Category Archives: travel

It’s Five O’clock In Sámara

Whether you’re in Sámara on vacation or business or just passing through you might need a cold beverage about five o’clock. We didn’t go everywhere in Sámara but we explored most of it. Here are our favorite five or so places to celebrate happy hour in Sámara.

1. Lo Que Hay: This is a great place to hang out and people watch while having a beer and a taco on the beach. Happy hour here is very laid back but it’s right on the beach. I ordered a Michelada and pork taco. Kurt ordered a Pilsen and a pork taco. These were on special and they were so good. Michelada is a beer served with a glass that is salt rimmed, with lime juice and ice. Very refreshing. Especially when you’re hot and slightly coated with salt air and sand. Hang out on the beach under an umbrella. If it begins to rain just dash into the bar area for cover. The beach is amazing in the sunshine and the rain. It’s awesome to have a beach bar with great tacos and cold beer.

2. Microbar: This is a new hot spot  in Sámara. It opened while we were there for the month. It’s probably the only place you can get a tap beer. Also the only place that has at least a dozen microbrews from Costa Rica. They are still ironing out some of the details but i hear they are working on getting food in this tiny establishment.
Yes, tiny. Right next Natural Center. It’s maybe eight seats and a little standing room and taps, that’s it. But it’s awesome beer and its run by awesome people.

3. Bar Arriba: This is a sports bar. You  can grab a bucket of ice cold beer and watch the soccer match. If you do it during happy hour all the better. They have something for everyone. Except maybe wine. I didn’t see wine on the menu but I could be mistaken.
Sometimes service can be slow. But remember you’re in Costa Rica and Pura Vida man, Pura Vida. If you need another beer you’ll have to flag down a waiter or go to the bar. If you need to pay your bill just go to the bar. No big deal. Pura Vida.

4. Vela Latina: This place is a beach bar. Which means you can grab a lounge chair and enjoy a cold beverage right on the beach. Vela is an awesome place to head to to watch the sunset. Since Playa Samara faces south you won’t be seeing the the sunset over the water. If you venture toward the water an look to the right you’ll see it. Sunsets over the jungle are pretty cool. My favorite things to order here are a mojitos and Kurt enjoys the margaritas. We’ve both had ice cold Pilsens as well. Sometimes a very cold local beer is what you need after the beach. The cerviche is fabulous.
5. Coco’s Mexican Restaurant: If you’re in need of some Mexican fare on your vacation, this is the place. We went here a couple of times after class which was also after happy hour and enjoyed it. If you come for happy hour though you can get a monster margarita for a good price. A couple of those ans some nachos or pantacones you might skip dinner all together. As with most Sámara restaurants they are open air. Open air means open bugs. Do as we did and just carry bug spray with you. Especially at twilight and on the beach at night.
In addition to beer and margaritas they have shots of tequila. Fun to do with a group of friends after surviving another  week of classes. Don’t get me wrong, loved the classes, just needed to relax. Coco’s is great place to do that.

I couldn’t decide on just five so here’s an extra one.

6. Flying Taco: This fun corner of Sámara is not on the beach but has a cool laid back vibe and some gorgeous fruit trees to hang out under. Bring your bug spray because it’s the Costa Rican jungle and the bugs get hungry at sunset. They have live music occasionally and open Mic night on Wednesdays. Great tacos and ice cold beer. They might serve something besides ice cold Pilsens and Imperials but we never tried them.

Do you agree with our choices? Do you have another suggestion? Comment below and thanks.

My Favorite Restaurants In Sámara (or Where You Should Eat)

We were in Sámara for a mere month. Our goal was to attend TEFL school to get certified to teach English.  It was an intensive four week course and we passed with flying colors. In our down time on weekends or occasional evenings we would often find ourselves, sometimes with kids and sometimes with new friends, at one of many restaurants in this quaint but quirky little town. Here are my favorite restaurants in Sámara.

1. Bar Arriba: This fun restaurant has the best french fries in Sámara. My kids also enjoyed the chicken strips as well. Although they are family oriented during lunch and dinner it is a fun place to hang out watch a soccer match and have a beer or four. They have a ladies night on Tuesday and often have live music or a DJ to keep it lively. Most of the drinking crowd starts after nine so bringing the kids here for dinner isn’t too chaotic.  The hamburger is the best in town. (Some say the veggie burger at Luv Burger rules but I’m saying as far as beef burgers go, this is the place.) You can find them on FB at Bar Arriba.

