Friday, 29 November 2013


So after the spider episode the other morning, I encountered yet more beastly creatures later in the afternoon. 

I went to open a sliding window and because it was quite stiff, I had to use a little more force. As the window slid along the runners it collided with not one, but two wasps nests, on the outside of the building. The small nests fell, crashing to the ground; the inhabitants flew in all directions and I ran screaming, loudly, towards the pool, convinced that a swarm was chasing me. About to jump in, I realised I did not have a towel or any dry clothes. Not wanting to be in wet attire for the remainder of the day, I quickly tucked my dress in my knickers, jumped into the shallow end of the pool and dunked my head and arms into the water, just in case there were any lingering wasps around me. Meanwhile, a Tico had also made his way towards the pool because the now angry wasps were in his work area. I am not sure who was the most embarrassed; myself, the Tico or YS, who had been laughing at the events thus far, but now whose mother was flashing her bloomers! 

One little creature managed to get me on the arm though, b*****d! 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Cuisine of Costa Rica

So, you all know the food that I miss, but what about the food that is typical to Costa Rica? Here is just a sample of the traditional fare that is served up here.

  • Casado is the classic Costa Rican meal, served pretty much everywhere, from soda's to hotels, bars to restaurants. It actually means 'married man' and consists of black beans, rice, plantains, salad and a tortilla; as an extra, you can choose from beef, chicken, pork or fish too. The term 'casado' perhaps originated when people went to restaurants and ordered food that married men had  at home. Nice simple, honest food, and usually very tasty.
A Casado

  • Gallo Pinto is a traditional dish that originates form Costa Rica, or Nicaragua, depending on your view point! The most common breakfast dish in Costa Rica. The name actually means 'spotted rooster' in Spanish. I have yet to be successful in preparing this dish, but then you can get a good ready-made version from the AutoMercado!

  • Patacones, snack made from unripe green plantains that have been fried twice, sliced and beaten flat and then fried again. They are often served with a black bean sauce, or are prepared as a side-order, similar to chips (french fries). 

Not-so-healthy Patacones

  • Arroz con Pollo, chicken and rice. A Latin American Pilaf that is a staple throughout the country. Arroz con Gambas is popular too.

Arroz con Pollo, and is usually served in this fashion.

Ceviche and Russian Salad are renowned here too, as is white cheese, which is served with everything: it is a non-processed cheese whereby salt is added to the milk during production - a bit like Feta.

Maybe I will  post some Costa Rican recipes for you all to try!!

Thanks to Google Images for the pictures - I really couldn't bear to take photos of foods that we have eaten!


This mornings' wake up call was to this creepy crawly!

Wakey Wakey, Rise and Shine

Just after I took this picture, the poor spider fell from the bug nets and just curled up and died ... or at least that is what I thought!

When I laid the tape measure down next to him a few hours later (when I was feeling brave enough), one of his hairy little legs moved ... aarrgghhh!!!

Just sleeping perhaps?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Breakfast at Catherine's.

We attended our first 'dinner date' today: all four of us were invited to a neighbours for breakfast, where we were treated to home made waffles with maple syrup and fresh fruit. 

The boys actually met this family on our first week here, back in San Jose: we were in the bank opening our accounts and Catherine, her husband and son were the next in-line and started chatting to the kids. Turned out that we lived less than a mile from each other. Small world. 

Nice way to start a Sunday. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


There is a possibility I, we, the British, may have caused some distress towards Jose!

Towards the end of last week, DH spent the day with him shopping for building materials: while Jose celebrated the joys of God and religion and its healing powers, DH casually dropped into the conversation that:
  1. I am not Catholic
  2. I am not even religious and do not believe in God
  3. We only got married this year
Jose was aghast; even more so when DH mentioned the fact that Britain is no longer tied to the Catholic church. 

I blame you Henry VIII if this bombshell slows down Jose and his team!

Incumbents and Crew.

