Category Archives: Wanderlust

Mexican in Prague? Sí, Señor.

Is there great Mexican food in Prague? Sí, señor. I promise. One of the things the family misses most, besides family, about Colorado is Chipotle. Currently there aren’t any Chipotles in the Czech Republic but there are some in Europe. Germany, England and France reportedly have some. We may never leave if Chipotle comes to Prague. Until then there is a fabulous restaurant in Prague called Las Adelitas. Actually, there are three Las Adelitas in Prague. Oh. So. Yum.
We’ve tried a few other “Mexican” places but this place nails it. The others not so much. One the reasons, I think, is because Czechs are not acclimated to real well seasoned Mexican food. Layers of subtle yet strong flavors that differ in spiciness. The biggest mistake is not flavoring the meat. Ever have a chicken burrito with plain chicken. No bueno.
Back to Las Adelitas. This place was recommended by two of my Czech colleagues. I know I said that Czechs don’t know their Mexican but these two gentlemen do. Or at least convinced me that they knew what they were talking about when making the recommendation. So one sunny afternoon my hubby and I decided to take a chance. We had been jonesing for good Mexican food. And they delivered.
We started with beer, of course. It was Czech beer but it’s cheaper than imported Mexican beer. Hubby ordered a burrito tinga and I ordered tacos al pastor. So yum. Absolutely. I’m speaking about my meal but hubby insists that his was amazing as well.
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Layers of texture and flavor. Spice, sweet, crunchy, fresh. Oh. So. Yum.

Awesome sidenote. They have three locations with three different daily specials. (Their daily specials are a great deal.)

One location:
Americká 684/8, 120 00 Praha 2

Second location:
Lucemburská 6, 130 00 Praha 3

Third location:
Malé nám. 457/13, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město

We’ve been to Lucemburská and Male Náměsti but looking forward to trying out the Americká location. Also have a ladies night and tequila night at Malé Náměsti. Looking forward to that as well.
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This is one of the daily specials. So good and so affordable.

Go and try it. Order tacos al pastor.
Las Adelitas Prague

chocolate

Chocolate Coffee Heaven

So you might think that I would’ve found Chocolate Coffee heaven in Costa Rica. After all, that is where the grow some of the best coffee and chocolate. And they do have some awesome coffee and organic chocolate (if you can find it, since most of it seems to be exported.) Alas, I had to wait until I was in central Europe not central America to find chocolate coffee heaven. It is located in a wonderful little place called Choco Cafe U Cervene Zidle (Choco Cafe at the Red Chair, Liliova 4/250, Prague, Czech Republic).
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When I first arrived in Prague a friend of mine from the states informed me she had a friend in Prague that she wanted to introduce me to. This friend is who I refer to in other posts as my favorite transplanted Texan (FTT). She has been in the Czech Republic on and off for about 12 years. After introducing ourselves on line we met in person a few weeks later. (Hubby and I were trying to find a flat, get adjusted to lower fall (not Costa Rica) temperatures, interview for jobs, etc) FTT and I planned on meeting at this pleasant little cafe. It was an adventure for me because I was still getting used to transit in Prague and I hadn’t done a lot of it on my own. I was being a wimp and going with hubby everywhere. This time I met with FTT near a tram stop and took a short walk to the cafe.

She had told me about Choco Cafe briefly and I was fairly excited to: 1. Have some chocolate (I was in dire need of chocolate at the time) 2. Have some coffee or cappuccino or even a straight I.V. of caffeine. 3. Have some girl time. I had been spending a lot of time with my boys and need less testosterone. As we walked a few blocks we talked a little but mostly I was getting to know my surroundings. She explained a few things and one thing I found most interesting was Bethlehem chapel. Jan Hus’ old stomping grounds.

Down the street and around the corner lies a sweet little cafe attached to the U Cervene Zidle Hotel (Red Chair Hotel). We had not made a reservation but lucked out because it was the middle of the afternoon. It still had plenty of patrons. Mothers with small children, couples, students, and ladies like us looking for some chocolate indulgence. Now you could get a regular cappuccino and quiche or you can go crazy.
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I went crazy I ordered the Choco Cafe (chocolate coffee) and the Cokoladovy (chocolate cake). My friend FTT ordered the Choco Cafe and 2 makronky (macaroons). The macaroons are delicious looking. But I needed chocolate fix. And I so got one.

