Archive for the ‘travel’ Category


17 February 2016

Tickets to fly to Buffalo for Christmas were very expensive. So we decided to wait. February, that seems like a good time to travel. Round trip tickets were under $500/person, so I bought them. Red eye flight from Portland to Newark, and then a commuter flight from Newark to Buffalo at 9 am the next morning.

Then, because the prospect of a red eye flight is never appealing, I upgraded those tickets to first class, by cashing in some frequent flyer miles and paying an extra $75/ticket. Maybe sleep would be more possible in first class than in coach? I was hoping.

Our flight was due to leave at 11:04 PM, and I was monitoring the flight status from my phone when I went curling at 6 PM, planning to zip home at 8:00 after curling, change clothes, and drive to the airport. Time enough for a beer at the Rogue Brewery restaurant in PDX airport before getting on the flight.

But there was a winter storm on the east coast, and our plane had yet to LEAVE Newark when I got to the curling club. After a series of delays, the plane was rescheduled to arrive in Newark after our commuter flight to Buffalo was scheduled to take off, so I left curling with the plan to spend some time on the phone with the airline rather than leave immediately for PDX to catch our (now) 1:45 AM flight.

I called United and explained the situation, and Patricia (the nice representative) said the only Newark to Buffalo flight she could fit us on left at 5-something PM, giving us a 10-hour layover in Newark airport. I thought that did not sound like fun. So Patricia rescheduled us on a different airline, Delta, leaving at 6 am the next morning and connecting through JFK instead of Newark. That sounds great, I said, and she gave me a new confirmation code for Delta.

Great! I opened the Delta website to check in, and input the confirmation code. The PDX to JFK flight was cancelled. Yikes! I called United back on my cell phone, but the recording told me the wait time to talk to a person was 20 minutes. I left the line open and grabbed our land-line phone to call Delta, where I talked to a person much faster.

The young man at Delta was also very helpful, though his information told him it was the JFK to Buffalo flight that was cancelled, probably due to the record snowfall in Buffalo at the time. Most snowfall recorded on February 16th in Buffalo, not a record in general. [note – my mom reported winter aconite coming up in her garden just a couple days earlier.] So he was trying to find us a new flight. In the meantime I was still on the Delta website, but I was maddeningly unable to click on any buttons, including the “select alternate flight” button. I did not realize that my cell phone was pressing the Control key at the corner of my keyboard. Agh!

Suddenly, the Delta rep’s information changed. He asked me if I did something, and I hadn’t. We were magically rebooked (and checked in) without him or me doing anything. Now we had a 6:05 AM flight from PDX to Seattle, a three-hour layover, a flight from Seattle to Atlanta, another 3-hour layover, and a flight from Atlanta to Buffalo, arriving at 11:04 PM in Buffalo, only about 24 hours from my first phone call to United and only about 12 hours later than our original plans. AND, because I had upgraded that PDX to Newark flight…we would be going first class all the way!

OK, so instead of gearing up to drive to the airport, we had to sleep with plans to wake up in time to drive to the airport at a little before 4 AM. Fine. I had a glass of port and went to bed.

We got ourselves to the airport the next morning, got a caffeinated beverage each, were seated on our first flight in good order, and requested orange juice. Comfy seats, pillow and blanket, free beverages! And we sat there as everyone boarded, and we taxied away from the gate…and then we taxied back to the gate, because there was a mechanical issue and couldn’t take off. Sigh. Well, it wasn’t too bad, since we had the long layover in Seattle, and the mechanic switched a backup system into place and we took off with only an hour’s delay.

We enjoyed a big breakfast in Sea-Tac airport, then took the tram to terminal S to await our next leg. I explored the bookstore, and laughed about the woman complaining that neither of the only two brands of water sold in the bookstore was spring water.

Our flight to Atlanta was on a large plane, with the kind of first class seats that have buttons to raise the leg rest to flat and a little reading light, and a personal entertainment screen. Swanky. We were served a calzone lunch with salad and dessert and cheese, and I used the entertainment system to listen to the Broadway cast recording of Hamilton. I raised my footrest, leaned back, and relaxed. Then the flight attendant stopped by to explain that the hand-washing water in the first class bathrooms had flooded the front galley, and he was putting bottled water in the bathrooms for hand washing. Huh.