The owners of the entire complex (and our landlords) have arrived and are staying in their penthouse, directly above us. They are multi-millionaires from Canada according to the property manager. They have been here almost a week and have yet to introduce themselves - or perhaps we should as we are the newbies? 

Lionel or Chepe?
Since their arrival, the Lionel Richie-lookalike handyman, called Chepe, is continuously busy, or at least he tries to look busy now. To be honest, I am not really sure why he is needed 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, but there you go; he acts as security too I guess, moreover the pool is being cleaned everyday, instead of once a week. The greenery and shrubs are neat and tidy. The strimmer, that I think took a month to fix, is no longer being tinkered with at 6.30am, just below our windows. In fact there is a distinct lack of noise coming from Chepe these past few days: for the first few weeks of living here, we were constantly woken at 5.50am, when he arrived on his motorbike, revving its engine. Now of course, we are up and almost ready for school at this time, but his bike still acted as an alarm clock at the weekends - but not this weekend, when it was noticeably quiet. Perhaps - he pushed it up the driveway so as not to wake the owners!

Then of course we have the nightwatchmen, who up until now, spend most of their evenings perched not far from our door, looking out to sea (hoping to catch pirates/see a mermaid perhaps?). Not these past few days; they do their regular patrols and then retreat to the little office near the entrance, looking even more bored than usual. The weekend security, and Chepe too, all like a chin-wag with DH and boy can they talk! The say that it is women who chat most, but no, these guys can talk for England, or should that be CR? 

You are maybe wondering why we have guards? So do I! Security seems to be a popular form of employment in CR; from private houses to banks, shops and even empty buildings having guards day and/or night. Not that we have encountered any crime here so far ... although Chepe told DH of a young thief being caught red-handed a few weeks ago in a nearby private pool!

So to the other residents of Corona. Until last week, apart from the property manager, Andy and his wife and baby, it has only been us and one other solitary neighbour, Randy: early 60's from Texas and a keen sports-fisherman, looks a bit like Father Christmas. 

There was another denizen when we first arrived, a younger Randy; mid-50's, tattooed, dark glasses, backwards baseball-cap, big chunky chain around his neck, baggy shorts, massive Dodge pick-up truck - you get the picture? The boys thought he was cool, but I thought he looked more like the oldest swinger in town. Nevertheless, quite a 'colourful' character: an ex-professional motorcyclist from Los Angeles who likes a party and as rumour has it, installed a 'pole' in his lounge, for when he entertains his lady friends. Allegedly, he got mixed up with the crowd and skedaddled back to the States under the cover of darkness. 

So there you have it, my immediate body politic thus far. 

Golf Carts

To continue with my 'perils of driving' theme, another obstacle to contend with in our area are the golf carts. They are popular option for the tourists to rent while on holiday; but equally, a great deal of expats and Tico's drive around in them instead of mainstream vehicles.

Not for me, thankyou.

Being as we are a 'one-car' family at the moment, DH thinks it will be a good idea if I get one sometime in the future. 

I think not!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Full Moon on Sunday.

Full Moon 

About 6.30 pm 
A little lizard playing hide-and -seek in the greenery yesterday afternoon.


Need for Speed. Gran Turismo. Forza. Super Mario Kart. Frogger.

What do these video games have in common?

They are all based on driving in Costa Rica!

Honestly. Its true!!!

Driving here is quite different to driving anywhere else I have driven. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted. 

For a passive, polite populace, Tico's are conspicuously aggressive drivers: they don't slow down when traffic is coming towards them. It is almost like they are too frightened to decelerate, or even stop and wait, just in case they are unable to get the car going again.

Lights. Brakes. Indicators. All standard in the UK, and most likely the rest of the world, but quite rare here in CR. If the vehicle has them, the driver does not know how and when to employ them.

Pedestrians rule the roads. Jay-walking is the norm. 

