A Travellerspoint blog

Lounge Day in Costa Rica

24 March 2017

sunny 85 °F

Eat, rest by the pool, repeat. This was the modus operandi for today. After breakfast we did start to go for a bike ride. We all got dressed up in our little helmets and reflective vests the resort makes us wear. After a trip down the road near the resort against the wind we decided we would rather lay by the pool and spent the remainder of the day doing just that.
For lunch I actually had a philly cheesesteak that was pretty good for Costa Rica. Dinner was again at Portofino and even though it took a long time it was fun and Curt even got flambé. Costa Rica vs. Mexico soccer was on which seemed a fitting end to this day in Central America.

Posted by ErinDriver 20:35 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)


23 March 2017

sunny 85 °F

Bright and early we boarded the bus with about 30 other people and our guide Jose for the 45 minute ride to the border with Nicaragua. Thanks to Jose it was a relatively easy border crossing on foot with our passports being checked three separate times in Nicaragua. On their side of the border we had plenty of time for shopping and Curt got a belt made to fit right there in front of us.
He also got a wallet and I tried some cookies. One lady was selling hammocks that were very soft for like $7. She carried them around on her head! There are a lot of tractor trailer trucks waiting at the border to get inspected because this Pan American highway is huge for moving drugs.
Dad is sad to learn that in Nicaragua you have to pay to use the bathroom. $1 will get you about four trips and you don't get your toilet paper until you pay up!

At the border we picked up our guide for Nicaragua, Elvis! He was born right before Elvis died and when he passed away his parents decided to change his name to Elvis. It sounded like he got bullied a fair amount when he was younger in a place where everyone is named Jose, Carlos or Pedro. He tells us about the Nicaraguan equivalent of Costa Rica's Pura Vida. They say De Acachimbo?? which means Happy Spirit. He promises that after some rum your spirit is much happier:)
He promises to show us amazing sites and he is very proud of his country and happy we took time out of our vacation to see it. First up we pass by two volcanoes, Conception and Maderas. We have a two hour drive along Lake Nicaragua which is the same size as all of Puerto Rico. It is so big the first people arriving here thought it was the ocean. It is a beautiful site with the volcanoes sticking out of it.
Our first stop is a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua. Our driver doesn't speak English but tries to point out things and we all guess as to what we are supposed to be looking at.
Just towards the end of the tour this monkey was just posing as if that is his job to look cute for photos. He is a spider monkey so now we have seen all three types of monkeys found in this area.
The highlight was riding by a school just as it let out and seeing all the kids get in their boats to paddle home. Elvis later tells us that there are not enough teachers or schools so the kids go in shifts. One group goes 0730 to 1200 and another 1230 to 1700. They often have to go on Saturday and Sunday to complete the requirements for that year of school.
As we continue along the lake we see birds, restaurants, hotels and private houses. All the little islands were made years ago by volcanic eruptions.
Private house
Restaurant with hammocks
Next up is lunch in Granada at El Tranvia. It is in a huge and beautiful hotel and the service is wonderful and efficient. They actually have coke zero and we try the local beer, Tona. We also sample the national drink, Macua, a tasty blend of guava juice, fresh orange, lemon juice and Flor de Cana Rum.
Hotel with El Tranvia restaurant inside
Lobby of hotel
The lunch starts with a potato salad...
then either carne (beef), chicken or fish. Curt and I chose fish that came with dried plantains, fried plantains and gallo pintos. It was fantastic.
It was all finished off with a rice pudding.
After lunch we had a chance to go across the street and purchase some Flor De Cane far cheaper than in the resort. It is in fact the resort owner who also owns the rum company!
Lots of people buy coffee also and you could stock up on dried plantain chips if you wanted.
Spider-Man drink cart
Methods of transportation in Nicaragua
chicken bus
We are given some time to walk around the historic plaza and take pictures.
The church is open for visitors with what looks like brand new paintings on the ceiling.
We pass one more church that is very beautiful and the first in Granada.
After our time in the beautiful colonial city of Granada we get back on the bus for another 30-40 minutes. Someone asks Elvis to talk about the conflict that the US was involved in. Sadly he gets very emotional telling us about the Sandanistas and how his brother fought in the conflict as was killed at 16 years old. Because the US government had put an embargo on imports they had to get food from the Soviet Union. Many times by the time it arrived it was expired. He tells us they were lucky to eat rice and beans together during that time period. His parents actually sent him at the age of 8 and his other brother at the age of 7 across the border illegally in to the United States because they feared for their safety. Because of this conflict there is a deficit of men in the country making it 10 women for every 3 men.Now that he sees his country happy he is so proud to be there.

