Flying back to Costa Rica on a Continental Airlines jumbo jet, I had a chance to try out my new Panasonic Lumix ZS7 camera and wow! it’s a real winner, offering a wide-angle Leica lens and a 12X zoom. My blog photos should improve dramatically.
Upon our arrival, we breezed through customs and Immigration, easily found our driver and were soon back in Atenas. But the next day when we called Dennis Easters at Pure Life Development, we learned that the apartment we thought we might rent was no longer available. Rentals here are going like wildfire through dry grass -- this, even though it is technically the “low season,” the time of year when fewer tourists are arriving. So it seems there will be no early end for us to the vagabond life. Still, we are confident we’ll soon find just the right place. Tomorrow we will go with Dennis and his partners Gerardo and Nelson to see several other places and perhaps one of them will be the little paradise we want.
Meanwhile, we’ll spend a few more days here at Vista Atenas Bed & Breakfast while we continue looking. As you can see, it’s not as if we’re stuck in some dumpy hotel. Vista Atenas is located near the top of a hill just outside of town in an area called Sabana Larga, or Long Savannah. The breakfasts prepared by owner Vera and her charming associate Jonathan are superb: fresh pineapple, watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers, all plated artistically; delicious local coffee, a few slices of smoked sausage and eggs seasoned with fresh herbs. Perfection!
Being the dedicated bus riders that we have become, on our first morning here Layne and I walked down the long, very steep hill to the bus stop, learning the hard way just how unaccustomed our downhill muscles are. Yesterday and today, we have endured stiff sore calf muscles and tight gluteus maximus muscles, a testament to the extreme terrain. Hopefully, we’ll have loosened up by tomorrow night as we plan to attend the monthly dance party at Kay’s Gringo Postre.
As we wandered through town Wednesday morning, we were surprised to hear our names called out by a woman emerging from a car ahead of us. It was Lee Cortes, the owner of El Mirador, the cool discothèque up the mountain where we used to go dance or listen to karaoke. After hugs and laughter, we learned that she’s just reopening the club this weekend. Good timing for us! We waved goodbye, promising to come dancing soon and continued on to Banco Nacional to withdraw colones. Inside the bank, once again we heard a woman’s voice call out to us. It was Carmen who works with Genevieve running the organic farmers’ market. What a small town it is and how lovely that in our short two-month stay here last spring, we made some buenos amigos.
Our real estate tour on Wednesday afternoon was lengthy and, although we saw several places that were attractive in some way, none really appealed to us immediately, as Hazel’s little chalet did last spring. For example, one three bedroom, two bath house up the hill in Santa Eulalia was very attractive at first glance, with a well-kept lawn, flowers along the porch and a large backyard with a great view. The living room was expansive and the ceramic tile floors beautiful. And the price was great -- only $300/month, plus utilities -- but the kitchen was awful. In fact, toward the back of the house, the appearance of the rooms deteriorated. Plus, there was very little furniture. With the right décor, it could be made into a real jewel of a home, but to do so would be a major project, costing us most of the savings in rent. And after we bought all those furnishings, what would we have? More stuff!
The search for housing took us to a number of different neighborhoods in the area, from a brand new apartment at the bottom of our hill here in Sabana Larga to a choice of three oddly-configured apartments just out of town to a stunning cabin on a big coffee plantation in Morazon, fifteen minutes up the hill above Atenas. The largest of three cabins on the property, it had views to die for and a front patio as big as a living room. At $650/month, including all utilities (even broadband Internet), it seemed like a good deal and we were ready to take it. Unfortunately, we learned the next day that the owner of the property is living there and has apparently decided not to rent that cabin. There remains a chance that he’ll change his mind but at this point, it’s not an option.
However, our criteria became clearer with each stop. We know we need to be close to a bus line or within walking distance of downtown or at least a small market. We prefer two bedrooms and hopefully two bathrooms so that we will have a comfortable space for guests. I am determined to have a well-appointed kitchen since I enjoy cooking and hosting dinner parties. Ideally, we would have a view since this country is so amazingly picturesque. In a perfect world, we would even have a swimming pool to enjoy. And of course, price is very important to us since we are on a fixed income now. Like a housing search anywhere, there are trade-offs. In San Francisco, where our son Damian lives, he chooses to rent a smaller apartment, which is more affordable, but near the beach since he loves to surf. Here we have to balance the priorities of price and location against the desirable features we want. Lucky for us, there are some real bargains in Costa Rica if you look for them. So that’s what we plan to do.
Now the rain is rattling through the trees as it does most every afternoon here during the summer rainy season. Mornings often dawn bright and sunny with everything washed clean by the night’s downpours. Only in the afternoons do the thunderheads build and the steady showers begin. Our little cabin here at Vista Atenas has a large front patio facing into the jungle, offering a sense of quiet privacy. The hammock is tempting even during a rainstorm. As I look out my louvered window with the breeze coming in, I can see a bright green hummingbird, undaunted by the rain, still flitting from purple to pink flower, offering a model of Pura Vida: patience and persistence will pay off in the sweet honey of a good life.