So, where to begin?
The past seven days have been about getting away from it all and doing a “real vacation.” By real vacation, for the first time ever we got on an airplane and flew outside the US to resort destination: Secrets Papagayo on the northwest coast of Costa Rica… which is nestled between Nicaragua and Panama.
The closest thing we’ve done to this in the recent past was a quick trip down to Key West via air in July 2013 instead of riding down to Key West on the Harley as we’ve done since. And that’s what most of our “vacations” have been, motorcycle trips or cycling trips where at least ½ of our time would be spent riding a motorcycle or a tandem bicycle.
Bottom Line: it was a great experience and even though we have nothing to compare it to aside from a couple stays at Hilton Grand Vacation resorts I would say it’s something we’ll do again but with a bit more research and most likely without using an intermediary as I’m not sure there was a lot of any added-value with that on this trip. As far as the resort we stayed at — Secrets Papagayo — the staff was superb and that is what made it so enjoyable along with having good friends to share time with. I’d also be remiss in making mention that while Costa Rica is generally thought of as a 3rd world country I was very impressed that they were far more 1st world than many places in the US in terms of energy and resource conservation. Perhaps that’s a by-product of having an economy that doesn’t take its natural resources and income / level of living for granted. Lots of solar, recycling, an intense focus on limiting waste in every way.
The back story on the trip: Debbie and our friend Sharon were both turning 60 this year and Sharon wanted to invite a group of friends to travel to a resort where they could help her celebrate her 60th on 5 August. Our friends Ryan & Jeanette typically spend two weeks every late July & early August vacationing as they celebrate their anniversary and Ryan’s birthday. With Ryan, Jeanette & Sharon’s special days falling so close together there have been a few years when their vacation plans intersected with either resort trips or the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Secret’s Papagayo resort in northwest Costa Rica became the destination after some consultation between Ryan, Jeanette, Sharon & Jeff and then the invitation was extended to several different groups of Sharon’s friends with slightly different travel plans.
- Ryan & Jeanette arrived on 22 July and would be staying until 6 August
- Jeff & Sharon arrived on 29 July and would be staying until 7 August
- Debbie and I arrived on 29 July but would only be staying until 3 August
- Patti & Brad arrived on 1 August and would be staying until 6 August
- Julie & Chuck arrived on 2 August and would be staying until 6 August
- Sharon’s other friends Jim & Pam arrived on 4 August and would be leaving on 7 August
As much as we would have loved to have stayed for the entire 8 night, 9 day visit there were both work and personal factors that played into our travel plans and the overlap in plans was the best we could come up with, noting we originally thought the entourage would be arriving on 29 or 30 July when we originally set our travel dates.
GETTING READY TO GO
We had a little bit of anxiety around the trip since we opted to use a travel agent vs. booking it ourselves where we’d have an intimate understanding of all the arrangements. We learned a lot from the experience and at the end of the day everything worked out just fine. Much of this was because Costa Rica is a USA-friendly destination so customs, immigration and currency exchange were all non-issues. We also received a lot of excellent assistance from a Delta gate agent and the staff at Secrets. But, as I said, I think we’ll most-likely do a bit more homework before handing off the arrangements to a third-party… but never say never.
Setting aside the travel arrangements, Debbie and I both had a to-do list of things to take care of before we left for a week-long vacation and we worked those off throughout the week. The big-ticket item on the list was finalizing the sale of our Honda S2000 which was good to have behind us. Beyond that it was just “stuff” that needed to be done. The big push was on Friday when was off from work and needed to get the yard work taken care of along with a litany of other things, including a few hours of work in the morning. Packing wasn’t a big deal, as we didn’t need much for a “sit by the pool and relax” resort trip. We also learned on our Vegas trip that when you get two-free bags to check, check the cosmetics bag to avoid the liquid-related issues and pull out that big 100L suitcase vs. using the two 50L cases. We had ourselves squared away by mid-afternoon and were at Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration by 5:30 which allowed us to get home in time to finish up packing as we’d have to be out of the house by 7:00am for our 10:00am flight out of Atlanta on Saturday morning.
