Travel

View Real Palace of Madrid IMG_0511_1024

So where did we leave off from part 1. Oh yeah, we had just arrived in Madrid. So we catch a cab to our hotel. We’re hoping an early check in is available because we are beyond tired.   We reach our hotel the Jardines de Sabatini. It has a small but cute lobby with a modern-looking foliage wall. There’s a weird faux-grass ramp thing next to a short staircase leading up to the lobby. I’m not sure why but I decided to go up the ramp behind my suitcase and let’s just say that my trip almost ended there. As I began to slide backwards down the ramp with my suitcase, I realized this was a bad idea. I almost ate it. I just pictured my face smacking onto the ramp and my body sliding down it as my suitcase slide down on top of me. The guy at the concierge desk saw this fiasco happening and came running to save my life.

The concierge told us that check in wasn’t until 3pm but he would give us a map of the city so we could explore until then while they held our bags. E who was waiting in the lounge area while I checked us in, looked like she just got news that our hotel was in the next city over and we would have to walk the 42 miles it would take to get there. Maybe the concierge saw this look and decided to have mercy on our souls because just then he stated that there was a room that might be ready now. The room was in fact ready. We checked in and were able to go take a nap. We reluctantly woke up in the early afternoon (still dead tired) and decided to head out to go purchase the train tickets we would need for the rest of the trip. But first we explored the hotel grounds. The back of the main elevator was all glass and provided an awesome view of the colorful mural that stretched the length of the exterior wall. On the rooftop was a lounge area and lovely rooftop bar, which overlooked the Real Palace of Madrid and the adjoining Sabatini Gardens. Fun fact: I had no Idea that’s what I was looking at until we returned from the trip and I looked through the pictures.

View Real Palace of Madrid MG_0508_1024

 

It was scorching hot outside so even our short walk was killer. We walked down the hill to the train station located in Prince Pio. The original train station was converted into a combo shopping mall and train station. Prince Pio is the main commuter station for the Renfe trains and metro. We decided to get something to eat and stopped at a restaurant called Colonial Norte Madrid. There was an outdoor eating area but there was no way we could bear that with this heat so we went upstairs. You couldn’t really tell by the outdoor seating area but upstairs was a beautiful restaurant. I used whatever little Spanish I knew while in Spain and while it definitely helped, at times the language barrier proved to be too wide. For example, at the restaurant I just mentioned, I thought I ordered tapas that included bread, soup and ham but all I got was the bread covered in some sort of tomato sauce and soup. It was tasty but I just sat and drooled at the appetizing looking rice dish E ordered.

Our waiter was adorable. His outfit was adorable and I think the blue apron brought out the blue in his eyes. I dunno (shrug), he was a cutie. He happily obliged when E asked to take a photo with him (actually when I asked for her in broken Spanish). We decided to change our shoes because we had a lot of walking to do and though cute, the thong sandals were already making us uncomfortable. We took the train to Puerta de Atocha, a large train station in the center of town. In fact it’s the largest railway station in Madrid. Within this massive building is the original building, which is no longer open for train service but now houses a breathtaking tropical garden, shops, cafes and nightclubs.

 

We purchased our train tickets for the other cities we’d be visiting and bought a couple of Red Bulls in an attempt to try to revive us and we then took to the street. We stumbled on some statues of giant babies just outside of the station posed for some pics and then walked to the near by Buen Retiro Park. This is one of the largest parks in Madrid and reminded me a bit of central park. I loved it. The park was littered with people simply enjoying a nice day out. Near a large statue in the center of the park, a group of people gathered practicing their inline skating tricks and a fitness class full of rock solid bodies worked up a sweat. Others took part in a yoga class, games of chess or just sprawled out on the grass and enjoyed the sun. We didn’t get to see it all but we did come upon this pretty glass house, the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), which was originally used to display flower species indigenous to Archipelago.

 

 

We left the park and walked the area just taking in the sights. By this time it was dark out and the city lit up as great Metropoles do only with jaw dropping architecture at every turn. We snapped a few photos in the street and then headed back to train station to Principe Pio where we had a delicious late night pizza dinner and drinks at Pizzeria La Estación. After dinner we went up to the rooftop bar for a bit before heading back to our room. Barcelona awaited in the morning.

 

Check back in soon for part 3 to see how we painted the town red in Barcelona.