Cyclists are second-in-command; riding three of four abreast, they are incapable of moving to the side to allow either oncoming or passing traffic to proceed. More often than not, there is usually a passenger sat on the handlebars too. Steering with one hand is not an uncommon sight either as quite often the cyclist will be chatting on their mobile phone; or during the heavy rainfalls, holding an umbrella aloft. 

Dogs. Everywhere. Frequently sleeping in the middle of the street. And chickens too.

Motorbikes coming at you in all directions. Overtaking, undertaking whatever takes their fancy. Surprisingly, they all wear helmets and high-vis tags, but like cars, they don't all have lights!

Who needs the fairground when real-life dodgems are on your door-step?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Absent Edibles.

Three months into our new life and I have been thinking of things that I miss most about England.

It goes without saying that family and friends are top of the list.

But after them, I think I can safely say that food and the vast variety that the UK has to offer, is what I miss the most!

I would so love a curry - poppadoms, samosas, pilau rice, chana massala, lamb passanda; almost anything from the local curry-house in fact. I appreciate that I am quite capable of preparing such cuisine, but nothing beats an Indian take-away on a Saturday night does it?


A first-rate fry up wouldn't go amiss either: big, fat sizzling sausages, thick rashers of bacon, organic eggs, black pudding and baked beans. Oh I do like baked beans so much and they just don't sell them here; all sorts of other pulses and legumes, but not good ol' Heinz 57.


Chocolate, naturally! U.S. chocolate just isn't a patch on the British version, which to me is a smooth, silky, sophisticated, exquisite, luxurious, delightful confectionery!


A selection of breakfast cereals would be good; we can get Cornflakes and Frosties at great expense, but the other cereals available (about 6 in total) are so full of sugar and colourings that I think we would be buzzing for hours.


Cream - it doesn't seem to exist here. Not sure what I will use for filling the Victoria Sponge that I always have to whip up for DH's birthday. 


Decent bread is lacking here too. As is acceptable pasta, although we have found an Italian deli that sells reasonable tasting pasta.

Oh, did I mention tea? I have bought some here, 'Twinings' - yuck; old, stale leaves packaged prettily to sell to the Americans (sorry friends from the U.S!). It is disgusting and just not ... well it's just not right! Instead, I have had to resort to drinking coffee in the morning, which is marginally less revolting.

Quickly reading back through this list though, I realise that although my head may be missing these wonderful comestibles, I am fairly sure that my heart and arteries are not!

Saturday, 16 November 2013


As Dwight David Eisenhower once said, 
"Ankles are nearly always neat and good looking, but knees are nearly always not." 
 I think mosquitoes agree, because they love my ankles. No, let me rephrase that; mosquitoes ADORE my ankles ... and my legs ... and my wrists ... and ... well you get the picture. (They do seem to avoid my knees interestingly!).

So for the past three months, my lower limbs have looked similar to a Dalmatian; instead of white with black spots, my legs are brown with red spots. Most attractive!

I have tried dressing in a decorous Victorian fashion and show as little leg as possible, but in this heat it is too much for me to bear, although I have yet to swoon!

So to make myself, and the family, less attractive to these blood-suckers, we all eat plenty of garlic infused food; when ingested, garlic makes the blood less attractive to female mosquitoes. I also regularly cover myself in Deet insect repellent; as you can imagine, I smell great! At home we have plug-ins in the bedrooms and burning, swirling smelly things and citronella candles are lit most evenings. Oh, and don't forget the cans and cans of bug spray that are stored in various cupboards around the house, and the insect nets on all the windows. But nothing works. My legs still have the appearance of carrying some infectious disease.

Thankfully I am not too vain: what with my polka-dot legs and my once dark brown hair turning ginger (with an inch thick black roots and gloriously grey streaks - please pick up on the sarcastic tone here reader!), I must look as good as my Deet-sprayed body smells. 

