park which had built a safety wall since Wayne was last here 38 years ago onto a farmer's land where we were completely free to wander over the edge. 

To get to Killarney we took a ferry across the Shannon, the largest river in Ireland. Killarney is a market town known for its green hills, laughs, and the Killarney National Park. Upon arrival we immediately went for a ride in a jaunting car also called a jarvey, a traditional Irish horse-drawn carriage, for a tour of the Park. Our driver, Michael, wasn't top of the line. His banter was scripted, and he took 2 phone calls on the short ride. But we laughed with him and the scenery was gorgeous. Clancy was our horse, a type of Clydesdale. We dined buffet style in the hotel tonight. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Thoor Ballylee and Galway

With some reluctance we departed Coopershill. While we had initially planned to revisit Sligo for a trip to The Cat and the Moon shop, it became a necessity when we realized Wayne left his credit card at The Embassy on Saturday night. Fortunately, the staff found it, we shopped a bit and then started for Thoor Ballylee. Thoor Ballylee was WB Yeats tower home with his wife Georgie. Here he wrote many poems about living in the tower and the area.  It was here that his patron, Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre also lived at what is now Coole Park, a 1000 acre nature preserve. 

The Tower was closed for the season, but we enjoyed a walk around the space. From there we went to Coole Park.  Unfortunately our walk to the lake did not reveal 9 and 40 swans. But we did find the autograph tree, a large beach inscribed by WB Yeats, Jack Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw among others. 
Wayne at Thoor Ballylee

Selfie at Thoor Ballylee
Autograph Tree at Coole Park
The remainder of the day was spent driving to Galway, checking into the Ardilaun Hotel, returning the car and having an early dinner. There was a pub at Eyre Square with music where we enjoyed a smoked fish plate and beef stew. We grabbed a cab back to the hotel, and got some tourist information from the cabbie. He suggests Thaffs and Ca Colin(sp) for music and food, the Museum and the Spanish arch and Main Salt Hill, and Oscars for oysters and mussels.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Knocknarea and Donney Rock

Climbing Kkocknarea with Sligo in the distance.

Today we climbed to the top of Knocknarea, near Sligo.  A large flat mesa, it seems to have been a major place of ritual and meeting in the Neolothic era. There is a large cairn on top believed to be the grave of Queen Maeve, 200' long and 40' wide. It is believed to date around 3000 BCE.  WB Yeats refers to Knocknarea as "The land of heart's desire". It took us about 40 minutes to climb the 1078 feet, some of it rather steep, rocky and treacherous to an old lady (or so I'm told). The views along the way of Sligo and Lough Gill are spectacular.  It was very windy at the summit, and we sought the leeward side of the cairn to have our picnic where there was a fine view of the Atlantic Ocean. We ran into David, another guest at Coopershill. 
Wayne approaching the summit and Queen Maeve's Cairn
Back in the car we headed for Dooney Rock the setting for Yeats' poem, The Fiddler of Dooney. The small dale there that fronts Lough Gill was deep and green. We were satisfied to simply reach the Lough, listen to the lake water sounds lapping low on the shore and skip the kilometer walk to the rock. 
Wayne in the glen approaching Lough Gill
Dinner tonight was again at Coopershill. We asked David to join us. He was entertaining enough. A publisher of English origin who now lives in Stockholm, he had a great deal to say about technology, Jeff Bezos and the demise of the printed page. The fare was duck tonight. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yeats and Sligo



Both of us awoke this morning telling stories of waking during the night because we heard or saw someone in the room. It was totally freaky. Wayne said he actually saw someone near the door. I simply heard the door open. Separately both of us thought we were so jet lagged that we were dreaming and fell back asleep. But now sharing our experiences we're thinking......da da da da.  Simon says no one has ever reported ghosts in the house. 