Palace and Sabatini Gardens view madrid

So Spain right?  I have so much to say about Spain. But oddly enough half of the adventure might have been in just trying to get there. So me and my travel buddy, my BFF, whom I call E, decided on Spain this year for our annual girls trip. Though we have a good amount of experience traveling, this would be our first trip overseas. I was a little leery of traveling to France or England because of recent terror attacks but figured Spain hadn't had an incident in ages so we should be good.

Normally, I'm a stickler for planning my vacations. I want to get everything done ahead of time. I want to plan out all my activities, places to eat and see and put together a well-thought out itinerary well in advance of my departure. For this trip? Oh man. That cannot be further than what actually happened. I knew I was bordering on hot mess potential weeks before we left.  My schedule at work had been crazy and in the weeks leading up to my vacation it was absolute madness. I just didn't have the time to plan. Fortunately, our flights were booked but we were still trying to figure out hotel accommodations up to three days before our trip.

On the schedule of cities to visit were Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. The plan was to get from city to city via train. Luckily there's a discount for foreigners but unluckily for me you have to book with enough time in advance so they can mail you your passes. Mail? Who mails anything anymore? I thought we had all collectively moved on to E tickets. No? Whatever. So now I'm just praying that we can get the tickets we need at the train station for the times that we need and manage to stay on schedule. In the back of my mind if worst come to worst, I can rent a car (Fun fact: this is actually not the case, you have to apply for permission ahead of time to drive in Europe as a foreigner).

So here we are the night before our flight to Spain. I had flown into New York to meet E so we could fly out together. As a precautionary measure we were taking photos of our credit cards and passports but as we both looked at E's passport we noticed something. Hers had expired in June. Holy Sh&!+. " I asked you!" I exclaimed. Referring to the day we were booking our tickets when I asked her to check her passport to be sure it was still valid. At the time she told me it expired in September (funny enough, come to find out an expiration date that close to date of travel would have gotten her booted from the flight anyway. FYI: to be safe, when traveling internationally you want to make sure your passport will have at least 3 months of validity left at your time of travel).

So after my heart sank and the wave of anxiety hit me from the discovery, I tired to look up what we could do. I knew you could expedite your passport but I never heard of it being done in a few hours. Looking online, official sites say you need an appointment but I tried the site and it wouldn't let me book an appointment for the next day. I then came across a blog entry for a woman with a similar issue who stated she was able to get a passport for her husband by 4 o'clock the same day. (Our flight was at 3pm but this gave us a glimmer of hope). I looked up the main New York passport agency and told E she would have to go there at crack of dawn with everything they would need ready (forms filled out, 2 new passport photos, expired passport, additional identification, and payment.) “Lie and tell them you have an appointment. Tell a sob story. Cry if you have to. Do whatever it takes to get that passport by 1 o'clock the latest.” I told her.

Neither of us slept well all night. I even had a dream about someone having the heart to help her out at the passport agency. Off she went at around 5:30 the morning with multiple stops (get the photos, print the forms). By the time she reached the passport agency there were a ton of people already in line. Sh!+ We kept in contact but I was beyond concerned. I was already scoping out plan B. "Ok I can fly out and she can just meet me there. But if my mom knows I traveled to Europe alone she's gonna be a nervous wreck the entire time and she's old and fragile so I can't do that. I'm gonna have to lie and pretend she's with me (I know I'm a grown ass woman and this is crazy but it is what it is)." I start looking at ticket prices and they are around $3,000 and up. My stomach turns again. I call the airline to try and get an idea of what my options are and it doesn't look good. If she doesn't make the flight, the difference she's going to have to pay would be about $2,500 unless she waited and left in three days then it would go down to $600. I hang up, pray and hope for the best. As she made progress she would text me. I ran to the laundry mat to pick up the clothes she had dropped off. I get back to the apartment and surprise, I can't open the damn door. I hear and feel it clicking but it's not opening. Luckily her neighbor was around to help me out. I got in and threw everything that wasn't a bed sheet into her suitcase.