SATURDAY, THE TRIP TO COSTA RICA & DAY 1 AT SECRETS
Sadly, I was not able to sleep at all before leaving on our trip, which isn’t unusual for me. I always seem to have a hard time sleeping before any long road trip and given this would be our first international trip… yeah, zero sleep. This lack of sleep provided some interesting moments throughout the rest of the day.
I had our bags zipped-up, down and in the truck by 6:45am and even had enough time to grab a little breakfast before heading down the road to the airport. Of course, take a sleepless night, an anxious body and add food to it and you now have an anxious stomach: ugg. Yeah, it was not the effortless, fun-filled morning I’d hoped for.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened on our drive to the airport was when a motorist on I-75 motioned from an open car window to Debbie to lower her window so he could tell her something. Turns out, after loading the three bags in the back of the truck bed I neglected to close the tailgate. Thankfully, the truck bed has an indoor/outdoor carpet liner that keeps the luggage from sliding around so when we pulled onto the shoulder of the Interstate and I walked around to the back of the truck all three bags were still sitting exactly where they were supposed to be after 15 miles of driving. So, yeah… I wasn’t exactly firing on all mental cylinders on Saturday morning.
The drive down to the airport was uneventful after that and the FastPark & Relax Lot was “the best” airport parking lot we’ve used… ever! Great experience and an easy ride over to the International terminal. Curbside check-in with the Skycaps was also a breeze as was the TSA Pre-Check.
We waited in the upper terminal so we could meet up with Sharon & Jeff who were on the same flight with us and running about 15 minutes behind. After meeting up with Sharon & Jeff and making the trek to the gate we were able to quickly resolve one of the sources of our travel anxiety by finally securing our assigned seats… and they were side-by-side too! Up and until that point we weren’t sure where we’d be sitting as seat assignments didn’t show up on our tickets and when I tried on-line check-in I discovered there weren’t any open seats together. While we were at the gate with the helpful gate agent we also were able to secure our seat assignments for the return flight on 3 August which was another added relief since that was also an unknown.
I was finally able to vanquish my last remaining bits of anxiousness when I had a double shot of Patron over at TGI Fridays as the rest of the group had coffee and a little breakfast at the food court. Yup, life quickly became a lot more enjoyable after my early morning double as you can easily see in our impromptu group photo at the food court: pretty sure I wasn’t doing all that much smiling up and until visiting TGI Fridays.
Our flight to Costa Rica would cover 1,600 miles and two time zones over the course of about four hours. This was quite opportune as I’ve struggled to find the time and focus I needed to make some headway in reading the book by Charles Mann entitled ‘1491 – New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus‘. Upon our arrival in Costa Rica, getting through immigration took about 20-30 minutes as our flight arrived about 20 minutes late which stacked us up behind an American Airlines flight that arrived on time. We had no previous point of reference for how long it should take to get through customs so the 20-30 minute wait was OK for us. After that, we breezed through customs, were greeted by a Delta Travel agent who in turn introduced us to Glennis, our Secrets Concierge, who escorted us to our shuttle bus to the resort. Glennis gave us a very nice overview of the resort on the 30 minute drive.
Sadly, when we arrived at Secrets we learned our room selection wasn’t quite what we expected. Instead of being in a standard room with a king bed and panoramic ocean view, we were booked into a bungalow with twin beds and a tropical view. There was also some other confusion over whether or not we were the odd-men out on a premium package which further muddied the waters. However, within about 15 minutes the wonderful staff at Secrets were able to move us to the desired hilltop room overlooking the ocean bay for what amounted to a $275 up charge: it was well worth it as we ended up with a million dollar view!And, if that wasn’t reason enough, it also put us in a room right below Ryan & Jeanette for our entire stay which worked out quite well.
After being shuttled to top of the resort and getting settled into our rooms we quickly changed into our swim wear and headed down to the main pool where we were told our friends Ryan & Jeanette — and yes, everyone on the staff who interacted with the guests knew all of us by name within just a day — could be found at the swim up bar. Oh yeah, this was shaping up nicely.
