Costa Rica

Road Trip to Paradise

My partner and I recently went on a long awaited much anticipated trip to Costa Rica. In the time of the corona-virus we have all had to curtail our travelling out of a necessity to stay safe and simply because many places were unavailable to travel to. Costa Rica has just recently opened its borders and welcomed tourist traffic back to this Central American paradise.

In order to enter the country, one had to fill out a form asking many health-related questions and based on the answers you were issued a Health Pass. This was needed before you could even get on the airplane stateside and was checked many times along the way and when you got to the airport in San Jose when we were going through Customs and Immigration.

Also required for entry was a health insurance policy to cover medical expenses and lodging in case you tested positive for Covid on the way out of the country and had to quarantine. A negative covid test was required before leaving.

On the way down the airline (Delta) blocked off the middle row for social distancing and required all passengers and crew to wear masks. Once we got in country most workers and local people also wore masks and of course we continued to wear ours as well. We were able to relax the mask rule sometimes while riding in the transport vehicles or when we stopped to eat and were sitting at our table. Whenever we went to a restaurant the first thing the greeter did at every place we visited was to point to a sink and hand sanitizer station to clean our hands before we were seated.

Everyone we met was very friendly and enthusiastic. They have a saying in Costa Rica that is good for any occasion: “Pura Vida!”

We left our apartment in Louisville, Kentucky about 5:30 in the morning and caught an Uber to the airport for our 7:00 flight. We changed planes in Atlanta and arrived in Costa Rica by 1:30 pm. There is a two-hour difference between Costa Rica and Louisville and pretty much for the whole nine days I was living on Louisville time.

We made our travel arrangements with a travel agency in the States before leaving. When we arrived in San Jose, the country’s capitol, an in-country travel team took over and a representative met us at the airport when we landed. He escorted us through immigration, scanned out health passes and led us to our driver for our first destination.

Our first destination was the Volcano Lodge near the Arenal Volcano. It was about a three-hour journey. As we hadn’t eaten yet we asked Fernando, our stalwart driver,  if we could stop along the way. He said yes, there was a place he knew about half way. Fernando was very friendly and talkative and gave us a guided tour of the countryside as we traveled along.

As promised about halfway we stopped at a restaurant called Mi Rancho. The food was delicious. I had what was called a typical Costa Rican Dinner,  a Chicken Casado, consisting of black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and chicken. I had an Imperial Beer which is the beer of choice in Costa Rica.

Fernando and Maureen

We got back on the road and shortly reached our destination at the Volcano Lodge and Thermal Springs. On the way we drove through the little town of La Fortuna which was near the lodge. It looked to have a variety of shops and restaurants and we made a mental note to come back for a visit while we were still in the area.

Day 2

In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, Sura Bar and Bistro. I did a nature walk first. After breakfast we immersed ourselves first in the hot springs, then in the hot mineral water pool, then the cold pool.  Afterwards we had Bloody Mary’s out by the pool. Then we returned to the room for some afternoon delight. Afterwards we went out on the patio to read until it was time to meet our driver for our next adventure, the hanging bridges tour.

Hanging Bridge

Greivin, our guide and driver for the day, picked us up a little before 2:00 and drove us to Mistico Park for the hanging bridges tour. There are ten static bridges, six hanging bridges, and one waterfall. We stopped along the way to take pictures in front of the magnificent Arenal Volcano. There are over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica with five of them considered active. Arenal is one that is considered active and is one of the most popular sites to visit in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano

When we arrived at Mistico Park, located in the middle of a rain forest, we stopped to take more pictures. Then we began our hike. We walked over the many hanging bridges observing the flora and the fauna. It was a four-mile hike and a three-hour tour. Greivin proved to be an excellent guide.