Although I loved this place I didn’t think my husband would be into it. One day, a couple weeks later, I wanted to show him both the cafe and the chapel. So I brought him here because I knew he’d like the choco cafe. He ordered a panini and I got the quiche. Absolutely to die for. You should go here any day of the week, reservations are needed for the busy times. All the popular places take reservations. And whether you need a chocolate caffeine fix or you just want to hang in a pleasant atmosphere with a friend or hubby and enjoy the moment, this is the place.

By the way, they sell chocolate too. Lovely bars of chocolate. Dark, lavender, milk. Fancy. Less fancy.
Choco Cafe

Strange but True (or Crazy Similarities: CR and CZ )

This is a strange but true segment of Chasing Italy. Outside of the obvioius fact that our first two stops are in Costa Rica (CR) and the Czech Republic (CZ because CR was already taken), there are some crazy similarities between the two countries we’ve decided to explore.  Climate is vastly different both in temperature and in the social arena. Costa Rica is laid back, we’ll get there when we get there attitude. Pura Vida. The Czech Republic,  at least in Prague, is as efficient as it can be and a rising star in the world of business. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the separation of Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992 business from Europe and North America are coming into Prague. Costa Rica is full of expats and retirees. When you walk in Costa Rica,  you stroll. When you walk in Czech Republic, you stride. Quickly. Making sure to catch the next metro or tram. It’s go, go, go.

Here’s a short list of similarities:

1. No dryers. Okay there are dryers but the majority of households don’t have them. Why? Cost. Energy is expensive. In Costa Rica everyone uses a laundry line on their porch or close by their house. It’s 32 degrees and above year round in most areas of Costa Rica. Why spend money when nature is willing to do the work for free.
In Czech Republic you use drying racks or lines inside or outside, depending on the weather. Some people have lines on their balconies. Some even use a rack that attaches outside their window several stories up. I’m not comfortable having my unmentionables hanging out a window but people do it. Czechs are very efficient and don’t think dryers are a necessity. You get used to it. And you plan accordingly because laundry for four takes time.

2. Mildew. Mildew is bad in CR during the wet or rainy season. It’s no fun to hang out your clothes in the morning and at the end of the day they’re still damp. Damp and warm are mildew best friends. You have to be careful with damp clothes. Don’t leave them on the floor overnight they’ll get nasty fast. Hang it up. Air it out.
I never knew mildew would be an issue in CZ. Some of the older building (and Prague has tons of older buildings) have lousy insulation and air circulation.  I’m specifically talking about the blocks of flats. Huge monstrosities built in mid twentieth century to house the masses. It’s a constant fight in the bathrooms and around the windows. Moisture, moisture, moisture. And since it’s been a warm wet winter and we have an exterior wall we must keep dry and free of mildew. Chlorinated spray is my best friend nowadays. It sucks but it works and it works fast.

3. Dogs. CR has dogs. Lots of them. Generally they are strays and not fixed and randomly reproduce like dogs do. The best dogs we found were in Samara. Very laid back happy dogs for the most part. They roamed relatively freely and yet knew to not enter homes, restaurants,  and most stores. Our neighbors dog liked to follow us and even did some body surfing with us at the beach. (There are free roaming horses as well but that’s a different post). Other dogs in other places in CR were not as well behaved. We often heard stories about people getting attacked and some people taking revenge on the dogs. It’s sad. A lot of expats try and help by adopting dogs and caring for strays with medical care and spaying or neutering. That is awesome of them. Though most Ticos think Americans are crazy for it.
In CZ, there are dogs a plenty. Big ones, little ones. Ones with just collars but well groomed and ones with sweaters which are adorable. I haven’t seen strays though. I’m sure there are some out there. Most dogs are cherished and very obedient.  People walk their dogs off leash a lot of the time. Dogs though not overly friendly but  are very well behaved. Not straying too far from their people and returning when called. People are seen playing fetch and walking them daily. It makes me happy to see happy dogs and the people who love them.

