Saturday, July 6, 2013

Costa Rica Part 2

This last month has been busy with finding a new place and getting a puppy, but before I get into that I'd like to finish writing about our trip to Costa Rica.

By the middle of our trip Erin and I were loving Costa Rica.  We finished our stay on Lake Arenal with a walk around the property.  I was struck by how the lodging was so well maintained, but then just a few steps away we seemed to be deep in the jungle.  We found several of these poisonous blue-jeans frogs as we walked along with numerous birds and insects.

Before long we were off driving around the lake to Monteverde.  Along the way we stopped at a local brewery started by surfers.  Monteverde, we had learned, was founded by Quakers leaving the US and the draft.  As we drove over rough roads and rolling green hills it certainly seemed remote.  It took several hours driving over unpaved roads to finally get to where we were staying and we were so happy for some paved roads when we got there.  Our arrival got even better as the proprietor welcomed us to her home with drinks and a beautiful view of the clouds and tree-tops.  She was very welcoming and showed how much effort she had put in to her place as she showed us around the various tree-house rooms.  By happy hour we had settled in and enjoyed another drink as the sun set behind the clouds.

The next morning, after breakfast, we entered the national park to see the flora and fauna up close. We started with a zip-line tour through the canopy.  It was very fun and exciting with several long lines high above the jungle floor.  For some added excitement at the end there was a Tarzan swing where we jumped/fell from a platform and swung on some ropes.

After the zip-line tour we joined up with a guide to show us around the park.  He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all the animals and plants.  He found for us a Quetzal, a beautiful bird found in Central America, along with a troop of monkeys and a coati that came up to us looking for some food.  I don't think we would have seen half the things we did or understood what we were looking at without the guide and his telescope.  We finished our trip to the park with a stay in their hummingbird garden.  I don't think I've ever seen so many hummingbirds all in one place.  There were several feeders placed out for them and they were so used to people that we could walk right up to the feeders and the birds would continue to buzz in and drink with us there.

After a long day of zipping through the forest and looking at all the animals you might think we were done.  Instead we had signed up for a night walk in the jungle with another guide.  We saw animals at night that we hadn't seen during the day including sleeping birds, snakes, and a tarantula.  The best part was standing in a clearing with our flashlights off as fireflies blinked around us and the stars shined above.  It might have been the crowning moment of the trip.

The last stop on our trip was the beach at Playa Samara.  Through a combination of being tired and not being big beach people we didn't do too much there.
We had tried to go out on a boat, but we weren't able to arrange it.  We ended up walking on the beach a bit and enjoying some good local seafood.  It was nice to sit out by the beach and enjoy some drinks, but before long we were ready to go.

We drove back to San Jose where we stayed for a night by the airport and flew out early the next morning.  It was a wonderful trip and a nice vacation.  Even as we were leaving we were thinking about what we would see the next time we were able to make it down here.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Costa Rica Part 1

Erin and I recently returned from Costa Rica where we had a wonderful time.  We started out with a direct flight from Denver to San Jose leaving at midnight and arriving at 5am.  As such, we didn't get much sleep, but we had arranged to rent a car that morning.  After getting the car we drove down the road to a Denny's for breakfast where Erin read about some of the scams that some rental car places use.  With that in mind it was very troubling when we started to have car trouble when we left Denny's.  Fortunately we were able to get the car back to the rental place and they got us a new one without problems.  We then drove our new car to La Fortuna (about 3 hours away) in Arenal where we checked in to our bungalow and proceeded to take a nap.  In what would become a routine for the rest of our stay in Arenal we spent the afternoon in the hotel's hot springs drinking Costa Rican caipirinhas before going to the hotel restaurant for casado with tilapia.

The following day, after we had rested, we had arranged for a white-water rafting trip.  The guides picked us up in the morning and took us out to the river where we were given gear and directions.  We were on the Balsa river starting off in a section with Class III - IV rapids.  Our group of two rafts and two kayakers taking pictures was soon on its way.  We quickly realized the need for instructions on shifting our weight left or right to the high side of the boat as the guides directed us into and through large currents and eddies.  The trip was tiring and wet, but very exciting and in a beautiful canyon.  As we pulled in to land we thought we were finishing, but were only stopping for a break with fresh pineapple and watermelon.  Back in the boats we continued down through Class II and III rapids until we finally got out of the river.  Exhausted, we were taken to an organic farm for a delicious lunch.  They then showed us around the farm ending with a demonstration of getting cane juice from sugar cane and a drink of fermented sugar cane juice.  All-in-all it was the most fun organized activity we did on our trip.

