Pura Vida, Costa Rica part 1

This blog will only describe our experience of getting to and from Costa Rica.  We had so many excellent moments and experiences and these have been honoured with their own blogs;  Born Survivor and Living La Vida Loca – both are still work in progress.

My dear wife persuaded me to go to Costa Rica on holidays, as she had to do some field research for her Master’s degree.  This sounded completely plausible and I signed the dotted line.  Well, you couldn’t really say no to my wife’s big brown eyes and, as stated previously, my wife needs to get her body baked by the sun at least 2 weeks a year.  So, the family holiday planner (my wife) booked and planned the holiday of a life time to Costa Rica.  Due to the distance and destination, and no direct flights, we had to fly to Atlanta first, then Liberia.
– for the record, it is not Liberia on the west coast of Africa, but Liberia in Costa Rica.

Dublin Airport is one of the few airports in the World that have US Immigration officers, so once you are cleared by these big guys, then you are cleared to enter the US.  So, this was really handy for us and it’s highly recommended.

We were flying with Delta Airlines, which I must admit were fantastic.  Nice big comfortable seats, for the slightly oversized arses, and portable media players with plenty of movies for both kids and adults.  Excellent service and food too.

Delta Airlines has Atlanta (Georgia) as their main hub, so we decided to stay in Atlanta overnight, instead of pushing our luck with the kids.  No need to encounter unnecessary aggravation.  The kids were, as usual, behaving brilliantly and we had no major incidents, except for that I wasn’t fast enough at changing the movie for my son and hand him his snack, so he started to kick the seat in front which with my luck could have been a gigantic American football player – luckily it was “only” my wife sitting there.  So, after an 8 hours flight to Atlanta, we arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson airport.  Customs was cleared fairly quickly, thanks to immigration check-in in Dublin, so we made our way to our luggage.  Now, this is slightly confusing in Atlanta airport.

  1. You first collect your luggage from the conveyer belts as normal
  2. Then you check them back in again and go through customs again!
  3. If you bought anything, such as booze or perfume, then you are advised to place it in the luggage as it would otherwise be confiscated
  4. Then you walk over 1 mile to the next luggage conveyer belt to collect your luggage, which is located in the public meeting area, giving everybody access to steal your luggage – so much for security

We made our way to collect our luggage, following the signs above.  Suddenly the signs disappeared and we were struggling to find directions.  So, I asked this elderly couple for directions and they just pointed me towards the far far end of a tunnel.  Still lost!  As I didn’t trust a retired elderly person with sunglasses in a Hawaiian shirt, I approached an oversized (muscles) security guard, who pointed me the same way – maybe elderly people are trustworthy after all?

We managed to drag our tired bodies, and kids, to the collection point, only to realise that the airport had a shuttle train going the lenght of the tunnel/corridor we just spent the last 40 minutes in!  Now it made sense that we were the only people walking.

The hotel was just a few miles on the highway from the airport, and again the American customer service was exceptionally good.  Everything is “Yes, mam” or “Yes, Sir”.  No arguing like in Dublin.  In this country, they understand that customers come first.

That evening we had a traditional American burger and fries. We shared one portion between us, due to the size, and still asked for doggy bags.

Off to bed and back to the airport next day, heading to Costa Rica.  It is only a short 3 hour flight to Liberia, but we still had in-flight entertainment systems (as they are called in the US).  As we were approaching to land, we saw the beautiful and lush terrain below, and we were greeted by a moist heatwave as we walked onto the tarmac.

My body instantly turned into a human wetsuit and sweat poured from my forehead. My wife and kids were fine, as if nothing had happened.  I could feel the water leaving my body and grass start to grow in my footsteps.  I needed water, and fast.

As per tradition, my wife had organised a personal driver to pick us up, who drove us to the hotel.  It was only a short 1 hour drive, and we went through beautiful (postcard) landscapes.  This was paradise.

On the west coast of Costa Rica, there’s only one traffic light, which is in Liberia crossing Highway 1. Highway 1 goes from the Sourthern tip of Chile to Canada.  Other than that, it is country roads, in much better conditions than most Irish roads.  The landscape flew by the windows, but we could clearly see that Costa Rica was a poor country.

After 45-55 minutes in the shuttle van (jet) we arrived at the posh hotel resort on Playa Conchal.  The driver had been treating us like royals because I gave him €3 in coins, as his son was collecting coins from around the World. €3 was apparently a lot of money for him.

Shortly after arriving, female staff were circling my son (damnit) and we were shown to our hacienda. It was overlooking the local golf course and a lake, which was inhabitated by a cayman crocodile.