On arrival in Atlanta, we heard an announcement to be very careful exiting the plane, as they had to exit us THROUGH the front galley, and it was very slippery. As we got up and waited to exit, we could see that they had used some sort of absorbent powder on the floor to help sop up the water. This powder what what had made the floor slippery. Our flight attendant was dressed in paper booties and a plastic smock over his uniform. The pilot came out of the cockpit and asked about the mess. We overheard the conversation in which someone worried that it was unsafe for passengers to exit the plane. Happily, that argument was denied and we were allowed to exit, while being told to be very careful!

We arrived in Atlanta’s terminal E, but our next flight took off from terminal B, so we walked through the underground tunnel to get some exercise and checked out the eateries available because I wanted a beer. We settled in TGI Friday’s for beer and a snack, and wandered to our gate, B16. Which didn’t have our plane at it. We’d been moved to the far end of terminal B, no problem, we went there, and everything seemed on schedule and fine. We boarded and settled down, expecting everything to be fine.

Which everything was. All fine. We landed half an hour early in Buffalo and taxied across the snow-covered pavement to our gate. Well, the jetway was stuck and would not move. They tried, but the jetway would not budge. Eventually, they decided to tow the plane to a different gate. Yay! Then the towing pin on the plane-towing-cart broke and had to be replaced. A full hour after landing, we finally exited the plane, and found my parents as they were about to leave the airport thinking they had missed us. Whew.

I don’t know how late we stayed up after getting home, talking and drinking mint tea or bourbon, but we slept until after 10 am Eastern time this morning. And it is snowing.


16 August 2011

With the Republican presidential candidates attending the Iowa state fair in preparation for the Iowa straw poll, NPR had to do its obligatory story on “fried food on a stick.”  This year’s gross-out item was deep-fried butter on a stick. Well, in Japan, one needn’t go to the state fair (or rather, whatever the local festival is) to have food on a stick. There are sit-down restaurants devoted to fried food on a stick.  We ate a couple of them, enjoying chicken, pork, mushrooms, quail eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, small fish, pumpkin (the green Japanese kind), potato, and probably something else I can’t remember. Dip the item into a sauce, or salt, or green sancho pepper (like black pepper but with a tingle and a citrusy flavor), and enjoy!  Then reach for another.

I think this is pork. The dish has wells for different sauces.

As you will see included with almost all Japanese meals, you can see the small dish of pickled vegetable in this photo, and in this case also a dish of cabbage for “cleansing the palate” between fried items.

You don’t have to go to a restaurant for your fried food on a stick, however. When we were in Osaka, the takoyaki that Keiko and I had were served with skewers, not chopsticks.  So I guess you could hold your octopus doughball on the stick and eat it that way.  I think it would have been easier to use chopsticks.

I used a couple skewers to dissect a doughball so you can see the little chunk of octopus.

What if you like food on a stick but are not a fan of deep frying? You can get that too. In Kyoto I passed by a shop with this display out front:

I don't think I could make myself eat one of these.

I have no idea if you are supposed to eat these octopuses as they are, or if maybe you buy a few to take home and fry up fresh for dinner. Or maybe you could do the other deep-frying: tempura.  Greg and I took a cooking lesson with a very nice woman named Emi, in her home in Kyoto.  She taught us to make tempura by combining half an egg (150 ml) and a combined 150 ml of flour and water, mixing it until combined but lumpy, and smearing the mixture by hand over whatever food you want to eat. While in Japan we tried tempura-style food of many different kinds (including nori and flowers and lotus root and pumpkin), but Emi introduced us to Japanese-style wheat gluten.  We were familiar with the seitan-style wheat gluten, but the Japanese style is more like a thick gel.  First, put the wheat gluten on a small stick.  Then coat in tempura batter and deep fry.

Wheat gluten before tempura. I don't know why it is green.

After tempura. Note the presentation has changed now that it is ready to eat.

My last food on a stick is not fried.  In Takayama, we went to a tofu restaurant.  Tofu served a lot of different ways, and listed on the menu as “tofu 3 ways”, “tofu 4 ways,” “tofu 5 ways,” and so on.  I think Greg had “tofu 7 ways” or maybe it was 8.  I went for fewer, thinking I wasn’t that hungry (having had a snack not much earlier).  I chose the option that included, you guessed it, tofu on sticks:

Tofu three ways. Plus soup with tofu skins, rice, and pickles (the pink things are pickles).

So much for not being very hungry.  I guess the fewer types of tofu in your order, the larger the portions.

Anyway, since being back in the USA I have stuck to only frozen treats on a stick. I am still finishing off last year’s watermelon-mint ice pops, and I recently made a large batch of fresh ones to take to the pool party on Labor Day.  Just watermelon, mint, lime juice, and sugar.

