travel

My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica

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Pants and sturdy shoes necessary for horseback riding!

A few weeks ago I was here sweating over what I should pack for Costa Rica. Now that the trip is behind me, I can share my experience of what to bring on the trip in a more helpful way. Anyone clicking on this post was probably questioning the veracity of the headline because it left more questions than answers about what to bring on a trip.

I must first do a little bragging that I mostly hit the nail on the head with what I ended up bringing. I made a few notes to myself about what would have been nice to round it out. Here is my definitive list for a week that included San Jose, light to moderate hiking in the rain forest (sans rain) and a couple days of activities that included horseback riding and zip lining.

Here was our seven day itinerary: Continue reading “My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica”

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travel

The Time Zone Challenge

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I am in the midst of writing a post about the last leg of our Costa Rica journey, which was my favorite part of the trip! The weekend was all about catching up on laundry and cleaning and here we are at Monday again. Back to work. And I am exhausted! I’m not sure if it’s due to the time change but it’s leaving all of us sleepless (except my husband, Jim, who can sleep anytime). I had trouble sleeping on vacation too and I think it’s catching up with me.

This is probably not the best time to be traveling to the west coast for a work conference in which I’ll need to adjust to another time change before I’m back on the east coast late Friday night. Hopefully I’ll have time to finish my post about northern Costa Rica during the week. I’ve also asked Liam (the eleven year old) to write an essay about the trip and if he’s up for it, I’ll post it here. It will be interesting to see what he deems important from the trip.

Today will be a bit of a rush catching up on work from the past week and a half. And then packing to leave for the trip west tomorrow morning. This will be my first visit to California, so even though I’m a bit travel-worn, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll also have a large bed to myself for a few days which will likely help my sleep issues.

MC

travel

A Walk in the Jungle

Today is already day six of our Costa Rican adventure with two very full days left. Yesterday was a very long day of travel from the eastern Caribbean coast of Tortuguero Nation Park, where we explored the jungle, to the northern area where we are staying at the base of the Arenal Volcano. You know how you get a butterfly feeling when doing/seeing something awesome and new? I’ve had that fluttery feeling so many times on this trip. And we have yet to do zip lining which I imagine will be a new level of flutteriness (and fear).

I have to say, I’m not adjusting to the two hour time difference well. I’m wide awake at 4:15 every morning but not too tired until late evening which is good. It gives me time to lay in bed to reflect on our time here and how blessed I feel for the life I have. We have passed through many poor looking towns on this trip and have seen some of the hard physical labor that goes into harvesting bananas from the soft, air conditioned seats of our tour bus. It gives me pause. Today we have a tour of a coffee and sugar plantation which will likely be eye opening too.

Our visit to Tortuguero was quite interesting and a little different than what I had in my mind as a rain forest. We have been so lucky with the weather and while it was fairly hot directly in the sun, the jungle allows many opportunities to find shade. It is humid, though, and when I went to unpack at our next stop last night I found much of my clothing to be damp from the humidity. I realize I also didn’t pack enough clothes as I was taking a couple of showers a day while in Tortuguero. Fortunately they have a laundry service at the Arenal hotel and I could get a few things washed.

I was kind of hoping for rain in the rainforest. I have always loved listening to nature sounds, especially rain. Our accommodations would have been perfect for an evening rain shower – with a long rooftop porch and comfortable rocking chairs, surround by palms, flowering trees and grasses. White headed (capuchin) monkeys have been as prevelent as our northeaster US squirrels, but much cuter in my opinion. We took a canal tour and a jungle walk and while we saw a variety of wildlife, the sloth, disappointingly, remained difficult to spot. There were lots of weird spiders and beetles and yours truly dained to try a termite as if I were on Survivor. My report is they are minty.

The jungle walk we went on was paved and highly civilized which was not what I was expecting. We saw more wildlife walking around the grounds of Evergreen Lodge where we were staying, so that was a little disappointing. On our way back to the boat, near the pool of the resort where we took the walk, we saw the biggest Iguana I have ever seen and the boys were estatic!

This has been a fantastic adventure for the eleven year olds. They still have that unending sense of wonder, playfulness and energy that starts to dissipate as they head to their teenage years. It has been wonderful to watch this experience through their guileless filter. Of course there have been moments where we’ve wanted to throttle ours for his sarcasm and moments of insouciance. I try to remind myself it’s the hormones.

In addition to the sugar and coffee tour, today we’re also going on a long horseback ride through this part of the country. Hopefully I’ll be able to walk tomorrow!

