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Alfredo Fournier-Beeche's Posts
Alfredo has posted 109 reports and 10 photos.

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Abu Dhabi Visit: 1983-4
2009-11-26 - I visited Dubai, Sarkhah and Abu Dhabi in 1983 on call of a client and because I wanted to visit several law firms that were of interest to us. These emirates had not grown at the time as much as they have now, but were already developing fast and very nicely. In Dubai I had an excellent luncheon buffet that had more than 250 plates to choose from at the Intercontinental Hotel. Everything was exquisite. Because some of the papers needed authentication, I took a trip to Abu Dhabi, the administrative and diplomatic center of the Emirates. Since I thought that not may Costa Ricans had driven there, I asked the client to lend me his car, a large Buick Roadmaster, which he agreed to do, provided that I drove fast -nothing different for me- since he needed to return soon. At 150 KPH he told me to beware of the camels on the sides of the road. I had not noticed them, but they could come on the road anytime. Slowly I stopped the car, and gave it back to my client for him to drive. The day and night before, it had rained a lot, almost as if it was in the tropics! On the road we saw the huge salt water distilleries. But when we got to Abu Dhabi, everything was still wet, very wet, but all the sprinkling systems were working, wasting the most expensive water possible, watering still more, when the sun would evaporate everything very soon.


Alsace Visit: 1999-7
2009-11-04 - Although Colmar is not the capital of Alsace, but it is situated along the Alsatian Wine Route and considers itself to be the "Capital of Alsatian Wine" (capitale des vins d'Alsace). It is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France. It is the capital of the department and Colmar is also the seat of the highest jurisdiction in Alsace, the appellate court. Famous not only for its wines, but also is a tourist center, very close to Freiburg in Germany, only a few minutes away. Its very beautiful Cathedral deserves a careful visit and admiration. It was able to avoid the destruction of several wars that were centered on the sovereignty of Alsace, between Germany and France. It is known for its excellent climate and, when I visited with fellow traveller and wife Elizabeth, it was delightful. At the square behind the Cathedral, there is a canal with beautiful swans. There we sat in the street and bought wine and cheese and bread from local street vendors and had lots of fun looking at the people go by. If traveler is close, a visit is mandatory.


Anatolia (Turkey in Asia) Visit: 1996-4
2009-05-28 - It is the custom in Costa Rica to take Holy Week for rest and travel. I have heard from foreign friends that we roll up the sidewalks! Anyway, back in 1996, fellow travelers Elizabeth, wife, and Maria del Carmen, sister in law, took a cruise to the Aegean Sea, with a stop in Ku?adas? and from there by bus to Ephesus to visit the Greco/Roman ruins. Excellent! We still have the pictures of us seating at the Roman public toilets... But the highlight came when, after enjoying all the ruins, listening all the explanations, passing library amd the amphitheater, at the esplanade, toward the exit where the buses expected us, the husband of a lady of our group requested that we made silence for a few moments. Then, because it was Holy Thursday, she started to sing Schubert\'s Ave Maria. Her voice was as beautiful as it was powerful and all filled the entire esplanade. So much was it outstanding and the acoustics so good, that the groups of tourists, as they left Ephesus and reached the esplanade, stopped to listen the magnificent singing in the honour of the Holy Virgin. There must have been several hundred people and it was evident that they were all listening, since they stopped and silence was complete throughout the very large esplanade. This is one of my best memories of my travels, that I cherish. In Kusadasi vthat tour took us to a carpet merchant that showed us the undisputable beauties they had, in silk, wool etc. I could not resist the temptation and bought a small silk carpet for my office. Remember to bargain as much as you can, because I got mine for one third of the asking price. I still do not know if I should have bargained further.


Andalusia Visit: 2000-7
2009-11-10 - When Boabdil, last moorish king of Granada, Andalusia, lost his realm to Isabel, Queen of Castilla, his mother told him: \"Do not weep as a woman what you did not defend as a man.\" Thus ended eight hundred years of domination by the Berbers, in Spain known as Moors. This happened in the Alhambra palace. In all of Andalucía you still find - more than five hundred years later - marks of the Moorish domination. My first time there was in Torremolinos, for Holy Week in 1962. When I was doing my post graduate work at the University of Madrid. A companion at the student dormitories I lived in suggested that I went to South Spain and he would stay in Malaga, where his family lived and we would see each other and with other friends that were going to be there also. I had rented a small house at the beach on the road to Fuengirola, as a center of operations. A whole week of fun at the beach! Unforgettable. I have returned to Costa Del Sol several times since and it has improved every time. Marbella is excellent fun. Sevilla is the third largest city in Spain and the capital of Andalusia, on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I had our daughter Anabel serving at the Costa Rican pavilion at the World Fair, so we went to visit her and enjoy the city. The Catheral is one of the most impressive in Europe, very large and full of art. It does deserve long hours of browsing and study. There is much Middle Ages architecture and the museums are obligatory. This is the city where the Casa de Contrataciòn de Sevilla was and all the commerce of the Spanish empire of the Americas with the Mother Country took place. Also in Andalusìa are to very important cities for the Americas: Huelva and Palos de Moguer. In the first is the convent where the priest confessor of Isabel de Castilla received Columbus and heard his theory about the round earth. He was the person who introduced Columbus to the Queen and she would eventually finance the three ships, Santa Maria, the main one, Niña and Pinta that were the contingent that discovered America. There is a pedestrian street to the convent, where all the flags and shields of the American countries are displayed. Palos de Moguer was the port from where Columbus sailed in his history changing adventure. Very close is Matalascañas, a long wide beach to the Atlantic, very popular with the middle classes from all over Spain. Close to our hotel on the beach, there is an excellent restaurant, and taught them how to make martinis and margarits. The Guadalquivir delta starts there and one of the largest ecological parks of Europe, called Doña Ana National Park (Parque Nacional de Doña Ana), also called Coto de Doña Ana. I is a national park and wildlife refuge in South Eastern Spain. It was donated by the wife of the Duke of Medina Sidonia and thus its name. A must see.


Aquitaine Visit: 1999-8
2009-11-30 - Although I had traveled by car through the region the year before, back and forth between Paris and Madrid, my first time in Biarritz was in 1962. I first stopped in Saint Jean de Luz to go to the beach, which I enjoyed very much. It is not only beautiful: the girls are beautiful. At the time, there was no wall stopping the high waves in high tide, as I found out many years later that they had built. I had rented a Vespa in San Sebastian and decided to go visit the Casino at Biarritz. Lady Luck was with me and I won more than fifty dollars at baccarat, which was a lot of money for the impecunious student I was at the time. I took off from San Sebastian very early in the morning and with the stops for lunch and beach in St Jean de Luz, I got to Biarritz about eight at night. That was when I gambled and won. In Costa Rica it is said that I had a Vigin hand. My return trip was long and got back to San Sebastian about three at dawn. Many years later, fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I rented a car in Madrid and, after three weeks on the road and stopping in several Portuguese and Spanish towns, we reached Biarritz. Since we had no reservation, the tourist office was very diligent in obtaining one for us, which was the Windsor Hotel. Not new, but good service, right on the beach, excellent restaurant, very well located, close to the casino and on the center of town. The beach was tops and the ambiance was easy and sophisticated. It could not have been better. We strolled the old town and visited a chocolate museum. I did not know they existed. I need to return to Aquitaine, since I have not been in Bourdeax (good futbol) and excellent wine. Besides, apparently the Fournier family left France from Bourdex to Spain during the French Revolution. Were my ancestors from there? It is a must to go.


Aruba Visit: 1996-5
2009-05-12 - I went to Aruba to a meeting of the Council of the Inter America Bar Association. It is a small Island with a big petroleum refinery on the South. There is very little water and rains are scarce. It is a small town in Holland in the Caribbean. The East is very windy and seaside is cliffs or the beaches are not nice, hostile. The West side is very nice, with calm waters and white sand. This is where all the excellent hotels are located, that cater to the Dutch, other European and American tourist. Most hotels have large casinos for those that enjoy gambling. The water at the hotel is always hot, because the pipeline comes oveland and is heated by the sun. The town, Oranjestad, is quaint and well taken care of, clean. One of the members of our Council, Mr. Hector Gonzalez, had been Prime Minister and took us everywhere, opening the doors of Parliament to us. On the North end of the island is a lighthouse and a good restaurant. The Indonesian ricestaffel, condimented rice with very tasty dishes on the side, is great food and everybody should enjoy it. The Dutch made it a national dish and from there took it to Aruba. Great with friends and Heineken. But there are many good restaurants, serving interantional or specific foods. It is also a very good place for snorkeling, since there are thousands of tropical color fish and you can rent gear very cheap several places. People are very hospitable and "simpatico". The population normally speaks Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish, and English, which makes them polyglots. There is constant airplane service from Venezuela and very often from Netherlands. Several Costa Rican families and one Ex President, Mr Daniel Oduber, and a several time Congressman and Minister, Mr. Rolando Lacle, have Aruban close ancestry.


Asturias Visit: 1999-8
2009-11-30 - We, fellow taveler and wife Elizabeth and I, entered Asturias by car, coming from Galicia. The North of Spain is especilaly scenic because it is very green, due to the abundant rain ("The rain in Spain", goes the song from My Fair Lady). Having left Santiago de Compostela in the morning, when we entered Asturias and were getting close to Oviedo, it was lunch time, a ceremony that must be done with proper care, but we did not know the proper restaurant. We decided to look for one that had many cars and trucks of the people who lived close. We found one that had a big parking lot full of cars and we entered. It could not have been better: we ordered the local dish "fabada". It was excellent, with the big white beans, sausage and even some pork skin, served into a big soup plate from a large pot with a huge serving spoon. The city is very nice and clean. At night we went to a restaurant in city center, on Calle de la Ronda, only a block away from our hotel. It is a down hill string of good restaurants, all of them serving the cheap no gas cider, the locals drink, served from the bottle over the head to a large glass held thigh level. The challenge is not to spill a drop. Of course, the floor in the restaurants is full of sawdust, to catch the wine spill. Close to the Calle de la Ronda there is a beautiful church that we were able to visit because a very nice lady open the doors for us, although it was closing time, when we told her that we were from Costa Rica. It was well worth the effort as it is with churches in most Europe.


Baden-Wurttemberg Visit: 1999-8
2009-11-09 - In 1999, Elizabeth and I joined fellow traveler Daniel Walker to visit Bieckensohl, a little, quaint town, near Freiburg, in Baden-Wurttemberg, South Germany. We came by train from Basle, Switzerland to Frieburg and were met there in cars. It was its 950th anniversary and the party was for a week long. At the entrance of the town they should have a banner, saying: SPECTACULAR WHITE WINE. The town's economic motor is a vintner’s cooperative, where they produce a light white wine, excellent, drinkable, and enjoyable, although they also produce a good red wine. They also produce a sparkling wine that we liked very much. We stayed with a family that gave us the most, friendly, dedicated hospitality possible. The first night, a large portion of the town was invited to meet us, since they were very proud of having a Canadian and Costa Ricans at home. The house had a large basement, where the wine and snaps are kept and our host kept going down to fetch more every few minutes. It was quite a party, with singing and dancing and carrying on! Next day there were parades and the unavoidable speedh by the Mayor. The whole town celebrated well into the wee hours of the night. People sould invite to wsine by the glass or the bottle, even if they did not know you. Bands were playing incessantly day and night. We visited the vicinity, with its grape little farms, and even crossed the border into France to visit Colmar, in Alsace, France, but this is another post. I believe it was a unique opportunity to get to know the countryside, since many times one dedicates efforts only to cities.


Bahamas Visit: 2009-7
2009-07-08 - The Bahamas is an archipielago composed of more then seven hundred Islands. I sincerely hope that MTP does not decide to make each and every one of them a location to be visited! Of course, not all of them are inhabited, only a few, about thirty. Britain's Edward the VIII, after abdication and marriage to Wallis Simpson, was made Governor of the Bahamas during World War II. Some islands are very well known and very visited, like New Providence, Bimini and Grand Bahama. I have been in Nassau, in New Provicence, and Abaco. The first is where the capital is located. The small plane that took us from Miami landed in Paradise Island, where the small aircraft airport is. Nassau is a distintive location, very beautiful, with lots of things to do, besides lying in a white sand beach. We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel, which is really a huge, masive hostelry enterprise. But it is not only big, it is very well conceived and I invite reader to visit their web site. Two things are mentionable at Atlantis: the salt water two million galon acuarium is not only large, but also has a very varied collection of aquatic life, from giant turtles and sharks to sting rays to small tropical colored midget fish. There is a transparent plastic tunnel to go under the acuarium and you can see the fish from their belly or coming right at you. It is not true that sharks smile at you, as I saw in a tooth paste advertisement some time ago. The water is completly changed three times a day, in order to make it livable. The other mentionable thing is the casino: not only it is one of the biggest I have seen, but I won at the tables! The hotel is in Paradise Island that is connected to Nassau by a bridge. This is a must, since I found Nassau to be a very clean orderly city. There are good restaurants, many good hotels, the beaches are clean and snorkeling is excellent. The Club Med is very nice and the food superb. They do lend the tourist all the non-motor beach toys, from balls to kayaks. Shopping in Nassau is not great, so do not bother. The town achitecture is typical British colonial and very nice. Many houses have wood shutters, probably to guard in case of hurricane. Most of them are painted in pastel colors, which makes them very nice. The second island visited, Abaco is not much. It is mainly a yachtists stop. Everything is geared to yachtism. There is a nice yacht club, with good seafood and a probably the best imbbibing hole for those returning from the sea. There is also a good restaurant, a house close to the club, where food is excellent and wine plentyful at reasonable price. One good way to see the island is by renting a mo-ped or a bicycle. There are some new houses, nice. There are no large hotels to mention, few restaurants and the beaches, although nice, not worth going to. We were to stay a week; but after four days were fed up and returned to Miami. Unless you are interested in yachts -which I am not- I can not recommend a trip to Abaco. People are clubby and elitists with the non yachtist. I think I will return to Nassau for a meeting of the Inter American Bar Association next July and will update then. 2009 UPDATE: RETURN TO NASSAU: The city is pretty much the same, but the nice Club Med has disappeared, bought out by Atlantis. A loss. The little airport in Paradise Island has also disappeared, also bought by Atlantis. Instead, there are expensive houses for the affluent. Now the only airport is far out and the taxis are very espensive: thirty two dollars to Paradise Island. There is also a new bridge between the two islands with a $1 toll. But people are nice and smile. Everything is very clean and the sea is beautiful; the sand sugar white. There is a very nice statue in white marble of Christopher Columbus at the entrance of the Governor residence, which I had not seen in my first trip. A friend of mine rented a jet-ski and took a ride of approximately fifteen minutes from Cable Beach to Paradise Island and enjoyed very much. Although Nassau is not cheap, the visit is worthwhile. If anything, it has improved.


Baja California Visit: 1953-8
2009-11-27 - 2009-11-26 This is a long time ago! Just to mention that my parents decided to send my twin sister to study in California, at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in Los Angeles. We stayed with my mother almost three weeks; then came my father to Los Angeles. His friend Colonel Fernando Flores decided that we should not take the plane back from there, but go to Tijuana and fly to Mexico City and then to Costa Rica. He would take us there by car across the border and drop us at the airport. Just for the fun of the ride, we accepted. When we got to Tijuana, the airfield was close because of the fog, so they bused us to Mexicali, where we took the plane to Mexico City. On the way over, we stopped in Tecate, in front of the brewery of the same name. I made it a point to taste it. Ever since it has been one of my favorite brews.


Balearic Islands Visit: 1991-8
2010-04-04 - In 1991 I made a tour of Spanish beaches with wife Elizabeth and daughter Anabel. As I remember, the Balearic Islands are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. We visited Mallorca and Ibiza, both nothing under most beautiful. All this Islands were first populated by the Chartagians, during their expansion on the Mediterranean, before being defeated by Marius, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal and his elephants. Both have a very livable ambiance, with mild climate in winter and both are hot in summer. The best time of the year (this is an opinion) is in summer, when all the beaches are full of people and the restaurants giving their best performances. Once in Mayorca, I stopped at a sidewalk restaurant upon leaving the beach and ordered a seafood paella for two -with a bottle of very dry white wine, of course- served with all the delicious ingredients possible. It was excellent, a masterpiece! Although I have not been in Valencia (is this a sin?), I understand that the Islands contend for the best paellas. The cathedral in Mallorca is very interesting and beautiful, built at the end of the Middle Age, and deserves a careful visit. Walking the city is a must, so take good walking shoes. The Yacht Club is very active and a meeting place for European aristocracy and the affluent. I was allowed to enter because of my membership to the Costa Rica Yacht Club; but it is private. Many members do go at aperiff hour and wear topsider shoes, as if it was an obligation. Food and scotch were good. Ibiza is much smaller, but no less interesting. It is mainly a beach community, catering to the mass beach tourist. Ambiance is fun-beach, fun-beach, fun-beach. Full of dermatologists future clients! There you find everything, including large naturist beaches. Food is excellent in every restaurant, provided it is not fast food. At night, fun is also an obligation, because there is no sense in goin on vacation to be serious. Pacha is the discotheque, with several dance floors and bars; and the inevitable caged-in dancer, very light on clothing. The churches are ancient and very nice, but not as large as in other places. Probably not attended by many...


Barbados Visit: 1989-6
2009-11-28 - Although Barbados obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it still maintains Queen Elizabeth as its sovereign, Queen Elizabeth of Barbados. I have been twice in this nice island. First, to a Council meeting of the Inter American Bar Association and the second on a cruise ship. On the East is the Atlantic and on the West is the Caribbean Sea. The beaches on the Caribbean side of the island are outstanding. The sand is sugar white and the sea very calm: most delightful. We took a taxi around the island that proved to be a nice trip, although for us the tropical vegetation is not new. There are many hotels and some cater to the most affluent. We stopped in a very good one and had tea with pastries and the bill was for over US$50.oo. Suites were US$ 1.500 per night. Just too much for me. The people are nice and friendly, but the ambiance is of restraint and prudish, as in most of the British ex-colonies because of the puritan heritage; not liberal as the French or even Spanish ex colonies. Twice there is more than enough.


Belgium Visit: 1998-8
2009-05-02 - I have visited this most beautiful country three times. The first was in 1962, on my way from Denmark to Paris, in an old VW that belonged to my Caracas friend Dr. Luis Herrera Marsicano, stopping only for meals, gasoline and indispensable needs. We entered Belgium in Achen and went to Liege, and from there we went bordering the Meuse River through Les Ardennes, South to Charleroi, where we purchased food to eat on the way. We crossed the border with France in a small migration and customs post where we were thoroughly searched. The European Union was not working yet... We continued to Charleville, stopped the car and had lunch, wine and “saussison”, in a pastureland with the veiw of a castle on the other side of the road. We went on to Reims to admire the Cathedral and the beautiful huge statue of Joan of Arc and then Paris. The second time, in 1992, I went to attend a meeting in Bruxelles of the International Christian Democrats, in representation of my party, where I met many interesting and important people. But more interesting, after admiring the Grande Platz, one of the finest in the world, I had dinner "a la grande" at Chez Leon: "les moulles", that have made the restaurant famous. It is a must. The third time I visited Belgium, was with my wife and took her, of course, to Chez Leon. It was a tourist trip, so we walked the streets, took city tours and had fun looking at the Meneken Piss. We visited Gant and Bruges and the churches there. The sights of the countryside are very beautiful, sometimes languid. Traveling by car is the best way to travel, because the traveler can enjoy the sights on the side of the road and stop wherever wished. No stress because the train or plane is leaving. I want to urge fellow travelers to What Is New in the menu and vote "yes" to recognizing Belgium as a group of places, same as Canada, Russia, India, United States, China, South Africa, etc. because Belgium is a federal state. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. My opinion that this lovable country is an example of what a small country can achieve through hard work and intelligent use of the resources available. I keep a very good memory of it.


Belize Visit: 1993-6
2009-05-26 - Belize was a piece of Central America taken by the British and for always was claimed by Guatemala. Under British rule it was called British Honduras. It got its independence from Britain in 1981, and was recognized by Guatemala in 1992. There are many Maya Indian ruins, but we did not visit them. I had been appointed Delegate to the Central American Parliament, so I decided to extend the planned trip to El Salvador and go to Belize, since the round trip was the same cost (why?). I asked my friend, Alejandro Alvarado, then the Ambassador of Costa Rica, to do the reservations for us at the cayes (pronounced keys) for us and he performed with honors. He got us a rustic hotel in Ambergris Caye, on the beach with the best ambiance possible: real straw thatched roof; no regular floor but sand; very secluded and private; no swimming pool but the huge Caribbean Sea in front; typical drinking hole right outside the hotel, with the best conch ceviche imaginable; and all the services that could be needed within walking distance. The little town is called San Pedro and the patron saint festivity is on June 29th, right when we were there. Of course we participated fully; lots of fun. There was a discothèque in which the floor was sand. I liked it. The second longest coral reef in the world is right front, which makes the sea very calm and full of beautiful fish. We took a small boat to take us around the small cayes near by, which was most enjoyable. There are hundreds of deserted beaches to go to, plus a few little hamlets in the small cayes, where you can have lunch and beer or refreshments. Coming back, we stopped at a marine national park that is fish conservation reserve. This means no fishing in any form and payment of a small fee for maintenance and guards, which one pays gladly. Snorkeling here is excellent and the up keeping and no fishing policy show that it works. There are hundreds of species of multicolored tropical fish in every size, although the dangerous shark does not come because of the coral reef that makes it difficult to penetrate. There are no cars, only a few golf carts to go around. Otherwise, you walk, which environmentally perfect. On the way back to Costa Rica, we went to Belize City, which is a nice commercial town, where you can find all you may need. It is a tax haven, used by many. There are good hotels and we had a very good lunch in one of them, by the water. The streets are narrow and architecture is very British colonial, as can be found in the other British ex colonies. Customs of the people at the cayes are very casual and the main tourism is European or North American, although it is not much and it is not a tourist trap. The population is a mixture of British, Caribbean and Guatemalan. Prices are reasonable, even cheap in comparaison to other tourist places. English and Spanish are the two languages spoken, although English is official. I do recommend a trip to Belize, but do not expect sophistication and large resorts. Go to the cayes, where life is simple, casual, easygoing. Enjoy!


Berlin Visit: 2002-8
2009-11-11 - 2009-11-07 Berlin is the Capital City of Germany. Making a history of the city is beyond this post, but ignoring it, is impossible. I arrived by train from North West Germany and stayed at the Kempinski Hotel, on The Kurfürstendamm, which is one of the most famous avenues in Berlin. The street takes its name from the former Kurfürsten (Electors) of Brandenburg. This very broad, long boulevard can be considered the Champs-Élysées of Berlin — full of shops, houses, hotels and restaurants. When we were there, the street was closed for a city fair and street party. There was beer, music and dancing, lots of fun. Mercedes Benz had an exhibition of the then new 160 model, painted in bright colors, with flowers and other decorations. At a restaurant, Elizabeth ordered a duck dish from the menu, which she thought would be an underdeveloped skinny half duck. No way; it was a huge size First World half duck and she had to eat it! We took a city tour, one of the best I have taken anywhere. They took us all around and spoke withut shame the truths of what had happened in each of the places visited: Templehof Airport, last remains of the Berlin Wall, Brandemburg Gate an Check Point Charlie, the Diet (Parliament). The highlight of the tour was Charlottenburg Palace. It is the largest palace in Berlin and the only building in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. It is located in the Charlottenburg district of the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf area. This section of the city that was on the suburbs before World War II became the center of the city during the divission of Germany. The palace was built at the end of the 17th century and was greatly expanded during the 18th century. In front of the Palace there is a big and beautiful statue of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg. In the grounds of the palace various buildings were erected, including a belvedere, a mausoleum, a theatre and a pavilion. During the Second World War the palace was badly damaged but has since been reconstructed. Inside, it is beautiful, but one of the best rooms is a dinning room with the table fully served and ready to receive diners. The palace, its gardens and the buildings in the grounds are major visitor attractions. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Frederick's 42nd birthday. Charlottenburg is located in Berlin's inner city, west of the Tiergarten park. When we were there, we went to site where Warsaw Platz was being built. There must have been at least fifteen buildings in process, including one for Mercedes Benz and another for Sony. I have not been back, but it must be very nice. Any visit to Germany that does not include a visit to Berlin is incomplete.


British Columbia Visit: 1993-8
2009-08-28 - In 1993, Daniel Walker, fellow traveler, with his wife, my wife and I visited Victoria, capital city of the Province of British Columbia, Canada. Victoria is a charming well kept and very clean city, with flower pots in each of the lampposts that nobody thinks about stealing. Charming. Charlie White, the famous Canadian marine film maker, lent us his apartment on the North side of the large harbour, where Victoria is built, across from the Parliament Building that is on the South. To the East is Hotel Queen Elizabeth and both buildings are lit at night, making it a beautiful scenery. The harbour is the landing site of the seaplanes that make charter or taxi service from Vancouver or Seattle. We could also see from our balcony the small sea taxis that hurried from one place to the other delivering clients. We went to Charlie White's home -built with the finest taste- for dinner later on our invitation to thank him for his many courtesies he gave us. He had for us canapes of British Columbia smoked salmon, none better. His home is built using the local materials, much wood, and large windows looking into Saanich Inlet, full of marine life and surrounded by pine forests. For us tropical, it was quite a treat! Next day we went to Aerie Hotel, on the Malahat Mountain and again beautiful scenery lakes and pines, plus this very cute honeymoon hotel, with a Jacuzzi in each of its rooms. There the very nice lady owner was so happy to see us, which she decided to toast with pink champagne. ¡Què simpàtica! Welcome! NEXT TRIP TO VICTORIA: Two important things happened during this trip: FIRST: It was a group of friends that decided to go visit our friends and partners in Victoria, who gave us the best of the fun there is in this lovely city, together with the tourist sites and trips around town and vicinity, including yacht cruises. One of the trips was to Sooke, a small loggers town, where a loggers festival was taking place. It was a series of contests of the very demanding skills needed for this trade. Very intersting and you could get the feel of the strenous and tough life it is. Also, They were Bar-B-Q-ing salmon at very slow heat. I have never had better salmon! SECOND: My daughter Anabel decided to marry in August, 1997, and, being the first, I decided to give a good party. It coincided with a business trip I had planned with fellow traveler William Daniel Walker and some other associates. Since British Columbia has some of the best salmon in the world, I asked Dan and his charming wife Marilynn to guide me to a good place where I could buy enough salmon to give as an aperitif to my guests at the wedding party. They took me to a very unpretentious place near Sooke and we ordered salmon for two hundred persons as starters. We came back in the afternoon; they had prepared two big cases of salmon, in air tight packages and frozen. I had no trouble bringing it to Costa Rica, because in every plane I took, when I informed the female flight attendants that I needed special care for my frozen salmon for my daughters wedding, they immediately took it to the cabin and gave it their best attention. Women love weddings! And the salmon was a huge success.


