Food, Fun and Lots of Music in Surfside

The little Playa Potrero community where I’m living is called Surfside, by many locals, and I’ve been surfing the restaurants and bars in the area for the last couple of weeks – and having a good old time in the process.

Within comfortable walking distance of my temporary residence, I have explored five restaurants, all of which also serve a wide range of alcoholic beverages and provide entertainment of some kind throughout the week – and this is the slow season! Good luck finding yourself with nothing to do any day of the week in Surfside.

SUNDAY at The Shack


Sundays are no exception. Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Kimi Tortuga, a singer and guitarist from Florida and Joe Hrbek, a Brooklyn transplant, make amazing music at The Shack, a little jewel of a hangout I’ve already written about. Kimi has the sweet, sexy but raspy voice to pull off Janice Joplin or Tina Turner and still do Nina Simone justice. Joe’s prowess on the sax and clarinet is legendary in the area.

PULLED PORK at The Smokin’ Pig

Jill and Amy, mother and daughter – just part of the family of new owners!

Friday I wandered over to The Smokin’ Pig – tucked off the main drag – where I had a fabulous pulled pork sandwich provided by the new owners, who moved here from Albuquerque, NM, and took over in July.  But the best part of a totally cute place was that Joe Hrbek was here too – playing with his regular partner, Luiz Leme, from Brazil. These two really rocked the house with tunes like “Let it Be”,  “My Girl” and “I Feel Good.” At one point, I swear Joe made his clarinet talk.

Good advice from The Smokin’ Pig

Visit my last blog post “To My New Followers” for a clip of Joe and Luiz doing “I Feel Good.”

Luiz and Joe – making great music


PERLA’s for lunch and more

A friendly face at Perla’s – Esther’s

My first visit to Perla’s – which can only be described as a cowboy bar and restaurant – was for lunch. It was quiet at the time, so I watched the Tim McGraw streaming videos and the NFL while I ate a fantastic hamburger and fries. But when I returned this weekend, it was hopping with patrons, listening to Los Tingos, so named because Pedro is a Tico and Jerry is a gringo, originally from Texas (although he’s been in the area for the last 20 years). This seemed to be a good place for singles to meet.

Pedro and Jesse – mixing it up

Saturday, I hiked down to The Sailing Center, where you’ll recall I won at bingo last Sunday, just to check in with Justin, one of the owners, and he tells me there’s a pub crawl bus that wraps up its tour today (Sunday) at his place. They have a big bonfire and quite a crowd, I’m told. I may have to hike down again tonight!


Justin – always smiling at The Sailing Center

POOL and karaoke!

The Castillo is just across the street from The Sailing Center, so I finally made it there after many had told me to stop by – too early for their karaoke, but just in time to enjoy one of the specials of the night – a roast beef sandwich, with horseradish, to die for. I finished up just in time to listen to a couple of karaoke singers, while I talked with a new friend and then watched a couple of games of pool. By the way, that’s the norm here in Surfside – making new friends easily.

Owner Harlan – in the middle of a pool game – at The Castillo

I’m just ticking off a very few of the entertainment options in this tiny little stretch of the road through Potrero. Music artists vary, the type of music varies and the occasional bingo game or trivia contest bring a completely different kind of fun.

And let’s not forget the beach! On any slow day, stroll to the beach – have a dip in the water or maybe a sailing lesson, read a good book in the shade or just work on your tan. It’s a good life.











To My New Followers

Thank you so much for following! I’m so happy to have you as an audience. I haven’t been on WordPress long so I’m not sure how to welcome each new person who comes along (yet) but wanted you to know how much I appreciate you!

Have a FANTASTIC Saturday and here’s a little inspiration for you.

Luiz Leme and Joe Hrbek playing a little James for you!

I Have a Theme Song!

I spent a little time honky-tonking last night and ran into this man again (he shall be known only as “Solitary Man Traveler”). He had almost instantly come up with this theme for my blog when I handed him my card this other day (smart guy) – it wasn’t until last night that he agreed to let me video him singing it. Be beware. it does somehow stick in your head and you may find it rolling around over and over.