Until next time…

MC

travel

What to wear, Costa Rica edition

We are in the mad dash to the final days of prepping for our trip to Costa Rica. There are still a few days before we go but I’m anxious about forgetting something important. I’m also fretting about what to wear which should not be such a consideration – what’s more important, having a great time with my family or looking good? Preferably both.

I’ve researched and re-researched the climate we’ll be going into. I’ve scoured videos and blogs for lists of what to bring. There are also different kinds of Costa Rica vacations. We are doing less the beach kind and more the jungle kind. I looked at all the hotels we’re booked into and found one place we’ll be staying for two nights doesn’t have a hairdryer. This was mentioned in many of the Trip Advisor reviews so it was also important to other travelers so I don’t feel so vain.

My mind keeps replaying a trip Jim and I made to England many years ago where I didn’t bring a hairdryer and for the most part everywhere we stayed had one. The London hotel did not and that was also the least of our problems with that place. The fact that we had to run out and purchase our own toilet paper was a much bigger problem. But I digress. When I look back on our pictures of this truly amazing trip – it was the number one place I wanted to travel to from when I was young – the thing that stands out for me is how FLAT my hair is. So that’s why whenever we travel, I try to be sure there will be a hairdryer or I will bring one.

 

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In London with a waxy Dalai Lama circa 2002

The nice thing about Costa Rica is they use the same electrical outlets we do so I can just pop one in my luggage. I don’t know why I’m getting stuck on this seemingly insignificant detail and Jim rolled his eyes when I told him there was a place, deep in the jungle, without hairdryers. But it’s the pictures. I don’t want a scrapbook of flat hair!

Also the clothes. I am not a fan of the exercise, hiking attire look for myself. I feel dowdy or something. I decided to buy a few moisture wicking tops but they decidedly have very little flair. And the L.L. Bean hiking pants, because they said we need long pants for some of the things we’re doing. I’m keeping the tags on just in case I don’t need to use them because it was a rather expensive purchase for something I might not use again. I ended up getting a couple of cute looking tops so I’m not always looking like I’m about to go on a run.

The other thing I stress about is the temperature. I really hate to be too hot or too cold (doesn’t everyone?) so I want to be ready for any weather. Does it get cool at night? Some say yes. Is it super hot and humid? Some say yes. Will it rain? Better be prepared. Will I run out of clothes? Maybe. Will it matter in the end? Probably not. I was also worried about wearing a hat because of my hearing aid that is attached to my scalp behind my ear. I bought a jungle type hat but it was too big so I took an old baseball cap and cut a hole around where my hearing aid goes. I will probably just try to work with that.

You may say this is pretty trivial. We are going to a foreign country that will be full of adventure, beauty and cool wildlife. I just have a certain style that I want to keep to. And when I look back I’ll probably be thinking how silly it was to worry. To worry about packing the right stuff and the kind of clothes I wore. That’s just me.

At the end of the day, I might make a little youtube video of my packing because I find those type of videos very helpful, myself. Most of the videos I found were geared toward beachy Costa Rica vacations so this one will be more about visiting the jungle, zip lining, horseback riding and such. We have a couple of GoPro’s so we’ll be able to capture all aspects of the trip.

 

Life

Airport Crazy

Airports are not for the faint hearted especially when one is under renovation/construction which always seems to be the case. Orlando airport, Southwest terminal is a veritable mess and at first glance, seems like organizational mayhem. Thursday morning I dropped my dad here and the plan was for me to park and meet him inside to help him navigate the system – get his ticket and check his bag.

If you’ve been following along, as we were leaving for our trip, he told me he could never fly alone because my mother was the “brains of the operation”. Fast forward to Thursday morning, just getting curbside was an exercise in extreme automotive manipulation, and he said, while we were in the middle of the road, “just drop me here”. I was hesitant but after convincing me he could do it, I quickly jotted down all the flight details and told him to ask someone for help if he needed it.

He did make it to his gate (he called me to let me know this 45 minutes later) and he sounded quite proud of this accomplishment. As I navigated my way through the mess of Terminal A this morning I am doubly proud of him. Fortunately, I too made it to the gate seemingly against all odds. Goodbye sunshine and hello snow.

MC

travel

A Run Like No Other

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The train ride was a bit of a hassle if you don’t know Spanish, which we didn’t. The day before our trip from Barcelona to Pamplona, we took a trial run to the station, to see if we could navigate our way. July in Barcelona is hot and sticky and if you are twenty weeks pregnant, which I was, it is even more so. But the excitement carries you through because you are in Spain, about to embark on an adventure that has been months in the planning. The trek from the hotel to the station is interminable, but finally, you are there.

