Sunday, October 26, 2014

Colorado - Day 6 - Rafting

It wasn't that I didn't want to go, I just needed a vacation from vacation!  But when in should go rafting.  Today was the day if we were gunna do it.  We set up reservations that morning with Royal Gorge Rafting and about four hours later, we were in Canon City putting lifejackets on to raft the level 4/5 Arkansas River.  

We actually drove over to the Royal Gorge Bridge outlook first.  The bridge had been taken out by a fire and was finally back in commission but closed for drivers when we got there so we took a little trail to see it fro a distance.  It was crazy to visualize us rafting down that river way down below.

Loved the company we set up the tour with.  The facility was great too.  We got on a bus to get to the river and we got paired up by the staff with other people on the tour.  Pretty sure they underestimated my ability and overestimated the two guys they put us with.  They were a father and son, both older.  The son had a Pantera tattoo and cut off tee and they were both wearing welding headgear.  Total characters (I later found out the son worked at the local prison mental ward).  Also in the boat was our guide, a cool dude who was also underestimated by the guys because later on, he flipped the boat on purpose because the guys were being annoying.

Colorado - Day 5 - Colorado Springs

Took off after enjoying breakfast at Columbine Cafe.  We drove on Highway 9 from Breckenridge to Frisco, through some crazy beautiful country.  I literally saw the purple mountains!  We also passed through South Park, Colorado, not related to the show, and I wanted to check out Dorothy's Homemade Tamales because there was a sign that said "Featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate".   But we did not so I will have to return.

The purple moutains! 

Once we got to Colorado Springs, we stopped at Marigold Cafe before we went over to the stable to take a horse ride through Garden of the Gods.  It was their last tour of the day, it was so hot, and the people were clearly annoyed that they had more to do.  So we rode through a pretty lame "1-hour" trail and I wished we had never bothered.  We went back to the Garden to walk around because I actually wanted to see it.  The place is really cool, not like any other place I have ever been.  We explored a bunch and watched some people rock climb.

Can you see the kidding camels?

Then we headed over to our cousins for dinner and spent the rest of the night with the family.

Colorado Day 4 - Breckenridge

Of all the things we were going to do try to do on this trip, D was most excited to go mountain biking.  Before we could head out on our adventure though, we had to switch hotels because we decided to stay an extra night and our original lodge, Valdoro, had no availability.  The room was great but the vibe felt a little off so I was glad to go over to Mountain Thunder Lodge because the name made me laugh and with the exception of the unnecessary murphy bed, was a fantastic place. Then we walked to Main Street and found Daylight Donuts.  A quaint, fast food style, breakfast joint.  
Once we were fueled up, we went next door to the first bike rental place we saw.  Not that I am cheap but perhaps a little research would have saved us a bit of cash because I thought the bike rental was almost as steep as the cliffs we were about to ride.  Our original plan was to take the gondola up and ride down but it was closed that day so the employee gave us some directive tips which confused us completely and we walked out clueless. 

We eventually spoke to the lone bike rider waiting for a bus we thought we may have to take and he was super helpful.  He too felt that we could handle where we were headed, a place called Boreas Pass, and said he was going there too and we could just follow him.  He told us his life story as we rode the free shuttle up and when we reached our launch site.  

D fell hard on the first switchback and we continued to struggle on them for the first part.  We finally made it to an opening and our friend was chillin.  He said he would take us through the next part but I felt like I was going to puke so I insisted he go ahead (even though I knew we would get lost without him.)  He took our photo by some minor relics (that's D showing his bleeding hand and me pretending like I am strong) and we were on our own. 
The next three plus hours were insane.  I could not believe these people thought it was OK to send people who have never done this onto a trail alone.  I feared me or my husband falling off a cliff or seriously injuring ourselves just about evert second of this.  We came to a clearing and took it all in. 
Cool action shot, right?  Actually, this was the exact moment his bike was hitting a rock and he began to flip over his handle bars.  Fun times.  Shortly after this, while David was racing ahead, I felt the need to fall wrists first into the biggest hole I could find.  
I miraculously crawled out with my now broken bike and resprained wrist and walked to the next clearing where David was just waiting on a road.  Despite my current condition, I had so much adrenaline because I had just seen two Mule Deer.  Silver lining to the fall was spotting wildlife!  

Thankfully, the road was downhill and ran right to town.  I couldn't peddle because the chain detached so I just glided the rest of the way, which was about two miles.  We returned our bikes, looking like we just battled, and the employee was not even phased.  He then showed us a scar all along his arm where a metal plate was put in from his last big fall.  OH OK!  

