Grecia, and Opera House in San Jose, Costa Rica

After our circuit from San Jose to the Pacific coast, then to the Arenal and Monteverde areas, we return to San Jose.  Our last stop on the road was Grecia to visit a church and take a break.  Grecia is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and calls itself the cleanest town in Latin America.

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Iglesia de la Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes at first glance looks like a red brick building.

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But it is constructed with prefabricated steel plates painted red imported from Belgium in the 1890’s.  It is built in the Gothic style architecture that developed in the late medieval period or Middle Ages.  This was roughly from the 5th to 15th century.

Characteristics of Gothic architecture included pointed arches, a rib vault, rose windows, towers, and/or spires.  Towers are seen in the first picture.

garden3 The inside has a pristine look with the rib vault ceiling down the center.  I’ve heard that these tall vaults from the Middle Ages were meant to point people up to God.

Once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess.  Plus, I love history.

garden4The light messed up this photo of the windows and altar, but they were beautiful.

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garden5These trees with the yellow flowers were in several small towns in this region.  I think it is a Cassia Tree that originates in Asia.  It needs hot tropical conditions.

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Our final tour was the Opera House in San Jose.  The proper name is The National Theatre of Costa Rica (Spanish: Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica).   Construction began in 1891 with a grand opening in 1897 with a production of Goethe’s “Faust”.

It is located in the central section of San José, Costa Rica.  The traffic into and out of the city center was horrific.

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Financing for the building included a heavy export tax on coffee growers.

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The building’s decor is very reminiscent of European churches and castles.  The architect had traveled to Europe and wanted to duplicate the style and grandeur he saw there.

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This could actually be from one of the castles of King Ludwig of Germany.  Same style.

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This looks like the gilded walls found in Germany’s fairytale castle or Neuschwanstein.  Disney’s castle is copied from it.  Opulence to the extreme.

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Ah, buildings from the 19th century, even in the US national capital, really drip with splendor.

Once again, I want to say thank you to Diane Atchison for allowing me to use her photographs (the ones without my copyright) for my Costa Rica postings.  They gave a more complete picture of our trip.  With this post, I’m saying adios to our Costa Rica trip.

Thanks, readers, especially those who consistently read my blog.  I love sharing plants and trips with you all.  Your time and encouragement are much appreciated.

“Life is what you make of it.  Pura Vida.”  Costa Rica adage

Zacero, Costa Rica

Leaving the mountains of the Monteverde area, we travel down over high rolling green hills and pass through small communities.  The drive is beautiful.

The pictures taken by me have my copyright.  The others are used with permission from Diane Atchison.

gardenAt a stop in Zarcero, about 40 miles north of the capital San Jose, we have time to stroll through San Rafael church and the topiary garden.

garden1The church has a grand feel to it.  The column on the right looks like marble, but is actually a painted wooden one.  The church was constructed in 1895 with a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles.

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This view looks from the church to the garden.

parkmanThe topiary garden of ‘Parque Francisco Alvarado’ is the creation of Evangelisto Blanco in the 1960’s.   He took it upon himself to design this square.  To this day he still shows up every day trimming and maintaining the garden and greeting the tourists.

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The shrubs are conifer cypress, which survives in higher elevations.

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The large size of the shrub shapes means some serious ladders are needed, and that a great amount of time is spent working in the park.

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Their were some flowers in the park, although not an abundance.  The topiaries were the focus.

garden2Some of the designs are fanciful, like these creatures that look like shmoos created by Al Capp in the 1950’s.

175shmooAt least, that’s what I thought of when I saw them.

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This was a relaxing, enjoyable day meandering through the lovely church and garden.

“Let me not die while I am still alive.” Jewish prayer

Cano Negro River, Costa Rica

The river boat ride in the Cano Negra provided an excellent opportunity to see wildlife, especially water birds.  The Cano Negra is a 20,000 acre nature preserve.

The pictures that do not have my copyright on them were taken by Diana Atchison.

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This looks like a Blue Heron.

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Pretty sure this is a Great Egret.

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Bare-throated tiger-herons wait very still at water’s edge for prey.  As he waits for fish, frogs, crabs, and insects, his neck is stretched out diagonally.

riverride5Howler Monkeys provided the sound tract for our cruise.

