A magical cloud experience in the mountains of Atenas Costa Rica...

Moment by moment, the clouds grew thicker and thicker.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Tom standing on the veranda as the clouds began to roll in.
Last evening around 5:30 pm, just about the time we were thinking about having dinner, we looked outside, (unavoidable with all the glass walls in this fine villa) and we thrilled to see fast moving clouds that we could almost touch from the veranda.

We'd experienced a similar phenomenon when were lived in Madeira Portugal in spring of 2014 for which we've included the photo of Tom on the veranda with the link to that post and video.  Yesterday, we were as excited to see this event as we were over three years ago....our heads in the clouds!
Tom on the veranda in Madeira Portugal during a similar cloud "white out."  For more photos and a video, please click here.
Since we're part way up the mountains here in Costa Rica, (698 meters, 2261 feet, above sea level) in much cooler weather than by the sea (an hour and a half drive), such interesting weather conditions seem to be more prevalent.

Standing on the veranda as the clouds quickly moved across our view, we felt as if we could reach out and touch them.  At one point they actually rolled across the veranda and we were able to walk through them.

We gasped when we felt the cool moist air, unlike anything we've ever felt before.  It was breathtaking.  Oh, some might say, "No big deal.  It's just a bunch of clouds."

For us, it's these very experiences that make our travels rich and filled with wonder, so much so that we quickly and easily found our link from our similar experience over three years ago.

It was stunning to watch the views dissipate and the clouds thickened.
It's not easy taking photos of clouds right in one's face but we did our best.  Had there been more warning I'd have taken a video but it came up and dissipated so quickly, I barely had time to load the camera to take these few shots. 

Within 15 minutes, the views across the valley cleared and once again we could see our surroundings.  As a result, today's "Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica" and other photos are as a result of this event. 

When it cleared, we moseyed off to the kitchen to reheat our leftover pizza, cook the green beans and toss the salad.  The pizza wasn't quite as good as it was in Nevada weeks ago since we weren't able to find the right type of Italian sausage here in Atenas. 

It didn't take more than a few minutes to cover the entire Alajuela Valley.
The only Italian-seasoned sausage we found here had no casing.  That was weird.  Since it required cooking prior to placing it on the pizza, it ended up tasting somewhat like hot dogs which we don't usually eat.  Maybe next time we'll try it using the local Spanish type sausages with casings. 

Also, we couldn't find parchment paper at either of the two markets and had no choice but to use tinfoil (they don't have non-stick foil here) which we coated with olive oil to no avail.  It still stuck to the tinfoil. 

Once the pizza was done, we had to peel the foil off the bottom crust, often in little pieces.  Maybe we shouldn't have pizza again while we're here.  Or, maybe we should start packing parchment paper, an item we often use in cooking low carb items but have difficulty finding it in many countries. 

None the less, we enjoyed our dinner and a quiet evening of watching a few favorite shows on the big screen TV in the comfy screening room.  We'd signed up for Netflix last week and have been watching a few choice shows. 

It wasn't quite as thick as it had been in Madeira Portugal but it was definitely similar.  We could still see a light at a distance on the far right.
Whenever we sign up for Netflix, we do so for short periods, watching everything that appeals to us over a period of one or two months after which we cancel it and sign for HBO or Showtime while we binge watch other favorites. 

Right now, we're waiting for season 7 of Game of Thrones to complete its season at which point we'll sign up for HBO and be able to binge watch the entire final season of this amazing series.  We rarely watch any shows during the day to avoid starting a bad habit that could prevent us from paying attention to our surroundings.  Once its dark, we're content to "settle in" for the evening.

Today is another quiet day.  Isabel, one of the sweetest and most competent cleaners on the planet, is here today, recovered from her case of "gripa," a bad cold she had last week when she was only able to work for part of the day.  Thank goodness neither of us caught it from her.  She's busy cleaning now in her cheerful good natured manner.  What a treasure she is!

In only four days, we'll have the first of the two rental cars, one for five days and the second for the remainder of our stay.  We're looking forward to being mobile again but not so much for the dentist appointment scheduled for Monday. 

