My top 10 travel items

I was a flight attendant for three years. It didn’t matter if I had a 24 hour layover or a seven day block of trips, I had the horrible habit of over packing. I religiously had to sit on my suitcase or ask for help from the pilots to close it in between trips.

 

7-ways-to-pack-lighter-mixandmatch-360x240After leaving the airline industry and trading my suitcase on wheels for a simple backpack while traveling through Central America, I learned you don’t need nail polish to match every single bikini and some things are better left at home.

 

Here are my top 10 survival items I can not travel without.

  1. Baby Lips

I love this product! Not only is it affordable and easy to buy almost anywhere, but it serves as a great soft moisturizer and color at the same time. I used to love glosses that came in tubes but found they didn’t hydrate my lips as well. They plastic glosses in squeeze tubes can melt and leak, and forget a windy day. Hair blowing into to glossy lips is always a disaster. Baby Lips has so many subtle and fun colors too!

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2. Foldable bag

With all these baggage fees who wants to travel heavy now days? Yet, you never know when you will need extra space for souvenirs and purchases made when traveling. Maybe you are traveling to a destination and taking a small trip outside of that destination and don’t necessarily need or want to bring all your gear. The foldable travel bag is a great solution and there are many sizes and brands easily found on Amazon.

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3. Jacket in a bag

I was always in limbo of whether or not to bring my bulky winter jacket on vacation down south. Sure I’d be freezing after I arrived getting back to my car, but did I want to lug it around? Well now I travel with a jacket in a bag. This plush jacket is so warm and can easily roll up and be packed into your carry on. It can serve as a pillow if you get stuck during a connection. Even traveling to warm destinations, it is nice to have a jacket. Hikes up mountains in even the hottest counties can get chilly, and you never know when you will need it when you least expect it.

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4. Nail Polish Remover Pads

I love having my nails painted, but I despise when they chip. I have a horrible habit at picking at them once one little nail chips. Traveling with liquids can be a pain, so I carry this tiny package of wipes when I travel. They work really well. Just a few pads wipes off a few layers of polish and I never have problems going through security with them packed in my carry on.

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5. Boo Boo Serum

This is one of my top travel items. Forget toting around an array of products for every ailment and beauty regimen. This all natural product made with organic ingredients is a miracle in a bottle. It is 1 ounce, so I can pack it into my carry on. It heals every skin ailment under the sun. Bug bites, sunburns, fungal infections, cuts, burns, and it even works well nourishing my skin and relaxing wrinkles. It is gentle enough to use on my baby when she had eczema or diaper rash, and my husband uses it on his cracked hands.

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6. Pens, Pens, and more Pens

As a writer, I find you can never have one too many pens. How quickly they can just disappear when you need them the most. Paper you can find almost anywhere. Napkins, receipts, airplane magazines are always accessible. You never know when you will spark a great idea or want to exchange numbers and your cell phone is dead. Customs forms can be a pain when you are in a hurry with no pen, and writing down tips from locals.

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7. Zip lock bags

I always carry a few extra on me. They are great for security when you need to get your liquids through, or if you have dirty socks or wet clothes and don’t want to contaminate your luggage.

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8. Cute Slippers

I find it so gross when I am traveling and the passenger next to me decides it is time to get comfortable and take off his shoes to let his feet breathe. I once had a guy next to me not even wearing socks! I always bring a newer pair of cute slippers to wear on the plane or trains during long periods of travel. They are great for going down the halls of hotels too when you need to get ice or get something from the front desk, but don’t want to put on your shoes, and they are a fun conversation piece.

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9. Plastic Zip Wallet

These are so convenient when traveling. I’ve been using the same crusty one for over ten years. When you are at the beach and traveling alone with no one to watch your stuff, having a cheap zip wallet gives you some freedom to worry less about the money you are carrying on you. I normally bring the money I need for the day and possibly a credit card and house keys. When I set up my towel, I subtly dig a hole under my towel and bury the wallet before placing my towel and other non valuable items back on the towel. That way if my backpack happens to get stolen, I don’t have to worry about my money or credit cards. Just make sure high tide isn’t coming, or you don’t hike an hour away like I did once and remember your wallet is still buried after you get back into town. Luckily I found my wallet after digging like a dog hours later, but it was a close call.

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10. Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets, not only do they make your clothes smell good, but dryer sheets work as bug repellents. Try rubbing your clothes and skin with a few sheets before a hike and see if your hiking buddy gets more bites than you. You can add them to your shoes to not only make shoes smell better during travel, but ward off bugs at your feet. They work great for taming wild hair too! A simple and cheap solution to travel woes.

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While those are my top 10 items, here are a few others items that can come in handy when traveling.

