Monday, January 22, 2024

2024 Costa Rica Trip (10th Wedding Anniversary)

After missing out on Costa Rica last year, Tori was finally able to come back to Playa Negra with me this year for our 10th Wedding Anniversary. We were able to book her flight with the credit from last year's canceled flight right before it expired. Our plan was to just relax, swim, surf and take a few yoga classes with no road trips. Flori picked us up at the airport and we arrived at my dad's house at 10:30pm. After my Dad made us omelets on Sunday morning, we hung out in the hammocks and went for smoothies and a snack at Hotel Playa Negra's beachfront restaurant before going for an evening swim. We enjoyed dinner with my dad at his favorite restaurant in town, La Vida Buena.

On Monday morning, we took our first yoga class in the hotel's oceanfront shala. Since it was outdoors, I was afraid we might get too hot, but the continual breezes blowing through the open sided rancho kept us cool. Tori even saw an iguana in the trees during one class. We hadn't taken an official yoga class since right before the pandemic but all the positions came back to us even if we weren't as flexible. For lunch, we went to La Ventana for the Ahi Tuna Bagel. Tori said it was as delicious as I had described it. Every day, we relaxed during the hottest hours of the afternoon watching movies before going to the beach for a sunset swim or walk. I also learned an interesting story about the time my Dad met Wilt Chamberlain as a child. His father's cousin was Vern Hatton who played guard on the Philadelphia Warriors with Wilt and they both came to stay the night at my dad's house in 1960 when they visited Los Angeles to play the newly-arrived Lakers. My dad still has a vivid memory of shaking Wilt's giant hand while staring up at the towering 7'1" superstar. Vern only played four years in the NBA, but he scored 30 points to lead his college team, the Kentucky Wildcats, to victory in the 1958 NCAA National Championship.

On Tuesday morning, I went surfing with my dad. Last year, the waves were too big for me for most of the trip, but this year they were perfect size. I caught five right away.  Four long rights and a short but steep left. I rode the last wave all the way to the shore, jumping off in two feet of water. (I took the pictures below of other surfers enjoying the waves.) Tori joined me in the ocean for a fun swim in the shore break before we went for Gringo Burritos at Jalapeño Eatery. I have been singing the praises of these breakfast burritos made with homemade tortillas to Tori for two years now and I was so happy that she finally got to try one. She loved it! In the afternoon, we went for cocktails at the hotel. We enjoyed Guaro Sours, the national drink of Costa Rica, made with Cacique Guaro, a clear sugarcane liquor, mixed with club soda, lime juice, and sugar over ice.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up with severe vertigo. I felt dizzy whenever I moved my head up or down, especially if I tried to lie on my right side. This happened to me a few years ago during my AcroYoga practices, so I suspected it was caused by all the inverted yoga positions followed by my surfing session. I skipped Wednesday yoga and watched the surfers out in the water while Tori took the class. Luckily, watching the ocean horizon while sitting under the shade of beach trees helped calm the vertigo. I felt much improved the next morning, even though the dizziness returned if I made sudden head movements, laid down too quickly or went under the water. Even though it prevented me from surfing or taking another yoga class for the rest of the trip, I still enjoyed our beach walks and swimming in the ocean if I kept my head above the surface.

On Thursday, we went to Mycelium for the first time. I saw the new Asian fusion restaurant in town last year, but never tried it. The yoga teacher mentioned that they started serving brunch this year so we decided to go. We started with the Vietnamese Sweet and Salty Coffee. It was fun to watch the pour-over coffee drip from the metal container containing the grounds into the condensed milk in the bottom glass. I ordered the Savory French Toast & Grilled Cheese (sourdough rye bread battered in eggs, grilled cheese, salad) and Tori had the Pan-Fried Chinese Buns (hoisin mushroom stew, Thai salad, avocado, kimchi, chipotle mayo, greens). We both loved our dishes and ended up coming back two more times for dinner and our final breakfast.  

