Monthly Archives: February 2017

PB Travels… Quepos

So last few days in Costa Rica, and the next stop is Quepos, home of Manuel Antonio National Park, the main reason for being here.  Getting there was another short journey, 3 hours or so, and on the way, we stopped at a bridge to look at… crocs.  Yep, crocs which are up to 20 feet in length.  Beautiful…from a distance 🙂

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Where am I staying?

Hotel Sirena is in the town centre, a five minute walk to the seashore, but a 7km bus ride to the public beach.  It is a proper seaside hotel, all blue and white, nice rooms and a little swimming pool that was so so needed.  What was also very needed and appreciated was the cool cool A/C in the rooms.  My room was light, bright and cool.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low.  Everything was squeaky clean, but a bit tired
  • Bed = 8/10.  Comfy double bed, cool a/c, good night’s sleep. All good
  • Shower = 7/10. Hot water and ok pressure. Not too bad.

What did I eat?

Breakfasts included in the hotel.  No guesses what was on the menu – fruit, juice, tea, coffee, gallo pinto, eggs, toast – standard fare.  My go to breakfast was also standard -gallo pinto and toast with my nut butter, which is almost finished, as is my chilli sauce. Boohoo.

Lunches? Meh.  I went to Dos Locos for lunch one day – a veggie wrap with sweet potato fries.  Now a wrap filled with raw cabbage is not something that fills me with joy.  And look at the miserly serving of guac! I was not a happy bunny after this meal, or during it to be honest.

The next day we were in the park, and by the time we got out we were starving!  There are no restaurants in the park, take food in at your own risk – the racoons will get it, I saw it happen a few times, leaving with goodies and very traumatised people behind!  We walked into a proper tourist restaurant – Hawg and Bill for lunch – I ordered a garden salad, which actually turned out to be quite nice.  The vinaigrette did most of the work I think, it was quite yummy.

Dinners? We went to a local restaurant one night, Restaurant Tiquicia and I had the usual, Casado.  It was was ok, I liked the mountains of veggies.  They also had that cool mixture of carrot, onion, cauliflower, but unfortunately it wasn’t hot at all.

Next night – we went to El Avion, a gimmicky restaurant that has a bar in a plane.  It was really cool in the plane and the Margarita I ordered was really good.  Even in a restaurant like this, the only two options I could go for were either veggie rice (meh) or roasted veggie sandwich. I went for the latter and got a giant sandwich with too much bread. The veggies were really yum (after I added salt and pimped it with chilli sauce) – courgette, mushroom (which interestingly looks like meat..hehe), red pepper, tomato.  I had those with the chips, left the bread.  If you want to go here, go for the drinks, not the food.

I also had my usual share of fresh juices – pineapple, and a frozen green/pineapple juice. Yum in this unbearable heat.


What did I do?

That pool might look small, but it was the right size, and I spent one afternoon just lounging around, reading, chatting, snoozing in the sun.  However, the main reason for being here was the Manuel Antonio National Park.   5 minute walk to the main bus station, and 315 colones for a bus ride to the park.  As expected, it was very very busy – the busiest I’ve been to so far, but, it was excellent as we got to see so much wildlife! Sloths, toucans, howler monkeys, birds, spiders, wow. What a fitting end to Costa Rica.

There is a wonderful beach in the park – so once we had got hot, bothered and sweaty running after all the animals, we ran straight into the sea.  Oh mama.  Perfect sea, perfect temperature, perfect weather – I spent a lot of time in the sea until hunger pangs dragged me away..

Sunsets in Quepos were also stunning. We decided to walk to the marina to have a drink – as some of the girls had been there the day before for a brilliant sunset.  This marina is so Americanised – and it was full of Americans!  It did not feel like we were in Quepos, or even Costa Rica.  Thankfully the sunset made up for it – check it out!

So this is it in terms for travel for now – the plan was to go back to Mexico and explore ruins, but due to crappy travel agents and slow turnaround times, I couldn’t get my ticket changed and buying new ones was waay to expensive.  Never mind – that money will be saved for the next travel adventure – even I don’t know where I’m going.. South America? Asia? Europe? Watch this space….

PB Travels… Monteverde

To get to Monteverde involved a 30 minute bus ride to Lake Arenal, followed by a 45 minute boat ride to the other side (yes, it is a big, beautiful lake). The journey was stunning, the volcano on one side and lush green forest on the other side.