Japan goals

29 July 2011

I had a mental list of things I wanted to experience in Japan.

  • Stay in a ryokan
  • Relax at an onsen
  • See Mt. Fuji
  • Eat takoyaki
  • Eat taiyaki
  • See the Akihabara district in Tokyo
  • Get a Japanese ear-cleaner
  • Ride the shinkansen
  • Get a Daruma doll for Greg’s job search.

and I am glad to report that I did all of these things!

We stayed in ryokans every night, though the temple lodgings at Koya-san were technically a shubuku not a ryokan.  At Hakone, our ryokan was also an onsen, and on the women’s side at least there were 5 pools/tubs.  We saw Mt. Fuji from several vantages at Hakone, as well as from the shinkansen on the way to Nagoya to get to Takayama.  In Takayama I ate taiyaki, and in Osaka I tried takoyaki.  On our free day in Tokyo we visited a bunch of famous districts, including Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara.  And at Nara, home of the largest Buddha statue in Japan, I got an ear-cleaner. I picked up the Daruma doll at a souvenir shop (not a temple) toward the end of our trip, but I can’t remember if it was in Nara or in Kyoto.

What the heck is all this?

The ryokan in Tokyo, with our futons ready for us

A ryokan is a Japanese inn, with tatami floors that you may not wear shoes on, futons that are stored away during the day and set out at night, and complimentary green tea in the room.

An onsen is a hot-springs bath, open to the public.  There is a space for putting your clothes, a place to wash yourself, and one or more pools for soaking.  There are lots of rules, like no clothing allowed and no towels allowed in the bathing pool, and you must rinse off all soapsuds before entering the pool, and at the Hakone onsen they didn’t allow any metals in, by which I think they meant take off all your jewelry.  I guess the minerals in the water might have reacted with it.

Leave your clothing in a basket

Wash yourself all over

Enjoy a hot soak with a pretty garden view

I know you know what Mt. Fuji is.  The most important and revered mountain in Japan.  We did not climb it, we just posed for photos with it.

We were lucky that the clouds retreated for our photo opportunity

Takoyaki is dough balls with a bit of octopus inside, cooked on a griddle with lots of hemispherical depressions in it so the dough balls come out round.  Taiyaki are fish-shaped snacks filled with red bean paste (or other fillings) and cooked on a griddle with fish-shaped depressions in it.  If a Japanese word ends in -yaki, it is probably yummy, like sukiyaki (usually beef and vegetables in a sweet sauce), or okonomiyaki (a pancake-ish dish with egg and meat and vegetables in it).

Keiko took this photo when we shared takoyaki. We got them "wit" (as we say in Philly) everything - brown sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes

Taiyaki-the kind with red bean paste

In Tokyo, there are many neighborhoods with their own distinct characters, like in many large cities around the world.  Akihabara (also known as Akiba) is “electric town” where you can buy almost anything relating to electronics, video games, anime and manga. There are girls in costumes on the street corners (they won’t let you take a photo), giant gaming arcades, the nerdiest-looking guys (also known as “otaku”) who you will never see in the fashionable districts like Harajuku, and shops devoted to single types of item, like fluorescent light bulbs, or wire!

One of the wire shops in Akihabara, Tokyo

We rode the shinkansen (bullet train) numerous times as we traveled between cities.  They are pretty slick.

A shinkansen arrives at a station. Or maybe it departs - they look the same at both ends

A Daruma doll (Dharma) represents the founder of Zen Buddhism.  It is used to represent a wish or goal, and one draws in the right eye when making the wish and one draws in the left eye when the wish is fulfilled.  I wanted one for my husband who is hoping to make a career change this fall, as a fun representation of his goal.  We are not Buddhists.  This morning I drew in the right eye, and when Greg gets his new job I will fill in the left eye.  Traditionally Daruma dolls are burned at temples at the end of the year, but I think we will keep this one.

Japanese ear-cleaners are not q-tips.  They certainly have cotton swabs on sticks in Japan, but the ear cleaners are usually bamboo and you use them to carefully scrape the wax out of your ears.  My mother-in-law says they are very effective!  You can get them shaped like samurai swords or like light sabers, but I chose a more traditional style.

Can you tell which is the ear cleaner and which is the Daruma? Daruma dolls are weighted so if you knock them over they turn upright again

I’ve got a lot more Japan-related topics to write about, so be patient!

Japan Trip Overview

26 July 2011

My husband and I took a two-week trip to Japan with my mother-in-law this month.  This post is the overview, but there will be other posts featuring different aspects of our trip.  It was a great trip!

