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April 2008

Written By: Gary on April 29, 2008 One Comment

Just got back from a preview of Iron Man, it was excellent. It was a long movie but it did not feel like it at all, had to be close to two hours. Wonderful visual effects!! I couldn’t tell where Tony Stark ended and the CGI began. I was highly entertained and not disappointed at all! I had really high hopes and saw a million different previews and I thought it might spoil it, but that wasn’t the case at all.

If you’ve got kids who want to see it: it’s got lots of violence but less than the average violent show (or video game) and the sexual references/scenes are way less than the average soap opera (which is probably too much).

Jon Favreau (who you might remember as the Ultimate Fighting Champion wannabe from Friends) was the director/producer and also played Happy Hogan. The movie adaption book was written by Peter David who always writes good stuff (IMHO) so I’ll be checking that out. And of course, a humorous scene with Stan Lee….

Where did our preview tickets come from? We have no idea, they showed up in a Mark’s mailbox with no indication of how the were won or distributed. We asked a few people in the theatre where they got their’s but it turned out they all “knew someone” or got them from “an aunt/grandmother” and didn’t know the original source.

Possible Minor Spoiler below:I swear in one early scene (at the end of one of the scenes that take place in a club) I heard a few bars from the original Iron Man TV theme song. Did anyone else, or was this my imagination?

Later: I’m certain it was the old theme. It’s the casino scene (right after the awards ceremony) as they walk towards the car, it’s gets louder and more pronounced (horns?) and then abruptly gets cut off. The last few bars are the clearest…

Even Later: If you’re a comic fan, stay after the credits (I didn’t) I hear there’s an additional scene with a cameo you want want to miss..

Written By: Gary on April 29, 2008 One Comment

It’s the little things like this that brighten my day :)

That and the fact it’s still running

88888

 

88888‘ uploaded by garylapointe

Written By: Gary on April 27, 2008 4 Comments

Manzanillo-CostaRica-Gary-Mark-Pict2359So on the left is my buddy Mark, I think I’ve been on four vacations with him and I think this is only the second picture of us at a destination. I’m pretty sure this is in Manzanillo, Costa Rica on the Pacific side of the Nicoya Peninsula (if not, it’s pretty close to there); it’s the fourth town from the southern tip.

I used my cool new QuikPod to take the picture. Last time we got Carla the waitress to take the picture; it was in a little bar in Jaco that doesn’t exist any more. Since there was no one else around, QuikPod to the rescue. It’s a kind of a stick with a tripod mount and a little mirror so you can take pictures of yourself.

Written By: Gary on April 27, 2008 3 Comments

So Santa Teresa is supposed to be this beautiful place in Costa Rica (I’m referring to the town in the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula) and while the beaches are beautiful (it is just sand on the ocean) so are a million other areas along the coast. The beaches are great for surfing too, that’s really the appeal for some people. I think there is a few surf camps and lots of lessons when we were on the beach.

Santatesesa2008Img 7758But the town is mostly just a bunch of spread out stores spaced out along a very very very dusty road. You can see from this Santa Teresa Map how everything is spread out (that main road is a “city block” or two from the beach).

We stayed at the Beach Break Surf Hotel, nothing fancy on the inside (2 beds, A/C , TV and a bathroom) but perfectly clean and functional with a nice porch (I think we got it at a good rate), I’d definitely go back. This was the hotel with the great staff that came around with flashlights when the power went out in twon. Actually, the only reason we stayed in that town was it was the day we had to backtrack because we hit the river that we didn’t know how to cross ()read that as we didn’t know where to drive to get across the river).

I’m sure there are a few more hotels on the beach if you drive down a driveway, but I need a town (even if it’s a tiny one) to wander over to to eat and do some people watching. Some people love Santa Teresa but so far, it’s just not for me…

But I will give it another try next trip, it is just “around the corner” from Montezuma….

Written By: Gary on April 26, 2008 No Comment

So on day one, we had just checked into the hotel and headed out to dinner and the power went out. The restaurant put out some candles, the stove was gas (probably propane) and they were ready to go. Twenty or thirty minutes later it was back on.

