Tag Archives: Costa rica

“Do you have a menu with pictures please?”

We’ve explored the beautiful world of international markets, so lets now venture into the restaurant scene. As a backpacker, I’m conscious of when and where I splurge, especially when it comes to food, drink and entertainment. With that said, when friends meet up abroad or a group of other travelers are heading out for dinner, sometimes I’ll spoil myself and join them!

Unfortunately I’m not going to post about every country, but here are some memorable meals and unique bites from around the world.

I’m going to start off with a very colorful, protein packed salad in a cafe near Nice, France. Since the extent of my French is “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak english?) and “merci” (thank you), this was ordered by pointing at a tiny picture and a huge smile.

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This accidental order in Paris came from my eagerness to try “carpaccio”, a plate of thinly sliced raw meat or fish. My innocent mistake was trusting the waiter and agreeing to a similar dish called “Tartare”. This however, is a meat dish made from finely minced raw beef or horse served with onions, caper, seasonings and sometimes a raw egg. Not the same my friends, not…the…same!

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In Spain, I usually find myself nibbling around town due to the ever so popular tapas or pinxtos. Clarification, “tapas” isn’t necessarily a particular type of food, rather a small portion of anything ranging with paella, croquettes, fish and peppers on toast, and so on. Pintxos’ are bites you pick up off the bar and bring back to your table to enjoy. Then, depending on how many sticks you have on your plate tells them how much to charge for at the end. Here are some of my favorite scrumptious snacks in Spain.

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The course pictured below describes my opinion of the country it came from, Switzerland – clean, tasteful and proper.

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Moving on to the hearty land of Germany, specifically the state of Bavaria. Even though I struggle to find lean and light meals there, I can still enjoy a plate of solid comfort food. My favorite is the warm red (or blue or purple depending on which German you ask) cabbage side dish. My not so favorites seen below are the flour and potato dumplings and pretty much anything that may have the word “wurst” in it.

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Before I move on from Germany, I’d like to dedicate a short description and a few photos to the wonderful world of Oktoberfest! Continue reading if you’re up for a story or skip to the pictures to see a few options you may get during the traditional festivities.

The day I learned that the Bavarian language differs from the rest of Germany, goes as follows. My dear friend Carina, you all should know her by now, was attempting to help me order soup. She said she’d do her best since she doesn’t fully understand Bavarian. I asked for anything with vegetables “something that grows or is green” was my request and considering we had been at the festival since sunrise with nothing but a liter of beer, I was excited to consume anything! That was until… until we realized I had ordered liver dumpling soup.

Before…

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During…

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After…

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Other appetizing dishes to coat the stomach while celebrating the largest people’s fair in the world!

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Since I’m usually visiting my friends in Holland, I rarely explore and sit down at a legit Dutch restaurant. I have however, enjoyed the best falafel wrap while in The Netherlands!

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Hungry in Hungary? (Curtesy laugh goes here) Expect meat, potatoes, salad and bread. Not to shabby!

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Sword fish, greens, garlic butter and bread was the choice in Crete, Greece. Naturally complimented by the traditional Greek dessert of Baklava, Ouzo and fruit!

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Heading southeast to Malaysia, I’m going to show you two different ways they can serve up the same meal. First we have the over portioned, grease covered greens aside fried fish.

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After being served the plate above, I mentioned my disappointment to a new local friend who then invited me to a different location to show me how it’s “supposed” to be done.

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My favorite meal in Malyasia wasn’t due to the taste, but the story that comes with it. If your remember the post of volunteering in Malaysia, then you’ll understand that this surprise dish was given and received with much gratitude. Thank you Marcel!

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Jumping over major seas, I’m now bringing you to Central and South America. With several countries, many amazing dishes and unique treats, I’m going to narrow it down to just a few.

First up, Pupusas! These light corn or rice tortilla type patties are stuffed with your filling of choice, then topped with a spicy coleslaw! We were introduced to this savory snack while being treated by a few locals in El Salvador!

