One of my most recent trips was to the lovely La Jolla- “The Jewel City” of San Diego, which consists of 7 curving, seaside, hilly miles of the Pacific. This affluent beach town is home to some of the highest home prices in the US, but which maintains a local, small town feel and which values beach and nature preservation, along with architectural preservation. Every time I visit La Jolla, I find myself singing Beach Boys songs to myself and yearning to jump on a surf board again for the first time in 30 years.
The citizenry of La Jolla appear to be on a stage set for a beach blanket movie produced in the 1950’s. Especially in the neighborhood of La Jolla shores, home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography / UC San Diego:https://scripps.ucsd.edu/ , Scripps beach- equipped with fire pits in the sand, a huge playground and grassy lawn- perfect for picnicking and outdoor play- one sees EVERYONE carrying surfboards, sometimes while skateboarding to the beach. There are always throngs of people kayaking, diving, enjoying beach bootcamps, taking yoga classes on the sand and of course surfing. I’ve seen every type of surf group and tournaments on this beach: church groups, women’s clubs, kids’ camps, professional tournaments, professional men before/after work, housewives….all surfing! Fantastic.
Within the Scripps Institution of Oceanography / UC San Diego campus is one of my favorite restaurants in La Jolla, Caroline’s Seaside Cafe: carolinesseasidecafe.com My husband and I always drop in following our morning run on the beach for a freshly squeezed orange juice or a lemonade and a decadent mocha coffee- complete with whipped cream. The restaurant offers complete breakfast and lunch options and serves beer and wine, as well. The view from the restaurant is second to none and the service is friendly, mostly consisting of students from the UC San Diego. I’ve enjoyed great veggie options and have loved their home-made granola, fruit and yogurt.
La Jolla shores is also home to the tony La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club: www.ljbtc.com .
This private club and hotel has been in operation for 75 years, and maintains the charm of a bygone era and beach elegance, while offering all of the modern convenience of our current times. The club offers one of California’s rare private beaches, 14 championship tennis courts, par-3 golf, massage services, beach activities, full-service catering, unique meeting spaces, Tennis Shop and award-winning cuisine at The Marine Room – all just a few sandy steps away. One can stay in the hotel anytime, but should one choose to join this private club, the procedure involves an application, three member sponsorship letters and a three year wait list…I’d say that it’s worth the wait.
I find La Jolla Shores to be inherently cozy. My favorite street of mom and pop shops is Avenida de la Playa, which leads to the beach and sides the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. I’ve made it a personal tradition to stop in Squires Cafe and Deli: http://www.yelp.com/biz/squires-cafe-and-deli-la-jolla for a cup of vanilla nut coffee and a daily homemade hot apple dumpling before our run on the beach. Also on Avenida de la Playa are fantastic neighborhood restaurants, such as Osteria Romantica: http://www.osteriaromantica.com/ ,where the pappardelle is superb and where everyone knows everyone. There are kayak rentals, dive shops, bicycle rentals, ice cream shops, a burger joint, two other Italian restaurants and sushi place. I particularly love Surf Diva: http://www.surfdiva.com/ which offers all types of surf clinics, camps and rentals.
The village of La Jolla is just a short drive away and offers world class shopping, as well as every type of personal training studios (pilates, barre, spinning, yoga, etc…), many churches, restaurants, banks- as well as a Ferrari and Maserati dealership. The Hotel Valencia is the crown jewel of hotels in the village of La Jolla:http://www.lavalencia.com/
locally known as “The Pink Lady.”The La Valencia Oceanfront Hotel is an icon, which has hosted celebrities, celebrations, reunions and romantic getaways since 1926. I recommend going to the bar for a sundown drink and soaking in the beauty of the room, as well as the sundown into the Pacific.
It’s not unusual to find weddings in the park just west of the Hotel Valencia, near the cove- especially just before sunset.