After spending a few hours enjoying the pool-side bar with our friends and making quite a few new ones, we were advised we’d be having dinner at Hitmitsu, the on-site Pan-Asian restaurant complete with hibachi grill-side dining, which is what Ryan & Jeanette had planned for us. Sadly, given I hadn’t slept in 39 hours, I don’t have a vivid recollection of our dinner. However, I think it was really good! But I’m guessing I wasn’t much of a conversationalist at the table that evening. But, I will say as we walked from the restaurant to the shuttle pick-up point my feet almost moved me toward the live music coming from the Sugar Reef bar.
SUNDAY, DAY 2 AT SECRETS
Early to rise… like 3:30am which would have been 5:30am at home. We tossed and turned a bit and Debbie was able to drift back off to sleep while I waited for sunrise.
Once I had a little bit of natural light I was able to get all three of the cell phones connected via the resort’s WiFi service so I could catch up with Email and whatnot. Yeah, it would have been nice to fully disconnect for the week but that no longer seems possible for a variety of reasons.
Regardless, I think it was about 6:00am when we finally gave up on trying to sleep and headed off for our morning walk “on the beach.” I say this jokingly in that the beach along the shore of our resort isn’t quite the same as the beaches we get to enjoy at Panama City or Daytona Beach, Florida, where we have miles and miles of lovely white sand at our disposal. No, the beach along this part of Costa Rica’s coast has been formed by the erosion of lava noting there are over 50 volcano’s dotting the landscape, many of which are still active. Interestingly enough, the water is still crystal clear but looks murky near the beach because what you’re seeing is the black sand. However, the biggest limiting factor was that the beach at high tide was perhaps 200 yards from end-to-end. However, all was not lost as there were well over a mile of roads within the resort that meandered up and down the very hilly but lush and lovely landscape which allowed us to get in about 2.5 miles of walking before breakfast.
After our walk we wandered into the Market Cafe for the daily breakfast buffet. They also served breakfast at a small outdoor restaurant near the spa called Aqua and for Preferred level guests at the Seaside Grill. After breakfast we returned to our room, put on swim suits and prepared to spend the better part of the day at the main pool with it’s wonderful pool side swim-up bar, the Manatee.
As we staked-out lounge chairs for ourselves and our four friends, they all began to emerge from their respective breakfast restaurants of choice and joined us poolside. The sun was intense even at just 9:00am in the morning and the pool while comfortable didn’t exactly cool you off as it was near body temperature. Given it was an all-inclusive resort, the designer breakfast drinks and adult beverages began to flow early. I was also introduced to Costa Rica’s version of Diet Coke: Coca Cola Light, or Coca-Light. I will say I enjoyed the taste and the name better than the Diet Coke that’s sold here in the states.
Around lunch time the skies became a bit overcast and a light rain shower came through as we joined Sharon & Jeff and Ryan & Jeanette at the Seaside Grill. Technically, only guests who paid for the premium Preferred level rooms and service are permitted in the Seaside Grill for breakfast and lunch but since this was the off-season and there were so very few Preferred-level guests, they allowed Sharon & Jeff (who were Preferred guests) to host us for lunch. It was a very good meal and a very nice dining experience.
I should note, the resort had an amazing entertainment staff that hosted some kind of special activity about every hour on the hour, including snorkeling, kayak and paddle boarding, water volleyball, beach volleyball, cooking lessons, water aerobics, yoga, dance lessons, painting and a for additional fees on-site vacation hosts could book fishing, jet skis and a variety of other tours and activities. Miss Debbie, Sharon & Jeanette all joined in for the afternoon water aerobic’s workout in the main pool.
Jeanette, Sharon, Debbie and I also signed-on to learn the Cha Cha at the 3:00pm dance lesson along side the pool area. Not sure any of us are ready for prime time but we now know the basics and can at least practice it along with our waltz and rumba steps.
