I’m in Love with Costa Rica

I have been to Costa Rica more times than any other country in the world. Why? Because I love Costa Rica! I was just on the border in Panama and had to stop in Costa Rica and explore Puerto Viejo. This is a fantastic little beach and surfer town and it was a fantastic way to end my trip.

Let me start by saying that I am not a surfer. I have been on a board and surfed a few times but would never consider myself a surfer. The hostel has a surf outing everyday where they give you a board and drive you to a surf spot. We were dropped off and told to have fun! The waves were not that big but they were big enough to give me a hard time so I sort of stuck to riding the white water.

I don’t know about you but I think sloth’s are adorable and I wanted to take them all home! This little guy was on the side of the road just trying to cross the street. He was totally lost! Fun fact, a sloth only comes out of a tree about once a week to use the restroom. I must have spotted this guy just after his weekly constitutional. A local finally stopped and grabbed him and put him back in a tree. I would have not been mad if he decided to attach to my back and come home with me! If you want to learn more about sloths I suggest watching the new season of Planet Earth on Netflix.

This sloth was just enjoying eating the fruit out of the tree and I honestly sat and watched him for like 30 minutes. He was just so happy in the tree!

Everywhere in Costa Rica you will hear people say Pura Vida. It is really a way of life and can be used as “hello” or “goodbye” or just “what’s up?” It started raining while I was on a walk and I thought it was the best time to stop and buy a hat and keep my head warm. Plus I absolutely love the idea behind the saying.

The rain. The rain. The rain. There is rain and then there is rain in Costa Rica or anywhere tropical. It can be a beautiful and sunny day and out of nowhere an incredible amount of rain dumps from the sky. Usually the rain only lasts about 20-30 minutes and you can move on with your day. This was not the case on this day and I was stuck at Tasty Waves for a few hours eating delicious tacos and drinking some beers.

Signage in the bathroom

Costa Rica has so much to offer and I only touched on a tiny part of you but you can go zip lining, white water rafting, hike a volcano, trek through the rainforest, rescue sea turtles and so so so much more! This absolutely will not be my last trip to this country!

Adding Another Country to the List…Panama

After 5 days on a boat around amazing and beautiful islands, I was sad and also excited to be on land. I didn’t get sea sick while on the boat but once I was on land, I had serious drunken sailors walk (I couldn’t get my equilibrium back on land). I had a feeling this would happen to me so I basically spent two days in Panama City relaxing and cooking. I booked a hostel with a pool thinking I could relax and read in there but just looking at the water made me feel a little woozy. #mybad

Fast forward to to 2 days later and I was on a flight to Bocas Del Toro. You would think that after the Rosario Islands and San Blas islands, I was done with islands, but this was not the case. I stayed on a little island just a quick boat taxi ride from the main island where there was an opportunity to participate in so many activities except for one problem…it was pouring rain!

Finally, after 2 days of rain, there was sun and time for an activity and I immediately decided that zip lining was in order! Let’s not forget that I was on an island in Central America surrounded by rainforest and water which means awesome animals!

This little guy popped in for breakfast

These guys are ALL over the island and super tiny. I wouldn’t pick one up but the guides did.

After so much rain I went back to the main island where my friend from high school had just recently opened a new bar called Tequila Republic. I spent the day hanging out with him and his wife and the locals and just catching up. If you are ever in Bocas Del Toro, this bar is literally walking distance from the airport and close to just about everything. It’s a must!

I did’t see much of Panama and would like to go back but like I do with many countries, I pop in to feel it out if it is on way to somewhere and then plan a longer trip for another time!

A Quick Stop in Medellin

Just a quick flight from Cartagena to Medellin and we were in an entirely different climate and different part of the country. We had 1.5 days to explore Medellin which was not nearly enough! We got to our hotel and we were able to have an early check in which is always nice. We dropped off our stuff and walked around the neighborhood to try to figure out what was around. It turns out it was hot and we didn’t really know where we were so back to the hotel we went for some relaxation and napping. The adventure was going to have to wait until the next day!

I decided to take the 4 hour free walking tour from Real City Tours and I am glad I did! Our guide was called Monsa and she was a super enthusiastic Paisa with personal stories to share at every stop.

The history of Medellin starts well before the written history but since there are no records, people don’t know much about it. Because of the location of Medellin, the people were cut off from the rest of Colombia until the train tracks opened up. Basically they are a mix of the Basque and Jewish people that all came together and were “discovered’ by Christopher Columbus and that is how you get the Paisa people from Medellin.

