Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Report #123 Puntarenas, Costa Rica May 2, 2017 Tuesday Chance of rain & 89 degrees Part #1 Of 3 88 Pictures

What a night we had last night.  Thunder, lightning, and rain began around 1 or 2am, and kept up until daylight.  Of course, it kept us up for a while as well.  We seldom get these kind of storms where we live, so we find it exciting.  Adding to the experience was seeing dozens of white birds, probably terns, fluttering outside our window in the pitch black darkness.  The lights from the lower promenade deck must have attracted fish, which drew the birds.  There really is no other explanation.  Even as sleepy as we were, we were glued to the window, since we will more than likely never see this again.  Come to think of it, we did see this last year as well.  And in this same area.  Talking to friends Denise and Howard, we found out they had seen it also, and did the very same thing we did…..watch until sleep finally overtook them.

 

Just as a reminder, Costa Rica is a Central American country with 19,725 square miles of beaches, mangroves, rain forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, rivers and waterfalls, just to mention a few.  The capital is San Jose, and the population is 4,254,000 Spanish-speaking citizens.  May is the start of the wet season, which we found out today.

 

One of the favorite dishes is casado, a plate of meat, beans, rice, and fried plantains.  Their local drink is palm wine or coffee, which can be found everywhere. 

 

Their trademark saying is "pura vida", meaning pure or good life.  This slogan is printed on many souvenir items.

 

There were a total of 20 tours offered today through shore excursions.  Six all day tours included lunch and ran from $90 to $200.  They included a tropical forest aerial tram ride, a visit to a coffee plantation and gardens, or a ride to a volcano.  There were two types of rain forest canopy zip line rides also. 

 

Shorter tours took in a sky walk in the forest, a ride to San Jose, or a trip to Sarchi to see painted carts.  There was an Andalusian horse show, a countryside and coffee tour, or a walk in the clouds.  They offered a ride to the Pura Vida gardens or a hummingbird and butterfly excursion.  The best one in our opinion, was one we have done more than twice….. the mangrove cruise and train ride…….so much fun to see the birds, critters, and monkeys of the mangroves.

 

One thing for certain, it was going to be a very warm and sticky day with temps in the high 80's and humidity in the range of 89%.  In fact, this is one of those days that we never saw the sun, as the overcast was heavy with pending rain clouds.  And we were not alone as the Seven Seas Mariner had joined us at the pier in Puntarenas.  Christened in 2001, the Mariner is 48,075 gross tons with a passenger capacity of 752 persons (all berths full). Every cabin on this ship has a veranda, and it is an all-inclusive. No bar bills and mostly free tours as they are complimentary.  You may have to pay a little extra for a lunch on the longer tours, but usually they give you some shipboard credit upon booking a cruise that covers it.  We have gone on two longer trips on this ship, and found it to be a luxury/premium product.  Of course, it was $$$$$.

 

Sleeping in a bit late, we still made it to the dining room by 8:30am, well before closing time at 9am.  Since so many folks booked excursions, there were only a handful of us there.  Of course, the service was wonderful with no waiting at all. 

 

We hung out until 10:30am before we left the ship.  One of us that really likes new shoes, was looking forward to going back to a nice shoe store where the perfect pair of sandals caught someone's eye last January.  Nine times out of ten,  larger sizes are a problem in some countries.  Especially here, where few ladies have sizes over US 9.  There was no problem locating the shop or the same shoes, but there was a problem with the size.  There was not one pair of size 10 sandals or dress heels in the entire store.  Darn.  Had much better luck in India, but they did not sell that same style of sandals.  However, had we lived here, they would have been most happy to send for them online.  Well, guess that might be something to pursue when we get home…..online shoe shopping.

 

We walked the downtown area of Puntarenas, before heading towards the end of the spit.  The downtown area was jumping with locals food shopping, as well as window shopping, like us.  Street vendors were busy selling produce and souvenir clothing and beach wear.  Prices were very inexpensive.

 

Once we got near the Puntarenas Cathedral, built in 1902, the crowds thinned out, and we encountered many kids getting out of school for their lunch break.  We made our way back to Paseo de los Turistas, the main drag along the beach front.  The best thing about this street was that it was clear of buildings that blocked the breeze.  It was incredibly hot, so that ocean breeze was a life-saver. 

 

It was a bit early to go to lunch, so we continued walking beyond the hotel, our intended lunch spot, to the tip of the spit.  Don't know why we never walked this far before, but we found the San Lucas Beach Club, a food, entertainment, and meeting place.  The restaurant here was San Lucas Fish Co.  Once around the tip, we saw a huge and most inviting swimming pool of the beach club, and eventually the Panderia Quesada Ferry landing.  It was situated on the backside of the spit, so we never saw this area before.  Surrounding the ferry landing, were several bars and pubs, which looked like they would be opened for dinner, and not lunch.  This whole area is a favorite spot for the locals to go on weekends, and during the peak of the season, it would be wall-to-wall families here.  Today, it was mostly empty of vacationers. 

 

It was so hot, that we decided to back-track, and head for some ice cold beers.  That was at Las Brisas, a small hotel complex right on the main beach road.  This hotel had the nicest open-air restaurant, not really large, but modern and clean.  Maybe inviting is a better choice of a word.  The best thing was that there was a strong breeze blowing through here now, and we knew that rain was most likely on the way.

