Rio Aguas Calientes + Le Bistro: Arenal Part II

In case you missed it: Volcano Land aka Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal

After chugging water in the humid car, we decided to ask the park ranger for directions to this supposed warm river I'd read about on TripAdvisor. There are plenty of resorts with private thermal pools, but since a part of me was really interested in staying away from resorts, I was definitely hoping this mysterious river was real. His directions were: go back the way you came, the road will dip, then climb and then dip again. At the bottom of the dip you'll see cars parked along the road. The river will be on your left.

I had no clue if it would work. Not because of the directions, but because I doubted whether I could decipher them. A dip to me could be a bump to him, you know? But I worried for nothing. Sure enough, we found the parking spots at the bottom of the second dip. We paid a guy 1 mil (about $2) to assign us a parking spot and watch the car then headed down.

We walked maybe 50 feet before getting to the river. I let Andrea step in first because I wanted to watch her reaction to the warm water. She told me after that she expected it to be lukewarm and was surprised at the actual warmth of the river. Success! We walked under the overpass and across the river to the opposite bank.

We settled on a small, shallow pool with it's own tiny waterfall as our spot. The atmosphere was lively but relaxed (I guess that kind of describes the vibe of Costa Rica in general, too). I set our backpack down on the bank and in we went. The experience was amazing.

Have you ever enjoyed something so much that you physically lose your ability to articulate it? That's how I felt about this place. All I could say was "OH MY GOSH. I'M HAVING SO MUCH FUN." Over and over and over again. I couldn't believe that something so awesome existed in nature. Maybe more than that, the fact that it's a public space that belongs to everyone. I feel lucky that I was able to experience the thermal waters in an authentic way. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the resort pools with the magnificent view of the volcano during my last visit to Arenal. They were gorgeous and impressive. But this river gave me a glimpse into what pre-resort life in Costa Rica must have been like.

I've written a little about how my dad has these amazing stories of growing up in El Salvador. They'd go camping at the beach every summer and pick fruit off of wild trees and swim in the ocean all day. I've secretly always wished for an experience like that and I feel like a got a little bit of one at the Rio Aguas Calientes (literally meaning Hot Water River or River of Hot Waters if we're going Game of Thrones style).

I heard later on that this place is completely different at night. People (mostly couples) come down, light candles all over the place and hang out in the pools. I wish we could have stayed to see what it looked like, but we had to get on the road to get to Monteverde before dark. I'd had an interesting experience on my ride there on my program's bus thanks to nasty rain mixing with dirt roads. Seriously, the possibility of us tumbling off a cliff was real that day. I wanted to do what I could to avoid driving on a dirt road in the dark, so we reluctantly skidaddled.

Getting ready to probably break a law.
Hoping a fence to a warm river? Priceless.
We climbed back through the hole in the fence and made our way back to the car. Although Monteverde is actually less than 30 miles (or something like that) from Arenal, the drive time is closer to three hours because you have to drive around Lake Arenal to get to the cloud rainforest. Our local friend from the night before had mentioned that a 45 minute shortcut exists, but that you have to drive through two rivers. Our little rented sedan would have never stood a chance, but if I ever make it back to Arenal I want to see this road for myself.

We passed a sign advertising this restaurant called Le Bistro at the start of our drive. I kind of immediately decided that's where we would eat, mostly because of the panoramic views it supposedly had. Even though over 100 signs for the "famous" Toad Hall tried to sway our opinion (we didn't get a photo of these signs but they were absurd), we held out for Le Bistro, which oddly enough was right next door to Toad Hall. Anyway, Andrea and I decided to eat outside so we could fully appreciate the view.

I figured I should order something relatively filling since we'd skipped lunch and were eating our dinner at like four in the afternoon. Andrea and I both ordered the same pasta dish and pretty much fell in love with it when we tasted it. The alfredo sauce was homemade and holy crap did it hit the spot. There was spinach and chicken...I want to recreate it at home because it might be the best pasta I've ever had.

We heard some howler monkeys in the distance while we ate and enjoyed the true panoramic view of the lake. It was so serene and it reminded me of the kind of place my mom would really enjoy staying. Heck, would have liked to stay there, too! The rain sprinkle came soon enough, but we didn't get hit with the strong rain since we were driving away from the storm. The rest of our drive went fine. I not saying smoothly because the road was anything but smooth. We're talking winding, rocky dirt roads here. But we made it without damaging ourselves or the car. More on Monteverde in the next post!