We (well, Keiko) booked a tour with Samurai Tours, and owner Mike Roberts helped us customize it so that we had some days with the guide and tour group and other days on our own.  Ours was a “Best of Japan” trip, and started in Tokyo.

Shibuya crossing in Tokyo

From there, we went to places west and south of Tokyo, avoiding the north.  This was the tour route anyway, but as a result we were never anywhere near Fukushima and we didn’t see any earthquake or tsunami damage.  There had been a tour option for the town of Nikko, but that was changed due to the loss of tourist traffic there.  Apparently many of the restaurants and shops are closed due to lack of tourism.

Our tour included travel on trains, subways, and public buses.  Samurai tours arranged our Japan Rail Passes which were useful in many places as a free pass for travel.  Only foreign tourists can get these passes, and they are good on shinkansens (bullet trains) and ferries and local train lines.  If you want a reserved seat on a shinkansen, you need an additional ticket for that reserved seat, but you get on the train by just showing your pass as you walk through the turnstile area.

Throughout our tour, we stayed in Japanese inns, or ryokans.  These are very traditional, and you must take off your shoes (either when you enter the ryokan or when you enter your room).  The floors are tatami and the beds are futons on the floor.  And the futons are not American-style fat futons, but thin Japanese futons that are at most 3 inches thick and are easily folded up and put away in a closet.  They provide yukatas (thin cotton bathrobes) for hanging out in, and slippers for entering the toilet room, and toothbrushes.  I will show you my toothbrush collection in a later post.

So, the overview.  Our tour started in Tokyo, as I said, and then we went to Hakone.  Hakone is a resort town in a volcanic caldera.  There are hot spring-fed public baths (including the bath at our ryokan), a caldera lake with regular touristy boats crossing it, and hot-spring-cooked “black eggs” which we ate.  Hakone is where we saw Mt. Fuji from!

The tour group wears yukatas for kaiseki dinner at our Takayama ryokan

Then we went to the pretty town of Takayama, famous for their festival floats and a style of lacquerware that emphasizes the grain of the wood.  We enjoyed the farmer’s markets and the old municipal building, the Takayama-jinya.  There are very few such 17th-century buildings left in Japan, as they were all made of wood and are very susceptible to fire, despite the ornamental fish on the roofs.

Koya-san was next, the world headquarters of the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism.  We stayed in a temple, ate only vegetables, and learned that we are all Buddha.  We also had a meditation lesson and attended a morning prayer service.

Halfway through our trip we reached Osaka.  Our stay was brief, and it was very crowded despite the rain. Osaka was our only really rainy day.

Then we went to Miyajima Island, where we weathered the edge of a typhoon (mostly a wind event for us, with little rain).  Unfortunately, the high winds closed the ferry and the ropeway to the mountain top.  As a result of the ferry closing, there were few tourists so most of the shops and restaurants didn’t open.  We would have stuffed ourselves on maple-leaf-shaped stuffed cakes if the shops had been open.  That’s the local specialty.  That and rice scoops.

Kinkaju-ji, the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto

We had a sobering visit to Hiroshima on our way to Kyoto, where we spent the last three days of our tour.  There is a ton of stuff to do in Kyoto.  We skipped a lot of it.  There are shrines and temples all over the place, thousands of restaurants, palaces, gardens, and Monkey Mountain!  Of course we went to Monkey Mountain!

So, more posts to follow on specific aspect of the trip, with more photos!


13 July 2010

One of our vacation days at Lapa Rios, we spent the morning on a boat watching dolphins!  This was definitely one of the best days we had in Costa Rica, and since they were all pretty darn good that says a lot!  We were charmed and captivated by the bottlenosed, spotted, and spinner dolphins we saw in the Golfo Dulce.

The day started early, and we had ordered fruit and ginger cookies from the kitchen to take along as a snack.  They gave us way too much fruit, but we ate some of it.  We were driven to Puerto Jimenez, where we had the opportunity to use the Lapa Rios Office bathroom before boarding our boat.  Soon we were in the midst of a pod of dolphins!

They came right up to the boat, even mothers with babies!  They blew spray into our faces, turned to check us out, and zig-zagged off into the distance.  Sometimes they raced the boat, other times they played in the wake.