Following breakfast we picked up our Coopershill picnic lunch and headed to Sligo in search of WB Yeats. Sligo is bigger than your average village with about 20,000 people and seaport town situated on the Atlantic coast. Sligo means abundance of shells so named due to the richness of sea life and the many large minions found there. It is also rich in culture and the home and burial site of Yeats. We were fortunate to find a young man in the Yeats House and gallery who showed us drawings by John Yeats and offered us maps and information. We walked a bit in the area past a very stylized statue of Yeats, found the local museum with Irish history and some small works by John Yeats. 

Yeats House in Sligo


Wayne with Yeats


























We drove to a point on Lough Gill where we could see the lake Isle of Innisfree and ate our picnic lunch aided by the company of a very friendly black lab. The lake was a beautiful, clear blue. After, we went to Drumcliff, located at the foot of Benbulbin Mountain.  There is the little church where Yeats' grandfather was pastor and Yeats and Georgie are buried. 
Lake Isle of Innisfree behind.


Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!
Our final destination, Knocknarea, proved too much for the old gps. We tried a couple of routes trying to see the cairn of Queen Maeve of whom Yeats wrote "The Old Age of Queen Maeve". Giving up we headed back to Coopershill for a rest. 

This evening we returned to Sligo for dinner at the Embassey Steak House, a mediocre meal. I had my first Guinness there which I described as, "Guiness! The beer that makes Bud Wiser taste good".  The Embassy is on John F Kennedy Parade which runs along side the River Garavogue. Many other pubs, restaurants and shops are here on this rapidly running river. 
Trying our first Guinness

Friday, October 2, 2015

Boston to Galway to Sligo

We had a fairly easy flight from Logan to Shannon. After landing we took a bus from Shannon to Galway with a 30 minute layover in Innis. In Innis it was dark, drizzling and cold with only a bus shelter to stand under. We were all alone and hoping the bus would really be coming. We had passed many houses on the way to Innis none of which had lights on even though it was 7am by then. But then slowly people began to arrive. By the time the Galway bus arrived, we were about 20. The bus from Innis to Galway picked up a lot of young people either going to work or school. I thought it was expensive for them, 10 euros one way. The Galway City bus station was next to Eyre Square, a big green park, where we found Budget Car Rental. We got the car, dropped our luggage and went next door for a hearty Irish breakfast and coffee. Next we walked to the local shopping center where we met Oscar Wilde and got a SIM card for Wayne's phone. 


We then set off for Sligo and Coopershill B&B. What an amazing place Coopershill is. Simon, the proprietor, is the 7th generation O'Hara to live here. Built in 1774, it sits deep in the old woods surrounded by sheep and deer fields, orchards and a river. The house is a 3 storied Georgian stone structure filled to the brim with taxidermied animals, paintings, medieval weapons. Tonight we had a 4 course dinner that included venison and Irish cheeses. The deer are raised on the property. 


Coopershill B&B
Earlier today at Simon's suggestion we took a short trip to find an ancient (5000 year old) burial site. We ended up at a farmer's house at the end of a very narrow road. He let us park and with great caution sent us up a steep hill filled with much cow dung. We never found the burial site but did get a beautiful view.


Wayne in search of neolithic burial passages.
Dinner tonight was at the Inn and prepared by Christina, Simon's wife. Two other couples and a single man were in the parlor sitting in front of a roaring fire where we gathered before dinner. . We were virtually ignored although I said a very cheerful hello as we entered. Shortly thereafter Simon called us into the dining room. We had venison with a sumptuous cream sauce. There were Irish cheeses and lemon curd for desert.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gasparilla