Around 4:30pm a very strong thunderstorm moved in over the resort that lasted well into the night. And when I say very strong, I mean of epic proportions to anyone like us who had not previously experienced equatorial rain forest thunderstorms. Power came and went several times after we took a shuttle bus back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. The staff was well versed in what it takes to ensure the 200-300 or so guests who were on the property always had umbrellas, plenty of covered spaces to enjoy and the aforementioned shuttle bus services needed to move everyone around the sprawling complex with its wide variety of restaurants and other accommodations.
We ended up heading down to Portofino with its gourmet Italian cuisine for dinner. As we waited for our table we enjoyed some cocktails at the upper pool side Barracuda bar as the rain fell on the deep blue lighted and now empty pool.
Yes, despite the rain we were a happy group. Well, pretty happy. Shortly before dinner lightning either hit or blew-out a transformer in the lower bungalow area leaving our friends Jeff & Sharon in the dark and without air conditioning. With the assistance of our wonderful maître d’ the resort staff was able to make another room available to Jeff & Sharon for the night that was not affected by the power outage.
After dinner we called it a night and returned to our respective rooms. The “light show” continued for several hours and we had a bit of added excitement when a raccoon attempted to join us in our room for the night. You see, on Saturday night we shut off the A/C and opened up the glass doors to our patio so we could enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the rain forest. I’d thought the screen doors latched so no worries. However, on Sunday night almost as soon as I shut off the light one of the screen doors suddenly slid open about a foot, prompting me to intuitively shout “get the hell away” not really knowing who or what caused the door to open. It was at that point I discovered the screen doors didn’t really latch securely and recalled hearing from other guests how raccoons had gotten into their room. So, that put an end to our fresh-air nights as I had no other option than to close and latch the glass doors.
MONDAY, DAY 3 AT SECRETS
We had to skip our morning walk on Monday as we all signed-up for a 3/4 day long excursion on Monday that would take us out to Filadelfia, Guanacaste and Palo Verde National Park for a 1.5 hour boat tour of the Tempisque River. The trip would also include two visits to Hacienda El Viejo which borders the National Park with lunch at La Casona, the two-story wooden main home built in 1881 after the boat tour.
We met our tour guide, Juan, at 7:20am in front of the resort lobby and our group of six joined another four guests for what I think ended up being a seven-hour excursion. Juan was a former national park ranger with a passion for nature and environmentalism, but at times was a bit over-the-top, blind to reality and even ill-informed. Our first stop was about 1/3 of the way to the park where we were scheduled to meet another couple coming from a different hotel for the tour in the small town of Filadelfia. The stop gave us a little time to wander around the square and have our first encounter with iguanas out in the wild. While quite exciting at first, we came to realize iguanas in Guanacaste run around like wild cats: they’re everywhere!
With our group of twelve now all on board the bus, we continued for what was about another 45 minutes along heavily rutted and muddy roads lined by sugar cane fields to Hacienda El Viejo where we’d have a chance to stretch our legs and enjoy some cold beverages before the boat tour of the Tempisque River in the adjoining Palo Verde National Park. The view of the low lands surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges was breathtaking to say the least.
After another short, bumpy ride into the National Park we boarded a small motor launch for the 1.5 hour tour of the Tempisque River, a fast flowing 90-mile long waterway that is heavily silted to the point of being muddier than the Mighty Mississippi. Originally used to support the timber industry and the movement of logs from Guanacaste Cordillera to the Gulf of Nicoya, the river is considered an important habitat for a wide variety of birds, crocodiles, monkeys, and iguanas.
“Amazingly” as soon as the boat pushed away from the pier and moved into the river the trees on the opposite side from the boat launch came alive with a family of white-faced capuchin monkey’s and perhaps a few howler monkeys.
