Days 1-2: Arrival and Visiting the Bri Bri Indigenous Village

Days 1-2: Arrival and Visiting the Bri Bri Indigenous Village

Dec 13- Last day of Fall Semester for my live classes, which means I’M FREE!! My last class ended at 5:30pm. Brian and I were on a flight out to Costa Rica at 12am.

I had lived on the Pacific side of Costa Rica in Ojochal for 2 months during the summer of 2016. In fact, that was my very first housesit! Then, Brian and I went to Panama in March of 2017 (like an idiot, I didn’t blog it 🙄), and we both REALLY loved Bocas del Toro- a collection of islands on the northern Caribbean coast. So much so, that we started looking at the possibility of buying property there. Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica ended up on our radar, as it’s on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and I figured that being so close to Bocas that the wildlife would be fairly similar (especially poison dart frogs!!). It was high on our “to do” list.

Christmas 2015, I was in England. 2016, France. 2017, South Africa. This year, I really didn’t want to do a long haul flight, especially since I spent almost 3 months flying all over Europe this summer. So we decided on a nice, easy 5 hour direct flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, where we’d rent a car and drive to Puerto Viejo for a week, then drive to the La Fortuna/Arenal area for a few days before returning home.

We aren’t going to talk about how Delta is the crappiest airline I’ve flown on in a LONG time. Ok, I lied. We are going to talk about it. I have flown what I call “chicken buses in the sky”- Romanian and Hungarian super budget airlines- and they run 10 times smoother than stupid Delta. The seats we were assigned were both middle seats- in the same row but across the aisle from each other. No worries, we expect that from buying the cheap tickets. We get to LAX, get to our gate, and not a single one of the multiple plugs/usb ports worked. Ok, whatever. Then, we get an announcement that our gate is changing. Not just the gate, but the terminal. So then we have to get on a bus to go to the other terminal- where, not a single outlet worked. I look at my online boarding pass again and oh my gosh! They changed our seats to row 26 A and B!! Next to each other!! Woo-hoo!! Finally they start calling for boarding. I pull up the boarding passes again so we can give them to the lady, and our seats and bar codes have vanished. What the hell? I restarted the app. Same thing. Went up to the desk and the lady said we had never checked in, were no shows, so they gave our seats away. I explained we HAD to have checked in, otherwise we couldn’t get through security without a boarding pass (duh). She wasn’t having any of it, and swore up and down that she called our names. She never did, because both Brian and I had listened every time they were calling names. Anyway, she was able to seat us together further back on the plane. Come to find out, the seats that “disappeared” were coveted exit row seats and no one was in the other seat. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Sit down, and find out that they had double assigned Brian’s seat to a lady. I mean holy crap- the entire thing was a disorganized, chaotic, mess. Jesus.

I slept ok on the 5 hour plane ride. Landed in San Jose at a little before 8am. Went and got our car. We had pre-booked with Budget online through the Costa Rican office’s website and got a SCREAMING deal on a 4×4 SUV for….hold on…..$55 including taxes for 10 days!! That’s not $55 PER day. That’s $55 for TEN days!!!!!!! They tried to sell us their supplemental insurance for $20 a day. We declined because we have coverage through our credit card. That means that if we wreck, we have to deal with American Express and their rental coverage department instead of it just being taken care of by Budget. To save $200, we decided to risk the potential aggravation. This required a $3000 hold on the credit card. We took a ton of pictures and video before we left to prove the condition of the car, noting every single scratch and dent and making sure it was on the paperwork as well. Headed off through town!

Found a Wal Mart. We had heard the guy at the rental desk with another customer saying it’s easy to go there, buy what you need, pay in US dollars and get Colones back, so we did that. Bought a few groceries, including a case of my beloved Dr. Pepper (woo-hoo!!!), and got back on the road.

Apparently this is normally a 2.5 hour drive. It took us almost 6 hours. There was SO MUCH construction on the road. Oh my god. We were at dead stand stills for what seemed like every 20 miles at least. Plus a couple of big trucks that had gone off the side in different places, causing even more of a slow down. A 4 lane road through here, considering the amount of traffic (especially large trucks) would sure be handy… We were STARVING by noon and in desperate need of protein, so we stopped at a little roadside restaurant. We both got “Platos Tipicos”- choice of meat (pork, beef, or chicken) with rice and beans, potatoes, and steamed veggies. DELICIOUS!

Continued down the road. The mountains turned to flat coastal plains. I shouted “STOP!!”. Me and my jungle eyes had spied a SLOTH!!!!!! He was on the power lines. We parked and took a few pics. Poor guy- totally exposed and so tired from the exertion that he had to take a nap half way across. I worried about him for a long time, wondering if he was going to make it across.