Then I got the call "I got it!" Glory hallelujah. Thank the Lord for giving this girl the gift of the gab. E didn't bother to come back to the apartment figuring it would be a safer bet if we just met at the airport. She called her favorite cabbie for me good old number "Forty Four". 44 arrived and the neighbor helped me to the cab. As we approached the airport… dun dun dun... the cab started to smoke. I mean, within about a minute the car was surrounded with smoke and it was starting to come inside. "Father God what message are you trying to send me about this trip?" 44 tried his best to get me to the terminal. " Oh no big problem” he says in a gentle Haitian accent. "It's the transmission". We barely make it off the exit and the car dies on the road outside. I get out, grab my bags and try to flag down a cab, only none of them will stop because, well obviously you aren't supposed to pick passengers up off the side of the freeway. One cabbie stops but looks really apprehensive. Sympathetically looks at the smoking cab behind me and tells me "We're not allowed to pick up passengers here. It's illegal". I tell him “Listen, the terminal is right there. I'm just trying to get to the terminal. I'll pay you in cash.” He reluctantly agrees. 44 helps me load my bags into the new cab and new cabbie gets me to the terminal in about 5 minutes. I give him $20 for this egregious criminal act and let him know “You sir are appreciated.”

I meet E curbside. She's cool calm and collected, almost glowing even and already checked in. Meanwhile I'm a hot mess. How? Anyway. I get checked in and we make our way to the gate. Apparently, we can’t just walk to our gate or take some sort of tram. We have to go out of a special exit (literally exit the airport) and go down to a bus that’s waiting on the tarmac. We then realize there’s a delay and we can’t move yet because there’s a military plane and bus directly behind us loading passengers. We’re waiting on the bus for about 15 – 20 minutes when I get a text from my coworker. She had just seen the news about what happened in Spain and wanted to know if I was okay. “Okay??? What do you mean okay?” I thought. I hadn’t heard any news. I quickly checked the news and saw that there was an attack in Barcelona. The bus to our gate finally starts moving and I start getting texts from everyone who knows I was on my way to Spain. I can’t tell my mother this. She’s going to freak. I’ll tell her when we connect in Boston so she can’t tell me not to go. (Once again, I know I’m a grown ass woman and this is ridiculous. Don’t judge). In the mean time a get a nervous call from my young nephew who has just been stopped by the cops while driving my mothers car and can’t seem to find the registration or car insurance info. So I have to help troubleshoot that mess.

 

Coworker text message

We finally make it onto our flight. When we arrive in Boston we are made to completely exit the airport, ride a tram to another gate and go through the entire boarding process again minus our checked bags. We have to go to the ticketing desks to get boarding passes because the first flight could not provide them to us. No one bothers to tell you that the ticket desk will be closing in a few minutes so you better hustle. Luckily we asked someone for directions and they told us to hurry the hell up. We run to the ticketing desk and the agent decides that she wants to move as slow as molasses today. Even the toddler of the couple she was attending to ahead of us had enough of her at one point and told her to hurry up. “Hurry up the plane is going to leave us”. Amen sister, Amen. We get our passes and run to security check in. We get to the gate with a few minutes to spare. We make our final phone calls and texts in the states and off to Madrid we go.

In flight meal Iberia 2
The in-flight meal was curry chicken.

We flew Iberia airlines. I’ve seen mixed reviews but our experience was great. The plane was huge, modern and neat. The flight attendants were friendly and helpful and something about their disposition just made them seem a little more elegant than I was used to. As they moved through the isle in synchronization to demonstrate the safety procedures, it looked like a well-choreographed dance. They reminded me of flight attendants of yesteryear (Think Pan Am type of classy). The food service was also great and even their little pillow and blanket set was of a pretty good quality.

The flight was long but good and we arrived safely in Madrid at around 9:30 am. Madrid airport is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. First of all, its ginormous. Secondly, the architectural elements of the ceiling of the entire structure are amazing. It was a little bit of a maze to get through but we got through customs and made our way outside to find an orderly line of cabs waiting.

Madrid airport2
The ceiling of the Madrid airport.

 

Now for the actual vacation portion of the story. We’re in Spain. What next? Check back in soon for part two of the adventure.

Part 2 collage Costa Rica La Fortuna

So let's talk about part two of this vacation. If you haven't read part one or need a refresher, click here to read my post on part one of this fabulous vacation. There was too much going on to include in one post. To be honest I could have split it up more but two seemed appropriate.  So let's continue:

Day 3: (Part 2)

Rafting

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We stayed with the same tour company from the previous tour but switched guides. This time were in the care of a firecracker named Marcos. Marcos loves his job entirely too much and you could see the happiness ooze from his pores as he spoke about his experiences rafting and kayaking through the river.  As we headed to the Balsa River he taught us the meaning of “Pura Vida”, the Costa Rican Motto we’d heard a number of times during our trip. Pura Vida literally translates to pure life. In essence it’s the Costa Rican version of Hakuna Matata. It’s used in a number of ways. From “How’s it going?” to “It’s going great.” or “It’s cool.” Or “Thanks” or “No worries.”