Wayne at Gasparilla Festival of Arts, Tampa, FL
The first of March and spring as definitely arrived.  The sun felt warm and wonderful on our skin as we sat out for Tampa and the Gasparilla Arts Festival.  The Festival is one of several events that orbit the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival.  Jose Gasparilla is a mythical Spanish pirate that lived in and plundered the Tampa area.  Since 1904 there have been parades (much akin to the Mardi Gras parades) and events celebrating the apocryphal event. To read more about this event please see the Wikipedia article.  The Festival of Arts hosts hundreds of artists and offers $75,000 in prizes, first prize equating $15,000.  The art offerings run the gamut from kitsch to masterful.  Sunday was marred for many artists because of the mud invasion.  You can watch a video and read more about this here. We were not deterred and walked every corridor.  There were 2 music venues, one a folk venue and the other a Broadway offering.  A tenor at the Broadway setting was just magnificent in his rendition of Les Miserables songs. Sculling was happening on the river.  The event is adjacent to the Tampa Museum.  We took a quick tour of the very small museum where their Classical holdings were on view.  After, we drove over to Ybor City to check it out.  It is much larger and really a wonderful street of restaurants and shops.  We will definitely go back there.  















Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fins and Feathers

Starfish Market, Cortez, FL
It was a raining and mild today, 2nd day in a row I did not walk.  Wayne the ever vigilant went to the Community Center, and I painted.  It was so dark with rolling gray clouds that I didn't see well enough to paint for long.  Around 5pm we went to Cortez to buy fish and clams for tonight's dinner. This is the coolest little town.  It is completely unaffected by the influx of affluent tourists and retirees.  The Starfish Market has very fresh catch, neat art and t-shirts.  One can also dine out back on the deck adjacent to fishing boats and a variety of large birds.   
It is the last day of the month and the Saturday that new renters arrive.  They were everywhere evident by the erratic driving, hordes of children with elderly (grandparents, I assume).  We stopped in Publix for basics and bird food (chicken).  The hordes were stocking up on all that nutritious vacation food: candy, candy, candy, chips, chips, chips, soda, soda, soda.  They were all walking around with their heads in the clouds and sauntering like life was grand, which it is.  
Pelican at Cortez Starfish Market

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eat Here

5 Lakeview Place, Anna Maria, FL
Following a normal day of painting, computering, and exercising we went to Eat Here, the affordable version of The Beach Bistro.  Both are owned by the same proprietors and both have excellent fare.  The Beach Bistro is situated on the beach with beautiful views and lavish interior accommodations.  Eat Here is in a plaza next to a dentist's office.  It does offer a pleasant interior with great paintings and a long, raised community table.  Last year we ate several times at Eat Here and were able to make reservations.  Reservations are no longer taken.  I think it is part of the "We are great and you have to wait like everyone else to have our fabulous atmosphere and food" approach to alternative advertising. Against the advice of Martha and Oleg we went at 6pm, the height of elderly dining, and were informed it was an hour wait. During that hour we made great friends with a couple from New Hampshire who have been coming here for 15 years.  His brother was with them and knows people in Marion at Burr Brothers Boats.  There were also 2 women from Tennessee who have lived in Little Rock and Pine Bluff.  All of us were lamenting the very bad winter in New England and worry about our roofs.  It was a most interesting and uplifting hour.  Oh, and yes the food was worth the wait.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fog, Sun, Fog Again

Gulf of Mexico
The fog was thick today.  Despite this, the beach was filled with people as it was quite warm.  
Since my main objective with writing this blog is to act as an accounting for Wayne and me to remember places and events, I'm going to concentrate on our evening.  We went to Martha's and Oleg's in Bradenton Beach for sunset hors d'oeuvre, dinner at the Blue Marlin and a screening of my Costa Rica video.  The fog actually lifted around 6pm and we were hopeful for a beautiful sunset lighting some spectacular clouds.  Unfortunately, the horizon was shielded by a large, long blue cloud that we thought was sky.  We walked to Bridge St where the Blue Marlin is located.  By the name you could guess they specialize in fresh fish.  Our waitress was from Western MA and chatted with us about all things Berkshire.  We all liked our dishes.  I had black grouper Provencal and Wayne had clams and fish bouillabaisse.  All 4 of us shared 2 deserts:  key lime creme brûlée  and chocolate pate.  I would give it a 3 out of 4.  Service and atmosphere was a 4.  My dish was more like a 3.  The sides were black-eyed peas over rice that tasted like the peas were reconstituted and haricot verde that were over cooked a bit.  Also, I had asked for red snapper and got black grouper.
Back at the condo I presented my video to accolades.  It is too large to upload here.  So I will offer my beach walk video instead.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lunch with Friends

