No habla español. And this is a problem. In the past two years, 95% of the foreign countries I’ve visited speak French: French Polynesia, France, Monaco, and even St. Lucia and Canada, although it’s not the latter two’s dominant language. This is fine by me, because I speak French (“speak” might be a liberal term: I order food and ask for directions in French). My two years of high school Spanish are long gone. I realized my lack of knowledge while at Travel Mart, when my South American friend (shout out to Javier if you’re reading this) asked me, “Do you speak Spanish?”
“Un poqueno!” I ignorantly proclaimed.
Javier and our other South American table mate laughed. “You just said a small. You speak a small Spanish?”
Point made. I know a few Spanish words, all of which I use incorrectly, therefore, I do speak a small Spanish. I thought more might come back to me when surrounded by Spanish-speakers in Costa Rica, but the only thing I seem to remember is the word, “Egalmente!” – which doesn’t get you far beyond telling someone that it’s nice to meet them, too. When our guide, Hugo, was explaining Costa Rica’s national slogan – Pura Vida – I jumped at the first thing I was able to translate. “Pure life!” Okay, that one wasn’t too difficult.
We arrived late last night into San Jose and were taken to our hotel. Since our flight was delayed (and please see this video for a glimpse of the moron we had to fly with), we didn’t make it in time for the welcome dinner, so we met our group bright and early this morning. It’s a small fam – 3 couples and another mother-daughter pair – a good size to round up and bus around San Jose and the surrounding area for four site inspections.
For the sake of never outright dissing any properties on my blog, I will not name any names. Let me just say that I’ve seen several hotels I would not send clients to. I was a little underwhelmed with the standard airport hotel (do I have to do a site inspection of this?!) and mortified over a second property with the tackiest color schemes I’ve ever seen. I felt like we had walked into a bag of Skittles. It had amazing views and wonderful gardens, yet everywhere we turned were these terrible yard ornaments and awful villas that completely disrupted the natural beauty. There’s a fine line between quirky and tacky and, quite frankly, I find either distasteful.
If you do have to overnight in San Jose, I would highly recommend the Intercontinental. I just love me some Intercontinental hotels, such a reliable brand, and that club lounge was easily the largest I’ve ever seen.
Status report: After four site inspections, we’ve spent several hours in the van and we are far from civilization. We’re on the way to El Silencio, located in the cloud forest. There’s a reason that directly translates into the silence. By cloud forest, do they mean pastures in the sky? That’s all I’m seeing so far. Hugo is explaining the concept of “happy cows,” a trend where farmers feed their bovines salads and alfalfa to give them a happier life. One-time-vegetarians like Laura Allen might find this reassuring the next time she eats a hamburger.
10-minute later status report: Scratch that. Now I see why they call it a cloud forest. We are at our 3,000+ foot elevation surrounded by thick clouds – all that’s keeping us from the edge of the cliffside is a homemade fence of mossy wood and barbed wire. Thank goodness I’m in an enclosed van or else I’d have another panic attack à la Magic Mountain in Moorea. Unlike the sites at the top of Magic Mountain (which consisted mainly of goat droppings), this is truly spectacular with its thick, wispy clouds hugging the rolling green mountains. Any minute now, Indiana Jones might just swing by.
Half an hour later (about three hours on the road, total), and we’ve arrived at El Silencio – a Virtuoso property tucked away in the cloud forest. With only 15 suites, it is the perfect getaway for those looking to clear their minds. No TVs, no alarm clocks, no resort-style swimming pools here – just you and your loved one and your thoughts. My loved one is currently full of thoughts as I’m finishing up this post. I have a feeling that mom might just go stir crazy without a TV.
The suites here are awesome – spacious bedroom and living area, great porch, private jacuzzi, views of the surrounding mountains and the cloud forest. Plus, the decor is perfect – subtle, Costa Rican elements mixed with a classy, modern style. This is perfect for its surroundings – the style doesn’t take away from nature, it compliments the lush property. It’s authentically Costa Rican and it’s luxury.
For more on the property, check out the following videos:
Tonight’s dinner is perfecto. Almost all of El Silencio’s ingredients come fresh from the property – herbs, vegetables, trout. Their fresh salmon trout (which we first had a hard time grasping…Is this salmon or trout?…It’s salmon-colored trout) served with a mix of mushrooms and tomatoes was just about the best fish I’ve ever eaten. Andre, the general manager, informed us that the difference is in their fresh spring water, “You can even drink from the shower if you want.” With the resort’s quiet atmosphere and its authenticity, El Silencio is like the Le Taha’a of Costa Rica. The food was definitely enough to rank it on scale with a Relais and Chateaux property. This place is perfect for honeymooners and nature-lovers; families with small children, not so much. Enough travel agent talk. Tomorrow we’re off to Arenal, where we’ll be staying at Tabacon, right next to the volcano!