May your day be filled with natural wonders, whether it's a bird alighting on your window sill, big droplets of rain on a cloudy day or a pretty cloud formation wafting through the skies.  Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, August 17, 2016:
While we were in Phuket, Thailand one year ago it was only six weeks after I'd seriously injured my spine which took five months to heal.  We didn't do much while there so I continued to post photos from the Phuket Seashell Museum.  I'm sure all of our readers have seen enough seashells, then and now with only one more day of these appearing tomorrow.  But, if you'd like to see more, click here.

We rented a car for the remaining period in Costa Rica...Until November 22, 2017...


I've been anxious to get photos of unusual frogs in Costa Rica, especially the colorful species.  That will have to wait until we get out soon. We've yet to see a colorful frog at the villa.  But, this plain frog attached to Henry's left rear bumper satisfied me for now.  Check out those toes!
"Sightings from the Veranda In Costa Rica"
The clouds that roll in each day create many gorgeous scenes.
 We awoke this morning to one of those special days with the most perfect weather we've experienced in a very long time.  The sky is clear scattered with a few white pillowy clouds.  Most likely by early afternoon, it will cloud over and rain as always.

There's a balmy breeze rustling through the rainforest of over 100 species of indigenous trees.  The temperature hovers close to 75F, 24C.  Although the humidity is a high 86% right now, the comfort factor is not only bearable, it's enticing and pleasurable. 

"They," say that Costa Rica has the most perfect weather in the world and today, more than any day since we arrived over two weeks ago, further exemplifies this fact.  It couldn't be more to our liking.

The only aspect of our stay thus far that has been disappointing has been feeling a being a bit stranded with only a taxi driver at our disposal.  At anywhere from US $15 (CRC 8665) to US $20 (CRC 11,553) each time we go to the village (a 10-minute drive plus the cost of waiting time for the driver), we found ourselves avoiding any long distances knowing the cost would be quite high. 
It's always tricky taking photos from a moving car, especially when we're sensitive about opening the window while we're in air conditioned comfort. 
This puts a damper on our desire of getting out to explore and taking photos while being able to stop at our leisure or quickly turn around when an ideal photo op is in sight.  Tom's is absolutely the best driver in accommodating my photo taking.

Besides, it doesn't make sense to pay US $15 (CRC 8655) each time we realize we need a single item we forgot to purchase or a recipe pops into mind that requires a return to the market for ingredients. 

In many parts of the world, such a taxi ride might be only a few dollars making those single item outings worthwhile.  In Australia, we had easy public transportation which isn't as prevalent here.

But, adding a premium of US $15 (CRC 8655) or more to every few items purchased greatly throws off our food budget.  We knew we needed to make a change and proceed to rent a vehicle for our remaining time in Costa Rica.
Typical shop along the road into the village.
No doubt we've become a bit spoiled after the nine weeks in the US with the red SUV in Minnesota and the little white car in Nevada, able to head out at any time we chose.  Taxi fare in either state would have been prohibitive as they were in Australia.

At times, while in Minnesota, we wished we'd had a second vehicle but the cost of renting two cars was impractical.  For a short period, we borrowed a truck belonging to son Greg's that helped in a pinch but we knew he needed to use and we didn't keep it long. 


While in Nevada, Tom was content to stay at son Richard's home in air conditioned comfort while I flitted around to shop, visit sister Susan and even embark on a few sightseeing missions on my own.  It worked well.

We're committed to a five-day car rental starting on Monday, August 21st, which Aad the property manager arranged for us.  At 10:00 am we'll take the taxi into Atenas to pick up the car at the cafe at SuperMercado Coopeatena and then head out of town to our dentist appointment at 1:00 pm.  We'll have plenty of time for sightseeing and photo taking along the way.
Typical house in the gated neighborhood.
Last night after 10:00 pm, while a bit bleary-eyed and tired, I decided to check prices one more time for rental cars from our favorite site, rentalcars.com which we've used since the onset of our travel. 

I was shocked when I saw the low prices which included all of the taxes and fees, to discover we could rent a car beginning on Monday, August 28th for US $783 (CRC 440,762) for the remaining 87 days in Costa Rica (at that point) which totaled US $9.10 (CRC 5257) a day.  I had checked pricing a few days earlier and it was twice this amount.  I asked Tom to verify the details with me.  Was I too tired to access this carefully? He was wide awake and concurred with the pricing, dates, and conditions.