Finally made it to the turn off in Limon and headed south toward Puerto Viejo. Not long after, the road met the coastline, and we were met with an awesome view of the Caribbean!! No pics, but there will be some on the coastline. Went straight to our home away from home for the next 6 nights- a gorgeous jungle home in Playa Cocles that we found on AirBNB! I’ll post pics of it in a few days (don’t like people knowing exactly where we are!). Suffice to say, this is quite possibly my most favoritest AirBNB EVER!!!! It is just PERFECT!! We got checked in, and decided to head down and find dinner out. We knew we wanted ceviche for sure! Found a little restaurant and ordered one order of ceviche with plantains (my fav, Brian hates ’em, which means I get to always eat them all1) and one order of jumbo shrimp in a Caribbean sauce with salad and French Fries. The ceviche was to. die. for!!! OMG, perfection! The jumbo shrimp were MASSIVE and good, but the ceviche beat them. Oh! And we ordered two fruit smoothies which instantly made me feel healthier than I have in the last 4 months….

Speaking of the last 4 months, it’s been insane. Between working my ass off keeping my online school running smoothly, and teaching 7 live classes on Wednesdays in Los Angeles, my sanity and health level have been on the steady decline. I can’t keep up the pace. I have been seriously exhausted, and I mean absolute fatigue, from the moment I wake up until I stumble into bed. 10-12 hour workdays 6 days a week are the norm. It’s not healthy, I feel like CRAP constantly, and I have no life outside of work. It’s killing me. Between the sheer exhaustion of my normal work schedule, on top of the fact that I taught 7 classes the same day we left, and we had a red eye flight at midnight followed by a 6 hour drive…yeah, I was beat. I took 2 zzzquils, and hit the sack at 7:30pm (that’s 5:30pm home time). I heard a rooster and figured it must be about 5:30am (sunrise). I fell back asleep (something I NEVER do at home). I heard howler monkeys, checked the time, 6:30am. Talked to Brian for a few minutes, said I felt like I could go back to sleep, and did for 45 more minutes. Basically, I slept 12 hours straight!!!! God, my body and mind needed that so bad. Woke up at 7:18, got Brian up, and we had to rush around so we could get out the door at 8am for our tour! I can’t believe we almost overslept. We were both just beat. Oh, Brian said two super loud roars woke him up in the middle of the night and he couldn’t believe I didn’t hear them. Probably jaguars…..

Headed off to meet our guide for the day, Able Bustamante. Due to the fact that a) I work constantly and b) I am so exhausted from working constantly that I don’t even have the mental capacity to plan a trip, Brian put our itinerary together. I’m just along for the ride! Able comes highly recommended by TripAdvisor. We’re taking two tours with him…a hike through the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge later in the week, and today’s tour to one of my favorite things to do in other countries- visit indigenous people!! First, we had to drive to Puerto Viejo (about 10 min away) to meet Able. We encountered a traffic jam along the way…

We met Able at the bank. He got into our car and we headed off toward the BriBri territory. We made a stop in BriBri town for some wildlife spotting. Can you see what we saw? It’s in the middle of this picture.

Yeah, you can’t. Neither could we until Able pointed them out! A HUGE pair of iguanas high up in the trees! They hang out here because they’re safe- across from the police station so no one will shoot them for dinner! I so love my camera with what I call “jungle zoom”….

A few more miles down the road and we arrived to Catato’s home. He’s a BriBri man who does indigenous chocolate and medicinal plant tours on his farm. When I was in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, I visited the indigenous people just on the other side of these mountains- the Boruca. I had a wonderful time in their village, without a guide, just figuring out how to get there myself, praying someone spoke English, and using my toddler Spanish to get me through an amazing private demonstration of how to make dyes from plants and dye handspun yarn. That said, if you speak Spanish (or Bribri- these people are one of the few who have actually held on to their native language and keep it alive), you could manage this tour yourself. If you only speak English, you need a guide.

First up, chocolate making. Brian and I have done two other cacao tours- one in Panama and one in El Salvador. They’re always a little different! Here, we worked with Catato’s wife- only women are allowed to prepare cacao in Bribri society (which interestingly enough is a matriarchal society). First, we took dried cacao beans that had been harvested right here on the farm, and stirred them over an open fire. After about 5 minutes of stirring, they started to pop- some popping right out of the pan!

