Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dental Tourism, Part 3

I skipped a day. You want to know why?

Because I felt, as the good Bill Cosby joked once, like my bottom lip was in my lap.

Let's look at the working schedule, mostly so I don't forget it, but also so you can decide if you can handle this sort of routine.

We flew into San Jose on Tuesday night and we got to the Apartotel la Sabana hotel around 10pm. We were tired and crashed.

The hotel has a very nice breakfast buffet, so we eat our most important meal by the pool every day.

The next morning, Wednesday, we walked from here to Dr. Kriebel's office for a 9AM appointment. Darling saw him first and I followed. He took x-rays and developed treatment plans which were much less extensive than the plans of a hometown dentist we visited (and the one who prompted this wild escapade).

We had lasagna for lunch (very expensive) and Subway(TM) for dinner. We each saved half a Subway(TM) sandwich.

Thursday was 1:30PM. We hung around the hotel room and eventually ate the sandwiches, then hopped over to the dentist. He worked on Darling's mouth for about two and a half hours.

Suck it up, Buttercup! That's two and a half HOURS in a dentist chair. 

In the USA we're used to having the dentist pat-pat-pat around and stuff cotton gauze into our mouths and touch us with that gentle, feathery touch we reserve for priceless treasures. The Doc dove in and did what he had to do. Oh, he used numbing agents, but not cotton balls. Darling was a bit overwhelmed.

I followed her into a chair and the Doc drilled and filled a very large cavity in my upper left jaw, then a few lesions (ditching) on the upper left side.

That guy is fast. I mean, fast. And good. The tooth (or gum) is still sore today, but I think that's just the work he did and time will take care of it.

Friday (yesterday) we went to the dentist at 1PM and I was back into the chair. The Doc went right to work and numbed and corrected lesions on the lower left of my jaw. After five minutes of rest, he did my upper right side. Five more minutes of rest and he completed the work on all my major lesions by working on my lower right jaw.

That's why my numb lower lip felt like it was in my lap last night.

We stopped to eat at a chicken place and I decided to take it "to-go" after I dribbled Coca-cola down my chin and onto the table. Not to mention I couldn't tell I had corn stuck between my lower lip and gums. And Darling just sat across from me and sympathetically laughed at it all.

I finally managed to eat the dinner at about seven in the evening. It was pretty good.

So far, that's the saga. We don't have another appointment until 3PM on Tuesday, when Dr. Kriebel puts Darling's crowns in and we're good to go, two days ahead of schedule.

Today, a nice young man named Jorge drove us to the La Paz Waterfall Garden and Darling took a few hundred pictures of waterfalls, landscapes, wildlife and flowers. Snapshots of Costa Rica, coming up, and more later.

Thanks for reading.

PS - Though I write a (numb) tongue-in-cheek review, Dr. Kriebel is still the best dentist I ever had and I recommend him highly. Would I come here again for dental work? Yes. Absolutely.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dental Tourism, Part 2

We met Margaret during breakfast yesterday, before we went to see my chosen dentist. She traveled here before for dental work with  Dr. Arnoldo Anglada in San Jose. A friend of hers recommended him to her. In turn, she recommended him to Doris, who flew here from New Jersey. Both ladies were delighted with their Tico dentist.

My heart beat faster after talking with Margaret at breakfast. What if I chose poorly? I did all my dental research on the internet, and that, as we all know, can be fallible.

Like I said, our room doesn't have a couch, even though the picture showed one. (See my grumble in the last post.)

Our appointment with Dr. Kriebel started for one of us at 9AM, and the other immediately after.

I initiated communications with Dr. Kriebel's office last September, before the epic train voyage across Canada. Vivianne spends much of her time coordinating patients from other countries, and her kindness and helpfulness won me over. She speaks and writes perfect English, which is understandable now that we know she moved here from DC.

My concerns melted away after meeting Dr. Kriebel. Young Dr. Kriebel is a fourth generation dentist here in San Jose, Costa Rica. His English also is perfect, and he has a great smile and personality. Darling thinks he's "guapo" and he is.

Hands down, he is the best dentist I ever met.

Before we came here, we sent the treatment plan given to us by a dentist near home, as well as some x-rays (after signing ludicrous paperwork about x-ray ownership). Dr. Kriebel reviewed those, and gave us a preliminary plan, but he explained that we needed full x-rays at his office for him to properly evaluate our dental needs. I get it. E-mailed scans of x-rays just aren't that good.

So our USA dentist told Darling she needed four crowns over ten visits costing over $6500. The same dentist told me I needed one crown, gingivectomy across a number of teeth and about ten resin composites for the "ditching" in my teeth, as well as an occlusal guard since it was "obvious" I grind my teeth. A total of twenty-one visits and almost $8500.