Harry, the Great Blue Heron
Janet and Jeff Hathaway come up from Fort Myers today.  We spent some time on the deck talking about life in Florida and gated community living.  Harry offered some entertainment.  We ate out on the Anna Maria City Pier, our first time there this year.  As I remembered, it's not the best dining in town.  My shrimp and rice dish had so much sweetener in it to be on the level of a dessert.  But the pier is nice to be on.  People were catching fish, a musician was playing the guitar and singing, the pelicans were preening.  After lunch we walked up and down Pine Street.  The weather was warm and delightful.  
This evening we watched the Oscars for about 5 hours.  We had seen Birdman, The Budapest Hotel and Boyhood.  Having not seen the other nominees for best picture, we were happy with the choice of Birdman. Now we have a host of unseen movies to fill our nights.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Let The Sun Shine, Let The Sun Shine

Sunset Lakeview Place
Today was the reason we love this place, perfect weather with temps in the 70's. After we lolled around the house until noon, we both exercised.  I walked the beach which was packed with February vacationers.  The town has really picked up in the last week with visitors.  We walked to the Sandbar for lunch.  There was a 30 minute wait in which we had a beer while sitting out on the beach benches.    A game of pool (Wayne is killing me nightly) finished off the afternoon.  We are watching the Oscar nominees nightly in anticipation of Sunday's award ceremony.  Tonight's performance is Whiplash.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wherein We Toast the Sunset with Friends

Gulf of Mexico, Bradenton Beach, FL
Today was unusually cold. only reaching the 50's.  Last evening there was a frost warning.  We persevered through the cold and after a typical Anna Maria day of Community Center workouts, feeding the birds, and painting, we went to Martha's and Oleg's in Bradenton Beach to have hors d'oeuvre and toast the sunset.  Their second floor condo faces the gulf and is so close that at times it appears one is on a ship.  It was a short walk to French Table where we had dinner.  Three of us had the moules et frites, and Oleg had roasted chicken.  No one found their dishes to be extraordinary as we always expect French cuisine to be; Martha said their previous dining experience was better.  The owners are from Provence having been here only since October.  Their kids roam around helping and being cute French children.  Back at O&M's we had dessert and solved a lot of the world's problems.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wherein Figaro Gets Married

Female Cardinals, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
I have been able to paint on this trip.  Rather than trying to adapt my abilities to watercolor, I simply packed my oils and prepared boards.  I have 8 boards and am currently working on 5 of them.  I'm set up next to the large sliding doors.  The light is good, but I miss the accommodations of my studio.  
Tonight we went to the Sarasota Opera with Oleg and Martha.  We picked them up at 5pm during a deluge and drove over an hour due to heavy traffic.  Reservations at Selva Grill in Sarasota were for 6:15; we arrived on the dot. The Selva Grill is a Peruvian restaurant.  They served the most delicious sauces with small plates and ceviches.  Unfortunately, our waitress was less than attentive, and we arrived late for the opera. The overture to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was playing, thus we were seated in the back row waiting for Act III to take our seats. The performance was so delightful, playful in the way Mozart can be.  The sets, 4 of them, were magnificent. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

