Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to Travel in Unabated Luxury

Now that we're back from our amazing trip, I thought I would share how it is that you can travel in unabated luxury:

1. Tell your travel agent where you would like to go.
2. Ask for boutique hotels.
3. Request private drivers.
4. Be sure that she includes all the “must see” attractions.
5. Tell her all the extra things you would like to do: spa treatments, fishing, golf, etc.
6. Have her include restaurant recommendations.
7. Get back a tentative itinerary from her with a cost estimate.
8. Look over the itinerary and eliminate anything that doesn’t sound good to you.
9. Tweak the activities to meet your budgetary needs.
10. Get final estimate.


The most important rule: Do not ask what things cost individually!!! I say that because you will miss some of the most amazing opportunities if you know what they cost. As long as the overall itinerary fits within your budget, just let it go!! 

Case in point---when we were in Italy a few years ago and had a private cooking lesson in Tuscany. It was an all day thing culminating in the guys joining us for dinner with the dishes we prepared. It was so fabulous. I'm pretty certain that was REALLY expensive. Had we known the cost, we would have felt that we could not justify spending that much money. By not knowing, we had a "once in a lifetime" experience. 

Same with this trip. The hot air ballooning was probably over the top. Had we known, we might have "nixed" it and missed out on an unbelievable experience. I'm sure the hotels were "up there" too. Still the trip met within our budget, so it was well worth it. In fact, Stephanie said that she wanted to go to Costa Rica next year with their friends. Butch said, "Steph, you couldn't afford this trip." To which she responded, "Well dad, we can't afford YOUR trip. But I'm sure we could afford SOME trip!" And she can!!! I think she'll be surprised that she just might be able to travel in unabated luxury for a couple days of their trip!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I just Might Be....

....a little obsessed. Proof:
 Oh no---who left these towels 4 inches away from the sink?
 There should be no space between the towels and the sink!
 Oh no, the rug is askew.
 Ahhhh, that's much better.
 Come on, how hard is it to fold the wash cloth neatly?
Not much work at all.
 Doors hanging open??? What the ...?
 Not in my house!
 To me, a crumpled towel means it's dirty and ready for the laundry.
 Not quite yet.
 Doesn't everyone have uniform hangers and keep their clothes color co-ordnated?
 This is actually an experiment.
 I bought this box full of white hangers (to match the plastic ones---of course). I'm changing out the hangers as I wear the pants. My plan is to just get rid of anything that's NOT on a white hanger in a year.

 I hate it when pillows slide on a chair.
 This looks much neater, but it will only last 5 minutes. The chair is too slick.
 When we moved in to the house---nearly 20 years ago, I bought all of these fancy fireplace keys. A couple of them are pretty heavy, so they tend to flop.
I'm constantly adjusting them.

So now you know what I do with all of my free time!! It's a curse I tell you!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Happened Again!!

Identity theft and fraud are just running rampant! The last time, someone got a hold of our credit card and was charging some airline tickets. That was a couple years ago. The time before that, someone was trying to charge $1500 at a pet store in South America. Well, it's happened again. They say that three times is a charm. I never was really sure what that meant. It doesn't seem like a good thing in my case.

In preparation for our trip to Costa Rica, we informed our credit card company that we were going to be out of the country and gave them the dates we would be there. The first time I tried to use my card at the "swanky" resort, it was rejected. Luckily, Butch had brought his American Express card. We ended up using that for the rest of our trip.

You can imagine I was pretty fired up. If Butch hadn't had his Amex card, we'd have been up a creek. We might have had to "borrow" from our friends when our cash ran out---or ask them to hook us on to their credit card. I'm glad it didn't come to that.

I went online to see if somehow I could figure out how to contact the company since we did not have international phone service. I noticed that we only had 220 "points" when I knew we had nearly a million. So that was a problem too. There really wasn't anything I could do while in Costa Rica. I was afraid that somehow those points had expired and were just lost.

On the way home, when we got to Dallas and turned on our phones, we each got several messages from the "fraud department." I called the next morning and found out that there was an attempt to get $17,800 in cash from our card. Turns out, it was just a coincidence and had nothing to do with Costa Rica. They immediately put a freeze on our cards until they could talk to us. Of course, that meant that the card had to be cancelled. You know what that means---all of those things that are automated charges now have to be changed. I know I'll forget some and have to deal with things as they come up. What a hassle.

My next order of business was to figure out what happened to all of our points. I contacted our financial advisor and asked him to look in to it. I was shocked at the answer. The $17,800 cash request was from someone "hijacking" our points and trying to cash them in!

