Australia 2018

Our first trip to Australia was based on a wedding invitation with extra time to see what we could of a country the size of the United States.  We flew to Sydney for starters and spent a few days wandering through gardens, museums, beaches, markets, shops…

Sydney Botanical garden

The ferry to Manly beach gave us a great view of the iconic opera house.

There were fish too — a market to rival Pike Place! This is one of many vendors.

My favorite shopping mall in the whole wide world — the Queen Victoria Building

The Museum of New South Wales had some incredible modern aboriginal art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good food

and a flat white

 

 

 

 

 

A message on a garbage truck that we saw along the way:

 

Next we flew to Adelaide, walked through their botanical garden, and had lunch with a display of whale bones in a museum with a tribute to Douglas Mawson, polar explorer and mineralogist.

 

Next morning we were up early to meet the bus to the ferry to Kangaroo Island. The reservations seemed complicated for reasons we didn’t understand until we arrived. We couldn’t take a rental car on the ferry although we could rent a car on the island. Then we found out we were not insured to drive between dusk and dawn! Ahh, it’s all about kangaroos on the roads. Accordingly, very few restaurants were open for dinner.  The locals mostly drove 4x4s with ‘roo bars.

But we did see wallabies and kangaroos!

and a koala

A funny bird the pelican, it’s beak holds more than its belly can

and cockatoos, which can strip the siding off a house

Admirals Arch

and Remarkable Rocks

Then back to Adelaide and the flight to Perth. Our arrival at the Alex Hotel was greeted by shouts from the wedding party and other California friends. We only had time to say hello and goodbye before they hit the road while we made our leisurely way south. Yallingup had a charming old fashioned hotel with parrots and a beautiful beach. Our route included a sawmill, or two, of course. Dwellingup sawmill was a listed monument exclusively because of its age. We found another more modern one in Denmark with bags of banksia pods that were being shipped to Milan as material for high heels on shoes.

Arriving in Denmark WA, the site of the wedding, we found a charming upscale village, beautiful surfing beach, lots of restaurants, breweries, vineyards, lawn bowling for the wedding guests… It was our favorite part of Australia.

The bride and groom were duly married and a good time was had by all.

Costa Rica – February 2017

Off to Costa Rica.

Copa Airlines flew us from San Francisco through Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica. Our taxi driver lamented the traffic delays due to a bridge project. The route took us past rudimentary “homes” that were only sheets of tin for roofs, and through a better neighborhood with grates at the windows, high fences, and coils of razor wire. According to the taxi driver there is not much crime, but some people like to decorate their homes like that.

We had a walking tour of the city with churches and statues and the market.

Perhaps these street vendors were nervous immigrants suggested to be from Nicaragua.  The woman in the pink shoes reacted rudely and vociferously when I took a photo.  We never found out what they were selling.

The original airport was close to the city and has been re-purposed into an art museum. The diplomats lounge had remarkable bas-relief carvings of the history of Costa Rica.

There were some well carved cedar wood sculptures as well of Costa Rican women.  So many babies being pushed in strollers by very large women.  Seemingly in these sculptings from 2015, the ideal female form is built for fertility and childbirth.

Our 20 year old tour guide said there was no abortion because  Catholicism is written into their constitution. She thought there might be places to find birth control. Overall, we were discouraged by San Jose as it’s suggested to be a “better” part of Latin America.   Sigh… our hotel was really excellent however and we highly recommend the Grano de Oro.

Leaving the city, we drove five hours to the Nicoya peninsula. The last stretch of the route was miles of unpaved dusty road where we couldn’t keep our cloud of dust from drifting over the clotheslines that we passed. Montezuma was the end of the road. We parked our car at the El Sano Banano where a driver authorized to drive on the beach transported us and our luggage to the Ylang Ylang resort. It was a tropical paradise. No cars, only the noises of the waves and the jungle, the perfume of frangipani and ylang ylang flowers…

and good food.

Tony was fascinated by the effect of the Bliss laser lights, and subsequently bought several!