2. Falafel Cafe: This was my go to for fast and fresh lunch. In Costa Rica a fast lunch isn’t always possible which is good when you’re on vacation but not when you’ve got a designated hour for lunch. Falafeño or the Tabbouleh plate are excellent choices. Hubby got tired of going here too many times in a row but admitted to it being an awesome little place to get a quick bite. It’s also fairly cheap and filling for this tourist town. You can locate them in the Nature Center part of town. You can find them on FB at Falafel Cafe.

3. Coco’s Mexican: This is a great little place to celebrate with family and friends. They serve typical Mexican fair which, being from Colorado, we crave from time to time. They also serve large margaritas during happy hour. When we finished class at Costa Rica TEFL this was where we went to get our relaxation on. They have happy hour specials like everyone else in town but they have Mexican food and tequila which was a major selling point for the hubby and myself. Kurt really enjoyed the Chimichanga and the Chicken Nachos were excellent. As with all outdoor restaurants in Costa Rica bring some bug spray to keep the bugs away. You can find them on FB at Coco’s Mexican Restaurant.

4. Sub Express: This was my kids and hubby’s second most favorite place to eat lunch. They have sub sandwiches and the boys favorite was the Italian sub. Very good and filling sandwiches and wraps. I enjoyed a few of their wraps and was never disappointed. You can also get some lunch meat and cheese to go. It’s pricey because it’s imported from the States but it’s good and worth when trying to feed two teenage boys. You can find them on FB at SubExpress

5. Restaurante Makizu Sámara: We really enjoyed our time here with friends. Kurt and I usually don’t have sushi but our friends do. Kurt had never tried sushi before coming to this place. He tried it and liked it. He ordered the Chicken Adobo and thought it was super amazing . I had Philadelphia rolls and a few bites of the sushi platter in trade for my large serving of Philly rolls. The rest of the table ordered a large sushi platter which was pretty to look at and tasted fabulous. Everyone truly enjoyed their experience. You can find this great restaurant on FB at Makizu Samara.

Honorable mention: Vela Latina, Lo Que Hay, Flying Taco, Pizzeria Paraiso. I’ll cover these restaurants and maybe more in a later post.

Sámara, A Love Letter

Dear Sámara,
I want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed meeting you. At first I was a little nervous about flying so far to meet someone new. You never know with the internet nowadays. You could have been so pretty and fabulous on a website but horrible in person. I’m glad you are former not the latter. From the first moment I saw you I was in awe of your beauty. Or your warmth. Of the many facets of your personality.
When I first arrived your beauty and laid back nature set me at ease immediately. How can anyone not enjoy your company with such vivid colors and intriguing attributes. In fact, I was amazed that even when we first met you held me with such warmth and grace.
Not to say everything about you is perfect. It’s not but that makes it better. Our first meal together had points of bliss and some uncomfortable points as well. You are gracious host and I appreciate your effort in making me feel at home.
After our initial meeting our relationship began to develop at profoundly comfortable pace. You’d greet me on the mornings with happiness and send me away at night with sweet thoughts. Over the course of the month I began to really begin to see how easy you are to love. Thank you for all your time and effort in this relationship.
Sadly, I have to move on. I truly wish I could stay with you. Life is calling me away. If I didn’t need to earn a living or could figure out how to stay with Sámara I would. Know this, I will return and I don’t expect you to wait for me. I would love to visit you again. I hope we can part as dear sweet friends.

Love always,
Me

Corporate America Almost Killed Us

Yep it’s true, corporate America almost killed us both but we escaped. When we moved for Kurt’s promotion nearly five years ago we thought that life was swell. (Swell is a term my oldest uses prolifically and sarcastically and I find annoying). More money, new house and new life in North Carolina. In the beginning everything seemed to be going well but as time went on I began to have an eerie feeling. Then one day, nearly two years later, I get a call and the world stopped for a moment. He had been laid off. Oddly enough, that week he had an appointment for an annual check up. His blood pressure was at stroke level. Some seriously concerned nurses started reacting very quickly. Then an another appointment to check his kidneys. They couldn’t figure out why, at his age, his pressure was through the roof so they put him on meds.