Brussels-Capital Region Visit: 1995-8
2009-10-01 - 2009-05-02 I have visited this most beautiful city two times. The second time, in 1992, I went to attend a meeting in Bruxelles of the International Christian Democrats, in representation of my party, where I met many interesting and important people. But more interesting, after admiring the Grande Platz, one of the finest in the world, I had dinner "a la grande" at Chez Leon: "les moulles", that have made the restaurant famous. It is a must. The third time I visited Belgium, was with my wife and took her, of course, to Chez Leon. It was a tourist trip, so we walked the streets, took city tours and had fun looking at the Meneken Piss. We visited Gant and Bruges and the churches there. The sights of the countryside are very beautiful, sometimes languid. Traveling by car is the best way to travel, because the traveler can enjoy the sights on the side of the road and stop wherever wished. No stress because the train or plane is leaving. I want to urge fellow travelers to What Is New in the menu and vote "yes" to recognizing Belgium as a group of places, same as Canada, Russia, India, United States, China, South Africa, etc. because Belgium is a federal state. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. My opinion that this lovable country is an example of what a small country can achieve through hard work and intelligent use of the resources available. I keep a very good memory of it.


Buenos Aires (City) Visit: 2005-6
2009-05-10 - Buenos Aires is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Beautifully built, excellent restaurants with the best meat possible, superb football, wide streets, lots of trees, well stocked stores with reasonable prices, and beautiful hospitable people, an all around unsurpassable ambiance. Back in 1975, Elizabeth and I decided to take a South American tour and in Argentina we visited Buenos Aires, San Carlos de Bariloche (Rio Negro Province) and "el bosque de arrayanes", known unofficially as "el bosque de Bambi" (Neuquen Province). My friend of many years and fellow attorney, Santiago Lynch, at the time lived in Calle Austria, in Buenos Aires. When I called him from the Plaza hotel, he came very angry because I had gone to a hotel and not directly to his house, announced or not. He took our clothes and started packing to "kidnap" us and take us home. This gave us the opportunity to meet Admiral Isaac F. Rojas, who at the time lived in the same building, of fame because of his participation in the revolution against General Juan Domingo Peròn. At the time, the country was suffering major economic troubles, with huge devaluation, during the government of Isabel Peròn. I remember inviting a couple of friends for dinner at Michelangelo, at the time known as the best restaurant, and after the excellent dinner and wine and a champagne tango show for more than two hours, the whole invoice was around US$25.oo. You can not beat that! It is a place to go and enjoy. There you will see the best polo possible; we went to Palermo polo field and saw the “game of the century”, since the eight players were all handicapped 10 and the two referees were also handicapped 10. Of course, Buenos Aires is world known for the excellent restaurants and the best meat in the world. From the major large restaurants, such as La Hacienda, to the corner restaurants, "del Barrio". Theater is first class, comedy, drama, musical, etc. A must is a visit to Plaza de Mayo, where you have three of the cornerstones of Argentinian life: the Cathedral, where the mausoleum to Libertador General Josè de San Martin is located and with twenty four hour honor guard by the Granaderos de San Marìn, with full gala uniforms; the Cabildo, where independence was declared on May 25th, 1810 and the Casa Rosada, Presidential Palace. We returned a couple of times more, including the meeting of the Inter America Bar Association in 2005, and every time we find it better and enjoy as much. What ever you may like, Buenos Aires has it.


Buenos Aires Province Visit: 2005-6
2009-06-27 - The rich countryside of the Province of Buenos Aires explain the richness of Argentina and its commanding role in Latin America. Lush fertile plains, enough river water and rain keep the land green and productive. Cattle live at home, range fed, and provide the best possible meat in the world. In 1975, my friend lawyer Santiago Lynch and his wife Silvia took us, fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I, to visit a ranch, "campo", and was amazed at beauty of the livestock, cattle and race horses. It belongs to the Blaquier Family, one of the traditional families of Argentina. We were given an "asado", the typical Argentinian Bar B Q, on the courtyard outside, everyting bathed in excellent Mendoza wine. On the way to the ranch, we visited the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Lujan, Patrona de la Repùblica Argentina. For any religious person, it is a must. We still keep photos, with all of us looking young... Recently, I have also visited restaurants on the Rio de la Plata bank, one of the longest in the world and also one of the rivers with more water since it is formed by Rio Paranà and Rio Uruguay. My friend Josè Marìa Videla del Mazo had a yacht there, at the Tigre delta and took me to visit; very enjoyable. A must is the section of San Telmo, site of the best tango, the typical music of Buenos Aires. Especially on Sundays, the street bursts in music, with performers singing and dancing in the streets. One of them was a singer that imitated the famous Carlos Gardel. He was so good that I thought it was a recorded reproduction. There are also tango orchestras performing and dancers makint their shows. The restaurants in Buenos aires are many and most of them good, from the highly recommended to the small "barrio" diners, such the case of a very popular restaurant we visited by chance in San Telmo or the large La Hacienda in Calle Lavalle. Recently, Buenos Aires has undergone major renovations and improvements, such is the case of the Puerto Madero section, where old Rio de la Plata riverbank warehouses have been converted into stores, restaurants and or other places of enjoyment. The section has also undergone the construction of large luxurious highrise office, hotel and apartment buildings and the beautification of the streets and extension of the mass transit facilities. It may well be one of the most successful recent waterfront renewal projects in the world. Among the restaurants that can be recommended are Cabaña Las Lilas, one of the best restaurant for meats, maybe in the world, and the tango show at Madero Tango, for excellent new wave tango. Old time tango is excellent near El Abasto, where Carlos Gardel, El Zorzal Criollo, El Morocho del Abasto, started his career. The section has been renovated completly and it is major commercial center, with beautiful art deco architecture. There I recommend La Casa de Gardel; it is really outstanding: food is served while the tango performance goes on. One must is Caminito, the narrow pedestrian street with its loudly paited houses that inspired the famous tango of the same name. The city of San Isidro is located in this Province, one of the most afluent in Argentina and, thus, one of the most afluent and South America. The San Isidro Hippodrome is very popular and people come from the whole country to try their luck. Many street are coblestone and there is a very beautifull church in the neo-gothical style. The Bar Association of San Isidro is very active and some of the best known lawyers of Agentina are associated to it.


California Visit: 1953-9
2009-04-13 - When my twin sister and I were in high school, in 1953, it was decided at home to send my sister to study and finish her high school in the United States. Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, in the mountains in back of Pasadena, Los Angeles, was chosen. Several other Costa Rican girls were also going and that made it very nice for her. My mother was to take her and leave her there with the nuns. Less than a week before they left, my father thought of me and decided that I should also go, since I was doing well enough in school, although my conduct was not up to par. It was my second time out of Costa Rica and we visited Mexico City and in California, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Mexico City we visited family but also went to the Palace of Chapultepec and the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. We went all the way up to top the Pyramid of the Sun. My mother was young and we were kids! I still remember the view of the two beautiful snow caped volcanoes, Iztacciuatl, the sleeping maiden, and Popocateptl, the warrior guarding her sleep, then with no smog. From Mexico, we flew to Pasadena in Los Angeles and for a week-end to San Francisco. We visited and enjoyed the parks, where we saw buffaloes and saw the unloading of the fishboats at Fisherman's Warf. We took a Grey line bus ride through the city and rode the cable-car. Food was excellent and I still remember eating pheasent for the first time and, at the Saint Francis Hotel, I ate a huge crab that the waiter had to cut -to me, crush- so that I could eat it. The scenery from the Top of The Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel has been an everlasting memory. We returned to Pasadena but my sister went to school and my mother started the old feminine passion for shopping, for herself and all her friends, that had requested that my mother purchase clothes for them. I was bored, but found refuge at one of the best hotels I have ever been and possibly the one I have had more fun: The Huntington Hotel & Spa at 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave. Pasadena. Last year, 55 years later, I visited again and found that it is still as good and enjoyable. (The food was delicious and the girls at the swimming pool also, as much as their grandmothers had been!) Back then, I also went several times to the, Huntington Art Gallery, built in 1911, formerly the residence of Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) and his wife, Arabella (1850–1924), which opened in 1928 as the first public art gallery in Southern California. There I was fascinated by the portrait of Sarah Barrett Moulton, "Pinkie" by Thomas Lawrence, and facing her, "The Blue Boy", by Thomas Gainsborough, and the rest of the exquisite masterpieces all around the museum. Now, I also went to the gardens around the Museum, which are a must. There, one can appreciate the California roses, a sight in itself and in Pasadena they are everywhere evident. All these experiences led to a lifetime of art appreciation and enjoyment, which also led to travel the world in search of beauty.


Campania Visit: 1978-8
2009-11-28 - Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I took a European tour and one of the places visited was Campania, where Naples, Sorrento and the Isola de Capri are located. At the hotel in Rome we took a tour for two days to visit and enjoy the region, which I had been told was very beautiful. There was no understatement. First we visited Pompeii, which was destroyed in seventy nine by the eruptions of the Vesuvius Volcano. The perfect cone can be seen ominous from the ruins and understand how it all happened. We found that the ruins were not very well maintained at the time, but I have been told that this has changed to the better. The ruins of this must city are very interesting from the archeological point of view. It is evident that humans act the same way two thousand years later. Technology has improved, but we do the same things. Good or bad, but this is the truth. I do recommend a visit, since this is one of the few instances that preservation has been that complete. The ashes and fumes of the Vesuvius did what could not have been done by convincing. We were given a pasta lunch there with a singer that sang, of course, "Santa Lucia" - good that he was good-. From there we went to Naples, but did not stop, so we did not really go to this beautiful city, but saw the bay as we entered. The bay in Naples is gorgeous. This is why "Vere Napoli, dopo morire". We only saw the Cathedral from outside; a pity. It is on the way to Costa Amalfitana that is very beautiful. Then we went to Sorrento a nice town with beautiful views, since it is on the hill that go down to the sea. Next day, we went to Capri, which is a very white, beautiful little town on top of a hill, with narrow streets and no cars at the time. You walk. It has some bars and restaurants for the many tourists that flock in. It is worth while, since you are already there. This is also where you take the boat to go to the Blue Grotto, worth every cent and more of the amount paid to go. The intense blue color is just amazing. It is very nice and very enjoyable, especially the Grotto that you must visit to realize the deep blue color. Look out with your head when entering or leaving. On the way back, the girl guide was surprise of al the "parole brute" I used because of the Italian driving done by the chauffer of the bus. My answer was: "Italian movies". The whole bus laughed. We also saw from the road the Monastery on Monte Cassino, where the fierce German resistance took place at the entrance of allied forces towards Rome during World War II, in 1944.


Castile and Leon Visit: 1983-6
2009-12-01 - The Spanish language is really the language spoken in this section of Spain: Castilian (Castellano), a descendant language of Latin, same as French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and others. It is territorially the largest of the Autonomic Regions of Spain. There is a high plateau where most of the Section is, crossed by the Douro River (Duero, in Spanish), which continues into Portugal and ends in Porto. It is the largest opf the Autonomies of the country. This part of Spain has some of the most emblematic cities in the country, such as El Escarial, Avila, Salamanca, Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia, Valle de los Caìdos, and some others I have not visited. All of them full of history dating back to the Roman conquest of Spain. El Escorial, monastery-residence of the most powerfull kings of Spain, Charles the I and Philip the II. It is so loaded with history that it becomes impossible to tell all. Because I was Charge d'Affaires of the Costa Rican Embassy from February through May 1962, I was invited and attended a funeral to His Majesty Alfonso XIII and all the Dynasties of Spain at the Cathedral, offered by Generaliaimo Francisco Franco. Invited were all the Dignataries of Goverment, Diplomatic Corps, High Nobility, including the then Heir to the Spanish Throne, HRH Juan Carlos de Borbòn. "Frac con Condecoraciones. Corbata negra", read the invitation. Same as the official ceremonies in the Vatican. Months latar, came on official visit Mr. Francisco Orlich, then President Elect of Costa Rica, and the official group of Costa Rica was given a tour of the monastery and palace. Avila is very beautiful, very well kept with a wall all around it and many medieval relics still well conserved. It has excellent cuisine, thus a place to enjoy good Spanish traditional dishes. I must mention that this part of Spain near Valladolid produces excellent wine known as Ribera del Duero, including the Vega Sicilia, one of the world's best and most expensive, well into the hundreds and easily into the thousands of dollars, depending on the cru. Salamanca is the University town of Spain and with much influence in the thinking of the Spanish since the Middle ages. It could be argued that the monks that tought there were the first to start the world thinking on "ius gentium" or rights of the peoples, now known as International Law. Lo que "Natura non dat, Salamanca non lo prestat". Burgos has a sensationally beautiful cathedral going back to the Middle ages. It is due North of Madrid, on the way to France, and I remember it because in 1961, I went from Madrid to France and saw it lit at dusk. In 1936, General Francisco Franco made here the "Pronunciamiento de Burgos", that started the Spanish Civil War. Segovia has the aqueduct, famous because of having been built on stone, without concrete, during Roman times. This was the first place I visited after arriving in Spain to study in 1961. In front of the aqueduct is the world known Candido Restaurant, famous because of its "cochinillo", suckling pig. Excellent, but I understand that "cochinillo" is the dish of the region and there are many other restaurant that serve it as well. Also very well known in Segovia is the Alcazar, a middle ages fort on top of a hill, very interesting. I all of the cities mentioned a must is the cathedrals, all several centuries old and full of art relics deserving to be admired. Valle de los Caìdos is a cathedral dug into rock during the government of Generalisimo Franco in memory of thowe that fell during the Spanish Civil War. At thje foot of the main altar is an isnscription that say only "Josè Antonio", to signal the tomb of Jos+è Antonio Primo de Rivera, Ideologue of Falange and victim of the War. Castile and Leon are the heartland of Spain. Do not miss it.


Castile-La Mancha Visit: 1978-8
2009-11-27 - Castilla La Mancha es una de las Autonomías de España, y su capital es Toledo y està situada a la orilla del Río Tajo. La historia de la ciudad se remonta a la Edad del Bronce. Fue un importante centro carpetano hasta su conquista romana en 193 antes Cristo. Durante la Guerra Civil Española, la ciudad permaneció en la zona republicana. Sin embargo, en el Alcázar, sede de la Academia de Infantería, se refugió un grupo de nacionales al mando del coronel Moscardó, a pesar de que se le conminó a rendirse bajo la amenaza de fusilar a su hijo. En los fusilamientos fue muerto el deán de la catedral y Luis Moscardó, hijo del coronel encerrado en El Alcázar. El Alcázar, casi completamente destruido en el asedio, fue reconstruido en su totalidad posteriormente. Digna de mencionarse es la bella Catedral medieval en la mejor arquitectura española de la época. También muralla que la circunda la ciudad es muy imponente. Yo visité la ciudad varias veces cuando estudié los Cursillos de Doctorado en la Universidad de Madrid. La primera vez fui con un grupo de estudiantes de arquitectura que me explicaron las diferencias de los diferentes estilos. Toledo fue casa de uno de los pintores más importantes de la Escuela Española, El Greco. En la Iglesia de Santo Tomé se encuentra uno de sus cuadros más famosos, el Entierro del Duque de Orgaz. Es obligatorio ir a conocerlo. También es muy interesante y bonito el Palacio Real en Aranjuez y la Casita del Príncipe y sus alrededores son muy bonitos, también en las orillas del Río Tajo. El primero es un Palacio a la Versalles y la segunda es una casa para descansar después de la cacerìa.


Catalonia Visit: 1999-9
2009-05-03 - When traveling, one must take advantage of the unexpected happenings that sometimes bless a trip. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities on the face of the earth, with excellent beach, Barceloneta, delicious food (Botafumeiro deserves special mention as one of the outstanding seafood restaurants in the world), wide boulevards, mild climate, beautiful old part of town, outstanding architecture, lots of history and historic buildings, fine museums, high standard of living, good bullfights -for those of us who like them- vibrant pace of living. The Cathedral started to be built in the XIII Century and is a jewel. I went to Mass there and felt the influence that beautiful surroundings and appropriate music do on you. The Sagrada Familia Church by Gaudi is outstanding art, a must, as are all the other Gaudi buildings. One of the times I was there with wife elizabeth and daughter Anabel, about three blocks from Plaza Cataluña, I found the most fantastic tasca possible, excellent paella and delicious seafood. Take the 100 tourist bus, it is cheap, the ticket is for the day and you start at Plaza Cataluña and you get out at the tourist stops and on again to the next stop. The system really works. Everything is nice, plus a well developed sense of fun. Because a conference of the International Bar Association, I visited once again. We had a reception for more than one thousand lawyers at Pueblo Español, where each of the provinces of Spain has built an exhibition of their folklore, culture and products. It is located on the way up to Montjuich, the hill that overlooks Barcelona. This was on the day of the Virgen de las Mercedes, Patron of the City of Barcelona. When we were leaving the reception, the fireworks from down in the city started to be sent. Excellent fireworks, beautiful colors that illuminated the very beautiful city. But the fireworks did not go all the way up the hill to where we were. It was the first time I saw DOWN to fireworks.


Cayman Islands Visit: 1988-1
2009-05-21 - Maybe the date for my last visit to the Cayman Islands is not correct and this is also the reason it does not appear in My Odyssey. I still have to check. Anyway, I will start with the remembrances and later update. In the past, Lacsa Airlines, from Costa Rica, had a frequency to Miami that stopped in Grand Cayman, which made it easy and cheap to go; it was convenient. Pity they no longer have the facility. In this case, I will write my remembrances in complete disorder, since I have been there at least ten times, most of them because of work. These were the times when tax havens were really tax havens and not hideouts for money laundering. People used to for bonna fide corporations and use the facilities to do real, honest business worldwide. It was also cheap to work from there; not anymore. The countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)(the big countries, USA, UK, UE and the other biggies) had not had not made "tax havens" mean "bad words". But as it happens, the Caymans are beautiful islands. The sea is perfect and the white sand in Seven Mile Beach is sugar white. The Holyday Inn was a probably the best hotel there was in their organization: excellent service, beautiful surroundings, good rooms, nice swimming pool (with good looking girls), fun discotheque, good food and good wines, etc. One place any traveler would love is the Grand Old House, at Petra Plantation. This is not rated as an expensive restaurant, but it is an old house, typical British colonial. The architecture that is common to many of the Caribbean Islands, but different to what we would see in Latin countries. There was a long pier into the sea with a light at night that brought fish to eat and looking at it was very interesting. I dare say it is a very good, romantic, scenic restaurant. In one occasion, my friend Dr. Hugh Payton from Washington Court House, Ohio, rented a very comfortable house in Bodden Town, right at the beach on the South part of the Island. It was lots of fun because we would get up in the morning and go directly to the transparent sea we had right at our doorstep. We would pick up conch from the seabed and have the caretaker of the house prepare dishes in any of the many ways they do them. Conch ceviche is delicious. A true must is a visit to the turtle farm, North of Georgetown and at the end of Seven Mile Beach, where they have hundreds (more?) of these huge amphibians and reproduce them scientifically. Although at the time eggs were not allowed to be eaten, a turtle steak or soup was very normal; and very good. All the major restaurants had them. Right before sundown, certain season, there are many mosquitoes that become very inconvenient but not dangerous, since there is no yellow fever, malaria, dengue or any other of these tropical beauties. Although Caribbean, puritanical ways are evident: clothing wise, more clothes, not less, is better. Besides tourism, of course, the two main professional activities are bankers and lawyers.


Centre Visit: 1999-9
2010-02-06 - I had heard about Les Chateaux de la Loire many times and did not beleve that they were as beautiful as I was told. I was to be proven wrong. Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I arrived in the region of Centre from the South by car, which I rented in Spain. We stayed at Le Grande Hotel (every town in France has a "Grande Hotel"), with reasonable prices, excellent service, centrally located at the Place du Marechal Leclerc, close to the train station and a huge parking in below the park. The Cathedral in Tours, like many in France, resembles the Notre Dame in Paris. Not that they are copies, it was the style at the time. We went to mass there and it was very nice, although the church was not full. Outside there is a huge Lebanese Cedar, so big that its lower branches had support, because of the wheight; truly a sight to admire. Upon arriving in Tour, we looked for a guide to take us next morning to visit the chatteaus. Promply at eight, as promised, he was there and the visit started. First we visited the house of Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise, who was convinced as an old man to leave his native Italy to come to live in France, by Francis I, the Great. It has been very well maintained, with da Vinci memorabilia all around. It is a charming house, quite livable then and now! Chenonceau palace us a beauty. Those of us who like to travel to enjoy beauty (not to eat kilometers), are amazed by sites like this. Built at the time of Francis I, on the Cher river, on the foundations of an old mill, it was given to Diane of Poitiers by Henry II, before he died in a tournament against Gabriele de Montgomery. She must have been quite a girl to be given such a gift! The achitecture is medieval French and has many rooms in its three stories. The rooms are full of art, including a painting of Diane. The estate also has wine production and we bought wine of excellent quality, especilly the red. The other equally beautiful chateau is Chambord. Very close, both rival in beauty and majestuosity. Chambord is the biggest chateau and probably the most visited of them all. Started during the reign of Francis I on plans atrributed to Leonardo da Vinci its façade is one hundred twenty eight meters long and has four hundred rooms. Begun in fifteeen nineteen it does have a definite Italian inspiration. It was continued during the reign of Henri II, refered to above. It was finished during the reign of Louis XIV, Le Roi Soleil. We also went to a winnery at Chateau de Rozier, which was not monumental, but a grape farm. We enjoyed it because they gave us a tour of the estate and a lecture about modern wine production, plus a taste of their products. Of course, we bought a couple of bottles, to engross our collection. The Hotel de Ville is very beautiful and deserves to be looked at in detail. In front there is a Plaza with the inevitable sidewalk restaurants. In one I asked for rabbit, but they had none and the waiter did not serve bread. So I started making fun of them, singing and dancing around the tables: "Il ny'a pas de lapin; il ny'a pas du pain; il ny'a pas de rien." Soon, the rest of the clients were singing and clapping with me: "Il ny'a pas de lapin; il ny'a pas du pain; il ny'a pas de rien." At last they found some bread to give me. It was not until Aix en Provence did I find "lapin". The whole trip was delightful, since the scenery of the chateaus and the valleys crisscrossed by rivers, are amaizingly beautiful. And we had fun.


Champagne-Ardenne Visit: 1962-8
2009-11-10 - I entered Champagne-Ardenne from Belgium, through the village of Charleville - with the inevitable equestrian statue of a noble in the center of town squeare - a quaint little town near the larger city Charleroi in the neighboring country. The European Common Market was young and there were customs and migration requirements in the borders at the time. It was three Venezuelans and this Costa Rican students and one of them had a Grundig tape recorder, made in Germany. It was worth at least half hour discussion until we were let into France. We had purchased food in Belgium and went to eat it in a pastureland, at the foot of a beautiful medieval fortress. It was a post card sight. From there we detoured and went on to the city of Reims, to see the beautiful medieval cathedral. It is the same kind of architecture and looks alike Notre Dame in Paris and the Cathedral in Bourges. It was well worth the trip, since it is very beautiful. In front of it there is a small park and on the side there is a magnificent black equestrian statue of Joan of Ark. From Reims we continued towards Paris, where the Venezuelans studied, and Madrid, were I studied.


Chile (mainland) Visit: 1993-10
2009-04-28 - Chile is a beautiful country, with very big mountains that give its main source of material income: copper, although this has been changing because of the excellent economic growth. The first time I was there, in 1975, I stayed at the Carreras Hotel, on the Plaza de Armas, and, from the terrace on the top floor, you could see the damage of the bombing of Palacio de la Moneda, the Presidential Palace, during the September 11, 1973, revolution against the Salvador Allende regime. Although there was an eleven o'clock curfew and the underground transportation was being built, you could enjoy the city and its beauty. Very nice people that one must get to know, highly cultured and open to ideas, but also very hard working. Its wine is superb and a must, in or out of Chile, Cousiño Macul, Concha y Toro, Undurraga, etc. I rented a car to visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar and from there I drove North, in order to see the coast. It is a well worth trip that will show the countryside and the different types of agricultural activities of the central part of the country. It will also show the excellent food that is available, mainly the huge variety of seafood: all kinds of shell or scale fish imaginable, some that I have found only there. Their pisco, the liquor, is also indigenous to the country and a pisco sour there is also a must. (Never ask a Chilean and a Peruvian where pisco originated, because you will have an endless discussion.) For those who like it, the Casino is very well known. The country is only 250 kilometers wide and more that 5000 kilometers long, probably the only country with such extreme dimensions. The Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas and the tallest volcano in the planet. The Andes make a beautiful setting for the capital city, Santiago, especially during winter, when they are snow capped. Shopping is not a must, but jewelry of lapizlazuli stone is very beautiful and reasonably priced. Club de la Uniòn is private and very beautiful. It is the center of social life in the country. In 1993, I visited Santiago again because of the XXX Conference of the Inter American Bar Association, held at the Universidad Catòlica de Chile, which I presided. Some other time, I must visit other places in Chile, like Puerto Mont and the Southern part and the Strait of Magellan; I promise not to ski.