4. Beer. Yes, beer. Beer in CR is cheap and plentiful. Two national beers and under 80 cents a bottle when you turn in your bottles. Yep, you pay extra for bottles but when you bring them in you pay less. They use them over and over. So remember to bring in your bottles and you’ll get a better price.
The micro brewery phenomenon is just getting started in CR. Expats are starting up microbrewery companies and it’s becoming more lucrative to be in the microbrewery business. Since CR is in tourism business it’s good to give them what they want and what they’ll pay for. They have a saying there though “CR where they make easy hard”. Hopefully human ingenuity wins over human greed.
The Czech Republic is largest consumer of beer in the world. Beer is cheaper than soda or water in most restaurants. You still need to turn in your old bottles to get the best price but beer is sold in half liters and for about 65 cents a bottle. Not bad when you like beer. (They have wine too. Don’t dispair.) Most beer consumed is about 4%. People drink a beer with lunch. A beer at lunch is not unheard of and totally normal. People don’t drink to get drunk they just have a beer and go on. It’s just a cultural norm.

5. Discoteques. Both countries have discoteques. For dancing.  If you want to go dancing then you must go to a discoteque not a nightclub like in the U.S. Nightclubs are for drinking and meeting/picking up people. So if you need to get your groove on go to a discoteque in Costa Rica or the Czech Republic.

6. Orchids. Costa Rica is a tropical paradise full of exotic birds, lizards, flowers, etc. I’m told that you can go into the jungle and find orchids. Then sell them for profit. I’m not certain about this but it sounds reasonable.
Praguers love their orchids. They do very well here even with lower temperatures and less light, this far north and in the winter. Must be the moisture. My landlady left one and it’s growing like crazy. About to bloom any day now. Maybe on New Years.
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7. Wrap arounds or Sarongs/Scarves. If you live near the beach in Costa Rica and you’re a woman, you will collect sarongs and you will have coordinating bathing suits, flip flops and sarongs.  A rainbow of colors and designs await you. They make awesome cover ups,  tablecloths, towels, or picnic blankets. If I’d stayed any longer I would have bought more but alas I left for greener pastures.
Those greener pastures are in the center of Europe. Scarves are a necessity is central Europe in the autumn and winter. I have seen the same ability to coordinate scarves, leggings. Prague women love a good scarf. And scarves are awesome. They keep you cosy from wind that comes barreling down metro tunnels or off the river while waiting for your tram . Women collect them to go with outfits and seasons and just cause they’re pretty.
It’s not much of a stretch but women in both countries love their colorful wrap around bits of cloth.
I plan on starting my collection soon. I’ve heard of a shop that’ll give you a great deal of you buy more than one.

8. Music From The 80s And 90s. Costa Rica loves late twentieth century American/British rock and roll. They also love late twentieth century action flicks. And I mean LOVE. On the radio everywhere. Things I haven’t heard for 20 years. It was like reliving my youth but where the roads were questionable and the weather unbearably hot. A bit like August in Nelson county Virginia circa 1990. They also love reggae but that’s a different story.
We’d thought we’d escaped the trip down musical memory lane when we came to Europe. In fact, we’d stepped into a different kind of time warp. Not only do we get to listen late twentieth century rock and roll but additionally get to listen newer uncensored lyrical musings from newer artists. I was flabbergasted when shopping at the market and heard Eminem spouting awesome yet graphic rhymes overhead. Dropping the F bombs left and right. Yet I get to relive my youth with the non sensical musical arrangements of Czech radio. Everything from Four Non Blondes and Michael Jackson to Eminem and Taylor Swift.

9. Chau and Čao. Greetings. One of the first things you learn to say is hello in the local language. When we went to CR we learned and practiced saying Buenos (short for Buenos Dias) or Buena (Buena noches). This is the common greeting in the land of Pura Vida. Once you get to know someone you can use the more familiar and say chau. It’s like the Italian version ciao. There are a lot of Italians on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and this is where chau is used. Coincidence, I think not.
In CZ, specifically Prague (so far that’s all we know of CZ), people greet each all the time. In the hall, the elevator, and in restaurants, bars, and stores. The proper greeting is dobry den. It means good day literally. The same as in Spanish and many other languages. Once you become more familiar or friendly with your new Czech friend you can greet one of two ways. Ahoj or čao. Both are familiar and utilized equally. It’s preference of the speaker. Čao (like its Italian counterpart) be used as in greetings or farewells. Often it’s used as čao čao when saying bye. The first time someone used this with me I felt like I’d been accepted into the in crowd but that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. There are a lot of Italian influences in Prague from food to coffee. Is the use of čao a coincidence? Hmmm. You decide.