Our Guide Greiven

When we got back to the hotel, we had a couple of drinks out on the patio before dinner. We showered and changed clothes, then walked down to the Sura for dinner. I had the typical Costa Rican dinner with chicken beans, rice, salad, and plantains. Maureen had the eggplant. The food was delicious! I had a shot of 30-year-old Centenario rum on the rocks and Maureen had a gin and tonic.

Tomorrow is a new day, and we will be on our own.

Day 3

On our own today. We did the hot springs again, had breakfast, came back to the room and read out on the patio for a while. I am reading Under Kilimanjaro, by Ernest Hemingway. I always bring Hemingway with me when I travel. I find him to be a source of great inspiration. I found it quite ironic that I was reading a book about a fellow traveler who was camped under the great volcano of Africa, Kilimanjaro, while I was camped under another volcano, Arenal, thousands of miles away. We both loved the country so, he in Africa, me in Costa Rica. And we were both with women we loved who played a significant role in each of the stories; he with miss Mary and I with miss Maureen.

Hot Mineral Pool

Later in the day we decide to go into La Fortuna which was about nine miles away. We walked up to the front desk and had the concierge hail us a taxi. In a few minutes a red car pulled up with a familiar yellow triangular sign on top., Our taxi had arrived. Our driver was named Johnny Miranda and he said to call him when we were ready to go back and he would pick us up again. He dropped up off in center of town near the restaurant we planned to eat at later that evening.

Johnny says, “Habla Espanola?”

I say, “Un poquito. Habla Ingles?”

Johnny says, “Un poquito.”

We both laughed, but we didn’t have any problem communicating after that. As a matter of fact, most people we encountered spoke some English and we never had any problem communicating with anyone.

Every town in Costa Rica has four elements: A church, a school, a soccer field and a bar. La Fortuna was no exception. I might add one other element, a central park. We had fun exploring the town, going into some of the shops, taking pictures, and we stopped at a place called, La Prada, to have a drink and a snack before dinner.

The Church at La Fortuna

Dinner was at Don Rufino’s, a high-end establishment that was recommend by Fernando. I had the sautéed fish which was excellent. To drink I had the Centenario Rum, this time the 15-year-old variety. Maureen asked me if I liked it as much as the 30-year-old and said I enjoyed it exactly half as much.

After dinner I called Senor Johnny on my cell phone and he appeared Johnny on the spot and drove us home to the Volcano Lodge. We changed clothes for a late-night dip in the hot springs. We sat at the bar on stools submerged in the hot water and ordered drinks. I had a Jack Daniels on the rocks and Maureen had her mainstay, gin and tonic.

Home to bed, reading Sirens of Titan, until the words danced on the pages and I drifted off to sleep.

Day 4

Last day at Volcano Lodge. Had breakfast with Miss Maureen. Back at the room reading Hemingway. We have a little time before we have to pack up and leave. I will miss this place and certainly I would come back.

We drove all day through the fog on narrow twisty roads through the mountains. We stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs and relieve ourselves. We also stopped for lunch at another roadside attraction. I had the typical Cost Rican lunch which I never tire of. We finally reached our destination in Manuel Antonio about 5:00 in a driving rain. We checked into the hotel, Si Como No, and went to our room. We were given umbrellas and a staff person brought our luggage. The rooms were little cottages perched on the cliffs in the jungle overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Hotel Si Como No
Rico Tico Jungle Grill
View from the balcony
Stairway to heaven

Poolside

After we got settled in, we went out for dinner at the hotel restaurant, Claro Que Si and had an excellent meal. I had the Sauteed shrimp. To drink I had rum again. One straight on the rocks and then I switched up and tried another drink called Red Eyed Gin and Tonic. It was pretty good, but one was enough. Maureen had her customary Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic. Two in fact. We retired after that. Long day. 

