Exceptional anniversary day…Preparing for tomorrow’s big day…More Managua photos…

Coconut residue under a tree.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Last night’s view of Atenas from the veranda.

After a wonderful anniversary day with pool time cut short due to rain, we had a delicious dinner and evening lounging in the electricity-restored screening room. The power in the room had gone out before we left for Nicaragua, which was repaired by Julio while we were away.

Street view as we drove through Managua.  There are security guards at every intersection.  If you’re traveling to Managua, Nicaragua, we had a fabulous taxi driver. He has a college degree in “travel” and conducts tours. Jeffrey Ocampo at phone: 7782-3211, email: ocampojeffrey136@gmail.com.
We watched a downloaded episode of Shark Tank, Australia Survivor, on Australia’s TenPlay channel and on Netflix, two episodes of season five MadMen, which series we plan to finish before departing Costa Rica. 
Second-hand clothing shop with cola sign.
Before leaving Costa Rica three weeks from today, we’ll cancel Netflix until we’re settled in South Africa in a little over three months. We use various mediums for entertainment at night when we hunker down after dinner.
Shoes store on the highway during a half-price sale.
I often fall asleep during the last show, but Tom keeps waking me up so I won’t miss anything and also so I’ll sleep better without taking a “nap” at 9:30 pm. Since I awaken at 4:00 to 4:30 most mornings, by 9:00 pm or so, I’m nodding off.
Statues and artifacts at the entrance to a building.
Today, I’m committed to staying up later and sleeping later in the morning. It won’t work for me to be nodding off at the dinner table, dancing at the “silent disco,” or watching productions in the theatre. 
Veterinarian’s office.
Tomorrow is a big day for us. Yesterday, we printed all the necessary documents required for the January 23, 2018 cruise to Antarctica, which includes a litany of medical forms completed by a physician and sent by email to Ponant in the next two weeks.
Tom by the pool at the hotel.
Weeks ago, we booked appointments at 2:00 pm with Dr. Candy, a popular bilingual doctor located close to the center of Atenas. Many ex-pats have recommended her and our property managers, Aad and Marian, and owners, Bev and Sam.
Tom opted for pasta last night at the hotel, knowing he’d be back to healthy eating when we returned to Atenas.
I’m always apprehensive about doctor visits, but this is a must-do.  The forms are long and complicated to ensure we are fit for this expedition cruise, which has no means of evacuating sick passengers from the remote Antarctic.
My side order of sauteed vegetables at The Market Restaurant at the hotel.
Although there will be two doctors and a nurse or two on board, the small ship of only 200 passengers doesn’t have the more comprehensive medical facility found on huge cruise ships. 
As a result, Ponant doesn’t want high-risk patients on the expedition cruise. Also, getting on and off the Zodiac boats may be difficult and subject to injury by passengers with limited mobility.
I ordered grilled salmon on a bed of thinly sliced zucchini with gluten and starch-free sauce. 
We don’t expect any issues to prevent us from getting these documents completed as needed after an exam.  On Friday, we’ll post information as to the exam and the results. 

Next, we’ll forward the completed forms by email to Ponant along with the “passenger information” forms with copies of our passports, credit card information (for incidentals on the cruise), etc.

I’m rushing a bit today, so we can get outside in the sunshine before the afternoon clouds roll in and the rain begins to fall. Swimming and lounging in the pool is a favorite daily activity that we’ll miss tomorrow afternoon when we head to the doctor’s office.
Be well, dear readers!  We’ll be back tomorrow!

Photo from one year ago today, November 1, 2016:

One year ago, almost every evening during the 33-night cruise, we played pool at this self-leveling (for rough seas) pool table in The Colony Club.  For more photos, please click here.

Dining in Nicaragua…Returning to Costa Rica this morning…Final expenses for the weekend in Managua…

Tom slathered this entire warm Italian loaf with garlic butter, savoring every last bite. 