  • Lock- you never know if you need a locker or storage for stuff when traveling
  • Resistance band- they are easy to carry and keep your body in check if you don’t have a gym nearby and find yourself over indulging in delicious cuisine during your travels.
  • 2 copies of your passport and credit cards stuffed in separate travel bags. If you lose one, you still have another copy.
  • Poncho- it is easily flattened and small to travel with. You don’t have to worry about it being misplaced or broken like an umbrella.
  • Extra flip flops or water shoes. I love water shoes for the versatility of them. I can jog in them, splash through rivers, and they dry so fast.
  • A clean pair of panties, tiny mouth wash, and toothbrush in my purse- just in case my luggage gets lost or I get stranded temporarily.

Bon Vogayage!

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My Costa Rica travel narrative

For all your wanderlust readers out there, my memoir about love and adventure in Costa Rica is live on Amazon Kindle! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MTP4L7H

I hope you enjoy! Pura Vida.

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Surviving San Jose Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica is one of those cities where most travelers want to get out of just as quickly as they arrived. When you think of Costa Rica, images such as monkeys swinging off of lush vegetation and rustic deserted beaches with perfect swells for surfing may come to mind. Unless you have a direct flight to the Pacific coast into Liberia Internation Airport, wanderlust travelers must first make their way through the hectic capital of Costa Rica.

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San Jose isn’t on my top major city list, but there are some diamonds in the rough. First of all, if you are into cosmetic surgery abroad, this is a known destination for plastic surgery complete with many options for recovery in secluded havens surrounded by nature.

Men who are into the nightlife scene and the vast variety of legal prostitutes find themselves  in heaven at The Del Rey Hotel and Casino; it’s one of the largest brothels in Central America. Beautiful women from South and Central America travel to work at this popular pickup spot. I ventured out undercover a few years back as a working girl in The Del Rey Hotel. I got the inside scoop from the men who were in search of their evening delight and interviewed working girls on their view of the industry.

You can find my write up at https://www.amazon.ca/San-Jose-Nights-Emily-Turner-ebook/dp/B006ZOPA8W

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If you have some extra time during a layover or a few days stuck in the city, you can easily squeeze in some hiking and nature at Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. It is just thirty minutes outside of the city. It is open from 8-4 daily with a $10 entrance fee.

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If you don’t have a rental there are easy options for a quick day trip. Public Bus: Any bus going to Guapiles, Siquirres, or Puerto Viejo will pass the Zurqui Ranger Station where travelers can pay their entrance fee and proceed to the hiking trails. Buses depart from the Gran Caribe Terminal at Calle Central and Avenidas 15/17 in San Jose. At the end of the day, just flag down a bus for the return journey. Terminal del Caribe Tel. 2222-0610

Taxi: Travelers can make arrangements with a taxi driver for round trip transportation to the park for around $50-$60 from San Jose.

Accommodations are easy to find, but I have two hidden great spots. If you have an early flight or connection and just need a place to crash near the airport, I stayed at a hostel which was walking distance to the airport. It had hot water and was safe. The owner is super cool and picked us up. http://www.hotelelcacique.com

If you want to stay in the downtown area of San Jose, I love this next spot. The neighborhood leaves something to be desired, but the lodging itself is great for the price. Hotel Aranjuez. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com It is what I would call a small boutique hotel/ bed and breakfast. You have the option of a shared bathroom for a lower price or rooms with a private bath. A single room with a shared bath is only  $32 a person, and it comes with a killer buffet breakfast, a safe in the room, and computer access with wifi.

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The shared bathrooms are super clean, and I never have problems when I need to use them. The gastronomic breakfast entices me to ensure I have a layover in San Jose. Click on this link for pictures. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com/DesayunoBufetGaleria

One of the great things about traveling through Costa Rica is the fact that the public transportation system is on point. The buses travel frequently and are reasonably priced. If you want to take the off beaten path and throw caution to the wind with a rental vehicle, I strongly recommend only considering an SUV. The roads can surprise you. One moment you are cruising down paved highway bliss, and the next moment you are dodging oncoming trucks, cattle, and flying over potholes through the dusty roads.

I’ve experience hell when first handily dealing with the rental car companies down in Costa Rica. The are beyond sketchy. We tried renting a car in the Nicoya from Hertz and the rate was over $90 for the day and it didn’t include insurance…which you totally need down there. We tried adding full coverage and they said they didn’t offer it there. I once rented a car from a company and paid for full insurance. I was glad I did, because I got in a costly accident. The owner of the rental company which was a sub owner of a major company (it’s tricky) tried hustling me. He had my bank account frozen and was trying to charge me for a whole month’s rental for the SUV; the time it would take to repair it he said. I was about to give up rentals in Costa Rica all together and stick with riding horses until I found the best rental car proprietor ever!     24715_10150170457795481_797465480_12039920_4875596_nI have been renting from Peter for over 7 years. His vehicles are maintained to the best care, and he is an honest and loyal expat. He will meet you in the San Jose area for your pick up and even drop you off at the airport. His prices are the best in the country; believe me I’ve shopped around, and it’s no bull shit. They come with full insurance, unlimited miles, and can handle the rough terrain. We’ve even had minor issues with scratches, or a random run in with a palm tree and he didn’t overcharge us for repairs, he is hands down the best rental company. If he wasn’t renting anymore, I would just take the bus. His prices vary according to how long you rent and what season, but you can call or email him through his website. http://www.amigos4x4suvrental.com