Within a few minutes, the little hacienda was transformed into our habitat, making ourselves at home – toys and clothes everywhere.  Kids quickly dropped all their clothes to put on swim suits, running around naked while screaming.  So, the amount of clothes, bags, shoes and toys gave a nice homey feeling.

I started to explore and investigate our animal neighbours. I was chased across the lawn by an angry Godzilla like iguana – much to the amusement of my beloved wife.  There’s something about holidays and going abroad, which makes my wife look even more gorgeous – I could stare at her for hours.  I’m so proud to be married to her – she’s mine, so hands off!

Seriously, the iguana was at least 30 cm long and scary looking.  But, what people might not understand is that iguanas are primarily vegetarians, with only a few of them eating worms and other bugs.  So, I was like a screaming sissy running across the lawn, in full public view.  I’m sure the locals were very amused.

Soon after, we started to explore our new home, away from home, and this was tough.  Imagine having to spend 2 weeks in paradise; all-inclusive; 8 restaurants; bounty beach, a swimming pool the size of a small country and a pool bar – not to mention creche for the kids.  And, you are surrounded by a  Jurassic Park style jungle.  Somebody has to do it, and I volunteered.

This was a typical resort, with huge buffets and friendly staff, and the mandatory shows every evening.  Two weeks goes really fast when you are enjoying yourself.

We went on a couple of excursions, played some golf, but mainly stayed at the hotel.  Remember, my wife was doing research and had to work.  So, I was a home-alone dad stuck in paradise.

What do you do in paradise, well, check this out.  We had approx. 35 degrees every day, and it only rained the odd day, accompianed by heavy thunder storms, that might have caused a bit of panic.

Time flew and we had to prepare to go home.  Our daughter had developed excellent swimming skills and refused to leave the pool on the last day – she wanted to stay and so did we.  Our son  was finding it difficult to leave all his girls behind, but promised them that he would return one day to liberate them all – whatever he meant with that.

The trip back brought us back to Atlanta.  It is interesting that every time we arrived in Atlanta, out and back, my wife and I were pre-selected for security checks. We were privileged and felt special.  The funny bit is that my son HAD to be with me, while we were being checked, and my daughter HAD to be with my wife. Those were the rules outlined to us by the completely oversized (muscles) immigration officers; female and male.  And, these security officers absolutely had to have the most Forest Gump look-alike haircuts, no matter gender, while wearing reflective sunglasses from the 80s – not to forget the custom made black latex gloves.  I’m not too sure what the gloves were for, until the male security guy smiled at me… I haven’t been the same since.

Finally in Atlanta, with me walking like an old cowboy, where we met one of my wife’s friends. It was great to see her again and we had some good laughs.  We even went to a local farmer’s market (the size of Dublin city centre), where we had a good traditional American lunch.  Amazing.

We noticed that, when arriving in Atlanta, the weather wasn’t half as nice as in Costa Rica.  In fact, it rained a fair bit and it was fairly windy.  To my horror, I saw on the news that it was hurricane season, and some of these twiseters had visited some Atlanta suburbs in the previous days.  Well, we weren’t leaving for another 18 hours, flying home, so it’ll be fine?!  There were a few scattered reports about delays and cancellations of flights, but our flight was one time.

Excited to go home, we were some of the first passengers on the flight and found our seats, sitting with a child each.  Excited to be going home, eat some food, watch a few movies and then sleep.  I must admit, I was a tiny bit nervous about the flight home, probably because of the hurricane funnels I saw on the news, but take off was very smooth.

2 hours into the flight, just as we crossed the Eastern shores of America, the plane hit some severe turbulence – or at least my wife an I thought it was.  The kids slept calmly, not feeling anything, but we felt everything!  Suddenly, the plane dropped, just for a second, but enough for me to brown my undies.  Man, I was shitting myself and I grabbed my wife’s hand.  I looked around, and I noticed that we were the only ones in the entire plane finding it uncomfortable and screaming uncontrollably.  People around us were smiling, laughing and sleeping.  This just made me feel like chicken pooh, especially when the stewardess asked me “Are you alright sir?”  “Of course” I answered in a high pitch voice.  The “turbulence” only lasted 10 minutes, but it felt as an eternity to me.  I didn’t or I couldn’t fall asleep after that and I ended up being awake for approx. 30 hours, until we arrived safely at our house.

Home Sweet Home

We enjoyed our two weeks in Costa Rica tremendeously and we wish we could go back again.  It’s amazing how well our kids settled in and how quickly they got accustomed with the all-inclusive service and swimming pools.  One day soon, it’ll be expensive for my son to keep in touch with all his girls, scattered around the World, but I can help him set-up a web site to keep them up-to-date.

For further information on Costa Rica, please read these blogs too.
Costa Rica Adventures


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