When we decided to fly to Managua instead of the long drive through the rain-soaked countryside, we planned to stay only two nights. Having our passports stamped in another country, allowing us to re-enter Costa Rica for our additional 23 nights, with the low cost of airfare and unused credit toward “free hotel nights,” made sense to fly in and out.

The round trip airfare with Avianca for both of us was US $308.12, and we paid only a little over US $199  (CRC 113,285) for both nights using our accumulated credits with Hotels.com on our site. The usual rate for this hotel is US $200 (CRC 113,854) a night. Thus, we saved about US $200 (CRC 113,854).

We were served two of these meat-filled pockets as a complimentary item for our dinner. In a puff pastry, Tom ate both of them.

It was still a somewhat pricey weekend but a lot less than we’d have spent staying in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the remaining 23 nights or paying for an actual visa extension which is costly and time-consuming.

Here are the total expenses for the two nights including all costs:

 Expense   US Dollar   Costa Rica Colones 
 Hotel – 2 nights    $                     199.84
 Flight – Round trip   $                     308.12
 Taxi  $                        50.00
 Dining in Restaurants   $                     105.00
 Miscellaneous   $                        22.00
 Tips   $                        25.00
 Total   $                     709.96
 Avg Daily Cost    $                     354.88

As much as we’d prefer cost not to be a factor in our travels, it’s a reality we must diligently monitor. For us, this is easy to do. Without transportation over the weekend and the high costs of tours, we were left to our own devices for photo ops and entertainment.

The meat filling inside the beef pocket.

As mentioned in many prior posts, the recent outlay of cash for several upcoming events sent us into a state of diligent and frugal spending. We’re watching every last penny. 

Once we arrive and get settled in South Africa, we’ll be able to begin to replenish the coffers. While there, we’ll be able to save for the big adventures we’re planning while living on the African continent. 

Tom’s rib eye steak was done to perfection, tender and delicious.

No tours in Costa Rica or Nicaragua could quite match our objectives at this time. No offense to either country both of which are rife with gorgeous scenery and wildlife. Its no wonder we’re wrapped up in the birds visiting the villa. There’s no extra cost to take photos of the fascinating creatures.

In 55 days,  we’ll be spending a month in Buenos Aires Argentina living in a hotel and dining out for dinner each night (breakfast is included at the hotel we’ve already booked). There again, budgetary concerns prevail. 

I should have taken the photo after I cut into this ultra-rare tenderloin. It was the most rare steak I’d ever eaten.

Fortunately, we’ll be in a good neighborhood in Buenos Aires with access to public transportation which should allow us to get out on our own without paying for pricey tours. We’ve spotted many venues appealing to our tastes.

Speaking of tastes…Saturday night’s dinner at the hotel’s highly rated restaurant Factory Steak and Lobster was good but not great. The language barrier made ordering my special items cumbersome. Luckily, I’ve learned enough Spanish to be able to get the basics handled.

My grilled vegetables included aubergine (eggplant) zucchini and tomato.

My best option was to order the tenderloin with a salad (sour cream on the side) and a small side dish of grilled vegetables.  I always order steak rare but in this case, it was too rare. Gordon Ramsey would have yelled, “My God, it’s still moving!” Trying to explain how much more to cook it, was seeming to be impossible.

As a result, I probably ate 60% of it.  It was tender and tasty but not quite right. There was no point in taking a “doggy bag.” Not only was there no doggy but with the complimentary buffet breakfast the following day, it made no sense. I don’t snack during the day. Still full in the morning, I had a smallish breakfast of veggies, cheese and smoked salmon.

Saturday night, Tom ordered a rib-eye which was cooked properly and was tender and juicy with a good flavor. He ate an entire loaf of bread as shown in the photo. He hadn’t had a bite of bread in many months. I kept my mouth shut as he enjoyed the bread along with his mashed potatoes and gravy.

On Saturday night, after dinner we wandered through the pool area.