We got into the bus to take us to the hotel – and that is when I realised that there are no tarmac roads in Monteverde. We endured an hour and a half on super bumpy roads before we got to our beautiful hotel.

Where am I staying?

Historias Lodge is a very pretty hotel. Large dining area, rooms scattered all over the place, lots of chill out places, and the friendliest staff. Tais on reception was super helpful and honest – a great combination.


As for my room? Very cute, one of the smallest but oh my word so dark at night!

My windows were opposite another room – so curtains had to be drawn – I didn’t want to see them as much as they didn’t want to see me!  I had to switch on my torch and phone lights at night for additional illumination! Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low, but to be honest with the dim lighting, who knows!
  • Bed = 8/10. Decent sleep, dark room, nice pillows, not bad.
  • Shower = 6/10. Sometimes hot sometimes cold, once again..who knows! Pressure was okay though.

What did I eat?

Breakfasts were at the hotel – fruit, tea, coffee with toast (with my yummy peanut and almond butter) or gallo pinto. Food for fuel rather than the soul.

For lunch? We checked in, and found a little soda around the corner for lunch – Soda Tortilla. Fresh pineapple juice and yes, the staple – Casado. Well. I say staple but this one came with no plantain and extra.. Hash browns?? Interesting addition! I was very happy with the amount of avocado I got!

Here is another casado I had another day for lunch at Selvatura Park after my epic day of sightseeing.  Same same but different, but this one had more veggies in it.  At least the avocado is becoming a more regular occurrence!

To be honest, I’m not enjoying the food in Costa Rica that much.  I loved the food everywhere else in Central America, it is just very one dimensional here  (not just for me, but as my meaty friends tell me the same). The options are either casado or arroz con pollo/camarones/vegetales – I’m getting a bit tired of it. But, things were starting to look up. The next day, following Tais’ recommendations, I went to the Monteverde Beer House for a falafel shawarma and chips.  Tasty, juicy, homemade humous, and loads of garlic (my mother would have been mortified). You can see the white bits on the chips. Hehehe. or Jajaja as the locals would say 🙂

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It made for a nice change I must say.  They also had good desserts – homemade chocolate too, I bought a tiny piece of raw chocolate that I had with my coffee later that day.  Dinner? Well. Well. Well. We went to the same place two nights in a row – Ristorante D Thomas – (Tais’ recommendation again) and I had the exact same meal both nights. Now. I don’t usually like eating pasta in restaurants (my sister makes the best pasta in the world – I have been spoilt) but this pasta was excellent – just as good. With their home made potent habanero sauce (they even gave me some to take back to the hotel the next night)… this pasta was delicious. Lots of veggies, tasty tomato sauce, full of flavour and FULL of garlic (mortified mum x2). Other options were spinach and ricotta ravioli (v good) and the tuna – which was v v v good.

I also tried the local tipple – Guaro Chili, made from cacique (sugarcane) in the form of a shot with tomato juice and chilli   A proper hit of chilli, this was an interesting drink with a strong kick from the booze.  Couldn’t have more than one though!

And hallelujah!!  Guess what I had in Santa Elena town – a very delicious coffee!! Beso 😘😘Espresso was the place, and they had soy and almond milk too! I did have the owner in fits asking if they have any other milk than leche de moo 😆. I went for a coconut mocha – made with coconut oil – boy it was good! So there is good coffee here – just need to know where to find it!

What did I do?

I might be getting tired of the food (recent meals excluded), but the wildlife is still making me happy. So so happy! I wanted to check out the hanging bridges in Monteverde – compare them to the ones in La Fortuna. The latter being an intermediate forest and the former a cloud forest. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Please don’t miss going to Selvatura Park. Cloud forest, butterfly park (the largest in Latin America), reptile park, insect park, zip lining – you can spend a whole day there. Easily.  So as you know, my rule of thumb is to pay for a guide ($30, or $45 with a guide) and once again, I got really lucky with our guide – Juan Carlos. He knew every flower, plant, tree and bush around. He knew every bird sound and could make them too.