Picture 3I know they have some power problems in the country but that was the longest one I’ve ever experienced (at least at night). I’ve never seen anything last more than a few minutes. But we had a few more as the trip went on, a few short ones and a really long one (a hour or so?). Everyone just rolls with it, it’s semi-expected, but still inconvenient (especially if hot) and as I said, I’ve been pretty lucky on my previous four trips.

It gets really dark out there when there are no city lights even in the distance. I always keep a mini-flashlight in my travel bag, but for places where I want to be outside at night (like CR) I take a few with, so it wasn’t too much of a problem for us. The small hotel we were at did knock on doors and pass out flashlights to the rooms.

Written By: Gary on April 26, 2008 No Comment

MonkeybabySo driving along the side of the road somewhere in the vacinity of Playa’s Lagarto and Pitahaya (I think). There were some money’s alongside of the road. There were a dozen or so at a time but it’s really hard to see them. Here’s an animated movie of a monkey with a baby on it’s back (if that does work, try this MPEG-4 version). I’ve sen a few computers that couldn’t load the previous two options, here’s a YouTube link. I’ll animate a few of the others when I figure out a better way.

I never knew what kind they were; they’re were darker than other monkeys that I’ve seen down there before and didn’t have the white fur on their faces.

Why the silly title of this post? Because one of us got pooped on (and it wasn’t me!).

Written By: Gary on April 20, 2008 One Comment

Unfortunately, they were closed. But I thought it was a funny name. This location isin East Lansing, Michigan.

They’re on-line at InsomniaCookies.com

 

Insomnia Cookies‘ uploaded by garylapointe

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Written By: Gary on April 20, 2008 No Comment

I had such good intentions on getting more Costa Rica blogging done (especially some more photos) the past few days and it didn’t happen…

And here I am getting ready to head out to East Lansing to catch a performance of Avenue Q so I expect I won’t get much done today either…

Written By: Gary on April 17, 2008 One Comment

I made it home! Flights were fine, but it was really really rushed between flights in Charlotte, NC.

I just hit send on a bunch of posts that I wrote while I didn’t have access (or finished while in flight). I’ll try to get more stories and photos up this weekend (and possible add some photos to some older posts).

I miss Costa Rica already, but I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Good night…

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Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 No Comment

So there was a Sand Castle Festival in Manzanillo, we knew about it a few days in advance but we couldn’t find a single piece of information on it, looked in the newspaper and on-line. If we hadn’t seen them building stuff (platforms / shelter) for the festival a few days before, we never would have known about it (we hunted around and saw a single banner).

Sandcastlebannerpict2366We only made it for the first day, which it turns out was kid’s day, they said it’d be busier the rest of the weekend but we couldn’t make it then. Different sand structures were built by local school’s teams (I think the team was the whole school). There were only a dozen different structures but it was fun, they kids had volleyball and soccer (and the ocean) to play with too.

But the whole advertising thing was very strange. Even when we were there it was hard to find out more information on it. It was sponsored by one of the major banks and still was no info (this was actually a bank we went into on the trip and saw about it). There was no information in any of the local towns as far as I saw. BTW, the bank sponsorship was why there was a kid’s day, previously the sponsor was a beer company.

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Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 No Comment

I lug a lot of stuff on vacation, before I left my Mom asked how much stuff I take on vacations but don’t use. I tried to pay attention this trip:

So I took along my XO Laptop with me and didn’t use it all (this is the durable OLPC kids laptop I purchased recently). We were running around more than usual (I usually try to stay in the same place for more than a few days), so just relaxing outside and typing never really happened. The reason I purchased this computer was because it’s screen is designed for outside use and I’m tired of sitting inside in the summer when I have things I’d like to type or edit.

I didn’t use my video camera at all, I usually don’t use it that much but I do use it a little. Once again, never sitting still for very long I just didn’t get the opportunity to pull it out.

Even though I didn’t use them the most useless large item I brought were a regular pair of sandals. I just didn’t get around to wearing them very much. They’re heavy and take up space and I just really didn’t need them. These and the few magazines I never read could have been left behind.

There were probably some adaptors / connectors, medicines and other little things but nothing very large (but they probably added up). The problem in Costa Rica verses traveling in other places is that you might not be able to get somethings that you might need if you don’t have it.