10. Beautiful women. Okay every country has beautiful women. The women of CR and CZ aren’t afraid to own it. Ticas (Costa Rican women) like to wear revealing outfits. After all, it is the beach and swimsuits are revealing but when the go out to discoteques or dinner, also like to wear figure flattering clothes. Sometimes too figure flattering. Low cut tops, short shorts, skin tight jeans, and high heels. Men love this and I appreciate their ability to dress so freely but a little modesty wouldn’t hurt either.
We moved to Prague just as the weather changed to cooler temperatures. This has not stopped the women of Prague from wearing the shortest skirts I have ever seen. In fact, at times I think they seem to be wearing long shirts and not skirts. My least favorite female fashion statement is the winter coat that is longer than the super short skirt. To me it looks like they’re wearing boots, hosiery, and just a coat. (My least favorite male fashion statement is skinny jeans but that’s another post.)
I hear that when warmer temperatures of the spring and summer come, the more cleavage will be shown. I’m sure men can’t wait but personally I can. Not to be a prude but a little modesty goes a long way. Wait, I think I already said that.

11. Shoes off at the door. It’s a necessity in Costa Rica to take off your flip flops before entering your home. Otherwise you will track in sand. Then you will have to deal with the woman of the house. I have threatened dismemberment over tracked in sand so I completely understand.
It’s the cultural norm to remove your shoes when entering a household in the Czech Republic. In fact it is highly frowned upon to leave your shoes. Czechs think it quite rude. I believe that Czechs take pride in their homes whether it’s a flat in a block of flats or something more eclectic. Often you might be offered slippers for walking about the house. Take them or not but please remove your shoes.

So there you have it. The similarities between Costa Rica  and the Czech Republic.  Strange but true.

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How Not to Lose Your Fracking Mind (My Family is the A-Team)

In my mind my family are like the characters of the A-Team. Well, sort of. And moving from the States to Costa Rica to Czech Republic with teenagers is not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind. It seems best to approach life with a bit of humor or you will lose your fracking mind. Or at least your patience. Moving in general is a nerve wracking experience. Try getting rid of almost everything, twice.

Give me a minute, I’m good. Give me an hour, I’m great. Give me six months, I’m unstoppable. COL. Hannibal Smith, A-Team. I like the colonel.  In our family my hubby is the colonel. He’s the one with a plan. I’d follow the colonel anywhere. I’ve proven that and will continue to follow him. I trust his abilities.

How Not to Lose Your Fracking Mind While Moving Around the World with Teenagers

1. Save the Legos and other childhood memories. When I was frantically packing and purging I felt like I would lose my mind. There were things I wanted to keep. Boys toys, books, and memories. I was pressed to make decisions fast. Although I had a few months to clear out the clutter nothing really happened until we were down to the wire on time. I had to step it up. I got rid of kitchen things I thought I’d keep. I got rid of clothes we or the boys  might need later. There were a lot of things I might need later. I wouldn’t need them in Costa Rica but everything could fail and I’d need them in the States. I wasn’t trusting in the calling. I was making back up plans. Then, when pressed I decided to keep what was not replaceable. Books, art, memories, kid stuff, and a few heirlooms. I purged like crazy. Got rid of linens, kitchen ware, etc. Etc. Etc. I let it go but I saved the Legos and other childhood memorabilia. One day my children will thank me.

2. Legos Rules but so do handmade gifts and books Those things I couldn’t part with. Quilts my mom made. Art and books that I’d collected. Legos that my son collected. School projects from my kids. I got rid of a lot of fluff but when it came down to it I imagined my grandchildren. I thought about things that I’d want to pass down to them. This made the decision easier. Hopefully I’ll have grandchildren some day and I’ll have things connected to memories to share with them.

I see my oldest son in the role of B.A. Baraccass. B.A. has a good heart but a bad attitude. He follows orders and has a gruff way of expressing himself. My son is a 16 year old grumpy yet lovable walking hormone machine. About 80% of the time his attitude isn’t good. Moody yet vulnerable. Total teenager. One day he’ll come back to me. Normalize I hope.