I leave you with a photo of me and Andrea under our personal waterfall and this thought: if you ever get a chance to get away from your resort and see a place through a local person's eyes, take it. I promise you the experience will be way cooler than the beauty of the resort.

♥ A


Miserable, Magical Monday

1. I was going through the photos on my phone after my nap on Sunday (first nap in a looong while) and could not remember when or where I got this photo. After a bit of recall, I remembered I took this one morning pre-coffee. The sunrise was particularly vibrant that morning as I walked to my car to grab my shoes. Yeah, my shoes. Sometimes my feet get really claustrophobic while driving home. And then I also get too lazy to just pick up my shoes and bring them inside. It makes no sense, but hey! At least my neurotic tendencies got me this shot!

2. I can't remember the last time I took a nap but man are they wonderful things. I slept so well I even did that thing where you wake up all disoriented and forget what day it is. I thought I'd woken up late for Monday morning work! Silly me. On a sort of sweet note, having Brandon back has done wonders for my sleep. I really missed having his obscenely warm body in bed with me. I bet you it's his heat that lulls me to sleep half the time.

3. So I had five whole days to myself last week. And I did maybe 30% of what I said I was going to do to fill my time. I bought avocados but saved my nacho night dinner idea for Friday once Brandon was home. I did not paint my nails or have my spa night like I planned because I did laundry instead. But I did do some writing and uploaded my photos from Costa Rica onto my cloud and computer, so I guess I was sort of productive. I didn't even bake Thursday night because I got caught up in picking up after myself. Confession: I am a messy person. I never think to put my clothes away after I take them off in general, and the fact that my dresser is in the spare bedroom  doesn't help. I leave my shoes everywhere. I have a shoe basket at the front of our apartment so I have no excuse to leave my shoes anywhere else, but of course I still do. I'm looking down at a pair I wore to work just chilling in the dining room right now. All of that to say that baking took a backseat to my annoyance with myself Thursday night. Apologies to anyone who has ever lived with me ever for being the roommate that leaves her crap everywhere.

4. Saturday was a blast. I should warn you I did nothing spectacular or mildly interesting but vegging out with Brandon after several busy weekends was exactly what we needed. I woke up around 10:30am and just chilled with my coffee until Brandon got up. He then played his video games while I finished writing my second post on Arenal. After that we watched New Girl all.day.long. We munched on chips and salsa/homemade guac and had a CPK frozen pizza for lunch (at 3:00pm). After finishing season 2, we decided we wanted macaroni and cheese for dinner and walked over to Safeway. We picked up some Golden Grahams and Fruit Loops and juice while we were there. Seriously, we looked like we were buying food for a kid. By the time we got back and sat down to eat dinner it was somewhere around 9:30pm. That didn't stop us from watching Magic Mike.

For the record, it was Brandon who brought it up. Also, yes, there was so much male body rolling in this movie and  I kind of loved it.

5. As if sitting through the sausage fest and male thong-ridden movie wasn't enough, Brandon even sat through the pilot of Sex and the City with me since the whole show is on HBO Go. What a trooper, right? I don't plan on making him watch that with me, mostly because I don't want to force him to sit through the "girl talk" dynamic. I, as a woman, love that dynamic and understand it fully. I think he'd get over it quick. Besides, I'd rather use my political spousal capital on getting him to watch West Wing with me.

Thank you, Leo.
6. To make up for the non-existence of baked goods welcoming Brandon home from a week at camp, I decided to bake some blondies while he was still snoozing. I've never made them before so I was a little nervous to taste them. The recipe I used called for tons of M&Ms, of which I had none. What I did have were white chocolate chips, so I tossed about a cup into the batter and called it day. Honestly, they don't compare to my chocolate chip cookies, but Brandon seems to like them enough even if they are rich.

7. Sprout update! A while ago, I told you guys that I planted some of the wedding favor seeds. I was ecstatic when I saw them sprout up. Good news: I've actually been consistent with watering the plant! Go me. Anyway, the sprout (is that still what it's called? I'm such an amateur at growing things) has grown a little bit and I took a semi-artsy photo of it...so I obviously have to share.

The weather here in Davis is so weird. It looks super stormy and the wind has kicked up. I guess we've even had a teensy bit of rainfall. The temperature has come down to a comfortable high 70/low 80 which I'm loving, but the clouds make me want to pull out all of my autumn sweaters and never get out of bed.

