Costa Rican Valentine's Day
Thursday, February 14 2019
location: Casa Trogon, Agua Vista Lodging, Montezuma, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
There was a spectacular hawk in the tree next to the the casita this morning, so I ran and got my camera. I didn't get a perfect picture, but I got a picture. Later I identified the hawk as a bicolored hawk (which is a member of the genus Accipiter, like a cooper's hawk, suggesting it specializes in eating other birds). I suspect this is the very same hawk that I saw suddenly slam into the hibiscus hedge out front a week or so ago in what I assume was a failed pursuit of prey.
Later a bunch of white-faced monkeys arrived, including one that was pretty small, so I thought Gretchen should know. But she was still in bed and wanted to remain so. I shot some video of a monkey walking around bipedally, which they can do pretty well. I also saw them react to my throwing a corn chip into the grass. After some deliberation, one of the bolder monkeys came out of a tree, grabbed the chip, and climbed back into the tree. A similar drama played out later in the day when I threw some small chunks of corn chips to the black-striped sparrows who frequent the casita grounds. I know I shouldn't be feeding the wildlife, but I have plenty.
Throughout the day, a pair of kiskadees were trying to build a nest in a nearby tree. The tree was leafless (as many are this time of year) with a few pairs of warty fruit pods shaped like pointed pickles arranged like a boomerang. The branches on this tree end in thick twigs as thick as fingers and form nice baskets that tempt birds as excellent frameworks for nests. When we'd first arrived at the casita back in late January, the kiskadees were trying to build a nest in a different part of this same tree. The nest had since blown down and they seemed to give up. But today, despite occasional brisk winds, the kiskadee were trying again in this new location. Their task proved sisyphean, though, as every bit of fluff or twig immediately blew away, leaving nothing.
Today marked the 18th anniversary of the day Gretchen, on a whim, got back in contact with me after nearly 12 years of estrangement, having stumbled upon a post containing her first and last name on a page of this website. We have a tradition of celebrating this Valentine's Day anniversary by going out for pizza, and here in Montezuma (like much of the world), there were several pizza options to choose between. There's a low-end pizzeria in downtown Montezuma, but Gretchen knew about a classier place called Tierra Y Fuego north of town on the other side of the Montezuma River gorge, beyond Clandestina (the place where we dined yesterday). So off we went, driving on gravel roads beaten into a brutal washboard pattern. The quality of the gravel road improved up at the top of the escarpment, where a number of properties hid behind walls, though it's hard to conceal your wealth when you have such stout royal palms rising up beyond your gates. As I told Gretchen when I saw them, "those palms don't just happen."
In the United States, one would never find fine dining (or, really, any legitimate business aside from the odd auto body repair place) on a such a dirt road, but there it was, Tierra y Fuego. A sign in the parking lot made clear that they didn't accept credit cards (the same as Catskill Mountain Pizza!), but we still had a small amount of cash in both Costa Rican colones and American dollars. But that wasn't our only hurdle to eating at TyF; when asked if we'd made a reservation, we'd had to admit we hadn't. At first this didn't look good, as all the tables had been reserved for 6:00pm. But there was a little quasi-table a little bigger than an ironing board usually used to display ornamental things, and this could be cleared for our use if that was okay with us. It was!
Our waitress was a butchy woman who spoke Spanish with an Italian accent, though she spoke Italian with the rest of the staff (Gretchen, of course, is familiar enough with Italian to make out part of what she was saying). It turned out that the restaurant had a separate vegan menu, which kind of blew Gretchen's mind, though in practice this meant that the pizza came without any cheese (this authentic sort of Italian restaurant is unlikely to offer faux cheese). Gretchen ordered us a salad that came with flat bread and then a pizza and a course of spaghetti.
The pizza was supposed to have mushrooms, but they were forgotten, so its flavor profile (dominated by olives and capers) wasn't perfectly aligned with my preferences. But it was really very good. And the spaghetti tasted exactly the way it does in Italy.
TyF is a popular place with gringos, especially the older, richer type. You can sort of see the wealth worn into the faces of the wives; it comes, I suppose, from frowning disappointment at the help. There was also a youngish gringo woman there who spent forever waiting for a table (she didn't have a reservation either). She spoke fluent Spanish with an appallingly unapologetic gringo accent. Later she openly breastfed her toddler like a Cro-Magnon princess. That kid looked a little old to be breastfeeding, but who am I to judge?
On the drive back home, a couple were standing out in front of Clandestina waving us to a stop, and so I did. The woman asked in English if she could pay for a ride. Of course not, Gretchen told them to hop in. It turned out they'd just arrived in Montezuma as part of multi-national Latin American adventure, though they hailed from Seattle. And then it turned out they were both vegans, which is a sure way to immediately become Gretchen's best friend. We took them into Montezuma and showed them to the Super Montezuma, where I needed to buy coffee and beer.
This morning's bicolored hawk. Click to enlarge.
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