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Topics - Lou Bob

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1
Up In The Air / Global Entry raising application fee
« on: September 12, 2020, 11:36:04 PM »
$100 going up to $120
SENTRY and NEXUS to $120 as well.

Children under 18 will be free if parents have GE.

Ht: VFTW

2
General Discussion / Google Meet
« on: May 07, 2020, 10:23:56 PM »
Tried it, hate it.
Change my mind.

3
Trip Reports / A Pura Vida Thanksgiving
« on: December 23, 2019, 07:17:28 PM »
Written by Mrs. Bob

The planning:

Iím going to let Lou take over this part, since I was left out of the planning stages. While I knew about the vacation, the location was kept a secret. Although given the flight time and concerns about bringing in food, I narrowed it down to somewhere in the Central America or Caribbean area.


Flights:
Flights were simple: AA miles sitting around collecting dust for years. I didn't want to spend a day on a plane for a short getaway, so I searched the whole Caribbean area. This was for Thanksgiving weekend. No saver business anywhere. No saver economy anywhere... except for Costa Rica. Not waiting for the availability to disappear, I booked.

And then started reading every Costa Rica trip report on DDF, as well as other research online. I settled on staying in the Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna area. Staying at the foot of a Volcano and waking up to it every morning seemed pretty cool. Spoiler alert- we never once got to see the entire volcano. It's always clouded over. (Also, I took a huge gamble with the weather- the dry season starts December time, however, as all the locals told us, it rains every day of the year in La Fortuna, including the entire dry season)

Hotels:
For the first night (Thursday night) I used a Marriott free night that comes with the credit card to stay near the airport (didn't want to do the 3 hour drive at night).

For Friday-Tuesday I chose the Hotel Mountain Paradise since it had private villas with private pools at each Villa. (online seemed much cooler than in person. Oh well.)

Marriott near the airport:




Car:
I'll save you the research and possible headache. Rent with Sixt. Period. Renting a car in Costa Rica is similar to Israel, but worse. Similar that the price you see online (kayak etc.) is not the actual price you pay. Sixt is the only company that includes the mandatory minimum liability insurance, which is why they'll show a price of $75 a day for an SUV while the others show $5-20 a day. Other insurance you'll be sold on is $6/day to waive the $600 deductible for the mandatory liability you just purchased. Another is the cdw insurance which is like $20/25 a day with a deductible (there's an insurance they sell to cover the deductible as well 😜), unless you have primary coverage from your credit card. Bring proof stating so as many companies ask for it. Sixt didn't ask for it.
All car rental agencies are off site and you'll need to take a shuttle to get to them.

Last but not least- Sixt held $1,000 on the credit card on top of the cost of the rental. Other companies write in their terms that they will hold $5,000 on the card if you decline their CDW insurance. If you don't want surprises, rent with Sixt. We got a small SUV as they didn't have anything larger 4WD at the time.

Food:
hehe, this was fun. According to what people write, if you bring chicken, they'll take away the uncooked and leave the cooked. Then the guy behind you will lose his cooked and keep his uncooked. It's a complete toss up. Same for meat. And really everything. You're at the mercy of the 4 guards behind the suitcase scanner screen. Everyone must go through this stage before exiting the airport, literally just 10 feet away.

We made sure to bring enough cooked and uncooked foods in the hopes that if they take one type, at least we'll have the other. Everything stayed cold inside cooler bags with ice inside the suitcase.

Some tips: buy this roll of 1,000 "USDA organic" stickers on amazon. Supposedly anything with USDA stickers pass through without question. (we put it on everything...chummus, meat, deli, kugel etc. 🤣)

All marked USDA:






We also bought "meat" stickers and covered the word "turkey" on all the deli. (Poultry is often most likely to be confiscated)

Last but not least, we put a picture of reb shayala into the suitcase. Thanks @rots5 for the pic.

Our suitcase:


We walked through the airport, past customs, up to the suitcase scanners, and right out the exit doors. The 4 guards at the scanner didn't bat an eyelash. People before us weren't as lucky.

Another random food tip - Walmart is right across from chabad of San Jose. They carry lots of kosher products.


Thursday, Thanksgiving Day:
Our flight out of JFK was at 4pm on Thanksgiving Day. Traffic to the airport was a breeze, we picked up some sandwiches from Ahuva Grill, parked the car, and checked in. Naturally, our food suitcase was a little overweight, but the guy at curbside offered to let it slide if we gave him some cash. We happily obliged, paid for our suitcases and made it through security in a matter of minutes. Thereís a restaurant/bar right past security, to which Priority Pass gives a $28 per person credit, so a couple of hard apple ciders later and we were already in a pura vida state of mind.