Unfortunately many people associate Medellin with Pablo Escobar or Narcos and we think that what we see on Narcos is the truth. Medellin is very conflicted with Escobar and find that it is a generational thing for the feelings towards Escobar. The younger generation looks up to him while the generation that lived through his reign, think he is absolutely awful. Then there are those who are in between about their feelings for him because even though he murdered lots of people, he built houses and gave back to the community. So how many houses allow you to atone for one murder?

Anyhow, Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world and they have worked very hard to clean up and change their image. Although the government was in charge, Escobar really ran the city and you either took his bribe or you were killed.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton and President Andres Pastrana signed a bill called Plan Colombia. Basically this was foreign aid we were giving to Colombia to help clean up the cartels and the left-wing insurgent groups that were reigning over Medellin. While this seemed like a great idea, the government was paying people per insurgent killed and some of the less honest people were murdering innocent people and dressing them in insurgent clothing to collect the money. Nothing is ever a perfect system.

While the cartels have moved out of the city and Medellin is working to turn once dangerous areas into beautiful parks and hangouts, there is still a lot to be done!

For example, this church is a common hangout for prostitutes. There are a lot of hotels around the area that are rented by the hour and after the men have sinned, they come to church and confess and all is forgiven. You have to love how forgiving religion can be. 😀

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at are these large out of proportion statues? Artist Fernando Botero donated these and many more to Medellin in an effort to show how Medellin is changing. It is said that each statue is worth $2.2 million USD. You can tell where people like to touch the statues because of the difference in color. Apparently, no one ever actually grows up!

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e tour was over but a few of us were not ready to leave. Out guide took us to a little local bar and we all chatted and listened to music being played from vinyl and enjoyed a few beers. It was a great end to a very long day of history.

From One Island to Another

The Rosario Islands are really known for the day trip crowds to Baru from Cartagena. We chose to spend three nights on Baru and experience the best part of it! We took a crazy little boat ride to our island and started our new adventure!

 

So what does one do on an island with just a beautiful ocean? Wake up at sunrise and go for swims and then swim some more!

If I was to only experience the island as a day trip, I would think it was crowded and full of vendors pushing something on you to buy. But really that is only form 10-3 and before or after that the island is nearly empty! Limited to no Wifi! No ATM! Nowhere to go except in the water or down the beach! Just pure relaxation. I finished my book so luckily there was a library just down the beach where I was also able to buy some books in english.

This was truly another amazing few day getawat!

How I Spent Christmas 2017

There tends to be a lot of pressure that happens around the holidays to attend every party and try to see all one’s friends and family. I personally don’t feel that pressure and chose to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas on an island in Colombia.

After our boat adventure and arrival to Isla Grande, we weren’t quite sure what we were in for. It turns out we had three days of delicious meals being cooked for us and ultimate relaxation in our room and at the pool or beach. This is the type of place where you go to bed shortly after sunset and wake up with the sunrise and it feels amazing!

The first day was truly a day of relaxing but we opted for some snorkeling the next day. The islands are surrounded by a huge coral reef and I was hoping to see a turtle (no luck). I did however step on a dead piece of coral as I was getting out of the ocean and have a nice puncture on the bottom of my foot. That stuff is no joke!

Christmas Eve dinner was served family style with the other 12 people staying at the hotel. They even splurged and brought us champagne (Andre Rosé and it was awful) but I know it’s the thought that counts.

Christmas Day was a repeat of the day before laying buy the pool and reading and relaxing. It was absolute perfection and made me so happy!

It was finally time to leave after 3 days in paradise but never fear, we are off to experience another island for another 3 days!

The Journey to Rosario Islands

There is only one way to get to Isla Grande from Cartagena and that is by boat! You can reach the island of Baru by bus but you would still have to take a boat to Isla Grande. We ventured down to the port to buy our ticket for 40,000 COP with a 15,500 COP park tax (total $18.77 USD). There are tons of people trying to sell you tickets on the street but official booths line the path and that is the best place to buy the ticket to ensure the best pricing. All the boats leave by 10:30am so get there early unless you want to pay for a private speed boat. Be warned, these rides are not for the faint of heart as they fly through the water and throw you around a bit. Anyhow, after being told our boat would leave around 8:30 or 9:00, we were finally packed onto and ready for our hour boat ride!