He made the tour really interesting. The hanging bridges were magical, the cloud forest ensuring cooler weather and misty rain. All the trees were covered with moss – very ethereal and findhorn-esq. magical.  We saw coati, hummingbirds in the wild and coming to artificial feeders (both breathtaking), lots of fungi (I’m obsessed).  The forest and walk itself was amazing.

I then decided to do the reptile and butterfly parks ($25 for both including a guide) and they were so worth it.The butterfly park was brilliant. A massive space, loads of butterflies fluttering around (hard to photograph, so therapeutic to watch!), but we had enough time to try and take pics of some (still) beautiful butterflies – including watching new ones hatch. I loved this place.

Just as much as the reptile park lots of snakes and and and – check out this green and black poison dart frog – my favourite.

I also wanted to go on another night walk to check out the wildlife.  We saw a lot – very many and all very noisy.  Unfortunately they were the human kind, scaring all the wildlife away.  The guide tried his best (especially since people in my group hadn’t even seen a sloth – how lucky have I been!), but we didn’t see much. But once again, I was happy with what I saw – a tarantula, another green viper, an armadillo (only for about 4 seconds), and this super massive ant colony. The sunset on the way was magnificent though!

I spent the rest of the time walking around the town – not very big, but interesting enough way to spend a couple of hours.  Brilliant murals and art work dotted everywhere – very nice!  Selvatura Park was the highlight – I really enjoyed being here and taking it all in.  Most enjoyable…

The next day was the highlight of the trip – we went to Curi Cancha Reserve.

This is more intermediate forest, stunning in it’s own way.  The trees, flowers and plants and the scenery in general was so so so beautiful.

And then to top it all, I saw the bird I’ve been hearing about since the start of my travels – the Quetzal. Sacred and revered by the Maya, mentioned by every guide – and I saw it! Both male and female!!

We also saw other amazing birds and lizards.  It was excellent – don’t miss out on going here, another place I highly recommend going to.

PB Travels… La Fortuna

The next stop for me is La Fortuna, home of the Arenal Volcano. This is a volcano that last erupted in 1968 – so it is still considered to be an active volcano. It is really stunning.. Especially when the view is clear.

But first, I did another homestay in Juanilama in Santa Rosa de Pocosol. I needed to practice my Espanol! Now this was just as amazing as my previous homestay. This one – like every other activity in Costa Rica was a bit more refined and organised. My host family was super friendly – and yes, they didn’t speak English so my Spanish did get better.

Juanilama is a community that is super organised – they help themselves, the environment and their community. There are 25 families, all growing different crops. Everything is organic, a rarity in Costa Rica, which is becoming the biggest user of pesticides in the world due to their pineapple and banana plantations. 😦

We had a wonderful tour of some of their mini ‘plantations’ – in their back gardens. Sandra explained everything – she leads the community and ensures that all is in order. She’s very good at it – and a very charming lady.

Crops grown vary from papaya to pepper. They organised lunch – a beautiful spread, however I could only have one dish..

Thankfully the veggie dish was excellent, so I had loads of that with tortillas and this killer pickle (the usual – carrot, cauliflower, chilli). Really tasty and fresh and surprisingly filling.

Dinner for me was Casado, (with a chicken meatball soup for the meaties) with more of that pickle. It was so full of flavour, I couldn’t get over that salad. DELISH!

They also put on a show for us – kids from the local school showing us traditional Costa Rican dancing. And yes, at some point we all joined in!

And for breakfast? The sweetest organic pineapple. LUSH. There was also rice and beans – or rather gallo pinto.

Very delicious.  I tried the coffee. 😦 As for accommodation? See for yourself – really good, the house was clean and we are not the only ones who enjoyed the space!!!

I had a whale of a time here.  One of the best evenings full of laughter and banter – in broken English and Spanish. At the end of the day we are all the same!  The locals were so friendly and accomodating and it was a lot of fun.  They take in volunteers to help to build the community – if I had my way I would come back and stay here and do just that. But onward to La Fortuna for now.

Where am I staying? 

In La Fortuna, once again, a hotel in a really good location – Arenal Rabfer, 2 blocks away from the main square.

This place has all the mod cons – pool, air conditioning, hair dryer, big room so, breakfast included – it was a lovely space.


Ratings?

  • Grubiness factor – non existent. Clean and lovely. Nice smelling sheets and towels.
  • Bed – 8/10. Comfortable enough – I had three single beds in my room 🙂
  • Shower – 9/10. Hot and powerful. Thank you very much.