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We had to make some serious decisions. Stay or move. What kind of work. He was burnt out on IT and really wanted to do anything else. So we moved back to Colorado and he started driving a truck.

Driving a truck was enjoyable for him but it was hard on family life. So he changed it up again and started back in IT. In customer service. Answering phones. If you’ve ever met my intelligent well mannered husband you’d know he absolutely loathes phone work.

Meanwhile I decided to pitch in some. Little extra money and a discount on Christmas presents never hurts. Actually, it did. I’ve worked long hours before and I’ve done some very physical labor. This was different. During the Christmas season I started working freight for a company that starts with a K and ends with ohls. It first was one or two nights, then three or four. Finally for a few weeks I was working five overnights a week. That’s when I went from not just sleeping through the day to waking up with pain in my arms. As a massage therapist I knew I had to get blood flowing and muscles relaxed to release the pinched nerves in my neck and shoulders. I’d begin wiggling my hands then arms. Doing some self massage on my neck, shoulders, and arms. This would be hilarious because if it was still too early to wake up I’d have my eyes closed trying to remain in that half awake mode.

Then it got worse. My sweet husband noticed my hand was blue. Some stretching and moving around would eventually cause it to return to normal. I’d noticed that when I worked three nights in a row this would happen. But sometimes three nights in a row would be the only work I’d get for the week. So I continued on with a little complaining on the side.

Hating his job but willing to do it because it’s a job and pays money. It’s not that good of a job. It’s not that good of pay. Then we got an out. A possibility of a new life in a new country. A possibility of Pura Vida.

More relaxed way of life is a small yet significant reason we decided to move to Costa Rica. He wants to be more laid back and I’m totally there already. Stress has a way of making decisions for you. When life becomes too stressful, action needs to be taken.  If we continue on this path our bodies would give us even larger indicators of the need for change and we both didn’t want any more health issues.

So we’re moving to Costa Rica in search of Pura Vida. And we’ll continue to dream about Italy and plan our future adventure together. I’m hoping that we’re successful in our endeavors of teaching English and that we can relax more, eat healthier, and enjoy each other for a long time. After all, we are barely in our forties and we have so much life to live, adventures to have, and experiences yet to be.

Walking in Flip Flops

 

If you move to Costa Rica be sure to bring your flip flops. Maybe two or three pairs. Everyone at the beach town Sámara seems to be tanned, toned, and flip flop wearers. This will prove to the average newSunburncomer as a daunting fact. As a pale, jiggly, flip flop wearing Coloradoan I had some work to do. As they say in Costa Rica just wait it’ll happen. Pounds will melt off either by the heat or by exercise or a combination of both. We been here about two weeks and its starting to work. Walking everywhere, eating less and more healthily change happens. Plus a few days on the beach and you won’t be pale anymore either. Please wear sunscreen because the sun is intense this close to the equator. And even if you’re  a teenager listen to your mother and wear sunscreen. Now back to flip flops. These are an absolute must at the beach. You should get the non fabric kind Samara Rainbowbecause they will get wet and then they stretch out and you’ll have a whole new problem. Walking in flip flops can be messy business. It rains here between May and November. It rains a lot. You will be soaked from a short walk home. You’ll be glad you have flip flops because they a easy to remove when you’re soaked and muddy up to your hips. I had some older super heinous looking flip flops to wear for the month I was here at the beach. They didn’t make the month. I did all I could to make them last through muddy trips to and fro until about three days ago they went kaput. No amount of MacGyvering would keep those footwear functional. I ended up giving them a proper burial. It wasn’t sad at all. So here’s my advice bring two or three pairs of flip flops. They will get messed up in the rainy season in Costa Rica so be prepared. And wear sunscreen.  

