Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Friday: Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

J. and I went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon. Originally, we wanted to go to Italy, but between being "house poor" (we just bought a house, 6 months before our wedding), and the quickly crashing dollar rate we didn't think we could afford it. So, we picked up our Atlas of the World, let it fall to a page...and lo and behold, it fell to Costa Rica. J. did all the planning (thanks honey!) and we enjoyed a fabulous honeymoon for a fraction of the cost.

Our tour of Costa Rica included, Arenal Volcano, one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world. On almost a daily basis, red lava comes crashing down the volcano. During the day, the volcano looks like this:

At night, we would sit on our patio chairs with a bottle of wine and watch the lava pour down the mountain until the clouds covered our view. (At this time, I unfortunately had a crappy camera that didn't' take pictures at, you'll just have to use your imaginations for this one!) While, we were lucky to have one clear day with the entire volcano visible (which is touted as good luck!) usually we saw this:

Besides the awesome scenery La Fortuna (the town's name) has many activities: hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, bird-watching, soaking in hot springs. We took a day-trip up to Cano Negro, which was a live version of Disneyland's "Jungle Cruise." But, that's another story for another time. Oh, and if you ever decide you have to see Volcano Arenal for yourself...I highly recommend you stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. It's the only hotel which offers front-row seats to the spectacular fireworks display, but you'll feel safe since you're protected by the deep gorge of the Agua Caliente River. It was originally built as a research station (so, you'll feel smart when you stay here) and is the only hotel situated within the Arenal National Park.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hop in the car and drive anywhere in the United States and most of the time, no matter where you stop, there will be something familiar that feels like home. You see the familiar Starbucks cups, McDonald wrappers and huge billboards on street corners.

When J. and I were dating and living in Sacramento we frequently went on weekend getaways (usually with very little planning and preperation to them!) This spontaneous weekend began by hopping in the car and heading northwest. We wanted to escape the Sacramento heat by heading towards the coast but, we also were looking for something “distinctly Californian”. What better than the Redwood Forest, then? We quickly discovered that the Redwood Forest is pure majestic beauty, oddly personifying California in its familiar uniqueness.

At several points along the way we stopped our car for a leisurely stroll through these majestic trees. Standing among the forest floor the amazingly, ancient redwood trees form a canopy which blocks all but the strongest sun rays from reaching you. Walking among the cathedral of trees you experience the unsettling feeling of being alone while also learning a lesson in humility.
We spent the remainder of that Saturday driving among the Giant trees flirting along the coast with our windows rolled down breathing in the clean, fresh, cool air. We stopped in an Indian reservation, had our first taste of fresh Buffalo burgers and spent five minutes staring eye-to-eye at a mother elk as a herd meandered across the highway.

Bright and early the next morning – 24 hours had passed since my last mochachino and another inspiration strikes, Oregon! We drove the windy roads through the trees and every once in a while spotting another small quaint town without a Starbucks or billboard in sight. There may have been a lot of driving on this quick weekend getaway and saw many little towns laid out in a similar way, yet each one more unique in their redundancies than any big city block.
On this weekend my intention was not to escape from American commercialism that bombards us every day, but as is so often in California, a simply journey to “somewhere I’ve never been before” turns into an extraordinary memory and experience.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

This meme was plaging me, so I thought I'd post it here.

1. I’m a voracious reader. I read books over and over again too. I’ve read Pride & Prejudice almost a dozen times, Harry Potter and Little Woman more times than I can count – but my favorite book? Not your typical high-brow pick: Tulips, Chips and Mayonnaise. I read it when I’m sad…its laugh out loud funny.
2. I really dislike Southern California, but I love my house. I want to be able to transport it to a city of my choice.
3. I love to cook and bake, especially in my awesome new kitchen. Sometimes I just stand in it and smile.
4. I have an obsession with Gypsies. I think the culture is completely fascinating.
5. I’m very self-conscious about my arms and no matter how many pull-ups, push-ups or bicep curls I do…they never look “toned.”
6. I have few female blood relatives. Secretly, I like this. It means that I don’t have to share my mom with anyone.

7. I think my second cousin Amanda is hands down the coolest kid ever. I love hanging out with her.
8. I fall hard and often. That’s not a metaphor for anything: I really am that big of a klutz.
9. I love to travel. The more off-the-beaten-track it is, the better.

10. People who are selfish bother me…a lot.
11. I like to clean and organize.
12. I once ran into Pete Carroll (literally) at the movies…and stammered like a school girl. I tried saying sorry or excuse me, but I just stared. I then spent the entire movie obsessing how ridiculous I was.
13. Ireland is my favorite place on this planet, but Vienna is my top-all-time favorite city.
14. Watching Grey’s Anatomy is my guilty pleasure. I get totally caught up in the mindless drama of Derek and Meredith.
15. I think my maiden name is cool, but I think my married name is even cooler. It makes me feel ethnic and cultured and I love when people ask if it’s Italian!
16. My dream job is to be a professional travel writer and photographer. I think that would be the best job ever.
17. I am an introvert.
18. I like to read travel guides – my favorite are Rough Guides. In fact, I read them cover to cover – even for places I don’t have a trip planned.
19. I love good red wine.
20. I think people who drink light beer are sissies.
21. My dog is a super-mutt and she makes me insanely happy.
22. I admire people who rescue animals from pounds and rescue organizations.
23. I love how patient, smart and generous my husband is.
24. I need to run for my sanity. It clears my head and heart.
25. Every spring, I plant a garden, and every year said super-mutt dog eats all the produce. This year, I’m planting in the front yard.