Overall, the flight was uneventful. Which is how I like my flights. The WiFi didnít work, which was a little disappointing, but they were showing the Lion King, so Pumba and Timon reminded me not to worry about it. Passing over Nicaragua we saw lots of red flashes from down below, which I guessed (and a native guide later confirmed) to be active volcanoes erupting.

We landed in SJO and quickly went through immigration. From there we collected our suitcases and headed towards customs. At this point my heart was pounding and I was sure all our expensive food was about to be confiscated. I heard a guy in the next lane pointing out USDA stickers and was mentally preparing to do the same. We piled our suitcases onto the belt, held our breaths, and nothing. The guy didnít even look at the screen, he was too busy shmoozing with his amigos. We grabbed our suitcases, ran out, and thanked Reb Shayala for pulling through. SIXT sent a shuttle over to pick us up, we picked up our car, and headed to our hotel for the night, just five minutes away. With a bright and early morning ahead of us, we turned in early (as youíll see, a common theme on this trip).

Friday:
Lou woke up around 5:50 to make it to 6:30 Rosh Chodesh shachris at Jabad. Waze had originally told us 15 minutes, but with the morning traffic and accidents (the drivers here are loco), it took over an hour. When he came back, we packed up and headed back to the center of town to do some shopping. We bought everything we needed at Walmart and went to the Kosher Center for some extra shabbos food. Then we began our three hour drive up to Arenal.

Chabad (or rather, Jabad) of Costa Rica:


The currency is so weak, it felt like shopping with monopoly money:




$1.50 for a 6 pack:


Chabad Center for Shabbos food:


Lou: We hit the road on a 3 hour drive to La Fortuna. And what a drive it was. Driving in San Jose is just like driving in the USA, with one exception... there are no rules. And to make things worse, there are extra lanes for motorcycles, in between the real lanes on the marked dotted lines. What a thrill.

Once you get out of San Jose, things calm down. You do have to worry about staying in your lane as the highways are not all marked with lines.

Once you get to the windy mountains, it's only 1 lane in each direction. It's just a matter of time before you get stuck behind a slooooow truck that you can't overtake. Make sure to add extra time for this.

The views on this drive are just amazing. Don't drive it at night.


Thereís no good way to describe the drive. It was picturesque and exhilarating. We literally drove through clouds, and into the rainforest. The road passes feet away from grazing horses and cows. There are chickens and dogs wandering around, and lots of one lane bridges. They say not to attempt it at night for danger reasons, but I say it has to be done during the day so you donít miss out on the views.

The drive up to Arenal:



 
Lots of one lane bridges like this one:


We pulled into our hotel around 2pm, checked in, and the hotel drove us to our villa in a golf cart piled high with suitcases, bottled water, pots, pans, a toaster oven, and our kitchen sink. We cajoled our way into an upgrade to a villa, so we had 2 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms (omg, life changing), a kitchenette, and a small private pool. While not quite the lap of luxury, the place was overall decent and clean and the seclusion was great. We settled in, set up our shabbos ďtableĒ, chilled in our private pool for a little bit, and got ready for 25 hours of complete relaxation in the rain forest.

Villa with a private 'pool':


Kitchenette:


View of the volcano from our room:


Shabbos:
Not much to report, just lots of peace and quiet. We did see a Green Iguana pass by our window in the middle of our meal. Sadly, it never returned, so we have no picture to prove it happened.

(In general, there were so many birds and animals that we missed out on pictures of, either because I didnít bring my good camera to Costa Rica or because I didnít bring my phone on the activity.)

Once shabbos went out, we drove into La Fortuna, checked out some cute bars, and shopped for souvenirs. (PS, all the souvenir stores carry the same stuff and charge the same prices, so donít waste time going from one to the other like we did). We headed back to the hotel, sat at the bar at the pool just long enough to make friends with the bartender, Luis, and with a 6:45 am wake up ahead of us, turned in early. (We also gave Luis our pots and pans ahead of time to avoid having to tovel, and he was thrilled)

A La Fortuna bar:


Sunday:
They say it rains 366 days out of the year in La Fortuna, but on Sunday we lucked out and had sun all day, which worked out perfectly with our itinerary. Our transport picked us up at 7:30 am for our first stop of the day: zip lining. At first it seemed like we would be a group of about 20 people, but they had all signed up for a different course so we ended up on a private tour. We completed a course of 12 zip lines, the longest of which was 950 meters. It was Louís first time and my second time ever zip lining and it. was. awesome. The guides were great, funny and (fairly) professional. We zip lined past the Arenal Volcano and over the La Fortuna waterfall, both of which were breathtaking. Overall, a 9/10.