I would be remiss should I not mention my favorite coffee house in La Jolla- another local icon, Pannikin:http://pannikincoffeeandtea.com/ My twin sister attended University of San Diego and discovered this treasure well before Starbucks introduced the coffee house to the masses. My twin was so inspired by Pannikin, that she and her first husband opened a similar shop in South Beach. Pannikin was founded in 1968 and hasn’t changed a lick, happily. Go for the white chocolate mocha or the Mexican chocolate mocha and a homemade scone/muffin/cookie…you won’t be disappointed! Next door to Pannikin is a great second hand bookstore, D.G. Wills Books:http://www.dgwillsbooks.com/ which I always peruse after my caffeine and sugar fix. There are books for $1 outside, and stacks and stacks of every genre of book inside- all for around $5-10. I love independent bookstores and D.G. Wills never fails to satisfy.
Another favorite of mine in the village is The Cottage: http://cottagelajolla.com/ . This place is fabulous! There is always a line to get in and it’s always worth the wait. The pancakes are out of this world, as is everything on the menu. There is a breakfast and lunch menu and just recently they opened for dinner. Go and enjoy the place. You’ll arrive hungry and leave NOT hungry.
By this point, you understand how much I enjoy food. If you like fresh seafood, check out El Pescador on Pearl Street: www.elpescadorfishmarket.com/ . Again, there’s always a line out the door to this seafood market/restaurant- but the food is outstanding! This is a local gem. Try the cioppino and the fish tacos with avocados…the best I’ve had, period. You might wish to phone in your order, if you’re in a hurry. We’ve found the best plan of attack is to have my husband get in line to order, while I hover around the jam packed tables until someone leaves- then I take possession and guard the seats with my life, as others are just as seriously looking for a seat or two. El Pescador is in the process of moving across the street to a larger venue…but hasn’t moved yet.
Another must visit is Girard Gourmet: http://www.girardgourmet.com/ , owned by Diana and her husband for more than 25 years. She and her husband grow their own organic produce in their home garden and oversee everything in their restaurant/catering establishment every day. We had the pleasure of meeting Diana and discussing her dog and our’s while her husband decorated cakes for one of their customer’s (Ginny) 100 birthday. You find a portrait of Diana, her husband and their Corgi dog Ellie behind the counter. I highly recommend the Princess Cake and the mac and cheese.
There’s so much to explore and enjoy in La Jolla, that I could go on and on. More to come following my next trip to that wonderful seaside town, full of wholesome fun and luxury.
Due to my husband’s business, I have found myself in Las Vegas twice per year for the last ten years. Now, I don’t drink, gamble and have more clothes than I know what to do with, as I live on a boat and keep most of my clothes in a climate controlled storage unit which I call my rather large walk-in closet. So, what’s a lady to do in Las Vegas? Go to the spa and fitness center! As I’ve spent two weeks every year for the last ten years exploring the spas of Las Vegas, I’ve had the pleasure to become a bit of an expert on the subject. Of course, over the passage of time, the spas have improved, as have the fitness facilities.
My current favorite is the Spa at the Encore.
This space is as beautiful and serene as it is functional. The soaring spa lobby area is infused with decorative touches from the sea, as well as Asian styles all intermingled elegantly. One can’t help but to stop and appreciate the loveliness of the room, while eagerly anticipating the check in process to begin the day of pampering and playing.
My day today began with a deep tissue massage by the skillful male therapist named Stoyan. His hands were magic! I am a bit of a jock and have chronic knots in my neck and back, due to my daily work outs and frequent travel. It’s often difficult for me to find a massage therapist who is truly trained in deep tissue massage. Often times, I lay on the table tensing more because the therapist working on me just doesn’t seem to understand my needs. Today was my lucky day! I left the treatment rejuvenated and ready for an intense workout.