After breakfast, I had a nice time sitting in the backyard and watching the local iguanas. Two of the male Black Spiny-Tailed Iguanas were fighting over the attentions of a female. Every time the intruding male approached too close, the resident male who lives under the sidewalk would chase him off at high speed. They are considered the world's fastest lizard by the Guinness Book of World Records who lists the maximum speed at 21.5 mph. One of my pictures shows a puff of dirt behind the male chasing a female. The same afternoon, a Howler Monkey climbed down out of a tree and crossed the backyard and disappeared in into the finca. It is rare to ever see them on the ground. When the temperature cooled later in the day, Tori and I took our longest beach walk of the trip. The tide was really low so we walked around the northern point of Playa Negra where we normally stop and crossed the long expanse of exposed lava reef. As we rounded the next point in the far distance, I could see the sandy stretch of Playa Lagartillo where I saw the Sea Turtle laying her eggs in 2022.

After Tori's yoga class on Friday morning, we returned to Jalapeño's. After all the breakfast burritos, I wanted to try their lunch menu. We shared the Summer Dreams Salad while I ordered the tasty BarbaKoa Burrito filled with carnitas, coleslaw, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and salsa. Tori enjoyed the Smoked Fish Wrap with cheese, greens, salsa and honey chipotle dressing. In the evening, we decided to try a little Standing Acro on our beach walk. I was worried that my dizziness would affect me, but I had no problems since I was standing upright. It was fun trying to find different spots for Tori to hop up onto my legs. Since most of the spots had rocks or exposed reef, we mostly stuck to the safer Reverse Thigh Stand but we did try Flag Pose and Thigh Stand Counter Balance in sandier spots.

On Saturday, we went to the Corazón Surf Café for an early lunch after our morning swim. I forgot my phone at our table and didn't notice until we got home. Luckily, they saved it for me behind the counter after a nervous walk back in scorching midday sun to search for it. Phew! After our final sunset walk on the beach, we went for our dinner reservations at Mycelium. We had hoped for a seat at the bar looking into the open kitchen but the busy restaurant was full so we sat at the fun communal table shared with at least 16 other diners. After cocktails, I ordered the Chicken Pho Noodle Bowl (sous-vide & grilled chicken, rice noodles, Vietnamese broth, herbs, greens). The broth was amazing, the best Pho I have ever had! Tori loved Thai Glass Noodle & Cashew Salad (papaya, pomelo, mango dressing, sesame, peanuts, greens). For desert, we shared the Vanilla & Gingerbread Gelato "Trits" (strawberries, gooseberries, strawberry gel) and the Japanese Mochi Ice Cream Cake (avocado & black sesame gelato, honeydew melon, vanilla custard). I was chatting with the friendly co-owner, Robi, after our meal, telling him how much I loved the Pho and he mentioned that his wife, Chef Kamu, trained in a Michelin Star restaurant in Vietnam.

On our last morning, we saw a huge Black Vulture perched in the Guanacaste Tree next door before we went for our final morning swim. Normally, they are just omnipresence specks, circling high in the sky. For our last breakfast at Mycelium, we sat at the counter and had a nice view into the kitchen. While I ordered the French Toast again, Tori tried the Teriyaki Mushroom Bowl (rice, beans, peas, mushroom stew, nuts, shiitake, teriyaki sauce, greens). It was a great last meal before packing for home. Flori picked us up at 1pm to drive us to the airport. I was nervous about how I my vertigo would handle the long car ride, but I was fine sitting in the front seat watching the horizon. The airport was much busier than normal and we barely had time to grab a sandwich after the long security line before boarding. The Dramamine I bought before the flight worked like a charm and the bumpy flight caused no problems.

We originally planned to celebrate the actual date of our 10th Wedding Anniversary in Costa Rica, but since we had to move the trip up a week for the flight credit, we flew home the day before January 22nd. To celebrate, we went to dinner at Javier's. We heard great things from a friend about the new fancy Mexican restaurant in UTC La Jolla. Tori ordered the Enchiladas de Cangrejo (Dungeness crab) and I had the Carne Tampiqueña (New York cut, enchilada de camarón, beef taquito). Everything was very good, but the Shrimp Enchilada was amazing! For dessert, we shared the Churros with vanilla bean ice cream.

Vertigo Update: After a visit to the doctor, I was diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). I was given some head movement exercises to help adjust the semicircular canals of my right inner ear. It took two and a half weeks before the dizziness faded away. I want to go back to yoga classes but I am a little nervous for it to reactivate the vertigo.

Time Lapse Video of Playa Negra Beach Walk

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