Archive for the ‘Travelling’ Category

Weekend at Arenal

It’s been terribly long since I last wrote and I do apologize sincerely about that.. I had all these great ambitions and intentions to write lots on my blog this year but it all seems to be going down the drain lately, mainly due to being too busy! Such a shame that when there are lots of things to write about, you usually don’t have the time to write about it all!

Anyways, since I am today just sitting on the terrace in the lovely cool breeze, looking at the clouds rolling in over the central valley, I decided to invest some time in updating my blog and some of the other forums of expression I use. It is Semana Santa over here, the holy week, or Easter as it is also known. Santa Ana is beautifully quiet since all the Ticos are on the beach, and I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it is to have the town almost to yourself.. It almost makes up for yet another year of not being able to eat any Easter eggs because of the chocolate issue.

We have just had J’s parents here for almost two weeks and it has been very nice to see them again. So strange and yet so wonderful to see them in “our” setting over here, instead of the usual London setting. I think they also very much enjoyed the change in scenery as not a day went past without comments like “well, its absolutely wonderful”, “oh look at that beautiful bird, isnt it wonderful”, “ah, absolutely beautiful” and a whole long list of other appraisals of this and that. It is actually very nice to again have the pleasure of seeing Costa Rica through the eyes of someone who hasn’t seen it yet. It is such a shame how we do tend to just get accustomed to what we have around us and forget about the wonders of nature and life when we see it on a daily basis.

Arenal Volcano ViewThis month’s highlight up till now has definitely been the trip to Arenal that we made with J’s parents. Driving up towards Fortuna early Friday morning through Atenas and the winding back roads was a fantastic experience, just like arriving in Fortuna turned out to be as we caught the first glimpse of the majestic Arenal Volcano.

And it just got better when we got to the hotel which was located just at the foot of the volcano, I could even see Arenal through the window while lying in bed! Breathtaking views and gorgeous settings. I would highly recommend Hotel Los Lagos to anyone heading up that way.

We spent three beautiful days at the hotel, splashing about in the wonderful hot springs, enjoying the sun on loungers that we had moved over to our own secluded little spot next to the topmost spring, admiring the horses and other animals that lived on the hotel grounds and getting completely spoiled at the spa (I had a wonderful Volcanic Mud Wrap and a Deep Facial in a room with a beautiful terrace overlooking the jungle)

Unfortunately I was not feeling very well on Friday and ended up with a headache all Saturday (which the Volcanic Mud Wrap did wonders to soothe) but who can really complain about details like that when you get to recuperate in such wonderful settings.

I am definitely heading up here with my family when they are next in town, and I must say I really want more of those wonderful spa treatments..

But for now I am blissfully peaceful on my own terrace, enjoying a beautiful Easter Friday with the dogs while looking forward to J getting off work. Happy Easter!

The Big Three Oh

So yet again I manage to see a whole month fly bast without an update to my blog, and ironically I have so much to update about as well from this last month.

First of all was the 1 year anniversary. J and I have now been in Costa Rica for a whole, wonderful, beautiful, adventurous and exciting year. We arrived on the 5th March last year, had a car within the first two weeks and a beautiful rental house within three. I cannot believe how easily we felt at home here and how easy it was to just click into life over here. So fast forward one year then from when we arrived and here we are, still in the same wonderful house on our mountain in Santa Ana.

Second big thing was our second trip over to Nicaragua for Joel’s visa run. I got my temporary residency and am currently just waiting for the interview with immigration or whoever will be checking me out before I am allowed to relax and just enjoy Costa Rica without the pressure of the three month deadline. Anyways, we had a lovely weekend in Nicaragua with the wonderful J, we rented a car, surfed their Playa Hermosa a couple of times, drove around, visited Granada, ventured into a huge local market for some bargains, ate super well in El Kolibri again as well as just enjoyed some time off work.

Birthday Flowers!Birthday Flowers No. 2Third big thing was the whole turning thirty. I passed the 3-0 mark on the 22nd March and must say that it was a wonderful, absolutely wonderful day in so many ways even if I couldn’t be closer to my family and friends back in Europe. I got treated to about 5 different cakes during the day at the office, got some BEAUTIFUL flowers from my colleague and another GORGEOUS bouquet from mis chicas at the office. I felt so spoiled and fortunate and lucky about being surrounded by such wonderful people. Not to mention the amazing surprise that was waiting for me at home  – My lovely friend R had sent me a cake and a bottle of champagne to celebrate my “move from tram 2 to tram 3”..

