Sunday, October 16, 2011

{Costa Rica 2011} - Day 10 - Puerto Viejo

I broke this day into multiple posts since we did a lot and I had a lot of photographs to post.  The rest of the trip will be more condensed. :)

Puerto Viejo is a cool city.  Very laid back and Caribbean.  Tons of Jamaican flags and Bob Marley stuff everywhere!  Tony's dad did all of the hotel booking for the trip to Límon and originally had chosen a hotel that was more resort like.  A few days before we were supposed to go to Límon news broke that the government had forcibly shut down the resort for having been built illegally in a nature preserve.  Apparently, 18 years ago an injunction was in place to stop the builders (foreign) but they ignored it and built anyway.  It took 18 years before the government was able to enforce the ruling and boot them out.  Well, the hotel was large and employed many people so when the staff and guests were evicted there was rioting in the streets.  Seeing that in the papers a few days before we were supposed to head that way was definitely not a highlight of the trip. :) But, Tony's dad was able to book us into a different hotel and it worked out perfectly.  We checked into Hotel Banana Azul and headed to our rooms to get ready to check out Puerto Viejo.

Our room key and free drink tokens made of local seeds.

The hotel is situated on Playa Negra and it's a very comfortable and welcoming place.  Lots of seating in the common area, books and sunscreen to borrow, friendly kitties and doggies living there and a lovely pool.  The hot tub is the same temp as the rest of the pool, which is the same for most hotels in Costa Rica, but it was still nice!

Pool area at Hotel Banana Azul.
Lobby/Lounge area at the hotel.
A huge pond surrounding the lobby area with giant koi and turtles everywhere!

There were several regular rooms and a few themed rooms.  Tony and I got the "Red Frog" room which is named after it's super cool open air shower with an intricate tiled red frog wall.  Yup, open air means wide open windows all around.  Anyone could have come up to take a peek while I was showering.  Thankfully, no one did. :)

The Red Frog bathroom.

Private patio of the Red Frog room.
Sleeping area of the Red Frog room.

The room had no AC but had fans and wide open windows which, at night, provided plenty of comfortable breezes.  The bed also had a mosquito net which I made sure was securely tucked around our bed at night.  Mosquitoes love me!  During the day it was a little toasty, but we didn't spend much time in there anyway.  There was also a private patio with a little water feature, a table, and a hammock.  And a resident kitty. :)

We headed into town to grab a quick bite to eat at Amimodo, but we tried to keep it light since we knew we'd be hitting a recommended restaurant later that night.  I had a delicious frozen Limoncello drink that went down way too easily.

Limoncello drink!
The view from the beaches was, of course, lovely.  But again, no freaking sunset!  I need to go a different time of year next time and actually see the sun set into the ocean.  Don't get me wrong, it was still beautiful, but I want to see colors!

Playa Negra

After our snack, which turned out to be a mini-meal, we browsed the shops and then headed back to the hotel to the hotel to relax and clean up a bit.  Tony and I hit the pool and then fell asleep unexpectedly in the room.  We were supposed to meet his dad at 8:30 to head to dinner but instead we woke up at 9:30 and headed to the restaurant.  Luckily, they were one of the only restaurants open until 10:30pm.  I'm SO glad we made it to the restaurant because it was easily one of my favorite meals on the trip.

Tony's friends and my guidebook both recommended Café Viejo so we had to make a point to eat there.  It's an Italian restaurant operated by two brothers that moved to Puerto Viejo from Italy.  One of the brothers came to our table and made several recommendations based on our taste preferences.  He said we absolutely had to try the pasta and he recommended a wine for Tony's dad and I to share (we like sharing bottles of wine...tho he says I drink them all) and a dish that picky Tony would enjoy as well.  Their speciality is a traditional handmade pasta from their region of Italy called strozzapreti. It's kind of a thick  squiggly noodle that's absolutely delicious. I was sold.  I got the stozzapreti pasta with prosciutto, asparagus and a cream sauce.  I literally used my finger to get every drop of sauce out of my bowl.  Writing this blog makes me want to go back there immediately for more.  The picture doesn't do the dish justice, but I blame the lighting and having to use a flash.

Stozzapreti with prosciutto, asparagus and cream sauce.

Oh, before we got our meals they also brought out bruschetta on the house and it was some of the best I'd had. But that's not all, folks.  Dessert!  The Tiramisu!  *drool*  It was layered into a large martini glass and topped with tons of high quality chocolate shavings.  I had a perfectly created cappuccino with it and while you had to practically roll me out the door, it was worth every pound gained.

Of course, what Costa Rican restaurant would be complete without a kitty wandering about?

El gato de Café Viejo.
One other thing to mention is the "Watchy Man" that "guarded" Tony's Dad's car while we ate.  We sat in full view of the car (which is a very nice BMW, btw) to make sure no one messed with it.  I felt perfectly safe in Puerto Viejo, but there is still crime...especially involving nice cars.  I can't remember if I talked about the "Watchy Man" in Jaco or not, but this is a very common thing.  Men will guard your car for you, without being asked to do so, and when you get back to your car it is expected that you pay them something.  Basically, they keep other people from messing with your car but if you don't pay them they'll damage you or your car.  So, it's best to pay them.

After a magical meal that I hope to repeat some day, we headed to the hotel and crashed hard.  We had a big day of sitting at the beach and eating planned for the next day so we needed our rest.  I'm happy to say the mosquito net worked like a charm!

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