Sunday, January 25, 2009

Costa Rica - Day 10 (Jan 12, 2009)

Our first full day at Villa Lapas starts with a flurry of bird sightings shortly after sharing coffee before dawn... there are trees on the property with fruits and berries which attract a wide variety of birds, Trogons, Toucans, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, White-tipped Dove, Fiery Ara├žari and more. It's a wonderful way to start the day. Photos below are of a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan having breakfast and a Black-headed Trogon.

From Costa Rica - Day 10

An addition to our usual buffet breakfast is eggs (either scrambled or as an omelet) cooked to order with items we select from the choices offered. We then gather gear for the day and pile into the bus for our ride to Villa Vanilla, the home of Rainforest Spices, where we have a tour of the plantation and learn about their production of vanilla, spices and essential oils. The bus ride to get to Villa Vanilla is mostly over unpaved roads which we begin to refer to as giving us a Costa Rican massage. Our tour is extremely interesting and educational and starts at the drying and processing shed. (items shown drying below include allspice, black pepper, white pepper, cacao beans and LOTS of vanilla beans) After learning about the drying and processing steps, our tour winds along the Epiphyte Trail past examples of every spice produced at the plantation as well as cultivated epiphytes. Epiphytes (some shown below) are plants that grow on other plants and take the nutrients from air and rain; they are not parasitic.

We are pleasantly surprised (since we had NO IDEA this was happening) to find that lunch at the "viewpoint" is included after we are nearly through with our walk through the plantation. A cool breeze at this high point is a welcome respite from the heat and the light rain that has begun to fall. The lunch is wonderful, consisting of black beans, plantains, and arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). Dessert is the most wonderful part of lunch with chef Chelsea's hearty cookies and cinnamon-flavored, home-made ice cream. The teas served are delightfully refreshing as well.

Our last stop is the Spice Shoppe where most of us spend cold cash to purchase some of the options available... I brought home vanilla beans, vanilla powder, cacao nibs and Ceylon Cinnamon (both ground and dried chunks before grinding). All-in-all a wonderful experience. (I will add to the information about Villa Vanilla after I get some of the information from others that I cannot recall myself.)

On our way back to Villa Lapas, we stop at a public beach so some of us can dip our toes into the Pacific Ocean. We get more than we bargained for when waves come crashing in and go up higher on our legs than we'd rolled up our pants. Thank goodness for quick-dry fabrics.

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