The fitness center at Encore is well-stocked with just about anything one needs for a satisfying workout. I enjoyed a self-imposed spin class on a bike, followed by mat work and free weights. Of course, there was just about any and every machine one would desire, should one be into that type of routine. All of the equipment was immaculate and in place.
Next, I took the time to enjoy the steam and sauna facilities, as well as the lovely “wet area” which contains various plunge pools and water features with various temperatures and water pressures. There are also heated chaise lounges on which to simply close your eyes and listen to the tinkling of the water on rain chains behind the lounges. I’ve been known to take a cat nap in this room.
Another of my favorite rooms in the spa is the treatment waiting room, which is completely curtained with luxe fabric for a dramatic effect and is stocked with healthful snacks, coffees and teas- as well as current travel and fashion magazines. This room is heavenly and always inspires relaxation and the feeling of being away from it all.
Throughout the ladies’ lounge and wet areas, the stunning mixtures of textures are visually magnificent. One feels completely pampered and peaceful in these surroundings, almost echoing to a voluptuous time of tasteful decadence. I’m always inspired by what I will do in my next home.
Canyon Ranch in Las Vegas is a fabulous spa, but I prefer the Encore, as it’s a segregated spa- clothing optional. Females only in the female area. Don’t get me wrong, I love men- just not in my spa time. I encourage anyone visiting Las Vegas to book time in the Spa. You won’t regret it!
I apologize for my lapse in blogs since my last entry; life happens.
Anyhow, finally as we were being driven out of the Medina of Tangier towards the ferry terminal we began to take a very hungry breath of accomplishment. What we had just endured was such an educational experience for us- especially for me, as a liberated woman. I was more than ready to return to the EU where women were regarded as equals….and to a region in which I could communicate.
Super! We arrived at the international ferry terminal!!!! We passed through the ex-ray bag check which is normal for any country in the world….then, we entered HELL.
As soon as we entered the passport control area, we were encompassed by throngs of people in burkas pushing luggage and screaming children in carriages, men pushing through other groups of people with impunity and disrespect. All personal space was lost; I was intimately knowledgeable of all around me and they me. There were no niceties. All shoved and mowed over any and all in order to get through customs…so alien to our culture of order. My travel companion found someone in command and bribed him….it didn’t work….thank God we weren’t arrested.
Like the tides of the oceans, we moved with the crowds- for HOURS!! As time passed, my travel companion and I counted down our chances for escape. Two ferries came and went. I actually fought with a grandmother who was hurting me by shoving her luggage into my ankles. Was this “Lord of the Flies”? Keep in mind that we hadn’t eaten a thing since coffee and toast in civilized UK Gibraltar that morning. I was afraid.
All of a sudden, we had the opportunity to push other people out of the way and get to the customs officer….remember, there was NO LINE, JUST A MOB SCENE. We acted like savages, shoved our passports through, received our stamps and moved on.
Next…..food, that has been made elsewhere….not in Morocco….anything processed- SO ANTI-ME!!!
I ran to the gift shop and purchased Toblerone and Pringles (anything not exposed to the environment, as all I’d seen previously was covered in flies) , while my travel companion took his place on the ramp to board the ferry to Spain….the LAST ferry of the night. De Ja Vu hit us…now we understood why we saw people RUNNING OFF OF THE FERRY AND MOBBING TO BOARD THE FERRY earlier in the day. Now, we were fighting for our lives to return to civility. We pushed and shoved and almost jumped aboard the ferry….just as we’d witnessed hours earlier.
Upon arrival to the EU, I had the opportunity to speak with the same Spanish officer with whom I’d spoken earlier. She asked how our day had been….my answer was, “terrifying, discriminating, never again.” She replied, “I wanted to warn you not to go on your own, but it’s against EU policy”. UNDERSTOOD!!! I knelt down and kissed EU ground.
