Keeping to tradition, J and I spent MLK weekend this year skiing. We were interested to see how East Coast skiing compared to out West, where we spent MLK 2014. The first thing I learned during my stay in Vermont? Don’t compare East Coast and West Coast skiing, particularly in a conversation with an avid East Coast skier. I got the feeling I was fueling a rivalry….and not making friends.
MLK 2015 was not actually planned intentionally as a ski weekend. I wanted to get away (surprise), but we wanted to drive somewhere, so I found an adorable inn on my beloved smithhotels.com (great hotel curator – I recommend) called Windham Hill Inn. I have so many good things to say about Windham; I’m not even sure where to begin.
Our third stop on the great Costa Rican tour was Manuel Antonio. After spending a few days in the chilly Cloud Forest of Monteverde, the beachy Manuel Antonio was definitely a welcome change.
View from our hotel, Gaia, in Manuel Antonio
We chose to stay at Gaia Hotel & Reserve in Manuel Antonio and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The hotel was on top of a massive hill surrounded by a nature reserve funded by the hotel owner. To get to the hotel, you have to take a golf cart up the hill. The hotel rooms are all around the outside of a few different buildings on different levels. In the center there is a magnificent infinity pool and an open air restaurant with a fantastic view (see above). At night, the sunset was so beautiful. Unfortunately my crap camera never did capture its full beauty, but I tried every night about 100 times.
I recently spent some time traveling around Costa Rica and hit up three major destinations within the country. You can read about my first stop in Costa Rica here — this blog picks up as we headed out of La Fortuna towards our second destination of Monteverde.
While Monteverde is well traveled by tourists, it definitely felt like the most remote place we visited. That largely had to do with the roads — which were unpaved the majority of the way there. Obviously, this is another drive I would not recommend doing at night.
The main “highway” to Monteverde
That being said, the drive itself is part of the experience so it is a must, even if you choose to hire a driver rather than do it yourself (if you do do it yourself, get a GPS — there are no questions). On a map, it doesn’t look like it’s very far from Arenal to Monteverde, but it takes at least 3 hours on the twisty-turney roads all the way around Lake Arenal. Give yourself at least half a day though to do the drive, so you can stop at some of the very interesting local spots along the way.
This month I’ve been on a bit of a travel binge (I know — how very unlike me!), but now I’m back home and ready to report. First on the agenda: United Airlines’ planes are kind of gross. I made the horrendous mistake of visiting the “lavatories” with my shoes off, and my feet may never feel clean ever again. I recognize that common sense should have told me better, but I was mid-way through a five hour flight and obviously a bit discombobulated.
More importantly, this dirty-bathroomed plane was carrying me to Costa Rica for a week of adventure and rain sun with J. We spread our 8 days across three popular Costa Rican destinations, so to ensure that I cover each in adequate detail, I’ll discuss each separately (so look out for future blog posts….I knowwww how exciting!).
Arenal Volcano — far more impressive when not shrouded by clouds
Our three destinations were Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio National Park. Costa Rica is a great baby step into Central and South America. It’s super easy to travel around and almost everyone speaks English. Basically, the infrastructure for tourism is very advanced. The downside of the built up tourism industry in Costa Rica is that it’s not as cheap as you might expect. That being said, it still such an amazing place to visit.
Unfortunately, Disneyland took the slogan first, but Napa Valley may be the true “Greatest Place on Earth” ….at least for adults. To be fair, I don’t think kids would appreciate it in the same way because a lot of my love for Napa comes from the wine.
Actually though, Napa has more to offer than just wine. Granted, it does have over 300 wineries just in the Napa Valley (so that doesn’t even count Sonoma or the coast), but it also is home to some fantastic restaurants (including quite a few Michelin stars I might add), and some pretty amazing hotels and spas. Keep reading, I shall explain.
I keep hearing about people moving out to San Francisco from New York for a breath of fresh air and a Cali perspective. So, on my quick visit out there, I had high expectations. I love living in New York, but I’m not immune to its downfalls. Being that it’s summer, the smelliness of the city is starting to set in as the temperatures soar. And, don’t get me started on the subway in summer time–whoever invents a portable shower you can use after your subway journey in July will be a millionaire. But, then again, there’s nothing like a rooftop bar on a Friday afternoon in NYC. Anyway, I figured San Francisco would have to offer a lot to compete.
Last weekend, I headed to Boston to visit some of my nearest and dearest friends who recently moved there from across the pond (the Southern half of the pond to be specific). I haven’t been to Boston since high school, and I couldn’t remember too much about it. Also, to be honest, the under-21 experience in a city is always pretty different from when you’re an adult (am I an adult?!) …maybe we’ll just say post-21 experience).
photo courtesy of thefabempire.com
My friends now live in trendy Back Bay, just South of Newbury Street, known for its amazing shopping. Newbury Street is kind of like a chill, casual Fifth Avenue if that makes any sense. Actually, I got the vibe that all of Boston is like a chill New York. It’s much smaller in terms of population, but it’s got everything you might look for–great shopping, pro sports, a beautiful river, and loads of great restaurants and bars. Plus, the T is an adorable, miniature version of the subway — now I know that’s hard to picture.
Greece is comprised of 3000 islands. I am sad to say I can only speak to the beauty of one, but if my time in Santorini is any representation of what the rest of Greece is like, I really don’t think you can’t go wrong.
I wish someone had told me that when I was packing my little suitcase before heading off to Prague. I spent four days in this beautiful city – constantly shivering in a very light jacket. And it’s certainly telling, I think, that I still loved it.
The Charles Bridge in Prague
Prague is a perfect representation of all that is wonderful about Eastern Europe. From the architecture to the food to the people, it’s a city with a very specific, eclectic, and somewhat eccentric soul. The only drawback? It’s really cold in May!
Amsterdam is known to offer tourists a certain something that can’t be found (legally) elsewhere. It has gained it’s reputation around that, and only that. But, Amsterdam is so much more! It’s full of culture, museums, interesting food, and bicycles by the thousands. My reasons for loving Amsterdam had nothing to do with its tourist-drawing reputation and everything to do with the other things it has to offer.