After they were roasted (under the watchful eye of Catato’s wife!), she poured them into a bowl and kind of tossed/shook them to remove the large hulls. From there, we learned how to grind the beans into powder the old fashioned way…rocks! Brian and I took turns at this. That rock was so heavy I couldn’t even pick it up! Fortunately, you don’t have to pick it up to grind the beans- you just kind of rock it back and forth over them.


Think we’re done making chocolate! There’s a lot of work involved in this…. Next up, Catato’s wife did another toss/shake to remove the fine hulls. Then, we put them into a quite modern hand-crank operated grinder. I let Brian have the honors of doing that one alone. He had to turn the crank really fast, and it was so cool to see wet, dark chocolate emerge from our dry power! Press grinding like this causes the cocoa butter (fat) to come out. We tasted it and ewwwwwwwwwww. Too strong for me! 100% pure dark chocolate. I’m strictly a milk chocolate girl, but Brian loved it! Able added some sweet condensed milk to the mixture. Still too bitter for me, but Brian was pleased- so he put his on some pineapple and started eating. Able just gave me the milk so I could add as I pleased. I added a lot. 😀 And even though the color was still almost black, it was sweet and perfect!! And on a piece of pineapple? To. Die. For.

So we were done making the chocolate and eating it, but not quite finished yet! There was a huge pot of cinnamon water boiling over the fire where we roasted our beans. That, mixed with some of our chocolate and some sugar and milk made the BEST HOT CHOCOLATE EVER!!

Now it was time to continue the tour with Catato. First, he made me a beautiful necklace with different types of seeds, that were strung on a string he made from palm leaves (we watched him do that process, but I got it on video, not pics. Trust me, it was super cool to see him scrape the top layer of the leaf off to reveal the stringy fibers inside!). Then, we learned how to blow a whistle made from a large sea pod. Then, how to blow a conch shell (those things are LOUD- watch the video!). We also learned about the different types of spears the Bribri use for different things- hunting different animals like deer or birds, fishing, farming, etc….

In the garden, Catato painted my fingernails yellow with tumeric root, and then used some red plant to put dye on my finger. I used it as lipstick (and seriously, it’s MY color!!). Brian painted stripes on his face. We ate nutmeg right from the tree! We learned about which wood was best for spears, best for houses, best for roofs… I took a ton of videos for class, but not really any pics. Sorry. It was really interesting though, and I wish I spoke better Spanish. Sigh.
And then we went into a little structure covered over with green mesh. I figured it was a greenhouse of sorts to keep the animals out. Um, wrong! This was the Holy of Holies…..the reason why I love the Caribbean coast more than the Pacific coast. This was A POISON DART FROG HOUSE!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!! (That is literally the sound I make every time I see one. Ask Brian.) Oh my god. There were red ones and green and black ones (that were pretty shy) and a yellow and black one. Able put his phone on video and played the sound of a dart frog. The yellow and black one came hopping over immediately, ready to defend his territory against the intruder! It was awwwwwwwwwwwwesome!! I seriously could have stayed in there for.ev.er.
It was time to go. Honestly, I wish there had been more information about the Bribri people themselves. Their traditional ways and stories. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot online about them. We bought some chocolate, cocoa butter, and a water container decorated and made out of a gourd.

Next up, a waterfall. It was right off the road on the way back from the Bribri territory- really easy to get to. You can park on the man’s farm (there’s a sign on the road for La Cascada) and pay him like $10 or something to go down to the falls. There’s a place to change and snacks for sell. We hiked down. Saw a howler monkey all alone above our heads (Congratulations! It’s a boy!). Brian and Able swam in the falls and talked, while I wandered around looking at fish, studying the ecosystem, and generally being my nerdy scientist self. I’d always rather look at fish than pretend to be one.
We had a nice long talk with Able about living in this area. We’re both really digging it… Dropped Able off, grabbed a few groceries at Mega Super in Puerto Viejo. I couldn’t remember everything I needed for Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice), and I didn’t have a cell signal, so we came home and walked down to Super Cocles. The road is just gorgeous, and we even saw white faced Capuchin monkeys in the trees just a few yards from the driveway!! Brian made dinner of chicken, rice, and green beans while I worked and blogged. Internet here is super slow and rather painful… But other than that, it’s Pura Vida!!

Disneyworld: The Planning Stages

Disneyworld: The Planning Stages

I’m a Disney girl. Disneyland is in my backyard, and I know it like the back of my hand. Can easily do both parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) in one day, because I have it down to an art. Efficiency is my middle name, and Disney is always such a fun challenge! So it’s been like a year and a half since we last went, and I’m needing a Disney fix. We started thinking about what day we wanted to go. As my “escape the country forever” plan is coming to fruition earlier than I originally expected, this would probably be my last Disney hoorah stateside. Wait- if that’s the case, shouldn’t I go out with a bang? Of course!! So the idea of going to Disneyworld instead was born.