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Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 No Comment

Jill Twiss always makes me laugh. Lately she’s had a lot of great posts so check out her site, in particular I really liked her recent Google thinks I’m a terrible person post….

Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 One Comment

So I was feeling pretty great while I traveled this trip. The allergies weren’t too bad (even with all the extra dust and strange plants) and I slept great but never long enough (even the nights when I had my own room).

But the part I really noticed was:

  • I didn’t have any headaches. For the previous few weeks I’ve been eating Ibuprofin like they were M & M’s, I actually had to cut myself off since I was starting to bruise to easily (disturbs the platelets?). But I didn’t take a single one while I was on this trip (even after hiking and taking a little spill). The only time I considered it when banged my forehead last night.
  • My neck/back hasn’t bothered me much at all, even after sleeping on all sorts of strange beds, flying thousands of miles and carrying all sorts of luggage and other junk with me. And these cRaZy roads and all the bouncing around on them and I still feel pretty good.

    So what is it about home that causes these headaches and neck/back pain? Any thoughts?

  • Written By: Gary on April 15, 2008 One Comment

    So the Automatic Teller Machines have been when I generally use for ca$h when I travel. Travelers Checks have always been a hassle. Charging always works well too, I never seem to get any related fees (or the little fees I get are pretty minimal). And the exchange rate is usually really good on the charge or ATM cards.

    But the only ATMs in the southern Nicoya Peninsula appear to Banco Nacional and they don’t like my card (but they list my network). But it might just be their machines, since those machines are pretty inconsistent: sometimes it asks me for the language, sometimes it still gives me Spanish, sometimes the network just times out and other times it gives me a useless message (like ‘you can only take out between $10 and $200 per day’, but that’s all I was trying to do).

    So going inside the banco is a trip, guards with shotguns and you walk into a decompression-type chamber (closed in while they x-ray you, and then they open the second door, imagine walking into an ultra-secure government facility). Then it’s kinda set up like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and you wait and try to communicate what you want. They have this neat system that you can phone in for live translation for English/Spanish, and when I say “neat” I mean if it worked. So after several tries, we determined that their ATM system was so crappy no one could say if it did / would / could work with the US.

    So we decided to do a cash advance instead, we didn’t know what the fees would be but we needed some more cash; not everyone takes charges and many charge premiums (and I think some discounts are because the money never gets reported somewhere down the line). This still took a while and they do everything in triplicate down there but I think it’d be hard for people to cheat the system since there are so many checks and balances.

    Once we got much more north the other ATMs took our cards just fine (I had a problem in Jaco once and I think it was the same bank but I just went to a different companies machine and it worked fine).

    Here’s the problem: Being curious of the fees of the Visa cash advance, we got on-line to check and discovered that the advance was done twice on the card, the fee was done twice and since it went over the card limit, tacked on another $39 fee. FYI, the cash advance fee was only $12.58 for $400 (and the back charged a dollar). The bank’s already been e-mailed and it’ll probably be fine from here.

    Written By: Gary on April 15, 2008 No Comment

    Traveled for almost 6 hours today, just to stay at a hotel near the airport for the flight out tomorrow. I’ll still keep posting Costa Rica tidbits over the next few weeks, I’ve got lots of photos and stories.

    But trying to find a restaurant near the hotel is tricky, the roads are kinda bizarre around the airport (once we got on the road I remembered). The resturant across from the hotel is a Denny’s and it’s the anchor restaurant for the casino attached to it (how strange is that?) and we didn’t want to eat there.

    So we drove and “tried” to get off the expressway and eventually at local little bar. And the airport we got back to was a different one. You’d think foreigners asking the gate guard where the other aeropuerto was wouldn’t be so tricky (even without understanding Spanish). Once he understood, we got understandable Spanish directions.

    Plus, at the restaurant I dropped my keys and when I bent down I hit my forehead on the back of the chair next to me (it was really dark), I’m sure it’s gonna leave a mark (it even bled a bit). So when you ask about the bruise and I say “I got it at the bar”, you’ll know what I mean…

    Written By: Gary on April 13, 2008 3 Comments

    So all the little towns north of Samara aren’t really my kind of vacation spot, not much of a “downtown”, it’s all spread out. Generally not as spread out as Santa Teresa but no real central location. Now, we didn’t drive down every street so we might have missed something. But that seems to be more of the norm around here. Garza was a little town right off the ocean, there was a big Fut Bol (soccer) game going on, but it wasn’t a tourist place at all.

