Pura Vida: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my Costa Rican adventure with my wonderful mother!  If you haven’t checked out Pura Vida: Part 1, please do–you definitely want to check out our adventures in Tortuguero.  Two words:  zip lining!  🙂  And now…

Day 4 (continued):  Arrival Day in La Fortuna!

Our last morning in Tortuguero was beautiful–hot and sunny with bright blue skies.  It was tough to leave, but leave we did (after a final breakfast).  After the boat ride back to the mainland, we hopped on a bus and took a ride to a restaurant for lunch.

Lunch was buffet-style with the BEST FRESH SALSA I’VE EVER TASTED.  (Let me say this right now–one thing that did not disappoint during this trip was the food.  I’m a vegetarian, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough options while I was there.  Not only was there wonderful fresh fruit at ever meal, there was frequently salad with fresh veggies and lots of other tasty meat-free options!)

After lunch, a van picked us up to drive us to La Fortuna.  The trip was lengthy, but just like before, we were able to see a lot of the smaller towns on our journey.

As we got closer to La Fortuna, we could start to see the volcano.  Yes, an actual VOLCANO!  Was I a little scared that the volcano would spontaneously erupt and we’d die from the molten lava?  Absolutely.  Was I willing to sacrifice that to take in the beautiful view of the volcano from our hotel room.  ABSOLUTELY.  Just look at this beautiful view!

 

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Like the garden of Eden!

The hotel we stayed in had a few more amenities than our previous place in Tortuguero.  We had wi-fi in our room.  We had towels folded into cute animal shapes.  We had a TV with premium channels.  We had multiple poolside bars.  We had room service.  And we had…(wait for it)…air conditioning!  #thankyoulord

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Hello, butterfly.

After we got settled in, we walked around the rest of the site.  Our room was awesome, and the rest of the place was even better–check out some of the cool stuff on site:

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A playground..for animals!  Hotel staff put out leftover fruit each day to attract lots of colorful birds.

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Poolside view

 

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Just a hottie sitting next to a hot spring.  🙂  But seriously, the hot springs were over 100 degrees!

We eventually made our way to one of the poolside bars…

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Enjoy a drink poolside?  You don’t have to ask me twice!

Happy hour was going on, so we enjoyed a few drinks and watched the Costa Rican national soccer team on TV.  (They won!)

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Two pura vidas, please!

After the game and drinks and dinner at the bar, we went back to our room to get some much-needed rest.

Day 5:  La Fortuna!

This was the first day that we didn’t have any excursions or tours planned–we could do what we wanted, when we wanted.  Turns out, what we wanted was a relaxing day of shopping in town–and that’s exactly what we got.

We had another good breakfast at the hotel, then took a cab into town.  We purchased souvenirs for our loved ones back home including, but not limited to, Costa Rican coffee.  I bought eight bags of coffee to bring home–Mom ended up getting about 10!  We needed to share the blessing of authentic Costa Rican coffee with all of our friends and family back home.

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Downtown La Fortuna

 

We bought so many souvenirs we couldn’t even carry them all comfortably–we ended up buying tote bags to put the souvenirs in!  All that shopping worked up a definitely appetite, so we stopped for a bite to eat.

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Lunch date with my favorite lady!

After fries and milkshakes in a cute open air restaurant, we went back to the hotel for more relaxation.  Since we were in Costa Rica during the rainy season, we spent a lot of evenings chilling in our room because of the torrential downpour that started at about 6:30 each evening.  We got a lot of reading done and slept very comfortably after our full day in La Fortuna.

Day 6:  Journey to Guanacaste!

Luckily we got some good rest during the night, because we got picked up at 6:45am the next day to head to our final tour stop–Guanacaste.  Check back soon for Part 3 of our Costa Rican adventure!

 

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Pura Vida: Part 1

Currently, the temperature is barely above freezing where I live.  Believe it or not, that’s WARM.  Last week it was literally -20 degrees.  #notcool  (I swear, if I didn’t love my job I’d absolutely move to a warmer climate.)

So, in an effort to get away from the cold (at least, mentally escape it) I’m hitting y’all with a recap of my trip to Costa Rica last year!  My job is awesome because on your five-year anniversary, you are awarded a sabbatical:  four weeks (paid) to take a trip to anywhere in the world you haven’t been before–with a companion!  I chose to use half of my sabbatical to take this vacation to Costa Rica with the woman I love above all others, my wonderful mother!  It really was the trip of a lifetime–Mom and I had a spectacular time experiencing the “pura vida” (pure life) spirit of Costa Rica and its people.  My mother is the most spectacular person I know–I owe EVERY OUNCE of success I’ve had in life to her–and I wanted to show her my appreciation with an international adventure.