Well, I rarely “simply” do anything, but for Disneyworld we are talking MAJOR PLANNING!!! Especially important because I know this is most likely the last time I’ll do Disneyworld in Florida. I have one shot at this and it has to be done RIGHT!! This includes, but is not limited to:
1. Figuring out which days the parks should be the least crowded.
2. Getting flights for those days.
3. Finding an AirBNB close by for those days that won’t break the bank.
4. Figuring out ground transportation.
5. Getting tickets.
6. Researching what are the “can’t miss” rides.
7. Getting Fast Passes.
8. And last, but certainly not least….WARDROBE!!! I don’t go to Disney without properly themed attire. Period. The ability to theme…it’s really the only time I care about clothes.

Let’s break each of these major events down, shall we?

1. Figuring out which days the parks should be the least crowded.
This is where a little thing called crowd calendars come in. I used the WDW Prep School Calendar. I knew we wanted to go in September, as I heard crowds are fairly light for that month (kids back in school and the peak of hurricane season), so I looked at the calendar, looked at flight prices, and decided on being in the parks September 15-17. Based on the calendar, we decided to do Magic Kingdom on the 15th, Epcot on the 16th (probably hopping back over to MK if we finish Epcot early), and Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on the 17th.

2. Getting flights for those days.
We go for the cheapest flights, but are always willing to pay a little bit (not much) more for directs. We wanted to leave on Saturday and come back on Wednesday. Best options were Spirit Air (which we hate, but was by far the cheapest) from LAX-MCO arriving at 8pm with a one hour layover in Houston- $88.50 each one way. For coming back, United had the cheapest flight. A direct arriving LAX at 9:30pm for $93.50 total each one way- for a grand total of $182 roundtrip each. Neither of these flights allow carry on bags, just a personal item- as in must fit under your seat- which is going to make packing interesting! But we are not about to pay for a bag….

3. Finding an AirBNB close by for those days that won’t break the bank.
Yes, if you stay in one of the Disney resorts it’s all magical and you get a ton of perks and….you will need to take out a home equity loan. We don’t plan on spending any time in the room other than to sleep, so we don’t need a fancy, magical, perk-laden abode. Off to AirBNB! We looked at a few and decided on this one. $55 a night, about 15 minutes from door to parking lot of all the parks, superhost, great reviews, and everyone said it was CLEAN!! Clean is important, and some of the other properties that were a little closer in this same price range didn’t have the 5 star cleanliness stamp of approval…

4. Figuring out ground transportation.
Originally, I planned for us to just Uber. I mean, we’re going to be in the parks all day, not cruising around. Plus, you have to pay to park at Disney. So I popped open the app and calculated the costs of an Uber: $90 for round trip to the airport and $25 a day for roundtrip to the parks (same cost as parking). Plus, when we park hopped we were looking at even more money. Problem was that on Wednesday, our flight didn’t leave until 7:30pm. What in the world were we going to do all day? And how would we get there? I started looking at rental cars. Got one for $85 for our entire stay, which basically came out cheaper than using Uber (not including gas) plus gave us freedom on that last day. Sold. Rented from Economy Rent A Car. Take a copy of your car insurance policy with you so you don’t have to buy theirs.

5. Getting tickets.
This actually ended up being my biggest surprise thus far… Here in California, we know that discounted Disney tickets= scam. So naturally I went right to the Walt Disneyworld website to book my tickets. I wanted park hopper tickets, so plugged in my dates. The cost for both of us for 3 days would be $811. I held off because I wasn’t quite ready to get the tickets yet. But I knew I had to get them 31 days in advance, because at the 30 day mark you could book 3 Fast Passes and this is a major step in ensuring an efficient experience!! I was reading and researching every day about all kinds of things, and I came across a site called Undercover Tourist that claimed to have discount tickets. Huh. So I plugged in my dates. $785!! That was a savings of $26- my snack budget for 1:24pm-2:06pm on Monday! Could this be right? Was there some catch? Most importantly, with these tickets could I access the 30 day advance Fast Pass +? Tons of research answered these questions as Yes, No, and Yes! I bought them, linked them to our My Disney app (yes, there’s an app for that), and held my breath until Fast Pass day.