3. It’s all crap. Okay mostly crap. Seriously you don’t need all those things that are stuffed into corners and forgotten.  Rule of thumb if it’s broken, toss it (or recycle). If it doesn’t fit, give it away. If you don’t use it, give it away. Clutter will wear you out. Clearing out the clutter is more than cleaning it’s liberating. It’s life affirming.  It’s powerful. It’s totally awesome.

My younger son is Mad Dog Murdoch. No he doesn’t suffer from an mental issues like Murdoch but he is kind of crazy but crazy talented. He’s willing to put himself on YouTube and create awesome videos. He’s so creative and yet not quite like the rest of society. He’s handsome, crazy talented, and a little different.

4. Seriously, if you don’t like it or wear it, toss it. You need clothes. Clothes that look good on you and that you feel good about. Everything else can go to someone else. You need cleaning products but you don’t need gallons and gallons. If you don’t use it regularly, don’t buy it. If you clean like a mad woman and go through lots then buy lots. Otherwise buy what you need at the best price and use it. Think twice about purchases. Will you use it? How often? Is it worth it?

Face. The last character in the A-Team. I’m not gorgeous but I do like to talk. I’d say I am the most outgoing talker in our group. The extrovert. Getting myself into trouble by not thinking every through. Face is who you send in to do the talking. Most days that me, able to talk to anyone, anywhere. I don’t lie very well.

In all honesty, my hubby and I switch roles on occasion. Sometimes I’m the leader of the group but sometimes I sport a bad attitude or crazy ideas. So, in a way, we are each the leader, the face, the bad attitude, and the crazy one.

5. Take what you need. Need what you take. Get rid of the superfluous. In the end when you’ve reduced, given away, and gotten rid of things you discover it’s really not about the stuff. People and memories you make with those people are what matters. See and do things with your family and friends. Take pictures and write a blog. Share laughs and love. Make memories.  When you leave this world the memories are what they are left with. Make them good.

What do you think? Could get rid of 90 percent of everything, move across the world, and have an adventure of a lifetime?

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The road less traveled. Will you?

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Life, the Universe, And Everything (or How to Lose 300 lbs)

In the past six months a lot of things have changed. Life, the universe, and everything. At least, in our corner of the universe. In fact this is more about the second move and change I had in six months. I did, in fact, lose 300 pounds in a month. Sometimes I look back at the stuff I left behind and I’m relieved. Sometimes I not.

We originally planned on moving to Italy. Then we decided to move to Costa Rica. We got certified, tried to get jobs, and decided to move to Prague. We moved to Prague, got jobs, moved into a flat, and now are beginning our new adventure in Europe.

That being said its been a curious six months. Last April I was in the midst of planning on getting rid of almost everything while working overnights at a department store. And we had begun to prepare mentally to move to Costa Rica for a long while. That meant a plethora of shorts and flip flops. I began to go through everything. Giving away tons of things and selling a few things, and basically reducing our stuff by 90%. That’s a lot of stuff. So much stuff. So little time.

It happened slowly. Week after week.

Hubby didn’t think I could get ‘er done but I did. The fun part started when thepacking began. We had eight checked bags that needed to weigh under 50 lbs each. Sounds easy right? It wasn’t. But it was. All I had to do was make very hard decisions very fast. No problem.

Actually I’m fairly certain I might have started to lose my mind somewhere in the middle of it all. There were things I needed to take, had to take, and wanted to take. And there are things that got packed away in storage that I couldn’t part with like heirlooms, Legos, and books, etc. The pressure to get it right was immense.

I wanted to be prepared. So I bought tubes and tubes of sunscreen, bottles and bottles of bug repellent, quick dry towels, and rain jackets. I packed shorts and bought flip flops.  I brought kitchen stuff and bedding. A few things to make our new home in a new country feel like home. Not to mention home school supplies and books. I didn’t want to be in need of anything for a while. I even bought extra toothpaste and tooth brushes. I had it all planned out.

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Then we decided to move to Europe. And our airline had planned to make my last month in Costa Rica the most interesting and stressful. I needed to lose 300 lbs in three weeks.

Yes, 300 pounds. I needed to lose 300 pounds of stuff. This meant all the extras. Pillows, blankets, and sheets. Books, school supplies, bug spray, and sunscreen. Kitchen supplies and random things that would bring our eight bags to four bags. And 400 pounds down to 196. I got rid of a lot. Some of which was easy and some things I still miss ( a little). I know I’ll be provided for and that things are just things. Things can be replaced. So I decided to grab life by the horns and get rid of almost everything I didn’t feel sad I felt encouraged.