Finally, we passed through check point charlie, into Gibraltar. Now, as I’ve mentioned to you in earlier blogs, Gibraltar is part of the UK – not the EU. One must produce passports/or such other id, in order to enter. There is an international airport at the border, which is diligently guarded “Like the Rock of Gibraltar”; the one and only runway is crossed by all and any passing from the UK to the EU. Unfortunately, there have been some North African terrorist events lately which have been thankfully foiled by the UK in Gibraltar. Ironically, the moon was full and my travel companion and I were exhausted and enthralled with the moon and the Rock. We stopped on the tarmac to photograph the moon and were immediately swarmed by UK soldiers. Thankfully, they understood our long, dramatic day and released us without consequence. Next, we went to the only restaurant open in Gibraltar- the Irish Pub, in which I immediately threw away the argan oil I was forced to purchase and we ate our weight in comfort food.
One last note, this trip was made one week before the last 9/11/12 evil actions; the northern African area was more dangerous than I had realized at the time of our adventure. I have many Muslim friends whom I consider family and whom I respect deeply.
As I left off in my last blog….we were left with our “guide’s brother” at the entrance of the Medina (old city center) of Tangier, Morocco, and about to begin our walking tour. I was so excited and stimulated by the Medina and couldn’t wait to experience a world I’ve read about and finally was about to enter. I grew up watching “I Dream of Jeannie” and always fantasized about the what the authentic, ancient Arabic world must be like and now I was about to find out for myself.
The brother, who’s name I don’t recall, spoke English well and was a very brisk walker- so brisk that at times, I was convinced that he meant to lose us- not evident in the photo below.
The energy in this very compact and bustling neighborhood was palpable; there was so much life crammed into ancient buildings: walking, biking, hawking, children playing… within the sprawling corridors/streets (which were only the width of a large man’s shoulders), at some points of entry/egress. Everywhere you looked, there were stores/shops which were barely the size of a person’s closet. The scents and sounds of the Medina were alive with intensity and seemed to be throbbing. There were foods and spices for sale in open containers buzzing with flies.
There were dry cleaners, women’s clothing stores (only burkas) People’s eyes followed you constantly…leaving one feeling under constant scrutiny…which is a bit unnerving. Now, it’s a given that we, as westerners, we were targets for everyone with something to sell; we maintained a watchful diligence throughout the Medina and wanted to learn as much as we could about our surroundings, while maintaining safety. The feeling was electric….even a bit frightening, as we were completely out of our element, unable to communicate in Arabic, our whereabouts were unknown to anyone who knew us and lost from time to time- again, due to the gait of our guide.
The above photograph was taken of a man awaiting his dry cleaning within the medina.
There were two times, during which we were encouraged to shop and at which times our guide refused to move on in the tour UNTIL we shopped. I was pretty much forced to buy Argan Oil, which I would have happily purchased, but not at force. By the way, upon my return to Gibraltar, I promptly threw the Argan Oil away, due to the salesmen’s’ forceful approach.
The second shop was a four-storied carpet store, into which our guide and his friend insisted we enter and preview all of the various showrooms in all four floors. The front door of the store was vividly painted and beautiful. Thankfully, we didn’t have to buy a carpet…as then, we’d be forced to cart it through customs….a story I’ll describe in my next blog.
Normally, I’d LOVE to enter a store and shop, but not while in such a vulnerable situation….I was convinced that this might not be a good idea. We entered a dark and moldy store which contained stunning carpets, if not a bit humid. At this time, I was bit concerned for our well-being, as no one knew where we were and our phones we not working. We pushed on further and upward into the store until we were guided to the roof. Sunlight! In the distance, we found the port and the ferry departing…. The view was spectacular; it was interesting to see all of the daily life of the citizens of the Medina on display. There were families eating on the rooftops, women doing laundry and cleaning, men sitting and reading….life. Finally, after many photos were taken, we were shown the door at the bottom of four staircases.