We quickly booked the car and paid the fee.  The rental car company, Europcar, is one we've used approximately 60% of the times we've rented cars and never had any type of issues.  This time, as always, we read all the terms and conditions of the rental.

Europcar require a US $1,500 (CRC 866,505) deposit which might be off-putting to some renters and, included in the above price is a surcharge of US $150 (CRC 86,651), for drivers over 64 years of age,  at US $5 (CRC 2888) per day for a maximum of the US $150 (CRC 86,651), for the entire period). 
We couldn't tell if this is a house or a business based on the sign on the front wall. 
We're fine with these conditions, especially when the contract stipulates that all other fees and taxes are included in the base rate of US $633 (CRC 365,665).  The surcharge for the senior factor might also be off-putting to some renters but for us, the grand total most appealing and, the fact that we'll be getting a car with AC and automatic transmission ideal for driving on all the hills and mountains in Costa Rica.

We've been warned about "bait and switch" type car rentals in Costa Rica but with this familiar website and Europcar which we've used so often, we feel safe.  In the worst case, if we discover we've been defrauded or misrepresented in some manner, we won't take the car and/or take it up with the credit card company.  We shall see what transpires and report back here.

We're both excited at the prospect of being able to get around on our own for the weekdays next week and from there on, from August 28th until November 22nd.

Today, we're staying in again working on financial stuff.  But now, with a solution on the horizon enabling us to explore our surroundings and take many photos we can share, we're content to wait it out until Monday morning when we'll once again have wheels and "be on the road."

Happy day to all!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 16, 2016:
These are 400 million-year-old fossils seen at the Phuket Seashell Museum.  For more photos, please click here.

Learning to speak a little Spanish in town...Nature along the way...


Check out those ears.  They certainly were flicking back and forth when we stopped to say "hola!"
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"

If you look carefully, you can see the butterfly atop this cracked piece of fruit lying on the ground that I shot when I just happened to look over the railing for photos for this feature.  We've seen more butterflies in Costa Rica than we've seen anywhere in the world.  
Yesterday morning Henry arrived at 11:30 am to take us into town.  We had four stops in mind including the pharmacy, the cell phone store for more data and calling, the health food store for more almond flour and organic nuts, and the Supermercado Coopeatena for groceries.

Last week we'd tried the warehouse-type MaxiPalil but it didn't seem to have as much variety as the Supermercado Coopeatenas.  Between both major markets in town we still can't find whole cream, parchment paper, and imported cheeses. 

In Costa Rica, there are certain cheeses, types of queso, that the locals use that aren't necessarily good for snacking.  We tried a few different brands of Gouda and Edam but they didn't taste quite right.  Also, they all have a thin layer of paper under the wax covering that's difficult to remove.

We love cows and all barnyard animals as our long time readers are well aware.
Since we only eat one meal a day usually about every 24 hours, a little cheese plate after dinner is a nice touch.  We're not doing so well in that department right now.  Instead, I purchased a few types of organic unsalted nuts at the health food store which I'm having instead of the cheese.  Tom doesn't seem to mind picking off the bits of paper. I have no patience for that.

We entered the pharmacy looking for some over-the-counter meds for my continuing gastrointestinal issue and were surprised to find an armed guard at the entrance who opened the door for us.  Upon entering, the pharmacist and other staff were behind windows with steel bars to secure the inventory, comparable to those found in banks of yesteryear.

This was a first for us.  I contemplated taking a photo but knew there was no way it would have been allowed so I didn't ask or take out the camera.  The pharmacist spoke a little English and together with my sketchy Spanish, we managed to communicate well.
Could this be a mom and her calf?
Afterward, we headed to the Macrobiotica Health Food store where they now knew us.  They speak no English but I've since learned "harina de almendras" which translates to almond flour and also, "nueces" which is "nuts."

Oh, dear, I won't bore our readers with the Spanish words we're learned nor will we start writing in Spanish but, I'm determined to learn as much as possible while we're here when South America is on the horizon. 