Colombia (mainland) Visit: 1989-5
2009-05-10 - Variety is the word that would best describe Colombia: from the sea on either side, Caribbean or Pacific, to the highlands, to the Amazonian plains; from the mountains and to the valleys, everything is interesting and beautiful. I have had the priviledge to visit many times. The first time was for the XIX Conference ot the Inter American Bar Association in Cartagena de Indias, From there, I went for a South American round trip that would take me to nine countries (about 12 MTP locations). Cartagena was a very rich during colonial times, but independence from Spain brought stagnation and outright poverty, which conserved the city, since there was no interest to tear down anything. Progress was not needed. Then, when affluent times came, mandatorty conservation did the rest. Thus, in Cartagena you find a shop or the office of a professional in a beautiful palatial building. The premises of the Inquisition are intact and very well preserved. Fuerte de San Felipe is there, still in charge of the defense of the city, it seems. The Wall that prevents pirates from taking the city is also still there, Thus, La Ciudad Amurallada is still a valid description. Poet Luis Carlos López made a sonet to his native city that was and compared it to the comfort of old shoes; and there is a statue to the old shoes. Iglesia y Monasterio San Pedro Claver are a must, dedicated to this Saint of the Catholic Curch that fought for justice and rights of the slaves. La Popa is a hill on the side of the city, with a magnificent view and on top is Convento de la Candelaria. On Holy Week a Via Cricis is made on foot up the hill. Barranquilla does not have the beautifull beaches Cartagena has, but it has the mouth of the Magadalena River. It also has Hotel del Prado, that I always recommend. Santa Marta is an old city with much development due to the excellent beach, that has caused large hotels and second home highrises. Also, here is the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the villa where Libertador Simòn Bolivar passed away, rejected and sick, after having given Independence to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perù and Bolivia. A true patriot, a true visionary. Medellìn is a very beautiful city in the highlands, economic motor of the country. Excellent place for shopping, beware! The Club Uniòn is very nice, although private. Bogotà is a great, large city; its center is very well preserved and interesting to visit. As all capital cities, it has large beautiful buildings and around Plaza Bolivar are the La Casa de Nariño, which is the Presidential Palace, El Palacio de San Carlos, which is the Ministry of Foreing Affaires, El Capitolio Nacional, El Palacio de Justicia, El Palacio Liévano, which is the Munipality of Bogotà, and the large Cathedral, where Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (his name is written in Latin: Gundisalvi), its founder, is buried at the foot of the main altar. The Gold Museum is very intersting and rich. It is whole building dedicated to the largest colletion of gold pre-Colombian pieces, more than thirty three thousand. It is amaizing. One trip that must be made is the Catedral de Zipaquirà, made in the cave by the excavation of a salt mine, a few kilometers away. On the way, the traveler will have the chance to see and admire the "sabana bogotana," the flatlands. Unavoidable is Cerro Montserrate, on top of the city. It is reached on a cable car straight up and there the view of the city is truly fantastic. Although Colombia has suffered guerrillas since 1948 and is not supossed to be a safe place to go and I have been told that diplomats are asked not to further than twenty five kilometers away from Bogotà with advising the Ministry of Foreing Affaires, the truth is that I never suffered the least invonvenience. Maybe luck, but as in anywhere else, do not look for danger and you will not find it. Besides, the present Govenment has made a very successful effort in pacifying the country.


Corn Islands Visit: 2010-3
2010-04-05 - Corn Islands are a group of most beautiful pieces of tropical paradise. Nicaraguan territory that belonged to the British Crown, located some fifty miles East of the Port city of Bluefields on the Caribbean. To get there you can fly from Managua or Bluefields on Costeña, the local subidiary of TACA, to Big Corn Island or you can take the daily ferry from Bluefields. I went with wife Elizabeth and fellow traveler Daniel Walker and his wife. Excellent travel companions! We enjoyed their company very much for six days, taking advantage of the Holy Week vacation. We went snorkeling in the cristal clear waters and enjoyed the very expert knowledge of the waters of our guides of the Dive Center. We saw, besides the normal color fish and beautiful corals, a sunken steel ship and a bunch of old cannons, remains of a Spanish ship from colonial times. Next day we went to Little Corn Island on a boat carrying more than forty persons and found that there is no motorized transportation, no even golf carts, as in other places. Since I have a bad foot from an automobile accident, I looked for a boat to take us around the Island at the Dolphin Dive Center. It turned out to be the right decission, because I doubt I could have walked that long on the steep trail to the north side and beyond, without serious pain and damage. On the North side there are several very rustic cabins and restaurants. None seemed to have air contitioning or other facilities. After some very cold beer, we continued our circling of the isalnd and confirmed thet it is very beautiful, although lacking in infrastructure or facilities, but it is defenitevly a less populated island. Maybee better for the environment. We returned to Big Corn later in the aternoon, after a delicious hamburger near the port. Next three days were dedicated to the beaches, mainly Picnic Beach, with white sand, and Long Beach, with light gold color, both excellent! Probably among the best beaches I have seen. The only negative to the whole expedition to the Corn Islands was food: outside the excellent lobster we ate at very low prices, this is not a gourmet destination, not even the ceviche was good anywhere. The only aternative seemed to be pizza at the dive center. It is well worth the trip, but stay in Big Corn, although Little Corn is a must visit. To summarize: As I have noted before, poverty conserves and conservation is happening in the Corn Islands. But poverty also impedes efferts to clean and dispose of garbagge. It also means low quality of life to the humans.


Costa Rica (mainland) Visit: 2010-2
2010-02-02 - It has been sixty years (1948-2008) since my first time I left my Country, Costa Rica: My grandfather on mother's side (who lived with us) had to be rushed to the Oeshner Clinic in New Orleans to be operated, at the end of 1947. After being operated, my mother took him to convalesce in California, where they were given hospitality by fellow Costa Ricans, the Flores family. When he was ready to return, they took a banana boat of the Great White Fleet to Puerto Armuelles, the Panamanian banana port on the Pacific. My father decided that my twin sister and I should go with him to meet our grandfather and mother. He had to obtain passports and travel cards for Panama for both of us. Off we went! The plane, a Lacsa Airlines DC 3, landed in Parrita and Palmar Sur, without much to mention, except the emotions involved with flying for a couple 11 year old twins who wanted to see outside the windows of the low flying plane, who had not seen their mother and grandfather for almost three months. But between Palmar Sur and Golfito the right propeller started to spew smoke. My twin and I mentioned the situation to our father, who became very worried, but put on a very good show of restraint and only mentioned the smoke as a matter of course to the flight attendant. Moments later, the pilot, a seasoned long time flyer and 1948 Costa Rican Civil War veteran, turned the plane back to Palmar Sur, with only one engine on. We did land without any trouble but he explained to my father that he would not have been able to land in Golfito because he did not have the power to land going around the hills of the Golfito airfield. Then he went to fix the airplane, cursing against Lacsa! And, lo and behold, he fixed whatever was the trouble, called the passengers back into the plane, flew to Golfito and to Puerto Armuelles. We met my mother and Grandfather and flew to San Josè. The plane was well fixed. Probably the cursing helped!
NOW TO PRESENT DATE: Costa Rica has become a tourist must world wide. We receive about two million and a half tourist per year, from all parts of the world, but mainly from Canada, The United States, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom. The main attractions in San Josè, the Capital, are the National Theater, built in 1897, site of the National Symphony Orchestra and where the top artist have perfomed, including old time masters such as Arthur Rubistein, Yehudi Menuhen, Alejandro Ulloa, and many more; the National Museum with its pre-Columbian artifacts and history of the country; and the gold collection of the Central Bank of Costa Rica. From San Josè you can be at sea level at the beach or at 4000 meters (12,000 feet) at the mountain in two hours by car. You can look down into the crater of an active volcano and not be in danger. Ambiance at the beaches used to be rustic, at best. Now the ambiance is cosmopolitan, but keeping the Costa Rican flavor. Ecotourism is the emphasis, since Costa Rica has about twenty six percent of its territory under some kind of ecological or conservationist regime. Now you can go to beach or mountain and enjoy, with world standard confort and not damage the environment. Such is the case of Hotel El Establo, in the highlands of Monteverde. There you find canopy tours many meters high on the tree tops, trails in the forest, excellent food, luxury and fun in the mountain. For several decades, Costa Rica has been waiting for the construction of the Carretera a Caldera, a highway from San José to the Pacific coast. Now the highway is being built and it will not only expedite commerce with our neighbors and the rest of world through Port of Caldera, but will make the resorts of the Pacific more reachable for tourist travelers. The closest beaches will be less than one hour from San Josè and the international airport. Puntarenas, the port on the Pacific, is where the cruise ships dock and the municipality is doing a good effort to make it better, including a line of more than thirty sculptures by national artists on the Paseo de los Turistas. Hotel Construction has been intense and apartment building turned in Aparthotel facilities has been flourishing. Such is the case of Jaco, the very popular tourist beach town, where large resorts are being built for the benefit of the sophisticated and upper level traveler. One of the best and better designed resorts is about to be finished is Sonesta Jacò Resort: fourteen stories and the normal resort facilities and, most outstanding, a Jacuzzi in each of the balconies of each of the apartments. It is amazing the comfort and beauty of the sunset from the Jacuzzi! It is a unique feeling that will surely make it one of the preferred resorts of the region. In Jacò you will also find the Amapola hotel, with a very good Italian restaurant a decent prices, although not at the beach. Tamarindo is also undergoing much construction and has the Barcelò Playa Langosta all included hotel, which is fun and good in the medium price range. Quepos has many good hotels and restaurants, including the new Arenas del Mar Hotel, with two beaches and good food. On the Caribbean side, there are two zones to mention: north of Port Limòn, the canals that go to Matina, Parismina Tortuguero and Colorado and all the way to Nicaragua, with excellent beaches and the best possible fresh water fishing for tarpon and snook. There are no large hotels or resorts but good fishing cottages that provide tackle, boat and everything you may require for fishing. South of Port Limòn is the Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Punta Cocles and Manzanillo, where you find still better beaches, lots of small hotels and modest but excellent restaurants. Ambiance here is very liberal and carefree; many Europeans and North Americans live here their tropical dream. La Fortuna and Lake Arenal are another point of interest in the Northwest of Costa Rica: From La Fortuna you can see the eruptions in the active Arenal Volcano and bathe in the scalding hot water coming down from it. Arenal man-made lake is very nice and small nice hotels are being made on the lakeside. The lake is excellent for windsurfing, especially during the months of December through March. In the future I will update as the highway to Caldera is finished, scheduled for July 2010.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2009: I was today in Nicoya, a lazy tropical America town in the center of the Province of Guanacaste and crossroads to many good beaches, like Samara, Carrillo, Punta Islita, Nosara, Guiones, etc. But I especially want to mention the Church of San Blas: The Parrish of Nicoya was established in 1522, thirty years after El Gran Almirante, Christopher Columbus, discovered the Americas, and twenty years after he came to Costa Rica. The construction was made in 1644, as a Minor Basilica, and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. But the church suffered big damage in an earthquake in 1822 and was repaired by 1831. The church has some antique statues of Christ, the Holy Virgin Mary and Saints of much beauty, most of them brought from Ecuador, Nicaragua and other places, dating to the seventeenth and eighteen centuries. It is well worth the admiration of the traveler.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2010: The new highway from San José to Caldera has been built. It took 32 years, since it was first planned! It does cut the travel time in half. Those travelers that have been to Costa Rica must remember the winding roads to Jacò, Puntarenas and Guanacaste, full of huge trucks and buses. Not any more. My only doubt is whether the three roads that did the same service will now be deserted and everybody will turn to the new one and collapse it… I took the road to go to Arenal Lake, where I spent four days. Although I had gone through there before, I found a very interesting ambiance, consisting mainly of people who like wind surfing and kite surfing, which is very nice because of the strong winds that pass from the Caribbean to the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The views from the shores of the lake are all beautiful and good, nice little hotels and restaurants have sprung up. Even a quite wild discotheque, I am told. It is well worth a visit and stay for some days. I met a British gentleman from near Oxford who is planning on retiring there. Remember that Costa Rica is very popular among retirees.
I will welcome and answer any request of information or opinion in regard to travel to Costa Rica. I will also welcome phone call when a fellow MTP traveler comes to my country. The most that you risk is a cup of good Costa Rican coffee. I buy.


Crete Visit: 1995-4
2009-05-01 - This is a most beautiful island, big by Aegean Sea sizes. We had invited fellow traveler Maria del Carmen Montealegre, my sister in law, and came in a cruise ship from Piraeus. We rented a taxi to take us around, which proved to be very good idea, since the driver was knowledgeable and with good attitude. The city is nice and the climate was helping. We visited interesting church, with very luxurious decorations, which I understand is a norm. A service was taking place, so we were especially respectful and the few explanations were given in a low, subdued voice. I did notice that the service was with the priest facing the altar, with his back to the attendants. From there we went to Knossos and were disappointed because there was a very undefined and common ruins that said very little. We did go several kilometers away to a monastery on top of a hill, with a stop to see Greek designed jewlery and purchase gold rings for the ladies. When we got there, the ocean and seaside scenery was well worth the steep climb. On the way back, the beaches looked tempting but did not go because it was rather windy and not hot enough to warrant fun. Next time.


Cuba Visit: 1987-9
2009-05-08 - I am not sure the month of this post is correct. I just remember my trip to the Island and the year and I have proof, since it started proceedings in Court and I have a witness. A Cubana de Aviaciòn plane crashed leaving José Martì Airport and a Costa Rican national died there. I was asked by Frère Chomely, the English legal firm, to appraise the compensation for the heirs. At the hotel, I met with Peter Martin, counsel for the English reinsurers. Since Costa Ricans need a visa to enter the country and there were no consular relations between Cuba and Costa Rica, I had to go to get it in Managua. There was no problem, I had my visa in minutes, but on a separate piece of paper because they did not want to jeopardize my visa to the United States, so the Consul said. No doubt why it is called La Perla de las Antillas. Havana looked beautiful, but the lack of maintenance was evident. The Malecon must have been very nice, but everything looked old and unpainted which is the norm in all of the city. As a great symbol, the boat in which Fidel Castro returned to the island to start his revolution lies in a park. The Universidad de la Havana and the Parliament building are very beautiful, both built before the Revolution. The museum for the Revolution is not much, but holds a Coca Cola bottle. Somebody should tell them that Coca Cola is sold world wide, except there! The excellent houses in the section of Barrio del Carmen were abandoned. Church doors had big padlocks. The only church open was the Cathedral. Since the pews did not have where to kneel, I knelt to pray on the bare floor. The guide that was with me jumped at least three meters away, not to be seen with somebody praying. Restauration of the old section in the center of the city was being made with financial aid of the Spanish Government and the job being made was very good. The pavement on the streets was being removed and the old cobblestone streets were being resurrected. Automobiles on the street were either very new Lada Niva (Soviet junk) or 1959 or older American cars. These were very beautiful and well maintained. In one day I saw two Packards! Maybe most of the readers have not even heard of this make, but those two were giving their service quite well. There were many motorcycles with sidecar, very similar to those that are shown in old movies about the Nazis; I was told that they were made in the then red Czechoslovakia. I was taken to see the Copacabana show: music was very good Cuban music, mainly boleros, rumba and some salsa; the choreography was excellent. But the ambiance was of restraint and outright prudish, as if censure did not allow for risqué shows. The stockings on the female singers looked old, worn and had holes, although not big. We went on a small bus to Varadero with other tourists, and stayed a day at the beach, but rented changing facilities at the Hotel Internacional, of pre-Castro fame. Not many tourists and foreigners seemed to be expatriates on some kind of a task. There were no topless or nudes, which at the time were not permitted. I understand that this has changed. The new tourist hotels had not yet been built. The white sand beach and the transparent water of the Caribbean were amaizingly beautiful; a real treat. The regime had not damaged them.... The national drink is mojito, made of rum soda water and "yerbabuena". Food was good and service courteous, but the waiters' tuxedos were old and worn and needed urgent replacement. I asked for hot pepper, but there was none in any of the restaurants. I went to La Bodeguita de en Medio restaurant, but food was not much; 1900 Restaurant in Marianao, was much better and had a trio singing beautiful, old Cuban music. I requested Guantanamera and was thanked for my choice, since the words are by José Martì, the poet that is considered, rightly, the Father of Cuban Independence from the Spanish. Cuba was the third most developed country in Latin America before the Revolution by Fidel Castro in 1959, now it is less than twentieth. Cuba is the perfect example of what a tyrannical regime can do to a beautiful, happy country. We will see what happens now that Fidel is being phased out, but the communist regime must also be replaced, if they want to enter the XXI century and advance.


Denmark Visit: 1978-9
2009-07-09 - My first time in Denmark was in August 1962. I had taken a course in Comparative Law in Helsinki, Finland, and was on my way back to Spain, where I was doing my post graduate course at the University of Madrid. Luis Herrera, two other Venezuelan friends had been in Sweden and were on our way back. We took the ferry in Gedser at dusk and landed in Halsinor late, so we decided to stay the night and visit the old ruins of a fortress, supposed to have been where Hamlet lived. It is an evidently old ruin from the early middle ages, right by the sea. It is a must if you visit Denmark. The scenery is beautifull and it is very well kept. Although it is tourist attraction, I found that people walked the premises with some kind of awe, probalby thinking of the huge amount of history and the marvelous story Shakespeare made of it. From there we went to Copenhagen, where we had much fun, visited all the tourist attractions, museums, change of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Hans Christian Andersen's statue, the Mermaid (before it was vandalized and fixed), and the beautiful Tivoli Amusement Park, in front of the train station. SIXTEEN YEARS LATER: My father had a friend, Colonel Fernando Flores, who lived in Los Angeles and became the Prior of the Chapter of Americas of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in Denmark. He invited me to join the Order as a Brother of St. John. Thus, I traveled to Copenhagen to be introduced to the Order. The ceremony took place at the same fortress I had visited before with everybody dressed in white tie, frac or gala uniform. In the same ceremony, among others, General Alexander Haig was also knighted, who at the time was Commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces. It was also attended by Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, who was also a member. Back in Copenhagen, we went to a gala dinner at a palace and Mrs. Haig told me how proud she was of her husband, who in the morning had come home from troop training in the mud of Belgium and now was so good looking in his United States gala Marines uniform. I have seen that something that is very trivial to a person may be very interesting to another person: I remember that in Denmark I went to a restaurant that served reindeer (those animals used to pull Santa Claus' sleigh). It was excellent: tender and tasty.


District of Columbia Visit: 2006-11
2009-05-01 - I have been in Washington D. C. several times and every time I have enjoyed very much. First time was January 1960, when I won a scholarship to go to St. Louis in Missouri; at the time I was a student of Law in Costa Rica, in my fourth year, out of six. It was a grant of the U. S. State Department to develop the interest of Latin American in American Law. Apart from the study at Washington University, we students were taken to Puerto Rico, New York and the Nation's Capital. Washington is a very beautiful city, where public buildings are made in marble, such as the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Here we had the oportunity to visit the United States Congress and, at the Senate, where we had the rare opportunity of being present while then Senator Lyndon Johnson was involved in the negotiation of the Civil Rights Act, that he was able to get approved. We also visited the Supreme Court of the United States, a beautiful building, full of historic decisions, that have shaped the constitutional being of the United States and, why not, influenced the world. We visited the Organization of American States, O. A. S. and were received by the Secretary General. We also visited the State Department, and lectured on foreing policy. The visit of our Embassy was not considered much by us, sutdents that were now becoming bored of visits with gentlemen with whom we had nothing in common, knew nothing about us and were not even lawyers. We visited Lincoln Memorial awed by the size and beauty of the statue and the quotes of this great human. We admired the reflecting pond and Wahington monument and, no less, visited the Jefferson Memorial, smaller but no less important and beautiful. We also did what the tourist does in this most beautiful city. Besides touring the city, I spent long hours in the at the National Gallery, also known as the Mellon Gallery, because of the donations of paintings and funds for construction of the buildings. It is one of the best national galleries of the world, on par with Louvre in Paris, National Gallery in London, Metropolitan Museum in New York and Prado in Madrid. Most of the times I have visited this City, I visit the Gallery. It is a real treat. One of the paintings I always visit is the Crucifiction by Salvador Dali, which is a true masterpiece. There are literally thousdands of paintings, from the early stages of the art, to the most modern and U. S. school. In Washinton, many other museums are a must, including the Smithsthonian Institute, where you can admire the famous Hope Dimond, the blue precious stone donated by the Harry Winston organization. It is a beauty. Because my friend John Dahlgren was a member of the University Club, on one ocassion in 1992, I stayed at the University Club, in front of the Russian Embassy and the National Geographic. It is a very nice club, with very traditional ambiance, very nice rooms and excellent food. As in many clubs in the United States, one can not pay cash or charge to a credit card. One must sign the name and the Club later sends the bill, which you pay by sending a check on the mail. This seems rather antiquated to me.


Dominican Republic Visit: 2001-6
2009-04-30 - Because of the Inter American Bar Association, I have been at this beautiful and hospitable Antillean country on several ocassions. I loved each time. The people are happy, unpretentious people, that enjoy their music to the extreme: Merengue. When I was in Santo Domingo the first time, people would go to the Malecòn at night, open the car doors, open the trunk, where they had their rhum and ice, and started dancing in the street. This was their discotheque. And dancing with the well built Dominicanas is quite something! The old part of town has been restored at a great expense by the Dominicans and with large grants from the Government of Spain. The result is excellent, because it looks very beautiful, especially at night, with the street lightning provided by the classical "faroles". The Cathedral is the first in the Americas and attending mass at this beautiful white building, calls for devotion and respect. The first university in all of the Americas was founded there by the Spanish. The Mansion of Don Diego Colòn is a just out of the Middle Ages palace, built in 1502, upkept with utmost care and dedication. The fortress, "Morro", overlooking the entrance to the city, is very beautiful and impressive. You can not avoid it, since it is evident in this charming city. El Faro de Colòn, built by five times elected President Balaguer at a huge espense, is very interesting and it is supossed to be the mausoleum for the remains of "El Gran Navegante", who the Dominicans revere. Juan Dolio is a resort in the middle South of the country, with good hotels and very nice beaches, close to Santo Domingo and to the international airport. Casa de Campo is also very nice, but more upscale. But I prefer Punta Cana, on the Eastern side of the island, because of the better white sand beaches and excellent hotels. You find all the big chains there, mainly the Spanish ones, which gives a very European beach ambiance. I understand that the country boasts close to fifty five thousand hotel rooms, which makes tourism the main source of income. On the South is San Pedro de Macoriz, a small lazy town that produces the excellent Dominican baseball players in the Big Leagues. The only down side is the taxis, that comete seriously to be the worst in the world. Shopping in Dominican Republic is not much, but ambar is very beautiful and natural stone available there, at very reasonable prices.


Dubai Visit: 1983-4
2009-04-21 - I visited Dubai in April 1983 and on call of a client and because I wanted to visit several law firms that were of interest to us at the law firm. I also visited other Sheikdoms of the UAE; in Sharjah I saw the palace from outside and went to Abu Dahbi on bussiness, but this is another story. In Dubai, I stayed at one of the not so expensive hotel, the Ramada, which was good, but smaller. The other hotels were outstanding and I remember the Hyatt as an incredible architecture. Although Islam does not allow alcoholic beverages, it is allowed for foreigners to indulge in imbbibing at the hotels. I had an excellent luncheon-buffet that had more than 250 plates to choose from at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai. Everything was exquisite although the price was steep. Since there is a very large expatriate Indian workforce, the smell in the streets was of spieces, because of the curry and other spieces included in the Indian cuisine. There was a street lined in both sides with jewlery, which tempted me into buying a necklace, earrings and brooch for Elizabeth, with a Dubai design, in 21 carat gold. There is no luxury tax and only a 2 per cent duty, which make goods very reasonable or outright cheap. She still keeps the beautiful necklace very dearly, but it bankrupted my wallet and credit cards at the time and next day I had to travel almost pennyless. Thank goodness, on the way back I went ot an American Express office and drew some cash on my checking account.


Ecuador (Mainland) Visit: 2001-11
2009-05-29 - I have been in Ecuador in 1954, 1975, 1981, 1986, 1995, 2001 at least, and every time I have enjoyed. First I visited with my father and the other times because of Council Meetings or Conferences of the Inter American Bar Association. The city of Quito has been deservedly declared "Patrimonio de la Humanidad". The churches of Quito must have a special mention: it is not only the altars that are gold covered, it is the whole church. The convent of San Francisco is very large and its courtyard has everything the priests needed to live a peaceful religious life, including a brewery, with a beautiful view of the city from the upper levels. The museum is very large and has beautiful paintings and statues from colonial times. There you find several masterpieces by Goribar, the Indian artist, in the best of the Spanish school. The Church of the Company of Jesus is a display of religious art and devotion. It is said that one day Philip II of Spain was found looking West from the higher windows of El Escorial and, when asked what he was looking for, he replied: "I am searching for the towers of 'la Iglesia de la Compañia'; it has taken so much gold that it must be coming out in the horizon". Iglesia de Las Mercedes is another example of beauty. The surroundings are also beautiful: from a hill in the city, on a clear day and the right season, it is possible to see seven snow caped peaks, volcanoes that surround the city. Some of them are active at present. One of them is Pichincha, where the Ecuadorian General José Antonio de Sucre, who fought with Simòn Bolivar for the Spanish American independence, sealed the independence of Ecuador. A must is to go to the equator, the Center of the Earth. Excellent site for photographs and there are some good restaurants, where they also have llamas, the packing beast of the Andes. But Quito is very high and foreigners are advised to take it easy: "Al llegar a Quito, beba poquito, coma poquito y duerma solito." A village that deserves a visit is Otavalo to see how the Indians live. It is a very quaint town and the population is almost exclusively Indian. I recommend the hand made wool cloths that make excellent material for winter coats. Guayaquil also deserves a visit; it is the commercial and exporting region of the country, since Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas in the world; it also exports huge quantities of aquacultured shrimp.


El Salvador Visit: 2001-6
2009-05-28 - I have been in El Salvador many times since 1953, when I first went to visit Victoria Beeche my cousin who married Raul Guirola there, our family’s friendship with the Tinoco-Guirola Family, later because my father was Legal Director of the Organization of Central American States, 1966 to 1970, and lastly because of business. First time there, we went to 7 Mares restaurant in Colonia Escalòn, where I ate crepe suzette flambè for the first time. It was first class. We also went to Lake Ilopango to go around in their motor boat. I have been in Sonsonate, where Raul had a cotton farm and used to make a straw "enramada" at the beach for Holy Week, where he received family and friends for the week. We went snorkeling and lobster harpoon fishing in the rocks. Because Raul played polo, we went to the polo field to see the games in Santa Tecla. I also stayed with the Tinoco Family in Colonia Escalòn in their house, made after the house actor Randolph Scott had in Los Angeles. Years later my father rented an apartment in Colonia Escalon and I remember the water from the fawcett was hot because of the nearness to San Salvador Volcano, which towers over the city. Because of my membership to clubs in Costa Rica, I can enjoy correspondent privileges in El Salvador clubs. Casino Salvadoreño has a branch at the beach, where fishermen bring the oysters recently picked up, completely fresh. They open them right there, put lime and salt and they are excellent with beer! Now El Salvador has first class hotels, excellent restaurants, lots of tours to the lakes and the beaches, which are very near downtown. After the terrible years of insurgence and terrorism, with the armistice, a working democracy is now prevalent. It is a small, highly populated beautiful small country, with very hospitable people. I do recommend going to El Salvador.