The signs on the walls and indeed above the station agents are unreadable and finding someone to translate or help is impossible. After hours of wandering the crowded station, full of hopeful travelers like ourselves, we complete our transaction and are on our way. We are out on the streets of Barcelona again, finding a different route to our hotel. How easy all this would be today with smartphones, digital maps, translating apps. But it’s 2006 and our fancy smartphone purchases are a year away.

Continue reading “A Run Like No Other”

Life

NYC Take Two

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Over the weekend we made another quick trip to NYC. I could probably stay a week and still call it a quick trip, there’s always so much I want to do. A couple months ago a friend asked if we’d like to go with them and of course I didn’t hesitate. Our sons were in daycare together and although they parted ways after kindergarten we have kept in touch and get together with and without the boys several times a year.

There was nothing on the agenda for this trip and on the train ride down we bandied around some ideas. A show, the Met and one my bucket list items to skate at Rockefeller Center (the giant Christmas Tree that overlooks the rink was being hoisted on Saturday and the rink was closed). We made our way to our separate hotels which were a couple blocks apart and regrouped at noon to grab some lunch. It’s often hard to make decisions in a group on where to dine but pizza was agreed on and we quickly made our way to John’s Pizza in Time Square, a reliable place to grab a few slices if ever there was one. Their salads are pretty good too.

Continue reading “NYC Take Two”

work

What does the web know about you?

I’m at a research conference in Chicago for the early part of this week. Because there were no rooms at the hotel Sunday night, my boss and I woke at the crack of dawn yesterday (honestly, dawn hadn’t even cracked yet) to board our early morning flight. You might think I’m weird but I love to fly. Not the aspects of boarding or deplaning, but the airtime where I can focus all my energy on a book without worrying I should be doing something else. I was especially excited because I’d been on hold for Celeste Ng’s, Little Fires Everywhere, at the library and I got an email on Sunday that it was ready for pick up.

Because our flight was so early, we arrived at the hotel at about 8 a.m. but luck was in our favor and they had a couple of rooms ready for us. We went our separate ways and agreed to meet for breakfast in an hour.

When I first step into my hotel room, I get a feeling that I’m getting away with something. A sense of elation that all the space in these four walls is mine for the next couple of days. I can hang up my clothes (using all the hangers), lay out my toiletries and makeup without worrying I’m not leaving enough room for my husband’s stuff. I’m a person who craves personal space and time to myself and a couple nights in a hotel is just the fix I need.

Continue reading “What does the web know about you?”

Life

Eggs over pasta

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Several years ago (nearly 14 to be exact), my husband and I made our first trip to Italy together. A few months earlier, we had been in Paris on our honeymoon, and when we ran into a priest at the Louve who had been in school with my younger sister, we decided to take him up on his offer to show us around the Vatican where he was finishing up his studies.

It was a marvelous trip. We stayed in an apartment near the Vatican and worked our way around the city by foot, bus and train. The food was pretty spectacular but I was unaccustomed to the various courses and until we dined out with Father Brian, we stuck to our American style of eating of just one course per meal.

Father Brian was surprised and explained that the norm was to order several courses. The restaurant we chose that night was in Campo de Fiori, a wonderful square in the heart of Rome, that was called La Carbonara. The first course that night was pasta and I decided to go with carbonara, the dish the restaurant was named for. It was love at first bite!

When I returned home, I made it my mission to track down a recipe that would approximate the dish and it’s still a staple in our household all these years later. It is quick, easy and calls for just a few ingredients: pasta, eggs, grated parmesan, diced pancetta, chicken broth and red pepper flakes. There are never any leftovers.

Life

Weekend in New York

New York city is often on my mind as a destination to take in some culture. We were there in May, sans kiddo, to celebrate my husband’s birthday,  but as is usually the case when we leave our son overnight, the trip was a hasty get in, get out endeavor. When Liam found out we were going there without him, we had a very sad kid on our hands. I had taken him to the city last fall and he loved it and has been asking to go back ever since so I promised him next time.

91MtPDqj-bLThis year turned out to be perfect timing for adding a summer in the city to our family agenda. Liam, who is heading into fifth grade, was assigned to read and write about the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwwiler by E.L. Konigsburg. The book was first published in 1968 and follows the travails of Claudia and Jamie Kincaid who decide to run away from home and inhabit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week.

After reading the book with him and the accompanying worksheet from his English teacher,  I saw the suggestion to either complete the work by visiting the museum’s website or to visit in person. I haven’t been to the Met in years so I thought a field trip was in order.  Last Saturday morning we left early and caught a train into the city with a few ideas of things to do on our two-day sojourn.

Continue reading “Weekend in New York”