What did I eat?  

Breakfast at the hotel was the usual spread. Fruit, coffee, tea and juice to start.

Dare I say that I am really not enjoying the coffee here – I just find it too rough and bitter. I’ve been drinking my herbal tea instead. Bring me some Guatemalan coffee please! My avocados that I bought a few days ago finally ripened – so I had avo on toast one morning (no pic!), the next day – pancakes sin huevos and leche!!! They used orange juice instead – something I will be doing back home. Photo is not the most appealing, but topped with some of the peanut and almond butter I found in the town centre (whoooo!) it was a wonderful breakfast.

My lunch was at Organico Fortuna – an amazing restaurant just off the main square. I will tell you now. GO HERE.  Don’t think twice. Don’t think at all. Just go.

The first time I had a green smoothie – no sugar – and check out the bamboo straw.. love it!

There were so many options but I wanted something pretty different to what I’ve been having so I went for the falafel burger – which came with a few slides of roast potato and dried fruit. They have a homemade salsa picante which was excellent. And so was the burger. Home made bread. Juicy. Packed with veggies.  Loved loved loved it.

Next day? Back again for the quinoa burger and their homemade kombucha.

The burger was just as good (falafel wins though), however I found the kombucha very sweet. And then. After I was very satisfied with my meal, I was told thy do vegan ice cream! Oh my word. How delicious!

Better than the one I had in Mexico. Cocoa with nibs. So so so creamy and tasty.

Dinner one night was at a local restaurant – can’t remember the name. I went for veggies, salad and rice. Don’t know why. It was just as dull as it sounded. And they charged me a truckload for 1/2 a teeny avocado!

The quinoa burger and ice cream were so filling I didn’t have dinner the next night.

Other things? Well, my go to snacks are those plantain crisps. I try and go for the locally made ones as they are not only cheaper but they have less crap in them – no preservatives or MSG.

Sweet stuff is harder to come by for me – there is enough of it but  usually stuff I can’t have. Like this.

But I came across this – something I would ever have back home but am thoroughly enjoying eating here (in small doses). Cane sugar and sesame coated peanuts. Sugar rush central!

I did try and give the coffee another go at one of the best places – my coffee. Looked good. But no.  Just don’t like it.

What did I do?

Walked around the town as usual. Prettier than most other towns, lots of beautiful flowers, a pretty church, a cool square, and the volcano in the background. Nice.

Lots of expensive souvenirs shops with stuff you wonder who buys – not I. Lots of wooden stuff. I have done almost no shopping here.

I did also walk around the markets – love the colours!

On the way to La Fortuna we drove past an iguana hangout – well, a restaurant overlooking trees full of iguanas. Very cool. They are amazing looking creatures. Absolutely breathtaking.


Hanging bridges which are supposed to be the highlight of the area. A shock to the system – there were other tourists around! The audacity! Views = excellent. Hanging bridges = wobbly. Max of 15 people and if you have dodgy balance or a fear of heights this is not the place for you!

The views, flora and fauna was really beautiful.

We got to see more birdies – trogons, an owl and the big black one is a cormorant! And for those eagle eyes among you – get your mind of the gutter. That is part of the male palm tree. As you would expect. 😜

We also saw a little snake, but that was really it in terms of wildlife. The lasting memory of the hanging bridges of La Fortuna is the human traffic and queuing to get onto the bridges. As for the wildlife, everyday is different – so I won’t whine any more.

I didn’t do any other strenous activities – some people went on a volcano hike – they said it was super exhausting but very worth it. My non strenuous activity was chilling in hot springs. Ok. Not chilling – you can’t really chill in 52 degrees C can you?

Thanks to the volcanoes there are lots of hot springs in the area, we went to Paradise Hot Springs, $28 entrance and spent about 2.5 hours there – could have spent more.  There are 5 pools of varying temperatures – very hot to very comfortable.

It was super fun, walking around and trying the pools out, very relaxing. Definitely recommend this – and we did the right thing going in the evening. Not sure how anyone would sit in a hot spring pool on a hot day!