England Visit: 1998-7
2009-05-09 - This is another location very difficult to write about, beacuse it is so large and varied. Countries like England have made the history of the world and enriched the human being. It is impossible to deny their importance. My first time in London was in July 1978, after having been in West Canada working for a client. I would return several times for work o pleasure. Then, intention was to remain more days in London, but work comes first, thus I lost my hotel reservation. Following instruction from a friend, we took the "tube" to Victoria Station, but got out on the station before. As we surfaced, I found that there was a hotel on the other side of the street, the Ritz. I left Elizabeth with the bags and, since we had lost our reservations, I went in and asked the price of a room, which was not outrageous. I requested one and the attendant at the desk answered that I could not have one because I had no luggage, a supposition I quickly contradicted and asked whether a bell boy could go across the street to fetch my bags. Answer was that he doubted it, but I asked the bell boy anyway and he said yes, happy to earn extra tip. We did what the tourists do in London, beside riding funny taxis and double-decker buses: Parliament and Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, Tower of London, Picadilly Square, Lord Nelson's Staute at Trafalgar Square, Hide Park, Harrod's, and above all The National Gallery. Although it is not the biggest in the world, it is well balanced, with representative painting from most great masters, especially European. I was able to admire the excellent portrait of Charles I with his horse, painted by Sir Anthony van Dyck, the Flemish artist who became the painter for the Court and whose work I always liked and enjoyed. I normally do not take breakfast at the hotel I stay and one day I went out the Ritz and crossed the street and started walking. About fifty or seventy meters away, I saw a private gallery that had many paintings for sale, so I entered to satisfy my curiosity. Immediately, I saw a small landscape that I really liked and looked for the price, because it was really nice. It was FIVE HUNDRED AND FITY THOUSAND POUNDS. It was a Van Dyck. Needless to say that I did not buy. Coming from Buckingham Palace about mid day, walking through the park towards the hotel, the sun started to shine. Suddenly people started to take part of their clothes off and laid in the grass, to enjoy the feel the sun. I thought that maybe we take some things for granted, because we have them every day.


Euskadi (Basque Country) Visit: 1999-9
2009-05-29 - Basque country in Spain is formed by three provinces: 1) Vizcaya, capital Bilbao, 2) Guipuzcoa, capital San Sebastian, 3) Alava, capital Vitoria. The first two on the Bay of Biscay and Alava landlocked. Navarra is sometimes considered basque, but it is not, although many basque people live there. Here, in Covadonga, started the counter conquest (Reconquista) of Spain by Don Pelayo against the Moors. It would take 800 hundred years! They claim they are the only pure race in the world, because of the isolation they lived throughout history. Of course, there is no way that I know or to prove this; it is a claim to uniqueness. The language, still spoken normally, is one of the most complicated in earth, and it is said, similar to Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. I would have to be convinced of this statement. What is surely true is that the ancestry is Celtic. I have been only in summer, but I understand that during most part of the year very rainy and cold. People are very good looking and children are outright beautiful. San Sebastian was the summer vacation city in the early part of the 20th. Century, before the Mediterranean became fashionable. The buildings still tell of many excellent architects and good taste. La Concha is the Beach and it is one of the best and most beautiful in the world, with a rock in the center in the sea. The first time I visited was in 1962, when I stayed for a week, coming from Scandinavia and Paris. I was a student and almost penniless, so I slept at an inn near the central park. When I returned in 1999, with fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth, we did go to the old section of town to eat delicious "tapas" with good wine. Very enjoyable and well worth it. Bilbao is an industrial city and looks it. But food is very good and has two fine museums, the Museum of Fine Art and the Guggenheim Museum. While both are very good, the first is dedicated to traditional art. The second museum is dedicated to very modern art, but, what is really very interesting and deserves close attention, is the architecture of Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. This museum is located on the side of the city, on the Nerviòn River. The whole Basque country is very mountainous, with impressive scenery, the steep mountains on the South and the rough sea on the North.


Extremadura Visit: 2001-8
2010-01-17 - Most of our travel is in the month of August and the reasons are that 1) both our birthdays are in this month, 2) We do not like cold weather and do not ski, 3) between the end of July and the middle of September there are four holydays in Costa Rica. This year we went to Madrid on the 16th of August and rented a car in Madrid. Fom there we went West to Extremadura Portugal, North Spain, and a tour of south France to the Center and Cote d’Azur and delivered the car in Barcelona for a month and a half. The first stop was in Trujillo, where Hernàn Cortés and Francisco Pizarro were born. In the main plaza there is a huge equestrian statue of Cortes. In front there is an excellent restaurant, with very rich Spanish food, which we recommend heartily. The owner stands at the door, welcoming his clients and, otherwise, at the cashier and having fun. When I was to pay I requested the bill, but was told to go to him and when I went to him and he, loudly, asked if I had liked the food. When we said “yes”, he shouted: “Then pay!” From Trujillo we continued to Caceres, a town divided in two, part on top of a small mountain and the modern part at its foot. It is a very beautifull and historic city. The top is the old part, circled by a wall, with its narrow, winding streets and an excellent veiw of the surrounings on bottom. Because it was my birthday, we made reservations at what we were told is the best restaurant. At night we went and enjoyed very much the excellent good wine and food which was boar, which I had never eaten. Very good.


Finland (mainland) Visit: 1962-8
2009-08-22 - I went to Finland because I applied for a scholarship from the Facultè International pour L'Ensiegnement du Droit Comparè to study Comparative Law. At the time I was studying my post graduate at the University of Madrid, but unaware of the fact that the student residence would close during part of summer. A friend found a brochure of the course at the bulletin board at the School of Law and brought it to me. All I did was to apply. I went to Paris and at the Station du Nord, met the group that was going to Helsinki. We took the train that would take us through France, Belgium, Germany to Denmark. A few hours in Copenhagen and we took an overnight train to Stockholm. A whole day there and we took an overnight ferry to Turku, the second city in Finland, and from there to Helsinki. This entire long trip without a berth to lay on, sleeping in chairs. Upon arrival, first two things were a bath and twelve hours siesta. The location of the courses was going to be at the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), beautiful campus grounds on the outskirts of the city. The students were from many different countries and there must have been at least fifty nationalities represented, from all parts of the world. The faculty met at different university locations throughout Europe. The diplomas and studies were recognized by the School of Law of the University of Strasbourg. The session was organized by Professor Felip de Solá Cañizares and the lecturers came from schools of law from all over Europe, the United States and Latin America, including my friend from Washington University in Saint Louis, Professor William Catron Jones. During the day we had lectures, but at night and during weekends, we went to downtown Helsinki or to the countryside. The sun would not go completely and there was light on the South sky at mid night; it was never fully dark. For me this was amazing, coming from the tropics. While we were there, a meeting of the communist International Youth took place, with representations from most countries in the world, including a delegation from my country. At a parade that took place through the center of the city, I was able to recognize those who attended because I knew them from the University of Costa Rica. This parade did not end well, since the Finnish did not like the Soviets and started throwing stones at the parade and the buses that were took the delegations around. Of course, the police arrived very soon and tear gas was thrown at the rioters. I got tear-gassed, my eyes started to weep and had to go into a restaurant. On a happier note, a group of friends invited me to a sauna and it was great fun. It was at a cottage in the country and a lake beside it. We heated the ambiance with coals and threw water into them in order to raise the temperature. In order to have our blood circulate, our friends had tree branches to hit one another. After a while we would jump in the lake, which was cold at about 9 or 10 degrees Celsius, and went back to the sauna. We did this three times and then had some beer to regain some of the liquid we had lost. It was a beautiful day. I will always remember Helsinki as a most beautiful, hospitable and likable place. Finnish are lovely people. I would love to return.


Flemish Region Visit: 2005-8
2009-10-01 - In August 1995 fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I visited Belgium and took a tour to Gant and Bruges. Antique cities, kept with love. We admired the churches in each of the cities, dating into the Middle Ages. It is evident that the legacy of culture and arts were conserved after the Greco Roman times and enhanced by the Church, because it is unending. The sights of Belgian the countryside are very beautiful, sometimes languid, compared to the lush and vibrant tropical scenery that I am used to in Costa Rica. There was no time to enter the many interesting historical background; a pity. I want to urge fellow travelers to What Is New in the menu and vote "yes" to recognizing Belgium as a group of places, same as Canada, Russia, India, United States, China, South Africa, etc. because Belgium is a federal state. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.


Florida Visit: 2008-8
2009-05-26 - My first time in Miami was January 1960, because it was the gateway into the United States. The purpose of the trip was to take advantage of a scholarship to study Comparative Law at the School of Law at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. In this almost 50 years, changes have been enormous to the better, but certain very nice things do remain. We stayed only one night, on our way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for three days, and later to St. Louis. We took a taxi to make a city tour to show what was there at the time. And what was of special interest was the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, of which I had heard much. It was excellent and still is! I then made it a point to stay there in the future, which I did 14 years later, already married and at the time with two children and my mother. I recommend it because I believe it is still one of the best hotels in the world, beautifully built, great service, very nice recreation areas and the beach in front. They had a window to the swimming pool and through it you could see what happened inside the pool. It was great to see my then ten year old son Octavio jump from the diving board into the water and see his entrance and down almost to the bottom. That same trip, we took our children to Jacksonville, where we rented a car and drove to St. Augustine -the oldest city in the US, with a stone fort to defend it. From there we went to Disney World a must for every child, five or older, in the Continent. I keep with great dedication a photograph of my mother in the merry-go-round. At the roller coaster I found out the my son had already learned, at seven years old, to curse as much as an old guy! From there we went to Miami and I liked it so much that in 1975 I purchased my first apartment, close to the airport. Ever since, I go to Miami on a regular basis. That first apartment I changed for a better one on the Bay of Biscayne in 1983, which I still have. It is my opinion that Miami is one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world: superb views of the sea and the bay, with water all around, excellent trendy and fun restaurants (Morton's, Perricone, Joe's Stone Crab, Casa Juancho, Van Dyke in Lincoln Road, Villagio at Merrick Park, La Brasserie at Brickell Key, Larios at Sunset, La Carreta, Versalles, even Tutto Pasta) delightful climate, one of the most developed, sophysticated and maintained white beaches in the world, especially South Beach, passable theater, good classical music, beautiful zoo where the animals are in replica environments, some museums and art collections, people with good attitude and, for my family, fine shopping in Spanish (is this good?) in Dadeland, Aventura, Bal Harbor, Sawgrass, Merrik Park, etc. Something fun to do and different is to take a car to the Everglades (West on Calle 8) where you can stop at a simple restaurant and eat frog legs and alligator steak and take a boat, with a big propeller on the back, and visit the wild life there. A must in Florida is the Tampa - Saint Petersburgh Bay Area. There you find a beautiful bay with excellent beaches and very fine restaurants. Busch Gardens are very close and do deserve a visit for several hours. A very nice trip is Key West at the end of the chain of little islands that are the Southernmost United States. The trip, although long, is nice and the town is very scenic. The sunset is very popular and a must where there is not much to do. You find all kinds of people, many peddling their merchandize and souvenirs or doing stunts. Another huge plus about Florida is that with time, I also made excellent friends that I enjoy whenever I go, which is very important.


France Visit: 1978-8
2009-08-22 - My first time in France, I came from Sapin in October 1967. We were going to visit the fiancè of a Spanish friend and he invited me to go with him if I helped drive. We visited the fun places and only one time did I do tourist thing when I went up the Tour Eiffel and enjoyd the gorgeous sight. We had dinner at Maxim's, wher Aristotle Onasis dined with two American Girls. The violins came and played Happy birthday to my friend's fiancè and everybody had notice us. From there we sent to a discotheque on the Montmatre area called L'elephant Blanc and very soon after we entered, Mr. Onasis and the two girls came. Since I was not with anyone in special, I went to his table to ask whether I could dance with one of them, introducing myself in Spanish (I remembered that Mr. Onasis had lived in Argentina) as a member of the Costa Rican Embassy in Spain, which I was. He alloswed me to dance with one of the girls who taught me how to dance the "twist", which I can still do. When we left, passed two at night, we went to a small all night place to have the soup a l'onion at a small place on the side of the Georges V Hotel, called Le Calvados, that had excellent piano music, with the pianist playing romantic American soft songs: Laura, Summertime, Smoke gets in your Eyes, etc. A short while later came Mr. Aristotle Onasis and we met for the third time. Now my friends asked me to bring him to the table and he did come with the two girls. We ended sell into the morning! We stayed in France three days and returned to Madrid. Years later, already married to fellow traveler Elizabeth, I returned to Paris, stayed at the Ritz and did the normal Paris tours: Tour Eiffel, Le Louvre, Arc de Triomph, Place de la Concord, etc. In front of La Madalaine, there is a small restaurant and we asked for steak a la poivre vert. Elizabeth, who is a marvelous cook, paid attention to the cooking and said that, upon our return we would cook the dish, at Au Printemps we bought the green pepper from Madagascar and we did cook it later. Excellent. To enjoy traveling, you need, above all, careful and meticulous planning. Otherwise, events will come out wrong, become much more expensive and the fun of it will disappear. Trains will leave, airplanes will not connect, rental cars will not be available, hotel reservation will not be there upon arrival and Murphy's Law will prove infallible. Although careful planning will not avoid things not falling in place, bad experiences will be minimized. But good luck does exist and one must be ready and take advantage of good fortune. In 1978 we decided to do some hopping around Europe and in Cannes we chose the Carlton Hotel to stay. What we did not know is that the Festival de la Pyrotechnique would take place exactly the week we would stay there. Next day of our arrival, as we left the hotel towards the beach, we saw that tables were being placed at the entrance, where normally the automobiles would enter to leave passengers. We asked the reason and were told that fireworks would be the attraction of the night. Immediately, we reserved a table for two. When the night came, we went to our table and found that lights for the whole city had been turned off and only candles lit the tables. In the center of the bay, a hundred meters plus from the beach, a barge was anchored and from there the fireworks were launched and all people on land, the Croisette and the houses and buildings in town, were able to see the fireworks. The spectacle was fantastic because the whole city was illuminated with the artificial fires and the multicolored lights. Of course, the food and wine were superb. It can not be otherwise in France! Next day, on the road to Saint Tropez, we wanted to open a bottle of red wine for lunch, but had no corkscrew. Thus, I stopped the little yellow rental car and asked a group of people that were having their picnic, to lend me their "tire buzon". Pulling my leg, the answer was that their "tire buzon" worked only on Bourdeax wine. I looked to see if my bottle met the requirement and ¡lo and behold! my bottle was Bourdeax wine. La France, toutjour la belle France.


Galicia Visit: 1999-8
2009-08-14 - Galicia is the North West corner of the Iberian Peninsula. It is very populous section of Spain. Galicia is one of the autonomic regiosn of Spain. Its people have a very strong personality and have migrated widely, mainly to the Spanish American countries, especialy to Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. Fidel Castro's father was from Galicia. (A fact, I am told, is not to his liking.) They have their own language, a version of the romantic languages that exist in the Iberian Peninsula, such as Catalan, Valenciano, Mayorquin and Portuguese. There are several large cities, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Vigo, Fuenterrabìa, etc. I have visited only the first, where the Apostle Santiago is burried. This makes Santiago a major place of pilgrimage in Europe, although I did go by car, entering from Portugal and leaving towards Asturias. During the Middle Ages there were three places of pilgrimage: Holy Places in Palestine, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrims started in Netherlands to Paris and there the pilgrims split to go to their chosen place. This pilgrimage is still very much in vogue, called Camino de Santiago, and people walk thousands of kilometers to show their faith and make penitence. When we were there, we met several people that had just made the pilgrimage. The Cathedral is very beautiful and in the center there is a huge incense burner, El Botafumeiro, that is sent from one side to the other giving its smoke. The mausoleum to Apostle Santiago is underneath the main floor and there are always hundreds of persons making a line to visit. It is one of the main Cathedrals of Europe and well worth a visit. In front of the Cathedral there is a plaza, shared with the Hostal de los Reyes Catòlicos, a five star hostel. All Galicia is known for its excellent cuisine, mainly seafood, since this is the main fishing section of Spain. The climate is rainy and cold, but very nice in summer, which is also the time the pilgrims come. Galicia is very beautiful.


Georgia, State Visit: 1977-5
2009-08-13 - I visited Atlanta with fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth because of the XX Conference of the Inter American Bar Association, for a whole week. We Stayed at the Hilton Hotel, which was the Confernce site. I also visited Atlanta for a meeting of the American Bar Association and the highlight speaker was the then candidate to the presidency Mr. Jimmy Carter. His speach on big government was excellent. Many years later we met Mr. Carter in Haiti. In Atlanta, we visited the beautiful new buildings and excellent restaurants. The Peachtree Hotel has glass elevator that takes clients to up forty five stories to a bar restaurant on the top floor that gyrates every fifteen or thirty minutes that gives the client an all around veiw of the city, including the golden colored dome of the State Congress. Although Atlanta is the hub for Delta Airlines, unless one has something special to do, there is not much reason to go. I will try to remember something else.


Germany (other) Visit: 1999-8
2009-11-04 - We did stop near Hannover for breakfast, since we needed to get to Paris to collect checks waiting at the respective Embassies. In 1999, Elizabeth and I joined fellow traveler Daniel Walker to visit Bieckensohl, a little, quaint town, near Freiburg, in Baden, South Germany. It was its 950th anniversary and the party was for a week long. The town's economic motor is a vintner’s cooperative, where they produce a light white wine, very drinkable. We stayed with a family that gave us the most, friendly, dedicated hospitality possible. The first night, a large portion of the town was invited to meet us, since they were very proud of having a Canadian and Costa Ricans at home. The house had a large basement, where the wine and snaps are kept and our host kept going down to fetch more every few minutes. It was quite a party, with singing and dancing and carrying on! We visited the vicinity, with its grape little farms, and even crossed the border into France to visit Colmar. I believe it was a unique opportunity to get to know the countryside, since many times one dedicates efforts only to cities. From there we went by train to Guterslo and on to Verl, on the North, a very affluent part of the country, with much light industry. I even made a speech on the business opportunities of Costa Rica, sponsored by a cooperative bank in Verl. From there we went to Berlin, undoubtedly one of the outstanding cities in the World. We stayed at the Kempinski Hotel in Kurtfurstendam. They were having festivities on the closed street, lots of beer and dancing; and an exhibition of more than 50 of the then new Mercedes 160, painted in all colors. Warsaw Platz was being built at full speed. We took a tourist bus that took us to parks and city alike, Templehof airport, the last piece of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, the Diet (Parliament) and Charlottenburg Palace. They really gave us our money's worth. People were nice and friendly. At a restaurant, Elizabeth asked for a half duck, which she thought it would be an underdeveloped skinny half duck. No way; it was a huge size first world half duck and she had to eat it! From there we went to Koln, on the Rhine River. I wanted to see the beautiful Cathedral, not a bit less than what the pictures show. Although Koln was bombed mercilessly during the end of WWII, the Cathedral was spared and only one bomb did damage to it. If you visit Germany, this Cathedral is an absolute must; its beauty and history require it. Close by, there is a pedestrian narrow street, with very good stores and where people go by night and have fun. A tour bus will take you throughout the city and it gives yours money's worth; it even takes you to 4711, where Au de Cologne was first made. I must confess that I have been too little in Germany and must make an effort to visit many more places.


Greece (other) Visit: 1995-4
2009-05-16 - For me Greece is the place of birth of it all, although I am aware of the fact that there were civilizations before the Greek. But I do not want to start a discussion here. Fellow travelers Elizabeth, wife, and Maria del Carmen, sister in law, arrived in Athens a few hours before I did, since they traveled in different airline. They were to go to the travel agent and confirm the cruise on the Aegean Sea that we were to take after Athens, which they did. Afterward they the tried to get lunch, but at the restaurant the menu was in Greek and nobody spoke English or Spanish. Thus, they were taken to an urn, where there were replicas of the dishes served, and asked to choose there. Simple, isn't it. We stayed at the King Minos Hotel ( now Athens Acropol Hotel) on 1 Piraeus Street, very close to Omonia Square. There we found out that Athens is noisier than our San Josè. Every car in town honks at that corner! The Acropolis is a flat-topped rock hill that rises 150 meters above sea level in the city of Athens, with a surface area of about three hectares. From here you can see all the city at your feet. The Parthenon on top of the hill is a beautiful temple dedicated to Greek goddess Athena, built in the fifth century BC on the Athenian Acropolis, under the supervision of the great sculptor Phidias. The principal entrance to the Acropolis is a monumental gateway, called the Propylaea, which is made of white marble. At the Acropolis is also the Erechtheum temple of Athena, built during 421–405 BC, famous largely for its complexity and for the exquisite perfection of its details. Its porch is supported by the Maidens of Athens, also known as Caryatides, located on southern porch of the Erechtheum building. As you face the front of the porch, the three maidens on your right support themselves chiefly on the left leg, the three on your left on the right leg. It is interesting to note that, in spite of a close general similarity, no two maidens are exactly alike, as they would have been if they had been reproduced mechanically from a finished model. We went for dinner to Pláka, the picturesque old historical neighbourhood of Athens, on the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, where the restaurants, bars and fun are. Although most of us have been at Greek restaurants, I must comment that the food has lots of olive oil and much pastries. Not like us in Costa Rica, where food is more international (or so I think). The wine to drink is the good wine, since the cheap is close to undrinkable. To board the cruise, we went to the port Piraeus, very close to Athens, but arrived too early, so we visited the city walking. Interesting is the market, where the merchants advertize their merchandize, meat, vegetables, fruit, whatever by shouting. I took a picture of Maria del Carmen with a man selling a skinned rabbit at her side. She still hates me for that.


Guatemala Visit: 2002-12
2009-05-03 - Guatemala is a very beautiful country, full of lakes and tall mountains. Its Indian population, still keeping their pre-Colombian customs, is very interesting and deserves the study and respect of the traveler. Guatemala City is a large Latin American metropolis, with all the advantages and disadvantages, good hotels, good restaurants, good shopping, large wide avenues, tall buildings, etc. worth visiting. The Presidential Palace is very beautiful. But the real charm belongs to the outer cities, especially Antigua, or Antigua Guatemala, founded by Don Pedro de Alvarado, of fame in the conquest of Mexico's Tenochtitlan. It used to be the capital during colonial times, until it was destroyed by a flood caused by a an earthquake, but the ruins remain. My first visit was when I was for a Holy Week, more than half a century ago. I must say that luxury of the processions and the fervor of the people are as much as that displayed in South Spain. Starting Domingo de Ramos, people work for days on different streets, to make beautiful flower petal carpets on the floor, only to have them destroyed by the passing procession. It must be mentioned that the sculptures of the Holy Family and Saints or other persons represented, normally kept inside the churches, are true works of art that deserve admiration. Many of the churches are in ruins, but the Catholic ambiance is quite noticeable and the churches that survived the flood are witnesses of the religious feeling of the people. The city still keeps much of the colonial cobblestone streets and the houses; everything towered by the impressive sight of Volcàn de Agua, where, it is said, the flood was formed. Antigua has excellent hotels, so the traveler should be able to find good lodging and the restaurants are top, including typical Guatemalan cuisine, together with all kinds of international food. There are many language schools that make it a good place to learn Spanish. Other cities in Guatemala are also very interesting, especially Chichicastenango, which keeps its colonial traditions and in the church the people revere the Catholic and pre-Columbian gods at the same time, side by side. Very interesting must be Quetzaltenango, But I was there only shortly and long ago, but I have the impression of a beautiful, large colonial city. Guatemala has beautiful lakes: near the capital city is Lake Amatitlan, Where th wealthy Guatemalans have country home and their yacht. But the real beauty is Lake Atitlan, with its quaint villages on and huge volcanoes. It is known as a honeymooner’s paradise and the hotels cater to love. Nothing wrong with that!


Guerrero Visit: 1985-11
2009-05-25 - Acapulco is the most important city in the State of Guerrero. My first time there was for honeymoon and my second was for a Conference of the Inter American Bar Association (IABA). Chilpancingo is the state capital, which is a much smaller town. Although it is located on a bay in the Pacific coast of Mexico, only very seldom does the Humboldt Current ever goes into the bay. When it does, the waters become very cold, since it is a current that starts in the South Pole. It is the first full scale tourist development in México. Hotels are first class and many. The beach is not white; it is grayish, but the water is clear and the bay is safe. On the hills surrounding the bay you will find the houses of the affluent and movie stars of Mexico. On a hill close to the city is Hotel El Mirador, on the cliffs of La Quebrada, and from "La Perla", a very good restaurant, one can see the divers leap from the wall of the gully into the sea, aiming at the coming wave. Of course this is a very dangerous dive, because of the height and the indispensable timing with the incoming wave. The principal promoter, architect and visionary for the development of Acapulco was Miguel Alemán Valdés, president of Mexico from 1946 to 1952. The main avenue that runs along the Acapulco Bay is named Costera Miguel Alemán, lined with palm trees. There is a small island in front, very close to Acapulco, with a nice beach called Roqueta. This is a small island located in front of Caleta and Caletilla beaches. To get there, visitors must take a boat that leaves from Playa Caletilla. Take one with a glass bottom so you can admire the underwater life. There was a burro that liked beer and by the end of the day was completely drunk. It must have died of cirrhosis by now. Lic. Josè Luis Siqueiros, then President of IABA, made a dinner party for those of us who attended the Conference. It was a huge success because of the excellent hosts and the beauty of the house, located on the South side hill, with full view of the bay and the center of the city. I understand that Acapulco deep sea fishing remains one of the best in the world. Although there are many new and excellent vacationing and tourist destinations in Mexico, Acapulco remains very good and enjoyable. It is a mature and exiting place for tourists. Do not loose any opportunity to go.


Haiti Visit: 1991-2
2009-06-02 - Haiti is a very special country of the America: It was the second country to fight and win its incependence, after the United States, on the first of January, 1801. They fought Napoleon's armies and won, including his brother in law, Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc the French general and husband to Pauline Bonaparte, sister to the French ruler, who then had the strongest army in the world. It was a very bloody war and so were the first years after independence, under Henri Christope and Jean Jacques Dessalines. I first visited Haiti in 1990, as an observer of the elections that took Jean Bertrand Aristide to be President of Haiti. The group of observers was sponsored by the Republican Party of the United States, and in that capacity, we were able to visit all the voting proceedings, since we were allowed to visit all the schools where it took place. We were given a chauffeured 4x4 and a translator so we could visit wherever we thought important or interesting for our observations. Of course, the actual voting was secret, but later we were allowed to be present during the counting of the votes. During the day, there was absolute order from the people and the military and police stayed in their barracks and participation was massive, and, to me, joyous since haitians could barely believe that a democratic election was being held. The few police were visible only as security and did not intervene at all. Aristide's win was an indubitable, 2 to 1. Port au Prince, the capital, is a picturesque city built on the south of a very large bay formed by two peninsulas to the North and South, and facing a large island called Gonaive, where many people live. It is a very poor and crowded city, where the poor live by the sea and the rich live on the slope of the hill adjoining the city. The American and French ambassadorial residences are built on the hill, going up to Petionville, where the good hotels, the excellent restaurants and the rich live. As observers, we were invited to both Embassies very graciously. The scenery from the each of the gardens was extraordinarily beautiful, with the bay in front and Gonaive in the center. I also visited Citè Soleil during the election. It is probably the poorest part of the city and, definitely, the poorest place I have been. Something important to mention was that the Catholic Mass was full of people, praying with great devotion, as it should be. They knew that it was an important milestone in the history of their country. I must point out that I found the people to be naturally nice and friendly, and they smiled. Because some candidates to congress or municipal councils did not reach the needed 50% of the votes, a runoff election had to take place and I returned in the same capacity. This time it was my turn to visit the countryside and we went all the way to the west end of the south peninsula, to Les Cayes. It is a normal Caribbean environment, less poor than Port au Prince. Nice beaches and tropical agriculture. They all smiled and were happy to inform about the election that was taking place, but the lines to vote of the first election were not there. Evidently, the important one had already taken place before. In February 1991, I still went a third time, now as Special Ambassador of Costa Rica, to the Inauguration of Mr. Aristide as first democratically elected President. As such, I had the opportunity to meet him. Among the special diplomatic international envoys, was Ex-President Jimmy Carter, of the United States, and Elizabeth and I still keep, as cherished reminders, photographs of each of us with him at the Presidential Palace in Port au Prince. Shopping is nothing to mention, but painting is plentiful and sometimes good, although much is wortheless; one needs to look. The rum is Barbancourt, dark, aromatic and excellent. Try it.