Arenal part II will for sure be up tomorrow.

Happy Monday, friends.

♥ A


Volcano Land: Arenal Part I

I have to tell you guys, I went back and read my post (from when I studied abroad) on my old blog...and it sucked. I took hardly any photos on my own and barely left the resort my program was lodging us in. I guess there was no reason to go explore (except, you know, the fact that I was in Costa Rica for a once in a lifetime experience) since the resort had it's own really nice thermal pools and a trail to a volcano viewing deck. Also I was hungover basically that entire weekend -- something I wouldn't admit three years ago but now seems too pathetic to not share. It's strange how much I've growing up I've done from 21 to 24.

Here are two photos I have from my last trip.

Pretty sweet view.

I printed this one out and have it up in my office because I love the colors in it so much.

Anyway, this time was different. First, ain't nobody got money to pay for resort room rates right after graduation/marriage. No one. So I booked a room through the amazing Airbnb. Next, I took photos and even made it to the national park instead of Andrea and I luckily made it out to the town of La Fortuna without a hitch. We dropped off our bags and car and walked around town for a bit. I was slightly hungry so I suggested we split a lunch meal (at like three in the afternoon). We got some of the most yummy chicken nachos I've ever consumed in my life. We followed up the nachos with Pops, a Costa Rican ice cream chain, and ate our melty treats in the town square.

Oh hi there, volcano.
Neither of us were really hungry come dinner time, so we figured we'd at least check out one of the cool looking bars in town. I sipped on a rum and pineapple slush -- and I mean that in the best way possible -- while my sister and I chatted with some friendly locals. They were probably wasted (or on their way) by the time we sat down, but they were all typical Tico-nice regardless. I don't remember any of their names, but one of the guys made a lasting impression on Andrea while talking about footbal and futbol. She and I commented how football is kind of boring to watch because it's a constant start and stop and so slow whereas futbol is fast paced and dramatic. And you know what this guy did? He defended football. He said it's slow because it's strategic.

I'm gonna borrow my sister's reaction real quick and say that I've never heard a football fan defend futbol before. And here was this man who loved futbol (is my lack of calling it soccer pretentious yet?) defending this American sport to us. Take notes, people!

We were back in our room by 9:30pm and I was asleep by 10. The next morning I felt like I was flashing back to every bad drinking decision I made three years ago. But before you judge, know this: I wasn't actually hungover, I was just beyond dehydrated. I think I literally sweat out all the moisture from my body the day before. That's what happens with the humidity is high and you forget to drink water, I guess.

After our beautifully plated breakfast (more than I expected from a hostel), Andrea and I drove out to Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal. We decided to hike up to the observatory point where we could have watched lava flowing had it been 1992 before then looping down to see a 400 year old tree.

After taking in the panoramas that no camera can ever really capture (I suggest clicking through to see the original size of this pano shot), we began the trek to the tree.

Pretty sister.

Baby face central.

Half way through the hike we heard rumbles. At first, Andrea thought they could be airplanes but before we knew it, we heard the sheet of rain start to fall. The weather and rain were warm enough that we could handle walking through it without jackets. We also had the umbrella of treetops to catch most of the falling water. Eventually, though, the rain became strong enough to break through the leaves and we were forced to throw on our jackets. We ended up getting caught in the middle of a decently strong rain but luckily neither of us was upset by it. It was really awesome to be there with my sister. I never once had to worry that the hike was boring her or that she wasn't enjoying herself because of the rain or lack of wildlife sightings. She was perfectly content walking through the jungle, sometimes in silence.

Looking redder than normal.

We came around to the huge, old tree. There's actually not a whole lot to it if you're not easily amazed at old things, but for us a 400 year old tree was worth seeing. 400 years! That's older than the US. This tree was a seedling the year Pocahontas got married (that's just about the most interesting fact I could find about 1614) and survived countless years of volcanic activity and human exploration. For me, that's beyond cool.

This is just half of our day in Arenal! I still have to tell you about the warm river, driving around the lake and eating some pasta I'm still sort of dreaming about.

Until Friday!
♥ A


Miserable, (mostly) Magical Monday

What? A slight deviation in the title? Something cool must have happened.

