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Costa Rica, Pura Vida

Postcards from Costa Rica

The one thing everyone says about Costa Rica is how lush it is. And despite having near drought conditions (it was the rainy season but there was little rain and we heard of water lock-offs), much of the landscape in the northwest still looked green.

Postcards from Costa Rica

Costa Rica from Above

Postcards from Costa Rica

Costa Rica from above

Postcards from Costa Rica

Costa Rica from above

I had traveled to Playa Potrero, Costa Rica in Central America to celebrate a milestone birthday of one of my close friends. It was a welcome break for me. I didn’t bring my laptop – the first time I’d traveled without it in more than 5 years – so I could disconnect totally from the everyday details that filled up the spaces in my life and reconnect with longtime friends.

We played trivia games, read, walked the beach, slept, ate, drank copious amounts of wine and one day the women in the group – all five of us – headed to the nearby town of Tamarindo for a day at Coco Beauty Spa, and lunch. (I chose Coco’s natural volcanic mud wrap – Costa Rica has more than 100 active volcanoes – and relaxed for almost an hour in warm mud. Everyone said I looked relaxed and glowing after. )

Zip lining Costa Rica

Post Cards from Costa Rica

Ready to go zip lining

Did you go zip lining?

It’s the one question everyone’s asked since I returned. I nod as I smile. Seems zip lining is the thing to do in Costa Rica so I was glad to have my début there. Joan, one of the other ladies in our group, and I were the only ones who decided to leave the comfort of the villa for some outside activity.

The Congo Trail Canopy Tour with a total of eleven lines and two hanging bridges caught our attention. The longest line was about 900 feet, the shortest about 400 feet. While it was fun flying through the air, I would have preferred to see the beautiful trees up close.

To avoid losing our cameras, we left them at the company’s office. They took one photo of each of us as we approached the second line (I have proof that I actually zip lined!).

Postcards from Costa Rica

Capucin monkey

As we waited for our guide, we watched several capucin monkeys as they swung from tree to tree. They moved quickly but this one came close enough as if he wanted to see who we were and what we were doing. Isn’t that the cutest face you’ve seen?

Postcards from Costa Rica

“We take care of our natural resources.”

Signs like these remind us how zealously Costa Ricans guard their natural treasures. We were warned not to take anything, not even shells from the beach, when we were leaving the country. 

The dark brown sand, soft and compact under our feet and the warm, inviting waters of the Atlantic called to us from just beyond the gate of the villa. My friend said he saw whales in the distance. I kept an eye out, hoping I’d see one but didn’t.  Most afternoons, we’d stroll the length of the beach, oblivious to the broiling rays of the sun.

Postcards from Costa Rica

Playa Potrero

Each evening, we gathered on the back patio, cameras in hand, and waited for the sun to paint the sky with dazzling purples, oranges, blues and yellows.

Postcards from Costa Rica

Sunset, Playa Potrero

Postcards from Costa Rica

Golden sunset, Playa Potrero

Postcards from Costa Rica

Sunset near Playa Potrero

All too soon, our week of pura vida (real living) came to an end and it was back to long days, busy schedules and long commutes. Every so often, I’ll pull out my phone, look at my photos and smile. Pura vida!

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes.

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

I thought it quite an achievement when I caught the once yearly flowering of the night-blooming cereus last year. I had experienced a phenomenon many flower lovers would probably give a vital body part to see.

Visiting a family friend over the weekend, I noticed several unopened buds on a cactus on the periphery of their property. How unusual, I thought to myself. You should get a photo. But I returned my attention to the people with whom I was speaking, people I hadn’t seen in a while.

During a lull in the evening’s activities, I looked over and saw that flowers had replaced the buds I had seen earlier. I didn’t have my camera so I grabbed my phone and practically dragged my cousin, an award-winning flower lover, over to where the night-blooming cactus was. She had seen it too and told me after that she planned to ask our family friend for a cutting.

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

Cactus

(Jamaican women are passionate about their gardens and will willingly trade cuttings with friends and other flower lovers. So you’ll see the same flowers in the gardens of women who are friends.)

The flowers looked similar to the cereus I had seen last year. It was surprising to me then I remembered that the cereus is from the flowering cactus family.

Here’s a photo of the night-blooming cereus for comparison.

