Sunday, January 4, 2015

Where to go in 2015

As you might expect, after two months, I am mourning the loss of a job full of travel a bit. In order to keep myself balanced, I need to figure out how to get in adventures like everyone else does - on three-day weekends and during my vacation time. Not one to be daunted by a challenge, I have a few ideas to stretch out the time I do have to include some memorable experiences. In case you wondered what that looks like, here's my calendar so far:

January - I will finally travel to my other "job" city of St. Louis. I've been twice before but I haven't explored it much. I'll be there at least once a month, so that will pepper my year with mini-adventures.
February - I only have three U.S. states left to visit, so we're starting the year off with a trip to one of them - Wyoming. In hindsight, I should've checked the average lows before booking, but we'll be nice and cold as we check out Jackson Hole for some skiing and dog-sledding adventures over Valentines/President's Day weekend.
March - I've been to SxSWi twice before but this year it will be extra special because my best friend will be bringing down the house as a featured speaker. Although 'South by' gets a lot of flack for being overgrown, there is nothing better than listening to an interesting talk followed by a stroll around the streets of Austin with a free grilled cheese, your friends, a warm breeze and a beer.
June - If you've been reading along for awhile, you might remember the trip we took last summer (here and here) to scout out the location for Brian's mom's side of the family reunion. We're looking forward to the whole family getting together and making new memories.
July -The summer of 2013, my dad cycled in the Senior Olympics in Cleveland (here and here). He qualified again this past summer, so he'll be competing again in Minneapolis this year. This year my mom and Brian will join in the fun.
August - (tentative) Last summer, I had this magical plan to escape the KC heat in August with a working vacation in Vancouver, BC. I found the perfect ocean-front cabin with wifi but Brian wasn't game. So, I've started talking about it earlier this year (with the promise of a laptop so he can actually work) and he seems interested. I also need to put out feelers at the new job about a week or two remote. We'll see.
November - After a great time in Costa Rica this past November, Brian is up to coming along with me the next time. Against my normal tendency to go to new places, I would like to repeat everything about my last trip.

So, that's what is in store for my 2015. Where are you headed?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 4

My last full day in paradise included some quality time on the beach, a sangria by the pool, seashell hunting and a cocktail class (I invented the mango-thyme mojito). I also snapped a photo of the hotel's mascot (a purple VW van with a surfboard on top). Not pictured was the yoga class I took in the morning.

I enjoyed the Chef's Special Tuna ceviche dish, a cocktail and the cucumber, sweet tofu and apple gazpacho. During dinner I watched the moon rise over the bay. It was like a movie made just for me.
Also, in case you wondered, here are a few of he best/worst things about vacationing alone:
-       You can use all the towels – why do I need three for one shower? Who cares, there all mine!
-       No one will judge you if you sleep in and skip yoga (which I actually didn’t do since there was only one class offered this week)

-       You pick the place/time/duration of all activities
-       Everyone at the resort knows your name since you’re the only person alone at a romantic locale (except this one guy who thinks my name is Susan, I’m trying to get used to answering to that)
-       You can sleep diagonal in the bed (a nod to Phish, yes, but also surprisingly comfortable)
-       It’s easier to make friends with random staff and guests – they wonder what the heck you’re doing alone
-       You have to Skype someone to read aloud the best parts of “Yes Please” (my vacation read)
-       No one to put sunscreen on the spot you can’t reach on your back (but that’s why they invented the spray bottle)
-       Typically your vacation shots are all selfies but you learn to get better at taking them

-       You realize you haven't said anything to anyone all day besides "hola"
-       Walking home at night may call on your ninja skills but it’s usually just a wild animal

-       Eating every meal alone (giving you time to think, which I guess is technically good but there are three meals a day, yikes!)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 3

Today begin with a morning run and breakfast that included coconut french toast with caramelized bananas (upper left). After that, I finally made it to the beach during low tide and finished a book (it's been so long since that's happened!). Then I spent a few more hours at the spa, I can't help myself. I wish I could capture the scent of the chilled face towels they hand out, scrumptious! I even payed homage to the boys in blue with my toenail polish - "Dating a Royal".
After a snack at the bar, I headed to my ceviche class. The chef prepared a batch that we all tried and then we stepped up, selected our fish (I had shrimp and seabass) and got to work. I went with a mango, cilantro, garlic, lemon, corn, salt medley. When we were done, they gave us a chilled bowl for our masterpieces paired with a bowl of plantain and apple chips. Sounds weird but it was excellent. I was so stuffed full of fish that I skipped my original plan for pizza.
The raw ingredients. If only I had this station (and all the pre-made sauces) laid out at home, I would make ceviche all the time!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 2

Today was a pool day -- I enjoyed breakfast (bottom right) and dinner by the pool, read by the pool and swam. I also checked out the second beach. Although it was high tide, the walk down was very pretty (middle right).