St Petersburg and the Dali Museum



Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
We took off around noon for St Petersburg and the Dali Museum.  It was a bright and warm day.  To get to St Pete from Anna Maria, one drives over the skyline bridge.  This is one of the most beautiful bridges I've been on.  Also, it is an engineering marvel.  From the top one can see St. Pete, Tampa and also Anna Maria Island.  The beginning sections of the old bridge have been left for fishing.  
Skyline Bridge viewed from our car.
The Dali Museum is located on Old Tampa Bay and adjacent to the Mahaffay Theater on beautiful grounds.  The garden is designed in a Surrealistic manner with melting benches, a giant mustache and little surprising sculptures.  As soon as we arrived we realized it would be crowded; there was no parking remaining in the Museum garage.  We found parking near enough, though, and walked to the Museum to be greeted by a line that stretched around the side.  Wayne reminded me of my NMWA pass with reciprocity.  Sure enough the Dali was on the list and we were able to skip the line, the outside line.  Inside proved to have its own line that took about 20 minutes.  The place was packed everywhere:  shop, cafe, bathrooms and most of all the Picasso/Dali exhibit.  It was so difficult we decided to come back another day.  We stopped at the cafe for a delicious Cuba sandwich in the delightful garden.  By then it was 4:30 and the place seemed to have emptied.  So we went back to the exhibit and were able to enjoy it.  
The Picasso works were few and not all that intriguing.  One nice work was the Portrait of Olga, Picasso's first wife.  I was unfamiliar with the work. It's always nice to be surprised by something unknown.  Dali was a Fascist, which makes for a nasty taste when viewing his work.  But as George Orwell said, "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draftsman and a disgusting human being.  The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other."
Olga by Pablo Picasso
Tropicana Field
Wayne outside the Dali Museum
The Dali Museum and Garden



St. Petersburg from the Dali Museum



Friday, February 13, 2015

Birds, Art and Piers

Great White Egret, Lakeview Place, Anna Maria, Florida
Generally our days begin with the illegal activity of feeding the birds.  That task takes on a whole new meaning in here.  We don't need to fill a feeder with seed.  No, indeed, we only need to have some sardines on hand.  Wayne has been buying frozen sardine bait (he doesn't have the heart to feed them living beings) and offering one fish per day.  Our visitors include Harry, the juvenile great blue heron, Leroy, the alpha male great blue, Harriet, the great egret, and a small to be named snowy egret.  It's sometimes a battle when they appear all at once.  


Tonight we were to meet Martha and Oleg at our place to have a beer at The Sandbar and watch the sunset prior to attending the art opening at The Gallery on Pine.  We decided it was too cold for the sunset and headed straight for the gallery.  The show was a grouping of Cuban artists' works, all of which had a surrealistic overtone.  Oleg bought a collagraph by??  The works were very interesting and very narrative.  
We had dinner at the Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant.  The waitress was a hoot, a take off on Seinfeld's soup nazi, the small space crowded with tables.  But the food was fantastic, the wine delicious.  We came back to the house for key lime pie.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Exhaust and Exhaustion

Hernando de Soto National Memorial
When we left for Florida our car's check engine light was on.  This has happened before with the manual indicating we left the gas level fall too low.  We expected the light to go off after a week as it did before.  This did not happen.  Thus, we made an appointment in Sarasota with the Infiniti dealer.  At this point I need to explain that although Sarasota is a mear 26 miles from Anna Maria, the drive is over an hour.  So, we got a loaner and came home.  Infiniti called around 4pm. We barely made it before the 5pm closing only to have the engine light come back on as we left the lot.  Back in the loaner we spent about 5 hours today traveling and still don't have a car.   What we did do though was stop at the Hernando de Soto National Memorial Park.  It's a pretty little park on the Tampa Bay.  There are at least 3 guides continuously offering insight.  We only got a feel for the place and will return for a more through visit.  
P.S. I know that Hernando was a son-of-a-bitch.  Why there are so many local venues named for him is a mystery.  



Sunday, February 8, 2015

You've Got Friends in Fort Myers

Jeff, Janet, Christy and Wayne in Fort Myers, FL
We spent the better part of today with our friends Janet and Jeff Hathaway.  They moved to Fort Myers last July from Onset.  A big life change for them that they are delighted with.  Their home is in a large gated community with a town center that includes a theater, outdoor performance area, gymnasium and soon to arrive grocery store.  Wayne is now thinking of the gated community life for our future.  
Janet served us lunch on the lanai next to the pool.  After lunch we went downtown to the Arts Festival.  We remembered attending last year, too.  It is very large and stretches all along the marina and into the side streets.  We had an early dinner at Pinchers.  The drive is over 2 hours to Fort Myers and is always a few degrees warmer than the Sarasota area.  But, I like the Sarasota area better.  The Sarasota historic district is more charming, offers more diversity in restaurants and shops, has a beautiful library and the opera house.  Fort Myers seems to have a zillion law offices in the historic district and only a few restaurants.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bradenton Art Walk