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The biggest issue with moving to Prague in the fall was our clothing. Or lack thereof. The weather had changed and we went from shorts and flip flops in 32° to pants and jackets in 12°. It was a bit of a shock to the system. We bought coats and dressed in layers and mossied on. Our bodies adjusted to both the time difference and the weather and we got down business.
In the first week we secured jobs and began our house hunt.

Finding an apartment was not a simple venture. We’d started in Costa Rica but we’re advised to wait until we arrived and actually saw the apartment before handing over any money. Plus we didn’t really want to pay for an agent. This would cost us extra money we didn’t want to spend.

In the end, after many inquiries and quite a bit looking we found a place. It’s not quite where we’d like to (a.k.a. closer to work). It’s quite an adorable place. It’s mostly furnished and close to transit.

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So we’re are enjoying our new flat and our new life in Prague.

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You Will Be Assimilated (or Acclimating to Life in Prague)

“You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Borg, Star Trek universe.
I know my geek is showing. My point is that when moving to a new country it’s important to breath in that culture and not stick out lIke a sore thumb and not act too American. The key is acclimating to life in Prague. Granted,

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if we were purely missionaries going to a land of cannibalistic hedonists we would not try to blend. But as English teachers in Prague looking less like tourists and more like Czechs has its advantages. First though you have to research and observe the differences in dress and mannerisms and begin to acclimate to your new home.
Here’s a list of things I’ve learned and observed in my first few weeks in Prague.

1. Take off your shoes. When entering someone’s home take off your shoes. It’s polite and a good custom as far as I’m concerned. Taking off your shoes keeps the floors cleaner. Most Czechs take pride and great care of their homes. They also don’t need the extra work of cleaning up after dirty feet. When slippers are provided please wear them. That’s why they are there.

2. Boots. It’s autumn and chilly. It’s time to start bundling up and wear your boots. Lovely boots with pants or with skirts. Most are reasonably heeled because of the cobbled streets. Good and sturdy but nice boots. A true necessity in Prague therefore I’ll need to get a pair.

3. Scarves. Scarves are huge here. Literally. Czech love huge scarves. I can see why with damp chilly mornings and evenings. While waiting for the metro or the bus a scarf makes a huge difference in keeping warm. I am looking forward to knitting a great big scarf or three. Until then I’ll make do with make smaller lighter versions that I brought with me.

4. Layers. As in Colorado layering your clothing is necessary. Mornings are chilly but it warms up quite nicely in the afternoon. Being able to bundle up and to remove layers when necessary is just the way to deal with the changing temps.

5. Coaster. When heading to a bar, pub, or restaurant and needing a beer place a coaster in front of you. Sometimes a beer will appear but most often it tells the waiter that you are ordering beer and they ask pilsner or dark or some such defining question. This is Czech custom and utilizing it makes you less touristy.

6. Tipping. To tip like a native you don’t really tip. You round up. If the bill is 713 Kc leave 800. Wait staff make a regular income and don’t  rely on tips like in the States. Hand them your money, say 1000, and ask for the amount you want back, say 200.

7. Read. On the train. On the bus. While waiting. Czechs love to read. This will be difficult for me because I get a bit nauseous if I try to read while moving. I’m sure I can manage to read while waiting though.

8. Quiet. Buses and metros are mostly quiet. Kids and babies make a normal amount of noise. But people in general are reading, listening to music with earbuds, texting, or talking quietly. It’s rather subdued and polite even when crowded at rush hour.

9. Quick. The speed of Prague is taking some getting used to. After 100 days if Pura Vida and the laid back pace of Costa Rica, Prague is quick. Always walking quickly to the bus or the metro or to work or to lunch. As far as I can tell Czechs are timely. A big change from our first 100 days abroad.

10. Survival Czech. Getting the lingo down for Costa Rica was easy. I’d been exposed to Spanish for years. Czech is different. So far I’ve got dobry den (hello) down. I think it’s highly important to learn key phrases when in country. Greetings and basic courtesies to start and learning the streets and metro stops. Being able to order food and drink and go grocery shopping in Czech are basic necessities.