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Took the Leap and Haven’t Fallen

We took a leap of faith and moved to Costa Rica. We are still chasing Italy and we’ve made the first step in our journey. We got out of dodge, took a leap and landed in Costa Rica, a new life. We’ve been here a whole 24 hours. Tomorrow TEFL school starts for both of us. I’m a bit nervous but who wouldn’t be if they were in my sandals. The apartment we rented for the month is not luxurious by normal American standards but it’s  safe, clean, and has everything we need including Wi-Fi. We’re about a kilometer from the beach. At the beach the water is warm but it’s glorious. I’m told there’s a reef that blocks the larger animals (read sharks) from coming in to visit. This makes me happy. Might even learn to surf while I’m here.
After going to a few restaurants that were owned by English speakers we decided to head to the supermercado. It wasn’t a bad experience. Pali is a chain and they had a little bit of everything. We got a few necessities and went our merry little way. Actually we got about as much as we could carry comfortably back to the house. I did forget salt. We’ll be making a return trip today for that and probably some cold beer.
The heat is incredible. 34 degrees Celsius with a even higher heat index. For those who don’t think in Celsius, it was 98 degrees with 109 degree heat index. And it needs to rain. Currently there’s a dry spell and very little break in the heat. You hear thunder and see lightning but no rain. I hope it does rain some because a drought is no bueno.

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So today we’ll get on our swimsuits and get wet. Then we’ll have dinner and shower to cool off. Luckily we have fans to keep us from melting.
What’s holding you back? What’s your leap of faith?

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Why Costa Rica (or Isn’t it Chasing Italy)

In search of pura vida. Costa Rica is pura vida.

Europe and Italy are expensive. We knew this when we first purposed this dream of Italy. Dreaming is awesome you fantasize about a magical life with museum visits, restaurants, and glorious hotels. Then reality sets in and maybe just maybe Italy is a little too big bite of adventure. Especially for a family of four on a budget. There were too many ifs and maybes.

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With our budget in mind we re-accessed our choices for starting our adventure. Costa Rica came to mind. Why Costa Rica? I believe Costa Rica is kinda magical. A land where they take conservation seriously. Where family is important and value is placed on the experience not the amount of toys you die with.

The American dream has failed us. We were told to get good grades, go to college, and get a good job. Buy a house, a couple cars, and have a couple (or more) kids. All will be alright. Just keep getting more, newer, faster toys, hobbies, stuff. Fill your life with things. It’s normal to get a new car every couple years, a new computer every two years, a new cell phone every year. Just slather yourself with technology and you won’t notice life just passing you by. Sunsets, sunrises, chatting face to face. These are things you miss when you’re working away to pay for this so called life.

Or you can take a chance. Just go for it and get out there. It’s a big world, don’t you want to experience  it.

Costa Rica has beaches, mountains, volcanoes, amazing flora and fauna. It has eco tours, surfing, zip lining, hot air ballooning, hiking, fishing, bird watching, animal rescue, butterfly studying. The cuisine is simple yet exquisitely real and satisfying. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And let’s not get into the coffee. It’s Costa Rica, coffee is awesome. Costa Rica is phenomenal in its culture, cuisine, and environment. Almost anyone you ask would go to Costa Rica if they had the chance. Go ahead ask them. Pura Vida.

And don’t worry we are still chasing Italy.

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Big Week (or Calgon Take Me Away)

It’s been a big week. Last week we were accepted into the TEFL school. So this week we got to pay for school, find a place to stay, buy plane tickets, yada, yada,yada. Calgon take me away. Just for a moment. I need to wrap my head around all this.

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Phew…. that was good part of this week. Everything took a few emails or phone calls but we got it done and got some good deals in the process. Great priced plane tickets, a cheap and reasonable place to live while at school, and even a fair priced ride from airport to Samara.

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Then things got weird. It’s been raining and cold all week. Rain I can handle but I’m over the cool temperatures. It’s even  supposed to snow on Sunday, Mother’s Day. Yuck. After working three overnights this weekend I was exhausted and sore. The frosting on top of my icky week cake was getting prepared for a yard sale (in which it’ll be raining), car issues, and refiling taxes for the state.

Our newly paid off car needs repairs and its too much to do just to sell the car. So we’ll be selling it as is and losing any money we put into it.

I’m having a yard sale because I’ve been waiting for a month to have this yard sale. Usually I work Saturday mornings and therefore had to take off but it’s going to rain. I’m doing it anyway under my covered porch and parking spot. Improvise is my middle name.

Finally we had to redo our state taxes. Instead of receiving any kind of return we are having to pay. It’s just a little bit but the whole process is annoying.

