Monday, March 23, 2015

Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio National Park

Loved the Monkeys 
And Lunch at the El Avion Restaurant

This park was highly recommended by former visitors. It is about 40 years old and encompasses some extraordinary beaches and lots of wildlife. 

Sadly, the government has let the place get almost completely out of control allowing what should be a signature experience become a sideshow.

So prepare yourself. 

Upon arrival to the park you will find it a challenge to get through the mob of officially licensed hawkers selling secure parking and wildlife spotting. One literally hung on the side of the car. 

Sadly there is no developed official parking. The unofficial lot we selected charged about $4. The admission to the park is specifically "Gringo" priced. Locals pay one rate and foreign visitors pay a "new" admission price of $16 each. The admission ticket booth only takes visa or cash. Within the park they are currently building much needed infrastructure. There are new showers, walkways and restrooms. Most drinking fountains are still broken.

Once you get past the carnival at the entry, you will find the wildlife guides are quite good. Again haggling is required, but they run about $20 per person in your party for about 2 hours. Remember with good binoculars and a little effort on your part you will see lots of wildlife without a guide.

Final Advice. The park opens at 7:00 am. That is when the most wildlife is active. We arrived at 10:00 am and initially saw little wildlife. So we went and enjoyed the beautiful beaches. 

At the beaches we found lots of iguana's and little hermit crabs. Then about 12:30 we were mobbed by capuchin monkeys, followed by raccoons. 

Lovely Beaches and Tidal Pools

A Capuchin with baby in Tow

A Spiny Iguana

Monkey Iguana Standoff

Mugging for the Camera

A Crab Eating Rcacoon

After leaving the park we ate at the El Avion restaurant. It sits on a hilltop with a spectacular view. The whole restaurant is built around one of Reagan's Iran-Contra transport planes that crashed in Nicaragua and has been hauled up the hill in chunks and converted into a bar. The food, drinks, service and view were great and delivered at very fair prices.

The View from El Avion

The Shrimp and Rice Was Delicious 
As Were The Margarita's 

So here's Roadboy's recap.

Do go see this amazing park.

Go as early as possible.

Expect to have to do some haggling at the entry.

Bring some cash, a swimsuit, towel, good shoes, maybe some binoculars, camera, lots of sunscreen and water. Put all of your gear in a zipper bag and keep the bag close by or someplace the capuchin monkey's can't get to.

After visiting the park go eat and drink at El Avion.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Love is in the Air - Air France

Style and Smiles Go Hand in Hand

The customers of Air France have been the beneficiaries of a wonderful new advertisement lately. It goes a long way to express the spirit of an airline that has always been known for style.

This is the airlines whose staff recently flash mobbed a dance routine in front of bedazzled travelers in the middle of Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E. 

Enjoy the wonderful Air France commercial here - Remembering to click back to return, of course!

If you fly Air France anytime soon you will also be treated to a wonderful safety video. It is beautifully choreographed and features lines like fastening your seatbelt "will elegantly highlight your waistline" and "a non-smoking flight is simply chci!"

Enjoy it here. Ditto to click back to return!

Hey Air France, WAY TO GO!

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bienvenidos Costa Rica

Initial Impressions

Every year my firm holds a retreat for shareholders. I typically suggest wonderful cities with great architecture (go figure). But this year the shareholders from Chicago and the East were adamant that the locale had to be "warm".  Since we've all been to many of the "warm" venues within the US, we  opted on a visit to Costa Rica.

Getting There:
Currently San Jose Costa Rica is currently available as a non-stop flight from Phoenix.

It is doubtful it will remain that way much longer once the "New" American Airlines completes its slow and fairly obvious goal of de-hubbing Sky Harbor in favor of (YUK!) LAX. In fact I'm not holding my breath that many of our wonderful non-stops will survive. Roadboy predicts most future trips will soon first include the horrors of either a stop in DFW or LAX.

On our flight yesterday the on-board crew was nothing short of exceptional.

The flight attendant in first was one of the best in the air. With a career spanning 28 years and beginning with America West Airlines (AWA), she worked hard making the journey perfect. Phoenicians love our veteran AWA crews. They lack the "us against the passengers" attitude perfected by many of the crews who joined from the original US Air and (worse yet) there recent American merger(s). 

The People:
In the two days we've now been here we've confirmed everything we'd heard about the kindness and hospitality of the people of Costa Rica. They are wonderful. 

Getting Around:
Our rental car turned out to be a brand new fuel-sipping diesel Toyota "Fortuner" (Local translation of the Forerunner, me thinks...). We added a Samsung EZ Go tablet GPS to the deal and quickly realized it to be a great benefit. For an Additional $4 a day it provides us a GPS and a 4 device rolling Wi-Fi hotspot! It also offers a constant reminder of speed limits.  

The Roads:
Most roads are unnamed so you simply identify the place you want to go by name and the GPS magically gets you there. The roads are frequently narrow and lined with DEEP concrete lined storm channels on each side. One little drift and you'll be up to your axle in trouble, so drive with extreme care.

Many of the larger roads are toll roads so be sure to get some local money at the airport. Conversion is $1 = to about 538 colones.  For simplicity sake, just assume $10 = 5000 colones etc. That makes it a pretty easy conversion.

