Costa Rica – Animals

One reason we wanted to go to Costa Rica was to see the animals in their native habitat. The first animals we saw were dogs. We’ve seen street dogs before, or, as we call them, busy dogs. (In Greece, all the dogs looked like they had somewhere important to go… they were very busy.) The Costa Rican dogs weren’t exactly busy. They were normally following a person, or hanging out around someone’s house. We’re just not sure any of these dogs have a home indoors. Fortunately, there are organizations working to help find homes and educate people about owning dogs, and try to promote spay and neuter programs.

At our hotel, we saw tons of hummingbirds. They were really having a good time finding food and chasing tourists.

One of our tours went through the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. On our way to the refuge, we stopped at a restaurant that is surrounded by iguanas in the trees. The iguanas climb to the tallest limbs to lay in the sun. There were tons of them – our guide said 400 iguanas live in the trees near that restaurant.

iguanas

Also at the iguana restaurant, we saw a toucan seeding a palm fruit. He was so beautiful, and purposeful. The birds help spread seeds of the fruits and plants that we all enjoy.

toucan

At the wildlife refuge, we saw howler monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, and even spider monkeys. They were all hanging out together.

We saw a few caiman. Really you can just see their eyes, peeking above the surface of the water.

There’s a lizard called the Jesus Christ lizard, because it walks on water. It’s actually called a basilisk, but Jesus Christ lizard is funnier. This photo shows him getting a running start. (this is muddy ground, but they really can run on water)

We didn’t see a sloth at the wildlife refuge, and we were sad to leave Costa Rica without seeing this amazing animal. However, on our way out of La Fortuna, our fantastic driver spotted one and pulled over so we could see it and take pictures.

sloth

Costa Rica – Food

Beans and rice. Or rice and beans. I’m not poking fun. We had rice and bean for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were usually accompanied by vegetables or sweets, and they were always delicious. I love rice and beans! Good thing it’s part of the staple diet of Costa Rica. They’re easy to customize for taste and diet.

Dinner

The first night we arrived, the waiter at the hotel restaurant discovered that we’re “vegetarian” (despite the numerous times I said vegan) and he presented the most wonderful special for dinner. We each had 1/2 avocado topped with hearts of palm, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, bean sprouts, and a vinaigrette. That might be the best thing we’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Dinner

I enjoyed a delicious fruit smoothie every chance I could get it. Sweet local fruit? You bet!

Mango smoothie

Breakfast every day included rice and beans, granola, fruit, and toast. There was no non-dairy milk for the granola, so  I just poured it on my jelly-smeared toast. OMG. Heaven! We were always a little rushed in the morning, but that’s a good thing because I might have eaten a plate full of everything in the buffet.

breakfast

Wow. Have you ever had fried plantains? We hadn’t. Man, those are delicious! It’s like a sweet, warm banana. And you can eat it for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. (That’s a fried plantain in the photo above.)

We also met yucca. Yucca is grown in Costa Rica and it’s basically like a dry potato. You can eat it with beans and rice!

Costa Rica

Of course, sometimes all that we could eat was salad, but even that was beautiful and featured new and interesting vegetables.

Costa Rica

Wikipedia has a good summary of the agriculture of Costa Rica. We learned a lot about how the food is grown. More about that in a future post on “lessons learned.” Needless to say, I’m conflicted about my love of bananas, mangoes, coconut, etc., after seeing what the plantations do to this beautiful country. I felt good about eating the fruit when it was “local,” but what about when I’m back in the states?

Costa Rica

I spent last weekend in Costa Rica with my darling husband. We wanted to go south and several things about Costa Rica appealed to us. It was a fantastic trip. We saw all kinds of animals and plants, and learned a lot about the culture of a country with 40% protected land, no military, and vast fruit and coffee plantations.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has at least 5 ecosystems and two seasons – the rainy season and the dry season. It’s currently the rainy season, so it rains every day. We were in La Fortuna, in the rain forest, and we certainly saw our share of rain. It doesn’t seem to bother people there… they just go about their days like it’s nothing. It’s also a little foggy and chilly during the rainy season, especially in the cloud forest. We weren’t exactly prepared for that, so we were a little chilly. It only rained one full day, so the weather didn’t ruin our plans at all. But everything was damp. All the time.

Costa Rica

You can tell it rains a lot there because everything is green and huge. The flowers were incredible and all the crops (banana, mango, coffee, guanabana, papaya, sugar cane, papaya, pineapple) have long growing seasons.

“It’s like Dr. Seuss land!” – Mr not terror

Costa Rica
I think my favorite flower was the bird of paradise (below). It’s just fascinating that it can look like a colorful bird. Speaking of birds, the hummingbirds were dive-bombing us as we walked to breakfast.