6. Researching what are the “can’t miss” rides.
I’m a spreadsheeter. It’s what I do. So I knew I needed a complete and total list of everything we HAD to do while we were there. And by everything, I mean rides. We aren’t big show people (I do have a couple planned) or parade people or meet the character people. If we stumble upon any of those things as we’re quickly and efficiently moving from ride to ride and we have time, we’ll stop for a bit. Otherwise, it’s a nope. So here’s the game plan list I came up with:

MAGIC KINGDOM EPCOT ANIMAL KINGDOM
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Jungle Cruise Frozen Avatar Flight Tower of Terror
Pirates Test Track Everest Toy Story Mania
Winnie the Pooh Soaring Kilamanjaro Safari Slinky Dog Dash
Philharmagic Show Spaceship Earth Tough to be a Bug
Rock N Roller Coaster
Peter Pan Gran Fiesta Tour Navi River Star Tours
Seven Dwarfs Train Journey Into Imagination Dinosaur Smuggler’s Run
Little Mermaid Living with the Land Kali River
Big Thunder Mountain Mission Space
Splash Mountain The Seas
Hall of Presidents Show
Haunted Mansion
Buzz Lightyear
Space Mountain
Speedway


Please note: There is no “It’s A Small World” on that list. I hate that insipid ride.


7. Getting Fast Passes.
This is serious the most difficult and stressful part of planning the trip!! First of all, Fast Pass + opens up at 7am EST 30 days before you arrive (if you’re staying in a Disney resort, 60 days). And you have to be ON. IT. That means a 3:50am wake up call to be ready at 4am PST. I literally woke up at 3:49am- 1 minute before my alarm. That’s how in tune I am with this Fast Pass thing! It was like Christmas freaking morning…clicking the link, waiting for the Fast Passes to appear. I knew that top priority was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. How do I know this? Because I know the average wait times for the past 30 days and you want to book the stuff that sucks up your time if you have to wait in line!! Clock flipped to 4am, I clicked the link again, and boom…I was in!! Fast Passes galore! I scrolled down, frantically searching for Seven Dwarfs. It was at the very bottom. None available. For any time all day. Ugh- those damn resort people with their fancy magical rooms, home equity loans, and 60 days fast pass access!!! So I grabbed one for Big Thunder Mountain at 8:40, one for Space Mountain at 11:45, and one for Peter Pan at 2:15. I was under some delusion that you could get fast passes for all of your days once you reached 30 days for your first day. Wrongo. That means 2 more days of 3:50am wakeup calls…

So it’s day 1 and I’m sitting here with my first 3 fast passes, and I’m second guessing ALL OF THEM. What do I do in this situation? Go to facebook groups!!! There are 2 that I belong to- Walt Disney World Made Easy for Everyone and Walt Disney World Tips and Tricks. I was doubting myself- had I chosen correctly? Was my entire trip doomed because of some unknowingly irrational decision I made at 4am? Some people warned me about zig-zagging all over the park, some people said my last pass was too late in the day because apparently you can’t get a new pass until you’ve used all 3 of these!! EEEK!! And some said I was just fine, and to wait and change them as I needed to. Wait?? You mean to tell me I’m not locked into the decision for eternity? I can change these things!! Little cartoon birds started chirping, and my OCD went into overdrive. I proceeded to spend the remainder of the morning refreshing my pass page and managed to get Space Mountain bumped up to 9:45. The best I could do with Peter Pan was move it up 15 minutes to 2pm. But now, I have options. Options and time! And who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open up!

Day 2, up at 3:50am to score my Epcot Fast Passes. This is a different system than for Magic Kingdom. There are Tier 1 and Tier 2 rides. Tier 1’s are the “must dos”- Frozen, Soarin’, and Test Track. And the kicker is that you can only have ONE of those as your three, and the other two have to be Tier 2.  Popped open the fast pass system at 4am on the dot and got exactly what I wanted! Mission Space at 11, Spaceship Earth at 12, and Frozen at 1:30. The plan is to RUN for Soarin’ at rope drop (for you Disney newbies, that’s the second the park opens!). After that, RUN for Test Track. Then those two Tier 1’s are out of the way, and the last one has the fast pass. The rest of the park should be a breeze. It’s not like Magic Kingdom where there are a ton of rides.