So, what are the odds these monkeys just happened to be hanging out as close as they could to humans vs. being off somewhere else in the vast National Park? Moreover, given this was our sole encounter with primates on the river tour I was left to suspect the tour operators must doing something for the monkeys to ensure visitors have something exciting to see on the tour. I say this as we may or may not have seen one or two crocodiles in the murky water, several more iguanas, several birds and a small cluster of bats nesting on a tree. Well, that and a lot of garbage — plastic soda and water bottles, bags, wheels from a stroller, and on and on — floating down the river which didn’t seem to phase our naturalist and tour guide all that much: “It just gets washed into the river during heavy rains.” Our host also didn’t quite grasp the concept that it’s not appropriate to be highly disrespectful of your guest’s national leaders by going on a short tirade based on less than accurate information. But, I’ll just leave that there for now as it was only about 5 minutes worth of narration out of our 6 hours together that were highly objectionable.
Following our boat tour we headed back to the Hacienda El Viejo where we had a very nice lunch at the aforementioned La Casona. After lunch we were taken on a tour of the original ox-powered sugar press and given a demonstration on how sugar juice is extracted from the cane along with a taste of the raw juice. After that we were taken down to the sabanero house where a few of the guests made corn tortillas, sampled coffee and other sugar-based snacks.
Once again, almost on cue a small family of howler monkeys appeared as we walked down to the sabanero house. They put on quite a show but were conspicuously missing when we left. So, despite the naturalist nature of these tours and admonishment on interacting with the primates, the way the monkeys gather certainly seems to suggest an almost pavlovian behavior had been created to ensure tourists have a memorable experience and see something other than just iguanas, butterfly’s, birds and other less exotic creatures. Remember, tourism makes up 60% of Costa Rica’s economy!
We made the 1.5 hour drive back to Secrets by way of Filadelfia where we dropped off two of our guests, and then via Cocoa Beach where another four guests were dropped off at their resort. I want to say we were back at our resort and enjoying the pool again by around 3:30pm after catching up on Email from work (ugg, it just won’t go away).
Ah, it was good to be “home” after the long excursion and surrounded by happy guests, attentive hosts and the amazing scenery at our resort.
We opted to go to the Market Cafe for the dinner buffet and then headed over to the Sugar Reef bar for a little more socializing, some Texas Hold ‘Em and dancing to the live music. It was a great way to end a very long day.
TUESDAY, DAY 4 AT SECRETS
As we did on Sunday, we were up and out early for a 2.5 mile walk before stopping in at the Market Cafe for breakfast. Our friends Ryan and Jeanette joined us as well. Jeff & Sharon opted to enjoy the Seaside Grill and we all ended up back at the pool by mid-morning where we spent pretty much the rest of the day. Just so you have a better idea of the lay of the land, here’s a map of the resort with our room at the highest point in the resort pinned for reference.
Having been at the resort for three days the staff and other guests were now more friends than just other guests and staff and that made for a great time. I tried to knock out a bit of this blog as I enjoyed the sun and that wasn’t working: too much glare. I moved over to a small table at the Barracuda bar and that worked a lot better. Sadly, work kept creeping into the picture but not more than a 1/2 hour’s worth. I didn’t get a lot done on the blog, just more-or-less of an outline which was good as my memory was being somewhat challenged by the long days in the sun and at the swim-up bar upon hearing the now ubiquitous question from Ryan, “Is it time?”
Debbie disappeared for a while after deciding she wanted to be pampered a bit with a facial and some other type of treatment at the spa. I walked her over to the spa and would come and get her 90 minutes later ahead of lunch. I’m pretty sure she was very happy with her facial and she absolutely glowed… a glow that continues to stay with her. Then again, maybe it was just the compounding effect of being at Secrets for yet another day of doing basically nothing.
For lunch we were encouraged to give the Barefoot Grill a try and it was spectacular! Debbie and I split a burger, but it was one of the best “basic burgers” we’ve had in a long time, on par with Loco’s Willenburger. And, as anyone knows, we both love eating up at a bar and the Barefoot Grill was no exception.