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The Anhinga is a relative of the cormorant and pelican.  It’s also called a snake bird because it swims with its head above water.  It doesn’t have waterproof feathers, so it cannot completely submerge.
The Anhinga can glide long distances riding on the currents.

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This Sloth is high up hugging a tree.  It reminds me of the way Koalas sleep in trees.

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Nice disguise.

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Spectacled Caiman Crocodiles are smaller than other crocs with the maximum length of six feet.  Doesn’t make them look less scary.

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If it had not been for our Catamaran driver and our tour guide, we would have missed so much.  These Long Nosed Tree Bats are three inches long.  A zoom camera makes them look obvious.

riverride1But they were up above our heads and looked like part of the bark.

riverrideDon’t know the name of this lovely lizard with the long tail.

riverride3Common Basilisk lizard lives along water and in low marshy areas.

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It looks like a creature left over from the dinosaur age.  They are also called Jesus Christ Lizards because they can run on water when threatened.

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Another mystery.

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Don’t you love the tuft of hair on the back of his head?

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A Caiman crocodile sunning on the edge of the river.

Thanks, again, Diane for allowing me to use your great pix.

“Life is short.  Smile, while you still have teeth.”  unknown

Arenal, Costa Rica

There were many activities on this stop of our journey in Costa Rica.

duplexcArenal Volcano is the backdrop for our hotel.  There are over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, about half of which are active.  The western side of Central America is on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

duplexbThe rooms were in duplexes scattered in a random pattern over about 10 acres.

duplex8Gorgeous landscaping

duplex9Each roof supported an assortment of plants.

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duplexaI wonder if the palm tree was planted or came up as a volunteer.

duplex3The curving paths and what appeared to be random placement of buildings and numbers for those rooms made it difficult to get oriented and to find our room.  The luggage was brought by porters on golf carts.

duplex5Breathtaking views walking the paths.

duplex4Most all of the plants were unfamiliar to me.

duplexThe rooms had huge bathrooms with two showers.  The one on the right was molded to resemble an outdoor shower build with large stones.

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duplex2We had a bizarre experience on our first night.  We had time before dinner to get cleaned up.  Then, since we would leave so early in the morning, I laid out clothes for that.  So you can imagine that we had stuff scattered around.

We turned on the window air unit before we left for dinner.  When we returned, it was dark.  We stepped inside the room and bees covered every surface.  We rushed outside and called the office.  A young guy came with a broom.  He walked up to the light fixture just outside the door.  We explained that wasn’t the problem.  He opened the door, quickly exited, and sped off in the cart.

Then an older guy arrived.  After looking in the room, he said we would be moved to another room.  So all three of us dashed around stuffing clothes and objects into the open suitcases.  He and my husband were stung several times.

With luggage stacked hastily and precariously on a golf cart, we rode off in the dark to a different room.

At the new room, which turned out not to be quite as nice as the first one, I insisted we open the suitcases outside to release any bees in them.  Using a small flashlight, we shook out clothes.

Inside the room, I couldn’t find my fanny pack.  My passport, credit card, and money were in it.  So my husband and I split up to see if it had dropped off the cart.  After wondering around for a while, I went to the office to see if it had been turned in.  No luck.  So then I realized that I didn’t remember the location of our new room.

Panic starts to set in as I kept walking the pathways in the dark with my small travel flashlight.  Finally, I met my husband, who had gone back to the room and found the fanny pack.  He was out looking for me.

Even though the people at the resort say that bees have never invaded a room before, I wonder.  It was a mystery how they got in:  through the window unit or an open bathroom window.  But everyone had open bathroom windows.

The next day a crew went in and vacuumed them up.  That must have been some vacuum.

duplexdOn the way to breakfast, we saw our first toucans.

duplexfThey were up high in what looked like a palm tree.

duplexeBeautiful birds.  Just another element of a tropical environment.