Claro Que Si
View from the balcony

Day 5

Breakfast at the Rico Tico Jungle Grill with a magnificent view of the Jungle and the ocean. Later we took a taxi to Manuel Antonio Park. Senor Luis was our driver. We had to pay an entry fee to get into the park but it was worth it. We walked two miles to the beach through the jungle. What a lovely secluded cove with very few people. Spent a couple of hours in the sun having fun in the ocean and on the beach. We walked back out and had lunch at one of the many restaurants just outside the park entrance. Once again, I had the typical Casado, this time with pork. Had two Imperial Beers to drink. Maureen had the nachos.

Beach at Manuel Antonio

Called our driver to pick us up and we went back to the hotel. I was exhausted and took a two-hour nap. The sun really takes it out of me. Later we went down to the Claro Que Si for dinner. We had standing reservation for 7:00 and we got out usual table at the edge of the dining room overlooking the jungle. That is where we saw our first sloth. He was just hanging around in a tree just outside the restaurant in plain view. He caused quite a sensation and everyone crowded around against the railing to catch a glimpse of this awesome creature. I took pictures. “No flash!” The wait person admonished, “They don’t like flashes.” Everyone was very protective of the wild life.   

Sloth

We went back to the room and sat out on the patio and watched the lightning flashes light up the night sky. It went on all night long.

Day 6

Waterfall day.

I was picked up in the morning by my guide Corry and our driver. Miss Maureen stayed home as her knee was bothering her and I knew we would be going over some rough trails and walking on slippery rocks and such so she decided to stay back and hang out by the pool. Turns out it was a wise decision. At our first waterfall Corry climbed a tree and jumped into the natural pool at the base of the waterfall.

My guide Corry

The next waterfall was at Uvita. It features a 30-foot natural water slide, which I tried. We had to climb to the top of the falls. I sat in the saddle and crossed my arms, tucked my chin and lay back, and Corry gave me a little nudge and the next thing I knew I was in the water swimming out. Very exhilarating!

30 foot natural water slide

By this time, it was lunchtime. We drove to a little restaurant at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. The view was breathtaking. And the food was delicious.

After lunch, we went to anther waterfall, called Cascada Del Pavon. We had to hike a way into the jungle to get to it. This waterfall featured a boulder that had rolled down the mountain millions of years ago and lodged between two larger boulders at the top of the waterfall dividing the stream. We took some pictures and hiked back out. Our next stop was the ocean!

Cascada Del Pavon

This is was a public beach used by the locals and it was fairly crowded. It featured some caves, but it was high tide and the caves were full of water so we couldn’t go in. Corry let me wander about on my own for a while and invited me to jump in the ocean, but I demurred. I did take a lot of pictures and it was a beautiful beach. While I was gone Corry made some origami figures from some reeds he found in the area. Very clever of Corry to make these figures which he presented to me as a gift.

A day at the beach

Origami by Corry

Uvita, Costa Rica

On the way back we made two stops for photo ops. One was of a Trex sculpture and one was for a sculpture of a Blue Whale in Uvita. Oh yes, we actually made a third stop to photograph one of the mysterious stone spheres that have been discovered in Costa Rica. No one knows where they come from, how they got there, or how they were made.

T-Rex
Mysterious Stone Sphere

Day 7

Sat out by the pool in the morning. Had breakfast at the Rico Tico Jungle Grill. At 1:00 we were picked up by our bus driver who transported us down to the docks for our catamaran sunset tour. We boarded The Tom Cat about 2:00 along with the other passengers and “set sail” off into the sunset. Only the sun didn’t set for another few hours so we cruised up and down Costa Rican Coast. We stopped at one point in a little cove to let people dive into the ocean and snorkel if they wanted or slide into the ocean from one of the two water slides mounted on the back of the boat. It was a double decker and people were above board and below deck. There was music and plenty to drink and they even served a late lunch of shish kabob. I was drinking rum. Maureen demurred as they didn’t have anything she liked. It was quite a party and everyone had a lot of fun. The sunset was spectacular and was definitely the highlight of the cruise. I took pictures of course and the other passengers danced a conga line all around the boat. After the sun set, we headed back for the docks. On the way back we observed dolphins jumping out of the water in pairs to the delight of everyone on board.