Our first evening was at the new Airport Courtyard where we waited for all shareholders from all corners of the US.

Heading to the Jaco:
Before leaving for the beach we went grocery shopping for medicinal fluids (Imperial Beer) and snacks. That complete we pointed the Fortuner to the beachfront Marriott Los Suenos Hotel.

The setting of the Los Suenos is truly spectacular and the weather has been full-on tropical. Warm, humid and sunny.

Quite by coincidence we came to realize that Jaco is celebrating its annual "Jungle Jam" (beach concert series) while we are here.

I am pleased to report that all of the college spring break and its accompanying pukefest are nowhere in evidence anywhere near our hotel (precisely why we ruled out Cancun and anywhere in Florida as a retreat venue).

The Northerly View From The Marriott Los Suenos

The Southerly View From The Marriott Los Suenos

A Resident Iguana By The Pool

Perfect Location for Weddings

Saturday will be day two of our retreat. Sunday we'll take off early in the morning for the drive south to the Manual Antonio National Park. The park is known for its double beach and abundant wildlife.

Now I'm off to dream.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Weekend in Costa Rica

Sand, Sea and a Volcano

Roadboy's off to his annual firm retreat.

Popular request this year was "We want to go somewhere warm this year".

So we are off to Costa Rica! Just a quick trip. Back Next Tuesday.  Will probably just result in me wanting to return.

Photos to follow!

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Flying Fashion

Style? at 36,000 Feet

The Dallas Morning News recently reported that American Airline's pilots have lodged a protest against the new uniforms proposed by the airline. 

The accompanying photo illustrated a group of smiling Stepfordesque employee drones modeling new grey on grey on grey uniforms.

I studied that photograph and realized that the models would look totally appropriate on any 1960's era Soviet airline. 

(American Airlines Photos)

I work in a creative industry so I am well aware how any creative endeavor becomes an easy target to criticism. But, the photo made me wonder what direction the fashion designer was given from airline executives.

With the corporate name "American" this airline has an obligation to create iconic imagery. It represents America. Its very name means something. Look at Alaska Airlines and its iconic smiling Eskimo.  They get it.

Our's is the country where the livery of Air Force One was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy and created by Raymond Loewy. And, after nearly 60 years, AF-1 still flies iconic and proud.  

Study the exceptional and elegant uniforms worn by the staff of Emirates or Singapore. Their uniforms convey pride and successfully evoke the unique qualities of their nations.

If the corporate direction was to create unimaginative and unflattering uniforms for American's staff, they scored a direct hit.

In their complaint American's Pilots asked for comfortable, stylish, American made uniforms. 

As I close in on becoming a Three Million (Actual) Miler on American I suggest its Corporate leadership actually try listening to the people that actually make their airline run.  

Use this opportunity to create uniquely American uniforms.

Here's a thought - Have the uniforms made in the US by American's!

Style them to celebrate America's love of flight.

Remember when your were a kid, boarding an airplane for the first time. Remember feeling the rush of a plane taking off for the first time and seeing how quickly earthbound houses and cars became little dots. Remember the first time you looked down, instead of up, just fascinated by that ocean of puffy clouds.

Think magic.

Think bomber jackets. Iconic aviator style RayBan sunglasses. Incorporate stylish, comfortable and uniquely American lines. 

Yours is the airline whose silver aircraft used to glistcn bright in the sky. 

Whomever is creating your new corporate imagery suffers from depression and needs exposure to full spectrum lights.

Give your staff uniforms that make them actually proud to wear your colors. 

Hell, just give them colors. 


Is that what "The New" American is to become?

Roadboys' Travels © 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Some Observations On Travel

The World Out There

I have friends that have never ventured more than 100 miles in any direction. Some simply express zero desire to go much of anywhere. A frightening number of 'Zonies believe that long distance travel consists of a trip to Flagstaff or an occasional trip to San Diego or maybe (wait for it) Rocky Point.

Staying within a comfortable bubble usually means little in ones life is challenged. 

While free will entitles us to spend what little time God grants us on this small planet within a tiny radius, I firmly believe doing so means we die poorer.

The reality is very little of the world is within a 100 or even 500 mile radius of home. 

Whether it is visiting Washington DC to experience the emotional immersion of America's memorials, experiencing the dappled otherworldly light that filters to earth through a grove of California redwoods or walking the ramparts of the Alhambra in Grenada, life is fr richer when we make a lifelong attempt to experience as much of he world as possible. 

We come to understand how other people live. 

We walk in their cities, smell and taste their foods, listen to their music and experience their art and architecture

The world allows us to scroll down on an endless page offering more places to go and more people and cultures to experience. 

And each experience perfectly fills some empty little pocket of understanding in our very being.

The world confirms that there are many ways to do things. 

And, frequently (at least for me), I find my preconceptions shattered by the people and places I visit.

When I return home I savor what I learned. And, strangely, being away from home seems to  renew a heightened appreciation for the life I return to.

Where does your radius end? 

Winter Sunset in the Woods of Versailles

Why not extend it?

Roadboy's Travels © 2015