If you are stuck at the airport or near the airport, there is a cafe with free Wifi. A quick $7 taxi ride about five minutes away will take you to Hooters. I killed some time there by myself watching sports while munching on snacks and tossing downs a few beers to kill some time.

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There is also a shopping plaza with restaurants and a movie theater only a six minute drive from the airport. http://www.cinemarkca.com/es/citymall-alajuela/portada/

If you have a few days in the capital of Costa Rica by choice, or because someone stole your passport; lock those up in your safe travelers, there are a few other options to spend your time enjoying the culture of the city.

  • The Jade Museum
  • The Zoo
  • Explore local markets for great food and authentic items
  • Check out the PreColumbian Gold Museum
  • Visit Teatro National

While the beach or the mountains may be your main destination, San Jose Costa Rica doesn’t have to be a buzz kill. Enjoy the journey! Pura Vida

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Off the strip Vegas

When most people think of Las Vegas, certain ideas come to mind such as,

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A tropical oasis with an abundance of bright lights and one of a kind resorts.

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The capital of strip clubs. There is an over supply of scantily clad women.

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A candy land of casinos. Go big or go home.

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A broad range of entertainment to suit almost anyone’s creative preference.

And it’s array of high and end unique restaurants.

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With over 40 million visitors per year, Las Vegas is an adult’s playground. How could anyone get bored? After coming here with friends for years, then visiting friends that migrated out west for the weather, I actually got a bit tired of the same scene. Don’t get me wrong, the new resorts and clubs never cease to amaze me. There’s always a new lounge to check out, and the for old time’s sakes strip clubs and late night parties; after all, it’s not like you go to Vegas to stay in and play Scrabble. ( I actually did that one night with a friend who moved there. ) My last few visits to Vegas I have thrown caution to the wind, I’ve stepped outside the norm of the Strip, and found there is life outside of Las Vegas Blvd.

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Here is a list of some inexpensive, yet fun side trips when you want to enjoy life like a local in Las Vegas.

  1. Shoot a gun!  I grew up with a shooting range, but never was interested in my dad’s guns. In Vegas I decided to try it out at the Gun Store Las Vegas. It is located 2900 EAST TROPICANA AVE, an eight minute ride from the strip. There I was able to shoot an oozie and an AK47. I was so excited I was a natural; I shot the target in all the right spots and they let me take it home.                                             turner
  2. Take a scenic drive to the Valley of Fire. It is a beautiful 50 minute drive outside of the busy city of Las Vegas. A peaceful and windy trip on the highway, sometimes you are the only person for miles driving. The Valley of Fire is just phenomenal. You can simply drive through the rocks, or park and hike a bit. They have camping which would be totally fun for only $20 per car.red-rock 20151008_113212
     

     

  3. Hike through Red Rock. A quick twenty-minute drive outside of the city limits, you will find some awesome hiking trails of every level. We accidently missed the correct path and wandered up the cliffs at high noon in over 95% degree heat while I was 16 weeks pregnant. We had some nice views and cooled off in the ice box, another hike that led us into a valley of rocks that was significantly cooler.