Catamaran Tour

Cruising off the Costa Rican Coast
Upper Deck
Lower Deck
Conga Line
Spectacular Sunset

Once back at the docks we caught our bus back to the hotel. When we got back, we rested up a bit then got dressed for dinner and headed down to the Claro Que Si. We were greeted warmly by the host and escorted to our usual table in the corner.

Another long, but quite satisfying day.

Day 8

Time to head back to San Jose. We checked out of the hotel and waited for our driver to pick us up. He arrived right on time at 9:30. It was about a three-hour drive to San Jose. We had to be at our hotel by 1:00 for our scheduled covid test, which we needed to leave the country. A doctor was supposed to meet us in our room to administer the test.

We arrived at 12:30 in plenty of time to check in and get to our room in anticipation the doctor’s visit. The Grano de Oro was a beautiful old Spanish hotel that had at one time been a mansion. The rooms were well appointed, there were huge exotic plants in the atrium and original art hung on the walls. Absolutely beautiful old-world charm.

Hotel Grano de Oro

The doctor showed up a little after 1:00 and administered the test. We paid her the required amount and were informed that we would receive the results on our cell phone within three hours.

Maureen waiting for her test
In the Atrium
Art on the walls of the hotel

Maureen and I decided to take a walk and explore downtown San Jose. We were on 30th street about two blocks off Central Boulevard, which is the main drag. It was beautiful afternoon but it looked like rain so we borrowed an umbrella from the hotel. We walked the two blocks over to Central, turned right and proceeded into the heart of the city. We walked about twenty block and then decided to turn back. By that time, it had stared to rain so I deployed the umbrella. Maureen remembered spotting an interesting looking restaurant on the way so we decided we would stop by there for a drink and maybe a bite to eat.

Al Viento (To the Wind)

We reached the restaurant and went inside. Turns out it was a French Bistro. Who would have thought we would find a French side walk café in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica? But yet, there we were. The name of the bistro was Le Bistot De Paris. We were seated at a table before an open patio leading to the street and were able to see the moveable feast that was San Jose all the while protected from the rain. We ordered a cheese plate and escargot and a bottle of wine. It was a lovely way to pass a couple hours before we walked back to the hotel.

Le Bistrot De Paris

When we got back, we settled in and got organized and took a little nap. Then it was time for dinner. The hotel had a fine restaurant in a well-appointed dining room. The waiters were skilled, polite, professional, and dressed formally. The food was absolutely delicious, fine dining at its best.

We went back to our room, read a little bit, then turned in for the night. We knew it was going to be a long day tomorrow, for tomorrow we headed for home.

Day 9

At 8:30 our ride arrived promptly to take us to the airport. All our documents were in order and we had done everything we needed to get back home. Our flight was at 1:16 on Delta. Maureen had to check a bag. Everything went smoothly and we were at the gate in plenty of time to board. We were flying to Atlanta then switching planes and flying on in to Louisville after a short layover. We got home about midnight and a good friend picked us up and drove us home. Thus ended our nine-day adventure to Costa Rica.

At the gate

Galveston Day 7

Last Day in Galveston for Ghost Dog and the Buddha

Last day for a sunrise
Early morning light
First the tide rushes in…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch house…
The birds were hungry today, but then they are always hungry
One last swim
When those sharks bite…
Off Shore Drilling Education Center
Off Shore Rig
Off shore rig
Ocean Star
Santana
We met down at the docks
Had Lunch at Katie’s with Jeone, Kim and Buddha
My Step Daughter Kim and I

The next day we started our drive back to Kentucky….

The Three Bodies of Buddha

Buddhisim by the Numbers

The Buddha came to be represented as having “three bodies”:

  1. Dharmakaya – the source of enlightenment and happiness.
  2. Sambhogakaya – the body of bliss or enlightenment.
  3. Nirmanakaya – the historical embodiment of the Buddha.