Pigs Do Fly! Christy at the Bradenton Art Walk
Bradenton is 8 miles east of Anna Maria, just over the bridge.  It is a vibrant community with a Riverwalk, the Pittsburgh Pirates winter home and the Village of the Arts.  Oleg, Martha, Wayne and I went to the First Friday Artwalk today in the Village.  The walkable neighborhood is comprised of art galleries, studios, restaurants and speciality shops housed in colorfully restored 1920's bungalows.  I felt like I was transported to 1967 Haight Asbury.  Touted as Florida's largest artist community I question the validity.  Most of the art was pathetic and appeared to be made by quacks that took up art while in detention somewhere.  There was the occasional professional gallery.   We ate at Ortygia Restaurant, Sicilian style cooking.  It was so noisy that we were literally screaming to be heard over our very loud waitress and an adjacent table full of chatty women.  The food was okay but I would never return.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Back in the AM, Back in the AM, Back in the AMI Life

Sunset, Gulf of Mexico
We are back in the land of glorious sunsets.  Upon our return from Costa Rica, we spent the night in Miami and ate again at the Cuban restaurant.  Next day we drove across the Everglades and stopped at Clyde Butcher's Gallery.  We spent the next night in Fort Myers and explored historic downtown.  Thinking we would eat at a Greek Restaurant and reminisce about our time there, we drove to Opa, which was closed.  Our next best option was a local BBQ place.  It was nothing to rival previous bbq joints.  There are more attorney's offices in that area than I have ever seen in once place.  Our speculation is there are few regulations in Florida and much litigation to counter that.  Today we stopped in Naples for lunch at our usual place, Vergina.  The day was lovely and encouraged us to walk main street.  As we came into Bradenton, we remembered all our shopping spots and stopped at Fresh Market to stock our pantry and ABC to buy our wine.  We arrived for our 3pm check-in and waiting with the rush of people for our keys.  The house has changed little (our charcoal grill is still here!).  We spent the afternoon unpacking and are happily settled in.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tortuguero National Park




We awoke at 5 am in order to see the early rising fauna. Our boat captain, Ronnie navigated us through natural and man-made channels brimming with birds and flowers. We have 2 birders in our group, Nancy and Steve from Colorado, who are great at spotting and naming some of the birds. Steve has an excellent camera with which he get very high definition closeup shots.
Ronnie is amazing in his ability to spot critters. There were 2 types of lizards, ,so well camouflaged that I almost never found them. But Ronnie spotted them immediately.
Iguanas and monkeys were abundant, too. After lunch we toured the grounds of the lodge viewing more bird species and orchids. On our way back to the room we could hear a howler monkey, followed his call and enjoyed finding him. In the early evening another guide, Jeffery, took us out on the channels again. We were in a lot of black water with wonderful mirror like reflections. More monkeys, more birds and boa constrictors entertained us.

Christy and Wayne

Sarapiqui Day 2

We took a 6am bird walk into the botanical gardens across the highway from our lodge. The birds are too numerous and diverse to begin to name. Nacho is very adept at spotting and identifying them. We returned for breakfast and prepared to take a white water raft ride. There were 5 of us and our guide, Walter in the raft: Shirley, Vern, Carol, Wayne and I. I felt as if I had been transported back in time to The Little Missouri River. The Rapids were category 2 with occasional spots of 3 new were safe at all times. Lunch was again spent with the birds. There is a feeding station adjacent to the dining room. All the walls are open and you can sit with a view of the feeding birds.