    We did get to cross a pretty wide river in our little 4×4, I would have been a little hesitant but the littler BoGo 4×4 in front of us made it so we knew we could. Although we’re pretty confident the woman in the passenger seat wasn’t sure they’d make it (and they waited to make sure we made it). In hindsight we should have taken a picture of the river.

    I thought Nosara would be a place I really liked but it was spread out a bit, but there seemed to be a lot there, a lot of “side streets”, a lot of isolated hotels (some really fancy looking ones). It was off the main “highway” so that was really nice this town might require some more exploring.

    But the cruise “up the coast” really wasn’t the case, it was a lot of side roads that you had to take down to the water so you never know what might be down there: public access, a home, a hotel, a farm so that was a little tricky.

    Found a nice little restaurant north of Nosara, in the town called Oxtional, just called “Tony Resturante”. I think the ocean is just behind here but you can’t see it. Nicely shaded, celling fans and just overall clean and nice (especially since they aren’t far off a semi-dusty road). I had a delicious “Arroz con Camarones” (rice & shrimp) and Mark had some kind of Thai-ish Chicken entree (Pollo Tailandes) that he loved. And they have Coca-Cola and Fresca is glass bottles (that were mucho frio). They do have a translated semi-English menu if you ask (we couldn’t translate Tailandes).

    It’s not dusty where we are eating, but we’ve passed a but of “health / dust warning” 20 KPH signs in various towns along here. Overall it hasn’t been too dusty today, I think the rain helped.

    Written By: Gary on April 13, 2008 One Comment

    Playa-Samara-Img 8115Playa-Samara-Img 8151So it’s a beautiful morning, went for a swim on the beach and it was dead, now the beach is getting busier. Nice little restaurant on the beach for breakfast, they only serve a limited breakfast/lunch menu and are only open from 7am-11am. That’s the life, assuming it’s their only business. The name of the place is “Restaurante Sheriff Rustic”, that’s because it’s next to the Policia Station on the beach.

    We’ll hang out here for a few more hours and drive up the cast and hope to find another nice town. The two attached pictures are from this morning on the beach.

    I like this place, it’s bigger than Montezuma, but way smaller than Jaco, still pretty touristy though. (I think Montezuma is still my favorite and a few other people that we’ve run into on this trip seem to agree.)

    In the time that we’ve been sitting here for breakfast, it’s really gotten busier on the beach.

    FYI, for anyone traveling down to Samara, they’ve got great internet access at Samara Computers, big “internet sign” by the soccer (Fut Bol) field (no wireless but they have spots to put your laptop if you have a wired connection).

    Written By: Gary on April 13, 2008 2 Comments

    I originally posted a bad link to the second photo album. It’s now corrected.

    Jump-Through-Falls-Img 7846Here’s another dozen photos (with descriptions). It’s mostly up by Montezuma Falls.

    The photo to the right (click to enlarge) is me jumping through the falls (from climbing behind them). This photo actually makes it a Baker’s Dozen.

    Written By: Gary on April 12, 2008 No Comment

    So after a very long ride today we made it to Samara. It just starting raining (it’ll stop soon, it generally does) so we popped into this internet cafe. And here’s some info on Samara Beach (boring site). I really like the town so far, it’s like a big Montezuma, although the beach is facing south so no sunsets here either (I’m really cheating myself on this trip).

    We indulged on a fancy Villa, two rooms, two bathrooms, ceing fans (inside/out), pool, kitchen and all sorts of other $tuff we won’t use. The hotel is called Villas Kalimba (nice site). That’s all for now…

    Written By: Gary on April 12, 2008 No Comment

    CafeazucarSo in Cabano at the Cafe Azucar having an air conditioned American breakfast. And to top it off, I’ve got access to some WiFi, very civilized.

