Travel Quote
of the Month


"If you look like your passport photo, you're too
ill to travel."

Will Kommen



In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Going Green With Coffee, First World Court Ruling on Nica Invasion, Easy Does It)
  2. Rumble Talk (Nothing Major Happening -Well Wait a Minute)
  3. Maya Blue (And Other Colors That Last)
  4. Turned On by the Sea (Blowfish, Oysters or Sea Cucumbers Anyone?)
  5. Raising Golden Arches in Paradise (McTico Facts)
  6. What's-in-a-Word (Attapulgite, Logophile)
  7. ROMEO Corner (La [New] Bohemia)
Quepos Weather

Wisdom of the Ages



"It is sad to grow old but nice to ripen."

Brigitte Bardot

 Broken News

Going Green With Coffee

...this plus...
...equals less of...

Thirty years ago the medical establishment was bad mouthing coffee drinkers. I'm afraid I didn't listen; it's not that I knew better it's just that I don't like to be told what to eat or drink (there's a never ending steam of this "helpful" health stuff on U.S. television these days).

Research reports have been coming out for the past few years lauding coffee as a health food. I am holding back the urge to say nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah,but again, I didn't know better, I just liked the stuff. Now here comes another study report indicating the benefits of coffee but this time in conjunction with another drink that makes the combination synergistic. That other drink is green tea.

The National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Japan (konichiwa, amigos) conducted a study over 13 years in which they followed the drinking habits of over 83,000 adults. They came to the following conclusions:

All kinds of factors were taken into account in this study including sex (er, gender), age, exercise (green tea drinkers were more likely to exercise) and other health habits. Smoking, for example, negated the effects of the coffee and/or green tea and rendered those doing the fuming along with the beverages equal to those that didn't drink coffee or green tea.

Methinks GG will have to add some green tea to his daily beverage routine (maybe I'll get an uncontrollable urge to exercise - nah).

¡Buen Salud!

First World Court Ruling on Nica Invasion

The invasion and expropriation of the northeastern tip of Costa Rica by Nicaragua, an area known as Isla Calero, is a dispute almost three years old now. The crack Chronicles reportage team (guess who that is) has been following this story since the Nica aggression first took place in October 2010.

Costa Rica filed a complaint immediately following the aggression with the World Court in the Hague. The San José government also began building a road along the Tico side of Rio San Juan, the border between the two countries, because access to the river was also restricted by the Nicas. This river has been used as a transportation route for Ticos for years. Nicaragua then filed a complaint (an attempted diversion, actually) with the court that Costa Rica was silting up the Rio San Juan by building the road. Needless to say, relations between the two countries were severely strained.

The mischief behind the Nica aggression slowly became apparent when Nicaragua recently announced a consortium led by the Chinese had been formed to design and build a Nica version of the Panama Canal running from the projected new mouth of the river from the Caribbean side to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast. The route uses the Rio San Juan and Lake Nicaragua to the best advantage. This route was the primary alternative to the Panama route at the time the current successful canal was built.

The problem for the Nicas is that the mouth of the San Juan that currently exits north of the island silts easily and is, therefore, not the best choice for a canal mouth whereas the Rio Colorado, a tributary of the San Juan running south of the island doesn't silt. That route also knocks off some kilometers from the route. Many more kilometers could be cut off if Nicaragua were to cut a ditch directly across the the caribbean (red line on map), which they started to do just after the invasion. So, rather than negotiate a percentage of the canal equity going to Costa Rica in exchange for the passage, Ortega and cohorts just took the island.

The court rejected the complaint from Nicaragua about the silting due to the road construction. The chances are good they will eventually rule favorably for Costa Rica on the aggression, but who's going to enforce giving Isla Calero back? During his recent reelection campaign Nica President Danny Ortega swore he would never give it back. The likely end result is Nicaragua will keep the island despite protests and World Court rulings.

The canal project is entirely too big (+$30 billion) for Nicaragua to self-finance or obtain normal international financing, so In the meantime Señor Ortega continues to try and find financing. For this he's stooped to court friends like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (or Hugo's hand-picked successor) and Iran's Ahmadinejad.

What we have here is a true labor of thieves and miscreants.

Easy Does It

Ticos Should Take a Page from the South Koreans who Improved Their Position from 23 in 2009 to 8 in 2013

The Chronicles has been following the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking by country for a couple of years now (see A Rank Ranking), always hoping Costa Rica would work its way up the list. In the latest revision of this index, Ticoland inched up to 110 out of 183 versus 125 a couple of years ago.