We met up with other guides at a structure at the start of our next hike and were suited up with our rafting gear. We grabbed our paddles and started off. At the river entrance we were given our standard operational and safety instructions with tons of jokes thrown in for our amusement. As Marcos began assigning individuals to rafts and their corresponding guides we had a feeling we’d be assigned to his raft. Yup, as our luck would have it we got the firecracker.  We braced ourselves we knew this would be wild. The river was classified as a 2-3, which shouldn’t be too bad but with this guy at the helm who knew what to expect.

The rafting turned out to be great. It was a little scary. I bounced pretty high up a few times and E bounced right off her seat onto the middle floor a couple of times. Luckily no one actually bounced off the raft and into the river. I dodged a couple of tree branches that would have certainly left me with a black eye or two if I didn’t pull the matrix move but it was all good. Marcos burst into song as he guided us down river. E and I chimed in as we accompanied him in his selection of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.  He playfully splashed us and dowsed us with cold river water to irrigate the flower he had placed in each of our helmets (don’t ask).

We managed to get into a mini war with the guide of another raft. How? Well when he splashed us with water using his paddle I egged E on to splash him back and that was it. He actually jumped (like a Tarzan leap) off of his boat onto ours to let some air out of our raft. Taunting us that it was a bad idea to mess with the guides. Well damn, point taken sir.  All in all it was so much fun. I repeat, too much fun. I wish I could go again right now. As if the rafting wasn’t good enough, they paused for a break mid-way and whipped out fresh fruit and started chopping it up right in front of us, forming a pretty design before inviting us to dig in. Let me tell you, I had some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had in my life along that river in Costa Rica that day. To cap off the experience we stopped for lunch at a local soda (Costa Rican eatery – think family run-diner) and fruit stand where we picked up some fruit to go.

Later on, after we returned to the hotel from the day’s adventures we showered, had dinner and headed down to the hot springs closest to the main building before retiring for the evening.

Day 4:

Club Rio - Hot Springs and Animals

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We left the day open and decided to enjoy the resort. The Springs Resort and Spa has a plethora of activities right on the property that you can take part in during your stay. In a section of the property that’s more than a mile off of the main building called Club Rio, you can go tubing, rafting, rock wall climbing, visit the small animal preserve and more. We were tired so we got a late morning start. After breakfast we took the bus down to Club Rio and participated in a guided tour of the animal preserve.  It was small but impressive. I’m a sucker for wild cats and the jungle cat sanctuary had several so I was impressed. The white-faced monkeys and toucans weren’t bad either.

Hot Springs

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Afterward the tour we wandered around the natural hot springs area. This was a delightful experience. Deep in the trees, behind hidden paths and rocks were some of the most amazing hot springs a girl could ask for. I almost need not to mention how fitting these tucked away gems were for pretending one was on an episode of America’s Next Top Model smizing her way through a fierce by force impromptu photo shoot. We had a grand ole time there before heading back up towards the main building and enjoying the water slide and hot springs near the villas.  We ended the hot springs visits in one of the hotter springs sipping on cocktails and recalling the adventures of the previous days, sadly coming to the realization that we would soon have to leave.

 

Last stop of the evening was the spa. We had planned on venturing into town with some of our friends from the hotel but little did we know that the spa would hold us captive. We took advantage of the steam room and personal showers before relaxing in the lounge area. I dozed off a couple of times before we decided to call it a night.

 

Day 5:

Goodbye Springs. Hello Jaco Beach!

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Rise and shine. We were up and at’em early again.  On our final morning we grabbed some breakfast and said goodbye to some of our new friends on the staff particularly Manuel (who E affectionately dubbed Manny). For our trip back to San Jose our driver was Fabian from Desafino. Once again, we got the friendly tour guide treatment. We lounged in comfort in the van as he stopped and pointed out things of interest to us and tried to teach us a few Spanish words.  We stopped at the same souvenir shop we visited on our way to La Fortuna and picked up a few extra souvenirs.