Hamburg Visit: 1962-7
2009-12-03 - I was awarded a scholarship to study Comparative Law at the Facultè International Pour l'Ensingement de Droit Comparè, to be held in Helsinki for six weeks. The students were to meet in Paris and take the Express du Nord. We did at 20:00 hours and arrived in Hamburg twelve hours later. Then, trains were not as fast and efficient as now. I was starved, so I got out of the train and looked for something to eat at the train station. It is immense! But I could not get the girl that sold sausages to understand me, so I started sign language, which she understood after several tries with a huge exclamation: "AAAHHH, Frankfurter". Exactly the same as my mother called them, since that name is their name. The best I have eaten. From there, we continued to Denmark. SUMARY: I have only been at the train station and must return soon.


Honduras (mainland) Visit: 2009-8
2010-02-03 - 2009-08-25 I had never been to Honduras' main cities, since I had gone through the country on my way to El Salvador, going by car, and the only town I had been to was Choluteca, a dusty, hot city close to Golfo de Fonseca. I remember that once fellow traveler Elizabeth, wife, and I stopped at a hotel to stay overnight. She went to the air conditioning unit to see the settings, got to close and, pppsssttt, a static electric ray hit her nose. Years later a client decided to make a plant in San Pedro de Sula, on the plains toward the Caribbean coast. This is the commercial and business city of the country. I arrived on Friday and stayed with the rest of those invited to the inauguration of the plant. Next day we went and the inauguration took place, with the cutting of ribbon, speeches and toasts that are normal on such occasions. Then we went to Hotel Copantl, the very good hotel where we were staying and had lunch at the swimming pool. The temperature at that moment was 40 Celsius and very humid. Then I went to sleep siesta and later to mass at a church close to the hotel. As I was in church, a violent, torrential storm started. When mass ended, everybody left and I was left alone, with torrential rain, no taxi in sight and shivering with cold. That much the temperature dropped. I ran to a service station in front of the church and a compassionate car owner took me to the hotel. Next day we went to a tour on the coast and visited the ruins of a Spanish pre-independence fort, San Fernando de Omoa. Very interesting, but very cold, although the adjoining beach looked tempting, but very deserted because of the weather. I was surprised to find that temperature could drop to one third overnight. Years later I visited for a day the capital, Tegucigalpa, on business. Very hilly, but, because I was in business in and out next day, I found nothing to mention. UPDATE: August 2009: After our visit to Islas de la Bahia, (see the apropriate post) we flew to San Pedro de Sula, to catch the tour that would take us to Copan Ruins, three hours and a half away. This a not so old town, built after independence in 1821. It is quaint with very narro streets, not paved, but in stone. The archeological site is composed of the ruins and the museum. This is a very large Maya Indians compound, mainly made out of public places, like ceremonial and sacrifice altars and ball field, made out of stone, in about a kilometer square. Houses of the higher classes were also made of stone. The lower classes had their houses made of wood and straw. There are many sculptures and monoliths all around the compound, made with much symbolism. It must be mentioned that this Indians never went beyond the Stone Age; therefore, all sculptures were made by hitting a tougher stone, in many cases obsidian stone, against a softer stone. It estimated that Copàn was twenty four square kilometers and there lived up to thirty two thousand people in the village. The Mayans were polytheists and had human sacrifices. It lasted from the mid four hundreds before Christ to mid eight hundreds after Christ, when the higher classes left because of pests and bad agriculture. When Spanish colonial times came, the archeological site had been eaten up by the tropical forest. It was discovered and started to be dug and reconstructed starting early nineteenth century, in various stages, even with the help of Harvard University, which took some of the best sculpture to Cambridge and the Government of Honduras is now trying to recuperate them. Any traveler interested in acheology, will surely enjoy this site. It is a major demostration of the culture that was here, in the middle of the Continent, before Columbus came to the Americas.


Ile-de-France Visit: 1978-8
2009-12-21 - As I have pointed out about other places, it is very difficult to write about certain places where things did happen every time you have been there. Such is the case about Ile-de-France, where Paris is located. Every time I was there, experiences were nice, fun or beautiful, or all three. My first time in France, I came from Spain in October 1967. We were going to visit the fiancè of a Spanish friend and he invited me to go with him if I helped drive. We visited the fun places and only one time did I do tourist thing when I went up the Tour Eiffel and enjoyed the gorgeous sight. We had dinner at Maxim's, where Aristotle Onassis dined with two American Girls. The violins came and played happy Birthday to my friend’s fiancè and everybody had notice us. From there we sent to a discotheque on the Montmartre area called L'Elephant Blanc and very soon after we entered, Mr. Onassis and the two girls came. Since I was not with anyone in special, I went to his table to ask whether I could dance with one of them, introducing myself in Spanish (I remembered that Mr. Onassis had lived in Argentina) as a member of the Costa Rican Embassy in Spain, which I was. He allowed me to dance with one of the girls who taught me how to dance the "twist", which I can still do. When we left, passed two in the morning, we went to a small all night place to have the soup a l'onion at a small place on the side of the Georges V Hotel, called Le Calvados, that had excellent piano music, with the pianist playing romantic American soft songs: Laura, Summertime, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, etc. A short while later came Mr. Aristotle Onassis and we met for the third time. Now my friends asked me to bring him to the table and he did come with the two girls. We ended well into the morning! We stayed in France three days partying every night and getting up well into the afternoon. Since I had not seen much of the city, my friend woke me up on day and sent me off to the Tour Effel, so that at least I saw that! Then we returned to Madrid, where I was to do post graduate work in Law. Among the students that were at the student’s residence in Madrid, there was a French boy from Corsica, Christian Giudicelli, who lived in Paris. When in July next year I obtained a scholarship to study Comparative Law at the Facultè International por l'Enseigement du Droit Comparè in Helsinki, Finland, I went via Paris and called my friend. He immediately came and kidnapped me from the cheap hotel I was staying to his home. My punishment was that next day i was to reserve all the afternoon because Mrs. Giudicelli was going to show me how a French lady could cook. Needless to say that lunch took from mid day until six plus in the afternoon, seven or eight different dishes, ending with the inevitable cheeses, everything bathed in the best French wines, of which my friend prided himself on being a connoisseur. Next day we went with some frdiends, including a girl from Costa Rica that I met at Boulevard Saint Michel by coincidence, to visit Nuilly Sur Seine. Not much, but we had fun. Then Christian took me to la Gare du Nord and went on to my rendezvous in Helsinki, via Belgium, to Hamburg, to Denmark and Sweden and by ferry to Turku and again train to Helsinki. Years later, already married to fellow traveler Elizabeth, I returned to Paris, stayed at the Ritz and did the normal Paris tours: Tour Eiffel, Le Louvre, Arc de Triomph, Place de la Concord, etc. In front of La Madelaine, there is a small restaurant and we asked for steak a la poivre vert. Elizabeth, who is a marvelous cook, paid attention to the cooking and said that, upon our return we would cook the dish, at Au Printemps we bought the green pepper from Madagascar and we did cook it later. Excellent. At breakfast one morning by coincidence, we met Costa Rican ambassador in United Kingdom, who had recently resigned and was on his way to visit friends in Italy. Immediately we decided to hit the town that night, which started with drinks at the Ritz, continued with excellent food and wine in a restaurant in Montmartre and ended with dancing and champagne at Chez Regine discothèque. Next day, we went to Cannes, I feeling horrible because of the excesses of the previous night.


Illinois Visit: 1960-2
2009-03-27 - My only visit to Illinois was to Granite City, in the South part of the State, to visit Granite City Steel Corporation. I was taking an excellent course in Comparative Law at the School of Law in Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, across the Mississippi River. For the group of students, it was very informative and interesting to see how a foundry worked and how steel is made, but most interesting was to see somethig that we had heard of but never seen: a computer! It took all of the room and it had to be at air contioned temperature. Probably, it had much less memory, only a fraction, of the memory my home Dell desktop I am using now. I doubt that they still have it; it was so bulky. I have never been to Chicago. SHAME ON ME. It is one of those places everybody keeps recommending. Maybee I need a client who needs me there. I would certainly take some time to see the Cubs.


Islas de la Bahia Visit: 2009-8
2009-09-07 - The Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahia, in Spanish) were first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to America in 1502, the only one in which he was in the main land. Roatan, the largest and most developed island, is a long and narrow piece of coral reef and volcanic rock, long going East to West on the North shore of Honduras, with a paved road goes almost from one end to the other. It is densly populated and still growing; lots of construction still going on. Roatan can be reached from La Ceiba by Ferry or airplane with a stop in La Ceiba.Airplane service is given by an Honduran subsidiary of Taca, which is a good sign of safety and puntuality. The island is dedicated to tourism because of the beautiful beaches and excellent snorkeling, typical of the Caribbean. Although West End is the center of tourism, you find very good small hotels and resorts all the way to the East End. If traveler wishes to party and enjoy different restaurants and bars out of its hotel, the West is the place to go; but the East is the way to go if the traveler wishes to enjoy water activities and sports or simply relax and enjoy nature, as fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I wanted. In the East End, looking North is Paya Bay resort, an extensive property with a ten room boutique hotel on a ridge overlooking the sea. It belongs to the Mcnab family, who do an excellent job ar running it. It has good simple facilities and lots of nature. Views are fantastic and the service and food are top notch. The thousand different red to orange to yellow colors sunsets on the wooden deck are magnficent. Paya Bay has three beaches and excellent snorkelling areas. We also took a boat to Pidgeon Cay, a ninety minute ride from Paya Bay, on a mirror flat sea that allowed us to look the bottom of the sea through the crystal clear Caribbean waters. We went past the islands of Guanaja, Morat and Santa Elena. On the islands people have built housees, that you can only get to by boat. There are also small hamlets of people that live from the sea. There we snorkeled in exellent calm sea, with sun that permitted us to enjoy the beautiful multicolored fish and, from time to time, a lobster under the crevises of the rocks. It is a real treat. We returned from Pidgeon Cay by the way of the canal between Roatan and Santa Elena. Because of the high and very extesive marine continental plataform North East of Honduras, (look at it in Google Earth), the sea is relatively shallow, perfect for lobster breeding. This is the main food staple in the Islands. Delicious and relatively cheap. I hope to return. We had a good time! I do recommend voters to vote YES at "WHAT IS NEW / VOTING" since the island does deserve to be included as a destination by itself.


Italy (mainland) Visit: 1995-4
2009-05-07 - Italy is unfinishable; its size and variety are such that a short post is impossible. Therefore, I will make a division into cities and regions: ROME: Three thousand years of recorded history (this may be wrong by a couple or three centuries, but, after so long, who cares). For me, a lawyer in the Civil-Roman Law tradition, it is specially awe inspiring to go to Rome. I find myself making quotes from Papiniano and Ulpiano and other classical scholars all the time, especially in my writs to Court. Maybe this is the reason it has taken me so long to write about it. First advice is to book a hotel in the center of the city, so you can walk. Although this is a large city, its beauty and history demand that you take your time to do it. I took a tour and the bus took us to see Michelangelo’s Pieta and the bus left. The rest was on foot. In fact, being lame, I paid to have the privilege of walking! But there is something more: traffic jams are so bad and parking so scarce that a car becomes a nuisance. And taxis are very expensive. Via Veneto (with a coffee or a beer at Donney's); the Roman Forum; Castel Sant'Angelo; Piazza Espagna; Monumento a la Republica, with the Monument to Victor Emmanuele II; the Coliseum; the Termi de Caracalla; Trajan Statue and the Trajan Markets; Piazza Navona, with its statues by Bernini; Panteon; Fontana di Trevi; Piazza Barberini, with Tritone by Bernini; Piazza dei Popolo; Santa Maria Trastevere; Villa Borghese, park and museum; Capitolio; Porta Pinciana: etc. are all obligatory. Although the Vatican is another post, the boundaries are inside the city of Rome. Not going to each of these places is punishable. Even the Excelsior Hotel is a must. Food in Rome is excellent, as could be expected and, of course, pastas are the mainstay and delicious, but the rest is also very good. Capri is supposed to be the best restaurant; although this claim may be exaggerated, the prices are. The restaurants at Santa Maria Trastevere are very good and more moderately priced. One has hunting food and is lots of fun. Back in 1978, Alfredo (me) went to Alfredo's to eat Fetuccini Alfredo, that were done by Alfredo on Alfredo's (me) birthday. Excellence made pasta! I always go back. But there are thousands of restaurants, so do not eat hamburgers! If the climate permits, do sit outside. Wine in Italy is very good if it is expensive. The cheap wine is not good, on the verge of not being drinkable. If you spent lots to get there, do not become cheap with cheap wine. NAPOLI: I did not really go to this beautiful city, but saw the bay as we entered. The bus only stopped for lunch and a singing of Santa Lucia. The bay in Naples is gorgeous. This is why "Vere Napoli, dopo morire". It is on the way to Costa Amalfitana, that is very beautiful. On the way you Stop in SORRENTO: This is a very nice town, with not much to see, but nice. There you take the boat to CAPRI: which is a very white, beautiful little town on top of a hill, with narrow streets and no cars at the time. You walk. It has some bars and restaurants for the many tourist that flock in. It is worth while, since you are already there. This is also where you take the boat to go to the Blue Grotto, worth every cent and more of the amount paid to go. The intense blue color is just amazing. POMPEII: The ruins of this must city are very interesting from the archeological point of view. It is evident that humans act the same way two thousand years later. Technology has improved, but we do the same things. Good or bad, but this is the truth. Conservation was very good, but care of these treasures was not, although I understand that it has improved much. I do recommend a visit, since this is one of the few instances that preservation has been that complete. The ashes and fumes of the Vesuvius did what could not have been done by convincing. FLORENCE: The city of art, no doubt. It is not small and every corner you find beauty in abundance. First mention must be to the Duomo, name given to the main church, Cathedral, in the cities of Italy. This one is beautiful and reminds us that the Church, being eternal, has the ability to conserve for ever. The museums, the Piti Palace was first built by Florentine merchant Luca Pitti, who died before the palace on the other side of the Arno was still finished. Apparently the building was much smaller than the present one. Then, Florence was governed by Pitti's implacable adversaries, the Medici, and destiny was to have it that the building end up in their hands when the rich wife of Cosimo 1 bought it with the park and square lying in front of it, as the House of Medici official home in 1550. Palazzo Pitti, opening on to the Boboli gardens, was a more prestigious and appropriate alternative for the Medici than their residence in Palazzo Vecchio, still the symbol of Florence's Republican past. By doubling its internal volume depth and adding side wings, this bare 15th century building was transformed into the most monumental of the late Renaissance Florentine buildings. The Medici did not, in fact, move into it stably until many decades later and the Palace was used as a kind of representative hotel for ambassadors and kings besides being the place where they held the court's worldly events. The Medici Family, who reigned the city and vicinity, was undoubtedly destined to be the great exponents of the importance given to the arts during the Renaissance. They were heirs of the Roman spirit of a thousand years earlier. Gaius Maecenas, the benefactor of the arts in Augustus times, was reborn there, in the Medicis. The paintings include Raffaello, and several works by Tiziano. The 17th and 18th centuries are represented by some Caravaggio masterpieces and by one of the most important Italian foreign painting collections, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Murillo. The Uffizi Gallery is another of the Museums that are a must: The Uffizi Gallery (Italian: Galleria degli Uffizi, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, is housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a palazzo in downtown Florence. Building of the palace was begun by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates — hence the name "uffizi" ("offices"). There are works by most of the Italian artists and it is said that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo gathered at the Uffizi "for beauty, for work and for recreation." The art treasures of the Medicis remained in Florence by terms of the famous "Patto di Famiglia", negotiated by Anna Maria Ludovica, the last Medici heiress; it formed one of the first modern museums. Very important in the life of the city is the Arno River that cuts it in half. The bridge over the Arno is a large display of jewels by the merchants who sell their wares there. VENEZIA: So much has been written about this amazing city that everything is going to repetitive, so please bear with me. Decidedly, the main attraction is the Cathedral on the Piazza de San Marco. It is made in Byzantine architecture. It lies on Saint Mark's Square and is adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the "chapel" of the Venetian rulers, and not the city's cathedral. But since 1807, it has been the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is gilded Byzantine mosaics and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power; from the 11th century on, the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold). Again, because the Church is Eternal, its monuments, the churches, are forever and well up kept and maintained. The museum, the Palazzo del Doge is very good and is an obligatory visit in Venezia. It has the fine, largest Tintoretos on the ceremonial galleries that I have seen. It has many medieval artifacts, including chastity belts. The Bridge of Sighs that houses two overlapping corridors was used to serve as a link between the Old Prisons, in the Doge's Palace, and the New Prisons, situated beyond the Palazzo River. It is said that one could hear the sighs of the condemned as they were being led to prison. Its arched profile, suspended over the water of the Palazzo Rio, composes one of the most famous scenes of the city. The Grand Canal is the main artery of the city, where the gondolas are chartered (very expensive). I did not go to Murano Glass, but I understand it is very interesting and nice. The city, to summarize, is a museum itself. Every corner is ancient and interesting. MILAN: This is the motor and nerve of Italy. La Borsa Italiana, based in Milan, is the main stock exchange of the country. The Duomo is the Cathedral of Milan. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. Started the XIV Century, it took two hundred years to finish. It is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe, and that is a lot to say. In front of the Duomo there is a beautiful, big Piazza dei Duomo, with lots of pigeons. We found that on a certain day of the week, the South American immigrants meet at this Piazza. On the right side is Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle, where excellent stores are located. I bought ties (since I am an old fashioned lawyer that stll wears a tie to work). La Scala de Milan is here, famous for being the most important opera theater of the world. It is not very so luxurious. It is almost a let down. Here is the Sforza's Castle art gallery. Here you can see the famous Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo. It is very much worthwhile. Milan has a most important industry: this is the fashion capital of Italy and the most famous boutiques are in Montenapoleone Street. PORTOFINO: This a let down town. Italians love it because it is quaint and they gather there during summer; and everybody knows everybody. But if you do not know anybody, you are in for a bore. There is no beach, no place to go and nothing to do, except eat and drink; and this I can do in Costa Rica. GENOVA: This is a very important port, with lots of commerce. Again the Duomo of this city is very beautiful, but it has no piazza in front. There are some ruins that the Genovese claim that it is the birthplace of Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus). Si non e vero, e ben trovato. If it is not true, it is a good try... There is a very nice tour on the vicinities of the port, good for a nice stroll. I will come back to increase on Italy, as remembrances come back.


Jamaica Visit: 2008-8
2009-10-14 - In April 2008, I was going to spend Holy Week vacation at Couples Ocho Rios, but the resort closed down, even if I had confirmed paid reservations, one week before the scheduled trip. Book It, the travel agent, sent an email informing me that, since my reservations were cancelled, new bookings were made at Lido Braco resort, at no cost because they used the funds returned by Couples Ocho Rios. I was very unhappy because I wanted Couples Oho Rios and not Lido Braco, but I was not about to reject the new reservation, since I did not have any other. Grand Lido Braco turned out to be a first class resort, with excellent services, very good food, good rooms and a nice white sand beach and transparent warm sea water. And employees were at the immediate order of whatever whim the clients requested. With huge a smile! The wine was Tarapaca, a good Chilean cabernet sauvignon, and the scotch was Johnny Walker Black, what I like. Although I do not play golf or tennis, I did enjoy the gym, which had very good equipment and good attendance, although not crowded. The Caribbean climate helped, sunny and warm, as it should be. The other clients were very nice, with attendance mainly from USA, Canada and UK, although there were people from other nationalities. None other from Latin America. It was so good that the vacation flew by and at the end of the week; it was one of the best vacations ever. But things did not end there: About a week after my return to Costa Rica, I received a letter from the Couples organization, apologizing for the cancelation at Couples Ocho Rios and offering to give me a week at any of their resorts, compliments of Couples! Of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Jamaica again and went in August to Couples Sans Souci for another week. It did turn out to be as good as Lido Braco: excellent food, excellent beach and Caribbean warm water, several swimming pools, well designed gym, excellent bedroom with a living room with a mini bar fully stocked and terraceoverlookin the garden and azzure Caribbean, and, to top, good service. Clientele was USA and UK. No Latin Americans. Since it is close to Ocho Rios, I did visit the town, which is quaint. Prices at the shops are not cheap, but it is not a shopping destination. Supermarkets are well stocked and the Jamaican food is plentiful and worth trying. People in North Jamaica are very nice and smile. I have not been in Kingston, only a short time at the airport, so I can not comment. People are proud of their heritage and history. Everything was clean and orderly. The tourist is well accepted and is given its money's worth. A seasoned traveler should enjoy Jamaica very much. It is fun!


Languedoc-Roussillon Visit: 1999-9
2009-12-01 - Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the twenty six regions of France. It is crossed by the Rhone River that reaches the Mediterranean at Port Saint Louis. It is a section of France of great beauty, although not as well known as the Cote d'Azure. The beaches are excellent and the wine and food superb. We, fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth, and I had rented a car in Madrid and were on our last leg of our six week trip towards Barcelona, where I was to attend a meeting of the International Bar Association and a meeting of the London Court of International Arbitration. We left Marseille sooner than we expected because bad weather had set in and at least two day more it would rain. We did go into Montpellier, but were unable to find a room at any of the hotels. It was a great pity, since the city seemed to be very beautiful and fun, being a university town. Still on perfect roads, se arrived in Arles, where we were surprise to find beautiful and very interesting Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and a Coliseum, similar to the famous one in Rome. Being a lover of bullfights, I found if fitting that the Coliseum is dedicated go be a bullring. The city dates back before the start of the Christian Era, approximately. It also has an old Cathedral and it is on the bans of the Rhone River, very close to the mouth. It has many outdoor restaurants and nice parks. We continued our trip towards Nimes, and on the way between Arles and Nimes we stopped at a chateau to purchase wine, where they promised to ship wine with my name, provided it was at least a container. With my own label! In Nimes we found more Roman ruins, including a building for public ceremonies and another Coliseum, also dedicated to bullfights and with a statue of the cities’ famous bullfighter, El Nimeño. It is very nice city. It surely deserves a visit. The last city we visite was Narbonne, which surprised us with its beauty and high demeanor. We got there by chance, since Elizabeth lsot the autoroute ticket, so we decided to get out at the next exit, which happened to be Narbonne. Narbonne is linked to the nearby Canal du Midi and the Aude River by the Canal de la Robine, which runs through the centre of town. The Cathedral of Saint-Just is a jewel, started in the Nineth Century and rebuilt during the XIII Century, it has not stopped being finished. It is truly monumental. We went around the city on foot and saw a street that it is claimed to be what was the Via Domitia, in the center of the city, the first Roman road in Gaul, built at the time of the foundation of the colony, and connecting Italy to Spain. We had an exquisite sea food dinner at an excellent restaurant on the river bamk, with decious white wine from the region. Next day we bought a museum ticket that took us to a very interesting underground pantry, the Roman Horreum, a former grain warehouse, built underground as a cryptoporticus, where the grains were kept cool during Roman times. We also visited the "Palais des Archevêques", Archibishops Palaces Art Gallery, which proved to be yet another beautiful surprise because of the excellent quality of the paintings from many masters, including a Ribera, and some charming paintings from a painter who made several paintings of Moroccan women, among other words that would take long to describe and mention in detail. We found art and beauty by loosing an autoroute ticket. From there we went to Perpignan, which we only saw from the car, since we had to continue to Barcelona.


Liguria Visit: 2005-4
2009-11-24 - Liguria is one of the smallest regions of Italy, South of Piedmont and Lombardy, on the Ligurian Sea. Genoa, main city and Capital, is known as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Indeed this is the main known fact of the place. You can visit the explorer's home, which happens to be next door to the serene 12th-century cloisters of Sant'Andrea. The Doumo is very close and also worthwile the visit, although I found it stange that it has no plaza in front. But this is a very beautiful city in North Italy, very close to the border with France. Besides being a port, it is evident that it is very commercial. It has many vacationing places, such as Santa Marghereta Ligure and Portofino. We went to Portofino to enjoy a few days but found that it was not to our liking, since there was not much to do, except sleep and eat good but expensive food. The hotels are good, but small and expensive, without the amenities that bigger hotels have. There are no beaches and only an old fortress on top of a cliff, with a nice veiw. It only serves as a place to anchor you yacht, but I have no yacht.


Louisiana Visit: 2003-6
2009-05-03 - My parents loved New Orleans because my grandfather was operated there in 1947 and they had to spend several days there. I still remember the 78 RPM records they brought back to Costa Rica sang by Charles Trenet, who must have been a youngster then. So, many years later, when I went to Dallas to study American and International Law at the Southwestern Legal Foundation, in 1974, an Argentinian and a Swedish and I decided to go visit for a week end. I always say that the best blessing you can have is good, inteligent friends. Off we took on Friday to come back to Dallas on late Sunday. We found a booklet that described two self guided tours of the city, on on foot and the other by car. First we made the one on foot that took us to the quaint hidden corners of the beautifull city in the Quartier Latin, the French part of town, that were descibed in our booklet. The main idea was to point out the architecture, around Bourbon Street, the best wrought iron balconies of the best houses, where the fine creole restaurants are and where the fun is at night. We even visited an old cementery, where witches are buried, and it did not amount to much. We did go to The Church of St. Louis (the antique clock inside was made by Henri Fournier, a relative?) and the park in front, with the beautiful equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson. At another park we were shown a pile of earth, which was placed there because New Orleans is so flat, to show school children could see what a mountain looks like... The Argentinian did point out that the Mississippi is not very wide, since you can see the other side, while in Rio de La Plata you can not see the other side. I was able to verify this a year later, when I visited him in Buenos Aires. Of the good restaurants, the best was Gallatoire and the Maitre d'Hotel told us to say that it was the birthday of one of us. We did and were given the best table, plus we had the seranade of a fat Irish waiter who sang Happy Birthday to the Swede at full lung and volume, togethe with a birthday cake. Food was excellent and the wine chosen tops. We ate at the Court of Three Sisters, with excellent wine. We also had breakfast at Brennan's. It was superb, bottle of champagne and everything! We ate breakfast from nine in the morning to one in the afternoon. We also crossed Lake Pontchaitrain, fifteen mile long and had lunch on the entrance. We had soft shelled crabs, which we found very good, bathed in good white wine. I liked New Orleans so much there that I called Elizabeth to change her itinerary coming to New Orleans, on her way from Costa Rica. We had much fun and I showed her what I had seen a week before, but also went to one of the best restaurants I have been to, Antoine, and their wine collection is one of the best I have seen. There we had a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. I still remember Eizabeth scolding me for my sybaritic tastes! If you go to New Orleans, please: do not miss Antoine! In 2003, the Interamerican Bar Association had a conference there and we returned. The city was as beautiful as before, but not as well taken care of. The restaurants are there, but I am afraid that Hurricane Katrina may have damaged much. Do go; it is well worth it.