The table to the right shows the top ten rankings by country plus Costa Rica over the last few years. At a ranking of 110/183, Costa Rica has improved 15 levels in the last two years but still has a very long way to go to be in the midst of developed or developing countries let alone in the top ten. The index relies on the following criteria and also is based on a number of other indices calculated by the World Bank:

  1. Starting a Business: Procedures, time, cost and minimum capital to open a new business.
  2. Dealing With Construction Permits: Procedures, time and cost to build a warehouse.
  3. Getting Electricity: Procedures, time and Cost to obtain connection on new construction.
  4. Registering Property: Procedures, time and cost to register commercial real estate.
  5. Getting Credit: Strength of legal rights index, depth of credit information index
  6. Protecting Investors: Indices on the intent of disclosure, extent of direct liability, and ease of shareholder suits.
  7. Paying Taxes: Number of taxes paid, hours each year spent preparing tax returns, and total tax payable as share of gross profit.
  8. Trading Across Borders: Number of documents, cost and time necessary to export and import.
  9. Enforcing Contracts: Procedures, time and cost to enforce a debt contract;
  10. Resolving Insolvency: Time, cost and recovery rate (%) under bankruptcy proceedings.
Korean Kimchee
Yummy Polish Kielbasa

Ticoland scored much better that their average ranking of 110 in the areas of getting electric (45 out of 183), registering property (46), trading across borders (51) and getting credit (83). Those areas getting a poorer rating compared to the overall were paying taxes (125), starting a business (128), dealing with construction permits (128), enforcing contracts (128), resolving insolvency (128) and, the worse ranking of the ten, protecting investors (169) - oops, that's not a good one for ex-pats.

The World Bank issues a comprehensive report on each country along with the index. For Costa Rica, the report said it takes about 60 days to form a corporation and lawyers are required by law to participate (add weeks or even months for that). By comparison, the world average is 12 days. For further comparison, GG formed two corporations in Florida, a state which prides itself on its online ability to do things like this, in 30 minutes each. Once the corporate name is cleared by electronic search and the fee is paid by credit card (less than $50), the corp is formed and valid. "Official" docs follow in the mail within two weeks.

The World Bank report stated that Poland was the most improved in ranking in 2013 while the table above shows South Korea also had a dramatic improvement in ranking. If I were the development guru in the San José government I would schedule, with my corresponding gurus, a Kimchee luncheon in Seoul followed by a Kielbasa dinner in Warsaw. Let's find out what our Korean and Polish buddies are doing right amigos.

Bon Apetite. In San José it's: ¡Buen Provecho!.  In Seoul: Mas-issge deuseyo! or 맛있게 드세요. In Warsaw, it's: Smacznego! and in Quepos: we say Eat up Dudes!


Rumble Talk
(Nothing Major Happening - Well Wait a Minute)

After months and months of strong earthquakes, including a 7.6 giant tremor last September, it appears we've entered a period of benign neglect by our old friends the tectonic plates. There have been only minor rumblings in and around the country for some time now, mostly in the 2-4 Richter range and some in the 4-5 range. Consequently, the editorial staff of the Golden Gringo Chronicles (guess who that is) has set a minimum Richter level of 5.0 forthwith to file a terremoto report in the Chronicles - we can be picky on things like this.

There continue to be and probably always will be many, many small shakers but they rarely result in any damage or injury, and as such are only of passing interest (unless the epicenter is four feet below your beach chair, like the 5.8 that happened to me last October sitting on MA Beach).

We will return to reporting these stories and related information when the situation warrants.

Epicenter in Red

Oh sure, a few days after writing the above, a sizeable shaker hit the area. At about 3:45 in the morning of May 27, GG was awakened by a shaking bed. In a half-dream state I had a flashback to my old travel days and wondered if I had forgotten to turn off the vibrator on the Holiday Inn bed.Then I realized we were feeling the largest tremor in this area since the big one last September.

The Costa Rican centers for monitoring these events put the epicenter in Panama near the Sixaola border crossing to Costa Rica that GG traversed twice in March on a visit to Bocas del Toro. The strength if the terremoto was put at 5.7 on the Richter scale, strong enough to unnerve one but not strong enough to cause serious damage.

That'll teach me to be cavalier about the plates..

Maya Blue
(And Other Colors That Last)

GG once visited the excavated ruins of Pompeii in southern Italy not far from Naples. The place was fascinating. Pompeii was a bustling and affluent town on the Mediterranean coast that was often used by the Roman hoity-toity as a vacation spot or just a place to get away from all the political intrigues of Rome (kind of like White Sulphur Springs is to D.C.).

Pompeian College Course - Men Pleasing 101 - Yeah!

