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  • Katherine Sirvio

Monkeys and Squirrels and Skunks, Oh My!

Last winter, I traveled with my husband Andy and another couple to Costa Rica. It took much deliberation to choose where to stay. We ended up with a VRBO condominium on a secluded beach. As with many VRBO's, you depend on reviews to make a good decision that is right for you. Unfortunately, in this case, the place was less than stellar, though it was in an ideal location. The location made up for a lot of inadequacies. To begin with, there was more hair on the bathroom floor than in a barber shop, that in itself makes you wonder the level of cleaning that takes place. But we had been camping before and would make the most of it. We washed all of the dishes, cleaned the counters and cupboards that we would use, rearranged the personal items out of our way and wallah, we were set for a week in paradise. It was paradise.

Pristine sand beaches with small volcanic rock outcroppings, larger rock areas with tide pools full of creatures, lots of things to keep my girlfriend and I occupied for hours. The restaurants on the beaches were fabulous and just around the corner was a couple of fantastic ones in a 'square' type setting. In Playa Flamingo, our favorite was Angelinas Restaurant. I am constantly reminded that it is a small world after all, as the song goes. Head Chef and owner, Joseph Mucaria, grew up in Michigan and lived just around the corner from us. The atmosphere was relaxed with brightly colored decorations, intimate tables and a nice sized bar on an open air second-floor balcony. The food was outstanding, freshly caught local fish and vegetables with nice secondary flavor notes. On a couple of afternoons, we headed to Tamarindo for shopping, drinks, dinner and live music. Tamarindo is about 15 - 20 minutes down the road, once you get the lay of the land, easy enough to get to. There you will find a main street with local shops selling everything from fine jewelry made of shells - it truly was wonderful - to wooden bowls from local craftspeople. We tried on bright colored, highly patterned beachwear, touched every little trinket and treasure that we could and finally met up with the boys at Latitude Blue. It was here that we learned of the mindset for Costa Rica - Pura Vida. In it's simplest terms, it means Pure Life. However, many Costa Ricans will tell you that it has much more depth than just that. But in our tourist experience, it was simply to enjoy life. After drinking in the sunset on the beach with toes in the sand, we headed off to dinner. This was the main event for sure, and it is hard to top a good sunset.

Photo courtesy of Pangas Beach Club

We headed to Pangas Beach Club, this too is on the beach with incredible views of the ocean. The 'club' is quite modern with the use of cement in a more contemporary way than you would be familiar with in an island setting. It was carefully designed with lounges, family areas, a full bar, live acoustic music on a stage, a bonfire and laid back heavy chairs large enough to sit Indian Style in - with toes in the sand if you choose. The food here was exquisite, a bit pricey, but well worth it. Not only was the cuisine carefully orchestrated, but the plating was pure artwork. Lanterns shimmered in the night air hanging from trees overhead, laughter in the background from surrounding tables that are not spaced too close together, waiters attentive to your needs without asking. My kinda place. Aside from these trips, we managed to go ATV riding, zip lining, snorkeling, boating and of course much of the time swimming. On one particular day, my girlfriend and I were swimming and asked the guys to go to the grocery and pick up something for lunch. They came back with hot dogs, good enough. So, the guys were grilling and the girls swimming. Ready for lunch we came up to the condo. Our friend told us he had eaten on of the hot dogs and they were pretty good, but the skin was a bit different. It brought tears to my eyes when we discovered the hot dogs were individually wrapped in a cellophane coating. I hope his indigestion wasn't too bad! So as I mentioned, the condo wasn't the best. We watched the condo two doors down as it was being gutted and totally remodeled. It looked fabulous, next trip... Anyway, that night, we were in our bedroom and heard noises outside. It sounded like something running across the roof. Andy told me they were monkeys playing. I was so excited, I wanted to see the monkeys. But to no avail, no monkeys. Then it occurred to me, we were on the ground floor of a three-story condominium building. There is no way we could hear anything on the roof. Key the music that goes doon doon doon in a low tone.

Well, for sure they weren't on the roof, they were in the ceiling about our heads. I kept waking Andy asking if we should do something, what if they get in? He was adamant that there was nothing we could do and we would be fine til the morning. I was not so sure. The sound went from one animal to two, it went from quiet to loud, it went from infrequent where I fell asleep to frequent and no sleep to be had. Finally, Andy agreed, there were some little squirrels in the ceiling, but there was nothing we could do - we would wait til morning and tell the caretaker. I recalled a missing piece of drywall in the closet ceiling - the closet that my clothes were in. 'Andy, do you think they can get into the closet?' he replied with a scoff and 'no, no, no, go back to sleep'. Then there was a bump, a thud and we both sat upright. 'Should I take my clothes out of the closet?' Andy changed his mind 'that may not be a bad idea.' As I opened the closet, I learned we were already too late. One of the animals had fallen down out of the ceiling, into the closet and was under a shoe grate. It was a little skunk baby. Andy was adamant it was not. He said it was still a squirrel. I knew better, I was pretty sure. Unfortunately, this was the one time I was right. We decided he was a hearty little soul and we could coax him out of the bedroom, into the family room and out the door wall - without waking up our friends. LOL, you should be giggling now. Long story short, if you picture Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny in the medieval times, you have a good idea of what went down. At one point, our male friend opened the bedroom door looked out in horror to see me holding a broom ready to spear someone, something and Andy holding an area rug up sideways like a shield. I guess I said, 'I am sorry we woke you, everything is under control, we have a little skunk we are helping out of the house, go on back to bed'. I guess I was assuming this would be over in a minute. Or perhaps, it was one of those surreal times where you don't really know what you are saying - like the time I had my wisdom teeth out and was still mostly unconscious in the car and my mom was going to run in and pick up the RX, I said 'do you mind if I wait here'. Apparently, there was no way I was going anywhere. So, of course, all did not end well, a sofa ended up on its side, a squeal occurred at some point and a baby skunk is powerful enough to render me incapacitated. Thank goodness, we were going out that day and when we returned, a new condo was made available to us. I should mention the owner did everything he could to make our stay comfortable. Andy spoke to him at length about the condition of the place, like many owners living in another country from their rental, they are not always up to speed on the current condition. But we have had far more good experiences with VRBO than bad, so we will continue on! Travel often and well.


A squirrel and a monkey...

The baby skunk

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