Saturday, February 15, 2014

One year ago, today ...

We were most decidedly NOT covered in a foot and a half of snow, wondering when it was going to stop.  We were near the end of a mild winter, and, even better, on a plane headed for San Jose, Costa Rica.

We went to Costa Rica with a tour company called Caravan, which offers a 10-day, 9-night tour of the country with time spent in four different parts of the country.

We started with two nights in San Jose, in a nice suburb known as Escazu.  Our hotel was across the street from a mall.  Very "American" feel to the development.  One thing that was quite different for me, though - urban parakeets.  Or, well, parakeets at all!  As night fell, the area around our hotel attracted thousands of crimson-fronted parakeets.  They roost in the palm trees, but first spend an hour or two clowning around and being very very noisy.  

A raised walkway between the hotel and the mall created  a really nice opportunity to be "in the trees" with the parakeets.  The crimson front seems flashy until you see the birds perfectly camouflaged  in these trees with red fruits.

Another thing about San Jose - it's in a high mountain valley ringed with more-or-less active volcanoes.  The second day included a trip to the top of nearby Poas volcano.  Our guide told us we'd have about a 30% chance of seeing the crater because the top is usually shrouded in clouds.   

We got lucky - all clear at the top.  I guess I've been around active volcanoes here in the US (Yellowstone, technically, and Mt. St. Helens, which WAS cloudy when we visited, and Mt. Ranier), but there was just something about looking right down the mouth of this one.  

Because of the elevations, and the way the winds were blowing, the temp and humidity were what we would call perfect fall weather.  At Poas, and in San Jose.  On the way down, we stopped at an overlook that showed the central valley beautifully.

One last stop on our way back to hotel, to learn about coffee, one of Costa Rica's most valuable crops, and one that loves to grow on volcanic soil.  We spent a few hours at Britt Coffee Roasters.  It isn't an actual plantation, but instead where Britt roasts beans grown from all over the nation.  They have a wacky but educational presentation on all things coffee.

Here are coffee beans before and after the roasting process.  Britt's gift shop is fantastic.  I came out of there with such a caffeine rush, since you could try all of their coffee blends along with chocolate-covered espresso beans.  

With these adventures, our group left the San Jose area, and headed for the tropical lowlands of the northeastern part of the country - which I will very likely write about tomorrow!  

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