In 79 AD, nearby Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted showering tons of fine, smothering ash onto the city. In the midst of the ash snowfall a 1,000 degree Fahrenheit, fast moving pyroclastic gas flow engulfed the town and quickly fried the inhabitants. Because of their encasement in the ash, many people were frozen in their death position and were later uncovered as whole, petrified, statue-like objects, some of which are still on exhibit about the town.

When the excavation of Pompeii began some 1500 years after the eruption, many murals, frescoes and paintings were found in surprisingly good condition in the various houses and businesses across the city. Many of them contained a certain "Pompeii red" base color like the one shown to the right. How exactly to make Pompeii red remains a mystery but its ability to last is unquestioned..

Mayan Art - Blue Backing
Anil Plant
Mayan Warrior Battleready

The particular picture shown was found on a grand salon wall in a school for the education of young women. A guide told us that the curriculum for this school consisted of training women in any activity, from food to physical pleasure, that would make a man happy. (Now that's a finishing school amigos!) For the sake of propriety and decorum GG did not include here some of the more picturesque paintings that also were depicted on the walls of this school

A few hundred years after Vesuvius blew its top, the Maya civilization was flowering in southern Mexico and northern Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras,  El Salvador). The Maya were no slouches in color development either. They came up with a brilliant shade of blue that now is known as "Maya blue" and used it in decorating their pottery, their buildings, their clothes and even themselves.

The striking thing about both the Pompeii red and Maya blue pigments is not only their intensity and brilliance but also their durability. The color of Maya blue artifacts are still like new some 1500 years after they were made. (So how did they get the stuff off their bodies I wonder?)

Archaeologists and other scientists are still trying to piece together how the natives came up with this blue color. It is known, however, that the primary ingredients are a mixture of an organic indigo dye derived from the anil plant and an inorganic clay called attapulgite. The clay is a mineral compound containing magnesium, aluminum and silica and is found in relatively small deposits in southern Mexico but in greater quantities in the southeastern United States.

The exact recipe for making Maya blue was lost with collapse of the Maya civilization. Scientists are studying various combinations of indigo and attapulgite but exactly how it was cooked and what other additives might have been employed are still a mystery.   

Indigo, like spices, molasses and sugar became important in the European colonization era, particularly from 1400 to 1900. Indigo was even more valuable than the consumables because it was relatively rare and in great demand to provide chic clothes for the royal courts and other rich of Europe.

For my part, I'd just like to get a cash register receipt in Costa Rica where the print lasts more than three days. They all seen to be made with disappearing ink.

¡Solo Bueno!


Turned on by the Sea
(Blowfish, Oysters or Sea Cucumbers Anyone?)

Rare dyes are not the only goods mankind has sought over the centuries. Another favorite pursuit has been to find aphrodisiacs.

Many natural ingredients have been used as aphrodisiacs throughout mankind's history or at least designated as such by many cultures. Among the many natural foods so designated, some of the more common items include chocolate, oysters, carrots, ginseng, hot chilies and several herbs (e.g., yohimbe).

Chocoholic Montezuma

I suspect chocolate got its rep as an aphrodisiac from the Aztec King Montezuma. This dude was reported to have drunk up to 100 cups per day of his own chocolate brew (that's a lot of Bosco, baby). His drink was probably a thick, semi-bitter concoction made from roughly ground beans from the cacao tree, but once a chocoholic, always a chocoholic. Do you think this much cacao could have produced Montezuma's chocolate revenge?

Monty was reported to have had three wives, many mistresses, and a couple of dozen children. He lived into his seventies in the 14th century, when the average life span was around 35, and ruled a large empire for nearly thirty years. Now that's what I call a power drink, muchachos!

Seven is Not Nearly Enough

But several important and powerful natural aphrodisiacs come from the sea. Long before Viagra became popular, raw oysters were touted as an aphrodisiac. Reportedly they increase the level of testosterone which in turn increases libido.

GG has always loved raw oysters and used to eat them by the dozen back in the '70's and '80's. I remember sitting in a restaurant in Paris. a guest of the French government (they got the tab - mais qui!) where we sampled six different varieties of "huitres" in one sitting, The French cultivate at least 13 varieties of oysters in sea farms in Brittany and Normandy. What I don't remember from eating them is any improvement in physical awareness or acuity. Perhaps there was too much wine accompanying them. Ah, the good old days, living large.

Fugu to You Too

And then there's Fugu. The Japanese have long touted the powers of Fugu (blowfish) as an aphrodisiac. There's a problem with this one however. The blowfish is one of the most poisonous fish in the sea and must be prepared by experts who know how to remove the poisonous liver sac with precision because the liver secretions can easily kill you. Chefs who specialize in this particular fish must undergo seven years of training before they are allowed to prepare the dish for serving in a restaurant (that's at least a Master's degree in Fugu, isn't it?).