His sad story raps up when we arrive at Masaya Volcano National Park. It is Nicaragua's first national park and we can see an old lava flow on our drive up to it. We stop at the top at La Boca de Infierno or "the mouth of Hell". We actually get to look down in this volcano and see the lava glowing red at the bottom!! We are only allowed to stay 5-7 minutes and are instructed to run to the bus if we hear a bunch of steam or little rocks flying up :)
On the way to our last site Elvis has the driver stop and get out. we are next to a cashew tree and he has the driver get one of the fruits from the tree. He actually bites in to the reddish part or the fruit portion which they regularly eat. Each one has one cashew on....now I know why they are so expensive.
Our last stop is in Catarina, another 25 minutes away where we send Elvis on his way, pay for the pottie break and have a few photos over this beautiful caldera.
I guess you could ride horses around the caldera if you wanted to also.
Our day ends after a 2 hour drive back to the border, border crossing in reverse (much faster at night), and a two hour drive back to the hotel. Exhausted but happy after all we got to see we get room service for dinner and pass out.

Posted by ErinDriver 16:25 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Monkeys, hiking and biking

22 March 2017

sunny 85 °F

Alright, I know yesterday had a lot of monkey photos but I just can't help it, they are SOOO cute. There were not as many hanging around this morning but I swear one came up to the other and said, " Can you do my hair?" I photographed these white faced monkeys for a while before breakfast.
We decided to go on the nature hike again with Mom and Dad and were glad we did. This guide had many more stories than the first one we had and we saw much more. Very first thing high up in one of the trees was a howler monkey. Costa Rica has three types of monkeys: spider, howler and white faced. We have only one more to spot.
Next the guide explained about fruits that you could make in to maracas and another one that had "potion" inside that could kill you.
Nearby there was a turkey vulture warming up in the sun.
Guanacaste is the only tropical dry forest but it has the corteza tree that blooms only in the dry season. It makes a colorful splash in all the brown!
He showed us a termite nest that was taken over by bees and also a termite nest with actual termites and my Dad even ate one! Supposedly they taste like wood.

After the walk we tried to go paddle boarding or kayaking but it was apparently too windy. The water looked like glass and it has been windy every day we have been here so my hopes of doing either of these activities is pretty low.

So we rested and ate lunch before taking another bike ride. On the way back to the room I saw this bird eating the flowers on the tree. I think it is a parakeet of some kind.
We were told every town no matter how small would have a church, school and soccer field. El Jobo is definitely small but it has all the requirements.
We went down the hill to the next beach over but it was not much to look at. All beaches in Costa Rica are public and this one seemed to be for fisherman. A bunch of boats were tied to the trees. We moved on quickly to have an ice cream in our little shop from yesterday. curt bought some Volio coffee to take home and we got a piece of gum from the owner.
We rode back for a quick dip in the pool before a pretty weak cooking class on how to make gallo pintos (rice and beans.)
When we went back to the room for dinner we were surprised to find monkeys on our balcony. We watched them going back and forth for a bit, the mom taking a drink from the pool and another monkey wondering where all the M&Ms went.
We had dinner at Portofino, the Italian restaurant and went to rest before our day trip to Nicaragua tomorrow!

