Uvita (Villas de las Aves), Costa Rica, May 2010

Old Jun 21st, 2010, 11:34 AM
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Uvita (Villas de las Aves), Costa Rica, May 2010

My partner and I went to Costa Rica for our third trip together for eight nights, the last week of May, 2010. We came from LaGuardia via Miami, and I have to say, I will never do that again. Miami was insane -- at least the trip back, going through immigration and the security check again. Oy. Only nonstop for me from now on! I think I'm old enough to have earned that right. And, hey, it's better for the environment, supposedly (that'll be my excuse from now on).

The newly renovated areas of SJO were unexpected. I can't say I noticed any difference in the amount of time it took (it was quick, as usual -- we always sit near the front of the plane and make a mad dash to immigration, and no checked bags). I do sort of miss the old immigration area, I have to say -- the new one is too sleek for my taste, but it works.

Casa Bella Rita
We spent the first and last nights at Casa Bella Rita in Ciudad Colon, not too far from SJO. Steve (of Steve and Rita) picked us up from the airport without a hitch. Not much to add to the nonstop glowing reviews of this place. It was a relaxing place to bookend our trip. It's spotlessly clean and quaint -- and Steve and Rita (and their staff) could not have been nicer and more down to earth. Great people. (Interesting tidbit: Casa Bella Rita used to be a clothing-optional all male b&b, if you know what I mean.)

I did learn (on our last night) that I may not be a b&b kind of person. Our first night, it was pretty quiet, maybe one or two other couples around. But, on our last night, I think they had a full house. Though it's a pretty big house with lots of little sitting areas, I couldn't find a spot without people -- and I wasn't feeling particularly social. So, I sort of felt trapped in the room. Again, this is just me -- I didn't feel like socializing -- and the rooms don't have balconies, so I felt a bit annoyed. But, not enough to keep me from going back. And, who knows, maybe I won't be so moody next time!

There's a great little local chicharronera just a 5 minute walk away called Memé Pajarito -- amazing, inexpensive food and even more amazing atmosphere. A real hodgepodge of old cash registers and old telephones (why? who knows!), stuffed animals and animal skins adorning the walls (sounds gross, but it was actually pretty cool -- I got to see a peccary on this trip after all!). Oh, and TONS of plantains and bananas hanging everywhere in various states of ripeness and beyond. Definitely try the chicharrónes casado and the fruit drinks they have -- superb. The watermelon drink was to die. We went to Meme's our first and last nights for dinner, and, I must admit, it ended up being the highlight of our trip. We just love funky restaurants, and we always seem to find them in CR.

A few hours after arriving, the guy from Wild Rider delivered our SUV. It was a pretty easy and painless process. We got a Daihatsu Terios for the week for $299, all inclusive of taxes and insurance. The only annoying thing is that the guy who dropped off the car told us it would take us over 5 hours to get to Uvita. After having been told repeatedly it would take 3 1/2, it was sort of a bummer -- and my partner was not having it. I asked Rita again about the time, and she confirmed my original findings that it should take 3 1/2.

We left out the next morning at about 8:15 AM and pulled into Villas de las Aves at a few minutes before 12 noon -- and we had made two stops, a bathroom break near Quepos and a quick supermarket stop in Uvita. So, 3 1/2 hours after all. The drive was very easy. We took the new extension of the highway and then the coastal road all the way down -- it was literally two or three turns after leaving Casa Bella Rita. We also had perfectly sunny weather for the drive down -- but this was all about to change.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 11:46 AM
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Plumboy, waiting impatiently for the rest!
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 11:50 AM
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By the way, I'm not condoning the stuffed animals and pelts on the wall of Meme's -- that sort of thing normally really bugs me, but they did add to the overall weird atmosphere of the place. I assume they died a long time ago, and I decided not to get on my soapbox about it this time...
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 11:56 AM
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Oh, one more thing about the drive before I forget. It was an easy enough drive, but since I had been made so paranoid about getting stopped for speeding, I neurotically went about two or three kilometers below the speed limit. No problem. Except that the speed limit was CONSTANTLY changing! From 80 to 60 back up to 80 down to 40 back to 60 down to 40... My poor right foot! Really, it was crazy. I'm not sure if it's that way just to catch people, but, my gosh, the speed limit was very schizo, that's for sure. But, no tickets here!
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 03:00 PM
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Yay, another trip report. Post more! Post more!
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 04:16 PM
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please...prettty please?
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:44 PM
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Very interesting about CBR, ha! Who knew? I'd be driving the same way as you I think...I wouldn't want that story to tell! Great start...waiting for the rest.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 04:32 AM
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Great start! Keep it coming.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 08:40 AM
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Villas de las Aves
So, we got to Uvita, did a quick stop at La Corona supermarket. We initially drove by the turn for the road to VdlA and had to turn around, but it was marked as advertised. This is where things started to get a bit not so fun (though we can laugh about it now). I had read and had been told that the road up to VdlA was not in the greatest of shape, especially the first little part. Well, it wasn't just the first little part! OMG, that road was BAD. Okay, so maybe I'm not used to being on back roads that often, but the road up to VdlA was so much worse than I ever imagined. It was so bad that my partner hit his head on the side of the passenger window! We can look back now and get a chuckle out of it all, but seriously, we were not happy campers at the time.