  4. Play the Price is Right. Ever since I was three years old, and I watched The Price is Right with my grandpa, I have dreamt of being on the damn show. Well finally, in 2007, my dreams came true. My friends all flew home early, and I decided to test my luck and watch the show. I was the last person of the day called up to the podium. I was beyond ecstatic. Let’s just say you would have thought I won an Oscar, not that I was bidding for a popcorn machine. I didn’t win, but it was one of my finest memories in Vegas.                Image result for price is right las vegas
  5. Check out some local restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, The Strip has every food option you could desire. Don’t forget to check out the classic diner, The Peppermill. But if you take a cab or a fifteen-minute walk to Paradise, you will find some great local restaurants. Here are some of my favorite spots. This one is closer to the airport, Skinny Fat’s. http://skinnyfats.com/ It has a kickass menu at great prices $8-15 for some interesting healthy and maybe not so healthy dishes. From unique sandwhiches to breakfast platters, juices, and one of a kind eats, this place is sure to leave your stomach and your wallet full.    Image result for skinny fats las vegas                                                                       I’m a huge fan of In and Out Burger, it is just a classic west coast thing, you try it once, and you will make a habit of it every time you visit if you aren’t from the west coast. Fire Fly has a few locations, but the closest is on Paradise. It has a great atmosphere, outdoor seating, brunch, nightly happy hour specials, and a fun tapis menu that is great for sharing with just one or large groups. Some evenings they have local live music. The prices are reasonable, and the food and wine selection is great! http://www.fireflylv.com/  Image result for fire fly las vegas If you are into some authentic Moroccan cuisine and want a little side dish of entertainment, Marrakech Vegas has belly dancers and a sexy ambiance with the dim lit dining room. http://marrakechvegas.com/bellydancing/    Image result for belly dancing restaurant las vegas                                   Image result for gangnam bbq          One of my favorite spots is a Korean BBQ restaurant called, Gangnam BBQ. They also have a happy hour where the food and the drink prices are ridiculously low and great quality. Even the regular menu is priced well. Try the spicy edymame, cream cheese wontons, and the bacon wrapped asparagus. You won’t be disappointed; just thinking of Gangnam makes me want to book a ticket to Vegas now!  This hot spot is great for dates, families, and large parties.
  6. Clark Country Wetland’s Park. A free lush park that is home to hundreds of species of animals and plants. It is open daily from dawn until dusk. Some trails allow dogs, others are great with children. Clink on the link provided to see what trail might suite your needs. http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/parks/Pages/cc-wetlands-park-trailsmaps.aspx   Clark County Wetlands Park
  7. Drink with locals. Sin City is overflowing with great drinking spots. There are some fun local spots off the strip that is a quick ride away. The Golden Tiki, is near Chinatown. When you step inside you are transported to a tropical Caribbean island. Patrons sip on tropical cocktails in the pirate themed bar. They have light bites and weekly events and entertainment.   Image result for the golden tiki las vegas  Image result for the golden tiki las vegas20151006_220236
  8. Ski the snowy slopes of Mt. Charleston. In the morning you can be in hiking in the desert, and by afternoon you can be skiing. So cool right?  Don’t expect the same fluffy slopes that you’d expect in the Alps, but you can have the opportunity to ski, snowboard, and sled at Mt. Charleston, located just 40 miles from Las Vegas. Check out Lee Canyon http://www.leecanyonlv.com/site  The best months for skiing are from December through March. January is typically the chilliest month in Las Vegas.
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I used to get soo excited to play the slots Circa 2003
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Bigger is better! 2005
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When posing in parking garages was cool 2007
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2007 Oh my
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2011
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2013 with my husband

 

2015 I’m prego! Only sparkling water for me!

My 7 year itch with Costa Rica

I remember nearly fifteen years ago hearing about this enchanting destination where the palm trees danced next to clean azul waves and monkeys were your friendly neighbors …the jungles of Costa Rica. It had been a dream destination I thought someday just someday I hoped I’d be lucky enough to experience.

Nine years later I had finally taken a leave of absence from my job for 2.5 months. I traded in my heels and the concrete jungle for my flip flops in the real jungle. Living in NYC for tens years I was inclined to scout out the smallest hippy towns in search of real people, tons of nature, and weed. I chose to travel alone so I could write, enjoy the peace of my own company, and no one could witness my freak outs to insanely humongous insects in my cabin. I’d have the opportunity to mingle and meet new like minded people… including my husband!

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My first trip was surreal. It was exactly the adventure I needed as a 28 year old single gal living in NYC for eight years. It re-balanced my perception of what was important and not quite so much in life. By the end of my trip I had fallen in love with Costa Rica and was starting to fall harder for my never ending fling. FYI travel insurance doesn’t cover broken hearts. We married a year later 🙂

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It has been 7 years since I first learned to surf on Cocoles Beach in Puerto Viejo.

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Saw my first terrifying Brazilian Wandering spider in my jungle cabin.

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And jumped off the adrenaline inducing Montezuma waterfall.

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I’ve been lucky enough to go back to my paradise haven every year since my first visit. While some trips last eight weeks and others fly by quicker for short pop ins, one thing still remains, I don’t have the 7 year itch!

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Sure I travel to other places, I’m not just stuck in Pura Vida land. Barcelona is full of color and life. Great food and wine and the locals are beyond hospitable.

China is a neat destination. You feel as if you are thousands of miles away…because you are.

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One cannot beat the pristine aqua beaches of St. John. The natural backdrop of the parks are incredible.

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 Yet Costa Rica satisfies all my wanderlust needs. The air is clean and the humidity gives me the perfect volume and curls. I instantly morph into a jungle goddess.

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The water is warm enough for splashing, yet refreshing from the heat.

