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Costa Rica 2014

COSTA RICA March 2014 – Next photo gallery is whitewater Rafting in the Balsa River, Costa Rica.  Our first time rafting, and it was only a Class II/III, adventurous none the less!  Johnny and I spent 17 days in Costa Rica.  For 14 days we rented a little cabina just a few blocks from the shores of Lake Arenal in the pueblo of San Luis, just outside of Tilaran.  This side of Lake Arenal is a little less populated (by tourists) a very quiet.  The cabina was only $600 for the 2 weeks and it was a great base camp to go off and see the sights.  During that two weeks we spent one night at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort a hot spring hotel in La Fortuna near the base of Volcano Arenal.  The hot springs are amazing.  While in Fortuna we also went ATVing in the area of Volcano Arenal.  I’m a bit wreckless and when hot dogging it I accidental got thrown off the ATV and it flipped over on top of me.  Very luckily, I only suffered a sore shoulder for about um..6 months 🙂  My next ATV ride will be a bit more sedate!

We took two days away from San Luis and headed to the Pacific Coast, a little village called Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula where we stayed at the cutest little hotel I’ve ever been to.  Love it!  Ylang Ylang Beach Resort.  The hotel is only accessible by foot or by the hotel’s vehicle that goes along the beach to reach the hotel.  The setting was awesome, the food very very nice.  We could have stayed longer!  Montezuma  itself is a bit of an old hippy haven, not really my style of place but the surroundings are well worth the visit!

Renting a car for our entire Costa Rica trip was the smartest thing we did.  It enabled us to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  Johnny and I love ‘backroading’ and spent a good deal of time on narrow dusty, bump roads in the mountains (big hills) enjoying some incredibly scenery and seeing Costa Rican life from the inside.  Our drive to Monteverde was our first major dirt road drive and well worth it!  I’m from the Near North of Ontario Canada and quite accustomed to driving the dirt roads, so I got to drive, Johnny navigate!

Japan 2012

Japan 2012

Johnny & I went to Japan in August, 2012 and it was so incredibly hot and humid that it took the joy out of the trip.  Our time was spent mostly in Tokyo though we travelled to Yokahama, Kyoto, Lake Kawaguchiko at the base of Mt Fuji and Kamakura & Nikko.  Japan is truly a beautiful country with an incredibly unique culture.  Crazy crowded and as a ‘big woman’, I think I felt a bit like Gulliver among the Lilliputians.  Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend visiting Japan if  you have an opportunity, but make certain you go when the weather is a little milder (40c the whole trip), make certain you have a very good understanding of how to get around, English is not readily spoken, we were fortunate to have some assistance with most of our bookings, etc.  If I were to go back, I would want to spend more time in the countryside, more rural areas, city travel is just not my thang!   Johnny loves Japan and has been 6 times (5 of them on business), he has actually taught himself to read, write, speak some Japanese and I think in another life he may have been Japanese.  The good news is that Japan is the only country that he and I disagree on so far 🙂  Places we visited in Japan:

Nikko – this was my favourite – it’s not in a city and we had to take a long bus ride to get there, seeing some country side, a zillion rice patties…more the Japan I would have liked to spend more time in.

The former Imperial Villa

Bamboo Temple – Kamakura

We visited a number of Temples & Shrines in Kyoto

We also visited many temples, shrines & areas of Tokyo.

Update Mar.30.2015 – I think because I added categories, Some people other than friends have found my blog!  I had 2 likes for this post.  When I read it over, I realized I failed to mention our Mt Fuji hike.  Our entire reason to go to Japan was to hike Mt Fuji.  Neither Johnny or I are regular hikers.  I spent a lot of time reading accounts of Mt Fuji hikes, but none of them prepared me for it.  I very madly believed that if I slogged along I could do it.  You start at 5th Station….and we started at about 9 pm at night….the reasoning is that one should arrive at the summit in time to see the sunrise.  As you may note from the photos, I’m built for comfort, not for speed.  I managed to make it from 5th Station to 7th Station and really did plan on continuing after a rest at 7th Station.  As we left the rest area and headed to the next path, I looked up and it was really a scramble, not a path anymore…..at that point I simply decided I couldn’t do it and to continue would be to hold Johnny back.  Soooo…….I spent the night at 7th Station and Johnny soldiered on by himself….the man has stamina….we had a bit of a mix up, he was supposed to meet me at 7th on the way down (which isn’t part of the downward trail) and when he didn’t come by a certain time, I simply set off on my own down to 5th Station.  Eventually, I made it and found the bus back to the hotel.  Johnny didn’t show up for many hours later and the poor man was exhilarated but not feeling well at all.  We were suppose to have met our companions for an authentic Japanese meal, but ended up just staying in our room to recover.  We stayed at a ryokan (authentic japanese hotel) with stunning views of Mt Fuji and an amazing hot spring tub right in our rooms.  We slept on the floor, it was truly a unique experience!  Will add a few more details once I look up some links!