Our final stay was the Apartotel hotel in San Jose. It was a quaint little hotel with a traditional Spanish feel about it. It wasn’t the lap of luxury we were just wallowing in but this apartment style room with full kitchenette and cookware was just what we needed to accommodate us before our flight out of San Jose in the morning.  We arranged a short trip to Jaco Beach for the day. Our driver picked us up around 1:30pm and we were off. When we arrived at Jaco Beach we set up camp on the sand and relaxed for a bit.

Jaco beach has a bit of an exotic feel. The sand is darker because of the deposits from the volcanoes and so is the water. It’s wet season so the beach wasn’t very crowded. We struck up conversation with a long-term visitor/local (in Costa Rica for the past 8 months) who told us where to score some good eats for cheap.  We followed his directions and landed upon Soda Milagro, which was pretty much what we like to call the “hole in the wall” when traveling. We get so excited about the holes in the wall because this is where you usually get the best, tasty, authentic food.  We both packed food onto our plates and when we were done doing damage our total came to $8. That’s right. I said $8 USD for both plates. Like together. We got two more plates to go.  We met up with our driver and back to San Jose we went. We did some damage to our second plates of food as well as some mango we’d purchased while in La Fortuna before calling it a night.

Day 6:

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On the sixth day we bid Costa Rica adieu or adios, rather. Sadly it was time to leave. The hotel provided us with a free shuttle back to the airport.  Overall this was the absolute best trip I’ve been on so far. It was a dream come true. I was one with the jungle for a while and grateful that all my hard work allowed me to enjoy a rejuvenating vacation like this. Of course with any vacation there are at least a couple of minor snafus. Customs was ridiculous and the smack over the head “surprise-surprise/gotcha gotcha” Costa Rican tax to leave the country was annoying enough to momentarily disturb my Hakuna Matata but only momentarily.

I may sound a little repetitive by now but I’ll say it again. This was the best trip ever. I must come back to Costa Rica again. I just can’t see anything wrong with an occasional dose of Pura Vida in my Vida. Hope you enjoyed the recap and the pics now back to work. Let the power moves continue. Pura Vida.

 Part 1 collage Costa Rica La Fortuna

Every once in a while it’s a good idea to pack up the bags, leave the cares behind and escape the everyday craziness and replace it with a good kind of crazy.  After unfortunate circumstances caused me to miss out on vacation trips I planned last year and the year before, I decided to take the trip that’s been on my bucket list for a while.  Eight years ago (give or take a few years) I saw some vacation images from Costa Rica. Images of people having the time of their lives zip lining through the jungle struck a chord with me. It looked absolutely incredible. I was in awe and decided I had to go there. It took me a little while but I finally made it. Here’s how it went:

 Day 1:

San Jose in a Day

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My travel buddy, Emmanuella (my sister from another mother who I call E for short) and I arrived in the capital city of San Jose on Friday and checked into our first hotel, Hotel Presidente. Hotel Presidente is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown San Jose along Central Avenue, the main street and pedestrian walkway. Uncertain of what San Jose had to offer, we didn’t really set our expectations too high. After all, the part of the trip we were really excited about was the following day’s trek to the town of La Fortuna.  That being said, Hotel Presidente far exceeded whatever minimal expectations we might have had.

To begin with, we were greeted by Jorge, the friendly front desk clerk who couldn’t have made us feel any more welcome. This was our first introduction to the kind of hospitality and kind-hearted, good-natured, Costa Rican people we would be interacting with during our visit. Jorge let us know exactly where we could find authentic Costa Rican food, stock up on groceries and provided us with a walking map, which included restaurants, museums and other areas of interest close by. He even helped me use a phone card I’d purchased when I couldn’t decipher the Spanish language instructions (My elementary Spanish was of no help here). After eating we spent the rest of the evening strolling through the downtown area. Later on we stopped for a drink and listened to some live music at a hotel bar across the street from ours.

 

Day 2:  

Bienvenidos a La Fortuna and The Springs

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In the morning we went down to the uber-cute bar/buffet area for breakfast. Hotel Presidente offers an excellent breakfast spread (It was actually our favorite breakfast from our entire trip) in traditional Costa Rican fashion. At 7:00 am our driver from Desafino Adventure Company arrived to take us to the Springs Resort and Spa in La Fortuna, a small city in the canton of San Carlos.