If you try to look less like a  tourist and blend just a little you’ll go far to becoming part of your new world.

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The Chase Is On

The chase is on…chasing Italy is moving from central America to central Europe. We’ve decided to move up our plans to Europe. Originally we thought that we’d spend a year or two in Costa Rica. Learning Spanish, teaching English, exploring near and far. We’d had plans for Nicaragua and eventually Panama. You know what happens when you make plans. They are subject to variables sometimes out of your control. We are trusting that although we had a plan, this is what we are supposed to be doing. Moving to Prague.

Moving to Prague. Why Prague and not Italy? Well it’s all about the jobs and the cost of living. Currently we both need to work and we have plans to write more for the blog and otherwise. We just need a place to halfway settle in. Moving every month isn’t good for the kids or us. A little stability goes a long way. Prague looks like it will be the place. More jobs and affordable housing. What more could you ask for… how about history, architecture, and culture. Prague has it.

So our hope that we’ll both find jobs in Prague. That these jobs don’t take up all our time and we’ll get see Prague and other places with kids. We’ll take lots of pictures and write about our adventures. And hopefully we’ll get  to Italy sooner vs later.

Prague is an awesome place to start our European adventure. Historically and architecturally intact through World War II. It’s centrally located to lots of other countries we want to visit. Germany and Italy are just a train ride away. Not to mention the rest of Europe. Our kids really want to visit the UK and my understanding is that flights to and from can be highly affordable. So that could happen.

The chase is definitely on. We are indeed chasing Italy and meanwhile we are enjoying the adventure.

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Chasing Italy Asks Costa Rica Chica

Before we moved to Costa Rica we did a lot of online research.  A large part of that research was reading blogs and stories of those brave souls who went before us on this adventure. Two of  my favorite authors are Jen and Greg Seymour.  Jen is known as the Costa Rica Chica and Greg is Costa Rica Curious. We spent some time in the central valley, outside of the capital, San Jose, during the month of August and got to meet them both. They are an awesome couple living a great adventure in Costa Rica. After we met and had lunch I asked if I could interview her for Chasing Italy.

I’ve only been in country two months and it all still feels new. I’m still in that phase where I wish I had this or that from my former life. What’s one convenience you miss since you moved to Costa Rica?

I guess I miss convenience, period.  We knew when we moved here, that Costa Rica is not known for its “conveniences,” and I’m sure you’ve heard about tico time (sometimes it just takes forever to do one thing or to wait for something to get done, and you really just have to be patient).  Also us not having a car (which is our choice) makes things a little difficult sometimes – we have to time our schedule to catch the bus, and we don’t want to have too many bags to carry back from the grocery store.  Not a complaint at all – we are making it work for us, but sometimes convenience is something I miss.

We all have that first “Oh My” experience whether it’s a sunset or wildlife spotting. What’s your best Costa Rica memory?

We arrived in the middle of the night, and my first “OH MY” moment was the very next morning.  Our landlord had made coffee for us, we took it outside by the pool that overlooked into the central valley, and sat down to – PURE BLISS.  Here we were, literally in paradise!  It was gorgeous – the valley sloped down with beautiful flowers, trees and coffee plants everywhere.  There were butterflies and hummingbirds.  There were parrots!  We just sat there in jaw-dropping awe, hard to believe we were really here.

Since we know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, what’s your worst Costa Rica memory?

I’m klutzy by nature, so my worst enemy here is the uneven sidewalks in the downtown area where I live.  I really have to walk with my eyes glued to the sidewalk, and holding my husband’s hand.  A couple weeks after we arrived here, we were walking into an area by a farmacia (pharmacy) in town, and there was an uneven gravel part in the middle of the walkway…  well I was looking up, and found myself totally sprawled out in the gravel – one knee totally torn up and bleeding profusely.  The good part about this, was that it was my first introduction to the farmacias here, and they took great care of me.  Sat me in a chair, cleaned and medicated my knee and sent me off with my knee completely bandaged up.  And they wouldn’t take any money for it!  The Costa Ricans as a whole are very sincere and kind people.  I tripped and fell a couple of other times too.

I like that I thought about my tripping and falling memories before I thought about my tarantula memories (yes, I’ve seen a few since being here!).  I had a severe bug phobia before I moved here, but am proud say how much better I am now (you kind of have to be, to live here!).