Day 3, up at 3:50am to score my last advance Fast Passes. Our final day at Disney will be 1/2 day at Animal Kingdom and 1/2 day at Hollywood Studios. Interestingly enough, the most popular ride in all four of the parks is in Animal Kingdom! It’s the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, and has average wait times for the last 30 days of over TWO hours!! Eek! However, this is also the most sought after Fast Pass, so much like Seven Dwarfs at Magic Kingdom, most likely every single fast pass has already been reserved by resort guests who get 60 days to reserve their passes. Like Epcot, Animal Kingdom uses the Tier system, and the Avatar Flight ride and the Na’vi River ride are the tier 1s. Hopefully if I don’t get Avatar, I can grab Na’vi. So, what’s my 4am verdict? Forget about Flight of Passage- those Fast Passes were gone 60 days ago. I got Na’vi River for 8:40am, Kali River Rapids for 10am, and Kilamanjaro Safari for 11:50am.

The chances that I spent more time stressing over fast passes than I ever will standing in line for anything without a fast pass is highly probable….

Spoiler Alert: In the end, this whole fast pass thing was changed COMPLETELY once we got to the parks. As in you wouldn’t even recognize them from the originals (except for Magic Kingdom, and it had changes as well). See upcoming “in park” blogs for how that all turned out…

8. And last, but certainly not least….WARDROBE!!!
I am a girl who loves a theme and loves to dress up. Halloween and Mardi Gras are my high holidays. Enough said. And there is no way in hell I’d go to Disney without properly themed attire for each day. And there is no way in hell I’d go to Disney with a man who didn’t have properly themed attire as well! Thus began the massive internet search for complementary outfits! It literally took a full 2+ weeks to gather the options and narrow them down. It’s that serious. We finally decided on our 3 outfits, that we’ll debut with photos on the trip journals. But the theme for each outfit is Haunted Mansion, Alice in Wonderland, and Jack Skellington. God, we’re freaking adorable!! 😃 Because these are clothes we can wear normally (yes, we’re those people), they won’t count toward the budget.

With all 8 of our major “to do” items checked off, it was time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the next couple of weeks until we leave! Oh…..if we were only that simple…..

Click here to read the MAJOR life changing event that changed our plans!

ITEMCOST
TOTAL$1499
Roundtrip Tickets LAX to MCO for Two$364
AirBNB 4 nights$265
Rental Car 4 days$85
Parkhopper Tickets for 3 days$785

 

 

 

 

 

Guadeloupe Days 1-8: Beaches and Road Trips

Guadeloupe Days 1-8: Beaches and Road Trips

What, Mary? EIGHT days in ONE blog?? That’s just too much. Oh, no….it really isn’t. Welcome to my “vacation” when a) Brian leaves and b) I have to catch up on a crap ton of work.

DAY 1
We packed up and left the treehouse in Martinique at 8am. It was a really rainy morning. Got to the airport and sat there together. Brian was flying to Barbados, then Miami, then Los Angeles. I was flying out an hour and a half later directly to Guadeloupe for my 3 week housesit.

Arrived in Guadeloupe and it was pouring rain. Great. I hate driving as it is, now I have to drive and navigate a foreign country in the rain! Picked up my rental car and hit the road toward Port Louis. The rain stopped just outside of town, and it was an easy and pleasant drive to Port Louis- my home away from home for the next 3 weeks. Like Martinique, Guadeloupe is France. That means good roads and drivers who don’t think trying to run tourists off the road is sport. I pulled up to a large, gated “compound” of sorts, and was greeted by the homeowner, Julie. The home is massive, but is split into different apartments- maybe 5 or so of them. Julie introduced me to the 2 kitties I’d be caring for, and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about all sorts of things! She is French, but speaks excellent English. Also, she and her boyfriend are both marine biologists! And Julie actually works for a NGO that goes into schools and educates children about the ocean! If you know me, you know I am a serious francophile and even teach a French history course I shot on location in France. Julie took me on a quick driving tour of the little town and the GORGEOUS beach! There are tons of walking paths, one through the mangroves and one all the way to the next town over, Anse Bertrand. I’ll definitely be back here!

Julie started making dinner, a homemade quiche, and her boyfriend came home from work. We sat down, ate a fabulous meal, and talked about marine biology, french history, politics, and more. Seriously, it was like a dream evening!!