And the fourth big thing this month would be the new family member Fuzz. We had been thinking about this for a while, mainly after our neighbors moved with their two dogs who Sofia had been playing with every day while we were at the office, leaving her all alone for most of the day up here on the mountain. Our brave little doggie deserved a friend we thought and decided on taking on Fuzz on my birthday. He arrived looking a bit like one of these animals we used to make when I was little out of a pine cone with sticks or matches as legs. 🙂 Absolutely brilliant! So cute and such a sweetheart! He is much more quiet and timid than Sofia, not such a ADD child at all, but absolutely adorable and hopefully a good influence on little Sofia. Unless he will take after Sofia and her spoiled ways..

Even if the month is not completely over yet, and I think there will be a few more events worthy of mentioning still coming up, I will wrap up for now and get on to enjoying my evening at home. I have rented a few movies, J is on his way home with empanadas and the two furry friends are in need of feeding.

Sofia and Fuzz

 

Weekend in Bocas del Toro

This past weekend we did a little stopover in Panama in order to renew our tourist visas for Costa Rica. Having already been to the US, the UK and Nicaragua during this year, we wanted to check out what our southern neighbor Panama had to offer. Having heard a lot of good things about the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama and considering the fairly cheap air tickets that you can get for Bocas with Nature Air, we decided to try it out.

We left the mountain on Friday afternoon to catch the 1pm plane from the smaller Tobias Bolanos airport. I very much liked the smaller size of the airport and the more laid back attitude, even if it did seem a bit too laid back at times. I did find out though that I weigh approximately 128pounds with clothes on. Interesting as that is the first time I have even been weight in pounds! I guess its good to know.

Irazu Volcano seen from airplane

Irazu Volcano - Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica

Anyhow, the flight was just amazing! We were so lucky with the weather; no strong winds made the take off super smooth and the sunshine and clear blue skies for most of the ride meant we got to see loads of this beautiful country. We flew out over Pavas, Escazu, Alajuelita, Cartago and saw incredible sights of the cities, the gorges, the Volcano Irazu etc etc etc..

The Nature Air plane was a two propeller plane with seating for about 25 people. Most of us were foreigners, most likely on a necessary 72hrs long stopover in order to obtain yet another stamp for yet another 3months stint in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

Anyways, this is about Panama and Bocas del Toro. We had booked ourselves into the Master Suite at a lovely little B&B, Bahia del Sol,  located in Saigon Bay, close to the airport but about 10minutes walk from Bocas Town city centre. The B&B along with the cabins next door and the “Koko Resort” (that I never really located or got a good idea about) were all owned by an American couple, Jack and Lee, who had decided to up their lives in Ohio State and take the plunge and try their luck in the Panamanian tourism industry. From what we experienced, how pleased the other guests seemed and from how enthusiastic Lee and Jack were I think they have found a winning formula!

Sunset view of the "House that Blew Away"

Sunset view of the House that Blew Away from our jacuzzi

The flight from Costa Rica only takes about 50mins so we had the chance to go for a swim as well as see a bit of the town that same afternoon we arrived. Having unpacked and gotten ourselves somewhat familiar with the place with the help of a few maps and the advice of Lee and Jack, we headed out to have a drink at Rip Tide before having a lovely dinner at Casbah next door. But unlike most of the younger crowd in Bocas, we happily headed back to our room following the dinner and a fairly long day of all kinds of activities, we crashed into our wonderful and huge bed to have a long nights sleep so we would have lots of energy for the following day and all the adventures that would bring with it.

A starfish in Bocas del Toro

One of the many, many starfish we saw in Bocas del Toro

The next day meant an early start and a whole day trip with Jampan to see dolphins, starfish, corals, and beaches while snorkling, taking pictures and enjoying delicious dishes. We had decided to go on the Adventure Tour 1 to see Dolphin Bay for dolphin spotting, Crawl Cay for snorkling, Punta Solarte Jungle Tour for a tour of one of the islands (where we spotted lots of teeny tiny red frogs!) followed by a brief stopover at Slot Island before ending the day at Red Frog Beach. The 9am till 4pm day proved to be an excellent introduction to the Bocas archipelago for $25 per person with a knowledgeable guide and spacious boat with snorkling equipment provided as well.

Sunday started off with yet another of Jack’s massive breakfasts (he used to cook breakfast for about 400 students at one point in his youth, and you could tell he knew what he was doing in the kitchen) before we ventured out in the kayaks that were available for all guests for free. We headed out to”The House that Blew Away” for some snorkling before doing a little tour of the mangroves at the other end of Saigon Bay. All in all we were not away for more than about 1.5hrs I think, but my god did I realize how tiring paddling a kayak is! Christ.. Although, my pilates teacher would have been proud, I tried to focus on keeping my shoulders down and free of any tension while activating my lats for every stroke of the paddle..

