About 15 years ago, Darcie took a week-long Spanish language course in Samara Beach, Costa Rica and loved the experience. Dale had never visited the country. To continue our Spanish learning and explore Costa Rica as a potential future home, we flew to San Jose from Panama and stayed in Heredia, a town 10km outside of San Jose.
At Bocas Del Toro, Amanda and Roberto met us at the airport, which is adjacent to a schoolyard and walkable from downtown Bocas! It was great meeting Roberto and seeing Amanda again. Unfortunately, the condo we reserved for our stay was already occupied--by cockroaches--so Amanda spent the first full day of our visit helping us find a better hotel.
Bet you can't get Van Halen out of your head right now! We visited Panama for two reasons, first to see Dale's daughter, who has been living in Bocas del Toro, Panama for a year. The second was to explore whether Panama City would be a good place for us to retire some day.
Overall we loved Santiago and would definitely return after learning more Spanish! Looking back on our week here, we noticed:
There are stray dogs everywhere. During our first full day, we went jogging in a park where we became concerned about packs of stray dogs patrolling the area. However, they didn't bother us, and mainly chased pigeons, motorbikes and each other. On our guided walking tour of the city, two strays accompanied us on the entire, four-hour tour, thereby keeping our tour pigeon- and motorbike-free. They were super well-behaved! Apparently stray dogs are part of the Santiago community.
While in Chile, we took a side-trip to Valparaiso, a coastal town about 90 minutes outside of Santiago. Valparaiso was supposedly the major seaport between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans until the Panama Canal was built, and is also famous for its colorful houses and street artists. Our tour guide said that homeowners grant permission to artists to paint murals on their houses. Many of the murals have a story or message behind them. (Unfortunately, there is a lot of graffiti and tagging too.)
Nadie habla ingles aqui!!! Other than our self-imposed language barrier, we loved our Santiago trip! There is so much to see and do!
On our first full day in town, we joined a walking tour to see landmarks and learn about Chile's history, including its relatively recent return to democracy after Pinochet abdicated. We didn't realize that September 11 was an historical date for Chile too: it was when former president Salvador Allende died during Pinochet's military coup. (There's still controversy over whether Allende was killed or committed suicide.)
New Zealand was a relatively relaxed trip for us. The impetus for our trip was to reunite with Dale's good friend and coworker from China, Jacob, who had since returned to Wellington, New Zealand, got a new job, bought a house, married his girlfriend Sha, and had 2 kids. Jacob and Sha (and Sha's mom) were wonderful hosts for us and their sons Elon and Enzo are adorable!
Cairns is one of the access points to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). On our first day here, we enjoyed a walk along the esplanade (basically, a boardwalk along the coastline). Cairns doesn't have a beach, so they built this HUGE (as in, multiple football fields in size) public swimming pool right along the esplanade. We could not fathom the pool ever being crowded.
OMG Sydney is beautiful...and expensive. To stretch our legs after our 8+-hour flight, we walked along the coast from Coogee beach to Bondi beach (along with hundreds of others over Sydney's Labor Day holiday) in gorgeous, 75-degree, sunny weather. This 5 km walk offers spectacular views of several beaches and awesome people-watching.