The transport brought us back to the hotel around 11 and we quickly ate lunch before heading out again. We had a 1.5 hour drive to our next destination, Rio Celeste, and they close the entrance daily at 2 pm so that everyone could be out of the park by 4 pm. We got there around 1:30 pm and made it to the falls around 2 pm. The whole hike is fairly easy until the endless staircase to the bottom of the falls. I made it about 2/3 of the way down before I chickened out and worried that I wouldnít make it back up. Lou ran to the bottom, got some pictures, and came back up.

The legend is that when the gods finished painting the sky, they dipped their paintbrushes in the Rio Celeste. The scientific explanation is Mie scattering. (Yeah, just google it, I donít really understand it either)

Either way, it did not disappoint. Also, itís supposedly even bluer in the dry months between mid December and April. Overall, a 10/10. Donít miss.

Rio Celeste:


Itís possible to continue along the path towards a lagoon and some other views of the blue waters, but we headed back at this point. On our way out we almost walked right past a tropical raccoon, until a park ranger pointed it out. By the way, I found this true of most wildlife. Our American eyes didnít seem to catch the birds and animals the way the natives did.

Tropical raccoon:


We drove the hour and a half back to our hotel, cooked some steaks for dinner and called it a night.

Fine dining, no matter where:


Monday:
I had heard it raining most of the night, and Monday followed in suit. Still, it was better than the snow storm hitting the New York area back home. In Costa Rica, nothing stops for rain, including both our horseback riding and ATV tours for the day. We woke up extra early since we had to drive (they offered pickup for a fee but with our car it seemed unnecessary) and by 8am we were at the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. The horseback riding tour is called Pacoís Horses and was excellent. The horses were friendly and gentle and our tour guide was phenomenal. Overall, the actually activity was an 8/10 and the guide himself a 10/10. Along the ride he pointed out raccoons, white hawks, cattle egrets, and a crested guan. We also saw a family of raccoons and heard some howler monkeys in the distance (which I easily would have missed had he not pointed it out). At one point we got off the horses and walked across a hanging bridge and back. Our horses then took us to the very top of a lookout, where we would have had epic views of the volcano, had it not been cloudy and raining. When the tour was over, we took our sore backsides back to the hotel and sat in the heated waterfall pool until it was time to prepare for our ATV ride.

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park:






Evidently, pura vida doesnít extend to punctuality, because our ATV transport showed up 10 minutes early. I was a bit taken aback that the company had apparently sent a twelve year old to pick us up. I kid you not, that kid was not old enough to wear a bar mitzvah hat. True to his age, he flew down the small main road of town in an ATV at 60 kph and brought us to our destination, where we were met by our guide Alfonso, our tour guide whose English consisted of the word ďgas!Ē and a thumbs up, and was a daredevil extraordinaire.

Alfonso took us through mud and wasnít fazed once it started to rain. He zoomed ahead, up hills, through pastures, into puddles and only looked back every few minutes to make sure we were alive. With a thumbs up and a smile, he zoomed ahead again. It poured the entire time, and after about an hour and forty minutes into our 2.5 hour activity I was done. Soaked to my bone and cold, I told Lou to tell Alfonso that we were ready to call it quits. He was pretty shocked that we were done, though nothing beats his look of bewilderment when we told him we wouldnít partake in the free meal after the tour. However, dutifully he took us back. Even with cutting it short, we were more than satisfied, having come inches away from a five day old cow, and of course plowing through a puddle and getting this epic video:



Overall, Iíd give ATV a 7/10, but Lou rates it a 10/10.

ATV:


We came back to our hotel, brought our body temperatures back to normal via hot tub, ate dinner and passed out. (Earlier in the day we were thinking of doing the Tabacon free hot springs at night, but we were too zonked.)

Tuesday:
For our final day, we kept it relatively easy and scheduled a coffee and chocolate plantation tour. Very informative, minimal walking, but lots of bugs, and we forgot to apply our bug spray. After the plantation tour, they also showed us the process of making coffee and chocolate. There are samples, obviously some are ok and others not, kosher-wise. Afterwards, thereís a cafe and gift shop where you can buy their coffee. Overall, 7/10.