Diego, our driver was another warm individual who made the long three-hour drive seem more like a scenic tour. We stopped along the way at a souvenir shop where he patiently waited while I got my indecisive self together and made final selections before we hopped back in the van and headed into town. As we arrived in La Fortuna, Diego pointed out that this small area was the center of town and up ahead we could see the Arenal Volcano.  We drove a little further and down a winding, bumpy road we arrived upon The Springs Resort & Spa. One word, breathtaking. I was in awe of this place on sight. It’s simply breathtaking. The open plan of the resort features a lobby with an open-air design that looks right out to the Arenal Volcano.

Upon our arrival at the hotel we were greeted by name and literally welcomed with open arms. We felt the hospitality from the moment we set foot on the property until the moment we left. We checked in and were offered some morning mimosas while being given a tour of the property.  We arrived early so are our room wasn’t ready yet.  Our bags were stored by the concierge while we went on our first excursion of the trip.

 

Zip Lining

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We booked a zip lining tour with Arenal Mundo Aventura. There was a snafu with transportation (mostly my fault for failing to reply to an email sent by the coordinator at Arenal Mundo) so we arrived to the excursion late. The staff at The Springs went out of their way to help arrange transportation so that we didn’t miss our excursion and was even apologetic about the misunderstanding even though it was beyond their control. The staff at Arenal Mundo and The Springs coordinated transportation for us and we were able to sit down for lunch at the casual dining restaurant (one of three restaurants in the main building) while we waited. They were even kind enough to wait for us while we finished up lunch.

By the time we arrived at Arenal Mundo we were several minutes late. Everyone taking part in the tour was ready to go so we were rushed through the payment process and souvenir picture info before quickly purchasing access to a rental locker and then hurried onto a “bus” (it was more like a large, partially covered wagon with bench seating pulled by some sort of tractor), which would transport us up towards the hiking point. As soon as we got into the “bus” it started pouring. No biggie. This is rain season. We were mentally and physically prepared. I brought ponchos and protective pockets for our phones and wore water resistant boots.

We reached the hiking point and were suited up by the instructors and we began our hike. Whoa nelly! Let me tell you that hike was no joke. I’m in pretty good shape and it was tough. To make matters worse the instructors never let up so you had no choice but to keep up. Our ponchos had become our own personal saunas. Jesus take the wheel. When we reached the first line there was a water break and one of the instructors shouted out “Okay everybody remember all the rules?” E and I look at each other with a look that said “We’re about to die” because clearly we missed out on the orientation/safety presentation. At this point we shouted “No… we weren’t here.” The instructors decided to leave us for last and explain the procedure after the others had gone ahead. They explained the procedure and off we went.

 

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in my life. We got through four shorter zip lines (where I totally screamed) before the instructor asked if I was ready for the real stuff. I looked at her like she was a two headed creature. What do you mean real stuff? What the hell did I just do? She laughed and said that was just practice. She launched me down the next cable where I whizzed past trees, foggy mist, and river down below all while thinking “This is absolutely crazy. I’m flying through the jungle.” On one trip I went with an instructor to increase my speed down the line. A few seconds in he taps my shoulder and tells me to look to my left. We were flying by the huge La Fortuna waterfall. The feeling was unreal. Give me two-mile long zip lines any day. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Our Room at The Springs

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When we arrived back to our hotel we were taken to our room. I’ve stayed in some pretty nice hotels and resorts but this room takes the cake.  The rooms at The Springs all have a view of the Arenal Volcano so that’s the first thing you see when you enter the room. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors on either side, which open up to a veranda or balcony depending on your floor provide a picturesque frame for the view. Outside, take your pick of seating from a set of rocking chairs, seating for two at the small dining table or for optimal relaxation, pick from two hammocks, which flank both outdoor walls.  We spent quite a bit of time luxuriating in those hammocks. The bathroom was glorious and the tub.. the tub was something out of every girls dreams. Absolutely beautiful.

Our entire experience here would turn out to be something phenomenal with only a couple of hiccups. On our first night for example, as we entered the room there were two huge puddles of water in the entrance hall and water was leaking from the AC unit above. The gentleman who helped us with our bags let us know he would send someone to take care of it. I spoke to him twice about it so I’m not sure if he got lost somewhere but it seemed to be taking forever for someone to appear. I ended up calling the front desk who informed me that no one told them but they would send someone to fix it. Shortly after that, two cleaning personnel and three maintenance people arrived to clean the mess and repair the leak. They weren't overly apologetic about it but at least the issue was taken care of promptly after my call.