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The locals are so humble, hardworking, and kind. I’ve safely hitchhiked, and even had help when my bike was stolen from a local thief. Yes it happens, and I got my bike back after 5 locals with machetes ran around in search of my bike. While crime does happen I always bring an extra dose of street smart and I’ve always managed to get along just fine. I feel safer in Costa Rica than I do some parts of the US and other destinations I’ve been too.

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It is a melting pot of culture and stories. Expats from around the world migrate here and it is no secret why. It can be as unpredictable as I want, yet I have the ease and comfort of knowing which bus I’ll hop on to get to a beach town. What is a good and cheap soda shop for lunch, and what beaches are safer to swim.

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I love not being confined to a resort. Don’t get me wrong being pampered in a high end resort with great food, wine, and room service can be very relaxing, but three days is my limit.

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I want to run free down a deserted beach.

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Watch the sunset fall into the ocean alone with the one I love.

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Sing in the jungle with no one but a few sloths to judge.

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Drive down dusty roads and maybe even get lost, knowing I will eventually find my way back home.

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Kiss a wild horse that acknowledges I’m one of her kind.

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Eat eclectic local food at restaurants with some of the most talented creative chefs from around the world.

I enjoy finding random new beaches and house parties, possibly making new life long friends.

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I fall asleep knowing I’d love to do it all over again.

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There are times when I go back and I get a bit jaded at my soulful towns. Why did the food prices go up again? These are big city prices in a third world country. Yes I’ve been to this beach many times before …am I possibly missing more?

Locals start to know me, do they think it’s kind of weird? I’m so damn predictable I come here every year!

Sometimes I leave saying I think I’m over Costa Rica. I don’t want to go back for awhile. It’s like an old relationship I’m just not excited anymore. There has to be somewhere greener, better beaches, more stores. Later I do my research on the places I must go. Kauai, Tuscany, Cambodia, the Azores, New Zealand, even some mountains with snow.

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But those places seem like vacations to me, exciting and unknown. Lots of planning and money, what if I end up wishing I was back home?

Then I get the nudge Costa Rica is begging me to return. It’s like a warm and fuzzy feeling from someone you’ve known for a long time. It doesn’t feel as much as a vacation as I place I call my second home. And while I might explore new destinations and even skip a few years visit, I know Costa Rica is a place I will always return to because the grass is greener there in every single way.

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The surfers are not competitive and let beginners have a good wave.

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The local food is healthy and fresh. After eating clean for a week I feel my best.

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I look forward to returning in my old age to my favorite beach, and looking back at all the memories and adventures I had there as if they were at arms reach.

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No other place can fulfill my mind, body, and soul the way Costa Rica has and always will. Pura Vida!

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Montreal French Tasting Les Infideles

Montreal is known for its beautiful cobblestone streets you could get lost on in the Old Port.

Its variety of beautiful French women.

It’s amazing French wine and cheese selections.

And above all it’s amazing French cuisine and restaurant scene.

A great thing about Montreal is that the locals J’adore their wine and you will find a variety of excellent bring your own wine restaurants with no cork fee. You heard me, No Cork Fee! Unlike some cities which will charge you $5-20 bucks wine fee per bottle you bring in.

On the search for a great French tasting bring your own wine restaurant in Montreal these were the the top list.

 

Fine French cuisine meets Quebec products in the heart of the Plateau, the Mecca of bring your own wine restaurants.
There are no menus in this restaurant, only refined propositions varying according to the chef’s inspiration.
Zeste de Folie specializes in fresh ingredients and offers creative fare with many culinary influences.
Bring your bottle of wine to Monsieur B, a French bistro with a warm décor and sophisticated cuisine.
 
Duluth Street is the street of many bring your own wine restaurants if you want to just wing it and explore you options on a more spontaneous trip.
My favorite is Les Infideles, located off of Rachel and St. Hubert. It’s not everyone’s first choice for bring your own wine, but every time I have out of towners visit, mostly from New York City where we appreciate great food and atmosphere both, they go crazy for this place. It is constantly amazing. It books fast especially on the weekends and during holidays and only accommodates under 60 people.
It has a basic setting, yet is always packed.
 
Les Infideles specializes in French cuisine. Chief Louis Legault uses a lot of Québec products, such as deer, duck, veal and seafood and fish, depending on the season. Local cheeses are served with homemade jam and nuts. Their menu also offers gourmet five-course meal specials.
The five course meal is normally around $43 depending on the selections you choose.
You start off with fresh bread and the soup de jour, followed by a delicious appetizer.
I normally choose their scallops with a mango chutney. They scallops are perfectly seared crispy yet moist inside.
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They then bring out a sherbert of the day mixed with rum. While it cools your throat you feel the warmth of the rum, and you anticipate your entree that is about to come.
Some of their entree selections are :
Duck in an orange marmalade
Fresh bison or deer
Jumbo shrimp sauteed in cognac sauce
It is down right delicious. You feel like royalty being served such amazing food while you enjoy your wine or champagne. The best is the service is impeccable. The waiters are nice, not snobby in the least bit and go above and beyond.
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The meals are always cooked to perfection.
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It’s so perfectly prepared you don’t know where to begin, so you take a picture.
The desserts are just as fabulous as the meal. They use local cheeses, prepare homemade chocolate mousse and creme brulee. I’m already craving this restaurant as I write this.
Les Infideles is the perfect place to enjoy a solo lunch while reading a book, a bottle of wine catching up with a friend, a date, or entertaining a larger group.
C’est tres bon!
Bon Appetit!