Madrid Autonomous Community Visit: 2001-8
2010-01-16 - My first time in Spain was when I won a scholarship to study my post graduate at the School of Law of the Unversity of Madrid, in 1961. It started a series of visits that I hope will never end. It is a very beautiful diverse and interesting country, top legal minds, good cuisine, wonderful wine, lots of history, very good beaches that are fully developed, excellent museums, very good "futbol", colorful folklore and Madrid is one of the mayor cities of the world, with the best of everything. It is probably one of locations where a tourist can not be bored, even if he tries! Since I lived there a year and have returned there may times, I will add to this post as I remember memorable places that I believe that should be shared. It was the times of Generalìsimo Francisco Franco. I was going to live a student residence Relaciones Culturales of the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, but the first day I stayed at the Ambassador Hotel, in Avenida Josè Antonio, as the Gran Vìa was then called. Next day from my arrival, I took a taxi with my bag and requested to be taken to my destination. It was a long drive, very scenic, but I later realized that it was a run around of more than four times the needed distance... Taxi drivers are the same everywhere. I did not know then that one should look at the map before taking a taxi in a city one does not know. The student residence was a high end residence, where foreing students who had received scholarships went and many Spaniards from the provinces lived while they studied for foreign service examinations -diplomacy-, and other civil service posts. By now, all those that became diplomats are now retired, many as ambassadors of Spain. As other cities in Europe, Madrid has a very old part, known as "Madrid Antiguo" very quaint and with narrow streets and many restaurants. At the entrance is beautiful "Plaza Mayor" with the excellent equestrian statue of Philip V As any European city, Sundays in winter are very dull, so I invested time in admiring the Museo del Prado, one of the mayor art collections of the world, on par with Louvre in Paris, National Gallery in London, National Gallery in Washington or Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. My impecunious condition as student was also helped by the very reasonably priced cafeteria. There, on the top floor, the Spanish masters are of course represented profusely, Ribera, Velazquez with his "Meninas", Murillo with his "Concepciones", Zurbarán, El Greco with his Apostles, Goya with his portraits of the Royal Family and the dressed and nude "majas" which are portraits of the Condesa de Alba, together with masters from all the other countries of Europe. One must mention the special Goya exhibition on the lower floor, called the black era, when the master was loosing his mind. It can be seen that he was announcing the Impressionists, to come almost a century later. In 1978, since I enjoy bullfights very much, I took Elizabeth to one at Ventas bullring in Madrid. The place was full, but many were tourists, since it was late August, the height of the tourist season. In order to clarify things to her, as the "corrida" got started and because it was not very good, I explained to her: “When you see people clapping in approval, those are foreigners, those whistling are Spanish.” Simple, is not it? In Madrid food is excellent, from the top money restaurants like Jokey, Horcher, Club 31, St. James, Zalacaìn and several others, to the less expensive, like Josè Luis, Los Sobrinos de Botìn and others, the excellent "tascas" or the "tapas bars", like those in Calle Echegaray, Museo del Jamòn, etc. In these places the house wine is normally very drinkable; in fact, they pride themselves on the quality of their house wine. Special mention must be given to Chicote and its collection or museums of wines and spirits, immortalized by Agustin Lara's pasodoble "Madrid". I have stayed at all types of hotels in Madrid, from two stars to five stars and most are good, freom the Palace down. The prices range, of course, from expensive to cheap, but in comparaison are more moderately price than in other Europen countries.


Martinique Visit: 1989-6
2009-08-23 - This is a stop for cruise ships and this is how Elizabeth and I went there. It is a French "Departement d'Autre Mer", with senators in the French Senate in Paris. Fort-de-France, the Department capital, is one of the most strikingly beautiful ports in the Caribbean. Napoleon's first wife, Josephine, was born here. The city is not large, but very colorful. I visited the beautiful two levels main Church, where one level was for the white and the other for their slaves. I visited the main market also and found it to be great fun. People were smiling and eager to explain the fruit and vegetables they had for sale. We were told that the best place to go to the beach was Point du Bont, which is the island's main resort area, with excellent beaches, hotels and other amenities. To go, we had to take a small passenger boat that made the trip fun. This place is very much worthwhile, but I understand it has become very expensive. I could return, because it is beautiful.


Massachusetts Visit: 1981-9
2009-05-08 - On June, 1981, I decided to send my son Octavio to New York Military Academy in Stratford on Hudson, New York, so he could learn English. Before school started in September, I went to see how he was doing and we took the car North and turned East to go to Boston. It is a very nice highway, with typical New England post-card sceneries. The only thing out of common is the well known Attica prison, where recently a riot had happened and several inmates and guards had died. When we got to Boston, we were very positively surprised by the very large buildings and the clean, well taken care of city. We took a city tour to the historic and tourist attractions of the city, which proved to be a good choice, since we were able to see how beautiful this city is. We saw where the Boston Tea Party took place, started by the rebelious Bostonians to fight against taxes not accepted by them. The people being taxed had to be represente when taxes were levied, which eventually brought the Independence of the United Staters. We were taken to see Harvard, probably the most famous University in the United States, and MIT. As somethig special, we passed by the Red Sox Stadium when a home run was hit and the ball fell on the bus. Must have been quite a home run! I took Octavio to the theater to see if he understood the English and was very pleasently surprised that he did. We had dinner in a seafood ship/restaurant tied to the pier, which proved to be very good choice. Father and Son had fun together.


Mexico D.F. Visit: 1999-6
2009-05-10 - Writting my posts, I have found out that it is simpler to write about place one has been only once than about those one has visited many times. I also found out that once I get started, memories start comming back and I need to go back and add to the existing post. I has happened with Miami, Madrid, Nicaragua, Panama, and some others and I am sure it will happen with Mexico. My first time in this beautifull and exiting city was in 1953, on my way to Los Angeles. Later I have returned many times, for pleasure, honeymoon, conferences and business. As only in major cities of the world, I do not think that you ever finish getting to know the place completely. Mexico D. F. has everything: restaurants, museums, "futbol", bullfights, colonial gold plated churches, shopping, universities, and people from everywhere, since it is a very hospitable country. On a clear day, one can admire the beauty of the two beautiful snow caped volcanoes, Iztacciuatl, the sleeping maiden, and Popocateptl, the warrior guarding her sleep. Within the city is Parque de Chapultec, where Museo de Arqueologia is located, a must in the study of human development. In the park is Palacio de Chapultepec, the residence of Emeperor Maximiliano, imposed by French Emperor Napoleon III and overthrown by Mexican patriots. In the center of the city you also find especially beautiful places: at the side of El Zócalo, the main plaza is the Catedral Metropolitana and its gold plated altars; Palacio de Bellas Artes, where the best ballet and symphonic music are performed, including the Ballet Folclorico, indispensable to get the feel of Mexican music; Museo del Templo Mayor; Plaza de la Constitución: Alameda Park and Street; Paseo de la Reforma, full of fountains and monuments. On then center of the city is Plaza Garibaldi, with its mariachi bands, and Teatro Blanquita, where the best of Mexican popular music singers and orchestras perform. My favorite restaurants are La Hacienda de los Morales, San Angel Inn, Restaurant del Lago and others in the Polanco and Zona Rosa sections of the city. Once I went to a restaurant where LUIS AGUILAR performed his mexican "charreada" or "charro" show. It is very scenic and worth your while, since we ate around a plaza where the show took place. The frog legs were very good in garlic sauce, which was first time I ate them. Legal community is large and of the highest standard. In the many times I have been there I have felt the difference in the enviromental situation. The smog is the only down side to Mexico City, but the Government is doing a good effort in stopping the advance. I do hope they are successfull. The Mexicans are very patriotic, and I do not blame them, since it is an excellent country.


Mexico State Visit: 1999-6
2009-04-03 - Writting my posts, I have found out that it is simpler to write about place one has been only once than about those one has visited many time. I also found out that once I get started, memories start comming back and I need to go back and add to the existing post. I has happened with Madrid, Nicaragua, Panama, and some others and I am sure it will happen with Mexico. My first time in Mexico State was in 1953, on my way to Los Angeles, California. My sister was going to study there and my father invited me to go along to leave her there. We visited the Teotihuacan pre Colombian city, which is beleieve to be a sacramental city of the Aztecs. The two main monuments are the Pyramids of The Sun and the Moon, both very tall and across a large plaza. I understand that many of the pre Colombian artifacts at present in the Archeological Meuseum in downtown Mexico D. F. came from this city. It is evident that the tribe living there were very advanced and had a clear idea of social organization and were way beyond the nomadic era. It is a recommendation to anybody visiting Mexico City to go to Teotihucan. It is well spent money. I did go up to the Pyramid of the Sun at that time, together with my sister and my Mom, who then was a youngster and could manage the amount of stairs. I will check in Wikipedia to see how many steps there are. At the top we found an Indian kid selling onyx artifacts, which I thought odd and decided to present my mother with one of them as may appreciation gift for having taken me on the trip. I did return twice to Teotihucan, one with my wife on my honeymoon, and later for the occasion of a Conference of the Inter Amercian Bar Association. Each time I found big improvements and the place better taken care of and clean. The firts two times I had lunch at a restaurant in a cave, called, of course, La Gruta, inagurated in 1910 by President Porfirio Dìas. The food is Typical Mexican and very good. It is well worth looking for it, since it is underground and hidden and not easy to find. The only negative is the amount of fast food places that have sprung. I encourage travalers not to pass by the Sacred City of the Aztecs.


Missouri Visit: 1960-1
2009-03-28 - It is difficult to write about a place that one visited almost half a centrury ago. It happened because the State Department had a grant for six week scholarship for Latin America students who had the top grades in their law schools. The two countries chosen were Ecuador, 8 students, and Costa Rica, 5 students. The course was to study Comparative Law, the comparaison of the Civil Law that we were learning in our universities. We were also to visit Puerto Rico, Washinton and New York and, to visit a foundry, we went to Granite City, Illinois. We took our courses at the School of Law at Washinton University, in Saint Louis. They were starting a program with us and Professor William Catron Jones, of the staff of the Shool of Law was made coordinator of the program. We had the benefit of being given the best and most accomplished of the legal minds of the top Universities of the United States: Professor Karl Lewellyn and his wife Soia Mentschikoff, ... Reinhart, Northwestern University, Chicago, Columbia University, New York. We also had lectures from the professors at Washington University, who were also big leaguers. A must in St. Louis is, of course, the Mississippi River and the park in the middle of the city. The Museum of Art is excellent. We were invited to homes of lawyers there and I remember inviting to Costa Rica a beautifull blond daughter of one of them. She never came. Pity. Because we were law students, we also visited the State penitentiary in Jefferson City, the State Capital. Quite something. Missouri has a continental climate, very hot in summer and very cold in winter. Us tropicals had never seen snow, so we immediately upon arrival embarked in a snow ball fight. Lots of fun, but I did not know at the time that it hurts. Se also went to se where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi River, which must be nice in summer, but in winter all I could see was that both brought lots of pieces of ice. All in all, we did enjoy the six week there and that experience has been very valuable in my professional carreer.


Monaco Visit: 1999-8
2009-05-09 - Montecarlo is a city made to please. Everything is beautifully designed and crafted. Its business is attracting the tourist and the rich who can afford the excellence it provides. The reigning family has done and excellent public relations job and, for centuries now, convince the world of the elegance and quality of life enjoyed at this jewel of the Mediterranean. Having been there on several occasions, I must mention a special one in 1999: We had visited the Palace and the Cathedral, both beautiful and tasteful, and had gone to the Aquarium. After admiring this must of Monaco, we realized that it had become to late for lunch, so we decided to have a quick lunch -salad- at the cafeteria of the Aquarium, which is located at the Terrace of the building. We had just sat at our table, when a loud roar took our attention: it was a set of seven jets of the of the stunts squadron of the French Air Force, that had come to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the reign of His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Prince Rainier. It was a spectacle of the highest caliber. Each airplane was leaving behind a stream of smoke in the colors of the French Flag: red, white and blue. The show lasted more than an hour and from the cliff where the Aquarium is built, it was a vantage point to enjoy the manouvers on the air. And sometimes those manouvers happened between the terrace where we were and the sea below. They were that good. The show ended with a heart of smoke made in the air by the airplanes, crossed with a smoke arrow. It would have been impossible to plan. It is a lifetime remembrance. We went to visit the Casino, and upon entering I saw a large group of people on the other side of the street, waiting to see the possible celebrities attending. We did not gamble, but when leaving I started to salute, as if I was the best known celebrity and the croud across the street gave me a clapping salute back. Lots of fun. We try to travel during August because it is the month of both our birthdays. This same trip, on Elizabeth's birthday, I decided to give her a good deluxe dinner and chose the Cafe de Paris. When the head waiter came, he asked whether we would have "Au de Vichy ou au de Evian". She immediately answered: "Au Municipal de Montecarlo." The man thought this was one of the funniest jokes and went to tell all the other waiters...


Netherlands Visit: 1998-8
2009-06-09 - The European trip fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I took was very enjoyable. We started in Geneva and ended in Amsterdam, having traveled by train all the time. We had the Europass and it was good and rather cheap. Trains I do recommend if one does not want to pay the exesive fares of airplanes and does not want to loose time getting to the airport, which are normally at least an hour away from the center of the city and go from the airport to the center of town, once you have arrived. Therefore, no trip is less than three to four hours, which makes it time consumming and nerve-wrecking. One perfect example is Brussels to Amsterdam, where the distance is short and the scenery between the two cities is very nice. Amsterdam is a great city and I only regrett not having visited more of the Netherlands. Rotterdam and The Hague call my attention as the places I must visit next time, especially The Hague, where the International Court of Justice is located. After all, I am a lawyer! As we arrived, we noticed at the train station, a large several hundred pile of bicycles at the entrance and people needed to go around the bicycles to enter o leave. In Amsterdam we stayed at a hotel very close to the Royal Palace in the Dam Platz, in front of the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. We did what tourists do there: take a tour in the canals to see the city, walk the red light district to see the action, visit one of the sex museums, go to the to Van Gough Museum, drink Heinneken beer, ride the tram, get hit by a cyclist, leave a bar because people got drunk with smoke, not liqour, and, above all, visit the Rijksmuseum, one of the best in the world. In this museum are the paintings mainly from the Dutch Golden Age, including those by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and his pupils, by Franz Hals, his portraits and of his fat lovely girls, Johannes Vermeer, among them The Milkmaid, The Love Letter, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, etc. It is a great city; people enjoy complete liberty; pity people that have that much liberty, in may repects have missused or abused it. Of course, I realize this is an opinion.


Neuquen Province Visit: 1975-10
2009-04-02 - Al Sur de la provincia de Neuquen, Repùlica Argentina, hay un lugar muy especial: el Bosque de Arrayanes, o mitros, tambien conocido como el Bosque de Bambi. Està localizado en el Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi y mide unas doce hectàreas. Estos àrboles de la familia de las mirtaceas, endèmicos de esta zona, llegan a medir quince metros y son muy longevos, pues pueden llegar a los seiscientos cincuenta años. Ahì se filmaron las escenas de invierno de la famosìsima pelìcula de Walt Disney, Bambi. Recuerden las partes en que los ciervos o venados arrancan la corteza de los arboles porque no hay otra comida. Eso su supone que sucede en ese bosque. Muy linda es la Casita de Tè, de madera barnizada, que muy bien da la sensaciòn de casa montañesa, pues lo es. Ahì se venden souverirs y otros dulces para niños, ademàs de tè. Bien vale la pena tomar el barco desde Puerto Pañuelo en SAn Carlos de Bariloche, para ir a ver este bosque y, tambièn, por las hermosìsimas e impresionantes vistas de las imponentes montañas, que se ven desde el barco que te lleva por el Lago Nahuel Huapi. Como todavìa hacìa algo de frio, pues era la mitad de la primavera, los pasajeros se fueron al comedor-cantina a tomar algo para calentar. Entre ellos habìa un grupo de sidicalistas y empezò la cantadera: ".... Peròn, Peròn, Peròn..." y otra vez "... Peròn, Peròn, Peròn....". Me decìa un amigo argentino al volver a Buenos Aires: "¡Puro folklore argentino...!"


New York Visit: 1997-4
2009-04-21 - New York is never-ending. How many times have I been there? I do not know, but I do know that every time I found something interesting, new or beautiful or all three. First time was in 1960, with a group of students and the guide of Professor William C. Jones, of Washington University in St. Louis and, after the law courses, by myself. We visited the N.Y. Stock Exchange, which created a permanent interest in Securities, Corporate and Commercial Law; visited the United Nations, which started my interest in International Law and Diplomacy; at the urge of my mother, went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and its cafeteria (the most beautiful cafeteria in the world with the sculptures by Carl Milles in the center), the Frick Collection and the Guggenheim Museum, which heightened my interest in art and beauty; the Plaza and the Waldorf Astoria hotels (only the lobbies, since I was a student at the time) which taught me that these were the hotels to look for when traveling; we saw basket-ball and hockey, which taught me that "futbol" is a better spectacle; found Costa Ricans in 5th Avenue, by whistling "La Guaria Morada"; visited the School of Law at New York University, in front of Washington Square; went up to the Empire State Building and thanked God, sincerely, there are no earthquakes there; ate at the Louis XIV on the floor of RCA Building and, on the top, at the Rainbow Room, invited a girl to lunch with me at the Tavern on the Green, in Central Park, and dined other excellent restaurants, which must have been the start of my cholesterol and triglycerides; at Saks Fifth Avenue, bought a present for my sister, who was getting married, and bought a suit for myself; I went to the theater to see Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady; I saw the Rockettes in Radio City, beautiful line-up of coordinated legs; also in Radio City, I saw color TV for the first time in my life; walked the street after a snowfall, which taught me that the cold is not for me. Many years later, in late December 1975, I took fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth, son Octavio and daughter Anabel to New York and they loved the Museum of Natural History, especially the replica of the huge whale. I still remember that we went to see the skaters at the park in Rockefeller Center and it started to snow. Since the kids had never seen snow, they started to complain about each other throwing sand at each other; it was snow. We took them to F. O. Schwartz, on 5th. Avenue and 59th. Street and told them that they could by all the toys they wanted, but there were so many and so beautiful that they were not able to buy much! Only a few. In 1981, I sent my son Octavio to N. Y. Military Academy, near Stratford on Hudson, which made me visit New York several times. In one of my trips afterwards to visit my son, I visited West Point. Octavio and I took a trip to Boston by car which took us half way to Albany, before turning right into Massachusetts. I hope to be able to return to this amazing city many times. I love it!


Nicaragua Visit: 1955-3
2009-04-14 - I have been going to Nicaragua since 1955. The name of the country comes from an Indian chief called Nicarao. Most of the times, now beyond count, that I have been there were by road. I have met personally Presidents Rene Schick, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Daniel Ortega Saavedra and Arnoldo Alemàn Lacayo. Quite a selection! It is a beautiful country, with very changing sceneries, but what is truly outstanding is how hospitable, friendly and welcoming people are. Anywhere you go and everybody you meet, gets you an invitation to go to their home, where they will give you the best they have. Nicaraguan cities are mostly colonial and still maintain the old constructions of the Spanish era. Of course, the most beautifull cities are those that were then most affluent, mainly Granada, Leòn and Masaya. Although I must confess that I do not know all of them, many others are also very nice and interesting. Some are on the flat coastal plains, where cotton and cattle are the staples, like Leon and Chinandega, while others are in the highlands, where coffee is grown, like Jinotepe, Diriamba and Matagalpa. The capital of the country is Managua and is of recent construction because of the horrible earthquake that destroyed it on the early hours of December 23, 1972, mainly because of bad construction practices. There are two large lakes, Lake Managua, or Xolotlan, with the capirl city, Managua, and volcanoes Cerro Negro and Momotombo on the side and Momotombito, that rises from of the lake, and Lake Nicaragua, or Lake Cocibolca, that has a large island called Ometepe. From the island, two huge perfect cone volcanoes rise, called Concepciòn and Maderas, which make the trip from Costa Rica to Nicaragua a very scenic and beautiful journey. The rocks that dot the lake near Granada, called Las Isletas, have been turned into private retreats of great beauty and charm. Visiting Nicaragua is always a pleasure and an enjoyable experience. But, of the many times I visited, there is one that caused great impression on me: early in the morning of the night after the earthquake, I decided to go and look for relatives that lived there. Since the airports were closed because of the catastrophe, I went by car. As I got closer to Managua, I could see the evacuation of the city that had been destroyed. I could not realize how bad the situation was because there was no electricity and no radio that could be heard. It shocked me to see thousands of people evacuating by road and every car had the mattreses tied to the roof, since there was no other place to go but out. Unlike now, at that time the tourist development had not come and there were very few hotels to move to. If the mattreses were put in the trunk, they would take all the space necessary for other things, and they were needed! Thank God, the relatives were fine and nothing happened to them, but they lost their home. If the traveler goes to Nicaragua, Nicaraguans will surely make them feel welcome.


North Rhine-Westphalia Visit: 1999-8
2009-12-09 - North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous and most economically powerful state of Germany. It has over eighteen million inhabitants, contributes about 22% of Germany's gross domestic product and comprises a land area of thirty four thousand square kilometers. The capital city is Düsseldorf, and the largest city is Cologne. Anyone that loves beauty and is interested in history, Cologne is a must. Germany's fourth-largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich), and is the largest city both in the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, with more than ten million inhabitants. It is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded by the Romans in the year 38 BC. Cologne lies on the River Rhine. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) is one of Europe's oldest universities. I had always wanted to see the beautiful Cathedral, not a bit less than what the pictures show. Although Koln was bombed mercilessly during the end of WWII, the Cathedral was spared and only one bomb did damage to it. If you visit Germany, this Cathedral is an absolute must; its beauty and history require it. Close by, there is a pedestrian narrow street, with very good stores and where people go by night and have fun. As in all Germany, the beer place was very large and the beer excellent! Give it a try. A tour bus will take you throughout the city and it gives yours money’s worth; it even takes you to 4711, where Au de Cologne was first made. Fellow traveler Elizabeth and I stayed at the Dom Hotel, right across a plaza from the train station and in front of the Cathedral. Service is top; their restaurant very good. I have also passed through Aachen only for short minutes since I was in my way to Belgium and France, a penniless student in 1962, on his way to a check waiting in Paris. I also visited Gütersloh, in 1998, with wife and fellow traveler Elizabeth, where we dined and enjoyed very much. On an invitation to visit Verl, a small but beautiful and affluent city, we also had much fun and people were excellent, inviting us to parties and visits all around. I visited several businesses, including a windows and doors factory, a dairy plant and a ultra modern advertizing agency. The trip was supposed to be pleasure, but I worked a lot, which happens often.


Ohio Visit: 1974-7
2009-12-07 - After courses in Comparative Law at Southwester Legal Foundation, then at Southern Methodist University (SMU), fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I decided to go visit our friend, Doctor Hugh Peyton and his wife Jo Ann in Washington Courthouse, Ohio. They met us at Columbus airport and took us directly to a Polynesian restaurant. Very nice, but moments after we arrived, a very strong earthquake started: our seats and table moved and rocked, the lights went off and noise and rumbling were all around. Then we saw that the volcanoes lit on the wall were in eruption and realized that it was all a hoax to pull the clients' legs! Lots of fun. We toured the Ohio countryside to see the farmlands and the cattle that belonged to Dr. Peyton clients. We also went to see a stock car race , which we had never seen. Frankly, we did no think much about it, but enjoyed going and doing something new. Afterwards, we went for lunch at a cabin he had at a lake, where we did some sailing. Again something new and which I have not done again. The Peyton couple was as gracious as can be. From there we went on to Pittsburgh, New York and Miami. I think we have been very fortunate in having had an excellent group of friends in Costa Rica and abroad.


Panama (mainland) Visit: 2001-6
2009-03-31 - This is the first country I went to, when I was 11 years old, to meet my grand father who was coming to Puerto Armuelles, on a Great White Fleet banana ship. I liked Panama ever since. I can not count the many times I was there. My daughter Anabel had a job as manager of Bambito Hotel in Volcàn -the highlands that border Costa Rica- and married a Panamanian, Marcos. I even have a Panamanian grand daughter, Daniela. Panama City has the usual nice places and restaurants that you find in the tourist guides, but above all it has the Panama Canal, an amazing engineering project carried out by the United States between 1903 and 1914, when it was inaugurated. Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the Canal has passed to Panamanian complete soveringty. Since I went to Panama often for vacation, business or shopping (Christmas shopping, mainly) during the 1970's, I made it a point to visit the Canal every time I went; I like it so much. Now there is a modern museum that tells the story of the Canal. It is very well made and deserves an extended visit. The canal has a railroad and a highway that border it and the veiw of the Canal along both is very interesting, Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Colon Locks, Lake Gatùn and the sight of the ships waiting to enter the Canal. You can see in this page a photo by Emma Ikkala, right here in MTP. I understand that very nice resorts have been recently built along the Canal, with all the conviniences for the upper level tourist. Important visits in the city are the Catheral, with its gold plated altar, the French section of town, around Parque de Santa Ana, built at the time of Ferdinad de Lesseps, who was the first to try building the Canal. The wrought iron balconies are as beautifull as those in New Orleans. The city of Colon, on the Caribbean side of the Canal, is also quaint and deserves a quick visit, although I understand it has become dangerous. The Panama Free Zone is there, but sales are large scale to merchants. Having lunch at the Washington hotel and looking at the North entrance of the Canal is a very relaxing experience. Remember that Panama runs East to West and that the Pacific Ocean is South and the Caribbean is North. The highlands close to the Costa Rican border, Volcan and Boquete, produce excellent coffee that rivals the best in the world. Vegetables and fruits, especially strawberries, are very good, specially near Cerro Punta, where serveral Yugoslavs have established residence. Sights there, with Baru Volcanoe in the background, can be very beautifull.


