Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mas magaritas

After driving through winding narrow mountain roads in a foggy downpour, we arrived in Quepos Wednesday afternoon. I was ready to hit the nearest bar, and we wound up at Dos Locos.

I have to admit, I made a rookie partying mistake. I partied so hard on Wednesday night that it took my body three days to recuperate. I don’t want to see another margarita or bowl of guacamole anytime soon.

My night consisted of singing Johnny Cash with a duo in front the bar, jumping into the photo with two girls from Canada (I gave them some money and promised to e-mail them a cute shot I took of them), and buying college students from the University of Texas a pitcher of margaritas.

Me, Sass and Latifah met a Dallas Cowboys fan from Austin, Texas. He was vacationing with his wife and two sons. After the necessary trash-talking we hit it off well. We also met a guy from Rocky Mount, N.C. He visited Quepos once, loved it and moved there when he retired. We met a lot of people like that.

Before the night ended, Latifah ended up dancing with the most arrogant and annoying little guy. And Sass had a conversation in Thai with the little guy’s wingman. She didn’t really like him either.

I loved everybody.

Friends and hot boys

After mojitos at La Guagua, we caught a cab to Friends in El Pueblo, about 15 minutes away. The club was in a tourist district with souvenir shops and restaurants. The place was tiny, maybe half the size of Liquid Lounge. And they had the nerve run a fog machine.

When you walked in, there were bistro tables and a bar. Down a few steps were more tables, a DJ booth and a stage. Since it was ladies night we got $2 admission and a free rum and coke. We arrived about 9:30 p.m. and the place was kind of dead, but about an hour later it started to fill up. You know how people here buy bottles of champagne, well over there people bought bottles of liquor, which is more common in our VIP areas.

The partiers were a mix of tourists, we met a guy from New York and some college students, and locals. By 10:30 p.m. the hot boys came. It was two guys dressed in black who stood onstage and shook their bootys and hips. They were sexy though because they could actually dance and move their hips like salsa dancers compared to male exotic dancers here who just wind their pelvis.

By 11 p.m. we were pooped. We’d been going hard all day and Costa Rica is two hours behind Charlotte, so it felt like 1 a.m.

We headed back to the hotel and prepped for our next adventure -- road trip to Quepos.

Cigars and mojitos

While Latifah and I sipped our margaritas, Sass hungrily eyed the Cuban restaurant across the parking lot, La Guagua. She drooled at the thought of Cuban cigars. After we polished off our second margarita, we headed across the street.

At the bar, we met Dennis. He had a twinkle in his eye and a mojito in his hand. We ordered a round and joined him. He spoke about as much English as we spoke Spanish so we got along well.
If you've ever had mojitos made with mint from those Harris Teeter packages, you're wasting your time. Carlos, the bartender, pulled out a shoebox-size container of fresh mint leaves. I started grinning. When he mixed the mojitos, he ground the leaves in the glass. Oh my goodness. We sucked the first one down like it was water. He had our next round prepped and ready.

We peppered Dennis, who seemed to be a regular, Carlos and the other staffers with questions about where to hang. We cracked opened their humidor and bought cigars. It was a Tuesday night and we had the place to ourselves. A waiter asked me if I liked rap music. He said he liked .50 Cent and Tupac. I pulled out my iPod and let him listen to "It's Goin' Down" by Yung Joc and "Poppin' My Collar" by Three 6 Mafia. I didn't bring cables to run my iPod through their stereo, but the waiter turned off the Cuban music and put on some .50 and Bob Marley.

I sipped my mojito, smoked my cigar and knew it was going to be a good week.

Guess who we saw

After eating dinner at La Cocina de Lena in San Jose near our hotel, we headed to Plaza Itskatzu in Escazu. It has high-end shoppes and restaurants about 15 minutes away from the capital city of San Jose. Restaurants included Hooters and Outback Steakhouse. I know this sounds crazy, but by Saturday after a week of rice and beans, I was actually salivating over some Hooters chicken wings, but I'll save that story for later.

We stopped at Restuarante Mundo and ran into a dude from Charlotte. No lie. His name is Toby McGarry and you might remember him from his days at Phat Burrito when it first opened. Well, he's now a part-owner of Mundo. Think of Cosmos' vibe in a smaller space.

After leaving Charlotte, McGarry said he bounced around the world at different restaurants and then landed in Costa Rica. He still has a house with his sister in Charlotte. We arrived Tuesday, two days before the grand opening of Mundo. Since we were heading to Quepos the next day, we promised to return to Mundo later that week.

Next we headed to Mas Tikila. It was happy hour, which meant half-priced margaritas. That's what I'm talking about. We had a few drinks there and I met an American who used to play basketball in Costa Rica. He told us the place to party was Friends in El Pueblo, about 15 minutes away. It was ladies' night.

But first mojitos...

I'm addicted

My first real trip out of the country was Costa Rica last week. I went to Cozumel, Mexico, on a cruise, but one day in a tourist town doesn't count.

Costa Rica was the real deal - six days with an SUV, a full tank of gas and two friends who spoke little Spanish. Winding through the mountains, down neighborhood streets, past churches and strips of stores, we got lost more times than I can remember. We stopped every few miles to make sure we were going the right way. Sometimes we were. Often we weren't.

I can't wait to fumble my way through another city in a land far, far away. Interacting with the people gave me an even better appreciation for the challenges immigrants and tourists face here. Luckily, most Costa Ricans were patient with our horrible Spanish and taught us a few words as well. Borracha (drunk), goma (hung over) and pica flor (player pimp). (You'll learn why we needed to know those words in other blog entries.)

We visited San Jose, the capital, and Quepos and Manuel Antonio, about three hours south on the Pacific coast. We could barely drive through the mountains without pulling over and snapping pictures of the valleys below.

My friend Sass wanted to stop at every fruit stand. Latifah was in search of restaurants that served whole fish fried or grilled. I wanted to find the party. We did those things and more.

This trip will be my first of a lifetime of annual trips overseas. My goal is to do outdoor adventures and find the best parties.

Have you traveled internationally? If so, what's your favorite party city and what's the name of the bar?