Thursday, April 14, 2011

Green Mountain

Wow!  I was a little overwhelmed at how many folks *DO* still seem to read my blog and even, gosh... missed me while I was gone!  I knew this to be partially true from comments I've received from some friends over the past few months.  But those are my personal FRIENDS!  It's wonderful to see so many of you out there commenting to me in various places.  Hopefully it'll keep me going!
Monteverde was just beautiful
A little cheesy but a little cool too: the Tree House Restaurant
Our Costa Rica trip continued with 3 nights in Monteverde.  Monteverde is about 100 miles from Tamarindo but takes upwards of 2.5 hours due to the BUMPY and ROCKY roads as you get into the mountains.  I tend to get car (& sea / air / hand-filmed-home-video)-sick and was a bit concerned about the winding roads to get there, but when the roads are THAT rocky, one can't get to traveling any faster than maybe 25 mph on them.  No speed = no carsick.  Perfect!!
Our home for 3 nights: Arco Iris Lodge. VERY happy with this place.
In hindsight we would have rented a car while in Costa Rica - but the price (and an amazing amount of concern from friends) caused me to go the shuttle/private driver route instead.  I actually think we still spent less on transportation than a rental would have been, however a rental would have provided us flexibility and of course a lot more freedom.
More casado... *yawn*
We loved the fresh fruit drinks all over CR - tho I was a bit skeptical of the BLUE cherry?
Monteverde might have just been my favorite stop on our trip!  But I think that may have had something to do with the weather.  At 4600 feet in elevation, it was MUCH cooler here.  And I am absolutely a cool-climate girl.  It was beautiful and sunny during the day, with temperatures maybe into the 80's but at night it dropped as low as the high 50's.  It was like San Francisco Bay Area weather!  The one thing I didn't love was the wind.  At night it was so loud I thought it might actually tear the roof of our hotel off!  But I guess, it also made bundling up under the thick blankets seem more cozy and appropriate.
One of the lodge's doggies - they have a very rough life
Breakfast buffet at the Arco Iris Lodge - $7/person (yes that is passionfruit spread!!)
We stayed at the Arco Iris Lodge in Monteverde.  Again, I found this place on TripAdvisor and for the millionth time since I began seriously traveling 10+ years ago, thanked my lucky stars for TripAdvisor.  The lodge was no-nonsense, basic accommodations but clean and safe and affordable.  And while it was right smack dab in the middle of town, it was up a long [steep] driveway which put us just far enough off the beaten path that we were not at all bothered by foot (or car) traffic.  It was very quiet and relaxing.  (OK, how *old* am I getting that I'm continually recommending places because they're "quiet"??!!)
We did a night walk tour one night, which I don't mention in this post - it was OK... mostly insects
The beautiful gardens at Selvatura Park
We did what I'd say were our most interesting tours in Monteverde.  What's the one thing everyone comes back from Costa Rica talking about?  Well, okay maybe the mediocre food too, but: ziplining!! (aka: "canopy tour").  We spent the better part of a day touring Selvatura Park.  Selvatura seemed to have the most prominent reputation for ziplining and hanging bridges tours in the area, versus others like Sky Trek (where The Bachelor went) and Extremo.  While Mr. Travel Companion felt they were a little anti-climactic, I had a great time zip-lining from tree to tree, HUNDREDS of feet in the air.  I only wish I could have paused to take photos from up there!  Our 13th, and final zip-line was done in pairs and because of that, was the fastest line (more weight = more inertia).  75% of that line was THROUGH a cloud.  We couldn't see more than inches in front of our faces for the whiteness surrounding us.  We got off at the end and my face was soaked from the condensation - but we were pretty thrilled!
I was already very high up where I took this picture!
My turn!
The hanging bridges walks were tame - you walk through the cloud forest at your own leisure, occasionally coming to a suspended bridge which crosses varying expanses at varying elevations.  And yes, you are sometimes hundreds of feet in the air.  So for folks who want to see the cloud forest from up above, but don't want the "thrill" of ziplining, the hanging bridges are a perfect solution.

Way high up above the tree-tops on a "hanging bridge"
HUGE hydrangeas on our coffee & sugar cane tour, the next day
The other tour we did that I really enjoyed (and was surprised how much I enjoyed it) was the El Trapiche Coffee and Sugar Cane tour.  We were taken through a local farm and shown how coffee is grown, harvested, beans prepared and roasted.  Simultaneously we saw sugar cane growing and went through the process of pressing it, cooking the juice and making candy!  We got to make our own candy!! (Sort of like that maple sugar candy you can get in New England...if you know what I'm talking about.)  At the end of the tour, with a giant bag of candy in our grip, we were invited to sit and sample the coffee along with a lemonade sugar cane drink and some snacks of picadillo arracacha.  It was really a lovely experience.
Coffee beans in left hand, coffee bean skins in the right
Snacks and coffee after our tour!
Stir rapidly to incorporate air (+ chocolate, coconut and peanuts) into the cooked sugar cane juice = candy!!
I really did enjoy Monteverde.  It was a larger town than I was expecting, full of everything we needed: restaurants, souvenir shops, grocery stores, bakeries, umm - sushi place (we didn't go) and the sort of famous Monteverde ice cream shop.  There is a Cheese Factory tour (basically a dairy tour) that I'd read about, but we were advised to skip it and just go to the ice cream shop in town.  We complied.  We weren't disappointed.  Twice.  Almost thrice.  Mmmm, cereza...

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