During breakfast I kept hearing a bunch of noises and noticed the trees swaying, despite a lack of wind. When I looked closer, I realized there were about 15-20 monkeys climbing about and eating their breakfast. Then, some unidentified creature showed up next to my table. Apologies in advance for how this was shot but I didn't want to miss a howl!

After a leisurely morning, I enjoyed a blissful, 90-minute massage. The therapist was even nice enough to take my picture. which I told her would be the only non-selfie one of my vacation.
For dinner I checked out the last of three restaurants at the resort: Ostra. Situated next to the pool and under a full moon, this open-air eatery was incredible. If you frequent this blog, you know I eat my way around the world and this meal was one of my best. Not to make you hungry but I have to share the details of my feast. The meal started off with an amuse-bouche (not pictured) of ginger, soy salmon chevice.

From top left: seasame encrusted sweet tofu in a cucumber, chile oil gazpacho with the signature cocktail - the Ostra: Tanqueray Ten gin, rosemary, grapefruit juice, lemongrass and ginger syrup. Bottom left:
asparagus, shrimp and ayote (squash) risotto, which had more shrimp than risotto - yum! Top right: deconstructed ayote cheesecake with caramelized cashews. Needless to say, I went to bed full and happy. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 1

As most of you reading this have heard, I am changing jobs -- leaving and heading to Bank of America. With this change comes a lot of fodder for reflection so I thought it would be nice to get away somewhere for the week in between. I had been to Costa Rica several years back with my friend Stef to learn how to surf and I've wanted to come back ever since. So, here I am!

I booked myself for five days at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort (my room above). Brian didn't want to be away from work this week, so it's just me -- which seems confusing for the staff here, but, yes, table for one please.
I love presents and my room came with complimentary sun hats, coconut candies, granadilla fruit and minibar full of snacks and drinks. There are also a bunch of activities planned for the week on the schedule above (I've signed up for three classes so far). I also love the indoor/outdoor rain shower.
I explored around the property after I arrived and had a little lunch. There are two pools, three beaches, a gym, spa and three restaurants. I headed to Chao Pescao for the tapas happy hour. I love how everything is open-air -- despite the sprinkling rain, you still felt the breeze. I had some salmon ceviche, fresh corn tortas with fresh salsa and guacamole with a basil mojito (complete with burning stick of cinnamon, who knew?). It was all delicious and I happily headed back to my room for some sleep.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Soaking in Kenya

On Sunday, we decided to explore some Kenyan culture. We started at the Giraffe Center which is working to conserve the endangered Rothschild giraffes and educate youth about conservation in Kenya. The giraffe we visited with was named Daisy who was quite hungry. We learned that giraffes eat 75 pounds of food a day. At the center they also had a turtle enclosure and warthogs -- who are apparently uninvited but continue to burrow under the fence to have their babies.

After that, we headed to the Bomas of Kenya for a cultural dance, music and acrobatic show. It was hard to stay in your seat! (Check out some of the action below.) We ended our day with dinner at the Sarova Stanley Hotel and I had the fish in chips, served in a giant serving chandelier (not sure what else to call it). It was delicious and the waiter was excited to present the dish to me (those arms with things in them were attached to the plate you can see behind it).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maasai Market Morning

This has been a busy week of work in Nairobi getting ready for a conference next week but we were finally able to take a break today and head out to the Maasai Market. My co-worker, Madeleine, and I grabbed a cab after a late breakfast and started our day with major bargaining. We were talking about how our moms would love the market and want to buy everything - sorry, moms, we just couldn't fit it all in our suitcases, you'll have to come check it out for yourselves. After the market, we stopped by a local mall to look for an outfit for Madeline and found these pretty sweet, tiny hats for US$100 which was way too much but the photo was free.
For about US$85 I took home this haul. One thing isn't pictured because it's a gift (well, a couple things pictured are gifts too, but you'll just have to act surprised). My favorites: jammy pants (super soft with pockets!), a woven bowl (which will look perfect on my coffee table), a glass bead and brass necklace and a sisal and leather woven purse. If you ever come for safari, this is a must-see stop. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more weekend adventures!