Although, surprisingly slightly more than half the citizens of South America speak Portuguese.  We tried learning that language while we were in Madeira, Portugal in 2014 and never got much further than "obrigado," which translates to "thank you."  In every country, the first words we make a point of learning is "thank you." 
A fence around a property on the way to the village.
Tom is still messing up his "gracias" (Spanish) and "grazie" (Italian) from summer of 2013 when we lived in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy for three full months. 
He always makes me laugh when he says "grazie" here in Costa Rica but the locals seem to get it.  Then again, he was still saying "grazie" (from habit) when we were in Kenya which followed Italy.  

It's not easy learning a new language at our ages.  We realize how beneficial doing so is for our aging brains, along with all the other morsels we learn each and every day, all stimulating to the ancient neurons in our heads.

After the health food store, we had to find where we could recharge the free Movistar (yes, that's spelled correctly) SIM card we were given at the appliance and furniture store when we first arrived.  We didn't want to run out of data using the SIM when we drive the long distance to the dentist on Monday.  That would not be good. 
A newer building at the end of the tiny strip mall we entered for the "Pharmacia."
They don't us "Maps" here in Costa Rica.  Instead, they use an app called "Waze."  Hopefully, this will help us get to where we're going on Monday, a 45 minutes drive from Atenas. 

On Monday morning at 10:00 am we'll be meeting the rental car guy outside at the cafe at the Supermercado Coopeatena who apparently speaks English.  From there, we'll take the car and find our way to the small town where the large dental clinic is located with nine English speaking dentists.

We imagine visitors may come from the US to this clinic for dental work when prices are considerably lower than in the US and other countries.  We'll let you know how it goes after our appointment, with photos, of course.

Recharging the SIM card was painless when the rep spoke a little English and was able to reload data and calling on the card for US $17.37 (CRC 10,000).  We have no idea how much data or calling we have but at least it should be enough for next week when we have a car for five days.

Most of the buildings in town are old and well-used but not nearly as much as we've seen in many other parts of the world.  It feels safe in the village and we can freely walk from one location to another.
From there the trip to the market went fine.  We got most items on our list now that we've excluded items we know they don't have available.  Henry waited for us in the car during each of these trips and helped us load the bags into the trunk when we were done. 

Once back inside the gated neighborhood, Henry promptly stopped when he heard me squeal with delight when I spotted the two cows close to the road as shown in today's photos.

Back at the villa before 2:00 pm, we put everything away while we spent the remainder of the day preparing dinner and researching.  I spent some time in the outdoor Jacuzzi which was lovely.  No complaints here.

Have a pleasant day!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 15, 2016:

While in Phuket, I was recovering from the injury to my spine and wasn't able to get out much, although we had a rental car.  However, we did tour some sites including the Phuket Seashell Museum.  For more photos, please click here.

It's time to start planning clothing for the Antarctica cruise... Different for us than most other travelers...

This is a variety of Bromelaid.  This stunning bloom is located  on the grounds of the villa is over-the-top!
 "Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
This was a perfect opportunity to get a photo of Ulysses, our groundskeeper, and maintenance person, who lives in an apartment on the property.  We wish we could chat with him freely but we are able to communicate sufficiently to ask him questions and make requests.
It's not as if we can jump in the car and drive to REI or Cabella's to purchase clothing for our upcoming Antarctica cruise in five months.  And, realistically, we need to start planning now knowing anything we purchase will have to be shipped to Buenos Aires and go through customs which can take a long time, as we've experienced in past situations.

There are several options for handling the required items of clothing considering we'll be leaving the ship on Zodiac boat for several hours at a time while we visit various islands, ice floes, and glaciers.  Waterproof gear is a must.