“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.” James Russell Lowell

Roadside Garden in Costa Rica

During a noon stop at a restaurant, my husband and I decided to skip the meal and eat snack foods.  Three full meals a day were proving to be too much for us.

publicgardenhBeside the restaurant was a road leading up the hill to a gate and a private residence shown in the top left of this photo. On the other side  of the road was a park area.  Walking up the sloped road. workmen were toting huge bags of dirt or compose on their backs up to different areas of the garden.

publicgardencThe garden looked complete, but they were adding additional features.

publicgardennIn front of the garden on the road was the restaurant sign.  English indicated it caters to tour groups.

publicgardeneRed and purple flowers dominated making a bold, exotic garden.

publicgardenaThese looked like extra large Periwinkle flowers.

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publicgarden4Parrot flower.

publicgarden5Ginger, like we’ve seen all over the country.

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publicgarden2Enormous Angle Wing Begonia

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publicgardengMore tile flooring and seating areas were being added.  A covered area with benches provided a comfortable place to get out of the intermittent showers.

publicgardeniThese flowers look like Crown of Thorns, but the foliage is different.

publicgardenlLunch time was much longer than usual, so we stepped inside the restaurant gift shop.  Collette Tours was handling all in-country hotels, attractions, etc.  There were two buses with parallel itineraries, so we saw the other group often.  A 93 old woman from the other group had slipped on the tile floor and fallen in the restaurant.  Their group and ours happened to have a nurse.  Both nurses were on the floor with her as she lay immobile.  An ambulance from a distant town that had a good sized hospital was on its way.  Later, we heard that she had a dislocated shoulder.  She continued on the trip after an overnight hospital stay.

publicgardenoWe went back out to the garden waiting for departure.

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publicgardenfAcross the highway was another pretty landscaped area with a lake and mountains in the background.

publicgardenjThis strange tourist photo board beckoned for a photo.

All the parts of Costa Rica that we saw dripped with lush, green hills or mountains.  There were many gardens that showed great effort and design.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Butterfly Garden in Costa Rica

This post continues with the activities at Selvatura Park in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.  Thanks to all of you who have been faithful to patiently read about this trip.

After walking the hanging bridges path, we visited a butterfly garden.  Once again, thanks to Diane Atchison for her pictures.  Hers are the ones without my copyright.

IMG_3883The butterfly garden is in a structure with strong light.  These yellow flowers look like the Candelabra Bush (Cassia Alata).

butterflyOwl Butterflies (Caligo memnon) have the camouflage of large eyes when the wings are closed, but has a soft coloring when open.

IMG_3913IMG_3888Rotting fruit attracts the owl butterflies, so they can be seen near banana plantations.

butterfly4I think this is an open owl butterfly.  Labeling of pictures on the internet show this one to be an owl, but other pictures show owls with the same wings both open and closed.  Confusing.

butterfly2butterfly3Common Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)  In nature, they are found in forests and coffee and banana plantations. They eat flower nectar as well as sugar from rotted fruits.

butterfly6Loved these orange ones.

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butterfly9Just emerged from its chrysalis.

butterfly8Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais) live in both dry and humid areas of Costa Rica.  They frequent open fields and gardens where flowers can be found.

butterflyaPretty sure this is a Passion Vine (Passiflora) flower.

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IMG_3906So fun to see all the colorful butterflies.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all publicity.”  George Carlin

Zipping in Costa Rica

Continuing with our full day at Selvatura Park in Costa Rica, we next visit an area with a dozen hummingbird feeders.

IMG_3926All of the hummingbird pictures were taken by Diane Atchison.  This picture demonstrates the reason I didn’t have any successful pictures – bees everywhere.

IMG_3932Diane had a really powerful zoom, so I’m assuming that she stood back from the bees zipping back and forth.

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IMG_3997The few times that bees or wasps have been on our feeders, they seemed to be after any sugar water that had spilled out.  But these little guys are dipping into the feeder.

IMG_4010There are 50 different varieties of hummingbirds in Costa Rica.  I’ve tried to identify them from the internet, but only came up with a few names.

IMG_4011Violet Sabrewing

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IMG_4033Purple Throated Mountain Gem

Now to switch to a different kind of zipping:

ziplineZip lining was an optional activity at Selvatura Park.