Posted by ErinDriver 20:43 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Monkeys and bikes

21 March 2017

semi-overcast 85 °F

Ah, I finally get to see my monkeys. Yesterday I heard a rumor that at 0630 in the morning someone feeds the monkeys and there are several that come. I was up bright and early and not disappointed in the monkeys. I was, however, disappointed in the humans who weren't supposed to be feeding them but did anyway. One momma monkey had a baby on her back and was adorable. Myself and a few other photographers had a ball snapping away at the monkeys.

Most of the rest of the morning and afternoon we spent eating or sitting by the pool. Of note was the drink of the day, the Green Monster. It was a delicious blend of mango daiquiri and mojito.

In the afternoon one of the workers led us and another family of four on a bike ride to Jobo Town. It is a miniscule town but it has all the Costa Rican requirements of school, church and soccer field. I was kicking myself in the butt because I have three cameras and a phone that can take pictures but guess how many I brought along.....ZERO! The ride was maybe five miles through the country side but we did stop for some Volio Coffee and I'm sure made for an entertaining show for the locals. The bikes were not the best fits and we probably looked like a small circus.

But as for today all you get to see are a bunch of monkeys.....
These two must be married!

Posted by ErinDriver 16:06 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Hike around the resort

20 March 2017

sunny 90 °F

After breakfast this morning we went on the approximately one hour hike on the property of Dreams. The guide gave us interesting tidbits about Costa Rica. We are in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica and it is named as such due to the Guanacaste tree. It means ear in Spanish and the seeds on the tree look like tiny ears. Supposedly howler monkeys eat the seeds and then howl because they are high. I feel like I need to check that fact on google.
We didn't see any monkeys but he did point our fire ants, termite nests that were up in the trees and the fruit from another tree that is used to make maracas. He advised us that the main crops for industry are rice, watermelon and sugar cane. The coffee has been ranked the fifth best in the world.
This area of Costa Rica loves their cattle for the rodeo. Our guide, Christian says a rodeo is going on almost every night of the week and Costa Ricans must be dressed up to go to the rodeo or everyone will be talking about you the next day. We go past some brama cattle that he says would be used in the rodeo.
The beach near us is called El Jobo. He tells us that the beaches are named by the tree that is prominent in the area. Our area has a lot of jobos :)
After the walk it was more of the same sitting by the pool. Its such a hard life here. Lunch was overlooking the pool and the ocean followed by a walk on the beach.
After a bit more sun worshipping that turned me crispy we went for some coffee. Of course this is when we see three white faced monkeys and a iguana, all when I don't have a camera.

I went later to look for the monkeys when the guide said they would be around the entrance but all I found was this bird.
We had dinner to celebrate our 10th anniversary a bit early since I will be deployed on the actual day. Portofino is the Italian restaurant on the resort and we enjoyed this meal before passing out.

Posted by ErinDriver 20:07 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Dreams, Costa Rica

18-19 March 2017

sunny 85 °F

Block leave time before the deployment has FINALLY come around. Our flight to Atlanta was uneventful and we had a nice lunch/dinner at the airport TGIF with my parents before taking off. The flight was about 45 minutes late taking off due to what was thought to be a leak in one of the bathrooms. The carpet near the bathroom was wet and apparently smelly but no leak was found. The pilot assured us when they decided to take off that the dry air on the plane would dry up the carpet quickly :) We watched The Girl on the Train and before we knew it were landing in Liberia in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. I believe it was the fastest I have ever been through customs and passport control.
The Budget car rental place is not in the airport so they pick you up in a shuttle and take you to the rental site. This is where they inform you of the mandatory insurance from Costa Rica that is an additional $20 a day more than you thought. The rental guy then takes us out to the car and proceeds to go over the car with a fine tooth comb, documenting every slight scratch. This is all done under the light from our cell phones as it is completely dark now. We did save some money by downloading costa rican maps on Mom and Dad's GPS. This wasn't really needed as the guy from Budget rental cars gave us good directions that sounded like this: "Go right out of our parking lot and drive for 12 minutes. You will see a bridge and then McDonalds. Take a left here, that will be Route One. Take that all the way to the resort." The GPS was slightly less helpful telling us the entire time that we were on "road". Despite all this we found it by midnight and checked in without difficulty.
By 0800 we were up again having room service in the room. Mom and Dad didn't have room service but they did have a monkey outside their room. After a huge breakfast at The World Café we booked some excursions, had a drink in the Preferred Lounge and hit the pool. By 1200 all the seats are taken but some really nice worker brought over four more chairs for us to bake on. Curt and I did some weak water aerobics but otherwise were pretty lazy. The drinks and snacks flowed until about 1500 when I couldn't stand the loud music anymore and indulged in nap in our deliciously dark and cool room.
towel cart
A new and fantastic drink, the mini beer!
Mai Tai in paradise
Costa Rica green
Dinner was at Oceana with some amazing corn and crab chowder. I was hoping for some wine and the waiter was helpful when he gave me my choices. He advised that the wine selection included white AND red. I went with beer, Imperial is the Costa Rican brew. My snapper was then served whole which wasn't my favorite but Curt had a nice Swordfish loin followed by dessert. Way better than a day at work :)
Sunset view from our room