I know tully and hip have been up this road, so I'm sure they're going to call me a big baby, but I just didn't realize the road would be this jarring. I timed it once, and it took about 12 minutes from beginning to end. That isn't that bad, but it since it was so... "bumpy" doesn't quite capture it... it made us not want to come and go very often.

I just have to say, when I initially got back from this trip, I was sort of bummed about it. Now that I've gotten some perspective, and we're able to laugh and tell the stories to people, I can appreciate it for what it was, but I think I'm realizing there is a difference between trips and vacations (I'm a relative newby when it comes to travel, so please allow me my lessons!). This was definitely more of a trip, and I think what I really needed at the time was a vacation. I didn't realize that at the time, but I think I probably needed something easier and more relaxing for this trip -- a nice beach somewhere or something like that. You know what I mean? I do tend to get bored easily, so the whole beach vacation thing has never entirely appealed to me, but, honestly, I think it's what I needed.

Okay, back to the story. The secondary and primary driveways (that's what I'm calling them -- the two turns after that main bumpy road) to VdlA are much, much smoother, I must admit -- and as we reached the main grounds, we were happy to have made it. It really is very beautiful, lush, green. Sarah and Paul, the owners of VdlA, have adopted a few stray dogs and cats -- and they're pretty well-behaved and keep to themselves -- but wouldn't you know it, as soon as I stepped out of the vehicle, I stepped right into a pile of dog you know what. I actually wasn't annoyed by it, but I was like, Great, I just got here. Juliana, Sarah and Paul's assistant, was given the literally crappy job of cleaning my shoe.

Juliana came out to greet us -- and then Sarah and Paul came out. Check in was easy. We stayed in Villa Paloma, the one-bedroom villa that is the highest of the dwellings on the property (we were the only guests there for the whole week -- the other villa was empty). It's very, very private -- no one can really see you on the patio or the wraparound balcony upstairs. Very nicely constructed and decorated, very comfortable.

I had asked Sarah to get us some eggs at the feria in Uvita. Though she wasn't able to do that, she did get us some from a friend of hers. Also, I had asked her if we could get a big pot of gallo pinto made so that we could eat on that all week for breakfast and other meals -- and that was delivered as promised later that night. It was perfect. And the kitchen had everything we could possibly have needed to cook full meals. Obviously the fact that Sarah is a chef is reflected in the well-stocked kitchen.

The bedroom is perfect too. Super comfy huge bed, a/c if you need it, nice cool tile floors, tv/dvd player (which we actually used a bit), great closets -- LOTS of windows.

The bathroom was much nicer than I expected. We loved that the inside shower had a door that opened to an outside shower, sort of. I don't know if I'd call it a shower -- more like three bamboo spigots that you could turn on with slow running water -- but it was nice to have it, particularly in the rain.