We then asked to be escorted out of the medina and taken back to the other guide- the driving brother and driven to the port so that we could return to Spain. Our appetite for lunch was lost due to the sanitation (or lack thereof) of all of the food stalls and we were ready for our Morocco tour to end for the day….
More soon…..thank you for following:)
My travel companion and I were planning to purchase a sailboat in the Med, to keep in the Med; this project has kept us busy exploring otherwise not so desirable/bucket list destinations…and therefore, I’m so thankful for the search. There have been many “search committee” trips, and I welcome more- any time that I can explore a culture otherwise out of my radar, is welcomed handsomely, or perhaps….beautifully.
There was a sailboat which was interesting in Gibraltar. We were in California at the time, and learned of a storm in Miami, to which we needed to immediately attend, then fly to Gibraltar to view a sailboat we’ve been considering online. Well…things didn’t go perfectly to plan. They hardly do.
Our new itinerary from Miami now included a stop in Germany. I have always wanted to explore Germany, as I have German ancestors, and as I grew up during the Cold War; the intrigue is as interesting to me as is Russia…..on my check list….not yet accomplished. I must add that approximately 50% of my friends are Jewish and they are just as open to exploring Germany as am I. Unfortunately for me, we only spent a lay-over in Germany, with no time to explore.
Next, we flew to Spain, rented a car in Malaga, then drove to Gibraltar- which isn’t in the EU, but the UK…so one must go through “Check Point Charlie” in order to enter the tiny Gibraltan peninsula. There are no signs along the Spanish highways indicating where Gibraltar is or isn’t…until the last exit. I’ve heard from the locals on both sides of the borders that Spain wants to own Gibraltar and refuses to advertise it’s location. Also- unlike all of Europe, Gibraltar’s currency in the GBP; Spain’s is the EURO.
The “Rock of Gibraltar” is not a solid entity; there are military installations, tunnels, medical facilities and concert halls. It’s very interesting.
Once we arrived at our beautiful “Grand Dame ” hotel “The Rock Hotel Gibralrar”,http://www.rockhotelgibraltar.com/
We were so tired, that we just decided to order a local take-out pizza and enjoy it on our terrace facing the water, laden with container ships, either on their way into or out of the Med. By the way, that’s Africa in the distance…more on that later in the blog….
Anyhow, we brought a pizza to our room, sat outside, ate half and decided to sleep with the french doors open, as we hadn’t had any fresh air in over 18 hours….we left the un-eaten pizza outside on the table. The next day, we were so grumpy with each other, that we decided to not speak to one another and to recuperate by the pool. Three hours later, as we walked across the street to the hotel; my friend pointed out the tram bringing people back and forth to the point of the “Rock”…. I said, “forget the tram….look at the ape!”
We raced into to the hotel and announced that there was an ape which we had just witnessed that had just opened a window to a guest’s room and had ENTERED!!! The receptionist looked blankly at me and asked which room did I think the ape entered. I replied quizzically that I had no idea and asked the natural question, “is this a normal occurrence?”. She replied that as Gibraltar is part of the UK, there is tea served daily and as a lovely hotel, there are tea and biscuits served daily in our guestrooms- the apes know this. It was very fortunate that we hadn’t had a pizza visitor the night previously as we obviously slept, enjoying the sea air.
The next several days were spent looking intensely at sailboats and sea-trialing them…all to no avail. Everyone involved in the boat dealing process was delightful…on both sides of Europe: we sailed out of one of the Gibraltar yacht clubs, sailed passed the rock of Gibraltar into the confused/rough seas of that part of the Med, then back to Spain for the hull inspection. Unfortunately, the boat we reviewed wasn’t as advertised, but we made great friends and memories along the way.
We continued our path for more exploration, since we were already in that part of the world…
As we had been looking out at Morocco for one week, and had some time to kill, I began my lobbying for a look-see. May I digress a few decades? When my identical twin sister and I had finished high school and were modeling for international brands, we took a summer semester in the University of Madrid- this was the 80’s. During that time, there was a tremendous amount of human trafficking and we were ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED to travel to Morocco- even though we begged. Flash forward twenty years….there was no stopping me this time!