Posted by ErinDriver 20:46 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Washington D.C. Run Weekend

10-13 March 2017

all seasons in one day 30 °F

March 10, 2017
All Seasons in one day:
We arrived to a rainy day in Washington by 0930 and our friend Lindsay drove us right to the Rock n Roll Half Marathon Expo. After a quick walk around the expo and a lot of traffic we got back to her town house in the Shaw neighborhood.
We immediately set out for lunch at Bus Boys and Poets, a funky restaurant within walking distance that also holds a bookstore.
Our day began at 0245 so Curt was ready for a nap while Lindsay and I walked her dog Calla around the neighborhood.
I love the brick townhouse look with the cherry blossom trees starting to open up. During our walk we had snow, sprinkles and sun!
Thanks to our run tomorrow we were destined for pasta to carb load so Lindsay made us a reservation at Ghibellina. It’s an adorable and crowded restaurant serving up wood oven pizza that was just right. The pizza comes out with scissors so you get to “cut” your own slice. I am in love with how we can walk to all these places from the house as a bonus!
I was very impressed with the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. race. There were a few things that hit me and here they are:
1. The start was near the Washington Monument and I got some photos before the race 😊
2. Most races during the National Anthem runners are still talking, joking and stretching but here it was silent for the song!
3. Going up one of the hills they had a display commemorating fallen Soldiers, Sailers, Airmen and Marines. Every 2 or 3 feet they had a picture of one of the fallen. At the worst part of the hill were tons of people cheering and holding huge American flags.
I am still enjoying the city life, now to include the metro. We rode to and from the race very easily using public transportation. And after finishing in the cold it was nice to go underground where it was cozy and warm.
All you can eat brunch at El Centro was next on our agenda. D.C. loves their brunch and the Mexican restaurant was packed. For $35 you could get as much food and drink as you wanted from their menu. Mimosa’s were flowing and it was like having tapas in Spain. We got small portions of each item, enough for everyone to try. Curt ordered this benedict that reminded me of green eggs and ham.
The rest of the day was spent napping, walking Calla and watching the movie Arrived.
SUNDAY 12 March
Another beautiful thing about city life is walking to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast in the morning 😊 We indulged in donuts and lounged until it was time to take the Metro to Alexandria to meet a couple of Lindsay’s friends. Roxie and Kennie are moving to Clarksville in the summer so it was fun to meet them and hopefully get them excited about their move. We ate at Magnolias in this adorable and historic town. I had Chesapeake Benedict (with crab meat) and Curt did away with some chicken and waffles. A little bit of shopping in downtown later and then we were on the Metro back home.
I get to be 10 feet tall in Alexandria.
Beautiful street in Alexandria.
Dock in Alexandria.
I’m really in to this city living and Calla seems to enjoy it on the walks also. Lindsay was sweet enough to get me some Moscoto and a chocolate chip cookie cake for my birthday so we enjoyed that with pad thai from DC Noodles. They mixed up our spice levels but was otherwise very good.