DAY 2
Julie works from home, so she worked while I tried to get caught up on my own work. My tailbone wasn’t keen on the patio chair, so I literally went back and forth all day every two hours between the chair and bed. But I got a ton of work done! That night they made coconut chicken in a tomato sauce for dinner that was wonderful! And that ended Day 2. See? Exciting, huh? 😀

DAY 3
Day 3 was departure day for the homeowners. I offered to drive them to the airport, plus I needed to do some shopping as well. They pointed out a Monoprix near the airport. Like Carrefour in Martinique, I know Monoprix from France proper! And it has been known to produce a Dr. Pepper or two!! After I dropped them off, I went back to Monoprix. The parking was ATROCIOUS. So many people, not enough spaces. I drove round and round several times before I got lucky. Went into Monoprix. How do I describe it? Like Whole Foods- lots of the same kinds of things are in different places in the store, you don’t know what the heck 90% of it is, and it’s EXPENSIVE. A roasted chicken that cost $9 in Martinique at Carrefour cost $17 here!! Ok, if they didn’t have Dr. Pepper, I was just going to go find some other place to shop. Went directly to the soda aisle, and heard the angels singing!! Well, only 2 angels. There were 2  bottles on the shelf. $4.50 each. Expensive, but oh so worth it…
So here’s what I ended up with:
2 Dr. Peppers
1 Caramel Chocolate Bar
2 bags of chips
1 bag of rice
1 bag of pasta
1 jar of pasta sauce
2 packs of instant soup
6 bananas
1 bag of frozen green beans
1 pack of butter
1 pack of cheddar cheese
1 stupid expensive deli container of scalloped potatoes that looked so warm and cheesy I couldn’t resist ($8!!!)
24 eggs
1 onion
1 frozen pizza
1 roasted chicken

Grand total? $80!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I bought store brand, not imports. Ouchy. Came back to the house and worked and blogged the rest of the day. And that ended Day 3.

DAY 4
Day 4 was declared a day of “no sitting in chairs or cars”. I’m over this damn tailbone situation. It’s been a week and half since the accident and I’m still hurting. So I literally laid in bed all day, blogged, caught up on 80% of my work (yay!), and hung out with the cats. And that ended Day 4.

DAY 5
Day 5, I needed to get OUT!! I didn’t want to do a major excursion yet. I still want to take it super easy on my tailbone and give it a chance to finally heal without having pressure on it all the time. So I took the car down to the local beach and hiked around. I started by parking at the entrance to the mangrove boardwalk. I knew it was the entrance because fortunately mangrove is the same word in French and English! There was a GORGEOUS boardwalk through the dense mangrove forest, which then opened up into a lovely little path. That path then wound around to a beautiful mudflat. So many little habitats in one small area! So delicate. Best part? There wasn’t a single other soul back there.

A zillion air plants!!

Beautiful mud flat

I snap any wildlife I can. It’s few and far between!

The path eventually put me back out on to the road. I continued walking up it to the end, where there is another path that will take you all the way along the coast to the next town- Anse Bertrand. GORGEOUS empty beaches!! STUNNING tide pools! I really had a blast just wandering along and exploring it all! When the trail wasn’t right on the beach, it was on a wonderful little shaded path. I went a total of 1.5 miles from the car, then turned around and went back. I might get the motivation to walk all the way to Anse Bertrand (about 6 miles roundtrip) one of these days….

Blue Crab (I love this shot!)

STUNNING purple coral, just living in a tide pool!!

Chiton

Cool fish

Another cool fish (took forever to get this shot!)

MASSIVE sea urchin tests!

I ❤ these tide pools!

DAY 6
Day 6, tailbone is actually feeling a little better!! I knew giving it a break would help! However, new problem is that I’m not sleeping very well. My room doesn’t really have any windows to the outside, and it is really hot and stuffy. Even with a fan 3 feet away from me, I’m still uncomfortable at night and it wakes me up a lot. So Day 6 was spent blogging and working (sound familiar??), and following YouTube rabbit holes- in other words, RELAXING! And that ended Day 6.

DAY 7
At home, I am a hermit. A seriously introverted hermit. I live in my house with it’s high ceilings in the living room and huge window that looks out on to my courtyard garden on my 1/3 acre spread surrounded by 6-10 foot high solid hedges, walls and fences (that sounds SO much fancier than it really is. We’ve been in the midst of a massive remodel for 2 years and trust me, nothing is fancy!). No one can see in and I can’t see out and I used to go and teach live classes 1 day a week but the drive is just too much for me (because I’m ridiculous and don’t want to leave home, not because it’s that far!). I’ll go to Lowes to get plants for my yard and to the grocery store once every 2 weeks. Other than that, you need heavy equipment and a major dose of manipulation/convincing to get me out of the house. Crazy that I am also the same girl that travels the world solo!! And when I’m on a long sit and have a lot of work to do, I can easily slip into that mode if there aren’t a lot of really interesting things to do around me. And here’s a good place to have a discussion about my relationship with the Caribbean islands. Caribbean, it’s not you, it’s me. See, I’m not the girl that wants to just hang out on a beach all day. You are great, and you’ll have no problem finding someone to love you! Someone who appreciates that your main offering is sitting on a beach all day. But I need lots of terrestrial wildlife and/or lots of history. And you aren’t meeting my needs. That said, I sat inside and worked all day.