I was also a little disappointed by housekeeping. Not that it was bad. It just wasn’t exceptional. At a hotel of this caliber I just expect more. There's something to be said about a luxury hotel with a standard of going the extra mile to straighten things up. Although our last housekeeper was a great improvement over the previous one(s), a little more attention to detail would have been great overall. I’ve stayed at hotels where the cleaning personnel literally makes me chuckle because they insist on placing my hair care products in a straight orderly line. Also, where were my little white slippers? I’m nitpicking. I know, but when in the lap of luxury, a white robe should totally come with white slippers, shouldn’t they? I digress. These are minimal complaints. This place was paradise, slippers or no slippers.

After we were settled in our rooms, we ventured down to the restaurant again for an amazing dinner before retiring for the night in preparation for another activity-filled day.

Day 3: (Part 1)

Canyoneering and Rapelling

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On our third day we booked a tour with the Desafino Tour Company. They arrived bright an early at 7:00am to get the day started.  We were greeted by David, the guide and Ramon the driver. Again, two warm and friendly individuals who made us feel right at home. We picked up other travelers who had booked the same tour.  Luckily they were all fun people and we had a pleasant commute to the location despite our last leg were we once again got into an open-air “bus” and experienced getting drenched in Costa Rican Wet Season rain, but oh well, it’s the rainforest “When in Rome”.

Our tour for the day was called a Combo Mambo. This consisted of canyoneering, rappelling and rafting. Canyoneering through the Lost Canyon and rappelling down tropical waterfalls, I felt like George of the Jungle. I’m a total princess. I don’t like being cold, I don’t like getting dirty and I don’t like hiking. On this trip I often found myself dealing with all three of those things, sometimes at the same time but for whatever reason I had the time of my life. Surprisingly, my princess sister/friend E, turned out to be an even bigger princess than I was and could have totally gone without the stepping in the mud and wadding through beige-colored river water but she was all for the down-climbing and long drops down the sides of the rocks and waterfalls. Go figure. After rappelling we made our way back up to the canyon house and had breakfast and viewed pictures from the experience.

That's it for the part one recap. Tune in tomorrow for part two where I'll let you in on more on our adventures on day three and more.  In the meantime, thanks for reading and let the power moves continue.

Vacation web image

Well it’s that time of year.  I’m officially on vacation. This is the play hard portion of “work hard, play hard.” The blog will be quiet for a little over a week but fret not. When I return, I’ll be sharing some great images and tales of my adventures in Costa Rica. In the mean time, hold down the fort.  You know the drill. Continue making power moves and we’ll catch up in a little bit.

(From Right to Left: Darryl, Bonita, Me, Staceyann, Greg, Horasetta, Shadel, Shadel's wife Leander)
(From Right to Left: Darryl, Bonita, Me, Staceyann, Greg, Horasetta, Shadel, Shadel's wife Leander)

Today we'll be departing a bit from our normal work-wear fashion and business topics to look at a little travel, some formal fashion and matters of the heart.  Last weekend my crew and I headed out to picturesque city of Tucson Arizona. You may recall, me mentioning my crew in a recent post on the topic of wearing white after Labor Day. "The Crew", a collection of old college buddies who one of our parents affectionately dubbed "The Black 90210", graduated some (cough) years ago but have managed to remain incredibly close.

We try to get together for a little getaway about once a year and this year the destination was Tucson, Arizona. Why Tucson, Arizona, you ask; certainly not for the wealth of entertainment and activities  (umm why is there nothing to do in Tucson?) but because our dear friend Darryl was getting married. Like a 3rd installment of the Best Man movies, The Crew descended upon the Ritz Carlton Tuscon, Dove Mountain and started the weekend off with laughs right from the jump,  laughs that would not let up until we boarded our separate flights back home. Our trip was so filled with good times and fabulous fashions, I thought I’d share a few pictures (read: a gang of pictures) from our lovely weekend.

