What started out as a so-so week due to a bout of a nasty cold quickly made a turn for the better. I think the first sign was in my Physical Therapy class. We had a workshop day on massage, and essentially spent an hour taking turns on the massage tables and practicing massage techniques, with the help of some chocolate oil. Can I take a repeat of this class when I go back to Laf?
Then my dad arrived on Thursday night! He met up with me at my university on Friday morning, bright and early, ready for a day-trip with our Lafayette crew. We spent the bus ride catching up, a conversation filled with all kinds of random anecdotes and stories as our minds spilled over from the excitement of being with one another again.
Our excitement didn’t stop when we reached our first destination – a pineapple plantation! We were fed fresh-off-the-crop pineapple. They were technically the ‘rejects’ due to asymmetry or some other ‘deformity’, but I would take one of these pineapples off their hands any day. By far some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had. It’s hard for me to believe that I never liked pineapple before coming to Costa Rica!
Something tells me I’m being spoiled here though, and nothing in the States will compare – even though the States gets their pineapples from here! We were walking around the Dole plantation! We saw the inside of the packing plant, where many people were working hard separating and packing all the pineapples, then took a drive through the fields. Man, there are A LOT of pineapples!! Each plant only produces one pineapple, and it takes about 14 months to do so, so I guess they do need a lot, but WOW. Pineapples as far as the eye can see. We were gifted more fresh pineapple, and a virgin pina colada (served in a pineapple) before leaving.
After stopping for lunch (something to fill us up a little more sufficiently than pounds of pineapple), we made our way to the chocolate tour. Yes, that’s right, CHOCOLATE tour. You can imagine my excitement. We had a nice half-hour stroll through some rain forest, crossing over the biggest hanging bridge in Costa Rica – over 200 meters long! It was a little adrenaline-pumping, but I really enjoyed it. And with the promise of chocolate on the other side, who wouldn’t make it across?
Arriving at a small clearing in the rain forest, we learned we were in the middle of an old cacao plantation. [Cacao is the word used for the tree and bean, and chocolate is used for the finished product, once the cacao has been roasted and mixed with other ingredients].
We were then able to watch and experience each step of the traditional chocolate process, from sucking on the raw cacao beans, straight from the fruit, to eating solid milk and dark chocolate. I was in heaven, and my dad decided he picked the best possible time to visit. After watching and tasting so many of the steps, my baker mind started churning with how I could get some of these same results back at home, or ways to take some of their methods and flavors and use them for other purposes. I can’t wait till I can try them! My chocolate craving fully satisfied, we walked back out of the rain forest and returned to San Jose.
On Saturday, my dad and I enjoyed a relaxing day downtown. The weather luckily stayed beautiful for the whole day, so we were able to go to ‘Enamorate Tu Ciudad’, an event with musicians, local artisans, and other activities that happens each Saturday in the parks of San Jose, and walk around without any issues. We had a BLAST watching people and playing all sorts of board games that were out on tables. My relationship with my dad is basically founded on playing games, so it was so perfect for us. It was also really neat to re-experience the downtown area with him. I see everything differently when walking around in a more vacation-mindset than when I’m walking around as something to do while I’m living here. It was really neat, and a great way to contrast and perceive my experiences. For dinner, we stumbled across this hidden gem of a restaurant, an Argentinian place. It was DELICIOUS and a fantastic meal! We continued to reminisce, share stories, and, one of my favorite activities, talk about food!
On Sunday, we went on a really incredible tour. After a bus ride, we boarded a yacht-type boat. They offered us fresh fruits and beverages, and the boat had these really neat nets you could lay on. We saw a crocodile while we were pulling out of the river into the ocean, and later saw dolphins in the ocean!
After a relaxing ride, we arrived at ‘La Isla Tortuga’, an essentially uninhabited island, and incredibly beautiful. It reminded us of those movies where people are dropped off on a random tropical island – just a sandy beach connected to untouched, lush forest. The tour included a 1-hour snorkeling trip and a calm banana boat ride right off the coast. The visibility for the snorkeling wasn’t the best I’d ever had, but I still got to see bunches of cute and colorful fishies, and the banana boat ride was perfect for me and my dad. Bouncy enough to be exciting, but not crazy enough that you’re fearful of falling off or flipping over.
The crew transformed a picnic area into a quasi-elegant lunch location, where we enjoyed some fantastic dishes. After some free time to spend on the beach and take pictures of the birds and wild pigs, the tour wrapped up with more fresh fruit and popcorn enjoyed relaxing on the nets on the boats. What a great day!
I’m back to my ‘normal’ schedule of classes and such, but my dad and I have met up for meals. He flies out soon, which I know will be sad, but I also can’t believe how soon I’ll be returning home! I know I’ll feel sad when the time to leave finally comes around, and I’m so grateful for some of these unforgettable trips and experiences, but I’m also looking forward to returning to my home base, seeing family and friends, and of course, baking! It will come sooner than I think, I know, so I’ll just keep enjoying what I have here while I can! Until next time!