We’d hoped to get out to another restaurant last night after walking around the neighborhood and checking menus there we no options for me.  With rave reviews on the food at The Market Restaurant in the hotel and the need to get up at 5:00 am today, we decided to stay in for what proved to be a pleasant meal suitable for my way of eating. 

After dinner we lounged in our room watching a TV show we haven’t had available since 2015 when we lived on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji…Nat Geo Wild. Astounding! Watching those series leaves us reeling with excitement over “where we’ve been and what we’ve seen” and, “what is yet to come.”

Dessert options after dinner.  We didn’t partake.  But “food voyeur” that I am, it was fun just looking at them.

Today, as you read this post, most likely we’ll already be back in Costa Rica. Our plane lands at 10:00 am and with the taxi ride, we should be back at the villa between 11:00 and 11:30 providing there are no flight delays as we experienced when we arrived in Nicaragua.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with more photos from our short weekend away, excited to share our enthusiasm on the actual date of our five-year anniversary of traveling the world. We’ll be posting past celebratory events as we observed each passing year. Please stop by and celebrate with us!

 Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2016:
Seeing that the ship had arrived at the port in Sydney was always exciting for us. One year ago today it was October 30th in the USA and our 4th travel anniversary. However it was October 31st in Australia due to the International Dateline. This was our 15th and 16th cruises, back-to-back, considered to be two separate cruises. For more photos please click here.

Managua Nicaragua…New to us and yet familiar in many ways….

Fruit for sale atop this woman’s head.

The Avianca (LACSA) flight, with a late take-off, on a 68 passenger prop plane from San Jose Costa Rica to Managua, Nicaragua, was relatively pleasant and uneventful. During the short flight. They even served sandwiches Tom ate mine as well as his own. 

There was one short flight of steps to enter the 68 passenger propr plane.

Having left the villa at 8:00 am for a one-hour flight, we didn’t arrive at the hotel in Managua until almost 3:00 pm. The long taxi rides on either end, the waiting time at the airport, the bus ride from the terminal to the plane all added to the delays and the wait to board the aircraft up the narrow, steep steps, contributing to the added time.

The plane appeared to be reasonably new, with a different propeller style than we’d previously seen.

Once arriving at the hotel, Real Inter-Continental Managua at Metrocentre Mall, with a slow check-in process, we entered our room at 3:45. I unpacked our duffel bag while Tom dozed for a few minutes. At 4:30, we wandered about the hotel checking out the various restaurants, two of which are highly rated on TripAdvisor.

Upon entering the Managua Airport, we noticed a nurse taking entering passenger’s temperature with this device.  Many were asked to stop for the test, but we weren’t.

It was already getting dark and too late to embark on a sightseeing trip. We showered and dressed for dinner. By 7:00 pm, we wandered down to the main restaurant for dinner, The Factory Steak and Lobster.

Roasted chickens for sale.

Tom had decided not to order a cocktail, and of course, I’m alcohol-free, most likely permanently due to this outrageous gastrointestinal thing. It was after the 33-night cruise when I’d consumed two glasses of wine at “free happy hour” that the symptoms exacerbated, making me terrified of drinking any alcohol anytime shortly. 

I miss the red wine and always will. Giving that up is more complicated than giving up bread or pastries. I liked that slight warming buzz from the wine, but I was never one to get up and dance on the tables, although at times, I may have contemplated it when a great disco song was playing in the background. Oh, well. 

More roasted chickens for sale along the road.

Life is filled with sacrifices and challenges. Unfortunately, mine seem to center around food and drink, both of which I’ve always found rather pleasurable. Over these past years of avoiding food and drink, it seems my other senses have become more highly tuned and appreciative of my surroundings.

La Perfecta milk processing plant.

This was particularly evident on the long taxi drive from the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua to the hotel. My eyes darted back and forth across the busy streets filled with traffic noise, people, vendors, shops, and barnyard animals. 

Many vendors approach vehicles offering their wares for sale. This guy was selling portable seats.