All in all, I enjoyed La Fortuna. It seems like every town is more expensive and busy than the previous on, but it also means that they are more modern. I’m still assessing how I feel about the towns and places in general, it has been hit and miss. What is amazing 100% of the time is the flora and fauna and wildlife – love it! ❤️

PB Travels…Puerto Viejo, Sarapiqui

Leaving Tortuguero was sad – I could have spent longer there but I knew better things awaited ahead of me – wildlife wise. A short three hour journey to Sarapiqui, and I was ready for my next session of wildlife exploring.  The good thing is that Costa Rica is such a small country, travel times between destinations are short and sweet.

Where was I staying?

Posada Andrea Cristina, a wonderful little hotel, just off the main road.. It was super laid back, you could go into the kitchen and help yourself to crockery and cutlery. There was also a communal fridge where we could store drinks. Lovely communal dining area (the place only does breakfast – included), and an excellent area for bird watching, complete with enticing fruits nailed to a tree…

That bugged some people staying in the hotel (noisy trucks and all), but I got one of the rooms/cabins right at the back and it didn’t bother me one bit. What did bother me was seeds and coconuts falling on my corrugated iron roof – now that sound woke me up with a start every flipping time!!

The room was lovely – minimal but new and clean. Ratings:

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent – it was a brand new room
  • Bed = 8/10. Sleep well, marks deducted due to fright.
  • Shower: 3/10. No hot water! You might say, who needs hot water when you’re in such humidity? ME!

What did I eat?

Breakfast was a selection of fresh fruit – papaya, pineapple, melaon and bananas (from a tree on the hotel grounds). AND. Excellent home made bread made by Alex, who was in charge of breakfast.

I found a last sachet of almond butter (need to find more!) so had that one day with banana – delicious.

Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui is alittle town (not funky like Tortuguero – this was just dull and a bit sad), apart from a couple of decent restaurants – one of them is Soda Mi Lindo. So for lunch one day, I had a lovely smoothie (sin azucar – they add sugar to all drinks!!) – spinach, celery, cucumber and orange. Yummy.

For mains, arroz con vegetables (alright), papas fritas (meh), ensalada (rico – the tomatoes were so flavourful). It was a massive portion – I didn’t finish the rice.

So still craving avocados, I went to the supermarket to buy some – hard like stone or soft as butter – take you pick. I got a few hard ones (STILL waiting for them to ripen) and a single soft one. I also bought a bottle of ‘hot’ chilli sauce (not really) and some yucca crisps (excellente). The avocado turned out to be very good, and smooshed up with lime and chilli turned out to be an amazing lunch. The photo might not look pretty, but I was SO happy (told you before, doesn’t take much!)

Dinner on one night was a salad delivery. Simple salad – tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion and heart  of palm – love those things, just don’t get fresh ones very often. Very tasty. Crunchy, flavourful and very edible.

Dinner the next night was from the other decent place in town (delivered to the hotel) a pizza! It was thin crust, really tasty base with loads of veggies – including carrot, broccoli and cauliflower :). Definitely got my 5 a day from this pizza! Very tasty.

What did I do?

So along with my wildlife fix, I got my flower fix too. The flora and fauna around here is stunning, and I was very click happy. Look!

This region is know for extreme water sports and white water rafting, but I wasn’t interested in that – all I wanted was to check out the wildlife.

We went for a morning walk to La Selva. I really really enjoyed this walk. I strongly recommend it to everyone. We had a brilliant guide and saw loads of birds – trogans, motmots, toucans –  sloths, wild boar, spiders – excellent!

The wildlife was excellent, but so was the flora, fauna and the whole place in general made it a very enjoyable day.  The rest of the wildlife was not spotted in a national park or reserve – but in the gardens of the hotel!! I am still mastering the names of the birds (don’t ask me just yet) – they were amazing. Throw in a squirrel to boot and PB = a very happy bunny.

And then in the evening, Alex spotted THE frog of Costa Rica – the red eyed tree frog… Result!

I didn’t like the town but the wildlife in the hotel and the reserve in Sarapiqui was super excellent amazing brilliant. I’m loving it!!!!

PB Travels… Tortuguero

Yay!! Out of San Jose, it took 2 public buses (very safe, very clean, very organised) to get to a boat – and then another hour on the river to get to out hotel in Tortuguero. 

We saw a two toed sloth from the bus! Double yay! The boat ride was magical – lush vegetation, birds galore… It was amazing. 