Our boat was driving a little funny and making some weird noises but I didn’t think anything of since this is what they do for a living daily. I was wrong! The engine was failing and we had to slowly make our way to a random island and disembark and wait for two other boats to come and get us. No one cared and we just laid under the cabanas and others splashed around in the ocean. There are worse places to be stuck.

Once we finally arrived to our hotel it was like arriving to paradise! They only have 8-10 rooms (can’t quite figure it out) and the room rate includes all meals! Many people make the trip for the day so from 10-3 the place is packed but other than that, it’s like a ghost town. Absolute perfection!

For the next three days I will be on this island relaxing and through Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Back to Colombia

First off, recovering from 16 hours of jet lag is no joke! I landed on Thursday morning and had to unpack and do laundry and repack to catch a flight on Saturday to LA and spend an early anniversary with my boyfriend! But you can’t keep me in the country for long when I have the travel bug and on Wednesday, I took off for Colombia still unsure of which time zone I was sleeping in!

I have only been to Bogota in Colombia so this time I am meeting a friend to celebrate the holidays and traveling to Cartagena, Rosario Islands, Medellin and Bogota. It all started with two days in Cartagena to try to normalize my sleep and acclimate to the blistering heat!

I was very lucky to land in Cartagena and have an early checkin to my hotel. I had almost no sleep on the overnight flight and was in need of a shower! I met up with my friend Lisa from Manchester who I met in Rome (this is why I travel) and grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the room to take a nap. My nap turned into almost 10 hours of sleep where I then was awake from 11pm-5am to wake up again around 8:30am. Once again, lovely jet lag.

Attempting to see a bit more of Cartagena than the inside of my hotel room, we decided to explore the inside of the walled city. Finally, I started to feel like I was in Colombia! We have 4 days in Cartagena over the new year so there will be a lot more in depth exploring, but it was nice to get a feel for the city before our next adventure!

I Finally Saw The Taj Mahal!

We were finally in Agra…the city where the Taj Mahal is located and the ultimate reason for my trip to India! The morning started off incredibly foggy so our tour guide decided we would go to the Agra Fort first and hope that the fog would clear in the afternoon.

There are monkeys all over the fort and they are not shy. I swear this monkey family sat and posed for all of the tourists hoping for a little treat. They got nothing from me except a smile and a clap and a thank you for allowing me to take their family portrait. You’re welcome monkeys!

Okay, so I will admit that I fed this guy in order to get him to pose for the picture. The first two were not very cooperative and climbed all over my body instead of eating nicely out of my hand. They are just so cute that I cannot handle it and I had to hold one!

I promise the pictures of the fort are coming but I love capturing the animals and the people I meet. The tours have quite a few people on them and as human nature would have it, there are only a few I got to know. One was Scott (pictured above) and his uncles. They turned out to be fantastic people and I spent quite a bit of time with them!

Inside the fort was full of beautiful marble. As in more marble than I think I have ever seen outside of the statue section of the Louvre! You can see the amazing marble archway that connects one room to another (and also my travel companions).
Kalindra and I had fun taking pictures in archways all over the place and this was like a changing of the guards or maharanis as I was joking. We each got our turn in the archway and graciously passed the torch to one another.

The Agra Fort is a vast fort which was the home of the Mughal Emperors and their many courtiers during Agra’s era as capital. Enjoying an important position on a bend of the Yamuna River, Emperor Akbar the Great initiated construction, building a vast sandstone fort. However, it was his grandson Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, who added to it and embellished it using the finest marble, intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones. This architectural largesse was not entirely appreciated by his son, Aurangzabad, who thought Shah Jahan was wasting the Empire’s fortune, thus deposing his father and keeping him under house arrest in a tower within the fort – his one consolation, a view of the Taj Mahal, home to his beloved late wife.

It was time for the ultimate of ulitmates…the Taj Mahal. This has been on my list of must see places for a while for reasons I was unclear about but felt the need to see it. This is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and is now number 5 of 7 for me that I have seen! I still need Mexico and Jordan to complete the list to see Petra and Chichen Itza.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves!

22,000 men and more than 1,000 elephants spent 22 years constructing this monument. It is the only monument that has two people buried in it because Mughal ruler Shah Jahan wanted to be buried with his wife after he died. This is an eternal symbol of love and inspiration with intricate mosaics, precious designs and perfect architectural symmetry as if they were poetry created by hand from prized marble. No pictures are allowed inside the mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal seems to float above the banks of the Yamuna River, and blends Persian, Indian and Islamic elements in perfect symmetry.

