OK, let’s get one thing straight before passing Go. I’m no novice to global travel – been working at it all my life. For a solid 11 years, beginning when I was 19 years old, I landed a position as an international tour guide, back in the 1970’s. I was based in Italy: Florence in the winter, and Rome during the summer months.
In that capacity I toured Europe, North Africa, and many parts of the Middle East. Later, I scoped out Argentina and Brazil. As a California native, Mexico was a mere skip and jump, so I put that country under my belt long ago too.
One might say then, that I’m fairly well traveled, and honestly, there’s not much that I find intimidating. Dark alleys in strange countries in the middle of the night don’t ruffle my feathers. I’m confident, and fearless, in most areas. The only time I was frightened was back in 1970, in southern Tunisia, when a gang of local men tried to stone my sister and me to death for intruding on their town of inbreeds, but that’s another story.
Yet, despite my solid upbringing as a globetrotter, nothing had quite prepared me for the shock of traveling post ‘empty-nest,’ as I ventured out into the world alone, after 27 years of child rearing, and an a-typical American divorce.
And that’s another story too. (See MakingSenseofMonsters.com)
Of course, as a family we traveled. In fact, beginning when my three children were six months old, a month long holiday to a foreign country was on calendar every summer, just to integrate my kids into the world, to insure that they understood that the USA was not the center of the universe.
Indeed, this was a brand new experience, traveling solo without my clan, alone in the world for the first time since I was a young girl, only 25 years old. Now with camouflaged grey, a bit of uninvited gut and an occasional stiff hip, this experience was already proving to be a great new adventure.
“I’m going to help you pack Mom!” My daughter Sarah, 26, said, as she analyzed the pile of ragged clothes I had piled on her living room floor.
“What do you mean? I know what I’m doing.” I answered with insincere confidence. After all, I was traveling to virgin territory, new frontiers, and on top of that I was traveling at the worst time of year, the Costa Rican winter, when oppressive humidity and rainstorms were the daily grind. In addition, since I’d changed careers from tour guide, to the film industry, to my current role as photojournalist, I was carrying a load of expensive gear: cameras, recorders, computer, and other expensive electronic crap. It all needed special attention and protection from the elements.
All of the sources I’d checked had a long laundry list of “what to do in a storm,” or “when bugs bite,” or “when you’re ripped off…” The lists were endless, and more importantly, intimidating! Had the world changed so much since I’d traveled solo?
And the warnings! So many people whom I thought I could trust had cautioned me about Costa Rica, especially San Jose, the capital city.
“Get out of there as soon as possible. It’s a mess, and the crime is horrible. Watch your back, there are thieves everywhere, ready to grab your gear.” said one friend who shall remain anonymous, for his own security. But I trusted them, the whole lot. After all, they had been to Costa Rica. I had not.
After Sarah packed my suitcase, rolling the scraps of clothing into small cannoli shaped bars of cotton while omitting half my wardrobe, I sighed. “I guess this is it?” I threw the backpack on and rolled my new pelican case out the door and we headed for the airport: Me nervous and forlorn from the aloneness, and Sarah saying “Don’t worry mom, you’ll be fine.”
Per tradition, I made no plans past booking one night in a hotel following the arrival. Incoming flights to Costa Rica traditionally land at night, regardless of the airline. It seems there is no choice in this arena. So, when you arrive at night, it’s easier to have a fallout home since looking for a hotel in the dark can be annoying. Especially when you are tired after a long flight.
I’d found Mansion del Parque Bolivar online. I was careful to select a hotel that promised great architecture and character. Parque Bolivar was located in the historical district. I knew nothing about it past this online description. Beyond that, all was a mystery. I preferred it that way. There is nothing worse than planning and pre-booking places that you’ve never seen before. How does anyone do that? Those “programmers” who travel with an itinerary are poison to me. I can’t imagine traveling like that. Hideous. That kind of travel absolutely defeats the whole purpose of adventure. It’s a Duh Factor. Alias ‘DF.’
God is good. The hotel was a gem, but more importantly, the owner was hot. I’m telling you, HOT, baby HOT HOT. Fabrizio is a transplant from Rome. Ah such sweet relief from the American boys who so lack the intoxicating flame that comes naturally to Italians. Bring it on brotha! Beyond his beauty, Fabrizio runs a tight ship. I give Mansion del Parque Bolivar a 5 star rating, even though I paid only 70 $ per night for what I consider deluxe conditions and outstanding service.
The following days were pure bliss, as I discovered a glorious new city.
(See photos of San Jose by clicking the link below)