The next day we were up early for a canyoning trip.  The main draws for canyoning were a series of rappels down waterfalls.  While these were exciting, they were also very tame and methodical.  There was a guide at both the top and the bottom that could stop you at any point.  This reduced the feeling of control.  It also seemed like they were just going through the motions, giving everyone the same experience, making sure everyone stopped at a certain point so they got in the waterfall.  When it was done they too took us to lunch, but it wasn't as good.  After our great experience the day before we were a little disappointed.  For the afternoon we went to downtown La Fortuna for an ice cream and a walk around the center square.

For our last day in Arenal we walked in the volcano park with some wonderful views of Arenal volcano.  Though the volcano is dormant people are not allowed to get too close.  The park contained lava flows, jungle flora and fauna, and some nice views of our next destination: Lake Arenal.  We soon checked out of our first hotel and started our drive around the lake to our next hotel overlooking the lake.  We had lunch out on a scenic, windy peninsula of the lake and took a short walk around.  The countryside is nice, but the lake seemed very under-developed since we didn't see a single boat out on it or any piers.  We finished the day off by reading out on the balcony of our room and then walking next door to a delicious dinner.

It was all very peaceful and relaxing; and a nice mid-point for our trip.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Warmer weather

I haven't posted anything for quite a while because I feel like there hasn't been much to write about.  There were some very nice dinners with wonderful people, to be sure, but I just couldn't muster the energy to write about them.  Now that the weather has warmed up again though I feel like Erin and I have gotten out more and I once again have something to write about.

About a week ago we had a busy weekend.  We started it off with dinner and a movie Friday night at the Alamo Drafthouse.  The nice thing about this place is that you can order before the movie starts and then the server will bring it out for you to enjoy during dinner.  The drinks are pretty good too.  We went to see "The Great Gatsby" since Erin had been teaching it in her classes recently.  It was a nice rendition of the book highlighting the class rivalry and the hubris of trying to repeat the past.  On Saturday we had brunch with Erin's parents after I picked up my motorcycle from the shop.  The shop had repaired my back tire and it was so nice to be able to get back out and ride around for a little bit.
Then on Sunday we celebrated Mother's Day with a hike above Evergreen with Erin's parents before going out to dinner at Duo with them.  It was a very nice, if somewhat exhausting weekend.

This weekend ended up being just as exhausting.  On Saturday morning I went with my friend for a morning of climbing in Golden.  We have been practicing in one of the climbing gyms in Boulder throughout the winter and have been able to climb outside now that the weather's warmer.  Golden has a lot of exciting climbs that are within our range, but we need to get there early before they get too crowded.  I always come away from these pretty worn out too.  But then Saturday night I was up and ready as we went out for dinner with our supper club.  This month we went to "The Wooden Table" which had some very delicious (if expensive) food.  It was good to catch up with everyone before things got really busy over the summer.

On Sunday Erin and I started early getting on the motorcycle, getting some breakfast and then heading up to Golden.  We had found a hike up on Lookout Mountain above the town at Windy Saddle.  It was quite windy and fairly rocky, but the views were amazing looking down on Golden and Denver plus out West to the Continental Divide.  As a city we would like to move to this summer I was encouraged that such nice hikes were so close to town.  Before we got too far though we were heading back down to have brunch with my aunt and uncle in Littleton.  We had a delicious meal as we caught up.  The rest of the day had to be devoted to chores and preparing for the upcoming week so it was nice to finally get some rest Sunday night.  It's also been nice to finally get out and enjoy the warmer weather.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Birthday Weekend 2

Back in November, as my birthday was approaching I had decided what I wanted most was a snow weekend up in the mountains.  Only problem was that there wouldn't be enough snow in the mountains in November, so Erin and I postponed until two weeks ago.  Since it was a three-day weekend we were able to take our time and enjoy the week away from home.