Common Sea Cucumber

And then there are sea cucumbers. Actually this is a misleading name because it's not a vegetable but an invertebrate marine animal found all over the world. There are about 7,000 species living on the bottom of the sea at virtually any depth from a few feet in shallow waters all the way to the bottom of the Marianas Trench (+17,000 feet or 5,000 meters). The common sea cucumber pictured to the left is legally protected in Costa Rica. The photo is a Costa Rican police shot of a bag of dead cucumbers confiscated from some illegal harvesters.

The problem is that in latino culture and some others sea cucumbers are considered an aphrodisiac and are eaten to increase virility. Sea cucumbers have a tough skin. They're reported to be quite tasteless and have to be mixed with sauces or some other flavoring. In this regard, they are similar to tofu, another totally tasteless food in GG's opinion. (Since tofu isn't regarded as an aphrodisiac, I don't understand why anyone eats it). Some people sauce and otherwise flavor the sea cucumbers to make them more palatable.

A Few of the Thousands of Varieties of Sea Cucumber Out There - Do These Look Yummy to You?

I think I'll stick with the oysters and chocolate. Hmmm, I wonder what chocolate covered oysters would taste like?

¡Pura Vida!


Raising Golden Arches in Paradise
(McTico Facts)

With the possible exception of Coca-Cola®, McDonald's® has got to be the most recognized brand name in the world.

The Original McDonald's in San Bernardino. Only 15 Cents for a Burger but Look Ma, No Arches

Starting from a single hamburger restaurant in 1955 in San Bernardino, California the company now operates over 33,000 company owned and franchised stores in 119 countries. Total worldwide revenues (McDonald's Corp + Franchised Sales) have reached more than $67 billion. That's a lot of burger flipping amigo.

Now I know that some out there love to decry McDonald's for its reportedly unhealthy food and I don't want to get into a debate or assume a defensive position when it comes to Big Macs but it seems to me the last couple of generations who grew up on this "junk food" look pretty healthy. And they're growing into giants. Have you looked at the latest generation, even the Ticos?  At 18 years of age they seem to start at 6' 3" (1,9 meters) and go up. As a six footer, I was a giant compared to my mom at 5'3" and my dad at 5'6". Now I know what they felt like watching me.

The First Ronald McDonald
(Willard Scott)

Actually, I always preferred the taste of a Wendy's Double or a Burger King Whopper over a Big Mac but I must admit I usually ended up in a McDonald's a few times a year when I was on the run and the Golden Arches were convenient to where I was traveling. The arches beckoned and I answered. I always knew what to expect, the stores were always quick, consistent and low priced. Ray Kroc (1902-1984), the founder of McDonald's set the tone for the company when he demanded "Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value" as the company's guiding principles. Slowly but surely McDonald's became the standard for the fast food industry worldwide.

When I lived in Brussels in the 1970's there were many companies across Europe trying to become the next McDonald's, The Belgian entry was called GB Quick and was a division of a major Belgian food retailer. (Hmmm, I wonder if they would consider opening a Costa Rican division that I could run - we could call it GG Quick). The problem I had with GB Quick was that it was neither quick nor consistent. One could stand in line for a half hour to get a burger and a couple of times I remember crunching on something in the meat that turned out to be small chips of bone left over from the meat rendering process. Takes the fun out of eating a hamburger, amigos.

"McEntrega" = "McDelivery"

The number of McDonald's in Costa Rica has now reached 50 and is increasing at a rate of 5-7 per year (Quepos can't be out of the picture too much longer). Now, a total of 50 is not bad considering that Louisiana, a state with about the same population as Costa Rica, has 43 McDonald's.

I was in San José recently trying to make U.S. Social Security behave - they have an office at the embassy. After concluding my business I dropped into a McDonald's across the street from the embassy for a quick burger and saw something I hadn't seen before. There were four young gents standing near the end of the counter all dressed in blue baseball caps and shirts that had "McEntrega".emblazoned on them, The guys were loading large delivery packs with drinks and bags of burgers. Entregar is the Spanish word for deliver so this was the delivery team I was watching. I don't remember delivery service at Mac's in the U.S.? Here, delivery service consists of a dude on a motor scooter with a hotbox on the back.