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My mommy and me enjoying Costa Rica!

This post is the first in a series, so look for additional updates over the next couple of weeks.  But, for now, let’s start at the beginning…

Day 1:  Arrival day in San Jose!

Mom and I met up in Atlanta to take the flight to Costa Rica.  Airports are usually pretty boring, but for some reason we had a few funny interactions while we were there.

First, Mom got a complement from an airport worker on her smile.  After she said “thank you” (as a good Southern woman does) the airport worker asks loudly, “Who yo dentist is?!?”  This tickled her because she was not expecting to be asked for a dental referral (since usually dudes ask for a lady’s phone number instead).

Second, we discovered we were wearing the same pants–yoga pants with mesh cutouts.  #likemotherlikedaughter #goodstylerunsinthefamily

When we landed in San Jose, we did so under gray skies, but that didn’t make us any less excited to be there!  As we made our way to customs, I got to bust out my high school Spanish with “Donde esta el bano?” or “Where is the bathroom?”  Throughout the trip, many friendly Costa Ricans let me practice my terrible Spanish on them (and I really appreciated that they didn’t laugh at me).

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Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

Our travel agent arranged a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, which was about 30 minutes away.  Our driver, a young guy with skinny sweatpants and braces, welcomed us and gave us our itinerary for the week.  We definitely over-tipped him because not only was he friendly, he safely got us to our hotel.

The hotel was fantastic!  The lobby and room were so nice, and the staff were very accommodating.  After getting checked in, we settled down in the room with some Chinese takeout.  We couldn’t get too comfortable though, as the next day we headed to the first town on our tour…

Day 2:  Journey to Tortuguero!

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up early to pack up and head to our next destination, Tortuguero. The hotel had a delicious continental breakfast, which included the best fresh pineapple I’ve ever put in my mouth and gallopinto, a tasty rice and bean dish.  I later learned that gallopinto is a traditional Costa Rican breakfast food–it was served at every single location we went to for breakfast!  (After the trip, I attempted to make gallopinto myself–my version was nowhere near as good as the real stuff.)  We also had a few cups of the BEST FREAKIN’ COFFEE I’VE EVER TASTED.  Seriously–I don’t even drink coffee and I was gulping that stuff down like water.

It was a good thing we caffeinated with all that delicious coffee too, because the bus ride to Tortuguero was longggggg.  We actually had to take a longer route because the main road was washed out (due to the rainy season).  But the lengthy trip wasn’t terrible, because we got to see lots of tiny towns in the countryside.

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First by land…

The lengthy trip wasn’t over with the bus ride either–after we got off the boat, we grabbed our luggage and traveled by boat to get to our hotel.

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…then by boat!

Once we got off the boat and got our luggage unpacked, we went on a hike (which was really more of a nature walk) .  The hike couldn’t have taken more than an hour, but during that time we saw:

  • Sloths
  • Howler monkeys
  • Spider monkeys
  • Land crabs
  • Bullet ants
  • Baby lizards
  • Tons of cool plants
  • Golden spiders

 

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Golden spider sparkle

When I tell y’all we were in the jungle, WE WERE IN THE JUNGLE.  Our hotel was actually built inside a national park!  There was no internet in the room, no TV in the room, and NO AIR CONDITIONING in the room, but it was so neat to be right there in the middle of the jungle.  Mom and I were sweating our faces off, but were so thrilled with all the animals we got to see.  After dinner and a shower, we headed to bed to prepare for our first full day in Tortuguero.

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Sweet dreams!

Day 3:  Tortuguero!

Weirdest wake up call ever–monkeys!  Yes, Mom and I were woken up by howler monkeys, well, howling.  It was strange but cool at the same time–who can say they used live howler monkeys as an alarm clock?  Apparently those monkeys wanted an early breakfast, because they woke us up veryyyyyyy early.  Not a problem though–we got up, had breakfast (and more delicious coffee) and took a boat tour through the canals of Tortuguero.

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Good morning!

The boat tour was just as cool as the hike we took the previous day.  On the boat tour, we saw:

  • More monkeys
  • More lizards (including a Jesus Christ lizard!)
  • Tons of cool birds
  • Turtles
  • A crocodile (which was so close it could have jumped into the damn boat)
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He looks hungry!