I used to grind my teeth, but haven't in a few decades. He got in my face and told me that I must still grind my teeth. He never knew anyone to stop grinding. I admit, I felt like grinding something at that moment.

The thing is, I watched his face as he told me these things and my heart told me he was lying.

He was more than willing to work out a payment plan. I'm sure he was, probably aligned with the payments for his house or car.

After the x-rays yesterday, Dr. Kriebel told Darling she needs only two crowns. I don't need any crowns, but I do have a cavity and will need some composites to protect my nerves from the ditching in some of my teeth.

The work is not nearly as extensive as the USA dentist told us. Dr. Kriebel actually ran a pen across the previous dental plan and told me "This just isn't what we'll do." I said "You'd have to meet the other dentist to understand." "I don't want to meet him," he replied.

Bottom line, we'll be done with our dental work in a few days. I'll post as we progress.

I might need more work where the cavity is. That remains to be seen. I can, however, be sure of one thing.

Dr. Kriebel will do what is best for my dental needs, doing only what is necessary.

That's what we were looking for...

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dental Tourism, Part 1

We're traveling.

I'm not loving it because travel is hard, even though the trip is to beautiful Costa Rica.

Southwest earned high marks for customer service. I'm sure the Oreo cookies they gave me had no bearing on my thinking.

I did my normal doze off until drinks and snacks, then doze off until wheels-down. I still got off the plane exhausted.

A guy at the airport almost berated me for not tipping him, even though he did almost nothing for us. That is not typical of Ticos.

We spent about $38USD for lunch. The restaurant was a little upscale, but the Italian food wasn't that amazing. I was warned it was pricey. I think we might have different definitions of good Italian food.

On a lighter note, Subway is Subway wherever we go, and the prices are consistent. That's where I just grabbed dinner and brought it back to the room.

Darling's feet are swollen and her ankles hurt. We didn't do much walking, but enough to cause some problems. She's tired, too, but she cannot nap like I do.

There is no couch in our room, even though the Internet pictures showed one. I think it was the one in the lobby. They're nice about it, and brought us what they consider a couch, which is a bigger chair. We'll make do.

On the purely positive side, I think I chose an excellent dentist, and his review of our teeth today almost condemns dentistry back home in the USA. 

More on that tomorrow. I'll just keep a running post every few days while we're here.

Thanks for reading.

I napped all afternoon, which is why this post is late.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Lots of pictures in this post, so be patient.

As our tour guide said, Banff is a lovely small city, as long as you remember what it stands for: Be Aware, Nothing For Free.

We stopped at a number of lakes on the way from Jasper to Banff. Peyto Lake astounded us with a turquoise-blue color that seems to be from a fairy tale.
Peyto Lake
 Brewster Tours included the Ice Explorer Glacier Tour as part of the trip. Blinding white sunlight reflecting off the ice and snow does not allow you to take good pictures, but Darling managed anyway.

Darling says she needed her sunglasses and so did her camera. Make sure you bring both if you visit the Athabasca Glacier (that's the official name).

The all-terrain Ice Explorers they use for touring the glacier are huge, costing a million and a half dollars apiece. The tires are taller than I am. Twenty-three of these monsters exist in the world, twenty-two of them at the glacier - one at McMurdo Base in Antarctica. 

We also stopped at the Glacier Skywalk where Darling managed to get some photos of a mountain goat. You have to wonder - do they feel the thousand pair of eyes watching them from above?

Canada built fences along the highway to force the animals to cross the road at specially built crossing areas. I have to admire a country that works so tirelessly to protect its natural resources.
I think that's the right picture. Maybe not...

The resort at Lake Louise offers a panoramic view of mountains with a reflection of their splendor in the waters of the lake. The water is cold. We were only there for a half hour, but that was long enough for me to get my bare feet into the lake.

The chipmunks at Lake Louise live a nice lifestyle as long as vacationers visit and give them tidbits. I imagine life is a little tougher for them in the winter.

Our tour guide and bus driver with Brewster Tours and the Glacier tour all exhibited the highest level of professionalism and courtesy. They transformed a beautiful drive into an experience that remains a jewel among my memories.

Rimrock Hotel
Our stay at the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff included the second loveliest dinner with Darling that I can recall. The first was an evening in Cabo, as the sun set over the ocean...

Sorry, got lost in memories for a moment.

Our dinner in Banff allowed us to eat our meal and listen to the piano player as she played many of my favorite songs.

That's what travel is all about - the memories.

Enjoy the music. That's what we did.

Thanks for reading.

Here are a few more pictures...