Another Bromelaid with patterns appearing more like fabric for curtains than an actual plant.  Wow!
Over the past several days, we've begun conducting research to discover the following options since the Ponant Cruise Line doesn't handle rental clothing as do most other Antarctic cruise lines:
1.  Rent from one of a few companies that handle such clothing, all of which require the clothing be sent to us in Buenos Aires.  Downside:  Clothing of this type can easily be stolen in transit; customs can cause delays; the clothing is rented for a specific period and penalties will incur if there are delays in transit times;  the clothes must promptly be returned at the end of the cruise, adding one more project to handle when we need to be on our way.
2.  Purchase the clothing from the US at lower costs.  Downside:  The above shipping and potential theft issues would be unavoidable.  Plus, when we're done, shipping the clothing back to the US to be held by our mailing service until we need it again someday.
3.  Purchase the majority of the clothing through Ponant.  They'll have it waiting for us in our cabin when we board the ship.  Purchase odds and ends in the US and have them shipped to our hotel in Florida on November 22nd where we'll stay for one night before boarding the back-to-back cruise the next day.  This results in a two step process.  Downside:  Ponant's items are expensive.
These waxy flowers almost look like Begonias we'd plant years ago in shady areas in Minnesota.
Originally, when we booked the cruise, we budgeted US $1,000, (CRC 57,594) for each of us for clothing rental as a necessary element of this expensive cruise, which is pretty much the going rate per person for all items.  If we purchase some of the items separately and ship to the Florida, we may be able to save a few hundred dollars each.

After considering all of the above options, we've definitely decided to go with purchasing the bulk of the major items directly from Ponant and the balance  (long sleeved shirts, socks, glove liners, etc) from Amazon in the US with free shipping with our Prime membership directly to the hotel in Florida.

These orange flowers, Lobster Claws, against the palm background create an appealing scene.
The other options, although less expensive make no sense at all, especially when there's the cost of shipping and delays due to customs.  If we purchased the bigger items on our own, we'd have no idea on the quality and suitability for the cruise.  Most likely, the clothing from the cruise line in suitable.

Most likely sizing will be an issue for me with my extra long arms and legs. Maybe I'll be able to tuck my pants into the Ponant provided complimentary boots to avoid the high water look. Hopefully, I'll have enough layers to keep my arms covered especially wearing the almost elbow length gloves we'll also purchase through Ponant.
What was Mother Nature thinking here?
Tom inquired to previous Antarctica cruise passengers at Cruise Critic for more finite details and based on their comments, it appears we're going down the right path.

It's considerably easier for those who can jump in the car and drive to local cold-weather-clothing stores to check out the possibilities, try on a few items and purchase their smaller items with ease.  Here again, this is one more of the many challenges we face as constant world travelers. 
We love this type of palm tree.  We'd seen many of these in Hawaii a few years ago.
No doubt, we'll have it all figured out long before we board the ship, Ponant Le Soleil, on January 23, 2018, in Ushuaia Argentina.  No worries.  It will all work out! 

Have a happy Monday or Tuesday, depending where you may be in the world, whether it's approaching the end of your warm summer months or your cold winter months, depending on which side of the equator you may live.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 14, 2016:

We visited the Phuket Seashell Museum.  It was fascinating to see all of the various seashells indigenous to the area.  For more photos, please click here.

Limitations...Living within our means...Not always easy...

 
View from the chaise lounges of the pool, the Jacuzzi to the left and beyond it, the cold plunge pool.  Nice.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica" 
Even the entrance to this property is stunning as taken from the veranda on a cloudy day.
It's been raining almost every day.  We knew when we booked this property that is was during the rainy season but we decided with as much "work" as we had to do while here, it wouldn't matter to us so much.

Besides, the likelihood of finding a reputable rental car facility was iffy from what we'd read online and heard from our landlord Aad so we decided to rent a car periodically (via Aad's contacts) which we'll be doing one week from tomorrow for a period of five days.  We're waiting for the quote and will post it here.

We realized that if we'd paid the premium prices for a decent car for over three months, due to the rainy days, it would be sitting in the driveway most days.  It wouldn't make sense to go sightseeing in these mountainous roads during rainstorms which occur by noon almost every day.

We noticed the times it starts raining since we attempt to use the pool each day but often I don't get done uploading the post until almost noon and by then, the sun is gone with thunderstorms and lightning surrounding us, not a good time to go into the water.

Neither of us cares to go sightseeing in the rain when we can avoid it.  Thus, when we have the rental car next week we'll try to get out in the mornings and a few of our posts may be uploaded later in the day.  We'll let you know when and if this occurs.