Crazy me – I planned to take my camera and snap some great shots from up high.  But … nothing could be carried because hands were needed to hang on as gravity carried one zipping along at a good clip. – hence the name.

zipline2These pictures came from Selvatura website.  There were 13 different zip lines with walks, some pretty long, in between the towers.

ziplinetower - CopyHere’s one of the towers that the zip lines were attached to.  Some of the platforms were pretty small, but all were high.

ziplineclipWe had a chain with a pulley attached to our body – like a member of a chain gang.  In order to be hooked up, we had to jump up so the attendant could connect our pulley to the hook on the line.

These young men worked hard all day, not only making sure we stopped and got onto the platform safely and connecting us for the next line, but helping those who requested special assistance.  They walked supporting some older ladies from one tower to the next, then worked the tower, and went behind each lady on the next line.

In addition, if a person stopped on the line, they had to come upside down and pull themselves out to rescue the person by then pulling them to the tower.  Very hard work all day.

zipline4The last line was 1,000 meters (over a half mile) long.  Thankfully, they paired people up because more weight was needed.  So my husband was behind me with his legs around me and his ankles hooked together in my lap.

RF333CD-057This was taken on the second line.  We paid to have our picture taken from a tower.  When I came to the end of this line, I was ready to call it finished.  But there was no alternative but to finish the zip lining.  Made me wonder what would happen in case of a medical emergency.

The long day started as we arrived at the park at 8 am, walked the hanging bridges, visited the butterfly garden and hummingbird area.  Then some of us spent 4 hours doing the zip line.  We arrived back just in time for a dinner reservation.

Wonderful park.

I accidentally posted this one before the butterfly post.  So I’m sorry that these are out of order.

“The director sent for me for Tarzan. I climbed the tree and walked out on a limb. The next day I was told I was an actor.”
Johnny Weissmuller

Above Tree Canopy in Costa Rica

A full day at Selvatura Park in the Monteverde Cloud Forest took us high above the forest and deep inside the thickness of trees and plants.

If a picture does not have my copyright on it, then it was taken by Diane Atchison.

bridgetrail9This place was so impressive because it is built in an incredibly difficult terrain and the roads to get there are crazy.  Also, all the facilities are very well done.  The above building looks like an Alpine chalet but is a restaurant.

bridgetrailaIn front of the restaurant is a beautifully landscaped area.  Sure, it is easy to grow plants here.  But the work still has to be done to make it neat and orderly.

bridgetrailbSuch interesting plants.

bridgetrailcRed Crotons, I think.

bridgetraildPapyrus?

bridgetraileLooking from the restaurant to another building, which is where the zip lines start and end.  More about that in another post.

IMG_3858First we walked a circular route across 8 hanging bridges with paths in between them.  The total length was 2 miles.

IMG_3813Looking across the tree tops.

bridgetrail4Misty rain made the metal a little slippery.  The bridges were constructed of connected pieces of heavy metal.  It swayed a little in the wind and bounced as we walked.

In the pre-trip information, rain gear was suggested.  My husband and I also had a light jacket, which we ended up wearing almost every day.  Not the weather we expected.

bridgetrailThe word “jungle” comes to mind.

bridgetrail2One of the surprising things to me was how tall bushes can grow to reach sunlight.

bridgetrail5And vines with flowers growing up the trees.

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IMG_3818Such a sharp picture.  Seriously, I need to get a camera like Diane’s or learn her photography skills.

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IMG_3839The day’s activities had only begun at this point.  More on my next Costa Rica post.

“Sadly, it’s much easier to create a desert than a forest.”        James Lovelock

Monteverde Cloud Forest

After a long travel morning, we stopped for lunch in Santa Elena.  Sometimes lunch breaks presented several restaurant choices.

CRforest3We choose this one because of its uniqueness.  Obviously, it caters to English speaking tourists.

CRforest4The tree is a ficus.

CRforestSetting is lovely.

CRforest2The restaurant opened in 2004.  Many of the hand carved tables kept the shape of the tree trunk.  Good food, too.

CRforestdLate afternoon arrival.  The hotel rooms are perched on the sides of a couple of mountainsides.  The restaurant is at the bottom of the mountain, about a mile away.  So our bus or shuttles provided rides.