We walked to the crepe hut and decided we deserved our annual couples massage so we walked to a bunch of places that weren't able to accommodate.  I gave up and went back to the hotel room because I was exhausted and David continued the search, finally getting us in to Blue Sage Spa.  

A few hours later we were relaxed and enjoyed a nice dinner at Relish, where our waiter was probably the friendliest waiter in the country and the food was well above par. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colorado - Day 3 - Flatirons

Aunt C's backyard is along the Mesa trail that leads through the Flatirons to Chautauqua so we woke up, hiked there for delicious breakfast and hiked back.  We detoured to a quarry where I got my first nosebleed.  Hooray.  The trail was nice, lots of wildflowers along the path and as always, friendly people and their pups.  

We said goodbye to Boulder and headed out to the next stop.  Along the way, we stopped at Red Rocks Amphitheater and another really small miner town for some gas.  A few hours later, we were in the ski town of Breckenridge.  

We walked over to the main street and went to dinner at Blue River Bistro and it was hands down one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.  After half a glass of champagne & Saint Germaine, I crawled back to our cozy room and passed out.  

Colorado - Day 2 - Estes Park

NATURE DAY (and our actual wedding anniversary)!
Set out for some hiking and sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains.  

In between Boulder and the park is the town of Lyons.  (We noticed a lot of damage/construction along the way realized it was from the 2013 100-year rain/1000-year flood.) We stopped for some breakfast at the Barking Dog Cafe.  It was like a movie set with the sheriff and some locals at a few community tables.  

We hit the road to travel up into the clouds toward Estes Park, the center for Rocky Mountain National Park.  I wasn't expecting a big town with a supermarket and fast food joints and stuff.  Also, the Visitor Center is there, where we stopped to get some maps and advice since it looked rather stormy up in the mountains.  They suggested we hike first and drive later which was thankfully the better idea.  

Our Aunt recommended a hike to Ouzel Falls.  This was the best hike I have ever been on.  I didn't look up any of the facts and in a way, it was good not knowing how long it was or any basic information except that there would be waterfalls (which I required to see).  

After completion, I saw it was 5.4 miles roundtrip and an elevation of 8500 feet.  The real issue I had was dealing with the rain.  I HATE being wet but it made for a challenge and I fought through it.  Oh, before we started, we were told the bridge at the top was washed out so the viewing was a bit limited.  Still worth it though!  
By the time we were finishing, the rain stopped and the sun came out, clearing the way for our drive up to the tundra (literally, it is a tundra at the highest spots).  We zig-zagged up into the sky and reached the top of the mountains (elevation of about 12,000!) along the Continental Divide on the famous Trail Ridge Road.  It's only open a few months because once it snows, it cannot be cleared.  We got out at the viewing points and it was freezing and hard to breathe but unlike anything I've seen before.  

This is what the top of the Rockies looks like form the top of the Rockies. 

And on our drive home, we got a little lost but we turned a corner and there was a double rainbow just waiting for us to find it.  Rainbows are something we've seen on our past two anniversary trips but didn't expect to see this time.  Happy two years of marriage!  

Colorado - Day 1 - Denver & Boulder

For Labor Day week, we took our anniversary trip to Colorado.  David has family out there and I have never been but always wanted to.  

We flew into Denver, got our rental car, drove an enormous amount of time to exit the airport and went downtown to a brunch place called Snooze.  Good thing we had no real plans because the wait was two hours!  

We walked around the area while waiting and eventually got a bench in front to sit.  They serve complimentary coffee and water while you wait and have lawn games outside so it was way less stressful of a process.  The food was pretty damn excellent and despite being starving, that opinion would not change. 

I read about this urban park and wanted to check it out so we drove over to Confluence Park.  The city made rapids you can ride and some sandy shores to rest at.  Lots of families and dogs.  But it was kind of funny when we met up with our cousin and he responded as if it was the East River and despite to neat idea, people were gross and crazy to be in there.  
Confluence Park is right next to the giant mothership R.E.I.,which is a good spot to pick up anything you may have forgotten or not been able to get (or to use a public bathroom). There is also a good pub up the street to grab a local brew.  We did that with Cousin and then popped into a health food store where we parked, for some water and snacks before we hit the road again.  I'd been drinking a ton of water to prep for possible elevation sickness and planned to keep it up.   Everyone seems to carry water bottles here.  