It reminded me of the day we arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, on September 3, 2013 (here’s the link to that day and our photos), when we both were in awe of the sights, smells, and sounds as we drove through the village. I felt the rush of endorphins pumping through my body with sheer excitement over the cultural scenes that lie before our eyes. 

Buses are packed with locals and ex-pats.

Yesterday, we felt similar sensations when we found the streets of Managua aren’t entirely different from those we witnessed in Kenya so long ago. (Oh, the joy of being able to quickly search our archives to find a past post reminding us of profound past experiences. Wow!) this has added so much fun to our lives, especially knowing we’ve been able to share it with all of you.

A huge bull on his way to…

Now, as we sit in the hotel lobby preparing today’s post, the decent complimentary breakfast behind us, we’re sharing some of the photos we took on our short journey. In 24 hours, we’ll be back in Costa Rica when our flight arrives around 10:00 am, the only flight available that worked for us.

We aren’t left with much time for touring but plan to take off soon to check out the area and take more photos which we’ll continue to share over the next several days.

Trash on the sidewalk.

These two days will have gone by in the blink of an eye. But, as always, we’re reveling in each other’s companionship and our new surroundings. Funnily, I’m looking forward to returning to the villa. Upon entering, most likely, we’ll look at each other and say, “Gee, honey, it’s good to be “home.”

We hope you have a good day at home, wherever that may be.

Photo from one year ago today, October 29, 2016:

One year ago, we were sentimental about leaving Bali. We’re grateful for the beautiful experience.  For the story of our final day in Bali, please click here.

Off we go…Managua Nicaragua, here we come!

The hotel’s exterior photo is the Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, where we’ll stay for two nights, arriving today and departing on Monday.

We’ve arrived at Costa Rica’s San Jose Santamaria International Airport (SJO). We have our boarding passes in hand with a relatively easy transition through immigration and security. With no bags to check, the check-in process is simple. 

In most countries, checking in online 24 hours in advance and printing a boarding pass is pointless. We gave up doing so long ago. Since we usually have bags to check, we receive boarding passes simultaneously as we studied the bags after only presenting our passports. No one ever asks us for printed proof of our tickets.

We’ve located our gate at the end of the long terminal. At the moment, we’re seated in a cafe a short distance from the entrance.  Tom didn’t order anything, and I’m sipping on a Chamomile tea.

The airport in Costa Rica is quite lovely, with good signage in both Spanish and English. The transition was smooth. By the way, the taxi fare from the villa was US $32 (CRC 18,217) with a tip. The taxi driver avoided the toll road, and we arrived 35 minutes later.

In our old lives, the only time we knew much about Managua, Nicaragua was the frequent mention of the city repeatedly in the news in 1986 regarding the Iran Contra affair. We won’t get into that here, but here’s a tidbit of information about the capital city:

“Managua, on the south shore of Lake Managua, is the capital city of Nicaragua. Its cathedral, a shell since a 1972 earthquake, is on the Plaza of the Revolution. Nearby is the tomb of Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca. The 1935 National Palace of Culture houses the National Museum. Hilltop Parque Histórico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa is known for its crater lake and a huge statue of revolutionary Augusto Sandino.

Area210 mi²
Weather79°F (26°C), Wind SE at 5 mph (8 km/h), 84% Humidity
Local timeFriday 9:36 AM
Population2.206 million (2015)

We’re looking forward to the hotel we selected Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, one of the best in the city, which may be found at this link at Hotels.com on our site. Then, of course, we’ll take photos of the hotel, restaurants, meals, and the places we visit while in Nicaragua. 

Most likely tonight, we’ll celebrate our anniversary at the hotel’s highly rated five-star restaurant, Factory Steak, and Lobster.  Although a bit pricey, it’s for a special occasion well deserving a memorable evening. 

Besides, dining in the hotel’s famous restaurant might ensure an avoidance of foods I can’t typically eat found in Central American restaurants, delicious, I’m sure, but made with grains, sugar, and starchy ingredients. 