My travel companion and I had brought up the subject of a day tour to Morocco to our yacht dealer friends, and EVERYONE said that it was a dangerous idea and only should/must be attempted with a tour. The hotel would not be responsible for our well-being; also, a funny tidbit….I was told that I would be a “Target” and that any man with me would be held at gun-point, while I was kidnapped into the white slave trade. Now, I’m 43 years old, and thought that this was a ridiculous/hilarious, though flattering idea. We pushed on, with caution. I HATE TOURS.
The next day, we informed the hotel that we were planning to drive to Tarifa, Spain, then take the ferry to Tangiers, Morocco for the day, then return later that night. The hotel staff wished us luck, took our jewelry into the safe and sent us off on our way, warning us not to take our car to Africa. My travel companion was very nervous and unhappy; I was excited.
Since the EU, has been implemented, it feels odd to be asked for one’s passport while crossing borders in what feels like Europe. In Gibraltar, there is an international airport, which has one runway….which also coincides with Gibraltar’s checkpoint area….it’s just passed the checkpoint. When leaving Gibraltar, one drives over the runway (if it’s not being used by an airplane) then through customs. It was a lovely Spanish morning, we then cruised through the south of Spain towards Tarifa, Spain, then towards Tenerife. Upon arrival in Tarifa, all went well. We purchased our tickets and were informed that there were ferries scheduled every 45 minutes throughout the day on either side of the Med. Great!:)
All went well; we went through the normal customs drills, then waited outside for the auto-ferry to arrive. There was a long line of Range Rovers with Arabic plates and pedestrian ladies, with families, in Arabic dress waiting for the ferry- along with the expected Euro/US backpacking youngsters. Soon enough, the ferry arrived…
Now, when the doors to the auto-ferry arrived, the most curious thing occurred, people of all ages began to RUN out of the ferry! Not just young people, but older grandparents dragging children and luggage, were RUNNING off of the ferry. HMMMMMM. Perhaps, this was cultural? We boarded, took our seats and awaited Northern Africa….goodie…another cool stamp in our passports. I’d been to South Africa (another upcoming blog entry) but not North Africa. 45 minutes later, we arrived in Tangiers, Morocco.
I’m pretty good at deciphering Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, due to my US University SAT Test Latin Roots Cram- but somehow, I missed the announcement in Arabic about the customs procedures during the ferry ride. As we arrived in Tangier, and tried to disembark, we were told that we had missed our window of customs disembarkation and would have to wait for the new passengers to be boarded. OK. No problem. Great. We’ll just enjoy the view from the boat of the city. We strolled outside to the back deck and noticed a very disturbing site….HOLY COW! There was a huge mass of humanity trying to jump onto the ferry…they were pushing with impunity against each other, pushing over each other, the police were lifting up and down the loading dock of the ferry, people were trying to jump aboard, police were batting them back to the ground with sticks. We considered just returning to comfy Europe. I lobbied for exploring Africa….we’re here!!!!
Next…currency….thank God for my good old Bank of American ATM card, which has worked everywhere from China, Africa, UK, EU…..We found an ATM, then hired a taxi (with MILLIONS of local currency in our pockets…about $300USD) and instructed him to drive us around the city for two hours, then to drive us back to the ferry station, please. Fine. We drove to the highest point of the city for the best view and along the way, encountered a few camels next to a Saudi American casino:
Our taxi driver had informed us, just after he removed an enormous flying cockroach from my side of the car (we had to stop the car and run out, in order to get that monster out…I’m not a prissy girl, but that bug was HUGE and FLYING), that he’d be handing us off to his “brother” to tour the Medina (city center) following our auto tour of the city. Super! “We can grab a cous cous lunch with the brother in the Medina?” Sure!! It was 1:30pm; we hadn’t eaten anything except a light breakfast at 7am.