    If you’re in the lower Nicoya Peninsula you’ll probably be in Cabano at some time so you should stop by at the Cafe Azucar. It’s in the blue building behind the Banco Nacional. We had lunch there the other day and it was delicious then too. As an extra bonus, they make their ice out of bottled water so it’s okay to drink.

    Note: I don’t think the WiFi is theirs so no promises on the WiFi…

    Written By: Gary on April 11, 2008 2 Comments

    Well, we didn’t make it as far as we hoped. We made it to the sand castle festival in Manzanillo (that’s a different story) and tried to head up to Coyote (because someone mentioned it as a close town we could get to). We followed the “maps” and we were going the way that we thought and we eventually hit a stream that was a good 30 meters across and we probably could have crossed it, except that they was no road on the other side of the stream (the photos are of the stream)! So we tried a few other roads but no mater what roads we headed north-ish on, we couldn’t get much father. So we back tracked to Santa Teresa and grabbed the first hotel with A/C and crashed there for the night

    Img 8090Later, we did find out that the stream was the correct way to go. But I’m not sure our little 4×4 would have made it (I think so) but we didn’t even know which way to go.

    We did get to catch a sunset here, Montezuma is on the other side of the peninsula so that’s the first on this trip. It was really nice even thought there was cloud cover over parts of it.

    Today we’re going to head back north, but the very very long way around. So we probably won’t get near Coyote (we’ll end up way north of it) and see what’s way north of it.

    Later: I did find out that was the correct way. But I’m still not sure if it would have been east or west. And you’re supposed to do it at low tide. Maybe next time.

    Written By: Gary on April 11, 2008 No Comment

    Speedo-Img 7777So i understand how the locals do it, they’ve got feet like a hobbits on the bottom. But it’s the tourists that I don’t understand how they walk around without shoes on. Even in the rocky areas they don’t wear shoes but sometimes I see them hobbling along.

    I need my beach shoes to get around, rocks and cement and stuff don’t work for me. I had to get some fancier ones this trip since some of the other ones I get don’t work when jumping off at waterfalls; it’s no fun to be up in the mountains and loose a shoe. These are a little comfier than some of the other ones I’ve had in the past (and they haven’t fallen off yet).

    Written By: Gary on April 11, 2008 No Comment

    So I’m throwing up a few more posts while I’ve got access, we’re heading north (after we check out the Sand Castle Beachfest) on the Nicoya Peninsula and I’m not sure how access will be after today…

    The place I’m at now is in Cabano, and they’ve got pretty good speed but it’s really busy so it’s still not super.

    Written By: Gary on April 9, 2008 One Comment

    Had a lot of trouble getting photos up and on-line. Internet is not the best here…

    Here’s the first few photos (with descriptions).

    I’ll try to get more up later…

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    Written By: Gary on April 9, 2008 No Comment

    I thought this word cloud from what I’ve been tweeting was kinda cool. I created it at TweetCloud.com. These whow the most common words I’ve tweeted, bigger means I’ve tweeted more.
    Picture 1-2I’m on vacation right now, and I do miss Twitter a little bit. I want that constant stream of information. I also have been thinking of things to tweet and I can’t.

    I can compose a full blog post when I don’t have ‘net access (and I can even backdate it) but I can’t with twitter. I probably won’t use twitter at all while I’m out of the country. I’m not going to use what little internet access I have on that, we’ll see, maybe I’d find it useful in a different way.

    Written By: Gary on April 9, 2008 No Comment

    Pict2354Well, we made it to Costa Rica! Found an Internet cafe so I wanted to hop on-line quick. A few e-mails and posts queued up but not much exciting to post yet (sorry).

    We’ve done some traveling by 4×4 and some mini-adventures trying to get some cash (the ATMs are giving us trouble). He’s a photo of the beach (from Mal Pais?) click to enlarge. I’ll post more later….

    Written By: Gary on April 9, 2008 No Comment

    So when you take digital pictures, it records the date and the time with the picture. I’m a little slightly obsessive compulsive about the settings on the date and time and when my two cameras are both set for different time zones and neither of those are the correct time zone it tends to annoy me.

