A MEAL AND A PLACE TO REMEMBER FOREVER
La Luna Restaurant sits inside a white villa with a wide porch, covering arches that lead to a room with a bar, some stools and an old darkened black and white checkered floor. It lies on a small cove north of a surf and yoga town In Costa Rica. It is, in short, idyllic, the cross-pollinated idea of an ideal place to idle... slowly, languidly and fully enjoying a small square of this planet for a time. Its diners sit for hours watching the sun slowly drop into the sea, semi- monitoring their children do handstands over the tops of their sweating Mojitos. It was a place, and remains a space in my heart and mind that I will never forget.
I was recovering from a time in my life that I had been thrown a curve ball, rather a slider that didn't slide and hit me squarely in the side. My wife recommended I go to my happy place, Costa Rica, to surf, fish, read, breathe and to figure out what was real and what wasn't and what did and, more importantly, didn't matter. I mostly drove around and drank, trying to move faster and further away from the body and brain that surrounded what I knew was a better soul, if not the better angels of my nature. It was a time that felt like, as Kurtz offers, "The earth flower sombre under an overcast sky."
I ended up in the small town of Nosara. It is a fine hilly town on a lazy semi-circle stretch of beach, with smart lodges, restaurants and yoga shalas dotting jungle neighborhoods. On the beach it is hot and wide open, sun drenched and over-exposed like a 70's Polaroid. At the north end sits, prominently on a headland, a large white Stupa that portends to be a massive Buddhist temple but is, in reality, the Nosara Beach Hotel.
I read my go to guides that were, at the time, my talisman, to find a place to eat. They would tell me what to like and what to discard, who I should be and what I aspired to actualize as my raison detre'. First in book form with dog eared "Lonely Planets," under my tea house bed in Bangkok and later, as technology advanced, in any number of solicitous and pedantic websites, I found boring and unhelpful. So, over time, I have created my own curation that Is now not an aspiration but my reality. At the time, I didn't see the future, I was just hungry, for food and travel, life, art, music, design. I wanted for more and, "for my sins, they gave it to me."
"La Luna," they said. "You must go to La luna for sunset and dinner." so I drove down the hill, north of town, down an eroded driveway into a small parking lot with glimpses of the sun - spattered sea and a white villa in the jungle.
The restaurant is inside an old villa that one would dream as the outbuilding to a sugar plantation. It sits on a small promontory, overlooking an open space punctuated by palm and philodendrons, looking further down a small hill to the cove, dark tide-pools and the Pacific. There are groups of people mingling, sitting, drinking, cutting into salads and pizza and laughing carefree vacations laughs.
I took my seat under the portico. I placed my Ray Bans, keys and leather wallet on the table next to a dark Mojito inundated by mint and fresh Calamansi- a lime orange hybrid, its skin pitted and dark, incongruously belying an orange interior . I looked at the people on the beach and at the tables, creating their stories in my mind.
There was the tall thin waif with porcelain skin and anorexic arms. Her bad posture sub-concious from years of crouching to ingratiate her short, rich boyfriends. There was a family from Boston who were deciding between Groton and Andover for their oldest and an Italian couple traveling to find a place to build her yoga business. Their long fingers intertwined when not placing each other's hair properly over the ear and out of the way of seeing the other's utterly perfect face. They were going home to have sex.
I ordered the Mahi Mahi encrusted in pesto and pistachio, rice pilaf and salad. I nodded yes pointing to my empty mojito with a subtle wink and looked out at the sun as it slowly danced into the ocean. Evening turned to night, citronella smoke sent skyward toward the first lonely star or maybe a planet in the still- light sky.
I felt good, great, whatever the best is that a body and brain can feel. The Vonnegut quote- oft used- is correct, "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt." Yes, indeed that was true and better than any of the curious plagues one can torture oneself with when in a real life change or traveling alone and lonely.
That is all we really seek isn't it? To feel? Better to feel good or great or at least without angst and to create what may, if dedicated to memory or if astounding enough of a moment, be a lifetime memory?And La Luna was that. So much so that the next night I went back and sat inside, digging into a perfect Margarita pizza and smiling that I now knew of a perfect place in a small town in Costa Rica that I could tell my closest compatriots about.