We got up, had breakfast, and packed Saturday morning.  On our way up the mountains we stopped in Idaho Springs for lunch.  Traffic wasn't bad, and in no time we were at our destination of Winter Park.  Our first activity that Erin had found was riding in a dog sled.  It was a beautiful sunny day for it, though a little windy.  After filling out the waiver we were taken back to where they were preparing the sleds.  There were about 85 dogs in a few large pens and it was very noisy when the drivers came out.  They bundled us in to one of the sleds and then hooked up nine dogs to it.  Before long we were of sledding through the snow.  The dogs seemed to enjoy running and it was quiet enough for us to ask the driver questions.  It was a very interesting experience.  After about an hour or so of sledding we returned to the pens and got to play with the dogs a little while they were being put back in their pens.

We next headed to our hotel to check in and relax for a little bit.  Our plan was to go to an early dinner and then go out for a horse-drawn sleigh ride.  We walked over to a sushi place for dinner, but halfway through dinner we realized that we wouldn't make it to the sleigh ride in time, so we postponed that for the next night.  With bellies full of sushi and sake we walked back to our hotel to sleep.

On Sunday we got up and had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the slopes.  It took a while, but eventually we found where to park, go rental gear for Erin, got lift tickets, and got on the chair lift.  We shared the chair with a nice older couple that were very friendly.  We skied and boarded for a while, but it was hard to get into a good groove and we kept losing each other.  We eventually stopped for lunch and relaxed for a little bit.  When you spend so much time and effort to get on the mountain its hard not to feel the need to do as many runs as possible, so we were soon back on the slopes.  The wind had picked back up by that time though and we were getting tired, so we called it a day.

We found a nice cajun-style place for dinner and this time we were able to get there early enough to have time to make it out to the sleigh ride.  It was dark by the time we made it out there and it turned out that the other people to go on the ride didn't show up.  So it was just us and the driver on a large sleigh pulled by two very large horses (I think they said they were Haflinger/Percheron).  They took us out under the starlit night to a place where someone had prepared a fire and some hot chocolate.  It was nice to enjoy the warmth there and roast some marshmallows before heading back to the stable.

On Monday we got up at a leisurely pace and made our way back down the mountains to avoid the traffic.  It was a somewhat exhausting weekend, but nice all the same.  All in all, in was a great birthday treat.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Social Weekend

For those of you reading regularly I'm a bit behind on my blogging and trying to catch up.  About two weeks ago Erin and I had a social weekend with our friends and family.  First was bowling on Friday night with friends at Lucky Strike Lanes.  The downtown location provides a hip atmosphere for drinks, snacks, and bowling.  However, finger foods and public bowling balls don't seem to make the most sanitary combination.  Erin and I had a good time, but had to leave before too long as we were pretty tired from the week of work.

Next, on Saturday night Erin and I met up with her parents for a night of dinner and theater.  For dinner we went to Rioja for a very nice meal.  We then walked over to the theater to watch Romeo and Juliet.  The actors performed well, but it's not a play I particularly enjoyed.  Maybe that's just because it's such a staple of our culture.  I'd prefer to see some adaptation like "Romeo & Juliet - Undead" where the star-crossed lovers return from their graves to exact revenge on their warring families.  In any case it was nice to get out for the night.

On Sunday we joined our Supper club at True Food Kitchen.  The restaurant works to be very green and healthy, but I didn't find my meal to be prepared all that well and the service was pretty slow.  I expected more.  The slow service did give us plenty of time to chat and enjoy the company of one of the couple's baby.

Altogether it was a very social weekend with lots of good friends, family, and food.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birthday Weekend, Part 1

Three weeks ago it was Erin's birthday and we spent the full weekend celebrating.  We started Saturday morning with brunch at the Hornet with all of our friends.  Erin and I really enjoy going to the Hornet for their $2 build-your-own Bloody Marys and delicious meals.  Getting the Pupusas Rancheros is Erin's delight each time we go while I often enjoy their Bourbon Banana French Toast.  Sharing the experience with our friends made it all the better as we got to catch up on all the latest stories.