The main reason we were going there – wildlife wildlife wildlife. I am so loving being here – my soul is being satiated 100%. 

Where am I staying?

Miss Junnie’s is a beautiful hotel, with canal side or ocean side rooms. I think there is a restaurant but I didn’t eat there.  


Before I got too excited I was told that the beach is completely off limits – seriously strong currents. I will just have to wait until I get to the Pacific side to swim. My room was simply furnished and very cute. Check out my view, with my personal hammock.  I did spend quite some time in there. 

Ratings:

  • Grubiness factor = medium, the towels and the sheets has a bit of damp so the whiffs were not pleasurable. I did use my own towel and sleeping sheet. 
  • Shower = 6/10. Hit and miss with the hot water. 
  • Bed = 7/10. I slept well because I was so exhausted from the nature walks and night walks, but the pillows were so lumpy – the worst I’ve had!

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts – plate of fruit in the hotel one morning – $7. This place is expensive in comparison to where  other countries. I had a bar the next day as I was so full from my epic dinner. 

Lunch was at another soda – Casado again – nothing else for me to eat. They didn’t have any avocado or veggie dishes so I got the usual rice, beans, plantain and another mound of cabbage. I’m beginning to see a theme here! 

Rice and beans – can’t go wrong, had to pimp it up with an abysmal chilli sauce. COSTA RICANS DON’T LIKE CHILLIES. BOOHOOHOO. But the plantain – I think it was made a week ago. It was like rubber – I couldn’t even cut it. Vile. 

Lunch the next day was much better, found a bakery and I wanted to try patacones ones – basically smushed and whole plantains fried into fritters, with frijoles and salad. NO AVOCADO!

This meal was tasty – crunchy and smooth, it was flavourful (post salt and chilli sauce)

Lunch was so late one day that dinner before our night walk was a giant smoothie. Fresh Foods is the smoothie place to go to in Tortuguero, and it didn’t disappoint. 

Pineapple, celery, parsley and cucumber – hit the spot. 

Next night? I was craving something different other than beans, rice and plantain. And I was desperately missing my avocado – from having it twice a day to not at all. Cue Wild Ginger. A restaurant run by a Costa Rican man and his American wife/cook. THANK YOU!  

I had a falafel pita wrap – sensational. Full of flavour, crunchy, well dressed salad and avocado!

Every mouthful was delicious. Loved it.

What did I do? 

Wildlife! Tortuguero as a town is literally one street, quirky enough but not much to see and do. 

Miss Junnie’s on one end, and the entrance to the national park on the other – a 12 minute walk away.  I went on a night walk to find frogs and snakes. Result! There was a full moon too – the beach was so beautiful at night. Pics to follow. 

Next day – early morning nature hunt – in a canoe. With me paddling there and back. Well, not just me. We had one guide who was the main paddler and he handed around 4 more. I didn’t mind – it was actually a lot of fun. Saw loads of birds, howler monkeys, basilisk lizards (LOVE them)

I was loving all the wildlife – and decided to go for an afternoon walk in the national park.

We saw toucans, birds, golden orb spiders, monkeys, turtles, whoo! One of the ladies in the group had a leaf brush past her leg and she screamed to high heaven because she thought it was a snake. That lead to 3 other women screaming in support. Highly amusing – wildlife of a human kind. 

I enjoyed Tortugero – the hotel,  the rivers and lakes and the national park – and the weather was excellent too!  Wildlife galore and I want more… Onward.. (Will definitely update post to include more pics – they are all on my big cameras)

PB Travels… San Jose

Onward to Costa Rica – I caught a flight from Guatemala City to San Jose.  Word of advice – if you are booking a flight which means you need to get to GUA in the morning.. make sure you give yourself enough time to get there early! I spent 3 hours in traffic – worst I’ve ever seen!! Thankfully I got to the airport with 1.5 hours to spare. Things started to look up – everything went smoothly, I spent the last of my quetzals, and I came across a lounge I could use. Whoo!!

I got some fruit, drank lots of green tea and got some free water. The flight was a doddle (apart from the guy sitting next to me – super weird! I had to tell him I’m not interested in talking to him and put my headphones in for the rest of the flight), it took 15 minutes to clear immigration and pick my bags, and I was on my way to the city centre. 

Where am I staying?