So it was with interest that I read an article recently in the Costa Rica Star, an electronic English newsletter that talked about the "McMyths" surrounding the company, particularly its Costa Rican operations. Here are excerpts from the article, some of the McFacts (my term for the responses) have been annotated to save space:

It is GG's unscientific observation that Ticos have taken to McDonald's as well or even more so than many places in the world. This is a company that knows and caters to its markets and they detected early on that Ticos have a great love for ice cream. As a result you will find that many of their restaurants here have a street side kiosk exclusively for ice cream and you will find them quite busy.

You might call it a McFlurry of business..

¡Pura McVida!




Maya Blue Rose

This is the clay used in the making of Maya Blue. Attapulgite is a magnesium aluminum silicate mineral occurring as a clay and having the chemical formula: (Mg,Al)2Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O). (sorry amigos, but seeing a chemical formula now and then is nostalgic and comforting for a frizzled old chemical engineer like GG).

Attapulgite is found in minor concentrations in Mexico which is where the Mayas got their raw material. It is also found in North America in high concentrations in the extreme southwest corner of Georgia in and around a town called, not surprisingly, Attapulgas. The mineral is named after the town rather than vice versa.

The Maya color might have been called Georgia blue but for the scarcity (make that absence) of indigo producing plants in the Attapulgas area.


A logophile is a lover of words. Count me in as I love the nuances of words in any language. I'm hardly an expert in any one of them, yet I enjoy them and keep trying.

Logophile finds its roots in two Greek words: logos which means speech, word, or reason and philos, which means dear or friendly.

One could be called worse things, amigos.


ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

La (New) Bohemia This restaurant is closed

Location: Quepos, main street into town from Manuel Antonio (via Pali), over and just west of the short bridge on the same side as the Italian bakery. Walk over the creek via the footbridge.
Hours: At this time, dinner only from 5 PM to 10PM.
Parking: Ample at dinner time in front of the foot bridge just across the creek.
Contact: Tel.: 2777-6584; Email: N/A; Website: N/A

Reviewing ROMEOS: Anita M., Brian M., Bob  M., Bob N.,

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

This is an old favorite that closed for some time while the owner/chef (Marjorie) had a baby. The baby's doing fine and since Marjorie is on a cooking roll again, I guess mom is too.

The "New" La Bohemia

The old restaurant (near Miguelitos) was literally a whole in the wall with three guest tables and a micro sized kitchen but we were always impressed with the food that Marjorie could produce in that tiny space. This is a sure sign of someone who likes to cook. The old restaurant was reviewed in December of 2012 and the review can be seen here: Old La Bohemia.

The new restaurant has more tables than the old and can seat at least 15. The new kitchen is about five times the size of the old one. The atmosphere is actually bohemian, with a casual decor, pleasant lighting and simple dark wood tables and chairs. Marjorie is also in the dress making business so some of her work samples are hanging about the restaurant. The effect is more like dining in someone's home than in a restaurant. For atmosphere we give La Bohemia four sloths

The menu varies day to day, as Marjorie gets an inspiration. This is not comida tipica, it's comida untipica. The menu for the evening was a hand written page with a dozen or so choices on it, mostly seafood, some chicken.

The good news is that the expansion hasn't effected the quality of the food product one iota, no doubt because of Marjorie's commitment. GG had a brochette of mahi mahi interspersed with shrimp and served with small bowls of white rice and brown beans, accompanied by fried bananas and small mounds of something like crushed salad. All fresh and delicious.

Others chose a chicken curry and one selected a caribbean shrimp dish. The shrimp for the different dishes were large, fresh and tasty. One small irritant was that half the shell was left on the shrimp rather than being completely cleaned, but this is a common practice here.

The desert offering consisted of brownies with ice cream and a chocolate volcano cake, all delicious.

$$$ 1/2
Value Index = 114

For food quality we give La Bohemia five sloths.

By Norteamericano standards, service (i.e., time to get the main course) was slow. This is not untypical of a one-person show where the chef/owner worries and fusses over every plate. For service  we give La Bohemia (an impatient gringo) three sloths. That gives the restaurant  and overall rating for atmosphere, food quality and service of four sloths..

GG's bill for two courses plus a pineapple and ginger naturale was just over 10,000 colones (about $19). This is on the low side of average for the area and we give the restaurant 3 1/2 dollars for cost. That also results in a value index of 4/3.5 x 100 = 114, which is above average.

The overall result is the same as that for the old restaurant, so we are very happy to have once more La Bohemia as a good choice for dining in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area.



don Beto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!

To Contact GGC World Wide Headquarters (yuk, yuk) to request addition or deletion from the Golden Gringo Chronicles distribution, make comments, suggest topics or criticize my bad jokes, just send an email to:

Be pithy but kind. I'm sensitive.
                                         Go to: TOP