MONDAY 13 March
Ted’s Bulletin is an old time sort of restaurant that features homemade pop tarts so naturally I wanted them for my birthday.
We had breakfast while watching I Love Lucy on their big screen TV before hopping on the Metro to get some photos of our National Monuments. We first walked to the White House so Curt could see if he was able to jump the fence. After a few photo ops we continued by the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and finished with the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. This was all we had time for before catching the Metro to the airport for our return to Nashville.
Treasury Department
White House
Cherry blossoms in danger due to coming storm!
Lincoln Memorial
Korean War Soldier
Formation in Korean War
Curt contemplating the Korean War Memorial
Vietnam War Soldiers
Vietnam War Memorial

Posted by ErinDriver 18:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Little Rock Half Marathon

4-5 March 2017

rain 52 °F

After a ten day training exercise to prepare for our upcoming deployment I finally had a weekend off. I had the Little Rock Marathon on my list because they are famous for their large medals so we decided to make it happen.

Saturday we drove the 5.5 hours, hit the expo and mediocre pasta at Ciao right across from our La Quinta. We did get to have that mediocre pasta with a fellow runner we met in Antarctica so that was really neat. Eileen has done over 175 half marathons so it was a treat to talk with her over dinner.

Our La Quinta was perfectly placed only a few blocks from the start and finish so I didn't have to walk far in the rain to the start line. The entire two hours I was running it rained but the route was otherwise nothing to write about.
The medal was pretty with a candy theme this year. I didn't get a dinner plate size medal for the half though :(

Posted by ErinDriver 15:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Gulf Shores, Alabama

17-20 February 2017


The Valentines Celebration for this year is in Gulf Shores, Alabama and the impetus for the trip was the Sea Turtle Half Marathon. Because the drive was eight hours we left Thursday night for Birmingham to divide some of the driving between two days. The trip was uneventful other than a nice stop at The Shrimp Basket in Evergreen, Alabama. They let us have Emma on the porch with us and Curt had some of the best fish and chips (well the fish part).
It was late afternoon on Friday by the time we arrived to our Best Western on the Beach. It is within walking distance from the start of the race and packet pick up at The Hangout. This is a really cool restaurant/bar/hangout and huge. They have an amazing Bushwacker drink and show movies on their little lawn. The pasta prepared for the race leaves something to be desired but the deviled egg with crab meat appetizer was pretty interesting.
Saturday was race day and luckily all the rain came down over night. On race day it was nice and overcast for our out and back race. The medal is adorable and we take our picture with the sea turtle near the finish. The race had boxes with a turkey wrap, apple and cookie that came with a soda and if you wanted two beers from the Big Beach Brewery. All and all a really good race for only $60. The rest of the day Curt napped and I sat on the beach! To cap off the day we had a wonderful plate of shredded chicken nachos back at the Hangout.
I'm don't know any better way to spend a Sunday at the beach than ocean side, worshiping the sun. We did this all day after a huge breakfast at the Pancake House that is inside our hotel and has gorgeous views of the ocean. It was cool enough for Emma to spend the morning with us enjoying the breeze and warm enough for us to look like lobsters by the evening.
We have basically been acting like senior citizens and going to dinner at 5:00 and tonight was no exception. Another runner had said Mikee's had good seafood so we checked it out. I had some very tasty shrimp alfredo and Curt had some so-so scallops.
There is nothing to do tomorrow but drive for eight hours :(

Posted by ErinDriver 17:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Gruene Hall

10 February 2017


Last night in San Antonio for awhile so a group of us went to eat dinner at the Gristmill and see a show at the Gruene Dance Hall. The gristmill is right along the Guadalupe and served up a great burger with their special cheese sauce.
After dinner we walked just about next door to Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. Charlie Robinson was playing along with a pretty decent cover band. It's a fun experience but if you don't get their super early it means standing all night!

Posted by ErinDriver 13:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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