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Costa Rica was easy. Just show me to the greens with a bit of fish and whatever drink comes blended, fresh and colorful. Pura vida!

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Jumping down to Ecuador presents some of the tastiest soups and flavorful ceviche I’ve ever experienced! The rich spices, fresh fish and crunchy toppings make for an amazing treat for your taste buds.

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Peru allowed me to feel joy when items like quinoa and sweet potato overruled the usual carbohydrates of pasta, corn and wheat. I love the ingredients of this country so much that I actually took a Peruvian cooking class!

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I’m going to bring Argentina into the mix due to the impressive meal we were served last year in Buenos Aires. I’m generally not a huge meat eater, so for this steak to hit my tops picks says a lot for the quality at hand. Take a look at those veggies too!

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In the waters northeast of South America sits one of my favorite islands called Barbados. Bajan cuisine includes a vibrant blend of foods with African, Indian and British influences. Not to forget one of my favorites, the amazing Roti from Trinidad!

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Australia and New Zealand (I apologize for bulking you two together, but only for the sake of this post), brought many home cooked meals. Mostly fresh from the farms I was volunteering on or hand picked from the gardens that I helped harvest. No complaints here with the abundance of fresh vegetables and local organic meat!

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Last but not least is the large island of noodles, fish, rice and other objects I don’t really know about (simply because my Japanese is as good as my French). Considering I’m wiring this post from Japan, there’s definitely more to come soon! For now, take a look at these mouth watering dishes!

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Ill leave you with an advertisement that isn’t tempting, but certainly entertaining as it’s a bit different than the usual Big Mac add.

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Push ups on a dance floor?

Remember during the last bus ride, how we were plotting out an opportuntiy to reunite with the brightly spirited newlyweds? Please officially meet Muli, a joyful man with a sincere presence and his equally happy wife that carries a genuine smile wherever she goes.

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All of us agreed that sealing up the trip at a nice resort would be a delightful way to decompress (as if our life is hard) before the long flights home. Since I had already been there with Hayden, the guarantee of quality accommodations brought no hesitation as the bunch decided… Off to the Hilton we go!

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Again, my camera just seems to disappear when my shower shoes come off. With that said, here’s a small piece of our luxurious ending!

Daytime fun!

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I was able to learn some new German card games and I taught her a few that I grew up with as well!
Fun fact: In Germany, they call the Jack a “Bube” and the Queen a “Dame”.

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Food fun!

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Night time fun!

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20130529-090353.jpgSIDE NOTE: To mix things up at the resort, we decided to act like a couple of kids and create a “list” of items to find or things to happen while staying here. Examples would be a polka dotted bikini, someone skipping, a “mom” tattoo, etc. Who ever spotted a “list” item first would then get to deliver a drink or dare to the other person.

Carina pointed out an elderly couple holding hands (also on the list) so I received the first dare. 10 push ups in the middle of the dance floor at the disco tech! Of course I waited until an Usher song, then randomly dropped for my set. Raise your hand if you’ll ever see me again?!

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Our new friends have departed and now Carina and I are left with one more van ride together as we make our way towards the San Jose airport. Can you see the difference in our eyes? The smiles just aren’t the same when you know that the next hug, will be the last one for awhile.

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Carina, you are a friend that blesses us with your bright heart and fun loving spirit. You’re the type of woman that gives us all such a great example of “independence” being used with positive drive. You’re worthy of all the amazing things this life has to offer and I truly thank you for being you!

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Next stop, USA! I’m flying directly into Oklahoma to visit my father and fabulous family that always has arms open, smiles waiting and eager ears to hear the stories I bring back. The photo below is the card I needed to get into Costa Rica and the document to get out.

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This next stretch of travels will also allow me to put my hands to work for the victims of the EF5 tornado (strongest category measured) that destroyed over 17 miles of central Oklahoma. With packed winds between 200 and 210 mph and a rotation of almost 2 miles wide, several innocent families are left to pick up the remaining pieces of what was once their home. My thoughts go out to them and I’ll be there soon!

A sloth and toucans… Monkeys oh my!