Dominican Republic 2012

I’m writing this in front of a fire in a cabin on the edge of Algonquin Park.  Coincidentally, our cabin is called ‘Dominican’.   The inspiration for writing this review here is that we brought all of our cameras along this weekend to find out which one works best.  One of the cameras has been sitting in a draw since 2012 and the last photos on it were the Dominican trip.  A trip that was so uneventful for me that even looking at the photos didn’t bring back much of a sense of interest or remembrance.  This was the all inclusive trip that we decided we just didn’t want to do all inclusives any more.  As I am writing years after this trip, I will admit, we have been on one since (to Mexico).  This trip was a last minute, pick the cheapest vacation you can to someplace you’ve never been before.  We selected the Bayahibe region of Domincan Republic.  I believe DR is a very beautiful place, however this whole vacation was a bit off.  We landed in Punta Cana and had to drive for about 3 hours to get to our resort.  The driver kept saying – almost there whenever someone asked.  The only nice part about the small bus ride to the hotel was that we did see some scenery and there was fresh cold beer.  I’m not actually a beer drinker and this was the first beer I had in years and year…amazingly refreshing!

Overall, I remember very little about this trip, I imagine because it was one of the more unremarkable trips we have taken.  Almost everyone at the hotel was from Italy.   I have never seen so many people smoking in my life.  Everywhere you walked in this hotel there were people smoking and talking away in Italian.  Although, we knew we were in a foreign land, we didn’t realize it was going to feel like Italy Smile  We swam, we sunned, we read, we took a catamaran tour and another boat tour.  We took a taxi into the little village and had a beautifully prepared Paella at a 2nd floor restaurant overlooking the water.  Thus ends our trip to the Dominican.

When Johnny and I were driving home from our weekend away when I wrote this blog post, I was talking about how disappointed I was with the Dominican trip and how I didn’t remember very much of it.  He reminded of a few of the highlights of the trip….one was having a tasty dinner on the beach close to our hotel.  The little cafe was owned by a French woman and she served us complimentary tastings of Mama Juana a special Dominican liqueur!  We also discovered Brugall a lovely rum while in Dominican.  We also spent a bit of time chatting with a great gal named Anne from Vermont who I still keep in touch with via Facebook.

Hotel stayed at:  Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach Set on the white, pristine sands of Bayahibe-La Romana.  No clue why we flew to Punta Cana to get there 🙂  I imagine because it was later in the season.

 

Jamaica 2010

This was a last minute trip to Negril, Jamaica – I believe we departed December 26th, 2010 and stayed for New Years Eve.  We stayed in an all inclusive at the Montego Bay end of 7 Mile Beach – nothing special, crazy packed as it was over the holiday.   It was a great walk along 7 mile beach to town.  We did a couple of trips, catamaran and an all day trip to YS Falls, Appleton Estates & a Black River cruise.  That trip was well worth it.  Rick’s Cafe is a nice little stop – I was disappointed that almost as soon as the diving is over the music stops and the evening is over 😦  Things to note on this trip:

We were introduced to Appleton Estates rum…and it continues to be our fav 🙂  We really enjoyed the tastings and tour of the facility.  The Black River tour was also well worth it and fascinating to see the life in/around the water.

A Canadian gal on the YS Falls tour was swimming in water at base of falls and fractured her leg badly by making a wrong move (and spent the rest of the day on the bus while we continued our tour).

On the all day trip we came across a number of car accidents up in the hills.  I would definitely not want to drive in this area, even in the bus I found myself holding my breath as we drove.

Our hotel had been invaded by gunmen a few days previously and one of the front desk clerks was shot (not fatally)

We aren’t people who like to stay on resort and Negril doesn’t really offer a lot to do in town, it’s not a wandering about kind of place.  Great place for beaching/all inclusives though.  All in all, every trip is a learning experience, not certain I would return, as always we are happiest when we are out looking at the sites off resort.

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 2008

Johnny was a tough nut to crack when it came to getting him to travel south.  However, I utilized our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary as an excuse to get him to bow to my whims!  Finally, after 10 years of marriage I talked him into a ‘south vacation’.  Don’t get me wrong, he was fine with vacationing, however mostly our vacations included a large family component and we traveled to areas near family.  So, for our first ever ‘south’ vacation together (I had been south numerous times before), we chose the cheapest darn All-inclusive package we could find in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  It was a tiny far from fancy hotel called Las Palmas by the Sea situated a 10 minute cab ride north of Downtown Vallarta.  Our room was comfortable with a wonderful ocean view, the food was just fine and the ambiance was exactly what we needed it to be.  In the one short week we managed to do as much as we could fit into the short week (not knowing if Johnny would ever agree to go back again 🙂

We zip-lined for the first time ever….this involved, taking a cab to the marina, taking a zodiac to Boca de Tomatlan, taking a big bus into the hills, then taking a jeep up to the Zipline place, once geared up, we then took a donkey up the hill, where FINALLY, we zip-lined, rappelled and did something that was kind of like tight rope walking.  All VERY exhilarating!

We took an all day tour into the Sierra Madres where we visited a Tequila Plantation, a rain forest, the home of a local family and a beach club.  Lots of miles covered and many interesting experiences (including sipping excellent quality tequila).

One of our favourite tours was the Rhythm of the Night Tour which took us to Las Caletas for the Rhythms of the Night evening.  “As night falls, the secluded cove of Las Caletas is transformed into a magical paradise, the ultimate backdrop for our exclusive event, Rhythms of the Night – an amazing voyage that will transport you to a mystical and spiritual land that time forgot.”

Johnny and I on our first All-inclusive vacation discovered that we are not ‘on resort’ folks.  Not a day went by where we didn’t leave the sort for a tour or an evening stroll or meal on the Malecon.  It was during this trip we discovered Mojitos!

As you can see from this blog…..Puerto Vallarta 2008 was just the beginning of our ‘south’ vacations and there was no arm twisting to get Johnny there for the rest of them!!

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