1. Coolest thing ever: two of my great friends got married this weekend! The relationship Barbara and I totally called months before it happened now has a cool piece of paper and a public lifelong commitment to enjoy. I'm still over the moon that I was able to be a part of their day and it was beyond cool to see my favorite people all in the same place again. There was a coffee bar complete with sugar cubes and syrups and you better believe I took advantage of it all. I think the spontaneous group singing to Don't Stop Believing might have been the highlight of the reception for me, followed by the circle dancing to 22 and Best Song Ever. Seriously, I had such a blast I never asked Brandon for my phone (I decided not to lug my purse around and he was nice enough to hold it for me) so I took zero photos at the reception. I'm half-kicking myself for it because I feel a little like an awful guest (and I have no photo memories) but at the same time, I think it gives you an idea of just how much I enjoyed myself!

2. Usually I'm terrified of asking people for things. Help, accommodation, forgiveness...you get the point. But Friday was a lesson in taking a risk. See, because flying was too expensive, Brandon, myself and our friend Derek decided to drive down to San Diego for the wedding. At the same time, being in Costa Rica used up all of my time off so things were looking grim as far as arrival times went (we're talking midnight if we were lucky). After counting the driving hours and realizing just how awful that plan was, I decided I needed to ask if I could leave early on Friday. It took me like 10 minutes of figuring out how I would ask, if I would ask and what I'd propose. Finally, I went into HR's office and explained that I was making the drive down to San Diego and wanted to know if I could work out an unofficial credit hour system. I offered to come in an hour early, leave at noon and then make up my hours by coming in early on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week. I honestly didn't think she'd go for it, but -- to my surprise -- she did! It was a really cool moment for me and I thanked HR like five times. I was basically the "thank you" equivalent of the chick that won't quit bowing in Sound of Music before going back to my office with a huge smile on my face.


3. Spending the weekend in San Diego was wonderful. It was almost too wonderful. We arrived Friday night and quickly headed to me and Barbara's prime happy hour/burger spot: Harbor Town Pub. Barbara and I split some fries and I got my favorite cocktail. It's basically a fancy non-orange juice mimosa and I love it. There was loud music playing which wasn't what I was used to, but we had fun either way. Saturday started with brunch at Broken Yolk, a San Diego classic that I'd never made it to. It was no Raglan's, but the strawberry sauce that came with my french toast more than made up for the warm mimosa. Then there was the fun wedding. A small bonfire at my friends' house followed the reception on Saturday. We sipped cider, talked, laughed and roasted marshmallows. It was like old times but better. Brandon was there and it always means so much to me when he gets a chance to hang out with the people I grew to love over my three years at Loma. It's even better when they get along and joke around. Seeing a natural interaction puts me at ease. Plus the added bonus that my friends are slowly becoming more than just names in stories to Brandon and he's more than just my boyfriend husband to them. Sunday we grabbed a Denny's breakfast (a Brandon and Alex tradition) with Kayla and then headed home. No lie (and maybe TMI) I cried in the backseat while listening to Taylor Swift on the way home. But only for a little while!

4. Brandon is at camp this week which means I'm home alone. I'll be hanging out with my mom at some point this week, but mostly I'm stoked to listen to tons and tons of Taylor Swift in my apartment. I wonder what her Pandora station is like...


Oh that's right. ADORABLE.

In all seriousness, I've already had trouble sleeping. It's stupid because it's not like Brandon and I haven't been apart. I mean, hello! We were long distance for three years, we can handle being apart. Plus I've gone away (to debate tournaments and Costa Rica) and have slept fine. I didn't expect any feelings of wahh I'm alone to pop up, but they did. I guess it's different when you're the one at home alone? In any case, I watched a dumb movie, Bachelorette (it's on Netflix), last night because Lizzy Caplan is in it and I will always love her work.


5. I've got a bit of a rant to go on. It has to do with how horrible sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is for our bodies. Seriously, my back cracks when I get up to walk around form my awful, too-big-for-my-5'1"-frame chair. Not just any old stiff bones crack, this one is new. It's practically a pop and it happens only when I get up from this chair. My slouchy couch at home? Nothing. Chairs in a restaurant? Nada. Getting out of my car? Zip. It's this damn chair. I hate it and my tall desk. Why do we put ourselves through the horrors of office work? It's literally the worst. It represents the worst, it feels the worst and it brings out the worst in me. Phew. Ok. Back to the good feels.