When Carina and I were deciding where to venture next, I got in touch with the crew from last week and realized they were just south of us! What a great excuse to take a speed boat along the coast to the beautiful town of Manuel Antonio. Cliff side beached lined with natural jungles make up the most visited famous National Park of Costa Rica.

We get up and head out for our 9am departure. Just follow the blonde dreads as he leads us to the boat. Apparently it’s a wet ride as they bag up everyone’s luggage and load us up.

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Going on the list of “things that make me giggle” is when the tour guide tells the entire boat that “life jackets aren’t necessary because it’s going to be a smooth ride”. Then he follows by putting his on! Notice, he’s the only one wearing one.

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I’m entertained at what his definition of a “smooth ride” is, but never the less it was a blast! We saw dolphins and turtles, caught some air and was treated to the occasional complimentary shower.

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Getting to shore brought a quick disembark as we hopped into the van for the final stretch to Manuel Antonio.

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Most of you know by now that I don’t support “coincidences” as I believe more strongly in the idea that all happens the way it should with great purpose. With that said, meet our new friends and future travel partners, Or and Muli! All the way from Israel, they’re here celebrating a honeymoon. What started out to be a casual conversation of the usual “where are you from?” and “where are you headed?” ended in plans to reunite in Puntarenas on our last days of the trip. This idea was also partnered with the thoughts of visiting them over seas! Did my journey just take yet another unexpected thrilling detour? I hope so!

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We say goodbye to the newlyweds and hello to this familiar face. Remember her bright smile from a few weeks ago? Her and the group from Santa Teresa are still here and now I get to introduce them to Carina!

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It was no surprise to me that Carina meshed right in and was immediately adopted by everyone. We were both welcomed with open arms, sincere smiles and a villa view that defines Costa Rica.

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Our first day consisted of a humid jaunt through the unofficial National Park to a private beach that sits below. As you walked the path, you could hear the uncountable amount of crabs that were wrestling in the bushes. Loudly enough, that some of the girls didn’t want to stop walking. “Just keep moving!”

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“She works out”. (To be sang in the tone of the LMFAO song, just for fun).

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Boogie boards and body surfing… Use please! I also love the way Michelle’s toes in the photo capture the pure relaxation happening from shore. Pura Vida!

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Hand standing on an empty private beach just shy of the jungles of the Manuel Antonio. Internal thought to be shared: “Erika… stop, take it all in and appreciate it with full gratitude”.

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How do you clear the crowd of people from the water? Stand by a tree and point up. Sloth! Toucan!

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A sloth, toucan, crabs, dolphins and turtles oh my! Why not finish it all up with what she’s been waiting for… Monkeys!

If you recall from the last post, Carina has yet to see a monkey. Well this morning brings us some fluffy tailed, round eyed pals that almost seemed to know she deserved a good show. Over our morning coffee and wonderful girl talk, the trees behind us began to rustle around in an unnatural way. Next thing we find is a white face peering into the balcony.

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Please tell me the look on her face shouts pure excitement! The tiny monkey toosh behind her is all I could catch as it moved quickly out of sight, leaving her grinning like a kid at Disneyland.

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A sneak peak of the beautiful villa and the sunset that comes with it as our time here has come to an end. Michelle, Morgan, Nick and Graham… We thank you for sharing time, space and energy with us during this guacamole fiesta! Cheers till LakeTahoe!

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Jaco Bell to Montezuma!

About an hour drive from San Jose, is the dark sanded beach town of Jaco (sounds like “Ha-co”). With a recent boom in development, this hideaway is now lined with shops, galleries, hotels and restaurants that invite travelers and surfers to come stay and play.

Since Carina and I were just using it as a pit stop, we decided to entertain ourselves and walk the entire town.

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We usually go to the store and create our own meals, but here in Jaco it was too easy to swing in and split a snack for less than what you may spend at the market. Our first shared bite was a beautiful piece of Mahi Mahi, layered over fresh greens and veggies with a splash of tropical fruit.