It was MOST exciting when the dolphins leaped out of the water, sometimes right nearby!  This happened first only a few moments after our guide told us that the dolphins could leap six feet out of the water.  Suddenly one did, right next to us!  It is VERY tricky to capture the leaps in a still photo, but we had three cameras capable of video with us, and one that can shoot 30 frames of still shots per second.  So we got a few good shots, a lot of photos of splashes, and this collection of video clips I’ve assembled (and edited down from way too long to watch):

Lapa Rios

13 July 2010

When we went to Costa Rica, we spent the first 5 nights (after an initial night in San José) at Lapa Rios, an ecolodge in the Osa Peninsula.  To get there, you fly on a 20-passenger plane to Puerto Jimenez, then drive for 45 minutes to an hour over bumpy potholed dirt roads fording several streams.  The ecolodge is situated on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce, and has a 1,000 acre reserve that they maintain free of development.  There is no phone, no internet, no televisions.  There is electricity, and there is “hot” water provided by solar heaters, there is a pool and indoor plumbing (as much as anything is really indoors at Lapa Rios).

We loved it.

Inside our bungalow

Falling asleep, we listened to the waves of the ocean and the beeping of the tiny red frogs that we never saw, and the chirps of insects.  It was pretty loud, but I had no trouble falling asleep.  We woke early to the sound of howler monkeys and bird squawks.  Breakfast does not start until 7 AM, but there is an option for early morning coffee brought to the bungalow, plus coffee and banana bread are provided at 5:30 at the main lodge, and a cold breakfast can be had at 6 AM if you order it the night before.

The view from the hammock on our bungalow's deck

Every day, a variety of hikes and tours are available to sign up for, with your bungalow number and the number of people in your group.  Most of the tours are limited in how many people may sign up.  In addition, the front desk staff can arrange outside tours through other providers.

We chose the early morning bird walk with Danilo, the medicine walk with Guillermo, the Osa trail hike with Ulises, the night walk with Danilo, and the sustainability tour with Andres.  In addition, we arranged for a dolphin watch on the Golfo Dulce.  The medicine walk and the sustainability tour were the most educational.  The night walk and the early morning bird walk netted the most photos of wildlife.  The Osa trail was where we saw puma tracks, of a small puma.

Guillermo demonstrates burning sap on the medicine walk.

The first evening, we attended a talk about the wild cats of Central America.  Ricardo (the guy who gave the talk) is a researcher (think poop analysis and camera traps) who obviously cares deeply about his work: documenting, studying, and preserving wild cats.  The puma is the second largest of the wild cats in Costa Rica, and its paws have oval pads, which is how Ulises identified the paw prints we found on the Osa trail.  We also saw camera traps along the trail, so it is likely that this small puma was caught on camera.  Maybe we were, too.  The tracks were pretty fresh, but heading in the opposite direction that we were going in.

Interestingly, one of the strategies for preserving the wild cats is to enlist the help of poachers.  The poachers help set up a camera trap, and then are paid $100 for every cat photographed by the camera trap.  Thus, the poachers have incentive to keep the cats alive.  Unfortunately, research grants don’t cover payments to poachers.  Find out more at the project website:

Puma paw print on the Osa trail

The weather in the Osa Peninsula in late June is humid, warm, and prone to afternoon rain.  The day before we arrived at Lapa Rios, they had torrential downpours, and people arriving at the lodge had to swim one of the streams because the car could not ford it safely.  They were met on the other side by another car.  We saw a lot of mud, and it caked our hiking boots and stained our clothes.  We also got very sweaty.  While Lapa Rios itself gets a lovely ocean breeze, the hiking trails in the rain forest do not.  Happily, there is a lovely swimming pool, and all the cool water showers you could possibly want.  We showered several times a day to wash the mud and sweat off.  However, it took forever for anything to dry, whether it was our towels, our clothes, or my hair.  There were some sunny mornings when we could lay our damp things on the deck and things DID get dry, but with all the showering and clothes changing we decided to splurge on laundry service on our last full day at Lapa Rios.

The sticky mud of the Osa Peninsula

As I said, they have a lovely swimming pool.  It has a salt water chlorination system and we found it very relaxing.  An added benefit–show up at the pool and start swimming, and shortly a staff member will come and ask you if you would like a drink.  Pool towels are provided in a cabinet, Brazilian recycled-plastic lounge chairs surround the pool, and bats reside in the poolside shelter.  I remember the times I stayed at hotels with my parents, when I was a kid.  I always wanted to swim in the pool.  As an adult, I generally don’t care about such things.  But I was very glad of the Lapa Rios pool.  It was the perfect place to cool off after a hike, when the cool shower in the bungalow just wasn’t enough.

