After two weeks on our own, it was awfully nice to see some familiar, friendly faces. Boo and Ann arrived late on Tuesday, so we spent a night in San Jose before heading back toward the beach. As we cruised along the highways, we filled them in on our adventures, pointing out landmarks, reading various Spanish road signs, explaining that a roadside “soda” is not a convenience store like we first thought, but a great local place where you can get a typical Costa Rican casado for lunch. Every town, even a tiny town, has at least one or two open-air sodas with small tables, stools and a bar.
We told them about our only experience at a soda thus far; we had stopped at one on our trip to Limon. There were no drive-thru or fast food restaurants, and finally hunger overpowered our fear of the unknown, so we pulled into a local soda in some small town.
After parking, we saw the name and we laughed: Soda Pity.
The meal began awkwardly. Unlike in a touristy restaurant, I knew I’d need my Spanish. We sat down and the waitress approached. She looked at us. We looked at her.
No one said anything.
We could see no menu, and clearly we were just supposed to know what we wanted. Finally, Lee broke the silence with a simple, “Menu?”
She shook her head no, and then gave us our choices. “Beef, chicken, pork, fish.”
“Chicken. Two please,” we said.
And in a short while, our food appeared. The casado was a mixed plate of rice, beans, slaw, two different kinds of potato hash, and a fried piece of meat. It was actually quite delicious. We ate well and left the soda feeling satisfied that we’d successfully navigated another new experience.
As we told all of this to Boo and Ann, I realized that we’d learned a great deal in 2 weeks. It was a pleasure to introduce someone else to the country and not feel so clueless and fumbling.
We spent our first three days with Boo and Ann enjoying the beaches. We explored tidal pools and walked the shore, collecting an enormous supply of shells for making necklaces. We swam in the pool. We played in the waves. We marveled at the sunsets.
We took them to Tree Tops beach at San Juanillo where Camille and I discovered a perfect tidal pool for snorkeling. Little striped fish and blue fish and perfectly camouflaged sand-colored fish darted in and around the coral. Talking over our snorkels, we excitedly pointed and yelled, “Ish! Ish!” each time we spotted a fish.
Mike, one of our property managers, had mentioned that you can buy fish directly from the fisherman in San Juanillo, and we were in the mood for fish. In a stroke of luck (this whole trip so far has been one stroke of luck after another), Mike was on the beach that day so we asked him. He handed his cell phone to a local who called another local, and soon we were given directions to the home of a guy named Marvin.
We found Marvin’s house and yelled, “Hola!” through his open front door. A woman, cooking lunch in the kitchen at the back of the house yelled for us to come on through. We walked through her small but clean and breezy home to a back patio area where the men were all lounging. Someone opened a deep freezer chest full of fish and lobster, and we picked out a filet of corvina. Money changed hands, I was again very grateful for all my Spanish classes, and we left feeling quite proud of ourselves.
The fish was for dinner, but lunch was the priority for our growling bellies. Mike had also given us directions to a restaurant in nearby Marbella. The Tiki Hut is right on the beach, and we enjoyed good food with a view that’s hard to beat.
Saturday, we took Boo and Ann to Nosara for a tour of the Nosara Biological Reserve. Down, down, down a steep flight of stairs we went from the top of a mountain into the jungle below. We provided an unintentional buffet for the mosquitos as we walked the muddy path toward a river.
The river crossing was an interesting hop along the tops of tree stumps, sandwiched between the craziest jungle gym of mangrove tree roots I’ve ever seen. Boo and Ann consulted their trail guides at every turn, identifying trees and plants and learning about their uses.
I was looking for snakes.
We saw no snakes, but did spot a monkey, some lizards and some butterflies. We were almost off the trail when Lee spotted a coati raiding a compost pile. Camille was thrilled to see the coati, and wanted to take him home.
Exhausted from the climb back up those stairs, we were thankful for the air-conditioned car and bounced our way into Playa Guiones in search of the “Saturday Market.” We found the market, and Boo and Ann did what grandparents do best – buy one of everything for the grandkids. We ate at Marlin Bill’s again, and we got well-deserved ice cream at the local heladeria. And then we slept. Really well.