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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brittany's Costa Rican Birthday Bash

So did you miss me? I have been away awhile, escorting my long-time friend Brittany around the country. She decided she did NOT want to celebrate her 40th birthday in New York City so she hopped on a Jet Blue and spent nearly two weeks with Layne and me and our puppy Winston, who rather fell in love with her. In part, she was checking out Costa Rica as a possible place to relocate where life would be less stressful and less expensive than NYC. Although we spent one morning looking at apartments, mostly she and I made overnight trips to our favorite resorts, such as Bahia Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula and Finca Luna Nueva near La Fortuna.

But we started right here in Atenas with the El Toledo Coffee Tour, guided by our friend Gabriel who sells organic coffee at the feria each Friday. We were joined by part of the Santa Eulalia gang, Chris and Sue and Bonnie, along with Layne who handled wild dog Winston, for the long winding climb up the mountain to the El Toledo farm. Gabriel explained in detail the history of the farm and why and how they switched to organic permaculture farming some twenty years ago after his father realized that pesticides and chemicals were causing his health problems. It was a steep learning curve for them and not immediately profitable. In fact, even now they make less than before the change but as Gabriel said, "Our family's health and the health of the planet are priceless."
Gabriel explains coffee to Bonnie while Winston wanders
Beans fresh from the roaster
After Gabriel's educational talk and a delicious "coffee tasting" experience, we hiked along the steep trails through the farm, learning as we went and enjoying bites of the multitude of fruits that grow unaided among the coffee plants. Brittany really enjoyed the tour and we highly recommend it.

Next on our agenda was a sea kayaking trip to Bahia Rica, a rustic lodge near the Paquera ferry landing run by a friendly Norwegian couple, Vigdis and Thomas, offering tours of all kinds, from sport fishing to snorkeling to whale and dolphin watching. The kayak trip, however, almost did Brittany in as the vigorous paddling aggravated carpel tunnel and tendonitis in her right hand, causing so much pain that for the return trip, Thomas hitched her kayak to his and towed her back to the lodge. Even though Brittany was a bit discomfited to need the help, she did say it allowed her some leisurely sightseeing. And there was plenty to look at because the scenery among the islands there in the Gulf of Nicoya is stunning, although we were saddened to see how terribly polluted the Gulf has become.
On the Paquera Ferry... can she be 40??
Brittany on the porch at the lodge
Lucky for us, Thomas had just snagged a huge corvina or sea bass on a fishing trip the day before and the dinner he prepared with it was fabulous. We enjoyed lively conversation, much of it about food and cooking, with Deborah and Steven, a pleasant couple on vacation from Colorado. Since I had mentioned to Thomas and Vigdis that it was Brittany's birthday trip, he even baked a yummy chocolate cake and served it with ice cream and a candle on top!

Finca Luna Nueva pool
Finca Luna Nueva, a huge organic farm and conference center near La Fortuna, was our next outing and it allowed for some nice relaxation on the veranda of our spacious family bungalow. The afternoon of our arrival, I went for a swim in their big spring-fed, non-chlorine pool while Brittany opted for the hot tub. There she met Joseph who works for FLN as a microbiologist, studying ways to sequester carbon in the soil and plants. When I joined them after my swim, we all had a most fascinating conversation about soil biology and the principles of permaculture. For more information on the biodynamic systems used at FLN, visit Joseph's blog.

The next morning we were up bright and early for a horseback ride to Arenal Volcano.
View from my horse Luna
Brittany in control again

Brittany and Yours Truly enjoy the view
Brittany is not the experienced rider that I am so she had a few rather exciting moments as her mount had different ideas than she did on which way to go. But she managed to coax the beast along the steep and muddy trail to a high point beneath the volcano that offered us a splendid, if slightly cloudy view.

Hands-free! Brittany takes a picture of Cesar, our guide, volcano in the background
Finally, on Tuesday the 14th, it was Brittany's special day and along with Layne we headed to Jacó to celebrate her birthday. The weather cooperated with beautiful sunshine and a few drifting clouds. So with Mojitos and Margaritas in hand, we lazed around for the afternoon, wandering along the sandy beaches and taking a few dips into the powerful surf before heading home for her to pack.

All in all, it was a fun-filled holiday. We hope Brittany enjoyed it all as much as we did. Happy Birthday, honey! 
Check out Layne's novel "Moral Turpitude," Kindle edition now available for only $4.99 at Five star reviews! High adventure with corporate intrigue, danger and romance; from the exotic jungles of Borneo and Costa Rica to the erotic jungles of San Francisco. A great read! Pick up your copy here -


  1. I Cant Describe How Much I Appreciated The Fabulous Hosts of My Trip! (Including Winston :) Kat Knows Her Way Around Costa Rica! Thank You for Driving! How Lucky was I to Land Such a Great Tour Guide & Friend! Everywhere everyone was so pleasant and nice. I was so lucky the weather for my entire trip was gorgeous. Thank You Once Again Everyone that Participated and Gave me my Fabulous Forty!
    XOXOX Brittany