Our next destination was Finca Luna Nueva, another eco-resort near Mount Arenal. We had a day pass at Tabacon resort and we were lucky enough to have clear views of the volcano. Wow!

Just like in the old movies with a swim-up bar.  🙂

Tropical vegetation and numerous waterfalls and pools warmed by the volcano.

Back on the road, we spent some time at the iguana bridge, buying hats, hanging out with the iguanas and feeding them bananas, very cool.

I’ll skip the photos of the bumpy road to our next stop, Maquenque at Boca Tapada. Trust me, there were lots of melon-sized boulders in lieu of pavement. At the end of the route, we parked our car and met a little motor boat to take us across the river to our resort. Again, no cars. Now we were on the bird route and the dining room was open air with feeders of papayas and bananas attracting birds.

We loved our accommodations, rustic from the outside, civilized inside with a king size bed, indoor and outdoor showers, mini-bar and all, up 65′ at the height of the birds and the howls of the howler monkeys. A surprising number of guests in ground level cabins expressed their fear of heights.

We spotted the eyes of lots of caymans in the ponds on our walk into our jungle  home after dinner in the lodge.

A river tour took us up to the Nicaragua border. What a remote area. The residents know their medicinal plants and first aid as they are hours from a hospital. Supplies arrive by boat.

Border control and the police station seemed fairly relaxed. Everyone in the countryside was friendly and helpful and proud to show us their country.

Time to leave again along the bumpy road, past the “sustainable” pineapple plantations (that have removed the habitat for the native macaw parrots) then cross country to the Sarapiqui region. Our last resort was surprisingly close to a major highway, but we were not disappointed when our afternoon walk brought us into close proximity to the elusive howler monkeys — whole families traveling through the trees. Our host advised us not to stand under a monkey as they drop “things”.

Our resort, Hacienda La Isla, was also a cacao plantation and the Belgian owner Jean Pierre gave us a tour of the growing and history and preparation of traditional hot cocoa.

We stopped at a modern chocolate factory on our way back to San Jose,

where we enjoyed one last night at the Grano de Oro hotel eating our favorite foods of the trip.

There’s Glenys. She was there too, but usually on the other side of the camera.

Coffee

Coffee! It starts our mornings — at home, not at a downtown coffee stop.

Glenys’ motto:

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For years we have been fine tuning our coffee experience. After a learning curve we chose a Della Corte brewer with a Mazzer grinder. Boring I know….  Growing older however, has taught us the wisdom of effective tools and being part of civilization we indulge in espresso.

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Hunting and gathering well roasted and flavorful beans is an ongoing challenge. Once we shipped 2kg of special Ethiopian beans from Max Coffee in New Zealand.  Our local coffee roaster refused to sell such beans as they aren’t Organic.  Reading the US AID report ‘Buying and Importing Guide for Ethiopian Coffee”  we’re told that only “factory” growers can afford the expense of certification.  In our local market branding seems more important than taste to many businesses; “Gluten Free and Support the Troops” is our sarcastic motto.

In both taste and presentation, New Zealand spoiled us. Beyond pleasant taste and pleasant facilities, every barista created artful foam/crema art on top.  Unexpectedly, on the ferry boat to the South Island where the coffee came in a covered paper cup, we jokingly asked “where’s the art”?  He smiled and pointed to lift the lid.  Sure enough.  So now we think that foam art adds to the fun, and since we make our own caffe latte, it’s up to us.

Question:  Making Foam Art; How hard could it be?

Answer:  Harder than it looks.

We watched videos on YouTube. We each make about 3 cups a day so plenty of practice.  Now after ~4 months, occasionally one of us turns out a recognizable design; twice in a row is still a challenge.

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Nevertheless, it all tastes good.  And it’s gluten free.

Morning coffee, Glenys, Sigmund and me, May 7, 2014

A walk in the garden with Sigmund the parrot on Tony’s shoulder.   (He likes the foam too.)

Have a good start to your day.