I won’t have any trouble ordering a juicy steak (rare, please) and a lobster tail with gobs of butter, a vegetable, and a salad. We’re both looking forward to the meal. I tried making a dinner reservation from Costa Rica to no avail, but we’ll take care of it right away once we arrive.

You can be assured we’ll be returning with many new photos and descriptions of our mini-vacation in Managua, Nicaragua (with the intent of getting our passports stamped, allowing us to stay in Costa Rica for the remaining three-plus weeks and to celebrate our 5th world travel anniversary).

Have a lovely weekend. We’ll be back soon!

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2016:

At the Hilton Garden Inn Ngurah Airport, the hotel chef in Denpasar Bali made a special spicy sauce to go with my chicken skewers. It was delicious! For more photos, please click here.

Preparing for the weekend…More complicated than usual…

A house was built on the mountainous road.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Hoffman’s Woodpeckers often stop by for nectar from the African Tulip Tree and to sing.  Other birds are flying in the background.

Over the past few days, I’ve spent more time contemplating what to bring for the two nights in Nicaragua than I spend while packing to leave a location. In those cases, of which there are many, it’s relatively easy to pack.  We simply include everything we own, and voila!…we’re packed.

In this case, I’ve had to pick and choose clothes for the daytime and evenings. In this case, I know I’m packing way more than I’ll need attempting to make it fit into my half of the black duffel bag. With only the duffel bag and the computer backpack, we won’t require checked baggage. The flight is about one hour, and hopefully, check-in will be easy. 

Typical road in Costa Rica without a shoulder.

At this point, we’re glad we didn’t plan to get our passports stamped by driving back and forth to Panama or Nicaragua.  Many roads are blocked due to landslides as it continues to rain in buckets almost every day. That type of road trip would not have been easy or enjoyable.

Although it’s more costly to travel outside the country with the cost of the round-trip flight, hotel, and meals, the ease and convenience are often highly instrumental in our decision making. That’s not to say going to the airport is convenient, but in this case, with the bad weather, it may have been the best course of action.

More topiary in Zarcera.

As of this morning, I’m totally packed and ready to go. With Isabel here cleaning today, I wanted to get it done and out of the way. Tom has yet to pack and will do so after she cleans the bedroom.

Last night, during a major storm we had a power surge while watching a show in the screening room. A sudden pop and flash startled us as the lights, and the TV went off in that room only. 

Cloudy day view from the hills.

Luckily, we were using surge protectors for our laptops, and they’re fine. We moved to the living room to finish the show we’d been watching on Netflix and notified Aad and Marian this morning as to the electrical issue. Julio should be here within a few hours to make the repairs.  

The attention to detail and quality service we’ve received while living in La Perla de Atenas has been exceptional. We need only mention an issue, big or small, and in no time at all, it’s resolved.

One could easily assume that the laid-back lifestyle in Costa Rica might result in days of waiting for power outages to resolve or repairs to be made. But that hasn’t been our experience in Costa Rica. In the three outages occurring since our arrival, the longest wait was 10 hours, with the others resolved within six hours.

Rapids flowing after all the rain.

As we wind down the time in Costa Rica, we realize how quickly it will go once we return from Nicaragua. We’ll celebrate our fifth year of traveling the world anniversary on October 31st and then, 22 days later we’ll on our way to Florida for the lengthy cruise.  

Today, it’s cloudy and cool after last night’s monstrous storm.  We have great leftovers for dinner which we’d planned in order to avoid a busy cooking day while Isabel is here cleaning for almost eight hours. These past three months, we’ve made a point of having leftovers on the days she’s here allowing us to stay out of her way.

Have an excellent day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 27, 2016:

We’d left the villa in Sumbersari six days earlier than planned due to the poor Wi-Fi signal preventing us from posting. We then spent six nights at the Hilton Garden Inn Ngurah Airport and yet, never used this pool.  For more photos, please click here.