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“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Longfellow

I too was mesmerized by the rhythmic natural symphony of the sea, the moon, and the clouds as I arrived late at night at my first place to stay at Arenas Del Mar. In a sentence, the resort has delectable cuisine, exceptional levels of service and exemplary eco credentials. It’s where buggies go up and down the steep slopes and one took me to my tropical fruit breakfast on a table on the sand of Playitas Beach in toe-touching reach of the ocean.

I found an elemental joy in picking up an almond nut from its tree and, as if from heaven, a leaf descends dancing, entertaining and poetically falling while pelicans swooped alongside into the water as all my senses were engaged demonstrating the beauty that nature can provide. Iguanas hang out by the pool, Halloween crabs scuttle through the gardens, sloths slumber in the treetops.

Very close by, down a discreet gravel lane, is a one-of-a-kind Villa Punto de Vista where I was next to stay. This astonishing six-story construction is the courageous and ambitious creation of David Konwiser, one of the family owners and the architect who was born in Costa Rican and educated in America.

The design makes optimum use of the dream views with angular windows jutting out like ships’ prows over the ocean beyond. I looked out over the rocks and islands that speckled the sea like the scales on an iguana’s back, adding perfectly to this ultimate jigsaw picture of a setting. The villa likes to quote “Costa Rica. Lots of Monkeys. No Hurricanes” and it’s fun to get one’s own back on the monkeys by teasing, but not feeding, them with bananas as they approach on their rope through the jungle canopy put up like a zip line in the very country where the sport was invented.

Beside these fast monkeys are slow-moving sloths who feed on ‘cecropia’, liking the alkaline in the high leaves of this hollow tree. They only come down once a week to do their business which they bury to stop predators and to fertilize the tree. They sleep for 18 hours a day and live for 30 to 50 years. And they’re even excellent swimmers I was to learn.

I took a boat with Tres Ninas Tours. It was a full day trip as I got to look up at the houses in the hills and the varieties of the green landscape beyond the beach all competing for light. As the day went on so the light changed affording different hues in the color of the sea from teal to lime green from aquamarine to emerald green. Though Uvita was at high tide when I got there I was intrigued to learn that right above the whale-shaped beach was the favored spot for whales to come and mate.

As for her human inhabitants, Costa Rica is one of the longest-running democracies in Latin America and is safe and peaceful. It’s had no wars for over a hundred years, and there is no standing army. And possessed with this openhearted spirit, some locals are amazed to see guns when they go abroad.

“Pura Vida” is the local expression of their life force. Several countries have an all-purpose word to cover our basic daily forms of interaction. In Hawaii there’s “aloha,” in Fiji there’s “bula’ and in Costa Rica there’s “pura vida.&rsdquo; Literally translating as “pure life” it spans the entire spectrum of greeting and parting incorporating: “no worries,” “enjoy life,” “take it easy” “good luck” and “have a good day.”

I came next further up the Pacific coast to Guanacaste and to the Papagayo peninsula. It’s all beautifully landscaped as a semicircle of large palm trees welcomed me along with a sculpture by Jorge Jiménez Deredia who uses organic shapes that reflect the country’s pre-Columbian heritage. These Diquis stone spheres in particular act as a timeless metaphor of Costa Rica’s deep-rooted egalitarianism: seamless and edgeless and possessing a notion of wholeness.

Papagayo has a number of exquisite beaches. Playa Nacascolo, which was once an area of commerce in pre-Colombian times, is the longest while Playa Jicaro is the most remote on the southern side. In the north, there’s Prieta Beach Club, a perfect day out with its Olas Lounge an ideal spot for lunch in front of waves strong enough for me to body surf.

It is very much an American conceit with its buggies the most common form of transport for visitors. The 18 hole golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer and with Ernie Els as its ambassador, has games played out on ‘paspalum’ the sumptuous carpet-like grass. Near the main entrance, there’s a marina to dock 355 slips where boats for cruising, yachting and sport fishing, particularly for both the black and blue marlin.

I stayed next at Vista Hermosa, Papagayo Luxury. Bang in the middle of the peninsula, this ten-year-old condo is part of the Las Terrazas complex of 16 homes whose owners leave their properties wild around them to grant the animals free movement and whose architect uses terracotta walls both inside and outside to blend in with the natural surroundings and display a contemporary clean aesthetic.

I enjoyed a wonderfully calm boat trip across the bay with Elvision Adventure Tours. My charming and uninvasive skipper guided me with great serenity across the flat water towards the magical beaches of Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, and the renowned Playa del Coco.

