Saturday, June 04, 2005

Honeymoon: Tabacrap Resort

After two years of telling the story over and over again, I’m finally getting around to writing up our Honeymoon Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s pretty long, so it’ll be in multiple segments.

Note: unmarried couples may want to consider bringing along a chaperone to reassure them that it’s not always this bad. There will be scenes of graphic disappointment and unhappiness, dashed plans and foiled expectations. You have been warned.

Christina and I got married 2 years ago, in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, on the 5th of July, 2003. We picked Costa Rica because we’d been there before and liked it and because we wanted to have a small [pronounced “cheap”] wedding, which would have been close to impossible if we’d gotten married in the US. Having the wedding in a different country made it very easy to justify inviting only immediate family and very close friends without thereby incurring years of wrath from Aunt Maude, Uncle Elmer and Cousin Jeremiah.

The ceremony was held at the Xandari hotel, a beautiful hotel set in the hills above San Jose, in the middle of a coffee plantation. Since Costa Rica’s rainy season runs from May to November, we were a bit concerned about the weather playing along, but it cooperated nicely – it rained all day until the beginning of the ceremony and stopped just in time for the clouds to part a bit and mist to start rising from the ground, making the wedding feel like it was being held up in the sky, among clouds. Or maybe that’s just me putting a romantic spin on it, which is entirely possible, given that I had to grit my teeth during the entire ceremony to avoid bawling like a little girl. In any case, the whole thing went well – we had everybody we wanted at the wedding [other than my dad, who unfortunately couldn’t make it for health reasons], nobody made any embarrassing speeches along the lines of “I remember when Alex used to run naked down the street” [no, I never did that, I’m just making a point] during the reception etc.

Tabacon resort:
A couple of days after the wedding, after we’d said goodbye to all our guests, we went to pick up our rental car and off we went. Our honeymoon plan was to spend a week or so at the Tabacon Resort, at the base of Costa Rica’s [largest] active volcano, the Arenal, followed by a few days of surfing in Malpais, on the Pacific coast. The drive to the Tabacon resort was relatively uneventful, though we did have to turn around once because the road we were on was blocked due to a tree having fallen across it, and nobody was sure when or how it would become unblocked. Part of the trip was over a mountain range, which had scenery that looked like it came out of the Swiss Alps: cows, pastures, twisty roads etc. On that bit of the drive, we ended up stuck behind slow-moving trucks several times and had to indulge in hair-raising overtaking manoeuvers because the road had only two lanes and lots of blind curves; however, that didn’t faze us much because we weren’t in a particular hurry and the scenery was nice [in sharp contrast to a later occurrence of this phenomenon].

When we got to the Tabacon resort, they still had our reservation [yay !] and even went as far as to give us a bottle of wine and a “Love Certificate”, since they somehow knew we were on our honeymoon. The “Love Certificate” made us chuckle a bit, since it was made out not to Mr. and Mrs. Mallet but rather to Mr. and Mrs.Todd, Christina’s maiden name [Yes, I know, we set women’s lib back by having Christina adopt my last name. I lie awake at night thinking about that. A lot. Not.]. That, however, was where the positive aspects of the Tabacon resort ended.

We’d booked a “junior suite”, reasoning that it was OK to splurge a bit on our honeymoon. This “junior suite” ended up being dark [it was a bottom, corner room] and so damp that there was mould growing under the wallpaper. Not exactly the sort of room you want anytime during a honeymoon, but especially not as the first room during the honeymoon, and after the amazing rooms at the Xandari. Poor Christina was so disappointed that she started to tear up, so I valiantly tried to comfort her, but had to admit that it wasn’t exactly what I’d been picturing either. We went back to the reception desk to see whether we could get anything better but were told that that was the best room they had. Hmm. Annoying, to put it mildly. By now, we were pretty hungry, so we figured we’d go get something to eat and would maybe see the room in a more positive light with a full stomach. The resort has two restaurants, one of which is a buffet set next to the hot springs that Tabacon is famous for, so we decided to go eat at the buffet. This turned out to be both a culinary and aesthetic mistake – the buffet was overpriced [$20 a head, in Costa Rica], the food was bad and the scenery was ... unappetizing. And by unappetizing I mean old-hairy-men-with-large-guts-wearing-very-small-swimming-trunks-lolling-in-hot-springs-unappetizing. Bad Naked, all the way. After hurriedly cramming down some undercooked pasta, we headed back to our room to take a shower to wash off the accumulated dust and grime, and, hopefully, some of our bad mood. Alas, ‘twas not to be.

The bathroom in our room was constructed by an idiot unacquainted with two very important concepts in a bathroom: privacy and the dynamics of fluid flow emerging from a showerhead. First, the bathroom was right next to the parking lot – all you had to do was open the wooden shutters and you could touch people walking by. The shower consisted of a showerhead mounted over a circular tub, which was separated from the rest of the bathroom by a downwards-slanting sheet of glass which extended about 3 feet from the wall. The net effect of this was that as soon as you turned on the shower, water sprayed sideways over the sheet of glass and right out the back of the shower and flooded the rest of the bathroom. The water also bounced off the aforementioned wooden shutters, which were mouldy because, well, untreated wood exposed to water will get mouldy. All in all, it made for a rather unpleasant showering experience.

At this point, the thought of staying at the Tabacon for a whole week filled us with sheer terror, so we decided to stay for only one night and then head for Malpais the next morning. We went back to the reception desk and made up a cock-and-bull story about having to check out early because Christina was allergic to the mould in the room [hey, it could have been true, if we’d stayed long enough to find out] and then went back to try to get some sleep in our bed with the damp, musty-smelling sheets. Day 1 of the honeymoon had come to a pretty unsatisfactory end.


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