Hotel Don Carlos is a beautiful touritsy hotel, complete with souvenir shop. Clear from the word go, this hotel is more Americanised – more with it, but less rustic that the other hotels. 

The room was nice and (very) flowery, bright, spacious. 

Ratings:

  • Grubiness factor = nil. All pristine and clean.
  • Bed = 7/10. Lumpy thin pillows, but manageable for 2 nights. 
  • Shower = 8/10. Nice and hot, power could be improved, but toiletries were included… Good thing since I’m running out of my essentials. 

What did I eat?

I dropped my bags at the hotel, starving and decided to explore San Jose (on your own! Are you mad! – I’m alive.. Don’t worry peeps). I walked up and down Avenida Central – the Oxford Circus of San Jose, expecting to find loads of places to eat. But alas. Desperation lead me to Subway. 

Not bad – full of salad – and it filled me up until breakfast the next day.  

Breakfast was in the hotel – basic continental, fresh fruit, toast and just OK coffee (!!!). Had to switch to the green tea.   For lunch I found a place called Vishnu that did, no, not Indian food, but veggie and vegan fast food. I ordered a fresh pineapple juice – delish! 

I went for a veggie burger with fries. It came with a piece of mock meat (no thanks, didn’t even try it) and a mountain of raw cabbage.

I had to take 2/3 out to taste anything other than cabbage. After which it tasted just ok – I wasn’t impressed – though the fries were hot and crispy! 

Dinner was at a soda – which is a very local restaurant. I went for Casado, the local dish, which is essentially rice, beans, plantain, salad – then some veggies or meat. I asked for extra avocado – yay! What arrived was a big and tasty plate of food. 

They even had this homemade pickle (like I had in Guatemala) made with carrot, onion, cauliflower, chilli and vinegar. Very nice. If all the food in Costa Rica is like this – I will be ok. 

What did I do? 

Walked up and down Avenida Central. Enough said. Won’t be doing that again, there was nothing about it that I liked. 

I was told by my cabbie that the Gold Museum is worth doing. And it was. I really enjoyed walking around the museum – very slick and modern, reading about how gold was produced – impressive, seeing that some of it goes back to 800AD. 

There was also a section devoted to the history of coins and notes in Costa Rica, and a part for temporary exhibitions. But walking around the other parts of the museums, the ceramics and stone ware just looked too ‘new’. No chips, no faded paint – nada. I’m suspicious – need to consult google. 

 

After seeing rustic real ruins,  part of me didn’t take in all the artefacts just because of their condition – does that make sense? In any case, go check the museum out (it was about £7). What else are you going to do in San Jose? 

One of the ladies I met had her purse stolen. She doesn’t know how it where it happened, but it was in broad daylight. And before she cancelled her credit card, she was told that €2600 had already been spent on it! Glad I’ll be outta here tomorrow – in the lap of nature, where I am most happiest. 

PB Travels…Copan, Honduras

Don’t know about you guys, but when more than half a dozen people look me in the eye, and earnestly tell me to go to Copan because the ruins are amazing and I will love them – I must listen… and go.   Honduras wasn’t on the list, but I made plans to go to check out the Copan ruins without giving it a second though – which in my books (and instinct) is 100% right.  Organising it was easy – I jumped on a collectivo at 4am for a 6 hour ride to Copan. We got there in 5.5 hours, thanks to the speedy yet careful driver – and this included the border crossing too (effortless, and another stamp in the passport – whoo!).  And by the way – it was completely safe!!

Where am I staying?

Berakah Hostel has rave reviews on TripAdvisor, and it turned out to be a cool chilled place – the shared spaces, that is..

What I didn’t realise is that I had booked a bed in a dorm, which turned out to be a bad decision. I was ‘assigned a top bunk bed’ in a room that basically fit 3 bunk beds, a foot between them and room for nothing else. Too small for me, too little personal space. And there was one bed (taken) that smelt horrible. Nope. Just couldn’t stay there. (Yes M, never never again!). Thankfully the last privado room was free – for an extra $11. No brainer.

If I had to rate the bunk beds, well, no, I won’t. I feel ill thinking about that smell – but I’m sure it was specifically because of individuals as opposed to the room. Rating my little room on the other hand..