This was such a magical day and I was incredibly happy. We had quite a bit of free time to walk around and explore and at one point I just sat and stared at the magical building!

A Quick Trip to India starting in New Delhi

I am not usually the type to go on tours since I like to take my time places and experience things on my own. But when a 12 day tour to India comes up for about $1000, you take the trip!

I have traveled with Worldspree before when I went to China and had an idea of what I was getting into, or so I thought. We received our flights about a week prior to departure and saw that we left on December 4th and arrived into India December 6th…you read that right, two days of traveling. We started our adventure Air China and we were off!!!! LAX-PEK (12hr 50min) and PEK-DEL (7hr 30min).

After landing and clearing customs and waiting for luggage for about 2 hours for 34 people, we made it to the Westin Gurgaon for a nap and breakfast and ready to start what was already day 3!

The day started with a drive taking us from one end of Delhi to the other. I cannot even begin to describe how many cars, scooters, cows, rikshaws and other things were on the road. What should have been a 5-6 lane freeway looked like it was 15-20 lanes.


All the trucks have writing on the back of them which in one way or another say honk, or merge or something indicating how you should use your horn. I am not sure what anything else says. The horn is a way of communicating move or I’m coming around the corner or get out of the way and used A LOT on the streets. To read a little more about Indian driving laws click here.

The first stop for us was at the Gandhi Smriti which is the site where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and where he took his last steps and final breath. To be honest, I did not really know the entire story of Gandhi including his assassination. There is a type of serenity and peacefulness about this place that is very hard to explain. The energy is quiet and you can feel the warmth that was left by Gandhi.

As we were walking around the complex there was this beautiful World Peace Gong. It seemed like no one else was around and we had this complex to ourselves. Once again, absolute peacefulness.

Next up, we went to a mosque called Jama Masjid. Anyone is allowed into the Mosque and you must remove your shoes and if you are not covered enough, they provided gowns. Cameras were not allowed inside unless you paid a fee which I totally respected. This was the first day we were in India and the ATM at the airport was out of money due to the financial crisis and we were not prepared for how difficult it would be to get money…anywhere!

Next stop, a rikshaw ride through the old city. Only two people can go in together (two of us Americans that is) and since I was traveling with her friend and her mom, I partnered up with someone else in the group who ended up having a great new friend.

I wanted to stop at nearly every store that we drove by full of saris and jewelry and wedding dresses and just beautiful things. However, we were just there for a ride to get an experience of how a lot of the locals, including school children, travel around the city.

I was hoping to capture the craziness of the ride but I didn’t seem to film long enough. However, this is an idea of how bumpy the ride was and the entire time I was hoping to just not drop my phone.

 


As we were driving we passed many markets and with all of the traffic we were stuck in, I was able to capture a little snapshot of what life is like for the daily shopping.


The very last stop after an entirely too long of a day, was a stop at India Gate. By this point, we were totally exhausted and I don’t think we fully appreciated this area. This is a war memorial to 82,000 soldiers and is now a “gate” into New Delhi. Many people come here to pay their respect and visit this place.

What you see in these pictures is a combination of smog and fog. New Delhi has a SERIOUS air pollution problem. I was happy to only be here for a day in regards to air quality.

Overall, my first ACTUAL day in India was absolutely fantastic and a great way to get into seeing a little bit of what this country was about.

London for the Millionth Time

Jumping across the pond tends to be easier to do in/out of London. There are so many flights and then all of Europe is open to explore!

It seems that every time I travel I meet about 4,000 new people that live in London. I had plans for a few nights but I wanted to spend a little time on my own to get everything ready to fly home and explore.


The beauty of having no plans is the ability to do something spontaneous. There were some last minute tickets available for Kinky Boots and so I took myself on a little date. I was able to get a half price ticket for a pretty good seat.


One of my friends from my travel family found a free alternative walking tour which had a ton of street art and graffiti. The tour guide was full of interesting and fun facts about London based on street art. I highly suggest this tour.

Located on Fournier St. by Shok 1

By artist Stik

Crane by Roa

Artist Bolt

Paste up by Pyramid

Street art can be found anywhere

Artist Citizen Kane

Artist Ben Eine

Artist Noriaki Noriaki

One of my favorite things is getting people together from around the world. I met up with some friends for dinner with people I met in Plovdiv, Bern, and Rome and introduced them all to each other because they all now live in London. It was an awesome way to end 46 days of traveling!

Read about my other trips to London here and here and here and here and here and here.