Costa Rica, Part 3

For the first two legs of our whirlwind tour of Costa Rica, see Costa Rica Part 1, and Costa Rica Part 2.

My husband and I were trying to determine how to drive to Santa Elena, the town nearest the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had a small problem, our map indicated no roads leading to Santa Elena. Luckily, an employee at the Arenal Volcano area resort had once lived in Santa Elena and could describe the way to go. (The description is as follows, “Go back to Tilaran and take a left.” We had to hope that the road in Tilaran would be obvious. We guessed at a left turn and it was the correct road. Hurray!)

Lake Arenal was the view for a large chunk of our drive to and from the Arenal Volcano area. It was beautiful. On the way back, we stopped to snap a photo.

This trek seemed even more remote than the first, but we eventually reached Santa Elena and checked into our hotel. We arrived on our wedding anniversary, so this welcome was especially sweet.

In this area, we hiked in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It truly was the jungle. I simply could not help myself when I saw these vines overhanging the path.

We saw many beautiful and interesting flowers, trees, and plants. We heard (but didn’t usually see) many birds and frogs. It was amazing to be walking in a place like this, to really see the cloud forest.

Our last day and night was at the Blue River, at a resort with natural hot spring pools. We decided that we’d like to spend more time in that area if we make back someday.

It was a very fun trip, and we’ve been spending the last few days adjusting back to life as usual (which is pretty wonderful too, glad to be back home with my kids).

If you ever plan to visit a location like this, I will tell you the things I was most glad to have along: my rain jacket, a backpack (thanks to my daughter), and good shoes.

Now back to the regularly scheduled programming. 🙂 Just had to share about such a beautiful place with so many things to see.

Costa Rica, Part 2

If you missed the description of our first portion of the Costa Rica trip, see Costa Rica, Part 1.

After checking out from our nice cushy beach resort, then the real adventure began. We had rented a vehicle with the plan of visiting three particular areas of the country. We had received a map of Costa Rica along with our car rental, so we plotted out the route to our next destination. We noted that, according to the map, there were no roads leading to our third destination. Hmm. We decided to concentrate on getting to our second location and figure out the third later on.

We soon found that driving conditions in Costa Rica differ quite a bit from here in the U.S. After leaving the paved Pan American Highway (with a speed limit of 80 kph), we spent many hours driving on unpaved, very rocky, very pot-holed mountain roads, traveling more like 20 kph. When we picked up the rental, the man who helped us explained what sorts of things we shouldn’t do with the vehicle, such as drive drunk or drive through rivers. Really. He added, “Well, you can drive through small rivers.” We found that very funny until we realized that we would have to do just that. All of the bridges we encountered were single lane, and we even found places where a small stream just trickled right across the road with no bridge there at all. Okay, good thing we were allowed to drive in small rivers.

My wonderful husband did all the driving and became a pro at the manual transmission/mountain road driving that was necessary. It stressed me out quite a bit that many of the roads were not marked, so navigation felt pretty uncertain. We came to realize, though, that we could guess the way pretty well because some roads were a little bigger than others. If we took the bigger road, we were almost always correct. One time, we wandered astray in a small town. A man who had been outside his home approached us and pointed us in the right direction.

We made it to our next destination, Arenal Volcano. This is the view from our cabin.

We never saw lava during our visit, but we did see steam coming from the top. The peak of the volcano was covered by clouds for the better part of our visit to the area. I was glad we had gotten to see such a nice view of it when we arrived.

We went to the Arenal Volcano National Park and did some hiking.

We made it to the end of the hike. Passing beyond this point was prohibited.

And this view is looking down from that point.

I was taken with the vegetation growing in these rugged and rocky conditions.

Within the National Park, we also saw this massive ceibo tree.

While in this area, we also visited a nearby town called La Fortuna. We ate at two great restaurants in La Fortuna and did some poking around in art and souvenir shops. Soon enough, it was time to move on. We didn’t linger long in any area on this trip. We had to go, go, go to see all the places on our agenda.

Now it was time to plot out our trip for which there were no roads on the map. The adventure continued!

Have you ever driven in a place quite different from what you’re accustomed to? How did it go?

Costa Rica, Part 1

I hope you will indulge me a bit. I had such a wonderful trip to Costa Rica that I want to share.

One thing about this trip, I felt we were able to keep up (or maybe improve) our healthy choices on vacation. I have not always felt that way. Sometimes, I have come home from a vacation heavier, sluggish and exhausted. On this trip, we had ample opportunity to be active, we had great fresh food to eat (I think I could be content eating rice and beans and buckets of fresh fruit), and we found we were going to bed early and rising early naturally. It was quite pleasant, actually. Despite mentioning a couple times that maybe we’d go out for the night, we’d always be ready for bed by 10 pm. Maybe a sign of old age. 😉

One of my firsts on this trip was visiting the Pacific Ocean. We went snorkeling one day (sorry no pictures), and our guide picked up starfish and a pufferfish for anyone who wanted to to hold. I did. Sort of surreal holding the puffer fish.

I documented the moment I first touched the Pacific.