The afternoon was all about the pool and somewhere around 2:00pm our friends Patti and Brad arrived to join the rest of the group. At some point during the afternoon Jeff hosted Ryan and me for cocktails inside the Preferred Club where they had several bottles of Don Julio tequila. Now, the Sauza 1800 silver we’d been enjoying at the Manatee and elsewhere was just fine; however, when there’s some Don Julio Anejo available just for the asking… well, there you go! Ryan and I enjoyed a little of that while Jeff stuck to his whiskey and soda. We probably spent about 30 minutes in the club, noting we were the only people other than our capable barkeeper… who was probably glad to have a little company. It was a good time where we talked about tequila, Ray Kroc and Lord knows what else after the 2nd shot of Don Julio took hold: my apologies where appropriate.
We headed back to the pool after that where the girls had once again indulged in the water aerobics (I think) and may have also gone off to another dance lesson. At some point Ryan, Jeanette and Sharon went off to a painting lesson over at the pool side pavilion. Yup, it was just that kind of afternoon.
We finished off the day with dinner at the Seaside Grill which was open to all guests in the evening and then headed over to Sugar Reef where a 3-piece band was playing music we could dance to. I think we may have been the last couple standing by the end of the night.
WEDNESDAY, DAY 5 AT SECRETS
I was up early which gave me time to get caught up on Email and to just take in the beautiful sunrise on a somewhat overcast morning.
Our first appointment of the day was breakfast with our friends at Aqua when it opened up around 8:00am. That gave us plenty of time to get in our morning walk around the resort before making a final lap that would take us to Aqua. Our friends passed us in JJ’s shuttle bus on their way to Aqua and as we thought about all we’d consumed during our time at Secrets we both agreed getting in as much walking as we could was the right call. In fact, thinking back, the only shuttle rides we’d made were the first one up to the room when we checked-in and three times during the evening when it was raining on Sunday. Other than that, we always walked, which was no small feat given our room was at the top of 100 yard incline that had to be close to a 15% grade.
We shared a nice breakfast with our small group of friends and then wandered down the beach and over to the main pool area. It would be fair to say Aqua was on the quiet side of the resort, adjacent to the spa and fitness center and what the resort characterizes as one of their more romantic spots. I’m not sure we nailed the romantic spot but I did feel like we needed to get a few more photos with us in the photos to prove we really were on vacation!
The plan for the day was a shuttle ride over to Cocoa Beach where we’d walk what was described as being the “Key West like” main drive and beach area. It was only a 15 minute ride and the plan was to leave around 10:00am, spend an hour or and hour and a half and then shuttle back to our resort for lunch. The plan didn’t exactly play out that way due to a slight bit of confusion on the shuttle arrangements such that we finally left around 11:00am. Things changed a little bit more once we arrived as our departure was slipped until 2:30pm, which seemed like a lot more time than we’d need at Cocoa Beach once I saw what looked like a huge tourist trap. Nevertheless, we pressed on.
As suspected, there were about 20 shops selling all of the same “Costa Rica stuff” and I suspect a lot of it was likely made in China. Debbie found a porcelain thimble for her mother’s collection and three little leather bracelets for the granddaughters with the Costa Rican catch phrase “Pura Vida” and some other little animal engravings on a metal plate. I think that may have been the sum total of our acquisitions for the entire trip. After securing the trinkets we wandered down to the beach to take in the sights and then found a small cafe & bar where we rested for a few moments.
After the refreshments we made our way back up the main drag to the Hard Rock Cafe where we’d await the arrival of our shuttle for the ride back to our resort. It was kind of weird actually paying for a drink after being at our all-inclusive resort where we paid for nothing other than slipping some of the more attentive staff members a tip now and again. The Hard Rock and adjacent buildings were about the only 1st world looking place in the entire area: it looked more like Florida than Costa Rica in that little section of town. As we awaited our shuttle we learned — much to our surprise — that our friends Chuck & Julie had already arrived at the resort well ahead of their expected ETA.
Our shuttle arrived promptly at 2:30pm and we headed back “home” to find our friends Julie & Chuck and resume our pool side / in pool party in earnest. It was good to finally have “everyone” at the resort.