(Upon arrival at The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountaiin, a magical place where your questions are never answered with "No" but "I'll see what I can do." Fabulous resort.
(Upon arrival at The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain, a magical Shangri-La)

We arrived at this grand resort and couldn't help but be in awe of how gorgeous it was. It really doesn't matter that there's nothing to do in town. Dove Mountain is a town in of itself. I also finally understand why people rave about the quality of service at the famed Ritz Carlton. It's like a magical place where a guest requests are never answered with a "No" but rather "I'll see what I can do." Of course I had to test my boundaries and request that someone find me a unicorn. Low and behold, a staff member returned to me with a signed photo of a Unicorn. I see what you did there. I love this place.

Scenic rustic wedding mountains Tucson Arizona Ritz Carlton Scenic rustic wedding fire pit Tucson Arizona Ritz Carlton

Scenery. I need say No more.

The crew college buddies friends wedding double
Rehearsal dinner/meet and greet and food truck fun.

 

The crew college buddies friends ladies The crew college buddies friends ladies2

We did a little venturing off the resort to see if there was anything interesting to see. You guessed it, nothing.  So like any group of self respecting shopaholics would, we ended up at a mall. No complaints. Pretty cute outdoor ambiance.

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Wedding day! Wedding dress code called for "Resort Cocktail attire". I thought about something floral or a flowy jumper but then decided to go super bright and incorporate some oranges to tie in an Arizona desert feel. It turned out more tropical than desert but I liked the outcome none the less. More details on the look below.

Bonita's strapless floral pencil dress was on point. Paired with those awesome nude sandals. POW!
Bonita's strapless floral pencil dress was on point. Paired with those awesome nude sandals. POW!
Make love to the camera. Staceyann looking all goddess like in this bold green stunner.
Make love to the camera. Staceyann looking all goddess-like in this bold green stunner.
Attitude. Alright Horasetta don't hurt 'em. You can never go wrong in a little black dress.
Attitude. Alright Horasetta don't hurt 'em. You can never go wrong in a little black dress.

Lime green neon yellow dress orange shoes collage2

My outfit details

Accessories lime green neon yellow dress orange shoes collage

  • Dress: ASOS
  • Shoes: BCBGeneration
  • Bag: Francessca
  • Accessories: Charming Charlie

 

And then there was the wedding...

three piece band wedding Arizona Ritz Carlton

We were all shuttled to the wedding location where we were greeted with a pre-ceremony cocktail reception, libations and passed hors d'oeuvres a'plenty. We took our places for the ceremony, passing a 3-piece band and photo booth/guestbook station. The backdrop for the ceremony… absolutely incredible. The sun hid just behind the mountains and we were all among  friends and family.

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Darryl's groom Bill entering with his mother.
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Darryl entering with his mother.
pink tuxedo gay wedding Arizona Ritz Carlton
Darryl & Bill together in sharpness. Loved the pink. Peep the adoring sister crying in the background. aww.

Post -ceremony we mingled during cocktail hour before taking our seats as the sun set.  The drinks flowed and the laughs continued. After dinner ties came undone and the guards let down. We partied.

Bonita Edgar floral pencils cocktail wedding dress
Bonita and her husband Edgar.
Shadel and Edgar cocktail wedding
Shadel and Edgar engaged in some interesting conversation.
All smiles.
All smiles.

The crew college buddies friends ladies4

party people dancing wedding Arizona Ritz Carlton

Overall, It was a great weekend. Entirely too short but totally blessed to know such amazing people who at this point are more than friends. We're family.

The crew college buddies friends wedding

"Bling Bling! Where dey at?"

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It’s about time I take a much needed vacation. I’d hoped I would be writing about the wonderful trip I was about to take to my parent’s country of Haiti. The plan was to visit my father’s town of Bornge and my mother’s city of Cap Haitien and immerse myself in the culture and history of the country. I envisioned myself walking to the beautiful neighboring beach and enjoying the delicious foods and spirited people.  I would return with marvelous pictures to show you and a captivating story to tell. Alas, I guess it was too good to be true.  A few days before we were all set to depart, a family tragedy (which I won’t go into here because I don’t believe it’s the place) has forced the group of us traveling to cancel or at least postpone our plans indefinitely.   I hope one day I will get to make up for what I was calling “a trip of a lifetime” but for now I’ll have to make the most of my little staycation. I'll do some relaxing, catch up on some reading etc. I’ll be back in the mix of things in about 10 days or so. In the meantime, keep making those power moves ladies.

Sincerely,

 

J. Daniel