It was perfect timing to get in the car as it started to rain on the drive over to Boulder.  The Celestial Seasonings Factory was on the way to Aunt C's and the last tour was at 4PM.  Just made it!  We tasted different teas and walked around the factory with about 25 other people.  This is the only factory they have but no one was working that day because of the holiday so we didn't see it in action but got the idea.  It was a well spent hour.  On our way out, we spotted our first wildlife...prairie dogs!  
See it? 

After putting our stuff down at the house, we drove up a path at the base of the Flatirons for a nice overlook of Boulder. and a closer look at the mountains.   

Then we headed to Pearl Street in downtown Boulder for dinner and a pit stop at the pot store just to check it out before it closed.  It was not what I expected at all.  It was way more professional and high-tech.  We walked around Pearl Street and saw street performers.  It reminded me of Santa Monica's Promenade. 
There are so many options for dinner around here and places stay open way later then I expected.  We had a late dinner at a Mexican place with terrible service but I was reintroduced to my beloved green chile so it was forgiven.  With the time change and everything else, this was one of the longest days of my life.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Costa Rica - Day 7 and End of Trip

Rain!  We didn't let that stop us.  We got in the car and drove to another beach a little south, called Avellenos.  It was a little muddy off-roading adventure.  There was a small "lot" and this dude just sitting in a beach chair and collecting something like $2 to park.  He promised to watch the car and told us not to leave our bags by the mango trees because robbers hide and take your things when you go into the water.  I was pissed about having to pay this random dude who just decided this was his job, but there was really no choice in the matter.  David convinced me to just let it go and park the car.  There is a restaurant called Lola's right next to the lot and it came highly recommended but it was too early so we skipped it.  Looked like a pretty chill place to spend the afternoon though.

Petting a dog with my purse on the beach. 

It got a little nicer out and all we wanted to do was go surfing so we headed back to Mato's and rented a board.  We surfed until a beautiful sunset ended the day.  Almost five hours.  We met locals, travelers, tons of dogs, saw people surf upside down, kids surfing... Blissful would be a word that comes to mind.

We tried to go to a nicer place for dinner, via recommendation from our concierge but after a failed attempt at finding it and then finding out via some locals that it had closed for the season yesterday, we ended up back at Naugi's.  This was really the only hiccup we had due to "green season".  We went all out, ordering civeche and macadamia crusted talapia and surf & turf.  Whoaness.  We were almost sad to say goodbye to our waiter, he was just so nice.  We stopped at one of the shops to get some gifts and then walked back to the hotel in the pitch black one last time.  

The next morning we had our breakfast at the hotel and headed to the airport.  When we returned our car to Avis, the guy guessed exactly where we were based on the color of the mud!  Travel tip for Costa Rica: you have to pay a departure tax.  It takes about 10 minutes and is $28 per person.  If you have extra Calones, it's a good way to use them up.

Once inside, the airport has one generic gift shop (coffee and t-shirts) and an overpriced, busy sports bar with free wi-fi.  I'd recommend stocking up on the snacks before the airport if possible.

Hasta la vista Costa Rica!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Costa Rica - Day 6

Another morning without the alarm because this time, at 7AM, it sounded like someone was being an obnoxious juicehead at the outdoor gym but after about 15 minutes of grunting, I heard some people talking outside and then from our porch I saw it.  HOWLER MONKEYS!

My selling point for this hotel was that monkeys are often spotted here and it was the truth.  I watched them for about an hour and then it started to rain so they went to sleep in the trees and we had breakfast at the hotel.

These hybrid birds would sneak onto the tables at the hotel and steal the sugar packets and occasionally, whatever else was up for grabs.  

We wanted to hit up some of the other beaches so despite the rain, we got in the jeep and headed to Playa Conchal.  I had fun offroading.  You would never know our car was blue because it was covered in so much mud.  The lay of the land is a bit inconvenient for the beach hopper.  You have to drive back inland to go to the beach next door because each shorelines are crescent shaped.  Considering how much we heard about this beach in particular, I was shocked by how secluded it was.  It was gorgeous and the sun was strong.

Next we headed to Playa Grande.  Well, we think it was Playa Grande.  The waves were a bit more intense so we watched a couple of surfers for a bit and then we knew we had to go back to Tamarindo and get our boards.  We grabbed a bite at Koi/That's Amore.  I'm not really clear on the name but it was the best meal I had in Tamarindo.  It was just a fried shrimp panini with these sweet red peppers and avocado.  I wish I got the name of the peppers because they were that good!

David rented a long board from Mato's for $5 while I grabbed a $19 bottle of Aleve to get rid of my migraine.  Fun times.  David surfed for about an hour and a half and just as my headache was subsiding and I was about to get in the water, this major thunder storm rolled in.  We weren't sure if it would last so we packed up and went back to the hotel for a few.
When I heard thunder I turned around and saw this!  