There are a few negatives. I think the villas have been around for a while now, and they are starting to show a little wear, mostly on the outside. Not much, but a little. There were some rips in the screens, most of which had been repaired with tape. I had to point out a pretty large rip in the upstairs sliding door screen when we got there. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but my partner is really allergic to mosquito bites, and we wanted to minimize those. Also, the cushions of the chairs on the porch are looking a bit grungy (they're outside, so what can you do, I guess) -- and the nails are starting to be pushed out on the sides of the chairs (they just need to be nailed back in); we kept scraping our legs on them until we just learned to keep our distance. Lastly, there was a leak in the ceiling of bedroom upstairs. Luckily it was over by the door, so nothing got wet (like my cameras). I told Paul about the leak, and he seemed to brush it off -- saying it must be the direction of the rain, but it continued to leak whether or not the wind was blowing (and it rained almost every night). But, honestly, I didn't really want them in there hammering and repairing things while we were there, so we just put a pot on the floor and let it leak.

I don't mean to be one of those people -- and the rate they are charging was pretty good -- but I just think there are some areas that they need to tend to. I guess I'm being a bit picky -- and I'm not usually like that -- but between the constant rain and the road and feeling like I hadn't made the best decision, I was sort of in a crabby mood. So, the few little annoyances annoyed me even more.

After checking in and decompressing a bit, we decided to go out for lunch. We hadn't eaten on the road, and the quick stop at the supermarket was just for drinks. So, we got back in the car and went to eat at a place I think is called Marina Bahia restaurant -- something like that. It was pretty good. Right next door, in the same "shopping center", is the other large supermarket, the BM (we laughed quite a bit about that name). Refreshed after the meal, we did the bulk of our grocery shopping for the week and went back to VdlA (and swore we would not leave the following day!).

Here's a link to my photos, while I take a break: http://bit.ly/aZanFq
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 08:59 AM
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Appreciate your honesty, plum.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 11:49 AM
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Hi plum - I totally know what you mean about trip vs vacation, and I'm totally feeling like I need a vacation! I'm starting to feel like I bit off a bit too much and of course the day after we get there (Friday) we're supposed to head to Puerto Viejo and just found out the main highway is closed through the weekend AGAIN! AAARGH!

It didn't seem like you were very "comfortable" this trip and I guess sometimes just lessons learned. I'm not even sure how those small places even stay afloat, to tell you the truth. That road was pretty bad, but it could be even worse now. Paul and Sarah said they put in $20k of their own money to make that road better and then the semis coming in and out for construction destroyed it right away and what can they do? Bummer though. Good news is, your partner is still talking to you. LOL! Did you have a lot of rain?
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 12:33 PM
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Thanks, volcanogirl. Trying to keep it honest, but not too negative, I hope. Lessons learned, for sure.

Hip, oh yeah, I'll get to the rain next Buckets! Cats and dogs! But, yeah, I think I was just off on this trip the whole time. I can blame the rain, the lodging, the roads, etc -- but I think it was just me, to be honest. I do love these journeys, but sometimes it is a bit too much (and these old bones need some total relaxation...).

You must be getting excited! Wait, is it this week?! Anyway, I hope the roads clear up for you. I guess it's part of the package, the unknown. I'll send some good vibes your way...
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 01:07 PM
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Hi plum - Yes. Leaving Friday. I'm getting word the detour will take an hour longer...but that's CR time, so probably more like three. Ha! No, cubanon on TA said it depends on how many other people are on the road that day. Thanks for the vibes!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:25 PM
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Loving your report plum, the good, the bad and the ugly! I so relate to you on so many things (the need for space at the B&B, trip v vacation, emotions that seem to pile on top of each other). Hey what did I tell you about that road?! Save for hip screaming STOP! who knows where I would've ended up, it was confusing at night! I hope you did get some relax time in, looking forward to the rest, off to look at your pics.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:37 PM
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Gret pics, love Mr Woo! Great howler pics too, and the parrot w/the parrot shirt.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:44 PM
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Excellent toucan pics too! We're going to give Belize a whirl this year. I think it will be a good relaxation place.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2010, 02:55 PM
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Haven't had a chance to look at pics yet, but I forgot to comment on the animal pelt restaurant...um...creepy. ;-)

And tully, that was sooo funny! We would have been so screwed had we ended up in that ditch in the pitch dark, and power outage that night to boot.

Gotta love the adventures though!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2010, 10:08 AM
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Nice photos, plumboy. VdlA looks like a beautiful place (any other detractions aside...). Sounds like you're gaining some perspective on the trip with a little time and distance from it. It happens that way sometimes. Not all travel experiences are perfect, but most have some intrinsic value, I think.

Looking forward to the rest...
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