Bavarian biker’s paradise

Mystical Mittenwald Germany, when I say this town to even the locals of Germany they say …where? There’s a good chance I am pronouncing it wrong, but it is also a tiny hidden gem mostly visited by Germans.

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A year ago my husband somehow turned me into a biker which was a far cry from what I was used to. I’ve ridden in Mr. Softee trucks, limos, managed to steer horse carriages in Manhattan up 5th Avenue in 5 inch heels and a 4 inch skirt. I’ve driven taxis in New York when the cabbies let me, and even hitched rides on the back of fire trucks. In New York I always found a crafty way to get to my destination in a record breaking time.

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I married an outdoorsy Canadian and bam here I am biking my way to lunch and to the store. Dave and I share a passion for travel and adventure. We met abroad in Costa Rica. We’ve drank wine in Spain, climbed the Great Wall, and fell in love all over again in Rome. I normally have a good say in our next trip, but finally I said “Babe this trip is all you.” I said I wouldn’t plan one detail, micromanage or decide any single factor. He decided his dream vacation would be to take his mom and I on a mountain range and bike through Germany and Austria for one week straight. Our flights were booked through Prague where we would first start our biking journey mid June. I began biking on a regular basis to prepare for what I called a hellish vacation. I seriously had to bike to my next hotel and I was only allowed a few outfits?!

As luck would have it, for me that is, a week before our trip Northern Germany and Prague had record breaking rain storms resulting in flooding. All tour operated bike tours were cancelled indefinitely. David was so depressed and too busy with work to re-plan a trip at short notice, I assured him wifey would handle it and off to computer surfing I went. Yep I was planning yet another trip. As much as I wanted to train it to Italy for some lakes and vineyards I had to stay on course with biking, mountains, and lakes to swim in around Germany and Austria.

I was looking for a few key basics in my trip

  • A destination 5-6 hour train ride from Prague
  • Mountain backdrops that leave you in awe
  • Clean lakes and rivers for a summer dip
  • Abundant biking trails for all levels, bike rental locally, and day trips we can do on our own
  • Picturesque tiny authentic local towns
  • Easy access to Salzburg  (we had a few days booked there and planned to return to Prague from there)

My great search led me to a few towns we could get to in Germany that were known for biking:

Quedlinburg: A town in the Harz mountains, set with cobblestone streets and prewar buildings.

Meissen: A romantic tiny town north of Dresden near the River Elbe which was flooded at the time. Next….

Cochem: Think medieval and wineries.

We almost went here Rothenburg: Alongside the famous Romantic Road  Rothenburg is beautiful and still has a partial intact medieval city. There are many great bike trails here as well.

There was just something missing, and that’s when I fell in love with Mittenwald. Fresh Alps Mountain air, you can literally bike across the border to Austria, an abundance of gorgeous lakes, tiny local bed and breakfasts, a mountain you can visit, and amazing local cuisine.

 

 At last I had found my biking town!

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The easiest way to get here is to take a train from Munich Germany. Trains leave regularly and its only an hour and a half ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in Germany. The town is very compact everything you need including the train station is centrally located.  When you first arrive in the town you feel as if you have been time warped to a magical fairy tale. All the houses, restaurants, and family run hotels are picture perfect.

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Lodgings book up fast so while it’s always advisable to book in advance, I normally book through bookings.com we did however find extra lodging for my mother in law at last minute. Staying in the town center is convienant yet if you want a breathtaking view of the Alps I suggest staying a bit above town. The walk is easy, it’s only ten minutes into the center of town. A great place to stay is Pension Schwalbennestl. Every room has a view of the mountain and breakfast is included. Rates run about $50 per night.

 

As far as the eye can see is an endless horizon of majestic mountains. I breath in the fresh dewy air and become enlightened by the natural beauty that surrounds me.

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Our first night we took it easy from the commuting across Europe and walked through the postcard perfect town streets. A town so small it’s home to under 7,000 residents, yet so full of life and rich with culture. We passed many fantastic restaurants with live music and cute one of a kind shops. The most beautiful backdrop of the town is the mountain range that cascades behind it.