After brunch I took Erin to Jared for her pick of necklaces.  It was fun to see the different styles and I'm happy that she was able to find something that she really enjoyed.  Even though she had picked it out herself we still had them wrap it up so she could enjoy opening the present later.

That night we continued towards our goal of going out to each of the "25 Best Restaurants" noted in Denver's 5280 magazine.  That Saturday night I had made reservations at Luca D'Italia, one of the fancier restaurants on the list.  It started with valet parking and a hostess to take our coats.  The fanciness continued when the sommelier came to our table to help us pick out a bottle of wine for the meal we had selected.  The meal included several courses of small, delicious plates that we shared.  It was a long dinner and quite expensive (maybe even a bit over-indulgent), but it was fun to enjoy as a rare treat.

The Sunday morning was more low-key as Erin got to sleep in while I fixed some breakfast for her.  The weather seemed somewhat warm, so we decided to take the motorcycle out for a ride in the afternoon.  While it was nice to get out on the motorcycle the weather soon grew cold and all we could muster was a short ride to the store for some wine.

That night we continued the festivities at Erin's parents place where they were preparing her one of her favorite dishes: Lemon Chicken Picatta.  After drinks and a wonderful meal it was time to open presents as Mike and Susie showed their generosity.  With a delicious dessert and long goodbyes we were on our way home.

Unfortunately, Erin and I both had to work on Monday, the actual day of her birthday.  We made the most of it when we got home that evening by having dinner and opening the last of her presents that had been mailed to her.  It was nice to see all the cards and thoughtful gifts from everyone and it was fun to share in such good times.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Christmas in California

For Christmas 2012 Erin and I took a trip out to California to see friends and family.  We were able to find a flight directly from Denver to Fresno, CA.  Through a coincidence of scheduling Amy, Kevin, and Nora were flying in to Denver a few hours before we were scheduled to leave.  This made it possible for us to drive out to the airport in Erin's car, park it in short-term parking, and then hand the keys to Amy and Kevin in the airport.  We had a bit of a bumpy flight, but were soon in Fresno where my parents had driven to pick us up.

For the next several days we spent time with my parents and Michael enjoying delicious meals and good company.  There were several games of dominoes and a lot of time to relax and read.  The weather was a bit wet, so we didn't get out too much, but there was often a warm fire crackling in the fireplace to keep us warm.  It was also fun to play with my parent's rescued kitten, Bella.

After Christmas, Erin and I drove out to Pismo Beach on the coast.  Before leaving town though we had lunch with our friends, Chris and Katie, who live out there.  They recommended several places for us to eat and places to see.  One of the places we really enjoyed was the Cracked Crab.  The main dish was crab and they gave us all the necessary tools to enjoy the fresh legs.  It was a lot of work, but also fun and very tasty.

There were so many things that we enjoyed doing out in Pismo.  Our first night, after arriving at our hotel we found a stairway leading down to the beach and walked down the beach to town enjoying the sunset and the sound of the waves.  On our next day we enjoyed a creek-side walk before getting a picnic lunch and heading out to one of the wineries to enjoy it with some wine.  On our last full day we started with a trip to the Monarch Butterfly Grove to see thousands of butterflies clumped on eucalyptus trees for winter.  After lunch and some shopping at the outlet mall we went out to Montana de Oro state park for a hike.  We found a beautiful cliff-side trail that took us past tide pools and breaking waves.  As the sun set we watched surfers trying to catch a few more waves.  That night we enjoyed a wine bar and an upscale Mexican restaurant.

The next day we reluctantly drove away from the coast and back to the Central Valley for the last of our trip.    Before returning to my parents we met up with our friends, Joe and Angie, in Bakersfield for a chance to see their baby, Sophia and have some lunch.  Finally we spent one last night with my parents after a nice Italian dinner.  The next day they drove us back to the airport and saw us off.

Fortunately, Amy and Kevin were in Denver for one more night, so once we landed they picked us up and took us back to Erin's parent's place where they were staying.  We were able to enjoy some final Christmas/New Year's celebrations before everyone had to head home.  It was wonderful holidays and I'm glad we could share it with so many friends and family.