The rest of the day we wandered around Bocas Town, had lunch out before heading back to chill out in our new room for a bit. This B&B was so popular that I only managed to book us into the Master bedroom for two nights of the three we were there for, so for the last night we switched over to a room at the front of the house (towards the street instead of overlooking the bay like the Master Suite). I think both rooms were excellent, although the Master Suite was definitely something special with its balcony with jacuzzi along with open air shower next to it. Sinking into the jacuzzi after a long day under the hot Panamanian sun was definitely an experience (that made me agree with J that it would definitely be nice to have a jacuzzi…).

But the last day away always reminds us that these Visa runs are just not really that nice in the end. You start off with the mindset that its a great way to experience something new, a little adventure that you get to have, and trying to make the most of it. But in the end it never really feels like a holiday, you start missing home and your own bed, its a bit uncomfortable and most of all, its compulsory and not actually your choice. Not to mention the fact that it does cost money, money you could have spent on one or two big holiday trips a year instead of four smaller ones.

Then again, as always with J, I had a great time and loved spending some time away from everyday life with Joel, but boy was I ready to head home on Monday afternoon when our 72hrs were up. I was missing Sofia, and as I already mentioned, my bed.. I couldn’t think of anything nothing nicer than cuddling up in my own bed… Mmmm… So for now, I just want to spend time here at home and in Costa Rica. At our house but also down by the beach with J, my mum and my new surfboard! Only a few days to go now!

Danza Kuduro

And its Friday!! I am so excited about the weekend! I am going to sleep so well tonight and tomorrow we are off with our new GPS to explore Tortuguero National Park over on the Caribbean side. I still havent been to the Caribbean side so I am very excited about seeing that, but also about seeing the beautiful park! Apparently you might even see manatees there! Oh I hope we get to see that! And I hope there will be some baby turtles out on the beach as well so that we can do a night tour to see them.. Ah so many exciting things to look forward to!

This day started so well, I had a lovely walk in the morning with the little Sofia, I slept more or less ok even if somebody was hogging most of the bed and the blankets ;), I drove to work to the sound of Don Omar’s “Danza Kuduro” and arrived at work knowing that I have an exciting end of the year in front of me with various marketing opportunities available now thanks to my new budget having been approved!

Im working on various things at the moment, I feel inspired and excited about all the possibilities but also challenges ahead and I cant almost decide what to do first from all the ideas that are popping into my head!

But Im going to take it easy today still, I have taken a few baby steps in the right direction with regards to a few of the campaigns I want to do and I have sorted the newsletters for today and Monday, so I can actually just relax now over the weekend. Yay!

Plo plo plo ploooooooooo!!! Like they say in the above video!! Bring on the weekend!

* Today is also J’s birthday.. Excellent! Actually, I dont think anything can make this day any better! 🙂 I hope everyone gets as fabulous a start to the weekend as I have gotten!

SJO – LDN – HEL – LDN – SJO

For the past two weeks I have been on the road. According to my company I was on holiday, personally I would say I was “In Transit”. We were scheduled to depart Costa Rica on Saturday 18th September to head back to the UK to take part in J’s brother’s wedding down in Cornwall before heading over to Finland to see my family for a few days. Unfortunately, the weather gods were of a different opinion. Heavy clouds and general bad weather prevented the aircraft from landing at SJO, redirecting the plane to Panama instead and us back to our mountain.

Luck was on our side the following day, and by mid morning we were on the plane and on our way towards Europe. Due to the delay we only had one day in London before we headed down to Cornwall for the festivities. I really like Cornwall. The nature down there is simply amazing, and the fact that you can surf obviously makes it all so much better!

Unfortunately the cold does bother me. During this visit I realised that I have become quite a spoiled brat from all the surfing in +29C waters over here in Costa Rica. So spoiled in fact that even in my wetsuit it took me almost two days to warm up again following the two sessions I had in the water. Brrr..

Another thing I didnt remember was that surfing in a wet suit is not the same as surfing in a bikini! The usual “slip and slide” style of surfing in a bikini while covered in sun block was ruthlessly swopped into “swimming in jelly” battling with the waves while the wetsuit seemed to suck itself to the board.

Ah, I cannot wait to be back in the waves in Barranca or Esterillos Oeste.