CRforesteThe rooms were ultra modern and spacious.  Very nice accommodations.

CRforestgAs could be expected, plants were lush around the buildings.

CRforestfThe view from our window:  sun sitting across the mountains.

Our guide usually did a commentary of interesting information about Costa Rica as we traveled.  This day he had talked about the settlers of the Monteverde Cloud Forest area.  This is the short version.

In 1951 a few US Quakers were released from short prison terms.  They had refused to register for the draft.  A group of 47 Quakers looked for a new country and chose Costa Rica because the government did not have a military.  They purchased 50,000 acres for $50,000 US dollars.

The trip from Alabama to Costa Rica took 3 months.  It took one month to travel from the border of Nicaragua to the Monteverde area, a distance of 12 miles.  Their vehicles broke down.  They bought ox carts and followed ox trails.  They learned some Spanish as they traveled.

After experimenting with crops and getting those crops to market, they finally settled on cheese production.  Several lived in tents for years.  They intermarried with Costa Ricans.  Today, they are still a thriving community with a large cheese factory that supplies all of Costa Rica with a soft white cheese.

CRforest5Early morning visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Our guide strove for us to be the first group at every destination.

CRforest7Moss growing on many trees and plants.  Of course, I don’t know the name of the plants.

CRforest9Just scroll through the pictures to see a cloud forest environment.

CRforestcThe following pictures were provided by Diane Atchison.  She did a better job managing the light that filtered in from the sky and spoiled many of my pictures.

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IMG_3693Mushrooms – not a surprise.

IMG_3699Most of the flowers we saw in the forest had small, rather pointed looking petals which are actually bracts.

IMG_3702Our first glance of a coati.  Coatis live in any wooded areas in Central and South America.

IMG_3751They are in the racoon family with rings on the tail that are barely visible.  They sleep in trees, dig for insects with long snouts and also eat fruits.

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IMG_3707A lovely, tall waterfall was near the end of our trail.  Thanks to Diane for sharing her pix.

Although I wouldn’t want to live in a humid forest, the lush growing conditions were enviable.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”  Plato

Macaws in Costa Rica

On the road again for a full day drive to our next destination. RicaCostacThis place has a snack bar and more importantly, bathrooms.  Therefore, it is a frequent tourist stop.  Note the tall mango trees.

RicaCostaAcross the highway are these statutes that show two important animals in Costa Rica – howler monkeys and Brahma cattle.  One reason Brahmas are the cattle of choice is the extreme heat and humidity.  This breed can handle the heat because of their large ears and thin skin which allows them to more efficiently cool their bodies.  They are totally grass fed.  This lean beef is what is served in restaurants.

RicaCostabIn the mango trees someone spotted macaws and quickly a crowd gathered.

RicaCosta9Macaws are simply long-tailed, colorful New World parrots.  I thought they were more exotic than a parrot.  They are native to Central America as well as Mexico and South America.

RicaCosta8Macaws have powerful beaks that can easily crack nuts and seeds, while their dry, scaly tongues have a bone inside them that makes them an effective tool for tapping into fruits.

Macaws also have gripping toes allowing them to latch onto branches and to grab, hold, and examine items.

RicaCosta1Macaws are intelligent, social birds that often gather in flocks of 10 to 30.  Their loud squawks reverberate through the trees. These calls help them communicate with the flock and to mark territory. Some species can even mimic human speech, just like pet parrots.

RicaCosta3Flocks sleep in the trees at night.  During the day they sometimes have to fly long distances to feed on fruit, nuts, insect, and snails. RicaCosta4There are 17 species of macaws, and several are endangered. These playful birds are popular pets, and many are illegally trapped and sold.  Another problem is disappearing rain forests due to logging and other problems.

RicaCosta6This one flew down right in front of me, seemingly oblivious to all the people standing around him.

RicaCostadMacaws typically mate for life. They also share food with their mates and groom each other.  In breeding season, mothers incubate eggs while fathers hunt and bring food back to the nest.

RicaCostaeIt was an unexpected treat to see macaws in their natural habitat.

“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”  Will Rogers