Wednesday’s dinner would be the only time “everyone” would be on hand since we’d be leaving Thursday morning at 10:00am for the return trip to the airport. Ryan, ever thoughtful, scheduled a photographer to meet us at Aqua ahead of dinner for a group photo of the Atlanta contingent who travelled down to Costa Rica to help celebrate Sharon’s 60th, Ryan & Jeanette’s 16th anniversary and Ryan’s 51st birthday… but mostly Sharon’s 60th birthday.
Interestingly enough, while Aqua was known for its excellent meals, I don’t think Debbie nor I found are meals to be as good as the ones we had at Seaside, Portofino or Hitmitsu. But the company couldn’t be beaten: it was so good to have Jeff & Sharon, Ryan & Jeanette, Chuck & Julie and Patti & Brad at the same table for a dinner before we headed home. Just a great finale for us before we packed our bags and flew back to the US.
It was an early to bed after our dinner at the elegant hour.
THURSDAY, DAY 6 AT SECRETS & THE TRIP HOME
OMG! We have to go home. So sad….
Even Julio and JJ were doing the sad faces when the ran into us doing our final morning walk. Of course, that’s when I confirmed what I suspected: our “hosts with the hats” were the security team at Secrets. They knew every guest by name, they drove the shuttle buses and were ever-present throughout the resort. We ran into JJ, Julio, Jeff and Eli 10-15 times per day and a handful of other staff in straw Panama hats as well. No doubt, we were beyond safe at Secrets; they have mastered the ability to combine being gracious hosts with security like I’ve never seen before and I’ve done this for a living now and again in my life.
After breakfast we donned our bathing suits for one final hour in the sun before we’d have to head to our room at 9:00am to pack and be ready to catch our shuttle bus to the airport at 10:00am. JJ made a point of telling us he’d come and pick us up at 9:40am and bingo: he was there!
The entire immigration and customs process was not as daunting as I expected it to be in Costa Rica. However, the cost of a burger and two drinks at the airport set me back on my heels: $27.00 US. Yikes. And when we finally boarded with our Zone 1 boarding passes assuming we’d be seated well ahead of the rest of passengers on a very full flight it all fell apart when the boarding agent slipped a plastic coated tag into Debbie’s passport singling her out for an in-depth security check that took at least 20 minutes. Really? This was like our Key West return flight all over again!!! Oh well, I bit my tongue and we finally boarded the aircraft and had a comfortable flight home.
After hoofing nearly 6/10ths of a mile from our gate at Terminal E to the Customs are for Atlanta-bound passengers, the immigration process at the Atlanta airport wasn’t overly complex but it sure seemed like there were an awful lot of “helpers” standing around doing not very much while a single Customs agent did the screening of a line of some 100 US citizens coming back into the country. Yeah, not an efficient or cost-effective model by any measure. Once we were through immigration we found our bags, jumped on a FastPark shuttle and were at our truck and headed for home in about 20 minutes. We ran into a co-worker on the shuttle bus who was on his way home from a week in Oman where he had a 7-hour layover in Germany: yikes! Our delays paled in comparison.
When I asked Debbie where she wanted to go for dinner since it was already well past 8:00pm she said JD’s BBQ. Hmmm. I guess we might be rednecks if after spending a week eating at high-end restaurants the first thing we want to eat back at home is BBQ! Thankfully, we arrived a couple of minutes before their 9:00pm closing time and were able to score a couple of to-go pulled pork sandwiches and slaw.
Back at the house Debbie had just enough energy left to eat her BBQ and then headed to bed after a very long day. It took me a couple of hours to settle down and go through Email before I was ready to call it a day, as I wanted to get a head start on the work I’d be facing early on Friday morning.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHARON
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a point of saying that we wish we could have stayed in Costa Rica through Sunday and helped our friend Sharon celebrate her 60th birthday on Saturday evening. It looks like everyone had a great time on Friday & Saturday based on some of the photos that have come across the wires, er… air waves.
However, they still had a full house as Sharon’s friends Jim & Pam arrived on Friday to join the party as did Sharon’s daughter Andrea which was a total surprise for Sharon that caught her completely unaware.