Cacao bean:


Sugar cane moonshine:


The coffee process:






We headed back to our hotel, packed up, gave Luis back his pots and pans, and checked out. It rained most of the drive back into San Jose, but it was bright and sunny when we got there.   We were going to stop at the Poaz Volcano on the way, but Waze was saying it was a three hour detour, so we opted out. In hindsight, we would have had the time, but oh well. We had skipped lunch, so we headed to the Chabad restaurant to eat. We first ended up at the Super Kosher supermarket, and the lady in the store explained that the restaurant was in a different location. She gave us the name for the GPS, but Waze seemingly took us to a random residential street. Someone in his car outside noticed two bewildered Jews in a car and pointed us to a house, which housed the restaurant. The food was pretty good and the portions were enormous, so we packed most of it to go to bring with us to the airport. When we asked our waitress for a suggestion of where to go for an hour or two, she suggested the Amphitheater Villa, but when we got there we saw that it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Shame, it actually looked pretty cool. Instead, we headed back to the main area to the Chabad to pray and walked around a couple nice mall areas before heading back to return our car to SIXT and back to the airport for the journey home.

Chabad restaurant:









4
Just Shmooze / Do you refrigerate seltzer?
« on: January 20, 2019, 01:36:11 PM »
Someone make a poll. And another thread.

Also, do you refrigerate water?
Also, do you drink water warm or cold?
Also, do you wear a coat outside when it's cold?

Any other suggestions?

6
Just Shmooze / HQ Trivia
« on: December 29, 2017, 03:16:13 PM »
Do you play HQ?

9
Written by Mrs. Bob

Planning:
Two Tuesday's ago I was sitting at my desk at work minding my own business, when Lou texted me, "So-and-so booked a Hyatt glitch in Aruba and offered it to us. Are we in?" Always down for an adventure, and particularly for one booked with just 8 days notice, I responded with an enthusiastic, "YES!" Then the search for flights began. AA had no direct availability and SW didn't fly the route on the days we needed, but UA had availability in both directions for 35K RT p/p. Only thing is, we were out of UA miles after draining our accounts to date, to vort, and to marry. Armed with plenty of MR, and knowing that there was tons of availability for partners to book, we decided to transfer to SQ and book with them. We completed the transfer and spent the rest of the evening constantly double checking that the award space didn't magically disappear. Around 2:00am, our points appeared and Lou called up SQ, was subjected to a long wait filled with awful music, and successfully booked us onto the flights we wanted. Great, right? Ha.

Not ten minutes later (mind you, this is around 2:45 am), he suddenly exclaims, "Oh no, I didn't check JetBlue!!" I rolled my eyes, and rolled over in bed, hoping he'd just go to sleep too. Alas, I was out of luck, and sure enough, JetBlue had availability . . . and for less miles, and less tax! I'm sure those of you who have been playing this game for a while can understand the feeling of horror upon realizing you didn't get the absolute best valuation for your points and money . . . but all I cared about was sleep. Miraculously, I convinced Lou to go to sleep and worry about it in the morning. A word to the wise: always listen to your wife; not only will it save you agmas nefesh, but it'll save you money as well. "How?" you may ask. The very next day, aided by a semi-decent night of sleep no doubt, Lou suddenly recalled a friend of his who can use a Sooper Seekrit way of getting us cheap revenue flights. (PMs not accepted, so don't even try). Suffice it to say, we cancelled our SQ flights, and booked the revenue ones. With SQ miles valued around 1.35 cents per mile, we had saved enough on the flights to practically cover the food, the hotel, and all the activities.

We were ready to roll!

10
Just Shmooze / Jets vs Giants
« on: August 30, 2015, 07:04:19 PM »
I can't decide.

11
Just Shmooze / The "Q"
« on: July 06, 2015, 06:47:51 PM »
Anyone going this year?  :)

12
Up In The Air / Frontier $19 one way LGA-MIA - or reverse
« on: January 29, 2015, 09:23:08 PM »
Limited dates

LGA-MIA $19
Feb 7,8,9,10

MIA-LGA $19
Feb 5,6,7,10,11,12

13
Just Shmooze / Ice Bucket Challenge
« on: August 19, 2014, 09:51:53 PM »
Have you been nominated yet?   :)

Did you do the challenge?

14
Just Shmooze / Where is Albert?
« on: February 02, 2014, 12:19:01 AM »

15
General Discussion / LLC publication
« on: January 28, 2013, 11:14:01 PM »
In rockland county...
Where do I publish it?
How long/many times do I need to do this?
How much should it cost?
What am I writing in it?
Tia

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