DAY 8
This is officially declared to be “Don’t be a hermit day”!! ROAD TRIP!!! I decided to explore the part of the island called Basse Terre- the mountainous part. Specifically, the southern route. I sat down and plotted out a few things (seriously, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t a beach 😕) that looked interesting and hit the road! I was gone pretty much all day. Found 5 stations on the radio that play 80s American music fairly often, interspersed with French stuff, so at least I could sing along. The best part though was hearing a song that was brand new to me!! It was a rap song- ABOUT KING LOUIS XVI AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION!! WHAT?!!! Some of the history was off, but I forgave it. Came home and researched, and it’s actually a Mel Brooks song from 1981!! LOL!! So fun! Here it is on YouTube. Who knew??

So I’m heading out on my road trip and hit a MEGA traffic jam. Two lane road, and cars backed up as far as I could see at a dead stand still. I sat there for about 15 minutes before I decided there had to be a better way. Turned around and google maps showed me a different route. I swear to god, Google Maps is on a mission to kill me in every country!! It took me off down some crazy dirt road where there was nothing and no one and the grass was so high in the road you knew it was rarely traveled. Of course, then it started to rain. I ended up at a DEAD END. Frustration is an understatement. Somehow managed to turn around and find my way back to another paved road and got back on track. Next time, I’ll sit in traffic.

Dear Google Maps, Just because there are places for car tires to fit does NOT make it a feasible “alternate route”. Love, Mary.

First stop was something that looked cool on the map. Le Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées. Basically Archaeological Park of Carved Rocks. Who did said carvings? The Arawaks (indigenous people of these islands). When? I dunno. From what I can figure out, around the year 400 or so? What do they represent? I dunno. Why am I so clueless? Well, EVERYTHING was in French. Le sigh. I pulled in, parked, went inside, the guy spoke enough English to tell me to join the tour that had already started. Apparently you can’t just wander through the park alone- you have to have a guide. Bonus score- no entrance fee. The grounds are gorgeous. Seriously. But I stood there kind of smiling and nodding while the very animated guide who everyone thought was hilarious and very knowledgeable based on their reactions did his thing. He pointed at rocks and talked about them. The thing that struck me is that they’re just out here in the open, exposed to the elements!! What the hell, France?! Even Malta has enough sense to put their good shit under huge coverings to protect it. #disappointed

After looking at some rocks, we went on to learning about ancient plants the Arawaks used. I can’t tell you a damn thing about any of it. Le sigh.

If you smash these red seeds in this plant, you can paint your face.

These things were HUGE! Like bigger than my hand. No idea what it is. But I did eat some of it when it was passed around. Tasted kind of nutty.

Back in the car, more driving, made it to the next stop. It was in a guidebook that I have that’s in French. Basically, some kind of lighthouse with cannons. Pointe du Vieux Fort. So….it was a lighthouse….with some cannons….and a nice view.

See the boy in the blue shirt? He’s a jumper. #shudder

Next stop, MONOPRIX!! From what I can gather, there are only 2 on the island. I took the last 2 Dr. Peppers from the one by the airport. I was praying this one would have like 10 or so. Three. Sold. At any price at this point…. And some snacks for the road.

Back on the road to the next point on the map. Anse a la Barque. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but Anse means cove. And everything to see or do here starts with Anse…. Granted, it was very pretty. But what do you DO here??

My little car 🙂

Next pinpoint was supposed to be some kind of hot pools. Ravine Thomas Bain Chaude. Parked and followed the signs. The pool was full of locals, I stuck out like a sore thumb, I wasn’t about to take pictures of them to get a picture of the pool, so I turned around and walked back. Woo. Hoo.

Brian, I’ve found our next remodel. Oceanfront.

It was time to turn from the coast and head inland over the mountains. It was pretty, but not Dominica pretty. And I know there’s no wildlife, so it’s not like a jungle in Costa Rica that I can stare at and imagine what kinds of things might be out there!! Last dot on the map was for Cascade Aux Ecrevisses. Basically, a waterfall. It was JAM PACKED. No parking in the lot, and cars parked up and down both sides of the road. I found a spot and walked to the falls. Pretty spot, too crowded, turned around and went back to the car. Le sigh.
And that was it. Drove back to the house just before it got dark. I was out for about 8 hours and this is all I did. It felt more like a checklist and enjoying myself. Tailbone was thrilled to be out of the car. At least the cats were happy to see me!