 Women leisurely shop at the market, men enjoy their pint of beer, and children soak up the sun as they play in the river.

Our first stop was taking an incline up the mountain. If you are afraid of heights I suggest you get past your fear and go up the mountain, but close your eyes on the ride up, it’s a bit scary. Umm are we there yet?

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I’ve never felt higher on earth literally than when we were on top of the mountain. The look out is insane, and the birds eat out of your hand. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and you can hike along outer mountain trails.

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The coolest aspect is the snow. Even in June while it was warm enough to wear shorts the snow tipped mountain top was gorgeous. I was jumping for joy!

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The mountains are filled with wild flowers that dance in the breeze.

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you watch as people trek out of a secret door. I excitedly go through the door and it becomes a dark corridor which reminds me of and episode of Lost. Where ever will this lead me?

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I open a metal door and outside is the other side of the mountain, it’s pretty much incredible. You can even lay in the snow to cool off.

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Before going back down the incline we grab some sausage sandwiches and German beer and sit on a patio watching adrenaline junkies grab plastic service trays and slide hundreds of feet down steep mountain slopes. After much hesitation I grab a tray, drop my bag, and race to the smallest slope before my nerves get the best of me.

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The next day we woke up early to rent bikes for the day. They seemed a little pricey but there is only one bike shop that runs the show so no negotiating. Bikes were about $60 a day, but well worth the price. They were high end mountain bikes that felt like the Bentley’s of bikes. You barely had to peddle and they were so damn smooth.

We stopped at the local grocery store for fresh fruits, cheeses, sandwiches, water, and but of course wine. There is nothing better than seeing a  wine you like to drink that you normally pay $20 for, at only a mere cost of $3.00 Euros!

When it comes to biking in Mittenwald the possibilities are endless. If you are a beginner biker and just want to explore the town, bike to a nearby lake only ten minutes away, or have children there are plenty of biker friendly paved trails. It’s easy breezy. If you are an avid biker the black trails will suit you at very experienced levels. You could easily stay in Mittenwald for over a week and have new trails each day. We chose the blue level which was a few steps up from easy.

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There were a few hills I had to get off my bike and push. Most of the hills going up were at the begining so it was easier as the day went on to fly back down the mountain. We chose to do 30 kilometers our first day, and props to my mother in law for keeping up! I felt as if I was in Lord of the Rings, the trails were stunning, and for the most part we barely saw any other bikers. When we needed a rest break we would stop at one of the many clean lakes for a swim.

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 Running out of water was never a problem since there are fresh spring water outlets along the trails.

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Perfect pit stop for a picnic.

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We came across a field of sheep and I had to take a picture of the black one. I’ve always been the black sheep.

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We accidentaly took a wrong turn which led us to the cutest chapel I have ever seen.  We informally renewed our vows alone since we were the only ones in the chapel and gave a little donation for a postcard.

We biked until we could peddle no more….

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and that led us to one great dinner. There are tons of choices to choose from, but the top rated venue earns it credit. Gaststatte Restaurant – Romerschanz, is a family run establishment off the main  town center. The food is local home cooked cuisine at reasonable prices. You can get a seat outside and people watch while enjoying the great food and beer. It is custom Bavarian food with a cozy atmosphere.

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The next day we biked an easy paved road to the Austrian border which only took us about thirty minutes. We crossed rivers and valleys and promised ourselves we would be back to visit Mittenwald Germany again.

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Whether you are an adventure seeker or just want to relax and soak up the culture and nature this safe and charming town will suit your interest.

Surfing

Surfing, it was something I wanted to do at a young age. To feel the sun warming my skin with the fresh salt water cooling it as I rode the powerful thick waves to the golden beaches. A feeling of freedom and power, serenity and adrenaline.

I grew up in the country hundreds of miles from the ocean so the only surfing I started off with was channel surfing. Maybe relaxing for the mind, but not so productive for the body.

 

In my mid twenties I was in between apartments in Manhattan. Finding a place to crash your head in the big apple is a sport in itself, getting approved by the landlord is another full time job, this led me to … couch surfing.

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Luckily I have amazing friends who I could count on hard times and let me take over their small living rooms with my shoes and purses and beauty supplies.

It wasn’t until I was 28 years old until I finally got a taste of my childhood dreams. I was traveling to one of the top surfing destinations of the world, Costa Rica! I found an awesome private surf instructor in Puerto Viejo named Peace. After my first try at surfing I was humbled by the avid surfers and the strong waves, real surfing is no piece of cake. While it took me a few tries to get up on the board and my body felt like cooked spaghetti for a few days after I was hooked. Surfing is a sport where you can go inward, reflect, and excel with practice at your own pace.

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Nothing feels better to wake up to a sunrise and see the perfect swell.