That’s the whole point of a theme song, right?



Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Howler Monkeys

Grainy blow-up of a mom and baby howler crossing just in front of our casa.

So, I think my most favorite thing here in Costa Rica is – no not the beaches – the howler monkeys. I’m awakened every morning, predawn, by the “extremely loud and incredibly close” male howlers. There have to be at least two, first because they’re establishing their territory and secondly because I can hear two different voices out there – at a minimum. This usually goes on for about an hour.

A little later on, I can often distinguish some babies in the group struggling to develop their own voices, which comes out as a screechy version of puppy growls.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the sound of the adults, but I’ll give it a try. As I’ve mentioned before, I was outside my hotel room in Playa Grande writing one morning – at 4:30 am – when I heard what I thought was a roar, followed by what I thought was a growl. I was instantly frightened but timidly approached the street looking down it in the direction from which the sounds were coming, fully expecting to see a jaguar. But neither sound was exactly right for that animal. Nothing. A few more roars later I decided I wasn’t going get eaten by anything larger than me and I went back to writing. At breakfast I asked the hotel owner about it, and he laughed then told me it was the monkeys.

Now, I’ve become fascinated with them. I have tried very hard to capture one on video howling, but no luck. They just won’t do it on cue.

If you’re thinking “what a pain!” to be woken up every morning by the gargantuan sound I can understand that. After all, roosters crowing drives me crazy after the first one or two. But when I hear these guys, my brain acknowledges the wild and I fall back asleep very easily, right through the rest of the concert.

Here’s what I treasure about this experience: each morning I am reminded that we humans have not conquered everything. Nature still wins.

Click below to hear what I hear!

Howler monkey sounds

Beachside Bingo

Step right up and buy your bingo cards! From the left: Tim, Randall and Ryan

Okay, I would have made a pretty good Catholic if Saturday night Bingo was the major requirement! I’ve always loved bingo but haven’t played it all that much. However, now that I’ve had a taste of the Potrero bingo experience at the Sailing Center, I’d be a regular if I was staying in Potrero.


I had just a blast – and I won. Actually it was the biggest prize of the night; a $20 certificate to the MerKdo (the little grocery mart I frequent here) AND (this is big “and”) a ½ day adventure from Pura Vida Drive, worth $60. I’m not positive what that is but it’s an adventure and I’m always up for that. So, yay for me!

Early birds, like me, ready for the games to begin!

But here’s the thing – Potrero has a lot to do, especially for a small town. There is some kind of live music venue in town or nearby nightly – from Jazz to Country to Karaoke. Oh, yes – there are two places I’ve identified that have karaoke. I no longer impose my awful singing on others, but I love to listen. So guess where I’ll be next.

Getting back to the bingo, though. This was a large group of expats (about 50) playing for a couple of hours and really enjoying the caller, the suspense and the prizes. Cards were $5 a piece, raffle tickets for the 50/50 (half to the winner, ½ to the charity of the evening) were $2 piece and Pilsner beer was $2 a bottle at happy hour prices. It would be hard not to have fun. The proceeds from the evening went to the local neighborhood watch.

Sunset view from the Costa Rica Sailing Center

I also got a good look at the Costa Rica Sailing Center, which I had assumed was strictly a sailing school and boat rental business. I could not have been more wrong. Although reportedly it’s only been in existence for less than 2 years, it has become a mainstay for the expat community with a restaurant, bar, beachfront area and a pool that you are welcome to take a dip in after you drink or dine or both. There are annual memberships available that cover many of their services and amenities. I’m planning on a return for lunch and a swim this week.

Folks just having fun before bingo begins.

So, I had to come to Costa Rica to actually win at bingo…

My booty – the old school meaning!

Marking Time (or not)

DSC03646Sitting in my little room in Playa Potrero – Costa Rica – I suddenly realize that for the first time in many years, I’m not ticking off the days to sometime in the future. It is kind of an odd feeling to realize that, although I have plenty of plans, I am truly living in the present; thinking about where I am and what I’m doing right now.