Alls well that ends well. We've gotten our points back. And I'm so happy to know that we have enough points to pay for our next vacation! I had no idea you could turn them in for cash. We always planned to use the points for travel.

Whoever these crooks are---apparently they know they won't get caught. I just don't understand people that think they have a right to take from other people. We all work hard for what we have. Maybe the crooks should try that for a change and leave us alone!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 8

Yay!!! Eddie won!! I found out today on the internet. He so totally deserved it!! On to our final day.

We spent our early morning hours on the balcony watching the monkeys and birds again. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to see monkeys so close.

We had an early breakfast and hit the pool. After a few hours, we decided to share a burger before our catamaran tour. While we were waiting, we saw this:


We've seen them every day, but never this close! They literally seemed to pose for us---just about 10 feet away. So, so cool!!

Sunset on our catamaran tour. A perfect ending to a fabulous trip. We finished the day with a final glass of wine and discussed our trip. I asked everyone what their favorite thing was. It was too hard to choose---a trip of a lifetime!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 7

Today was a leisurely, laid back day.  Butch and I woke up early to the sounds of the many chirping birds and the ocean waves lapping the shore. He went out to stroll the beach and see what he could find.  He found a few little things, but not much. He brought me tea---which he does most of the time when we are traveling. 

We sat on our balcony enjoying all the beautiful birds. I was wondering why we don’t have as many colorful birds as there seem to be here. Then I realized, we actually do---we just take them for granted. We have birds of every color of the rainbow too---yellow gold finches, orange robins, blue jays, red cardinals, green hummingbirds, purple martins and many others. I’m going to try to be more mindful of the beauty in my own backyard!

As we were enjoying the solace of the balcony, a white-faced monkey came by.  Not far behind were the howlers. It’s amazing to see them everywhere.

We went to breakfast with Bruce and Karolyn at 8:30. After, the guys headed to the golf course while we girls went to the pool. 
 We went to the "adults only" pool. This is the incredible view we had all day!
That's the adult pool on the left from our 3rd floor room.
This is the family pool on the other side.

I spent four hours there before deciding to go in. My plan was to have a nice bath. Turns out, the tub was too deep---I gave up pretty quickly and just took a shower. Just as  I was settling down with my book, Butch got back. He started to tell me about his golf experience when Bruce knocked and said they’d ordered a pitcher of margaritas by the pool. I don’t even like margaritas, but, not one to miss out on the action, I went too. We ordered some guacamole as a snack and just chatted for awhile.  It’s amazing how fast time goes when you’re hanging with friends!

We finally had to call it a day around 4 p.m. so we could re-group and get ready for dinner.  We had the other bottle of wine---compliments of Kensington Tours before going to Caracol at the golf course for a delicious steak dinner. The steaks were just as good as Jimmy Kelly’s---and that’s saying a lot!! We learned after last night about the portion sizes, so we shared everything---Caesar salad, steak, baked potato and one dessert for the table. We had plenty of food!


That wrapped up the day for us. Once we got back to the hotel, we tuned in to the Academy Awards. I probably only was able to watch about a half hour before falling asleep. I never watch tv in bed for that very reason---I just fall asleep. Still, I was so happy to learn that Eddie Redmayne won for Best Actor----he totally deserved it. I have a major crush on him. Ahhh, but that’s another story….

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 6

Sadly, it was time to leave this most luxurious place.  
As I was checking out, Carlotta, the resident macaw flew in. She started playing with the attendant.
First she stole her pen.
 
Then she took some paper. I thought it was a nice farewell! Especially since I didn't get a picture of her the other night when we saw her. We also saw hero a power line the day before along a main road. Everyone was stopping to look. I had no idea it was the same bird. Turns out, macaws are not indigenous to this area but rather were found near the coast. Carlotta lives freely here on the grounds of the Nayara Springs. 

We headed to the coast where it was hot and sunny. Our driver today was Edwin. Along the way of our 4 hour drive, we stopped at a German bakery for pastries. He took us to a higher quality souvenir shop. I got  a Christmas ornament as I do whenever I travel somewhere new. And, he took us to a restaurant with local cuisine. We just wanted a little something to tide us over to dinner.  We invited him to lunch with us. He encouraged us to get the traditional Costa Rican lunch. None of us wanted that much food. He got it. There were 10 different things on the plate. He ate all of it---many things I could not identify.  Edwin said that Costa Ricans eat huge meals. His lunch was evidence of that.

We arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s gorgeous, but we already miss Nayara Springs. There’s just nothing like it ! Wish we were back! But, the Four Seasons is nothing to sneeze at. We’re ready for some relaxation.