Nothing feels more empowering to ride in that wave start to finish.

Why I love surfing

1) You feel one with nature. Water, sun, sand, air, and wildlife, I can’t get enough.

2) Surfing is a sport for all levels beginners to pro, it’s never to late to learn.

3) There are so many great destinations to surf.

4) It is a full body work out. Mind, body, and soul.

5) Its exhilarating and challenging.

I always dream to go bigger, push myself to limits beyond my reach. Sometimes I get scared, but it is fear which is one of greatest downfalls.

Here are some great surfing destinations around the world aside from the no brainers: Hawaii, Australia, Cali, and Indonesia.

Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada. Canada’s surfing capitol. It is surrounded by lush jungle and pine with a mountain backdrop. This Pacific coast has great waves for all levels of surfers, but don’t forget your wetsuit.

Costa Rica, a rustic and serene jungle atmosphere where monkeys howl on the beach and surfers from around the world migrate to surf the warm waves with perfect swells rising between 6-10 feet. While the country is small the surfing opportunities are fantastic. You have over 100 beaches, most do not have coral to scrape you up, and miles and miles of perfect swells. The beaches never get too crowded with surfers, and the locals are happy to share their surfing spots with the ever changing tourists. Pura Vida!

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Joe’s Point, Sur, Oman. The Middle East isn’t all about the beautiful desert, it also is a fantastic destination for surfers with its miles of breaks just waiting to be surfed upon.It has a soft sand bar underneath and a ride that lasts over 45 seconds.

San Sebastian Spain, What is a better way to spend a vacation than a destination with a siesta? Combine people watching on the beach with some surfing in between trying out tapas and Spanish wines, this is the perfect mix for a vacation filled with culture, in a relaxing European atmosphere. The waves are not scary, and the beaches are packed with surfers of every level enjoying the waves and the scenery.

Ecuador, another versatile destination where you can surf on a Monday and go skiing on a Tuesday. The people are warm and friendly, and the waters are warm and welcoming for surfers. It is a very up and coming destination that hasn’t been overly populated or commercialized. La Buena Vida is a family run surf camp and boutique hotel on ocean front property with perfect waves. Mix with down to earth surfers across the world and enjoy some fun in the sun together.

Where is your favorite spot? Some surfing spots on my conquer list are:

1) Waikiki, Hawaii. Warm waters, safe reef, and beginner friendly. Great destination for long boards.

2) Tahiti. A classic for both men and women.

3) Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. I normally swim and layout here, but it looks like a great spot for beginners with an awesome sunset after surfing.

Wild hearts and wild horses are two of a kind

I don’t consider myself too irrationally crazy, although a handful of others may disagree, but I LOVE LIFE! While I can be overly organized (my clothes are color and purpose coordinated), overly neurotic, and even at times pessimistic, I am a free spirit lover of the greater universe. When I am happy I skip and leap for joy. #noshame.

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When I’m in a pickle I plan A,B,&C. I’m always dreaming and scheming. Sometimes I feel as if I was an animal I’d be a wild horse. I would just want to run and never look back. In Costa Rica you will find wild horses all over.

Some are a bit weathered

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But they all know what it’s like to live life without any boundaries.

I was lucky enough to make a friend in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. After some sweet talking and positive energy she was kind enough to let me kiss her after ten minutes of telepathically pleading, please I swear I’m wild like you. She kicked her hooves up almost embarrassed as her five friends neighed and waited for her. I didn’t get a bareback ride down the beach, but maybe someday our paths will cross again.

Even wild horses slow down for a break.

With a little patience….

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We connect on a rustic beach….

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And she let her guard down and trusted me…. Kiss!

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Here are some destinations around the world you can find wild horses.

1) Virgina City, Nevada. Off of Route 341. Nevada has the most wild horses in the United States with over 15,000 horses living in the meadows and mountains. They are not always easy to see, but they are in different parts of the state as well.

2) The Bahamas, wild horses have been known to run on the beautiful beaches of the Bahamas, so pack some carrots with your sunscreen.

3) Sable Island, Canada. Wild horses have been living here since approximately the early 1700s. The island is protected by the government so you will need permission to visit.

4) Koniks, near Amsterdam, wild horses can be found near the Koniks and other places not too far from a day trip from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

5) Assateague Island National Seashore, which extends from Virginia into Maryland, is home to probably the best known wild horses of the Southeast.

6) Costa Rica, this rustic pristine jungle environment is the perfect home for wild horses. They can romp on the beach, swim in the ocean, roll in the never ending valleys and eat mangos and bananas all day.

7)  Pilot Butte, Wyoming. Here you can drive through 23 miles of wild horse country, through the wild horse loop. You may even see some extras such as coyotes, eagles, elk, and deer.

Have you encountered wild horses in your travels? Share your spots!