But back to Cornwall for a little bit longer. The wedding was beautiful and made the long trip down there worth while many times over. The lovely little church in Rock managed to host the ~100 guests for the 45 minutes long ceremony, before the marquee on the cliffs overlooking Padstow took over with its delicious offerings of champagne, canapees, gorgeous dinner and melt in your mouth cupcakes washed down with dessert wine.

The days in Cornwall flew by and before we knew it we were on the plane to Finland for some more family gatherings over abundant food and drink. We were extremely lucky with the weather, so J got to see our island and pick chantarelles in beautiful autumn sunshine before trying out the island sauna in the calm September evening before enjoying some home smoked flounder in a lovely heated cabin.

Before our return to the UK we also did a brief stop over in my home town to see my aunt and her husband as well as my little god daughter Maja Ingrid. Being back there felt so natural, while at the same time it magnified the feeling of being very far away while over here in Costa Rica. I guess it doesnt really matter where you are in the world, the people you love are always with you in your heart. But sometimes physical distance can definitely make itself felt.

Our return to Costa Rica started already in Finland where we managed to fill our suitcase to the brim with all kinds of goodies. Upon arrival in the UK for a brief overnight stopover and last dinner with J’s family, we easily managed to fill the second one as well with even more excellent items to take back with us. I have bought tea, peanutbutter without salt, running shoes, a backpack, sea salt from Cornwall, sweeties, Weleda showergel, books, magazines, mugs, tea strainers, exercise clothes, dessert wine… A random selection of treasures to take back to our sunny paradise.

Following an approximately 18hrs long trip that started on Saturday morning UK time and ended on Saturday evening CR time we finally arrived back up on our mountain. The last two weeks over here have apparently been horrendously rainy, with all mayor highways collapsing and our neighbouring mountain top crumbling into a muddy mess. But nevertheless its been fantastic to be home. Sofiasen was over the moon when we arrived on Saturday night and has been all soppy since. We brought her two new toys – both have already been christened in water and dirt.

Being back on the mountain feels somewhat strange though. I cannot really believe its only a few days since we were thousands of kilometres away, somewhere that feels like a different world now that we are back home again. It was wonderful to see everyone I managed to see, although I definitely didnt get to spend enough time with them and I do feel I missed out slightly on seeing many many others.

But its good being back, and now the countdown to the dry season can definitely start! Bring on sun and surf! And obviously also the visits from everyone in Europe!

Skulls and Caribbean Chicken

I know we are still a few months away, but the day of the dead has always fascinated me. I love the colours, the creativity and the festivity that surrounds the day and would love to be in Mexico one year to see the proper celebrations there instead of just enjoying the day via images on the net.

What I love the most about this holiday is the catrina’s, the skulls and the colours that surround the whole morbid celebration. I adore the intricate details about everything during this day, although, I guess to me the day in itself is not really that relevant (I pay attention to my loved ones that have passed away on a much more regular basis than just once a year), what matters to me is this attention to detail that the design elements of the day gets.

I would love to do a course in making catrinas, or painting skulls, or maybe baking random day of the dead cookies… I just need to find a place or a person who could show me all this..

I am still to discover something as exciting in Costa Rica’s annual cultural calendar although, this week’s “The Day of The Black Man/Woman” (El Dia del Negro) did somewhat catch me off guard. This day is an  acknowledgement of the achievements of the blacks who were brought into Costa Rica in the 19th century to help with the construction of the railway and multiple other things. Costa Rica observes the day in high festive spirit on the Caribbean side, while over here at my office we held a slightly more low key celebration and went out for lunch to a Caribbean lunch restaurant. I must say, it was a bit weird to have everyone congratulate my black colleague on this day like it was his birthday, but the food, especially the Rice & Beans with Caribbean Chicken that I had, was absolutely delicious and very appropriate for a proper celebration! I could definitely celebrate like this more often at the office.

So yes there are some things that have caught my interest over here in this part of Central America, but nothing has fascinated me as much as the Day of the Dead a few hundred kilometres up north. Then again, I have only been here for 6 months.. There is still a whole second half of the year to explore and I cant wait to see what it has in store..

Nicaragua and the Croissan’wich

This weekend we did the 72 hour visa run from Costa Rica. Most expats here are forced to do this at some point before their work permits are properly in process or in case they just want to stay a bit longer in this lovely country than what the 3 month you get on the Tourist Visa offers you.

So for our 72 hours outside the country we decided to explore our new neighbour, Nicaragua. I was quite excited about seeing the country, and would have loved to explore more of it, but at the same time, the beach was calling and we ended up deciding on going to San Juan del Sur instead of backpacking around.

