By Susan Mahr

Tuesday January 15

A few of us flew down the day before since flights wouldn’t get in until very late in the evening. Larry and Judy from the Minneapolis area were the first to arrive in late afternoon, followed by sisters Sandy and Kaye from different places in Wisconsin that evening, and finally Susan, Dan (WI) and Susan’s father Richard (California) near midnight.

A few of us flew down the day before since flights wouldn’t get in until very late in the evening. Larry and Judy from the Minneapolis area were the first to arrive in late afternoon, followed by sisters Sandy and Kaye from different places in Wisconsin that evening, and finally Susan, Dan (WI) and Susan’s father Richard (California) near midnight.

Wednesday January 16

Those of us who arrived the previous day relaxed at the hotel and wandered the gardens in the bright sunshine and strong, blustery winds to admire the blooming flowers and lush foliage or headed off to downtown San Jose to visit the markets, museums and other sights for the day. Most people arrived in the country today, with one group arriving in mid-afternoon (sisters Sue and Rose from Racine, WI, Siri from Iowa, Kathy from Illinois, Mary from Milwaukee and Cookie from the Chicago area) and a second group of four from South Carolina in late afternoon (Denise, Marsha, Roger and Connie), so they had some time to walk around the beautiful gardens behind the Hotel Bougainvillea. A variety of orchids, gingers, and common annuals were flowering amid the tropical trees, palms, and shrubs grown for their attractive foliage. Some of the distinctive trees included the very spiny Ceiba speciosa, the less-spiny Ceiba pentandra, and the similar-looking but smooth-trunked Pseudobombax ceiba, as well as orchid tree (Bauhinia purpurea) and Pachira aquatica with its flamboyant flowers. A lucky few got to see the elusive bluecrowned mot mots, and other birds including bright yellow tropical kingbird, noisy but dull-colored rufous-naped wren and bright orange northern orioles.

People gradually drifted in to the bar to chat or have a drink before the welcome dinner. When our lovely guide Margherita arrived around 6:30 we moved into the restaurant to sit at a long table set up for 18 (we were missing Patricia, who was still en route, and not expected to get to the hotel until after midnight since her flight was delayed). This was a set meal, with a choice of ensalada caprese, cream of asparagus soup, or black bean soup for starters; beef, chicken or ravioli for the main; and a special dessert of topical sorbets, with one scoop of guava and another of soursop (or guanábana, related to cherimoya) topped with whipped cream and a crunchy topping. Before and between the courses Margherita introduced herself, gave a brief rundown on the itinerary, and provided instructions for the next day. It was a nice evening, but everyone was tired, so we all headed back to the rooms at 8:30 when we’d finished eating.

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