My travel companion presented me with an interesting observation whilst we were touring the city. “Look at the cafes.” he said. “Why? What am I looking for ?” (there was so much to absorb quickly). He said, “There are NO WOMEN sitting in the cafes!” HMMMMM I wouldn’t do well in Morocco. Next, we were dropped off with the “brother” to tour the Medina. …… post to continue tomorrow…..
The unexpected Costa Rican adventures on the drive from The Four Seasons/Papagayo to the Lake Arenal/Chachagua area.
Firstly, the drive ANYWHERE in Costa Rica can be an adventure, in and of itself. The roads are pretty rustic and can be clogged by: cows, very slow road workers repairing the roads, an accident or a car break down, horses, dogs….you get the picture. However, the country is so pretty, that one doesn’t mind a slower go.
Just passed the first sighting of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano, road signs for “Toad Hall” begin every few kilometers. Being a child of the 70’s, and having been taken to Disney World by patient parents, I immediately thought of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (which I don’t think is operational in Fantasy Land anymore). My anticipation grew every time we saw another sign; I kept wondering if Toad’s Hall was: a bar, a club of some sort, a retail store… All of a sudden, we arrived at Toad Hall, which is the name of a town! Everything in the town, is named “Toad Hall” something. I found it to be hilarious and had to snap some photos.
Apparently, there’s a hotel in Toad’s Hall, but it escaped me; link to follow:
Next, we began to see very unlikely signs every kilometer or so, for a German Bakery. Again, curiosity and an intense craving for bread built as we passed sign after sign. There was no way that we could pass the bakery and not stop! It felt odd, that in the middle of Costa Rica, that there would be a German bakery. When we finally saw the shop we quickly parked and ran in, just as Tom (the owner) was removing several types of bread loaves from the oven. Tom establishment is fabulous!
There are cats and, very appropriately, a gentle German Shepherd who followed me around and sat under my chair during my breakfast. Not only are baked goods served at Tom’s German Bakery in Nuevo Arenal, but also for sale are locally produced art, soaps (made by Tom’s girlfriend), fruit preserves, bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel, eggs, etc…We ordered the bread basket with homemade preserves and fresh guava juice, cappuccinos, brats, eggs and sauerkraut. Not only was ALL of the food fantastic, but we became so friendly with Tom, that he asked us to join him for a day of play on Lake Arenal on his boat the next time we were in the area.
By the way, most of his patrons were speaking German and were drinking tall beers with their breakfasts at 9am; I felt uncomfortable photographing the other customers. I highly recommend that you check it out, should you be in Nuevo Arenal.
After breakfast and carbing-up for some serious rainforest hiking, we continued our journey to Chachagua (our ultimate destination on this itinerary), when we drove through the town of La Fortuna and saw yet another intriguing road-side sign for an organic gourmet restaurant called “Benedictus Steak House”
which appeared to be located up yet another unpaved, rustic road up a several hills and over a river…(Costa Rican version of “Over the River and Through the Woods” but we weren’t going to Grandmother’s house this time). Now, I’m a “pescatarian” but, predominantly eat only plant based foods…However, the restaurant is an organic establishment, which grows/nurtures their own livestock and produce- which piqued my curiosity.
After following a rustic, winding road up a hill, as we passed the farm and barn, we encountered a beautiful restaurant, met the owner and booked lunch for the following day. Oscar was our server, and his intelligent, gentile service was impeccable. We sat outside on the upstairs terrace and watched and listened to the natural show of a lifetime! As scrumptious food arrived (my traveling companion is not a vegetarian and swears that the steak was the best EVER) we watched Montezuma Oropendola’s building nests and feeding their young (their bird song is so unique and entrancing)
as well as watching the rainy thunderstorm, complete with lightning in the distance. Benedictus exceeded my carnivore friend’s expectations, as well as my vegetarian/pescatarian’s hopes- the ceviche is outstanding! Go and experience this magical place.