However, for the past ten days, I have been taking Thiamin Plus. Recommended by our neighbour, Randy, it apparently produces a body odour (brilliant, another one!!) that female mosquitoes hate. The supplement, otherwise known as Vitamin B1, is supposed to take two weeks before it becomes effective, but so far ... so good. I have not been bitten for about a week. 

Thank God as I don't relish the next product on my list of preventative measures ... apple cider vinegar, yuck!

Friday, 15 November 2013

La Casita

So a few photos of the project, La Casita.

Let the work commence!!

The Terrace and the only entrance at the moment.


Steps leading to La Casita being demolished.

The Side of La Casita.

Lounge area.

Kitchen space.

View from lounge area to bedrooms.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2


Islets de Granada.

Quick Geography lesson to start us of:

Lake Nicaragua, or Mar Dulce, is the largest lake in Central America, with an area of just over 8000km2. Within the lake are a number of islands and archipelagos. The two largest islands are called Ometepe and Zapatera. Ometepe is inhabited and is formed by two volcanoes, Concepcion, the perfect cone-shaped volcano, and Maderas. The former last erupted in March 2010, wheres the latter has not been active in historical times. The Islets de Granada are also of volcanic origin: all 365 of them were formed when the volcano Mombacho blew its cone into the lake thousands of years ago. The lake itself drains to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River; this makes Granada an Atlantic port, although both the city and lake are geographically closer to the Pacific Ocean!! As such the lake has a history of pirates, and being as DH insists he has pirates for ancestors, we took a short boat trip around some of the Islets de Granada. 

View of Granada from Lake Nicaragua.

Now, I am no great lover of boats (ask my cousin Clare), and what with the sway of natural waves and the thought of sharks and sawfish in the lake, the first 10 minutes or so were a little tricky for me! However, once we reached the little islands themselves and the waters were calmer, I felt a great deal better (despite knowing that crocodiles are often found in the area too!). 

The first small island which we sailed past was the Fort of San Pablo. Built in the 18th Century to protect Granada from pirates, our guide told us that the pirates actually used it as a base to store their booty. Now, like many other of the islands, it is owned by the government.

San Pablo Fort

From the boat, my favourite island looked lonely and solitary. A perfect shaped, story-book desert island stranded in the Lake with no close-by neighbours. Now maintained by the government, it was once owned by an extremely wealthy North-American: its isolation was the main attraction to the wealthy American as it was here that he was able to increase his wealth enormously - yep you guessed it, by drug-traffiking. 

A Perfect Desert Island

An old President also possesses an island, but as with the economies of the country, the house has seen better days. Would look just right in a James Bond movie, whereby Bond and the drug-trafficking bad girl have a 'rendezvous'. Great place for a party?

A 1970's Gangster House? No, an ex-Presidents in fact.

Some of the other islands are owned by wealthy Europeans and Nicaraguans, like this one that is owned by the Flor family, makers of the national rum. They own a few of the islands, but this is the largest one that we saw; it even has subterranean rooms, its own cascade and a helipad!

The Back Door!

Businesses can also be found on the islands; for example there is a hotel, a bar and restaurant and a few shops catering for the tourists. There is even a cemetery on one of the islands; only the inhabitants of the Lake can be granted permission to be buried here. 

Lakeside Resting Place.

Not all the islands are owned by multi-millionaires or political legends. A smattering have more regular occupants, like the one that is kept by a vet. He also owns the bordering islet, which houses his four monkeys! Heaven for the primates, their own little island, where they get regular food from the other island residents: or perhaps their own private hell, an place from which there is no escape?


Granada, Nicaragua.

Our chosen city for three days. 
And what a good choice.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone passing this side of the world to make a pit-stop in this gloriously decaying, yet aristocratic, city.

Located along the coast of Lake Nicaragua, Granada was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba and is supposedly the first European city in mainland America. It is a city with a rich colonial heritage as seen in its architecture: the renovations of buildings today have to follow colonial methods and materials wherever possible. Historically, Granada is important both economically and politically: for example, it was here that William Walker attempted to take control of Central America as a ruling president.