6. I got back to Davis around 8:00 last night and immediately went to Safeway to pick up my Week Alone necessities like avocados, lemons, brown sugar and coffe ice cream. Yeah, I will open a tub of deliciousness and snack while watching some fancy-pants movie this week, thank you! I also plan to make this lemonade I saw on Joy the Baker's blog (which side note is probably the blog I've followed the longest) and lots of homemade guac to stuff myself with. I also plan to surprise Brandon with some baked goods (he reads the blog so I can't mention exactly what I'll be baking) for when he comes back from camp because I'm an excellent wife.

7. Joyeux 14 juillet! Today marks the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in Paris which kicked off the French Revolution. I donned by red, white and blue as well as played music from a French Cafe playlist on Spotify as part of my personal celebration, even though la fĂȘte nationale (the national holiday) doesn't constitute the same kind of festivities as Independence Day does in the US. At the risk of turning a non-holiday into an Americanized thing, tonight I'll enjoy some baguette and cheese and probably a French-inspired sandwich for dinner. I might even watch a French movie! I'll use any excuse to pretend I'm French.

So insta I could barf. But I love it anyway.
I couldn't possibly end this post with an outfit photo, so in case you're into history, here's a short video on the French Revolution.

I'm almost done writing my post for Wednesday so get ready for pictures of a volcano and trees that all probably look the same. Ha!

♥ A


Miserable, Magical Monday

Deciding to do a weekly post on one of my busiest days of the week was definitely an idiotic decision, but damn if I don't love the title too much to change the day to something less packed. Also, I apologize in advance for the lack of Costa Rica stories in this post, but I'll be writing about the adventures (of which there were many) at length in the coming weeks.

1. Vacation Bible school (VBS) was a hit and a blast. I really, really enjoyed getting the chance to act alongside my sister again. She is one of those people who's "on" like 95% of the time and her stage presence is unmatched. She completely brings out my secretly big personality. Also, VBS is basically my dream excuse to draw freckles on my face and literally jump around during music. People totally eat it up when you're pretending to be a kid, but if anyone saw me rocking out like that in a different context (like, say, my car), I'm sure I'd get a Regina George eyebrow look.


2. My body is going through actual Costa Rican withdrawals. I held my office at a toasty 80 degrees all day (while in pants!) and still had to go out to my car to fetch a cardigan because I was freezing. My hot tropical blood misses the homeland.

3. Have you ever looked back at your last four weeks only to realize that you've been too busy to notice you've been so busy? That's sort of what June and July is for me. They're always a blur. A stressful, surreal blur. Ok enough with the Mean Girls references (for now). Two weeks ago, I was busy doing VBS from Sunday to Thursday. Thursday to Saturday night/Sunday morning I was traveling around Costa Rica. I've got this work week at home before heading down to San Diego for a wedding on Friday. Then Sunday when we get back form our tiny road trip, Brandon heads off to Kid's Camp for five days. Okay, that last part doesn't really involve me, but it feels like so much! To be real, I'm sad I have to miss camp this year. I've been a counselor for five years or so and planning my wedding didn't stop me from going last year, but my full time job (and international vacation) did. Remember that time I said I hate full time work in the summer? Yeah, now I hate it even more.


4. In order to distract myself from the fact that Brandon and I will end up spending almost half of July apart, or the fact that I won't even have a dog to come home to and snuggle during the five days he's gone, I'm already thinking of ways to spend my time while alone. Right now the list includes blogging, catching up on one or two of my 12 Things, watching lots of chick flicks and West Wing (and Veep!) while painting my nails, yoga, tanning by the pool and baking. You'd think I was planning for another week off, huh?

5. My serious excitement over celebrating a whole wonderful year of marriage with Brandon has me planning our festive outing already. It's kind of working out since we both have procrastinator tendencies. The general idea is to do something special but modest somewhere within two hours from home. It's hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly! Since we'd been dating for seven years, one more year of being together (just married) didn't really strike me as the sort of thing that I'd want to make a big deal. But I guess marriage and the public commitment we made to each other is a big deal. Either way, I'm looking forward to spending a weekend away from home and responsibilities with just Brandon.

6. Great news! I finally got Brandon to watch New Girl with me! I'd gently asked him to watch it with me for months but he was never really interested. But since we caught up with House of Cards and Sherlock and Game of Thrones ended for the year, it was time to pick another show. I basically begged the guy to watch it with me and he eventually gave in. Now he loves it, just like I thought he would.

A relatively decent representation of my victory dance.
Keep checking back because I've got so much to share about my trip! My sister and I already started working on post titles...and they're good.

♥ A