Christy and Wayne

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sarapiqui

This morning we boated back through the canals to pick up our land transportation to Sarapiqui. Sarapiqui is still on the Caribbean lowlands, but not wet lands. The tree are somewhat different. The lodge is on a private preserve teeming with birds and plants. After a orientation to the grounds and safety (don't walk off the path!!!!) we checked into our room, which again is like an attached cabin only raised about 15 feet above ground. Nacho led us on a forest walk where we had to cross a very long and very high suspension bridge. Yowza! Our destination was a tree remaining from the primal forest. Beginning in the 80's almost 90% of the primary forest were cut. Now some secondary forests have been introduced. We found the grand daddy tree. Over 400 years old, it sores into the sky. The circumference is about 30' and the interior hollow. The path was quite muddy. Happy to have my waterproof sneakers. This evening our lecturer, Willy, explained the efforts to create bio corridors to assist wildlife and plants with migration and reproduction. Today large pineapple plantations are inhibiting that to a degree.

Christy and Wayne

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tortuguero


We started the day with a five hour very bumpy bus ride. Along the way we stopped for lunch on some private grounds where the gate guard was excited to show us a poison red dart frog, all of about 1/2 inch, which he keeps in a hollow bamboo section. He also pointed out 2 3-toed sloths. On the grounds is a kook tree which is called the big belly tree by locals because of the enormity of the trunk and root system. It is also the tallest tree in the low lands. As re approached Tortuguero and the waterways we left the bus for a water taxi. It was an hour and half ride to the lodge. A beautiful ride in a warm humid climate.
Our lodge is actually composed of many small cabins some with multiple rooms, some single. We are in a complex with Romie, Vern and Shirley. After settling in, Nacho took us by boat to the turtle conservancy. There is really nothing to see except a video about the efforts to protect the nesting grounds and tag the nesting females. We walked down the black sand beach to the town of Tortuga, a single long street of small one person craft shops. Most things were crude coconut carvings or she'll jewelry. About 500 people live here totally dependent upon tourism.
After dinner we attended a lecture by a local gentleman whose father was one of the first settlers of Tortuguero. He gave the history of the settlers, the expansion of the lumber companies and finally the appearance of Archie Carr, an American who came to save the turtles. As a result of his efforts President ... took position of 25 miles of coast line, declared it protected. Carr also spent much time and energy convicting the locals to save their land. Now they are very vigilant in doing so.


Christy and Wayne

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Biodiversity with Java

This morning we met with our very likable group of 14, including us. They are all about our age and with similar interests. We met our guide Ignacio or Nacho as he likes to be called. He is young, handsome, like able and charmingly attentive and knowledgeable. He introduced us to our first lecturer, Luis, an ecologist. Highly educated he presented us with a through lecture on the climate, geology, and fauna and flora diversity. Costa Rica has the highest diversity of plants and animals in the world. After the lecture we took a bus ride to the Daka Coffee plantation. The tour covered planting, growing, picking, sorting, drying, and then drinking coffee. There was also s wonderful mariposa garden. (That's Spanish for butterfly) We had lunch in the plantation cafeteria and then left for the BioPark, a privately owned 400 hectare park which strived to preserve, educate and research the biological systems of Costa Rica. As we walked through the forests we saw sloths, beautiful birds, butterflies and plants galore.
Dinner was with our group at the hotel. Nacho provided more insight into the history and language of CR. Tomorrow's day begins at 6am with a bus and boat ride to Tortuguero on the Carribean Sea.


Christy

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bienvenido San Jose



Our flight to San Jose was a mere 2.5 hours. The country is mountainous and green. It was 78 degrees and we are all smiles. Our driver, Jose, from Road Scholar met us which made the transition to the hotel very easy. We are in a Radisson with beautiful grounds. No one else from the tour has checked in. So we ate lunch and walked the grounds. The waitress was very funny trying to speak English. But her most difficult time was with tagliatelle, on the menu. Tonight we went to the lounge to eat. I had chifrijo and Wayne had chicken fajitas. Meetings begin tomorrow. 








Pool from our room