Our tour guide was so awesome, and the boat driver was too–they made sure to point out all the interesting animals and plants so we could take lots of pictures.

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Drying her wings in the sun

After our boat tour, the adventure continued with…zip lining!  Zip lining was hot (heat rises, and we were up in the treetops), scary (at least for me, because I’m afraid of heights), and FUN!  Mom was really good at it too!  She made it through the course like it was nothing!

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Safety first!

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We watched our instructors (literally) show us the ropes.

 

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Climbing up to the first platform–and praying I don’t fall off the ladder.

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Look at her go!

 

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Terrified?  YES.

After zip lining, we headed into the village to do some shopping.  We bought some ice cream and snacks, and I picked up a few postcards for folks back home.  We also saw vendors selling fresh coconut water, jewelry, and souvenirs.  Also, there were so many adorable dogs everywhere (off leash).

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Tortuguero Village

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Toucan statues in town!

The final activity of the day was an hour-long massage in the spa.  Now, earlier I mentioned our room did not have air conditioning.  And after all the adventuring we did, we were super hot.  The humidity was out of control too, which made the heat feel even hotter!  Mom and I thought, surely the spa will have air conditioning–we can get a massage *and* beat the heat for a little while!

Come to find out, the spa did NOT have air conditioning.  In fact, it was COMPLETELY OUTDOORS.  #weweresowrong The spa did have some high-powered ceiling fans, so we were still able to beat the heat and enjoy our massages even without air conditioning.  🙂

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Outdoor spa!

Relaxed after our massages, we enjoyed dinner with the other folks in our tour group.  We dined with two gentlemen from the Netherlands (in Costa Rica for the surfing!) and a couple from the Caribbean too.  A dog also joined us for dinner–I think he belonged to the front desk manager–and he patiently sat next to us (hoping for snacks I guess).

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Our friendly (and furry) dinner companion

After the meal, as we were walking back to our bungalow, we saw an armadillo!  It was hanging out near the bushes outside the bungalow, and ran away before we could snap a picture.  I’ve never seen an armadillo in real life–that sucker was big and fast!  Even with the excitement of running into an armadillo, we fell asleep quickly after our action-packed day.

Day 4:  Journey to La Fortuna!

Our time in Tortuguero drew to a close, so we packed our bags and began the next leg of our tour.  Next stop, La Fortuna!

Surviving, Snacks, and Family Vacations #100HappyDays

Day 80:  Surviving makes me happy.  This was my sixth day in a row of teaching customer class and my voice started going out.  I was able to get through my class anyway though–sometimes you just have to be happy you made it through.

Day 81:  Buying snacks makes me happy.  For our upcoming family vacation (more on that below) I was in charge of buying the snacks.  Who doesn’t like buying snacks?!?  The hardest part was trying not to eat them before the trip (and remembering to load everything into the car).  For the record, I did try to buy healthier snacks…but some s’more ingredients may or may not have made their way into the cart too.

Day 82:  Fridays make me happy.  Especially Fridays before a long weekend!

Days 83-87:  Family vacations make me happy.  My family and I camped near Mammoth Cave for the holiday and it was really fun!  We had the most awesome RV in the park (and that’s not me bragging–people came by multiple times a day to compliment it).  We hiked a trail near the cave, which was somewhat challenging in 90° weather with 1,000,000% humidity.  But we made it–and rewarded ourselves with great food and lots of laughs.  Check out the view from our campsite and my new friend Belle below!

 

Kentucky is so beautiful!

Victory (a.k.a. the baddest RV in the park).

Belle!  She protected us by barking at everyone who walked past our campsite.

 

Days 88-89:  Short work weeks make me happy.  That’s the awesome thing about coming back to work on Thursday–you’re already basically at the weekend!  Is it bad that I’m already counting down the hours until the weekend officially starts?

Vacation Days and Handwritten Notes #100HappyDays

Days 19-22:  Vacation days make me happy.  And before you ask–no, I didn’t go anywhere (unless you count the grocery store).  I originally took the days off to attend DragCon 2017 in Los Angeles, but that airline ticket just wasn’t in the budget this year unfortunately.  Since I’d already gotten the vacation days approved, I figured I’d use the time to reminisce about my wonderful DragCon 2016 experience and get some adulting done.

And boy, did this gal adult something FIERCE!  I completed a ton of personal care appointments I’d been putting off for wayyyyy too long, got all my grocery shopping done, and (with the help of my wonderful boyfriend) took care of some #homeownerproblems.  This was definitely a stay-cation, but having Friday and Monday off work made me very happy indeed.