Night Blooming Cereus

Night-Blooming Cereus

While the night-blooming cereus lasts only one night, this genus of the night-blooming cactus lasts two. Both attract a special moth that causes them to pollinate.

As I write this I realize that one thing was different — the cactus didn’t have the subtle fragrance that accompanied the cereus. But it had rained, no poured, that evening so the rain could have washed away the scent.

Have you seen a night-blooming cactus?

This week, I’m linking this post to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox and  Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.

Colbeck Castle

Closeup

Leaving Old Harbour, we drive north for about three miles then turn off the main road and into a small community. We follow the signs pointing to Colbeck Castle, our destination, which we reach after going through what looks like a private road.

We drive this narrow road pass a few houses and small farms. Two men, standing next to a car, wave to us as we drive by. A few yards further and I see it, a stone and brick structure which sticks out above the vegetation. It feels entirely out of place and absolutely out of time. It’s Colbeck Castle.

Continuing on the road, the only visible access to the property, we drive around the back and to the side and park near an L-shaped building that is at one corner of the property.

Exiting the vehicle, I take in the imposing and impressive rectangular mansion before me. A stone and brick two-story, it is the centerpiece of the property and is marked off by a rope  – a clear sign to keep our distance from the building, which is now in ruins.

Colbeck Castle was likely built around 1680. It measures about 114 feet wide by 90 feet deep.

Four towers, one at each corner, make up the third story. They provide unparalleled views of the surrounding area and as far as the Caribbean Sea, some ten miles away. The towers served as the castle’s defense system (against the Spanish). Four outer buildings sit at each corner of the property.

Brick ovens in one of the buildings suggest that it was used as a kitchen. This building also has a sunken bath and at least three enclosures that probably were toilets. A three-foot high brick wall rings the property.

Colbeck Castle got its name from its owner, Colonel John Colbeck, who came to Jamaica in 1655 – the same year the British captured the island from the Spanish — as a member of the expeditionary forces that was led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables.

As was the custom at the time, Colbeck was given land – 1,340 acres – for his services. During his short time in Jamaica, John Colbeck became of a member of the Assembly and was Speaker of the House from 1672-73.

It is unclear whether Colbeck Castle was ever finished or whether Colbeck lived in it as he died in 1682. It doesn’t appear as if he left an heir as there is no record of the name after his death. He was buried in Spanish Town.

Colbeck Castle, one of the oldest ruins in Jamaica, was declared a national monument in 1990.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Gingerbread Houses, Jamaica

Residential Styles:

With so many Jamaican homeowners embracing modern design, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see gingerbread houses, especially ones that seem relatively new. Gingerbread houses probably came to Jamaica around the turn of the century.

My friend and I spotted this gingerbread house in Trelawny. We had spotted some lovely green bananas and stopped to buy a bunch. The house was directly across the street from the farmer and the minute I saw it – it was such a delight to see – I forgot why we’d stopped in the first place.

After he cut the bunch we decided on, I asked the farmer who asked the resident who graciously allowed me to take a photo. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the owner and couldn’t tell me much about the house, like the year it was built, for example. We guessed it to be about 50 years old.

Gingerbread houses

Trelawny

Another day, another drive, this time in Westmoreland. I was surprised by the number of houses I saw that had gingerbread designs.

Similar in design as the one above, this sand-dashed house has sash windows, French doors, and detailing on the eaves. Sand dashing is a process that is used to retard fire in homes made from timber.

Residential Styles:

Similar style, Westmoreland

This eye-catching house sits on the side of a hill and at a bend in the road. We had to drive slowly on the way back so I wouldn’t miss it. We called but no one came to the door and a really high gate kept us out. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t get closer but I managed to put my camera on top of the gate, and extended the lens so I could get this shot.

Residential Styles, gingerbread house

Colorful house surrounded by tropical plants

A house like this, with its wooden shingled roof, is rarely seen these days. Wooden shingles are attractive to look at and keep the home cool but are the most expensive roofing material on the market. In addition, the shingles offer no protection from fires and are very labor intensive to install. Eventually, owners exchange them for corrugated zinc, which is less expensive.

Residential Styles

Victorian house with wooden shingles

Devon House and the shops on the property have some of the most beautiful gingerbread designs. When I took these photos last July, workers were replacing the wooden shingles on the shops in the background.

Gingerbread houses, Jamaica

Shops at Devon House

 

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.