The landscape of Costa Rica and her biodiversity is simply magical: thick lush rainforests, with their dense foliage, uncrowded pristine beaches, steep mountains and majestic volcanoes and waterfalls, the perfect backdrop for the sheer wonder of the colorful birds and animals.

I even looked through the index of the definitive book on Costa Rican birds to find exquisite and exotic names like the chestnut-mandibled toucan, buffy tuftedcheek, long-tailed tyrant, bare-necked umbrellabird, whip-poor-will, double-striped thick-knee, the oilbird, ovenbird and white-fronted nunbird. As for animals, I saw in another book the misfit leaf frog, the bullet ant, the trumpetfish, the beaubrummel (a fish) and the Jesus Christ lizard, so-called as it walks on water.

My final place to stay Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica. The bay side (Playa Blanca) and ocean side (Playa Virador) have a different feel and, I allowed myself to believe, almost a different climate. Eco-friendly electric buggies went at a relaxing speed and it was such an important first scene as the rounded shape of the foyer was truly receptive and embraced me with its open arms, luring me into its golden mosaic fold.

The colors are consistent throughout and blend organically with their natural surroundings. The earth-toned stucco exteriors were computer-generated from actual dirt samples to replicate the deep browns, oranges and reds of the soil and the roots of the land.

How resourceful, cunning and wondrous are the forces of nature: the annona fruit changes from green to a darkish reddish-brown as it ripens, the Indian tree sheds its bark every three days while one local species of grass contracts with human touch. Whales mate above a beach shaped like a whale’s tail. Not to mention all the tricks of camouflage. I have finally learned that sloths are very good swimmers, how hummingbirds manage to stay in mid-air by flapping their wings at a rate of 50 to 80 beats per second and how howler monkeys make so much noise by releasing their voluminous, plangent magic using the wind.

I couldn’t get enough of this delightful country. I have to go back. Whenever but soon.

Adam had further support from www.gatwickexpress.com and www.holidayextras.co.uk (who offer airport lounges at all major UK airports and many international destinations).

All images provided by the author and edited by Barbara Chernyavsky.

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the television panel game QI. After leaving he began to investigate other languages, examining 280 dictionaries and 140 websites. This led to the creation of his first book of three in 2005, The Meaning of Tingo, featuring words that have no equivalent in the English language.

He is now a regular international travel writer and luxury hotel reviewer, having written for the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, and numerous travel print and website publications.

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It’s really the Bosphorus that’s the true founder of Istanbul. As a strait, it controls the main crossing point between Asia and Europe. It’s where Jason took his Argonauts and it’s where Darius’s army crossed on a bridge of boats for, like Oxford, Bosphorus means the “shallowest point where an ox can cross.”

The Bosphorus also acts as the passageway between the “Propontis” (Sea of Marmara) and the “Euxinos” (Black Sea). Big oil tankers and small boats mesmerically share the shipping lanes: some chugging along, others seemingly serene.

I boarded a boat from my “iskelesi” (historic passenger ferryboat pier) at Besiktas that took me to Emirgan, Kucuksu to Beylerbeyi and back again. I passed the real and the fantastic in equal measure with loveless dilapidation beside stunning palaces symbolising both the city’s modern economic struggles and her glorious bygone eras. More… “Strait to Istanbul”

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the television panel game QI. After leaving he began to investigate other languages, examining 280 dictionaries and 140 websites. This led to the creation of his first book of three in 2005, The Meaning of Tingo, featuring words that have no equivalent in the English language.

He is now a regular international travel writer and luxury hotel reviewer, having written for the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, and numerous travel print and website publications.

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In late January in California, in the East Bay, the fences along the streets that I walk are sporadically punctuated with blooming jasmine. The scent is sweet but not heady: a spring scent, reminding me of forsythia, or of the mock-oranges — Philadelphus lewisii, discovered by (and named for) the voyageur Meriwether Lewis in some ditch of eastern Oregon. It’s pleasant, muted yet pervasive, calm. The fences they adorn, however, are anything but subtle. Some are made of board, rough and unpainted, just barely standing, aided by wire or many, many appended nails. Others are bare chain-link, the galvanized wire mesh epitomizing a no-nonsense, function-before-status period of this bungalow-belt neighborhood in Oakland.