On Monday, the 21st, the first day we'll have the car Aad will have arranged for us, we both have dentist appointments at a distant location at 1:00 pm, giving us ample time to post prior to heading out.
Pretty plants and tree are scattered throughout the grounds, which Ulysses keeps perfectly maintained.
This past Friday, we'd intended to go to the weekly Farmers Market in the village at 1:00 pm based on times stated in an online ad we'd seen that stated it started at 6:00 am and ended at 6:00 pm. 

Well, as it turned out, Marian, Aad's wife informed us that the Farmers Market closes at 1:00 pm.  Thus, we canceled the taxi driver with a plan to go next Friday, the 25th, when we could go on our own in the rental car, taking our time to mosey around and take plenty of photos.

Many tourists rent cars in Costa Rica without incident.  But, there's a big difference in renting a car for a week or two as opposed to three and a half months.  The agencies tend to give us the least desirable cars based on the extended period and the good prices we've received online.   Generally, this is fine with us when we're saving huge sums of money over the extended periods. 

In this case, it just didn't work out so we're somewhat stranded in the interim.  We always strive to live within our means especially with the pricey Antarctica cruise in five months which we'll pay off in full by October 16th, in a mere two months.

Our "belts are tightened" during this period to prepare for this big outlay of cash. Recently, we had an outlay of almost US $10,000 (CRC 5,761,850) for our extended stay here in Costa Rica for this fine property.   With a strict budget to follow and much upcoming in the future, we live as modestly as we can. 

A careless world traveler could easily run through money so fast they'd quickly put an end to their travels.  For us, we carefully manage every dollar we spend to ensure we can continue until physically can't go on any longer, not when we "run out of money." 
The driveway pavers are laid to perfection.
We live off of our fixed monthly income comparable to that of most retirees. Living as comfortably as we often do (with a few exceptions here and there) we must continue to be frugal.  That means few expensive professional tours, dining out at a minimum (my diet dictates this more than money), no needless shopping, planning and cooking our own meals and above all not being wasteful. 

A huge benefit of spending 2018 and part of 2019 in Africa is that it enables us to recover from the high expenses of the three upcoming cruises all occurring by January 23, 2018. 

When we leave Costa Rica on November 22nd, we'll fly to Fort Lauderdale Florida for one night after which we'll be embarking on a 30-night back-to-back cruise to South America, finally ending in Buenos Aires where we'll stay 31 plus one night, as mentioned in a post of a few days ago, as shown here.

In a 78-night period beginning on November 23, 2017 (Thanksgiving Day in the US), and ending on February 8, 2018, we'll be cruising for 47-nights.  The remaining nights we'll be living in Buenos Aires as mentioned above.  Here again, we'll have a long stretch where we won't cook a single meal or make a bed.

Once we arrive in South Africa on or about February 9, 2018, we'll begin to "lick our wounds" and once again be shopping, cooking and taking care of our day to day lives on our own.  A cleaner will come once or twice weekly while we're living in Marloth Park, comparable to here in Costa Rica, the delightful Isabel.
Gorgeous blooming plants.
That's not to say we won't have some big expenses while in Africa with all we plan to do while there, leaving South Africa every three months (visa requirement) for one type of expedition or another that we'll book once we arrive and settle in.

We're in a constant state of flux, a state of being we both find exciting and adventurous, definitely not for everyone.  Most humans tend to find great comfort in gaining familiarity with their surrounding and creating a place to call home. 

Perhaps us nomadic humans in this world, are more like the wildlife, we tend to go where the going is fruitful, where the going is exciting, continually on the move for the next adventure.  Stay tuned, fellow travelers, fellow readers, much more is yet to come.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 13, 2016:
In the 1980's I stayed in Phuket Thailand for a few weeks (before Tom, whom I met in 1991) splitting the time between two gorgeous resorts on the beach.  Living in a vacation home in a resort town proved to be an entirely different experience when the front yards of many homes looked like this in the neighborhood of the lovely home we rented.  This is the life of world travel, not always dreamy and gorgeous.  For more details, please click here.