We were surprised that there were so few mosquitoes. We brought our lavender oil and it worked out because apparently, there aren’t many mosquitoes during the rainy season. So, if you want to go to Costa Rica and travel mosquito-free, go in May or June.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to 5 volcanoes. Volcanoes leave fertile soil in their wake, even after their destruction. That may be why the fruit tastes so good there. La Fortuna lays at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, now a resting volcano after being active for more than 40 years. Arenal blew her top in 1968, burying three villages and killing 87 people.

Volcano Arenal

I’ll post more about the people, animals, and of course, the food later this week.

Nelsonville Folk Festival

Nelsonville Folk Festival
Hydration stationThis weekend, my lovely friend Maria and I went to the Nelsonville Folk Festival in southern Ohio. Maria has friends in a few of the bands and I wanted to see Todd Snider. It ended up being the greatest festival I’ve ever been to, by far. Seriously, hippy heaven. It had a green focus, with a water bottle refill station, recycling, compostable cutlery, (some) vegan food, solar power, oh the list goes on and on. Read about their environmental efforts here. My favorite was the long line at the water bottle refill station.

at the farmhouse

After the festival on Saturday, we stayed at a farmhouse back in the country. We went for a peaceful walk the next morning and a bike ride in the afternoon (with a few episodes of Downton Abbey in between). At night, I slept up in the guest room and was joined by a bat around 2:30 a.m. You know I love bats, but not in my sleeping quarters. I escaped and crashed on a couch downstairs. It was so lovely to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and wind blowing softly through the trees.

We’re makin’ money out of paper, makin’ paper out of trees.
We’re makin’ so much money, we can hardly breathe.

-Todd Snider, ‘Stuck on the Corner’

Todd Snider

Todd Snider

On Sunday, I went back to see Todd Snider and I was not disappointed. He’s definitely my favorite “barefoot folk-singing hippy” (a line from one of his songs). He ran up on stage without shoes, of course, and gave us a great set of music. I can’t even tell you how much I love this guy. I hope you’ll check out some of his music for yourself. You might start with

  • Dollface
  • The Ballad of the Kingsman
  • Sunshine
  • Alcohol and Pills
  • Is this thing working?

Todd sings about the environment, bullying, poor people, traveling, current issues, and drugs. He had a great time on stage and smiled the biggest, most charming smile after each song. He didn’t play his harmonica, but he did have a peace sign button on his vest.

All in all, a perfect weekend. Can’t wait for next year’s festival!

Shivering Timbers

Shivering Timbers

Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Kaukonen

Todd Snider

Todd Snider

Todd Snider

A traveling vegan

I love to travel. It’s become an addiction, but one I can feel good about because it offers me a chance to learn new things, see new places, and experience new cultures. When I became a vegan, I worried that it would be difficult to travel, especially to Europe.

Last week, I visited my good friend in the Czech Republic. I’ve been there before, but this time, my strict “no dairy” rule was going to make eating a little more difficult. Not to fear, my friend did some research and found some wonderful vegetarian restaurants, and we ate a few meals at her house to save money. I’d like to highlight a few of the delicious food options.

DhalLaibon

Laibon restaurant in Český Krumlov offered a wide selection of vegetarian meals that were easily veganized by removing the sour cream or cheese options. I had dhal with sauerkraut. Kraut is a staple in this part of Europe, and I was just tickled that they added it to a traditional Indian dish, so I couldn’t resist. It was delicious! My friend almost had to take my fork away so I would stop eating.

Dobré čajovna

The Dobré čajovna is a tea bar throughout Czech Republic. We went there to warm up and have a nice plate of hummus with vegetables and pita. A perfect snack after wandering the cobblestone streets of Prague.

Middle Eastern food

I went to Karlovy Vary, a Russian spa town, with no real plans for food. I was starving when I arrived, so I went on a hunt for a plant-based meal. Fortunately, I found a Tehranian restaurant. Middle Eastern restaurants are normally a safe bet because of their dietary rules. There are always fresh, delicious vegetarian options at Middle Eastern restaurants. After professing my deepest apologies for this incident, I enjoyed stuffed grape leaves and a small salad along with a wonderful conversation with the Iranian chef and owner.

Maitrea

Raw cheesecake

Wow. Just wow. Maitrea is a vegetarian restaurant in the middle of Prague. The warm, peaceful atmosphere only enhances the delicious food. There were vegetarianized versions of Czech food, and a variety of other ethnic food offerings. I had the black bean burrito with vanilla soymilk. For dessert, raw cheesecake with strawberry sauce. I can’t say enough good things about this place.

Loving Hut

An international chain of vegan (that’s right, vegan!) restaurants, the Loving Hut offers a buffet or a menu full of vegan options. Most meals originate in Asia, but they even had vegan chocolate cake. I had to get it, just because I could! This was such a fun restaurant, and I’m glad it was in the mall so that more people can enjoy healthy vegan options.