This is not atypical. Flowers in January, brilliant sunlight, a sense that you can walk down the street wearing a t-shirt almost any day of the year and not be cold beyond reason. Nor, for that matter, will you be stared at for having made a social or fashion faux pas. Just as the ramshackle wood fence and the no-nonsense mesh fence still stand unremarked upon, taste in clothes is equally unseen. Cars come and go on the street. Drivers hold up hands against the setting sun or flip down sunshades, and all is the same, though one may drive a new BMW, and one a 1980s Toyota Corolla. Though one may wear Gucci and Prada or Tom Ford and another Hanes and Goodwill. And critically, there will be no correlation. Mr. Hanes may be in a Porsche Carrera, and Mr. Ford might be behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. More… “Jasmine and the Good Life”

Alexander Craghead is a historian of design and place. His writing and photography has appeared in regional and national publications, including BOOM: A Journal of California, Railroad Heritage, Trains, and is the author of The Railway Palaces of Portland, Oregon: The Architectural Legacy of Henry Villard(The History Press, 2016). He currently teaches in the American Studies program at University of California Berkley, where he is also a doctoral candidate.

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Only six miles from the Strip, taking I-15 northeast of downtown Las Vegas on the way to Apex, you are suddenly surrounded by the Mojave. As if a vast space on the map had yet to be filled in, endless dusty plains nestle beside the Black Mountains with little on the horizon but scrub and yucca, pebbly arroyos, a spare barrel cactus, creosote, and the occasional tumbleweed. The divide between metropolis and wilderness is stark.

Riding through this desert, you pass scrapyards and gravel pits, Nellis Minimum-Security Federal Prison, and shipping warehouses of companies such as Sysco and Amazon. There’s a VA medical center, radio towers, and the Meadow Gold Dairy bottling plant with its shimmering neon sign parodying a casino’s. Billboards advertise personal injury lawyers, topless bars, bail bonds, and machine gun ranges.

More… “Stripped”

Will Cordeiro has work in various genres appearing or forthcoming in over 100 publications, including Best New Poets, Blue Earth Review, Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, Nashville Review, National Poetry Review, New Walk, [PANK], Phoebe, Poetry Northwest, Territory, and Zone 3. He is grateful for a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a scholarship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Truman Capote Writer’s Fellowship, as well as residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, Ora Lerman Trust, Petrified Forest National Park, and Risley Residential College. He received his MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He lives in Flagstaff, where he is the faculty in residence and teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.

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I was strolling through a department store recently, killing time before meeting a friend, when I became lost in the maze of cosmetic counters. I was not literally lost, of course. I could make my way past the makeup into the shoe department blindfolded. The problem is when I’m not blindfolded. That’s when my head gets turned. Although I know, intellectually, that the makeup sold in this labyrinthine space is the same as what I can buy in the drugstore for a fraction of the price, I am unable to resist the fancy packaging and the placards advertising free gifts and special enzyme action. I am seduced into believing that these products will make me, in the immortal words of Oprah, “as cute as I can be.”

 

So there I was, loitering among the age-defying moisturizers, when a young woman… More…

There is another class of foods we frequently eat without thinking about, but for very different reasons. These are luxury foods. They are wholesome, good, even healthy foods but, because they’re fancy, we almost never consider their creation. We assume they have to be crafted with a certain level of quality, but beyond that, do we think about how caviar is harvested? How champagne is fermented? How salmon is smoked?

Let me give you an example of how little people think about smoked salmon by providing a little quiz. If all smoked salmon is hot smoked or cold smoked, how is lox smoked? Answer: it’s not. Lox isn’t smoked at all — it’s simply cured in a brine that can keep it safe to eat without refrigeration for up to a year. This also means that lox isn’t simply a tasty pairing with cream cheese, you pretty much have to… More…

 

There’s an international battle going on. The prize is height, width, rotation. Its weapons are not guns, nor tanks, nor arrows. The weapons of this battle are wheels. Ferris wheels.

This year, Germany will unveil the Great Berlin Wheel. Upon its completion, the wheel will be 606 feet high — as high as two football fields are long, as high as three Niagara Falls. It will be taller than what’s currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, the Singapore Flyer, a soon-to-be-disappointing 541 feet high. This year, China also plans to unveil the Beijing Great Wheel. At an awesome 682 feet high, it will be taller than both the Great Berlin Wheel and the Singapore Flyer (which only debuted as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel last year).

China has, in fact, built wheels in six cities… More…

 

November 19 is one of the only unsung days of the year Hallmark hasn’t yet exploited: World Toilet Day. We spend about three years of our lives sitting on a toilet. Though we in the Western world may not realize it, that white piece of flushable porcelain is one of man’s best friends. We sit on its haunches morning, noon, and night, usually between six and eight times a day. It’s there for us after six-packs of beer, dried prunes, and bad Mexican food; through late nights and parties, bouts of nervousness and morning sickness; in sickness and in health. A good American Standard rarely lets us down and when it does, we just yank its chain and it dutifully begins to work again. These bad boys put up with our shit and rarely complain.

But some 2.6… More…