All this writing and I haven’t even gotten to the food.  The food at Lapa Rios is wonderful, and happily they have half portions available so you can manage to eat all the way to dessert!

Breakfast can be simple fruit, or yogurt and granola, or local fare like pupusas or corn cakes or the breakfast version of casado.  There is always coffee (we take ours con leche, with milk) and juice (I preferred blackberry while Greg usually chose mango).  At lunch, a juice of the day and a chip of the day are featured for tasting.  Lunch offerings include a soup of the day (with chips), plus an entree and dessert if wanted.  Entrees include salads and sandwiches (with chips) in addition to casado, fried rice, tortillas, or pasta.  I love chips.  I like potato chips, plantain chips, taro chips, yuca chips, whatever kind of chips that are offered, I love them.

At breakfast, it is also time to order the dinner entree.  This is because if they know what you are having for dinner, they know what to order from Puerto Jimenez, from the local farms, etc, and they don’t have so much waste.  It is a good system.  Generally there are two soup or appetizer options and three entree options, plus two dessert options.  One entree is always vegetarian, so Greg’s choice was easy.  You arrive at dinner and find a candle-lit table with the right number of place settings, and your server arrives to ask if you would like a drink from the bar.  A small appetizer is provided, and the bread of the day.  Then, the server knowing already what you ordered, your soup arrives.  Similarly, your entree.  It was hard to have room for dessert, but we made an effort for coconut-chocolate pudding!  One layer of chocolate pudding, one layer of coconut pudding, garnished with dark chocolate shavings.  YUM.

Lapa Rios was definitely an awesome place to spend a chunk of our vacation!

La comida tipica de los Ticos

7 July 2010

We recently returned from a ten-day vacation in Costa Rica, having had a fabulous time.  While future blog posts will detail our adventures, this one is about the typical foods of the “Ticos,” which is what Costa Ricans call themselves.

Refreshing blackberry and cas juice punch

Cas fruits

First of all, they have lots of fruit available in Costa Rica.  It is sold in markets and by the side of the road, and is eaten plain or made into juice in a blender (often thinned out with water).  We had coconut water, blackberry juice, mango juice, tamarind (don’t drink too much, it is a laxative), cas, and guanabana.  Also, a typical juice is mixed carrot juice and orange juice – a delicious combination!

Guanabana drink

On our drive from San José to Monteverde, our guide asked our driver to stop at a crate of mangoes at the end of a driveway.  Our guide, Marco AKA “Tex,” bought some green mangoes from the woman who came out of her house once we’d stopped.  He peeled them with his knife and sliced them up, distributing them to us.  Green mangoes don’t taste like ripe ones, but they don’t taste bad.  A little sour and peppery.  Then the woman sent her son back to the house for some salt, and we tried the green mango slices dipped in salt.  This is a common way of enjoying them, and it was very good!  I can see the appeal of green mango pickles, which were described to us a few weeks ago by a woman we met at the science party.

Guanabana fruit - maybe 30 cm tall?

For breakfast and lunch, Ticos often include rice and beans in their meal.  The rice and beans are often accompanied by avocado, soft cheese, and fried plantain.  If it is breakfast, there will be eggs.  If it is lunch, there will be a piece of meat, chicken, or fish, plus a side salad often made with cabbage.  The lunch meal is called “casado” which means “married.”  We enjoyed this meal as breakfast several times each and lunch several times each, with my vegetarian husband substituting eggs or fried cheese for the meat at lunchtime.

Casado con pescado (with fish). The dark thing in the center is the fried plantain, with skin on.

The casado is always accompanied by Salsa Lizano, a condiment made in Costa Rica of  vegetables, salt, spices, and sugar.  It is tangy and very good on rice and beans, eggs, chicken, and other common foods.  We made sure to bring a bottle back with us.  It is possible to buy Salsa Lizano on, but it is pretty expensive for a bottle of sauce.

Casado con pollo (with chicken), after adding Salsa Lizano and taking a couple bites. The plantains are under the chicken.

On the second day of our trip, my lunch was accompanied by a lemony slaw of cabbage and tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I could not buy a recipe book at the hotel, but I found a similar recipe online and adapted it.  The lemon juice “cooks” the tomatoes (like it does the fish in a ceviche, which they also serve in Costa Rica) and they taste good to me, unlike raw tomatoes usually do.

This is my homemade casado con vegetales (with vegetables) that I made for our first dinner at home.  I fried fresh potatoes instead of plantains, and the cabbage-tomato slaw I made did not fit on the plate.