As I’ve planned it, about a year stretches out in front of me in Latin America. I’m constantly adding places and countries to the list for this trip, but I find I have to force myself to look ahead. I just got online to see what kind of accommodations are out there for the cities of Granada and Leon, in Nicaragua. I’m not going there until the end of September, but it’s prudent to see what it’s going to cost me before I go. This was the first time I’ve had to force myself to do the deed.

Each day when I wake up, I lay in bed for a while just enjoying whatever there is to relish. Some days it’s the bird song, always a hoot (pun intended) and on others there is a lovely breeze to feel wafting across me. The old rush to get up and get going is gone! And I love that.

What a luxury this is. The lack of a need to get to the next thing or place. The hole in my life that I used to fill with anxiety and anticipation is slowly being filled in and bulldozed over by actual living.

Why Solo Travel is for Me

Although I’ve had some wonderful travel experiences with others, in particular my daughter, I find solo travel is my chosen lifestyle.

When I began my journeys I thought I’d be constantly taking pictures, exploring ruins and traveling to a new spot. What I realized within months was that, in moving so swiftly, I was wearing myself out and becoming too used to new sights and sensations. If you’re constantly astonished by the wonders around you, soon you’re immune to amazement.

Awe-inspiring Angkor Wat

I had to slow down and actually live a life in between those exciting periods of exploration. I also found that when I wasn’t touring some fabulous museum or collecting memories along a new beach, I discovered small things that thrilled me.

miss quan
The lovely “Miss” Quan and her husband

I especially remember the conversation I had with Miss Quan in her little garage-type shop about the Taoist Chinese who visited her for items to burn on their funeral pyres. I had tried, on my own, to figure out the significance of the paper Gucci purses and empty cardboard cans of Guinness. She saw that I was confused and explained that these things were for the departed to take with them into the afterlife. Family members would purchase what they thought their loved one would need on the other side and toss them onto the funeral fires with reverence. I learned something.


Here, in Costa Rica, a walk always nets a new experience, whether it’s a black iguana with an evil grin or a trestled gate and garden right out of an English novel. You truly never know what you’ll find anywhere in the world if you keep your eyes open.


I also need to write to help pay my bills (so I can upgrade my lifestyle a bit), either through freelancing jobs or now selling travel articles. I did that while my daughter was traveling with me, but it was difficult finding the discipline to do it with her along – because I really wanted to be with her in every moment. However, I scheduled my work time when she was still asleep and wrote in the cafes attached to our hotels in the early morning cool.

Quiet spot for writing in Brasilito

Additionally, I like to have a couple of days a week – once every three or four days – to just read and relax. If you’re traveling with someone on a limited time budget, that’s just not possible. You need to see or experience as much as possible while they’re there with you because they don’t have the luxury of time like I do.

I recently discovered I’m an extroverted introvert – which explained a lot about this persona I carry around to me. I love, truly love, my brief interactions with people. I find the lives of others fascinating, which is why, as a reporter, I enjoyed interviewing people for the paper. Here’s the hitch though – an EI isn’t comfortable with extended interactions (me) and can happily spend lots of time alone (me, again). So basically, we’re people persons…but we’re not.

So, being alone never bothers me. If I have a need to interact, I just trot myself out to the nearest café, where I’ve probably established a rapport with staffers and chat for a while. I’m happiest if I somehow drift into a conversation with someone new.

I’ve been approached by a few people who would like to travel with me. It’s uncomfortable for me to try and explain that this won’t work for me because I like my alone time too much.  While, I could do a couple of days with someone else, solo travel is for me – except, of course, for my annual trips with my very understanding and lovable daughter.

It dawned on me near the end of my last trip through SE Asia, that I should have been a National Geographic reporter and photographer. Maybe it’s not too late? Of course, I’ll need a better camera and a course on photography. Hmmm?

Margaret Bourke-White – famous world photographer