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Just Pick a Place

Happy New Year. We've crossed that mystical and imaginary boundary between years and now live in Anno Domini 2019.

Goodbye, 2018. We'll try to think fondly of you.

A sweet couple at church travel a lot. I asked her how we should travel.

The question is not that odd, if you think about it. The answer she gave me is just as simple as the question.

Pick a place you want to see and go there.

So here is our list of places we'd like to see. Call it a traveling bucket list.
Yeah, the Cliffs of Insanity from Princess Bride

Ireland (The Cliffs of Moher), London, Germany (again), Italy, Spain, Bahamas, Bermuda, Australia. Maybe the Great Wall of China, though I'm ambivalent about that one. I haven't much interest in the Far East.

But there are still a lot of places in the USA to visit as well. The Grand Canyon tops that list. The Florida Keys. Visit the kids in Denver. Visit my brothers in Michigan and Maine. I'd like to see Alaska, so a cruise there is a good idea.

Let's check the wallet and see where we can afford.

Taco Bell, around the corner.

Hmm, not as exotic as I thought, but it's a start.

I'll keep you posted. Back to Banff next week.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas to All

Looks like I hit the eggnog!

I won't regale you with a trip description today. Instead, I'll wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

We're not traveling today, and I'm good with that.

Maybe next Christmas...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Train, Jasper and Banff

We bundled ourselves into a sleeping car on the Canadian train from Toronto to Jasper.

I won't say much about those three days on the train. You probably already know how I feel about it.

It's like watching TV

Okay, so some of the views were great.

The cabins are a little different than the Amtrak cabin, but about the same size. Meals in the fancy dining car came with the room. Oh, my, those folks know how to cook a meal! I probably gained five pounds, which made it even harder to fit into the tiny room!

We arrived in Jasper about four hours late, in the dark, in the rain. The local station folks helped us get a cab (ten dollars no matter the length of the drive in Jasper).

I slept poorly in a hotel bed that didn't rock and sway. HA! Not really. I slept like a rock.

Darling developed bronchitis while on the train, and we couldn't go to the Jasper clinic because we arrived on Labor Day, a holiday in Canada as well as the USA.

The hospital next to the clinic was open, though, so we made an emergency room visit and cancelled our Jasper National Park Tour. The folks at Brewster Transportation and Tours were wonderful and understanding. However, we never received a refund from Amtrak Vacations or TripMate.

'Nuff said about all that. Let's take a look at Jasper and Banff!

If I wanted to live in a town where the mountains glow on every horizon, where cool breezes sweep over you and where you can see all kinds of amazing animals, then, yeah, this is the place.

Darling wanted to see a real, live bear. She did not. I'm as close as she got to that. Since I wasn't shaving for this trip, I became more bearlike as the days progressed. Other people saw bears. 

"Oh, we stepped out from our hotel room and there was a bear walking across the lawn."

"We were just walking and this herd of elk came bounding across the road."

We did see lots of birds, though. What struck me the most was - wait for it - the RAVEN. I'm not kidding. We ate dinner and looked out the window and this MONSTER bird stared back at us.

I always wondered why Native American totems have ravens. I understand the bear, the wolf, the cougar - but the raven?

Quoth the raven "Now you know!"

This begins the picture part of our tour, so next week expect lots of photos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


We stayed two nights in Toronto, at the lovely Omni King Edward Hotel.

I was delighted to be off the train and in such a beautiful city. Our trip package sent us off the first day for a two-hour ride to Niagara Falls on a travel bus.

I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but our tour guide regaled us with stories of history, philosophy, geography and botany. I did not know Canada boasted so many wineries. We learned of ice-wine, which I did not even know existed. We stopped at a university which teaches wine-making and sampled wines. The ice-wine was delicious. I won't even go into the details of that here, but might include it in a different post.

We met Christina and Birgit, two lovely young ladies from Germany, while on the tour bus. Of course, Darling mothered them during the trip, and they doted on her. Me? I got to wander around with three lovely women for the entire tour!

We took a helicopter ride over the Falls (wow, that was amazing), the boat ride to the Falls (wet, of course) and had a nice lunch on an open porch where we could enjoy the view of this grand spectacle of nature.

Darling took pictures of birds, especially one seagull who posed for her.

Then back to Toronto for one more day.

In the city, part of our package included the hop-on, hop-off tour bus. I saw the girls as we rode around the city, but they didn't see us. What are the odds?

We went to Casa Loma, a castle in Toronto built on one of the hills. From the top of the castle you view the entire expanse of this great city.

At this point, the gleam of the tour package started to tarnish a bit. Our package included admission to the CN Tower, which we had neither the time nor inclination to visit. Too many things scheduled without much regard to a vacation pace, which should include downtime.