TicaBus has an excellent bus service all through central America, from Mexico all the way down to Panama. We had heard a lot of good things about it and decided to go with them instead of paying 10 times as much to go by plane. But although we were travelling on a budget we decided to treat ourselves a bit and travel in style with their Executive Service. Even if you travel by bus, you might as well travel in Ejecutivo style..

But yeah, travelling executive style can be defined in so many different ways, and I guess my interpretation was somewhat in conflict with TicaBus’.

The good thing with this service was that it meant we left the TicaBus station at 3am, got to the border around 8am and bam, arrived at our hotel in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, at 9.30am. It turned out to be a fairly painless journey, except for  my shocking first encounter with the Burger King Croissan’wich.

In addition to the great travel time, the second perk you get if you travel executive style, they serve you a quick breakfast on the bus in Liberia before you get to the border. They don’t happen to mention though that they are in partnership with BurgerKing and that what you get is a little box consisting of the Croissan’wich and two sweeties. Cholesterol, fat and sugar – all you need for a perfect start to your day.

It looks pretty special, feels quite spongy and I bet the whole thing can be made by just squeesing some paste into a mold and heating that up for a bit… Well, I did give it a shot and tasted it, thinking maybe this is an acquired taste that demands some getting used to, but no. Definitely not worth it. My body is my temple and I think having this in me would definitely be something of a sacrilige..

Anyhow, lets move on.. There is lots more to tell! 🙂

So we ended up heading to San Juan del Sur (SJdS), a lovely little town about 40mins from the border. The town is actually a little fishing village that has become something of a surf town, attracting lots of young travellers from all over the world. Currently the 21st season of CBS’s Survivor is also being filmed there, so unfortunately this means there are lots of limitations to where you are allowed to go etc due to the filming.

We had booked ourselves in to a lovely little hotel, Aventura Lodge and after having been picked up by them from the boarder we spent Friday exploring the town and trying out some restaurants and the daiquiris while simultaneously sorting out the important bookings for the weekend.. I.e. booking transport and boards for a trip to the beach.

In SJdS there are loads of different surf companies who will happily rent you boards as well as get you out to the many different beaches near by. Board rentals are about $10/day and the shuttle $5 return ticket.

Due to the massive swell that Nicaragua, and the whole of Central America was enjoying this weekend, we ended up at Remanso, a beginners beach, so that I could jump in as well.. Although, this weekend it was definitely not the typical beginner conditions that the enclosed, horse shoe shaped beach usually enjoys. With the swell at 10ft the beach looked more like a jacuzzi with waves closing out the whole beach at times. I rode a mini mal on Saturday, something I really enjoyed! Before moving on to an egg for the next day when the swell had dropped a couple of feet.

Following our two surf excursions on Saturday and Sunday morning we ventured up the hill in SJdS to take a look at the views from the Christ statue that stood tall, overlooking the town and sea. Cleverly enough we headed off in the midst of the midday heat for this vertical climb that was part of the approximately 10km hike… I think I easily dropped a dress size simply thanks to the loss of a couple of pints of body fluids following this hike.. I dont think I have enjoyed a pool as much as I did enjoy the hotel pool when we jumped in upon our return.. My god cool water is simply amazing..

That evening we had a gorgeous meal at a fantastic restaurant called El Colibri. Owned by a British woman and serving delicious mediterranean food, we had some of the best fallafel we have ever tasted as well as a gorgeous meal in a beautiful setting in our attempt to regain some of the calories we had lost during our adventures that day. In general we have eaten incredibly well in Nicaragua, both at somewhat touristy restaurants as well as in more local settings such as the local food market, and it is definitely cheaper than Costa Rica.

The next day we were due to head off to Rivas pretty early to catch the TicaBus for our return to CR. Got to the bus in time, arrived at the border at about 10am on schedule, but then our luck ran out. The bus broke down and we ended up being stuck at the border for a good 4-5hours while they sorted out another bus for us as well as got us as well as the new bus with all the luggage over to the Costa Rican side. All this meant yesterday turned into a massive 12 hour long journey that I was very pleased to be done with when we finally arrived home at about 8pm to a super excited Sofia (who obviously peed on the floor of pure excitement)

After an eventful 72hours away, I am very pleased to be back home though. Its wonderful to travel around and see new places, but nothing beats the home on the mountains. And I missed Sofia lots and lots as well. (Big thank you to Dan for taking great care of her!)

But now I am just going to take it easy, very easy, until our next trip is due. My whole body still aches from my battles in the waves, the massive hike in incredible heat as well as all the sitting at the border as well as in a somewhat uncomfortable bus. I think a few days of rest following my holiday will do me good. Just so I will be ready to hit the waves again by next weekend! I love where we live!