    So from now on I’m keeping my camera’s set to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) so it’ll always be consistent. If you don’t know, this is the time zone where the clocks are set at “0”, for example when you set you clocks to EST (Eastern Standard) it sometimes says “-5” hours, that’s 5 hours off from GMT. I’m not sure how this will work for me in the long run but for now it seems like it will be consistent for me.

    The biggest problem I see for now it is that other devices like my camera phone will till record in the current time zone. But since its a phone, the time on that should always be correct, unless of course I’m traveling in a country where I don’t have reception and the clock would be wrong…

    Written By: Gary on April 8, 2008 One Comment

    I thought this was really interesting looking but I don’t know where it actually is. Does anyone have an idea? And I thought the photo came out pretty good too!

    It’s along the path from Charlotte, NC, USA to San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s about 2 hours from landing time and at 500 miles/hour, and factoring in landing and disembarkation, I’m guessing it’s about 700-800 miles north(ish) from San Jose.

    Written By: Gary on April 8, 2008 2 Comments

    I never thought I’d get tired of looking out the window when flying in an airplane. I thought I’d just sit at the window and watch the whole time no matter how long the flight was.

    It’s beautiful, but they don’t hold my attention for so long any more. I’m not sure why. Because they aren’t so mysterious any more? Because I know it’s just water vapor (or something like that?)? Because I’ve got other boring things on my mind.

    I thought I’d always been all about the window seat, now I’m all about the aisle so I can get up and wander and stretch when I want.

    Instead of watching, I’m just reading and writing and watching movies. I’m not sure why on some lever I’m considering that to be a bad thing?

    But here I am typing away instead of watching..(As I look at what I just wrote, I think maybe I’ve written something similar in the past on a different trip. Maybe not, maybe I just thought about writing it. For obvious reasons I can’t look right now.)

    Written By: Gary on April 6, 2008 One Comment

    twwetstats interfaceSo I’ve been trying to use Twitter more and I found TweetStats to show me how much.

    To give some background: Picture 4TwitterFeed is actually how my blog posts get cross-posted to Twitter so those really don’t count much (started using this Oct 15, 2007). And I just discovered FriendFeed recently. But you can see that tweeting with Twitterific (w/phone and web) I’ve far surpassed that. Significant if you look at the below chart and see most of it’s in the last month. And by looking at my blog post counts (to the left) for the last few months, you can see blogging has declined. But I’ll blame the low blogging on 3 things: Twitter (but I am micro-blogging), busier at work (to tired at night to blog) and being sick this season.

    monthtweetstats

    Thanks to Julia Roy for pointing it out to me (via Twitter).

    Written By: Gary on April 6, 2008 3 Comments

    Argh! I’m annoyed with creating user accounts. Everyone has their own damn process for passwords:

  • all numbers
  • must contain one upper-case character, one number, and be at least 8 characters (but ONLY 1 uppercase letter)
  • no characters other than letters or numbers
  • must be 8 characters

    But no, I can’t use 12 characters with letters, numbers and punctuation because it’s more than 8 or because it doesn’t have a capital letter.

    An the real pain is when you go to log in, they won’t remind you of this “rule”. And I really like it when it says “username” when what they really want is my “e-mail address”.

    My absolute favorite stupid rule is the hint to get your password must be at least 8 characters. Sorry, my hometown, mother’s maiden name, first pet and street aren’t that long! How am I supposed to remember this.

    And all these companies need to have the ability to handle multiple e-mail addresses. It’s such a hassle when I need to change something (for something I signed up for 5 years ago) and I can’t remember their rule and the e-mail address I signed up with doesn’t exist any more.

  • Written By: Gary on April 2, 2008 One Comment

    NicoyatipwhereSo far I’ve only explored the southmost point of the Nicoya Peninsula and stayed in Montezuma. I want to explore more of the Pacific coast next trip (later this month).

    I’m looking for tips on where to travel and places to stay. As requirements for places to stay go: walking to beach distance, hot showers and air conditioning (not fancy, cheap is better). There was a pullout section of the TicoTimes a few weeks ago but it only seemed like it covered the ultra fancy hotels and resorts.

    I just want to wander around the towns and the ocean and find some waterfalls and stuff like that.

    Nocoyapeninwhere

    Any thoughts or suggestions on what not to miss? restaurants to eat at? or hotels to stay at?

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