Still, all things considered, Toronto is a great town to visit. They even play music on the street.

Next time, we fly there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Train from NY to Toronto


There's a joke I told Darling almost every day of our trip across the Great Northern Lands. It only works if you hear me say it, so you'll have to ask me when you see me, but it starts like this: "How do you spell Canada?"

The final leg of the USA trip (on Amtrak) took us to the border in nine and a half hours, then close to another two hours to get to Toronto.

That's a long time in a seat that differs little from a plane seat.

"Yes, but you can get up and walk around."
True, but a plane ride would get me there in a couple hours and I could walk around in Toronto.

"There's the scenery!"
Yes, there is. In a plane, I confess there just isn't much to see out the window. Sky. Clouds. Thunderstorms are more interesting, but I haven't flown through one of those in years.
On a train you do get to see the landscape as you travel. The river view astounded us, and Darling took a lot of lighthouse pictures. In the first two hours. After that... 
And trees. And rivers. And occasional houses or towns. Hour upon interminable hour of scenery.

"They have a cafeteria car."
Apparently it costs a small fortune to stock the hot dogs and other normal food fare on a train, and they pass the cost on to the traveler. I'm complaining about cost again. Look, the joy of eating a hot dog while traveling eighty miles an hour viewing landscapes through dirty windows wears off quickly. And the next meal. And the next.

Toronto, we couldn't get to you fast enough.

My vote is simple on this. Yes, train travel is loads of fun for the short haul - perhaps the two or three hour jaunt, and I'd do that in preference to a plane or bus ride. For anything much longer, I'm not a fan.

Our spirits weren't dampened much by this, though. We'd soon be on Canadian trains, with a berth we could retreat to and scenic vistas that we could only see in our dreams.

But first, let's visit Toronto for a few days...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New York

I'm not sure New York is my kind of town, but this was my first visit to the Big Apple. 

I'm also not sure why they call it the Big Apple.

Amtrak Vacations booked us into The Stewart Hotel, just a few blocks from the Empire State Building.

They booked us on the 20th floor. The elevator only went to 19.


The porter helped us to a small staircase to get to that one extra floor. We were tired, so we went back to the desk and the kindly staff put us in a room on a floor with an elevator. 
Empire State Bldg

Tired as we were, we had to see the Empire State Building.

Folks, this is the big city, and everything costs money.

Lines of people from all over the world snaked through the building to the elevator which rose to the top of the tower. A long line of people waited for the elevator going back down.

We spent the time speaking to people from other countries, which was fun.

The view from the top of the Empire State Building gives you a bird's eye perspective of the great city spread before you, in all directions. The rivers wind their way between busy highways, and the cars look like tiny ants scrambling to their appointed tasks.

Totally worth the money and the wait. We did see a gorilla and I took Darling's picture with it. We thought it was a statue - until he walked away!

We grabbed a guy with a rickshaw to take us back to the hotel. He charged by the minute. He traveled at a speed somewhere between the tortoise and the hare.

At this point, I'd best forget about spending money. It's going to happen.

New York. Track lighting ran along the ceiling of our newly assigned room. What's with that? Odd thoughts of wanna-be movie makers ran through my mind, but we'll leave it at that.

To bed early, because our train to Toronto leaves around 5 AM.

Not the time of morning I'd choose on vacation, but that's the way it is. Off to Canada!
Grand Central Station, NY

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Travel Insurance

I'm not sure Travel Insurance is a good investment in your travels. We bought the Travel Insurance from Amtrak Vacations, at their strong urging, and thought it a good idea in case something happened and our trip had complications.

Every trip has complications, some more serious than others.

The bottom line on this one is buyer-beware.

We canceled some events on our itinerary due to illness and still have not resolved the issue with Amtrak Vacations or Trip Mate. Each tells us to call the other. I suspect we shall never find a resolution that involves any kind of refund.

Amtrak Vacations does not provide a detailed billing, either. I confess to great naivete when we worked with them to plan this trip. Never again will I deal with their company, nor will any of my loved ones.

They planned extensive in-city tours and we only used part of them. Most of the time we were too rushed to see the things we paid to see, and they weren't things we would have chosen had we thought about it. This is all on me. They were doing their job - selling me whatever I could afford. I forgot that we care for our welfare, and sales people do not.

As for the travel insurance, on our other trips we purchased less expensive options simply for peace of mind. We never should have let Amtrak Vacations talk us into using Trip Mate.

I'm sure some people have good experiences with their travel agent and travel insurance, but we're not in that group.

Dental Tourism, Part 3

I skipped a day. You want to know why? Because I felt, as the good Bill Cosby joked once, like my bottom lip was in my lap. Let'...