Paraguay Visit: 1976-4
2009-03-31 - I went to Paraguay to attend a Council meeting of the Inter American Bar Association. We went to visit Lago de Ipacarai, at a country club they had there and the "parrillada" was top. They had a guitar and arp trio that sang the folkloric music of Paraguay. Beautifull! After the meeting, I took a bus to go see the Iguaçu waterfalls, in the neighboring Brazilian Paranà State (which is another post). On the road I could se large piles of dirt that Idid not know what they were. I was explained that they were ant hills that cause much damage to agriculture. Chillo is the national dish, a river, fresh water fish. It is very tasty and is cooked in serveral ways. I liked Paraguay very much and the Paraguayans took excelent care of us. The girls are oustandingly beautifull, as any traveler will immediately notice. Paraguay has come a long way in its history towards democracy, of which I rejoice, but at that time you could feel the wheight of the dictatorship they had when Alfredo Stroessner was in power. One night I went to the casino at the hotel and won some dollars in the black-jack table, so I decided to spend the money at the serveral roulette tables. I started to accomplish my goal, but when I tried to finish my hard-earned money at the last table, a burly looking man with a big bulge under his left arm, stood in front of me and informed me that it was a private table. I looked to see why and saw that all the people (plainclothsmen) were looking out of the table, not towards it; and gambling by himself was Stoessner. It must be very lonely to be a dictator.


Parana State Visit: 1976-4
2009-05-08 - I visited Parana State in Brazil because I had attended a meeting of the Council of the Interamerican Bar Asociation in Asunciòn, Paraguay. We took a bus early morning and arrived nine hours later in Puerto Stroessner, in Paraguay, and later in Foz de Iguaçu, in Brazil, and the Iguaçu Waterfalls early afternoon. The Falls are definitly a major sight in the world. The huge amount of water is unbelievable and the height of the waterfall is impressive. One walks on a narrow walkway on the botton and looks up to the falling water that even sprinkles you and looks as if it is going to fall on you. Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil are the three very interested countries in the Falls, since, we were told, Paraguay has the tourism, Argentina the Falls and Brazil the sights. In each of this three countries, there are restaurants and hotel facilities where a travaler can stay. No trip to South America is complete without Iguaçu! It is really worth while, so I recommend that you do not miss it.


Pennsylvania Visit: 1977-12
2009-09-18 - I had to go to Pittsburgh several times as counsel for the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). In 1956 a group of geologists for Alcoa came to my father's office and requested his services. That same year I started Law School and working at his firm, at the same time. This started a relationship that was to last until 1978. In 1998, I received a call from the Legal Department of Alcoa and was asked to be Alcoa's counsel again. Of course, feeling highly honoured to be remembered twenty years later, I accepted. Our services had been good! The first time I went to Pittsburgh was to translate a long draft contract into Spanish using legal terminology. It was not simple, but I was able to do it. I will never forget lunches at the Duquesne Club, elegant and distinguished; exquisite food. Excellent paintings and decorations, beauty was not scarce; it was everywhere. The butler remembered the name of each of the members as they entered and called them out, in the best of long standing traditions. I have been at several of these clubs in the United States and the Duquesne is on top for its excellence. The Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers form the Ohio River in mid Pittsburgh and from one of the building in the Golden Triangle you can see them meet. On the side of the city is Mount Washington and from the restaurants on top you can see the entire beautiful city. My friend Harry Fawcett, at the time Assistant General Counsel of Alcoa, and his wife invited Elizabeth and me there on the eve of the Fourth of July. There was a game of the Pittsburgh Pirates going on and the Stadium was full to capacity, when a small aircraft started to overfly the Stadium with a tail that said: "Carol, will you marry me? George". Two days later, there was paid space on the Pittsburgh Post Dispatch that read: "Yes, George, I will marry you. Carol". Our friends also invited us to the to their home in Sewickley, an affluent beautiful suburb of the big city The road to Pittsburgh is very nice, bordering the Ohio River and you can see the huge amount of commerce that the river carries. One can see why this city is one of the motors of the immense production machine of the United States. I have not been in Philadelphia, but it a must I must not neglect. One of the characteristics I like about the United States democracy i that citizens vote on many elections, Federal, State, County and City. This makes the people to become responsible of their fate and their elected officers. I was staying at the William Penn Hotel, in front of Mellon Square in Pittsburgh when the election between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. The Republican Party had the dinning and ball rooms taken for the celebration that night. But it was a very close election and the outcome was not clear until very late and, although Republican were winning at the Federal level, they were being beaten alt the local level. Gloom reigned.


Peru Visit: 2008-6
2009-04-26 - Because of the Inter American Bar Association, I have been several times to Perù, which is always a pleasure. I confess that I have not been to Cuzco or Machu Pichu, but I am lame on account of car accident, which inhibits my walking and I understand walking is a must to visit these places. First time in 1975, which was when I got to visit more. I even sat on the next table to one where Victor Raul Haya de la Torre was sitting in a restaurant. I was invited by the Aspillaga Family to lunch at the Club Nacional, the excellent city club in front of Plaza San Martìn, downtown Lima. One of the great pleasures in Perù is eating, since the country has one of the most refined cuisines in the world. I remember with special pleasure a typical food restaurant called Raimondi, located in aan old traditional house in the center of Lima, two or thee blocks from the main Plaza, Calle Mirò Quesada, that I visited in 1976, and is still there. On the Miraflores coastline, Costa Verde is the proud holder of the Guinnes record of the largest variety of seafood buffet, into the several hundred dishes. La Rosa Nautica is a beautiful restaurant, also on the coast, that you reach by walking about one hundred meters on a boardwalk in the sea. In all of them the food is superb. Because of correspondent priviledges between Club Union in Costa Rica and Club Nacional, I have visited the last many times and even invited colleages to lunch there, which makes excellent public relations. Coming from Argentina in 2005, I had a change of planes of four hours and my friend Josè de Pierola Balta sent his chauffered Mercedes to give me and Elizabeth a tour of Lima, which gave us the chance to see how beautiful and well taken care of the city is at present. Visiting this grandiose, historical capital, Lima is a treat to senses and good taste. The Plaza de Armas, where the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral are, must be visited. The church where San Martìn de Porres is buried is also a must. There are also some ruins on the coast, with archeological interest, but not as big as other sites in the Continent.


Portugal Visit: 1999-8
2009-06-03 - The best way to travel in Europe is by car, since you say when to go and where to go, if you so desire. But nothing is perfect: the cruising speed is not for beginners. I entered Portugal from Spain, where I rented a car at the Barajas airport. I took West from Madrid and arrived in Portugal when highways were still being made. But it was very pleasant, everybody wanted to help and give directions, with a smile. The language is Portuguese, another of the Romantic languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. We arrived in Lisbon, on the Tejo River (Portuguese Tejo, Spanish Tajo, English Tagus). Here the river ends after crossing most of Spain. We took a hotel, after searching for a long time, Since this is a not very simple city to get around, I did get lost several times. On the side of the city there is a hill, full of restaurants and bars, where the people go to have fun. Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I joined them. As always, in some good food and in some not, but in all excellent cod, which seems to be the national dish, well washed down with their very fine white wines. Since I do like it very much and in Costa Rica se eat cod only in Holly Week, I had lots of this for me very delicate fish. Because we had a car, we were able to go all around the city and get to know it faily well. We also went to Cintra, where the palace is and it deserves a good visit. We went to Estoril and its beach that we found nice and clean, but we have seen better. This town is very clean and orderly, with good restaurants and evidently a place where the affluent retire or have their second home. On our way North towards Porto, we stopped in the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Fatima. It is difficult to explain the beauty and the ambiance of religious deep feeling the visitor finds here. The big statue of the Virgin, where it appeared to the three shepherd children is a real beauty. We also heard mass at the Cathedral, where mass is always being held, twenty four hours a day seven days a week and always full of believers. The grounds are so large that it can hold more than a million people at the same time. This trip to Fatima is one of the most cherished in my travel memories. Our last stop in Portugal was Porto, where we stayed at a hotel outside of the city. This was not a fortunate choice, because resort type hotels are more or less the same and if the climate is not one hundred per cent, they become boring. Anyway Porto is a very important city and very scenic. The Cathedral deserves special mention as a very nice hill on the side of the Douro (Duero) River.


Provence-Alpes-Cote d\'Azur Visit: 1999-9
2009-11-30 - 2009-11-29 In 1978 we decided to do some hopping around Europe and in Cannes we chose the Carlton Hotel to stay. What we did not know is that the Festival de la Pyrotechnique would take place exactly the week we would stay there. Next day of our arrival, as we left the hotel towards the beach, we saw that tables were being placed at the entrance, where normally the automobiles would enter to leave passengers. We asked the reason and were told that fireworks would be the attraction of the night. Immediately, we reserved a table for two. When the night came, we went to our table and found that lights for the whole city had been turned off and only candles lit the tables. In the center of the bay, a hundred meters plus from the beach, a barge was anchored and from there the fireworks were launched and all people on land, the Croisette and the houses and buildings in town, were able to see the fireworks. The spectacle was fantastic because the whole city was illuminated with the artificial fires and the multicolored lights. Of course, the food and wine were superb. It can not be otherwise in France! Next day, on the road to Saint Tropez, we wanted to open a bottle of red wine for lunch, but had no corkscrew. Thus, I stopped the little yellow rental car and asked a group of people that were having their picnic, to lend me their "tire buzon". Pulling my leg, the answer was that their "tire buzon" worked only on Bourdeax wine. I looked to see if my bottle met the requirement and ¡lo and behold! my bottle was Bourdeax wine. La France, toutjour la belle France. We also visited Antibes sur Mer, a quaint and very beautiful small village seaside, where Pablo Picasso used to live and paint. It has some very old parts, especially a narrow street going uphill (or down), dating back to Roman times. We went to visit the also very beautiful Nice: the Boulevard des Anglais is a nice as proclaimed, including the Negresco Hotel, a landmark. There we visited the house where my mother lived, since she was born there when my Grandfather was Cousellor and Consul General to the Costa Rican Embassy for France, at the beginning ot the XX Century. The house is still the same! We had rented a car, qhich allowed us to go from one place to the other and visited the villages and cities on the Bass Corniche, Villefrance sur Mer, St Raphael, Frèjus and several more. Since we love the beach, there is no better place. UPDATE: In 1999 we went again, because we rented a car in Madrid and went West to Portugal, North to Galicia, then East through the Cities in North Spain to San Sebastian, North to Biarritz and then to Tours, East to Lyon, South to Avignon and Aix en Provence, then East again to Monaco, then West to Cannes, Saint Tropez, Marseille, Arles, Nimes, Narbonne, Perpignan and Finally to Barcelona. We took seven weeks and seven thousand kilometers. Of this Region de France, we first visited Avignon. This is a small beautiful village, with the Palace of the Popes of the Catholic Church 1309 to 1417 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon Pope Clement V: 1305–1314; Pope John XXII: 1316–1334; Pope Benedict XII: 1334–1342; Pope Clement VI: 1342–1352; Pope Innocent VI: 1352–1362; Pope Urban V: 1362–1370; Pope Gregory XI: 1370–1378. The two Avignon-based antipopes were: Clement VII: 1378–1394; Benedict XIII: 1394–1423 (expelled from Avignon in 1403). Benedict XIII was succeeded by three antipopes, who had little or no public following, and were not resident at Avignon: Clement VIII: 1423–1429 (recognized in the Kingdom of Aragon; abdicated); Benedict XIV (Bernard Garnier): 1424-1429 or 1430; Benedict XIV (Jean Carrier): 1430?-1437. The period from 1378 to 1417 when there were rival claimants to the title of pope is referred to as the "Western schism" or "the great controversy of the antipopes" by some Catholic scholars and "the second great schism" by many secular and Protestant historians. The Council of Constance finally resolved the controversy in 1417. Since we are practicing Catholics, all this was of great interest to us. Besides, the Beauty of the Palace, the location at the side of the Rhône River, makes it a pleasure to visit. The Cathedral at the side of the Palace is beautiful, worth the visit. Of course, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site. From there we went to Aix en Provence, a charming citi of the Midi. It is very clean, full of flowers, wide streets and beautiful Medieval Church. Boulevard de Mirabeau has many street restaurants, where I was able to eat my "lapin" I had been trying to eat from the beginning of my visit to France. Our visit to this Region of France continued in Cannes, where we again stayed at the Carlton, but were disillusioned because it had changed hands to Intercontinental Hotels and the prices increased and the service declined. Besides, now the beach was only for the concessionaires of the chaise longues and it was difficult to be in front of the hotel. Result: we were to stay five days, but only stayed three. From there we went to St Tropez, where we had been before. Of course this continues to be most agreeable and nice. The little park in center of town is very nice and the the pier for the mega yachts is something to see. The beaches are of course excellent, with very liberal ambiance and all the services needed by the traveler. From there we went of Marseille, the very important second largest city of France. There is a very interesting and good Museum of art, which we visited with great pleasure. But the center of the city is evidently in state of decay. There are many abandoned buildings and the streets are dirty. But more important, the travelled feels unsafe, as if a hold up is evident. No police is visible. When we were there, even the "Bourse de Commerce" looked dirty and smeared with smog. From there we went to Languedoc, but that is another post.


Puebla Visit: 1999-6
2009-05-03 - Mexico is always very hospitable and nice to visit. On the fifth of june, 1999, Elizabeth and I took a tour to Cholula and Puebla, but ended up with a chauffered automobile with a very nice and helpful driver. Our first stop was in Cholula, a small city in the State of Puebla, and there we went into a series of underground passages or tunnels in a man-made hill at the side of the city. The a pyramid was made by the native population in seven stages that increased the base each time and up to sixty six meters. The church Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Church is on top of the pyramid, built by the Spanish at the middle of the XVI Century. Next we went to Puebla and visited this colonial beautiful city. At the restaurant in the center of town plaza, I had excellent "pollo al la mole poblano". It is delicious, a true demostration of the excellent Mexican cuisine I enjoy so much. We visited the churches and in one I was taking photos of a marriage that was taking place, when the driver urged me to kiss the bride. I did not, since I did not know whether it would be appreciated... but told Elizabeth I had. Puebla is also a very industrialized city, where Volkswagen has a very large plant, that exports to the United States. A year later, I bought a VW in Miami for the use of my daughter Elizabeth; a very good car. After this trip and back from Mexico, on the sixteenth of June, only eleven days afterwards, an earthquake came, 6.7 degrees on the Richter scale, called the "terremoto de Puebla". And we had been in the center of a man-made pyramid! I do not know if any tunnels colapsed..., but it is frightening.


Puerto Rico Visit: 1994-6
2009-04-28 - My first time in Puerto Rico was 1960, because of a scholarship of the U. S. State Department. For the first time I found out what traveling alone was. It was as promotion of the Puerto Ricans to their then rather new constitutional status as Estado Libre Asociado; Don Luis Muñoz Marìn was Governor. We were taken to the University, to their State Department and other offices. We saw from far the Caribe Hilton, known then the most luxurious hotel in the Caribbean. I visited the roof of La Concha Hotel, where I requested the autograph of Actor Edward Everet Horton, who was very senior and very happy that somebody remembered him, now long passed away. A very nice gentleman. There, for the first time, I was acquainted with credit cards, which at the time we did not have in Costa Rica. I have returned several times, because of the Inter American Bar Association, that has held several Conferences and Council Meetings there. San Juan is a seaside city, with very nice white sand beaches, excellent restaurants and hotels. People are very hospitable and like to have fun. Special mention must be made of San Juan Viejo, the colonial part that has been preserved very well, mainly by prohibiting destruction of the old buildings and by giving tax incentives to those that restore them. In order to really appreciate it, it should be walked. Most special mention must be made of La Mallorquina Restaurant, an old XIX Century restaurant, still giving services to its faithful renovated clientele. There was an old gentleman, evidently destitute, that went there to eat on charity. He was one of the nationalist of the Pedro Albizu Campos that attacked, in 1954, the United States House of Representatives. There is a beautiful hotel called El Convento, with the most relaxing courtyard imaginable. El Morro is the Spanish colonial fortress in charge of security then; and now a most pleasing museum. Cuevas de Camuy Park, in the Northern part of the island, is very interesting and rates as the third largest cave system in the world, since it has sixteen entrances and eleven kilometers of inside pass ways. The city of Ponce on the South side of the island is a old colonial town, worth visiting. Here resided many of the old time historical families of the island.


Quebec Visit: 1979-11
2009-10-27 - 2009-05-25 I remember the month of November, 1978, as the last time I was in Montreal, in the Province of Quebec. I helped Canadian Pacific with a bid to provide services and equipment to the government railways of Costa Rica and had to go on several occasions to prepare and review draft contracts and other documentation. My work took me to the emblematic Victoria Station. As always, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the city and taste its food and, if possible, its wine. In Montreal this is quiet a treat, since the Quebequois have excellent palate. The old part of the city, "Vieux Montreal", I remember as the section where the majority of the restaurants worth mentioning are: La Fille du Roi, Les Halles, with excellent west coast salmon washed down with French white wine, and the excellent restaurant on the floor level at the Château Champlain Hotel (then, it belonged to Canadian Pacific) where they had follies resembling French spectacles, although more covered up. This hotel is Montreal’s tallest hotel, at 133 meters in height, or 38 stories high, and on top there is a very good bar to have a drink and relax after a long day’s work, with a magnificent view of al the gorgeous city. There is also a “bier haus”, with a Munich type band and men in leather short pants dancing in a platform in the center of the salon and excellent beer and schnapps. One night I was invited to a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant, but the friends I was with did not allow me to eat with fork and knife, and there were none. I learnt. In one occasion, I stayed at the Bonaventure Hotel and the climate was very cold, but as I entered I saw the swimming pool and it was full of people that came out of the water only to take air. It seemed to be a lot of whales coming in and out of the water. Of course, I joined them immediately. Montreal is a beautiful city, with lots of history, good food and lots of things to do and enjoy. Streets are wide and trees are abundant, much as European cities. Once I read that Montreal is an European city with American cars. The center of the city has a very good subway (Metro) and it has brought very extensive underground tunnels and pass ways that permits moving on foot or train throughout most of it. Because my family name is of French origin, people started in French at full speed and my knowledge of the language is limited. Very difficult, to say the least. Montreal used to be Canada’s biggest city and most populous, but it was passed by Toronto because of the independent moves of the 70’s and 80’s, that cost the city many of its corporate headquarters. It is on the Saint Laurence River and it owes the river much of its preeminence. I have not been at Quebec City, a sin I must obtain pardon for by going.


Quintana Roo Visit: 1999-6
2009-10-25 - Cancun is a tourist town, with the advantages and disadvantages this means. Between the town and the beach, there is a big lagoon that separates the locals from the tourists, who normally do not go into town; just lie on the beach or pool and eat at the hotel, since it is generally all inclusive. The beach must have been very nice in Cancun, but hurricanes had washed away the sand and the water came all the way to the hotel foundations. We took a little submarine to look at the underwater invironment that was well worth its moderate price, since the Caribbean is very clear water and allows very nice veiws. Snorkeling must be very good. I recommend to avoid the Spring Break season, which brings the noisiest and least educated of tourists. There are two restaurants to recommend, since the rest were chain or fast food joints: (1) the folkloric Mexican at the center of the hotel strip, with good hot (chile) and live Mexican music as background; and (2) Casablanca, with excellent international cuisine and the inevitable Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman photos. In both, the ambiance was good and enjoyable, worth the travelers visit. At the time, the hotel that seemed good and livable was the Club Med, on the South end. In the town there are many restaurants and other amenities. To those interested in something more, I recommend to rent a car, which allows the visit the truly beautiful surroundings in this State and adjoining Yucatàn. There are many historic pre-Colombian sites, since this was the region of the very advanced Maya civilization, which they shared with what is today Belize, Guatemala and North Honduras. It can be a very interesting trip to make a trip from Yucatan, through Quintana Roo, Belize, Tikal in Guatemala into Copan Ruinas in Honduras. But Quintana Roo is also the Mexican Riviera where Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla de Mujeres and Tulum are located. Cancun success has brought the development of these other sites into beautiful resorts and well developed beaches. You find everything.


Rhone-Alpes Visit: 1999-8
2009-11-09 - This section of France surrounds the city of Geneva, Switzerland. In August 1999, Elizabeth and I went to Geneva for holydays and took a boat to have for a tour on Lake Leman (not Lake Geneva, as sometimes it is called). The tour had a stop in a quaint little town in France, near Evian, where they bottle the water. Very nice and enjoyable, worthwhile visiting. A lawyer friend also invited us to a very good restaurant on the other side of the lake, also in France. I am told that it is very common for people in Geneva to go for dinner in France, to change dishes and wines.


Rio de Janeiro State Visit: 1997-5
2009-04-12 - One of the most beautiful cities in the World is, without doubt, Rio de Janeiro, on Guanabara Bay. Thanks to the Inter American Bar Association and the Brazilian friends and colleagues, I have been fortunate to visit several times. Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, with the “garotas” (young girls) in their tiny tangas, are a must see. Botafogo Bay is beautiful and its yacht club, the meeting place of the affluent; very much worth visiting. The best known hotel is the Copacabana Palace, right in front of the beach, with its splendid piscine, always full of beautiful people. Food is worth trying, mainly at the Ouro Verde Hotel (at least it was, back many years). But not only at the classy restaurants is food good; it is also excellent at the not so classy but very good restaurants along Avenida Atlantica in Copacabana; yum, those oysters! The churrascarìa across the street from the Copacabana Palace has the typical endless parade of very good meats. Try it with Brazilian wine, it has improved noticeably. Scenery from the top of Pao de Azucar and Christ at the Corcovado are obligatory. “Futebol” reaches heights of excellence and the Maracana Stadium should not and cannot be avoided. The precious and semi precious stones of Brazil are displayed all around the city. In Ipanema, Stern Jewelry is art; so is Amsterdam Jewlery. It is expensive, but much less than other countries. Orchids are another must in Rio and travelers should visit some of the many parks to look at them. Brazil, with its huge diversity, has some of the most beautiful species in the world. I have never been during one of its carnivals, but I look forward to attending one, since I understand it is great fun.


Rio Negro Province Visit: 1975-10
2009-09-18 - I have been very lucky, I think, in having seen a good portion of the world, with an emphasis on the beauty of the places I have been to. One of these places is San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Province of Rio Negro, in Argentina. Although it has been many years, I will never forget it. We stayed at the Llao Llao Hotel, which now is a very fine mountain resort. It is located a few kilometers from the center of town, in Puerto Pañuelo, on the Nahuel Huapi lake. From the main dining room, through a large window, one coudl see the impressive Cerro Catedral and the skiers gliding down the slopes. For us, tropicals, this was a post-card sight of immense beauty. We liked it so much that we decided to take the ski lift to the top. Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth had never climbed on a ski lift nor seen snow. When we tried to jump into double seats of the ski lift, I made it but she did not until two seats later. We started to talk out loud and two Argentineans that were coming down yelled at me: "Che, si dejaste la mina atràs", and laughed at us. Of course, as soon as we got out of the ski lift, we started a snow-ball fight, not very hard, because I knew from experience that it does hurt. The town is quaint and nice. We bought at a reasonable price, wool ski sweaters, made Norwegian style, which we kept for many years afterwards. We enjoyed the stay very much, the food was excellent, the mountain ambiance delightful and the views of the Andes impressive. I do very much recommend the trip. It is world class. We took the boat on the lake to El Bosque de Arrayanes, but that is another post.


San Andres and Providencia Visit: 1989-5
2009-08-15 - My first travel to San Andres was long ago. We booked a hotel, the best I thought, but upon arrival we were met by a representative of it who informed us that there were no rooms for us and that we had to go to a lady’s house who rented a room. That or go back to Costa Rica, since there was no alternative. We did go to the lady’s house and, thank goodness, the lady was a doll. She made breakfast for us and took care of the then young couple that came to live a week in her house. It was right at the beach and we could snorkel right there, five meters from our room and very close to everything, restaurants commerce etc. Since then, I have been there several times, although I have not been in Providencia. My last travel to this beautiful island was on my way back to San José, from Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, where a Conference of the Inter American Bar Association had taken place. People are all bilingual, Spanish English. The colors of the Caribbean are the pride of the locals and they are right. It is the first thing you notice. The trips to Johnny Key, to the Acuario and around the Island are all worth doing. But careful not to pay for the boat service to the keys in advance, because once we went to the Acuario and the boatman left us there and it was bad trouble getting another one to take us back. But snorkeling there is excellent! There are many kinds of beautiful colored tropical fish in the shallow waters. Once at Johnny Key, a local was grilling tuna. It was really good. The tour around the island is very scenic, but do not expect the Hoyo Soplador to be something interesting, since it only is a hole in the rock and, when a wave comes, water is spewed up. Morgan's Cave, where pirate Henry Moran supposedly hid a treasure, is not anything but a small cave at the side of the road, worth nothing. There are many good hotels and the Decameron Group has several, good and reasonably priced. There are also many good restaurants, but the restaurants here are not cheap. But the island as whole is very much worthwhile, since it has great beaches; snorkeling is excellent, delicious food and shopping cheap, although not as much as when San Andres was a free port. Do go. Nicaragua has a claim on both San Andres and Providencia.


San Blas Islands Visit: 2010-3
2010-03-21 - I had long heard about San Blas Islands, an archipelago of about three hundred islands on the Caribbean side of Panama, but never made a serious attempt to go. I can not remember how many times I have been in the country and thought about going. Being a member of MTP was the extra push needed to do so. Thus, since I had an invitation to a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Inter American Bar Association, I took advantage of the opportunity, went to Panama and took off with wife and fellow traveler Elizabeth to see the Islands. We left from the former Albrook Air Force Base in what used to be the Canal Zone, in a twin engine Air Panama small aircraft. Because of the cloudy weather, Elizabeth was very frightened, but it ended being a very good flight. Less than an hour later we landed in Playòn Chico, a small but good landing strip. On a dugout canoe, we were taken to Yandup, which is on an island of about two hectares of very manicured lawn with scattered palm trees. The very rustic hotel is made up of dinning room-bar and kitchen and guards bedrooms and ten small comfortable cabins with straw thatched roofs with a queen size and a small bed, full bathroom, wood floor about fifty centimeters from the earth and local bamboo cane walls. The little island has a small beautiful beach we enjoyed very much. These are Caribbean clear sea waters, full of fish, excellent for snorkeling. In the afternoon we went to the island where the native population lives, the Kuna indians, to be able to visualize and get a feel of their “culture”. They speak thier native Kuna language and Spanish. Our gide also made a decent effort in English. This is on of the saddest visit I have made: to see the extreme poverty these poor human beings endure. The whole little island is built in straw thatched huts, with no floors, barely exiting walls, no windows, no running water, much less potable water, no sewage, only small solar panel occasional electricity, no movies and only aerial television. A very small concrete court, doubling for volleyball and basketball. The school is not on the island but near the airport. The island is connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge built by the townspeople, with the help of the central government. We met a social worker of the Ministry of public health and told us about the very bad health situation and lack of facilities, with lice and intestinal parasites the worse problems. Panama has a very large unaddressed problem to solve. The poor natives must also join the XXI Century. They are also human. It is a debt to them.