We also went for a long hike along the rocky shore. My husband and I both enjoyed this a lot. It was beautiful, we saw a lot of little critters, and the terrain was quite challenging in places, which was fun.

We reached one point where there was a groove worn into the rock and water would go in and out of that groove as the waves came in and out. It would create this fantastic spray.

We watched quite a while, and my husband was pretty certain of the pattern – three sprays with the third being the biggest, then a pause. I watched to confirm his theory. Convinced, I scaled the rocks over the top of that groove to get to the other side. (That was the only way we could continue our trek.)

This is the view looking back toward my husband after I had crossed over to the other side. Unfortunately, there was a similar passage that was much wider just ahead, so I didn’t make it much farther. We enjoyed exploring the shore that way.

We also enjoyed a stereotypical sunset walk along the beach while we were there. So pretty.

Perhaps I should have shown this guy first, as he was one of the first things we saw upon arriving at the resort. We were impressed by his size and a little surprised to happen upon him walking down the stairs.

We also saw this fellow hanging around the resort restaurant. I had to look him up to see what he was. I think it was the coatimundi.

This is a shot of the pool area of the resort.

This first leg of the trip, the beach portion, was just lovely. It was sunny and 90 degrees while we were there, though it did get pretty windy. We enjoyed sipping mojitos and margaritas while feeling the nice sea breeze in the evening. Just a lovely, relaxing time.

Then we headed out on our first real adventure. More on that tomorrow.

What kind of vacation do you prefer? Relaxing? Active? Adventurous?

A Week of Many Firsts

I’m home!!! It’s good to be back.

My husband I took a trip to Costa Rica, and it was a week of many firsts for me, some more exciting than others.

My first:

* Time to say goodbye to my kids for a whole week.

* Related to above, the first time to spend a week alone with my husband since becoming parents.

* Time in Georgia, albeit limited to the Atlanta airport.

* Time in Costa Rica, and Central America in general.

* Time to have my brand spanking new passport stamped. 🙂

* Time to the Pacific Ocean.

* Time to run on a treadmill (funny I had to travel to Costa Rica to do that).

* Time to hold a puffer fish in my hands. (Yikes)

* Time to see an active volcano.

* Time to see monkeys in the wild.

* Time to go to a cloud forest.

There are probably others that I haven’t thought of. It was a wonderful trip. We considered it quite an adventure. We rented a vehicle and visited a few different areas of the country while we were there. That meant less time spent in each location, but who knows when/if we’ll be back? We definitely wanted to visit the Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Driving in Costa Rica was quite different from here in the U.S. It was an adventure, all right.

We loved the people, the scenery, the food… we would definitely go back someday.

I will be sharing pictures and more details, but for now, I better get back to the kiddos. We are working on getting back to our normal routine here.

I hope you all have had a wonderful week!

*

Unplugged

Hello all. I am here to let you know that I am going to be unplugged for the coming week.

This may feel strange to me. Computers are a regular part of my routine, from working, creating lesson plans, logging workouts, loading photographs, updating this site, and so on.

I have nothing against computers or other electronics. They are useful tools and have their place.

However, I will be spending some time away from my ordinary routines, including a lot of outdoor adventures, I hope.

I hope to have all kinds of fun things to share when I plug back in. For now, I will leave you with a poem. (For the record, I love books. But I also love putting them aside sometimes to “come forth into the light of things.” Balance, always balance.)

The Tables Turned
a poem by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your Teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Wishing you a beautiful week!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

My grandfather was a very patriotic American, and also very proud of his Irish heritage. He has been gone for many years, but I am the lucky owner of his green turtleneck shirt, which I often break out for St. Patrick’s Day. Thinking of my grandpa today. 🙂

I will leave you with an Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

Well, that was easy.

For the longest time, I have been meaning to figure out how to make fettucine alfredo without any help from Ragu. Sad, but true.

I broke out my old friend, The Joy of Cooking. It is a super reference book for many a cooking question.

It turns out that fettucine alfredo is very easy to make. Who knew? (Though, in my case, it was whole wheat spaghetti alfredo. I do not hesitate to use whatever pasta shape I have on hand.)

Want to know one more reason that cooking foods yourself is a good thing? Well, I guess it is the same main reason I usually cite, but with a different application. Because you know exactly what went in it.

In this case, I have now become very aware that my dinner of “spaghetti alfredo” contained half a stick of butter, half a cup of cream and half a cup of parmesan cheese. (That’s the whole shebang, not an individual serving, by the way.) Light cooking, it was not. Tasty, it was.

I do believe as long as I consume dairy, I will be willing to eat this occasionally, even realizing how heavy the ingredients are. I keep running across more and more info that suggests that humans weren’t necessarily built for digesting dairy. Big sigh… I love dairy.

I hope that serving it on a bed of spinach and a side of asparagus counts for something. They are light, are they not?

And, lest you think I forgot to include a variety of color in my produce, I present you with dessert:

Greek yogurt with berries is a dessert favorite around here. And further evidence of my fondness for dairy.

Have you ever been surprised to find how simple a recipe really is? Have you ever sworn off a food once you realized what went in it?

(I have decided NOT to make something upon seeing what it contained, if that counts.)