It is the fifth most populated city in Nicaragua, with approximately 120,000 residents; that is roughly half the population of Southampton. Restaurants are plentiful and cheap; our meals came in at roughly $40 which included 2 or 3 beers and fizzy drinks for the kids. In fact one day, DH took pity on one of the many child beggars that patrol the streets, and bought him lunch while we were eating ours. He was thankful and polite, but to be honest, he was more interested in ES, whom he believed to play for Chelsea! 

Our Lunch Date.

Food is good, not unlike Mexican in its spiciness; hard for YS though, who often finds a sprinkling of black pepper a bit on the fiery side. 

Tourism is high on the agenda, with a number of Europeans, especially French, choosing to have holiday homes here. In fact we spotted an international superstar taking a quick holiday before his busy season started. No sign of his Red-Nosed colleague though!

Santa Claus Spotted Outside an Irish Pub in Granada!

Like all good tourists, we secured a pony and trap ride around the city. It cost us $20 for nearly 2 hours - money well spent, unlike the 80 Euros for a 20 minute trip around Palma de Mallorca a few years back. Our guide was very proud of his city and its heritage and appeared to be very honoured to show us around. 

Our Transport for the Afternoon.

There are a number of large, major churches in Granada, but a great many more can be found along the brightly coloured streets. One of the oldest in Central America itself is Iglesia Merced, known to the Nica's (Nicaraguans) as La Merced. It was founded in 1534. You can pay $1 to climb the bell tower and get amazing views of the city and beyond.

Iglesia Merced

The Dome

Rooftops from La Merced

View of the Cathedral from La Merced

Throughout our short break, I kept expressing an interest in the tiles that could be found everywhere; from  restaurants and bars to hotels and stairways. Even the pavements in Granada are made of tiles of various colours and designs. DH mentioned how charming the floors were to our guide, who then proceeded to take us to a tile factory within the city, Ladrilleria Favilli

I want these tiles!!

We declined a tour of the factory although we did inquire about purchasing some tiles at a later date: Ernestina, the sales woman, frowned, sniffed and turned her nose up at us, displaying some of the much-heard about raciscm between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Apparently, the Tico's look down upon the Nica's because they see them as poor and of lower class; to be tagged a Nica is quite a derogatory insult in CR. In contrast, the Nica's dislike the Tico's, stating that they are snobby and snooty. Seems all around the world there are North/South divisions!

Anyway, it is all very amusing to DH and I as foreigners, because from what we have seen so far of these two countries, Granada is far superior to any of the urban areas that we have visited in CR. Even the people, in general, look like they take better care of themselves than they do in CR: not so many fat little bellies caused by too much of the beloved fried chicken!! I found the women to be more attractive, better dressed and well presented; DH called them 'Gringo Grabbers', which may or may not be true. A certain sort of grace can be found within the vicinity and its people.

Of course, Granada is an exception to the rule: Nicaragua is among the poorest countries in the Americas and nearly 48% of its 6 million people live below the poverty line, many surviving on just $2 a day. No wonder so many Nica's travel to CR and will undertake hard labour for just $20 a day, a wage that most Tico's won't get out of bed for. And as for the politics ... I think I will leave that issue well alone!

But politics and economics aside, Granada really is a very alluring and enchanting locality, one we would all be happy to visit again.

The Dario Hotel set in an old Colonial Mansion.

Entrance to the Dario

Most of the Colonial Buildings contain enticing courtyards, like this one at the Dario Hotel.

Streets are lined with rainbow-coloured buildings.

Palacio Municipal

Cafe-Lined Street

San Francisco Church
The Courtyard within the San Francisco Church

The Cathedral Dome from the pedestrian-only tree-lined boulevard in Granada.
The Cathedral dominates the Granada's Main Square.

Central Park

A more subdued church.