Sao Paulo State Visit: 1979-4
2009-04-11 - Sao Paulo is one of the most populated and industrialized cities in the World. Vitality is the best description of it. It is the headquarters of BOVESPA, the Brazilian stock exchange and the banking institutions. It is also the center of most of the industrial activity in the country. Two things I will mention: 1) The Museum of Modern Art is one of the best in the world, with excellent works of art, including a very good representation of the Impressionist Era. It deserves a detailed visit. 2) Brazilian food is luxuriously represented. “Feilloada”, the black bean dish, is served on Saturdays and, sometimes on Wednesdays. It consists of pork pieces cooked together with black beans, everything with lots of condiment. It is so rich that you are given a “cachaça” to drink before, to open appetite. It is a must and travelers should be forbidden to visit Sao Paolo without trying it.


Spain (Other) Visit: 1999-8
2009-12-01 - My first time in Spain was when I won a scholarship to study my post graduate at the Unversity of Madrid, in 1961. It started a series of visits that I hope will never end. It is a very beautiful diverse and interesting country, top legal minds, good cuisine, wonderful wine, lots of history, very good beaches that are fully developed, excellent museums, very good "futbol", colorful folklore and Madrid is one of the mayor cities of the world, with the best of everything. It is probably one of locations where a tourist can not be bored, even if he tries! Since I lived there a year and have returned there may times, I will add to this post as I remember memorable places that I believe that should be shared. I was the times of Generalìsimo Francisco Franco. I was going to live a student residence Relaciones Culturales of the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, but the first day I stayed at the Ambassador Hotel, in Avenida Josè Antonio, as the Gran Vìa was then called. Next day from my arrival, I took a taxi with my bag and requested to be taken to my destination. It was a long drive, very scenic, but I later realized that it was a run around of more than four times the needed distance... Taxi drivers are the same everywhere. I did not know then that one should look at the map before taking a taxi in a city one does not know. The student residence was a high end residence, where foreing students who had received scholarships went and many Spaniards from the provinces lived while they studied for foreign service examinations -diplomacy. By now, all those that became diplomats are now retired as ambassadors of Spain. As any European city, Sundays in winter are very dull, so I invested time in admiring the Museo del Prado, one of the mayor art collections of the world, on par with Louvre in Paris, National Gallery in London, National Gallery in Washington or Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. My impecunious condition as student was also helped by the very reasonably priced cafeteria. There, on the top floor, the Spanish masters are of course represented profusely, Ribera, Velazquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, El Greco, Goya, together with masters from all the other countries of Europe. One must mention the special Goya exhibition on the lower floor, called the black era, when the master was loosing his mind. It can be seen that he was announcing the Impressionists, to come almost a century later. In 1978, since I enjoy bullfights very much, I took Elizabeth to one at Ventas bullring in Madrid. The place was full, but many were tourists, since it was late August, the height of the tourist season. In order to clarify things to her, as the show got started and because it was not very good, I explained to her: “When you see people clapping in approval, those are foreigners, those whistling are Spanish.” Simple, is not it? In Madrid food is excellent, from the top money restaurants like Jokey, Horcher, Club 31, St. James, Zalacaìn and several others, to the less expensive, like Josè Luis, Los Sobrinos de Botìn and others or the "tapas bars", like those in Calle Echegaray, Museo del Jamòn etc. In these places the house wine is normally very drinkable; in fact, they pride themselves on the quality of their house wine. The traveler should also take advantage of the fact that very close to Madrid there are many sites other worthwhile to visit: Segovia with its Alcazar (castle and fort) and its aqueduct, built during the time of Roman emperor Trajan in the first century, and the obligatory Mesón de Cándido, with its "cochinillo" and lamb; Aranjuez, on the bank of the Tajo River, with the beautiful summer palace and the small jewell of the Casita del Principe, a hunting "lodge" where the kings stopped after their hunting was finidhed; furhter down from the Tajo River, Toledo, the very well preserved city with the middle ages constructions, its beautiful Cathedral, Entierro del Conde de Orgaz Painted by Domenico Theotocopuli, El Greco, Santo Tome Church in the sixteenth century and the wall around it; El Escorial, monastery-residence of the most powerfull kings of Spain, Charles the I and Philip the II; Avila, with its wall around the city; Salamanca, the university city starting in the middle ages; Valle de los Caídos, the modern Cathedral dug into the rock in Francisco Franco times as the huge mausoleum to the dead of the Spanish Civil War, started in 1939. I will write about the other parts of Spain not in other posts later. Gecause Spain is so big, I have suggested to be split into a group, for MTP purposes.


St. Maarten Visit: 1994-6
2010-01-22 - I have been twice in St. Maarten, the first time in a cruise and the second after a visit to San Juan, during the XXXI Conference of the Inter American Bar Association. This South part of the island is Dutch, the North part is French. I will separate the memories in each one. St. Maarten is mainly a shoppers paradise, it being a free port. Prices of the most exquisite things are at bargain prices. One of the stores well represented is the Brazilian jewlery Stern, a very serious merchant that gives a good price, backed with their worldwide guarantee. Much better than any airport duty free. I have also explored the beaches, which are as beautiful as in the French side, but the ambiance is more conservative and real estate development not as agressive. Beaches are not as clean and in some you can not have even a refreshment, because nobody sells; some being deserted. I do prefer those on the French side. Restaurants near the port are very scenic and alive, since the maritime action is there and at times there are up to four cruise ships docked or near, on the bay. This part has been filmed many times and I have seen at least three movies located there. Any passanger in a cruise should visit both parts. But beware, prices are not cheap.


St. Martin Visit: 1994-6
2009-05-10 - I have been twice in St. Martin, the first time in a cruise and the second after a visit to San Juan, during the XXXI Conference of the Inter American Bar Association. This North part of the island is French, the South part is Dutch. I will separate the memories in each one. Diferences are well marked, being the French side a vacationers paradise and the Dutch for shoppers. The aeministrative responsability for the territory lies on Guadaloupe. The little town of Marigot is quaint and very clean. Going to the market is very nice and native people offer their merchandise with a smile. The beaches are very liberal and well taken care of, clean. There are restaurants and refreshments all around. The ambiance is very liberal and topless and nude are the rule, except on the U. S. chain hotels, that sucumb to the Puritan tradition. Of the beaches, I remember Baie Rouge, less developed and very nice, and Orient Beach, more developed and excellent restaurants and outstanding beauty. We drove all around and it is a well taken care of island, with beautiful villas. Although there are shops in the French side, it is better to shop at the Dutch side, since it is cheaper and more variety. The second time I went with fellow travelers Elizabeth, wife, and Elizabeth, daughter, we still remember going into a small French restaurant, rather dilapidated with a hand painted sign announcing lobster. We decided to try it: the lobster were huge, swimming in a demostration glass urn. The owner made them very slowly and with condiments, while we had other seafood, as appetizers, bocas, or botanas, however you want to call them. Very French. We bathed them with dry white wine from the Mother Country, France. Each lobster must have been at least a kilo! They were delicious. In Saint Martin things are not cheap, but well worth it.


Sweden Visit: 1962-8
2009-08-05 - Stockholm is an enchanting city and its people also. It has been so long, that I am not going to explain much of the tourist things. At the time, driving was on the right like England. Leaving the main train station in Stockholm, I stepped from the curb to cross the street, but I looked the wrong way. A taxi almost hit me. The museum in Stockholm was very much worth while. This is one place I would like to return to. But I want to refer mainly to Carl Milles and his sculpture. In 1960 I had visited the cafeteria of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with Professor William C. Jones, the coordinator of the group of students referred to in my post about Missouri. At the Met, I noticed the very sleek and stylish, ethereal, sculpture of the fountain at the center of the cafeteria, but did not ask who the artist was. In summer of 1962, I took another course in Comparative Law in Helsinki, where one of the professors was Mr. William C. Jones, who came with his recently married wife. Since se were already friends, we made an appointment to visit Stockholm together. It proved a very agreeable day, with lots of tourism and visiting all the beautiful places. At the end of the day we went the house that belonged to Carl Milles, the Swedish-American artist. His works were scattered in the garden and gave the place a very sophisticated and elegant ambiance. I mentioned that I thought the artist was the same that made the fountain at the cafeteria at the Met Museum. Mr. Jones did not think so, but we decided that whoever went to New York first would go to the Met and see who was right. Few months later, I was back home in Costa Rica and received from Mr. Jones, who had gone New York, a post-card with the photograph of the fountain at the Met. It only said: "You were right". When Professor Jones left, I met a group of Venezuelan lawyers that had been with me in Helsinki, to go back to Paris by road. We stayed ten days in this "Venice of the North, as Swedes like to think about Stockholm. Because we had very lean student funds, we went everyday to the train stations to see at the tourist office how we could stay the most with less and changed sleeping quarters five times. We did visit the Museums, the Royal Palace and change of the Guard, and Kungsgattan (Swedish for "King's Street") is the name Stockholm's main street, which passes the Hötorget square, where the Stockholm Concert Hall is. The city has all the necessities of a major tourist place, but what I truly recommend to do is to rent a motor boat and go around the canals, viewing the beautiful scenery and the houses of the affluent. It is really worthwhile. Since it was summer, I have seen something comparable only in Miami Beach or Fort Lauderdale.


Switzerland Visit: 1998-8
2009-09-19 - The first time I was in this delightful country was in 1993 on business. It was only two days in Zurich, but found out why the Swiss banks are so rich: I had a check for US$50,000 from Banco Nacional de Costa Rica against Swiss Bank Corporation, their correspondent, to purchase a property in Costa Rica for a client of mine from a Swiss gentleman. When I tried to cash the check into dollars, the bank would not do it unless I changed the dollars into Swiss Franks and back to US Dollars. To make a long story short: it cost me $1500 to do the exchange. Thank Goodness I had money of my own and financed the termination of the deal, or my trip would have been lost. Of course, it was not easy explaining my client and not easy convincing him that he should reimburse my financing. Try to avoid using banks and, above all Swiss banks. FIVE YEARS LATER: In August is the birthday of both my wife and fellow traveler Elizabeth and me. It is also the month of good weather in the Northern Hemisphere, which makes it ideal for travel. We were going to Germany to visit with the other world trotter Dan Walker, my friend of many years. So I chose to go to Geneva before meeting Dan in Zurich, to later go to our destination. We arrived on August 8th, Elizabeth's birthday and found that, along Lake Leman bank (this is the name, not Lake Geneva), streets were closed for a parade and fun. We were told that there was no commemoration or reason for the festivity, just the desire to enjoy life and summer, which we thought very sensible. I told Elizabeth that the municipal authorities had found out about her coming to Geneva on her birthday and were celebrating that she had come to visit... All the restaurants and hotels had tables on the sidewalk, so people could eat and at the same time watch the fireworks that were going to happen, so I reserved a table in one of them. The parade was not much, but people were surely having fun. When night fell, the fireworks took place from a barge in the lake, which allowed the entire city to see and enjoy the explosions of light and beauty. We did stay several days in Geneva to visit the many attractions the Swiss have made in this marvelous city. We took a boat on Lake Leman and went to visit a quaint little town on the French side of the lake. And we enjoyed their meat and cheese fondues and their more than drinkable wine. The Spanish say "más vale llegar a tiempo que ser convidado", it is better to arrive in time than being invited! Of course we walked the town, visited the Cathedral and remembered John Calvin, who made Geneva his center of religious protest. We continued by train to Zurich, where Dan introduced us to Matt and his wife, who were so gentle and friendly and took us to Bern, where we had lundh at a terrece and toured the city on a horse drawn carriage, and then Lucerne. Back in Zurich, we also swam in the lake, right in front of their house. The Cow Parade was starting then in Switzerland and there were fiberglass cows all around, beautiful pieces of art, painted in all imaginable ways. Delicious food was found in every corner of town, say what people may say. The restaurants tha had a garden had placed tables outside and had minstrels going from one table to the other. Very agreeable, lots of fun. With Dan, we continued to Basle, where we walked the center of the city up and down and took a boat in the Rhine River. I will never forget dinner at the Spice Merchants Guild -which was being renovated and restored- the most delicious fondue bourguignon, bathed in good Swiss wine. Since it was evident we were from distant lands, we were given the benefit of a tour by the person in charge of the restoration, so we could appreciate the excellent results he was achieving. I like people who are proud of their good work and show it. I have suggested that Switzerland be divided into a group of states, since it is a federal country and each of the cantons has much independence, even several languages are spoken, French, Swisscher (a German dialect), Romanic, italian. If it has been done with the United States, Argentina, Russia, India, Australia, so it should be done with this country.


Texas Visit: 1974-6
2009-04-21 - Because my father and I were counsel for Aluminum Company of America (now Alcoa Inc.) and the company patronized the Southwestern Legal Foundation, I was referred for a six week course in American and International Comparative Law, then at Southern Methodist University, SMU, in Dallas, Texas. The sponsor could not be better, so I got the scholarship. The attendance was international with many lawyer-students, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but there were also from Latin America: Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and me from Costa Rica, and from Europe: Sweden, Spain, Austria, Italy, and from Africa, although not many since the Idea was to explain the Common Law to Civil Law trained lawyers. The course could not be better: we got excellent professors to lecture us on the Common Law and, mainly, on United States Law (which is not exactly what would be called Common Law). There I met a very varied group of lawyers, coming especially from legal staffs of big corporations or the big law firms. I met Professor Victor Folsom, who had lived in Costa Rica. He invited and led me to the Inter American Bar Association, the biggest and oldest guild of lawyers in the Continent, of which I would eventually become President. The training obtained was first class and some of the persons I met continue to be my lifetime friends, such as Santiago Lynch, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Bertil Lundquist, from Goteborg, Sweden. I have visited them and, in 2007, they came to Costa Rica. Since SMU was located in a dry part of the city, there was nothing going in the immediate vicinity, but a short walk to Lovers Lane took us the restaurants, bars and fun part of town. We took advantage of the nearness. Texans are very hospitable people and very proud of their state and its history. Dallas lies on a very flat land, very hot in summer and, I have been told, cold in winter. Immense cattle ranches, but I know nothing about steers or farming. I am a lawyer! Downtown Dallas is very modern, tall beautiful glass buildings, with fine stores (it is the home of Niemann Marcus) and restaurants; Six Flags Over Texas is an amusement park that becomes a must if you are in the city. It is an oil rich city. The airport is very large and modern, serving both Dallas and Fort Worth.


Turks and Caicos Islands Visit: 2010-1
2010-01-15 - Turks and Caicos claims it was here that Christopher Columbus first touched the American Continent. My first trip for the year was to this very beautiful destination: The archipelago is a British colony. It used to have a certain degree of independence but the Home Office in London decided to take over direct rule because of corruption scandals. The archipelago is a series of forty islands and cays East of the Bahamas, North of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Around 40,000 people live there, about 28,000 in Providenciales and 10,000 in Grand Turk, the capital of the territory. The group of islands has become a major tourist destination, about one hour and a quarter by plane from Miami. Grand Turk, which I did not visit, now receives cruise ships and has become more lively. The first large development was Club Mediterranee that obtained a large track of land on the beach in Providenciales - I understand seventy acres of land - more than fifty years ago. Since then, there has been much development, but it took place mostly in recent years. Although there are several other hotels and many condominium developments, the only one other of a major hotel chain is the Breezes, that belongs to Super Clubs. The beaches are excellent since the sand is as white and fine as refined sugar. At Club Med, the main nationalities represented were Canada, mainly from Quebec, United States and British. There were also some French, Italians, and Argentineans. Even two Costa Ricans, Elizabeth and I! I do not believe that a simple division into Turks and Caicos is logical, because it is forty islands, not two. That separation would leave travelers to the other islands without clear directive to where they went, especially those, like me, that went to Providenciales, that would not know where I was! Besides, such division would only take into consideration the arbitrary name given many years ago and not the geographical reality. Dividing Turks and Caicos into two is not a sound decision.


U.S. Virgin Islands Visit: 1989-6
2009-05-08 - BEWARE, DANGER: SHOPS! Saint Thomas is a ladies free port paradise. Everything is cheap and you end up buying all the things you do not need, from clothing to accessories to house wares to souvenirs. The first thing you see upon leaving the cruise ship is a line of shops, lots of jewelries, tempting you into unnecessary expenditures, to which you succumb. While there, a very hard rainfall came pouring down, but only lasted about ten minutes. The hardest and quickest rainfall I had seen. Then, the sun showed again. We took a taxi to Magens Bay and from the hills we were able to see the beautiful bay of Saint Thomas, definitively one excellent scenery. The beach on the other side was not much, having seen those in Costa Rica and other places. It was not very developed and the sand was not white. Nothing much. Only thing mentionable was that a person took a small one or two person sailboat and sailed away, but did not know how to return. Alarm was made and the person had to be towed back in.


United Nations Headquarters (New York) Visit: 1974-7
2009-10-27 - When I was a little boy, my parents went away, for a long time and my sister and I stayed home with an aunt of my father. It was 1945 and we did not understand what it meant that my father had gone to San Francisco, California, to a worldwide meeting of countries that was to create the United Nations Organization, as it was called at the time. Later, I understood that my father had been appointed by the Government of Costa Rica as one of the delegates of Costa Rica to creation of the best effort made ever by mankind to bring peace to earth. Later, he would also attend the General Assembly on other occasions; and fifty years later invited by the Secretariat to the celebration of the Golden Anniversary. Of course, when I visited New York in January 1960, already a law student, I would not miss it for anything. I was awe struck. As much as I had heard, read and studied about the Organization, being there makes a huge impression on any visitor and I was no exception: I visited the General Assembly, the Security Council, Social and Economic Council and the other meeting rooms. The cafeteria seemed to be operative, but I did not even had a coffee! My attention was called very positively by the room dedicated to reflection and meditation and/or prayer. It also made me think that it should be attended very often by those voting, maybe at least once a day. The Rockefeller family made a donation of over $8 million to purchase the land on First Avenue for the buildings. This should never be forgotten, and the all the peoples of the world should be grateful forever. I did return in 1974 to guide fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth through the corridors and meeting places. Again, I did not have the coffee! Next time.


Vatican City Visit: 1995-4
2009-05-07 - First time fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I went to the Vatican was in August, 1978. She was wearing a dress with straps and when we tried to enter Saint Peter's Basilica, a guard did not let her enter, since she was not properly dressed. We had to go and buy a T shirt for her to put on. Of course, for us it was everything we had been told or read about and much more, both of us being Roman Catholic. To get to Vatican grounds, you enter by Via de la Conciliazzione, passing in front of Castel San'Angelo. First we visited the Piazza de San Pedro and the perfect columns around it made by Berninni, with the obelisk in the center; which now keeps a fragment of the Holy Cross. Years later, we here listened to Mass, officiated by His Sanctity Pope Johannes Paulus II, on Good Friday. The Basilica is the longest of Catholicism and inside you find on the floor the length of the other major churches in the world. As in all Catholic churches, the main door is the West and the major altar is east. We did go visit the Cemetery underground, where popes are buried, including Saint Peter. Some mausoleums always have lots of flowers, brought by those people devoted to their sanctity. The Vatican Museums are a must, since this is where the art collected for more than two thousand years is located. The Vatican, to this day, still collects art. I have not been at the Sistine Chapel because the first time in Rome, Pope Paul VI had passed away recently and this is where the Conclave to elect a new Pope is held; the second time because it is closed on Holy Week. Therefore, I need to go to Rome again. I am not weeping at the prospect.


Veneto Visit: 1995-4
2009-12-09 - Many, many years ago, I saw a movie where the main actor sits at an outdoor cafe and has a Campari soda in the Piazza de San Marco. I decided then that I would also, and I did! And I liked it as much as I thought that I would when I saw the movie. Venice is a not let down city. It is as beautiful as movies or photos make you believe. Some think that the water is dirty and that the buildings are only rotting or ruins. No way. It is an old city that is so well built before modern technology, that it has endured the contamination of modernity; including the vaporetos, close by industrial fumes and wastes of several thousand people on its canals. Yes, it is possible that better care could have been taken during centuries. But, even now it has been impossible to put through the thick heads of Governments of many countries that humanity is committing mass suicide by not taking due care of their environment and natural resources. Venice is the success story of trade and openness to the world. Merchants from Venice traded with the entire known world and the Mediterranean was their bartering market. During the long history of more than two thousand years Venice had colonies throughout, including Corfu, Crete and Cyprus. I arrived in Venice by train and took the vaporetto to the hotel. It was good but old and no good services; but clean and well located. We, fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and her sister Maria del Carmen an I, visited the main attraction, the beautiful Cathedral of Saint Marc. Words become insufficient to describe it and to make the reader understand and feel the many emotions that it brings. The Byzantine architectural influence is evident, covered with mosaic that conforms the design and the images. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Palace of the Dux or Doge, where the administration of the city and reign was. It is now a very interesting museum and it has a very large room and its walls are paintings by Tintoretto. The world has recognized the importance and beauty of Venice and sixty million people visit the place a year.


Venezuela Visit: 1999-10
2009-04-11 - This is another one of those locations one enjoys every time one goes: dear friends, beautiful views, excellent food, and lots of fun... First time there was 1975, but I have returned at least 5 or 6 times more. The airplane leaves you at La Guaira Airport in Maiquetìa and the taxi takes you to Caracas in a very good expressway in less than half an hour. Downtown Caracas holds the home of Liberator Simòn Bolivar, which is a shrine. In this center of town something different is that streets are nov named or numbered, but the corners are named, making an address very funny. Centro Bolivar is very large and full of restaurants and discos worth visiting. The Military School is very interesting. The scenery, with Cerro del Avila, dominating the city is really nice. Once I stayed at the Tamanaco Hotel, out of the federal district in the State of Miranda, with its excellent grounds. It was full of pretty women! Do not miss it. Also there, by coincidence, I heard the show by Miguel Aceves Mejìa, the excellent Mexican Charro. Another time, coming from Aruba, we had to stay in Maiquetìa overnight and in the morning we went to the beach, which was very nice, but we were warned that it was dangerous and that we were not to take anything that could be stolen. It is a pity that insecurity impedes people from having a normal life and tourists to go and enjoy the country. Huge loss. Last time there was for the wedding of Vanessa Sarmiento, the daughter of my friend Carlos Sarmiento-Sosa. Excellent party! One of these days I must return, to visit the many places I have read about and get a better feeling of a beautiful country, whose people deserve many good things. Since Venezuela is organized as a federal state, with Governors, state legislature and state justice, I have proposed MTP to recognize the fact and make a group of states. Anyone who agrees should also propose the creation of the group and let voting members decide.


Virginia Visit: 2005-11
2009-05-12 - Visiting Virginia becomes a must when you go to Washington D. C. which overflows over the State boundary. Many of the civil servants of the United States live in the Virginia suburbs of Washingon. This State gave the country many of the founding fathers that brought the independence. Many of the presidents were also Virginians, including President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson. Located very close to the city is Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia. It is a military cemetery established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Custis Lee, a relative of Martha Washington. The house of the Lees is there and can be visited. The cemetery is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. and near The Pentagon. More than 300,000 people are buried here. On top of a hill overlooking Washington, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When I visited the first time, it was very cold and windy in the last days of January. This is a place of reverence and respect. I makes you think about many things, including the purpose of life and the significance of death. Also located in Arlington County of the State of Virginia is the Pentagon, which serves as United States Department of Defense. Its five sided design is world known and is one of the world's largest office buildings; it has a floor space of almost forty hectareas. The Pentagon has around 24,000 employees, both military and civilian. It can be seen from the Cementery. Another obligatory visit is Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, was the plantation home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Besides, Virginia was the escenario of serveral of the battles during the Civil War, including the final battle of Appomattox. Like all of the States of the United States, virginians are very proud of their history; and this I approve and support.


Walloon Region Visit: 1962-8
2009-10-01 - The first was in August 1962, on my way from Denmark to Paris, in an old VW that belonged to my Caracas friend Dr. Luis Herrera Marsicano. We stopped only for meals, gasoline and indispensable needs. Reason: we were destitute after six week studying Comparative Law in Helsinki, ten dayss in Stokholm and five days in Copenhagen. We entered Belgium by the border city of Achen and went on to Liege, and from there we went bordering the Meuse River through Les Ardennes, where we could see the fortifications on the river banks, dating back to First World War. We continued South to Charleroi, where we purchased food to eat on the way. We crossed the border with France in a small migration and customs post where we were thoroughly searched. The European Union was not working yet... We continued to Charleville, stopped the car and had lunch, wine and “saussison”, in a pastureland with the veiw of a castle on the other side of the road. We went on to Reims to admire the Cathedral and the beautiful huge statue of Joan of Arc and then Paris. So my stay at the Walloon side of Belgium, as, to say the least, short.


Zurich Visit: 1998-8
2010-04-09 - 2009-09-19 The first time I was in this delightful country was in 1993 on business. It was only two days in Zurich, but found out why the Swiss banks are so rich: I had a check for US$50,000 from Banco Nacional de Costa Rica against Swiss Bank Corporation, their correspondent, to purchase a property in Costa Rica for a client of mine from a Swiss gentleman. When I tried to cash the check into dollars, the bank would not do it unless I changed the dollars into Swiss Franks and back to US Dollars. To make a long story short: it cost me $1500 to do the exchange. Thank Goodness I had money of my own and financed the termination of the deal, or my trip would have been lost. Of course, it was not easy explaining my client and not easy convincing him that he should reimburse my financing. Try to avoid using banks and, above all Swiss banks. FIVE YEARS LATER: Fellow traveler and wife Elizabeth and I were coming by train from Geneva to meet Dan Walker, fellow traveler and friend for more than eighteen years. In Zurich, Dan introduced us to Matt and his wife Yvonne, who were so gentle and friendly and took us by car to Bern and Lucern. Back in Zurich, we also swam in the lake, right in front of their house. The Cow Parade was starting then in Switzerland and there were fiberglass cows all around, beautiful pieces of art, painted in all imaginable ways. Inside the train station, there were several, standing, jumping, sitting, in all positions. Banhof Street has excellent stores. Beware! Delicious food was found in every corner of town, say what people may say. The restaurants that had a garden had placed tables outside and had minstrels going from one table to the other. Very agreeable and lots of fun.
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