When he was about to pass away, the Buddha told his disciples, “Dear friends, my physical body will not be here tomorrow, but my teaching body (Dharmakaya) will always be with you. Consider it to be the teacher who never leaves you. Be islands unto yourselves, take refuge in the Dharma. Use the Dharma as your lamp, your island.”

The original meaning of Dharmakaya, the way to realize understanding and love.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

Photo by Benn Bell

Galveston Day 6

The Continuing Saga of Ghost Dog and the Buddha

Greetings from Galveston! Each morning I rose just before dawn and headed for the beach to catch the stellar event unfolding on the horizon. I was not disappointed. Most mornings Buddha stayed in bed, but this glorious morning he accompanied me out to the beach.

Moments before Sunrise
First the tide rushes in…
The Rising Sun
The Sun Also Rises

Today I wanted to ride around Galveston to look at some of the buildings. Galveston is home to some interesting old historic buildings and to some newer more modern ones.

American National Insurance Building, One Moody Plaza
United States National Bank

This building is being converted into condos.

Rosenberg Library

The Rosenberg Library is the oldest continuously operating library in Texas. I visited this beautiful library with the hopes of finding a clean well lighted place to study in. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to covid the study rooms were closed. I was free to roam the stacks but not to study. I did come away with a book however, so all was not lost.

Hutchings Building in the Strand

The Strand Historic District, also known as the Strand District, in downtown Galveston, Texas, is a National Historic Landmark District of mainly Victorian era buildings that now house restaurants, antique stores, and curio shops.

Gaido’s Seaside Inn

Later in the day we headed back to the motel for a dip in the pool. We were staying at Gaido’s Seaside Inn, which according to their own testimony boasts of having the best pool on the island. Who am I to argue?

No Diving
Pool Side
Having a chat
Proof of Life – The Buddha

We ended the evening at a Mexican Restaurant. Buddha’s friends hadn’t heard from him in a while so I posted this picure to prove he was still alive.

Stay tuned for day 7 of the exciting adventures of Ghost Dog and the Buddha.

Rainstorm

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure: A code to the way of samurai

Photo: Benn Bell

Camp Hope

Jefferson Square, Louisville, Kentucky

Thirteen homeless individuals had taken up living in Camp Hope. This camp was cleared out Monday as part of Greg Mayor Fisher’s new revitalization program. The team is comprised of 67 business and community leaders. Their main topics pf concern are litter, safety, graffiti, and homelessness.

The hotel and tourist industry has been in freefall since the pandemic struck. About two thirds of the city’s 65,000 hospitality workers are out of a job, much of which was concentrated in downtown Louisville.

The city has committed to increasing police presence and adding $1,000,000 to the effort to dealing with homelessness.

This is all that is left of Camp Hope

Galveston, Day 5

The continuing saga…

Ghost Dog and Buddha went on a road trip to Galveston, Texas from October 1, 2020 – October 8, 2020. This is their story.

Early morning run
On the Rocks
A Fisherman of men
The Old man and the Sea
The Sand Piper
The Rising Sun
Gazing at the Gulf
On the Ferry to Bolivar Peninsula
Meanwhile back at the pool for drinks
Bishop’s Palace
Sealy Mansion

Sacred Heart

Rumor has it that this statue point the way to the best gay bar in Galveston

The 1940 Sears Building

Thanks for watching! Meanwhile, stay tuned for further adventures of Ghost Dog and the Buddha.

Galveston Day 4

The Further Adventures of Ghost Dog and Buddha

A New Day Dawns
All is Emptiness Under the Moon
Breakfast at the Gumbo Diner
The Shrimp and Grits were delicious!
Eat the Rich
Downtown Galveston
Interesting Architectural Features
All my Truffles seemed so far away…
Galveston Square
I promise to learn from my mistakes
Come blow your horn…
Macao Spice Co.