That night was the Costa Rica versus USA soccer game in San Jose, Costa Rica.  There is a sports bar called Sharkeys so we went there and had some bar food.  The bar was filled with Ticos and the random Americans.  It was fun.    

Monday, October 28, 2013

Costa Rica - Day 5

Surfing Day!  We didn't even need to set an alarm because we were woken up by AN EARTHQUAKE.  Well, at least I was.  All our windows were open and when the bed started to shake for about 20 seconds, at first I thought it was just a really strong wind gust.  But then it happened again and I grabbed David and yelled "EARTHQUAKE!" and he told me to go back to bed.  But then we both woke up and went to breakfast at the hotel and I asked the waiter who confirmed it was indeed a kind od large shakefest.  It was super weird because it was exactly a year ago that they had their last major quake.   

I realized that the tide was low so I had a feeling our lesson was going to be pushed back.  Sure enough, when we got to the surf shop, we were told that around 2 would be a better time so we decided to come back later.  

We took advantage of the nice weather but didn't want exhaust ourselves so we relaxed by our beach & pool.  I made a dog friend who followed me around for a couple hours and then we had a light lunch at the hotel and saw the guy from the night before (who was surfing on the restaurant floor) hopping out of the ocean because he got stung by a stingray. I've never seen a grown man in so much visible pain.  They put his foot in a bucket of ice until he decided to go to the hospital.  
Playa Grande from Captain Suizo

My new buddy.
For our surf lesson at Tamarindo Beach, it was $45/person and lasted about 2 hours.  There was another couple from Switzerland who joined us. The guy was a writer and they just spent time in the Canary Islands and are now renting a house in Tamarindo for three months.  Can you imagine?!  But back to the surfing, the beach had a lot of surfers and everyone talks to each other while waiting for the waves.  I was nervous because in Hawaii, on the North Shore where we surfed, you couldn't really get off your board because the ocean floor was so rough so you were constantly paddling.  That killed my body but this beach was amazing.  You could walk out far enough so paddling was limited and we were able to sustain ourselves much better.  

We didn't want to stop surfing but also didn't want to push it so we went for a walk on the other side of the beach and watched the sun set.  We went out to "Nibbana, as seen on HGTV" for dinner.  Seriously, they didn't have a formal sign, just one promoting their future show appearance. As soon as i sat down, i felt sick so David hurried through dinner and i went to sleep. It wouldn't be a vacation if i didn't get proper sick at least once.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Costa Rica - Day 4

Travel time!  The plan - to go from Tabacon/Arenal (kind of the center of the country) to Tamarindo, on the west coast.  About a three and a half hour drive.  We weren't really looking forward to the road around the lake but it turned out to not be so bad.

We stopped at the German Bakery for breakfast and this part is a little blurry to me, as I was severely suffering from a sinus infection.  But there were pastries and coffee and I remember some cats roaming around.

Our final destination was Captain Suizo.  A beautiful beachside getaway at the far edge of town.  I felt like when we told people we were staying there, they seemed impressed and I couldn't have imagined a better place to stay.  I'm grateful for the recomendations from everyone who suggested it.  The rooms are airy, split-level, clean and sans TV.  The owners are Swedish and have a big ol' philosphy on why things are they way they are at the place.  Everyone was friendly and I am so happy we decided to stay here.

We headed to the beach and I was not expecting to water to be hot.  I got right in!  It was low tide so we got out pretty far too.  The beach is so big during low tide!   The sky got grey pretty fast and it was about dinner time so we walked over to where the restaurants in town were.  The road wasn't paved so it was a muddy, slippery walk and I kinda wish I had brought rain boots. We cut across to the beach and walked along there until we came closer to town.

A beachside restaurant was the first place we saw and there were a lot of people there.   Since we really didnt plan where we were going and the rain wasnt letting up, we settled into a patio seat at Naugi's and enjoyed watching our neighboring table get wasted and teach each other how to surf, on the floor of the restaurant.  (They had just met that day.)  After fish tacos and pork chops, we walked into town and these two dogs were kinda like, "Oh hey, follow us!" so we did and ended up in front of Mato's Surf Shop.  This surfer dude was out there and introduced himself as Eric.  Turns out Bon Ton the dog is Eric's.  The universe could not have been any more obvious to an animal lover looking for a surf lesson!  :)  We talked for a bit and Eric told us to come by at 9AM tomorrow for our lesson. We headed back on the beach in the pitch black and used my phone's flashlight app to guide the way.