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At the Taco Bar, $2.50 gets you a burrito, pita or taco filled with your choice of meat, fish, veg or hummus complimented with an all you can eat salad bar. Im not sure if it was the scrumptious food or the swings for chairs, but this was our favorite eating spot. If you ever make your way to Jaco, please make time to visit the Taco Bar!

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Our final treat was an adult smoothie in the open air at Surf Dogs. Doesn’t the vibrant decor just invite you in?

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The walk home was made complete with our toes in the warm sand and all smiles as wrap up our stay in Jaco.

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Creative beach photos!

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The next morning brings an easy bus ride to the Puntarenas ferry. We were told to “stand here” and “get on any bus that’s not colored white”. Easy to love the Tico way of giving directions!

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Now a 90 minute float that allows taking in the sun while enjoying the Costa Rican breeze.

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Reaching the opposite shore, we jump on yet another bus and head towards Montezuma!

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If you can remember, this was the same ride that Hayden and I took when I had to stop the bus as they were passing our road. With this in mind, as we got closer to the town, I showed Carina the name of our hostel and jokingly said, “If you see this place out of your window, let me know so I can stop the bus!”. She giggled as she looked through the curtains, then with a sober face pointed and said, “Wait, I think we just passed it!”. No way! I went to the driver to confirm and sure enough, he stopped the bus and out came our bags as the left us in the dust. You have to laugh in these moments and realize the simple comedy that makes life so entertaining.

We turned back up the windy road to find our new home waiting for our arrival. Casa Colores is a property with separate houses that are lifted above the earth and fully self contained.

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A bungalow made meal (complimented with some sweet dance moves) of veggies, tuna and guacamole send us to bed for a good nights rest.

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Tomorrow brings a day of waterfalls, trail hiking and zip lining. Good night Montezuma!

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Zip lining -aka- “The flying fox” in Montezuma!

One of the top tourist excursions in the tropical country of Costa Rica is zip lining, also known as an aerial runway, the flying fox or death slide. Doesn’t that last one make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Me too.

We decided to take the route that follows a river and crosses waterfalls giving you an opportunity to take a dive. With 11 platforms, a swimming hole and dreams of monkey filled trees, we were excited and ready by 8am. Instead of a greeting from the taxi driver, we got a call informing us that they were “repairing a cable” so our excursion was pushed back until 3pm. I’m not sure if we needed to know that we were the first and only to use the cable today, but I suppose it just adds more thrill to the adventure. Let the death slide begin!

Before the zip lining, let me give you a very quick tour of Montezuma. The main road has a market, a bar, several tour kiosks and a few restaurants.

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My favorite part of the town is how the main street literally drops off to the sandy beach. That’s it, no more driving from here on out!

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Ok, off we go to play in the trees! Safety first as they gear us up into these darling outfits.

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Instead of describing each individual platform (because they’re all similar) here is a fun group of photos as we fly through the jungle tree tops of Montezuma!

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A bit through the zip lining you can begin to hear the faint sound of rushing water splashing off of rocks. At this point in the hot day, it sounds so sweet and extremely inviting!

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As soon as I spotted the rope swing across the water hole, I was edge side ready to go. Can I just remind myself through this blog… “I’m waterfall jumping to a rope swing in Costa Rica on a Thursday afternoon!” Ok then, I wanted to embrace that for a second. Moving on to the photos!

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Carina’s turn! For her first jump, she went with the “frog” approach.

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…and for her second form, the “scared frog”.

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In my opinion, her rope swing technique was brilliant! Why wait to hit the refreshing water when you can simply drag your entire body throughout the swing?

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Instead of the frog, this friendly boy from Austria went for, what I would call, the “fish out of water”.

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For my second round, Carina complimented the perfect “starfish” dismount from the swing.

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After our hour in the water, we climb out like water soaked, happy kids and get ready for the short hike to the final flying fox.

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Flying through the green tops of Costa Rica… Check.
Jumping off waterfalls… Check.
Rope swing to a swimming hole… Check.
Carina finally seeing a real monkey? To be continued…

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