Day 23:  Handwritten notes make me happy.  My boyfriend’s mom mailed me the sweetest thank you card in appreciation for the dinner I hosted over Easter weekend, and today I come into my office to find this adorable note from my office mate’s family!

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My Old Kentucky Home: Memorial Day Edition

Another trip back home–this Kentucky girl was tickled pink! I celebrated Memorial Day with my fantastic family, including my stepdad (who is retired from the Air Force). I greatly appreciate his service as well as that of all of the other men and women who protect our country–especially those who gave their lives doing so. 

The weekend consisted of a motorcycle rally, mommy-daughter pedicures, watching a middle school basketball tournament, and hanging with my brother and grandfather. I hope y’all had an enjoyable Memorial Day!

                           

   

My Old Kentucky Home: Final Four Edition

I am a Kentucky girl born and bred. I love my Commonwealth (yes, Kentucky is a commonwealth not a state) and since I moved to Wisconsin almost five years ago I really look forward to taking trips back home. Seriously–these Wisconsin winters are *not* something this Southern belle appreciates much. 

I started the nearly nine hour drive to my hometown early Wednesday afternoon. Overall it was a pretty easy trip; just a few traffic snags outside Chicago and Indianapolis slowed me down. Once I finally made it home my mom and stepdad were waiting up for me. We chatted for a few and then headed to bed. 

Thursday morning, I did mostly nothing–and it was FABULOUS! I slept in, visited my high school speech coach, watched Jerry Springer and Maury, and indulged myself in a Hodgenville staple: Laha’s hamburgers! 

   

 Those burgers are so greasy and delicious. 

I also went to visit my great-aunt’s grave. It has been two years since she passed and I miss her all the time. I’m glad I was in town on the anniversary of her death so I could pay my respects. I also ran into two of her daughters there–my great-aunt is still bringing our family together even though she’s in Heaven. 

  Rest in peace, Granny Aloma. 

I picked my brother up from basketball practice and I do believe he has grown more since Christmas–if he keeps this up he’ll be seven feet tall! I call him “my big little brother.” Once my mom and stepdad got in from work, we ate dinner–I made chicken tortilla soup–and relaxed. President Obama was in Louisville making a speech and it was all over the local news. 

 Someone needs spell check…#ecomomy

On Friday my stepdad headed to Indianapolis to watch the University of Kentucky play in the NCAA Final Four. Kentucky is known for college basketball! I always tell people that on the day you’re born in Kentucky you have to choose a team: University of Kentucky (UK) or University of Louisville (UofL). My mom and brother are UofL fans; my stepdad and I are UK fans–a house divided most definitely. Makes for interesting times when the teams play each other…

Anyway, the big game wasn’t until Saturday but my stepdad wanted to get up there early to meet with some of his Air Force buddies. My brother was spending the weekend with my grandfather, so my mom and I went to the outlet mall with my grandmother. I know where I get my good taste and unquenchable appetite for shopping from! I got a ton of good deals and I got to spend time with two very influential women in my life–a great day indeed. I also visited with my grandfather and his wife for a bit. 

  One of my MANY purchases–found it on clearance at The Loft Outlet!

Saturday Mom and I met with our cousins and took a trip to Indy ourselves! We went to the children’s museum and met up with my college friend Katie for lunch. 

              

Kids (and adults) having a good time!

Then we headed to Lafayette–I got us a free room with my hotel points–and watched UK play Wisconsin in the Final Four. UK lost by just a few points, which was devastating, but I live in Wisconsin so I guess if we had to lose I’m glad it was to them. Mom and I had cake and wine to ease the pain. 

Sunday morning Mom and I had breakfast, then parted ways: she headed south toward Hodgenville; I headed north toward Madison. It breaks my heart every single time we leave each other. She is truly the best mother on the planet and I love her more than life. But I know I’ll get to see her again soon–not to mention we talk almost every day. 🙂

So that was my trip! I had a great time hanging out with my family and friends and can’t wait until I get to spend more time with them in the Bluegrass State! 

Check out a few more pics from my trip back home:

  Rainy Kentucky days–still a beautiful place. 

  Honest Abe chillin’ downtown. 

  Finally got to see the speech state champion banner with my name on it!

  Awesome Easter gifts from my awesome parents. 

 Crossing the bridge on my way back to Madison.