When did Costa Rica start feeling like home?

The first few months we were here, we stayed in a small efficiency apartment, which was great but it really didn’t feel 100% like home.  Then 3 months later, we found a great house to live in, and once we moved in – it was definitely “home”.  To be able to totally unpack our 9 suitcases, to be in our own space, to use our own coffee pot, to have a full size kitchen, etc. – it was like heaven.

From your blog I know that you love to bake and you’ve been cranking out a lot of recipes for your new cookbook, “Costa Rica Chica Cookbook.”  I know it’s a ton of work planning, writing, photographing, editing, etc. What kinds of recipes will be featured in your new book?

My cookbook “Costa Rica Chica Cookbook” was just published!  You can find it on amazon here:  http://amzn.to/1JmCnb9

The book contains some of my favorite recipes from the States, and in particular how to make them in Costa Rica (as some of the ingredients are different here).  If you’re in the States, don’t despair – I include substitutes so you can make these recipes at home too.   My book includes recipes for breakfast, pizzas and breads, hearty meals, and sweets.

All of your baked goods look so yummy. Has baking always been a passion? Does Costa Rica bring out your creative side?

I used to bake only occasionally back in the States, and I really was not into cooking at all.  I didn’t have time; with working a full time job, I was so tired when I got home and for sure didn’t want to stand in the kitchen for hours putting something together.  But now, having time and being in Costa Rica has definitely brought out my creative side.  Now, I love experimenting and cooking things from scratch!

In your opinion, what are 5 things to do or see in Costa Rica?

  • Catarata Del Toro (largest waterfall around)
  • Manuel Antonio (cool beach town with awesome National Park)
  • Osa Pennisula (jungle side of Costa Rica, not built up for tourism yet – you can see scarlet macaws and crocodiles here in their natural habitat, the wildlife is amazing)
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest (bucket list)
  • Hike Mt. Chirripó (bucket list)

 

 

Jen Beck Seymour

Jen is the author of the bestselling books:

Costa Rica Chica: Retiring Early, Simplifying My Life, & Realizing That Less is Best
Costa Rica Chica Cookbook: Stirring Up My Favorite North American Recipes In Costa Rica

When she’s not writing or blogging, she is either baking, hiking, playing piano, yoga-ing, sipping coffee, making arm candy or enjoying a glass of (boxed) wine… or yelling at her husband to come save her from a bug. She lives with her husband near Grecia, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Follow Jen’s adventures at: www.CostaRicaChica.com

It’s My Spot (or Finding Your Place in the World)

It’s my spot. It’s where all things come together and you feel at home. Most people don’t search for home. It’s where you grew up or where you’ve spent most of your life. When you’re a dependent of military personnel, the question of where you’re from is a difficult one to answer. In my case I often have a multifaceted answer. I say I grew up on the east coast. Meaning most of my early life was in Maryland and Virginia. After college I moved to Colorado, although I wanted to moved to Washington – but that’s another story. In Colorado, I met my wonderful husband and had my boys.

But our journey was just beginning. In our seventeen years together we’ve moved a dozen times (I’m rounding down), a least three states and we’ve been to few countries separately and now Costa Rica together with the kids.

We’ve always had a huge sense of wanderlust. We’ve talked and talked for years about living abroad and seeing more of this great big world. Now we are doing what we’ve always talked and dreamed about. The kids aren’t thrilled about it, but they’ll adapt or not. They are teenagers and grumble over almost everything. We want to give them an experience greater than themselves.

Have we found our spot? Are we home in Costa Rica? Time will tell. The greatest gift our upbringing has given us is the ability to adapt and take chances. We are not afraid of trying something new or going somewhere we’ve never been before. Costa Rica has been good to us. Very welcoming people and its an easy country to love. Beautiful sunsets, awesome beaches, and tons of wildlife. If you’re a adventurer or photographer or just need a good rest then Costa Rica is an awesome place to be.

Our next adventure is always on the horizon. For us, ‘It’s my spot’ can be found almost anywhere. We adapt to our circumstances and make the best of things and sometimes we move on to the next thing.

Update: We’re taking the leap and moving to the Czech Republic. Yep, Prague. Currently interviewimg for teaching jobs and looking for housing. Are we closer to finding our spot? We’ll see.

Have you found your spot? Where is it? Comment below.
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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.