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Overall awesome week but I’m having a beer and a shot of tequila for the not so savory parts of my week. We’re very excited about moving to Costa Rica but we’re suffering from ‘senioritis’ wanting this to be over and the next part to begin. Calgon take me away.

Shoot for the Moon (Chasing Italy Does)

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Sometimes you need to shoot for the moon.

So about six weeks ago my husband started freaking out. (Visualize the Thinker). Which, in turn, caused me to freak out. (Visualize cartoon Tasmanian devil). My anxiety aside, Kurt freaks out so quietly that I find it completely unnerving. He ponders and frets and keeps to himself. Being a natural introvert this is how he deals. But to me, not introverted at all, I begin to wig and wig hard. I become an annoying little bird, jumpy and trying to figure out what’s wrong, what can I do to fix it, or what did I do. I’m not a quiet patient wife. I fret and I try not to nag.

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After about three days and a bunch of forwarded emails with links to getting visas and jobs in Italy he finally broke his silence. He was concerned about Italy. Concerned that we’d be setting ourselves up for failure by leaping head first into our adventure. A multitude of blogs and websites say that though not impossible, it’s difficult to start ESL teaching in Italy. That experience is what we need and we can’t afford to adventure into the unknown willy nilly like. Our little bit of money would go much further, while we get experience, in a different country.

Knowing that we were not going to give up this dream of traveling and of Italy, we began to discuss options. What countries? What continents? What would be acceptable and reasonable and what wouldn’t be acceptable? Kurt threw out the idea of South America. Possible. He’d been there ten years ago on the Amazon river on a missions trip. I threw out Asia and Kurt cited a few reasons why he’d rather not. Not possible. Among them the cuisine and the Asian work versus play lifestyle. We wanted to not have to work a ‘regular’ job in a foreign country but to work some , explore some, travel some, and blog about everything in between. Plus we have teenagers and we want them to experience as much culture as they can between their studies and our work. Family time is quite important. So Asia is more or less off the table. Europe is on hold. For some reason we’ve never discussed Africa. So we started looking at central and south America.

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Out of the blue I suggested Costa Rica. Not sure why. I didn’t know much about it outside of ecotourism. I even had to check a map to see where exactly it was located. I felt rather blonde as I discovered that it was actually just north of the country I was born in. But then again I was born in Panama but left at six months of age. I’ve always wanted to see the place of my birth maybe now I’ll get a chance.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Norman Vincent Peale

So Chasing Italy will shoot for the moon. It might take a while but it’ll be an adventure.

Where is your ‘shoot for the moon’ place? Italy? Europe? Asia? Australia? Tell us in the comments below.

Waiting is the Hardest

We’ve been waiting for things to happen, but things take time. It’s like when you find out you’re pregnant, but you have to wait nine months to meet your baby. Sure things proceed and change but you have to wait until the time is right. We started planning with a six month window of time. As we wait, we research, we talk, and we dream. What do we dream about? Oh so many things.

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Five Cities I want to see the first year besides Vicenza: Venice, Verona, Florence, Parma, and Bologna. I actually want to see every nook and cranny of Italy but you have to start somewhere. Venice for the canals. Verona because of Shakespeare. Florence for the museums. Parma and Bologna for the food. I’m sure the food in every region is amazing and I’m willing to try all of it.

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Five things I want to do my first year in Italy. These aren’t in any particular order: ride in a gondola, ski on the Dolomites, soak up the sun on an Italian beach, ride on a train, and learn basic conversational Italian.

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Five things I want to try my first year. Cappuccino and espresso like a native, wine from as many regions as possible, risotto, gnocchi, and polenta. My husband and children will be all over the pizza, pasta, and gelato choices. And as much as I love wheat it doesn’t love me back. Therefore, I will concentrate my gastronomic experience to the wheat free/gluten free arena. I’m excited because I’ve read Italy is GF friendly and northern Italy has fabulous risotto, polenta, and gnocchi dishes.

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Although we have no idea where we’ll land in Italy past school, we have open minds and willingness. Dreams of Italy prevail both in our days and our nights. It’s kind of like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but slightly more realistic.

I’m open to suggestions for our first year in Italy. Remember I’ve got two teenage boys both with a reasonable but not overwhelming interest in art and architecture. They love to eat though.