Finally, we made our way to the little town of Chachagua, which is charming in a very poor, but happy place. I’ve never met ANYONE in Chachagua who wasn’t waving hello, smiling, helpful…and most of these people don’t have glass in their windows, live down dirt roads, I suppose they just live simply….but are simply happy. Once again, a sign on the side of the road indicates one of my favorite places on the planet: The Chachagua Rainforest Hotel:
I’ve had the pleasure of staying there now only two times within a 12 mos. period, but once I arrive, I NEVER want to leave. The property is completely self-sufficient ecologically, trains locals to raise their own sustainable crops, offers luxury bungalows (at the risk of losing my spot- number 114 is the best), offers fast wifi throughout the property, provides delicious meals (all grown on property – livestock, eggs, and all fruit and veg). There are horses available for hire to explore with Carlos ( a knowledgeable, local, gentleman who know every neighbor along the way). You even have one of the most intelligent, playful, gentle, curious, lovable dog with which to play during your stay (Canela- cinnamon in Spanish)…we always feed her and she hangs out with me while I read in my hammock during rainy afternoons—–it is the rainforest, after all). Make sure to book a rainforest tour with Christian, the on-site naturalist, who is passionately educated as to every plant, amphibian, tree, etc.. along the way- he’s a third generation Chachaguan. Take a plunge in the natural mountain-fed spring swimming pool, stroll through the barn and greenhouse( I just had the opportunity to hold a new-born rabbit born in the lettuce patch, and no, I’m not Beatrice Potter and no, I’m not joking)…I could go on and on. Lastly, the hospitality is kind, attentive, intelligent, lovely in all ways….go there….soon!!!!!!
Finally, I had to share with you a Chachaguan gentleman we encountered on the way to the Chachagua Rainforest Hotel. The following photo is of a man who was very happy with his “catch of the day”. Iguanas are eaten in Costa Rica. Look at the size!!!!!
Yesterday when I began my blog, I was not able to upload any photos- which, as we know, speak ” one thousand words”. I thought that I might follow up my first entry with a few photos taken along the way of my latest Costa Rican journey, so as to represent the surprisingly diverse opportunities such a small country affords. The following few photos are from the Four Seasons part of my journey, and don’t truly convey to magnificence of the Pacific coast of that part of the world, but I’ll post them anyhow…The following photo is of an undeveloped area of Guanacaste, just north of Papagayo Peninsula, in which the Four Seasons is located. I was fortunate to be able to practice yoga on a platform built within a 10 acre estate, in which a 20k square foot villa was built and which a friend of mine runs, allowing me the grand opportunity to dine one evening last week. Photos to follow:
Friends of mine have forever suggested that I begin a travel blog, as I tend to spend more time aboard an airplane, train or ship on my way to my next adventure. I become a bit agitated if I’m home for two weeks with no imminent departures planned. Which leads me to this day….my first entry.
I returned yesterday from Costa Rica, where I spent one glorious week at the Four Seasons in Papagayo Peninsula, in which I had the pleasure of staying in a friend’s private villa, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, I’ve had the luxury of residing in his villa at least once per quarter for the last 5 years, and would recommend the facility to anyone. The Costa Rican hospitality is kind, gentile and sincere and the property is well-run, as well as impeccable. Additionally, the wifi is excellent throughout the entire peninsula.
Following my stay in Papagayo, I headed toward the Arenal area, where I stayed in one of favorite places on the planet: Chachagua Rainforest Hotel, which is an ecotourist’s luxury dream! The property grows it’s own organic produce and livestock, provides educated rainforest tours, horse riding tours, cozy bungalows for rainy afternoons napping in hammocks, babbling brooks, hummingbirds, toucans, etc…
When one stays in Chachagua Rainforest Inn, one feels at home.