After checking in---all the hotels have met us with wet towels and some sort of refreshing drink---we spent time settling in to our room. We spent a couple of hours on our balcony just enjoying all of the colorful birds---green and yellow parrots by the dozen, other little yellow birds and many we cannot identify. Karolyn got a laminated guide of the animals and birds---much like what our guides carried. We’re using it to identify some things.

We decided to do happy hour on our own balcony. We started with gin and tonics in the Broussards room. Then, we broke to get ready for dinner. While we were getting ready, a hotel attendant delivered two bottles of wine to us with a note. It was from Kensington tours apologizing for the lousy fishing trip. That was nice of them. A refund would have been nicer, but we’ll take the wine. Liquor prices at this hotel  are staggering. We couldn’t believe that we forgot to get something during all of our stops today.

Butch was so cute. He set up everything really nice to surprise Bruce and Karolyn. He put out some of our chocolate covered strawberries and some of the nut mix we brought from the other hotel. The maid came in to do our turn-down service and turned off the balcony lights and shut the door. After she left, Butch got everything ready again. He was hurrying me to get off the computer because “they’ll be here any minute!”

Bruce and Karolyn were indeed surprised! We figured we saved ourselves at least 50 or 60 dollars for one drink at the bar. We went down for dinner.. They had a live band which was nice. The food was really good, but we realized we easily could have split everything. That’s our plan for tomorrow night as we go to the fancy steak place. I don’t care if it makes us look cheap---it’s more about the size of the portions. It’s ridiculous. Halve the portions and halve the price! That’s what I say!!

This photo was a parking lot at the souvenir shop. I would LOVE to have this as my driveway. Awesome!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 5

I’m so sad for Butch and Bruce. Not only did they have to get up at the crack of dawn again, it’s raining. Apparently, the fishing trip was not cancelled, so they had to go. In the meantime, I lounged around the room catching up on blogs, reading and having room service bring my breakfast to the patio.

Karolyn and I had scheduled spa treatments for today. Our plan was to have the first one around 10 a.m. and then go out to the pool for a couple of hours. Due to the rain, we changed the plans. After our massages we sat in her hot tub in the rain.


The guys got back right after our first spa treatment. They said the fishing was horrible---and not because of the rain. Butch has fished in all kinds of weather. That’s what fishermen do! He said that the guide didn’t appear to know much about fishing. He gave them heavy duty rods and line with light weight lures that they had a hard time casting out. Bruce and him had to make all the suggestions---“why don’t we try somewhere else” or maybe we should try trolling. Butch said there was a depth finder on the boat, but the guy never used it To add insult to injury, Bruce’s phone got soaked in the backpack and wasn’t working. Luckily, he was able to get some rice from the hotel and tried that trick. It actually worked!!

Around noon, the guys urged us to get out to go for lunch.



After lunch, I walked around to take some more pictures---of the foliage and flowers. I just love the tropical lushness of it all. Plus, without the sun, the lighting was spectacular.
 I have no idea what type of flowers these are. They almost look like pine cones.
But, they are open. Whatever, they are beautiful!

More blog reading until our second massage at 3 p.m. In the morning I had the volcanic mud massage. This afternoon, I had the chocolate massage. Karolyn had that in the morning. It smells fabulous. And to top it off, they offer you a plate of a dozen, beautiful, chocolate covered strawberries!
That's a lot of chocolate covered strawberries!! We're taking them with us to our next hotel. Notice the beautiful chocolate detail on the plate.
What better way to end the chocolate massage but with a cup of hot chocolate. Every detail is exquisite!

Now before you think we are totally crazy about money by booking two massages in one day, let me explain. We each had a $100 credit which covered one massage. Then they were offering a special for $75.00 for the Chocolate massage. So basically, I got two massages for $75.00. Can't beat that. Unabated luxury!!

It took me two showers to get all of the chocolate off. All that cocoa butter left me all smooth. I rested for a bit before getting ready for dinner.

We met for cocktails at 6:30 before our dinner at 7:30. 
The food has been awesome. We had table side guacamole that was the very best I've ever had. I thought he put too much onion in, but it was perfect---so delicious. We've had things we've never heard of before---especially fruits. I can't even tell you their names. Not only have I forgotten them, but I wouldn't be able to spell them anyway. We enjoyed a table side banana flambé for dessert. I took just one bite as I was holding out for the delicious cookies they leave each night. Last night, I actually got a little mad at Butch for eating his! I wanted it! I can be selfish like that. Especially when it comes to cookies!

Here are a few pictures from Orlando---our bird watching and waterfall hike guide. He emailed them to me today. I love a man of his word!


 This is a picture of the picture of Butch zip lining. Perfect form!

We leave tomorrow for the coast and the Four Seasons Hotel. Until then...