 

We ordered Imperial beers, the local Costa Rican brew, along with a plate of cheese nachos and one entrée of chicken fajitas.  Even though we had dined here in January, we had forgotten the size of the appetizer, as it was huge.  Oh well, dinner wasn't until 8pm, so we could handle it.  Shortly after we were seated, we were joined with a group of utility workers on their lunch break.  What fun they all had while watching a televised soccer game.  We would see a repeat of this with many locals in the cafes and bars all the way to the ship. 

 

After an hour of cooling off in the strong breeze and downing four beers, we asked for the bill.  It was a tad bit over $25…..what a deal.  The rate of exchange for the Costa Rican colon to the US dollar was 540 to $1 USD.  In some of our previous ports, $25 would not have covered 3 beers.

 

Wanting to check out the souvenir stands on the way back, we were surprised to find only ¼ of them were there today.  Just as we began looking for treasures, the rain started.  The vendors were either packing up for the day, or covering everything with plastic.  Most all of the bus tours were not back yet, and the smart street merchants knew there would be a lot of the tourists coming here to spend money.

 

The nicest of products here are made from Costa Rican woods.  They sell bowls of all sizes, platters, ice buckets, cutting boards, figurines, and coaster sets…..one of which we purchased.  The only other item we were looking for was a visor, which have been difficult to find in the last month of ports.  Baseball caps are common, but visors are not.  Intending to buy one, we ended up with 3 for $9.  Since the first vendor at the end of the stands wanted $6 each, this was a great deal.  Pays to shop, even if it is a small purchase.

 

The rain was letting up, and we never did have to use our umbrellas we packed with us all day.  Actually it felt so good now that it had cooled off.  And as we had expected, the little "train" ride from the ship to the shore was full of folks from both ships coming to shop onshore. 

 

All aboard was 4:30pm, with a Puntarenas sail away planned on deck eight aft.  Never happened, because the rain was falling steadily now.  We went to deck six forward to catch some photos of the ship's lines being dropped.  With several toots of the ship's horn, Captain Fred turned the ship around and headed out of the bay.  Not sure the Mariner would follow us to Nicaragua, as they responded to the horn with many toots of their own, like a final goodbye.

 

Tomorrow we will be in Corinto around 9am, another repeat port of the world cruise.

 

Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill with friends Denise and Howie from Concord.  We had a two hour meal with them, and enjoyed it immensely.  Caesar salads, lobster bisque, with entrees of filet mignon and lamb chops filled us to the brim.  To our disappointment, our waitress told us that they had no more baked Alaska for this trip.  Not even our favorite Cherry Garcia ice cream.  So we all ordered the second best desserts, except Howie, who we thought, jokingly asked for the special ice cream.  With that said, our waitress took off, and came back saying they located a tub of Cherry Garcia tucked way back in the freezer.  All right…..we changed back to that, because it will not last much longer.

 

It had been a long day, so none of us attended the master of mentalism, the show by Alan Chamo at 10pm. 

 

Tomorrow's port will be Corinto, Nicaragua….another hot and steamy day, we bet.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS    Many thanks to Sandy in Spain for your excellent info on the cotton top tamarin monkeys.  Barbara and Orlin:  look forward to seeing you on the Alaska reunion cruise in July.

 

 

 

Amsterdam on the left, Mariner on the right….both docked

 

Amsterdam's gangway

 

Train shuttle to the shore

 

Seven Seas Mariner

 

Yes, we are larger

 

Bill and the Mariner

 

The shoreline of Puntarenas

 

Two ships in town

 

A lone booby

 

 

A few beach combers this morning

 

The water temperature was in the 80's

 

Typical Pacific Ocean brown sandy beach

 

Souvenir huts

 

Locals cooling off

 

A very pretty Costa Rican greeter – offering complimentary fruit

 

End of the long pier

 

Flag of Costa Rica

 

Taxi drivers offer many independent tours here

 

A street food vendor

 

A tourist building

 

The busiest café for free internet

 

Wall art

 

Done by teenagers, we believe

 

Another nice café and bar

 

Local shopping

 

Shopping street of Puntarenas

 

Few people outside……way too warm

 

One of many bars

 

Lots of locals on bikes

 

The nicest shoe store

 

Flowers and fruit for sale

 

Casa Blanca, not the real Casablanca

 

A nursery on the street

 

A local business

 

Food and clothing shops

 

Rooms for rent

 

Local restaurants

 

Some open later in the day

 

Happy dog

 

Little chickens for sale

 

Street traffic

 

Local bus

 

Wide streets

 

Many cars

 

Street vendors

 

This man was repairing shoes

 

Cheap clothing

 

Downtown

 

Getting too warm outside

 

The nicest grocery store in town

 

Kids getting out of school at noon

 

Central park

 

Many benches in the park

 

Probably have festivals here during the high season

 

A hotel

 

Fishing pier

 

Egret on the pier

 

Palm trees give much needed shade

 

Local discount store

 

Decorative park

 

Matching cement benches

 

Houses all locked up

 

This is probably a good place for lunch

 

Flowering tree by the name of Queen's crepe myrtle

 

A tropical tree

 

Walk to the church

 

Wall art brightens the area

 

Puntarenas Cathedral

 

Recently refurbished

 

Cool on the inside

 

Church for the sailors a century ago

 

Cathedral dedication

 

Surrounding grounds

 

Museum

 

Statues in the church area

 

Some were bizarre

 

Many palms

 

Cultural center – appeared closed

 

A cannon from the old days

 

Church steeple

 

School

 

"Home Depot" – Puntarenas style

 

Tree-lined streets

 

Flowering trees

 

Green is a good color

 

Housing near the soccer stadium

 

Deserted streets today

 

Soccer stadium

 

Soccer is big here, perhaps called football

 

 

 


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