  • Grubbiness factor = low. Everything was clean
  • Bed = 8/10. Comfy and it did the job. Slept well but that could be due to other factors 😉
  • Shower = 7/10. There was hot hot water – low pressure I could live with it.

What did I eat?

I got a breakfast sandwich for the ride (mushrooms and tomato – no pic) and it was yummy and filling. All I needed to keep me going for dinner was coffee and this lush watermelon juice from Cafe Ixchel.

I was told I definitely needed to try a baleada – a traditional Honduran dish. Essentially a fat tortilla, stuffed with frijoles, cheese, crema and any additional fillings – usually meaty or eggy ones.  We went to La Buena Baleada, which apparently had the best ones.

I chose one with just frijoles and platano – the only 2 options I could have. It arrived with a little dollop of a carrot pickle salad – which I sprinkled in the baleada. I didn’t take a pic – but take my word for it, it looked simple but tasted really yummy – the combination of sweet, sour and creamy.   Breakfast the next morning consisted of coffee and pupusas – something else I hadn’t had a chance to try before. They are essentially stuffed tortillas.

So once again, I went for the only filling – frijoles, with avocado. Combined with salsa picante, yummy cabbage pickle and great conversation, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavours and textures of this meal. I ended up ordering 2, and saved one for my lunch on the way back to Antigua – job done, it filled me up.

What did I do?

Ruins! I was here for the Copan ruins, and our guide, the enthusiastic and passionate Julio.

There was only one other person joining me on the tour, the very handsome and very polite E – who became my partner in crime for exploring ruins, eating and drinking while I was in Copan – and we had Julio all to ourselves giving us interesting fact after fact and answering all our questions.  Copan has amazing hieroglyphics – on the steles, altars and pyramids – some which are really well preserved.

The most iconic pyramid is one with hieroglyphics on each step. Really stunning and impressive.

We walked around the scenic route, taking in the amazing views. Julio also pointed out that the main plaza is on the back of the 1 limpira note – so cool!

The most iconic building is the Rosalila, a temple inside (yes, inside and under) a pyramid, built by the 1st king.   I definitely recommend you paying a bit more ($15) to go into the tunnels – 100% not claustrophobic, they are big – so you can see glimpses of the levels and the Rosalila.


What I really loved about this place (apart from the usual nature-science-astronomy link) was that I could see the different layers/styles of the pyramids and temples – as each king would essentially built on top of the previous king’s efforts – apart from the Rosalila. And we saw (introduced but now wild, but still fed by humans) macaws! Whoo!

The next day we decided to check out another recommended ruin – Rastrojon, the ‘welcome point’ for people entering Copan.  It was a proper ruin – more like a mess.

Unfortunately it was built on unstable land (so not like the Maya!) and most of it can’t be put back together. What they managed to put back together was good – but stuff I’ve seen before..


This is the best thing – in terms of context of carvings – found on the site (a replica).

The views were beautiful though.

So you can take or leave Rastrojon, but don’t miss the Sculpture Museum – because you can see a life size replica of the Rosalila! Thanks E – I am so glad it did it!!

This is my kind of museum – almost open air, well lit and SO many interesting objects. It was amazing. I could have spent a day there.

Overall, the ruins at Copan must not, can not, should not be missed.  They were virtually empty – more so than any of the others that I’ve been to.  They were visually stunning, the history fascinating, and it only lead to me being in greater awe of the Maya. So impressed and STILL not ruin-ed out. (a term I’ve heard a few times now) GO.

PB Travels… Back to Antigua

First leg of travelling over. I’m back in Antigua, booked myself into a lovely little hotel for a couple of days to essentially relax and enjoy the last few attractions in Guatemala.

Where am I staying?

San Rafael, my hotel is located just under the arch – superb location, 5 minutes walk to the main square.  It is a small boutique hotel, I think a max of 9 rooms and it used to be a private residence before.The public areas are stunning – I have been lounging about making use of them.

The room is BEAUTIFUL, sitting area, comfortable bed, massive bathroom – BLISS.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = erm. Nada. Nothing. Cleanliness as  expected with this calibre of hotels. Pristine and lovely smelling room and sheets.
  • Bed = 10/10. So so comfy. And the room is dark and night – perfect sleep.
  • Shower = 10/10. Rain shower, hand held, lovely toiletries.

I love this hotel – and if I didn’t have to think about budgeting, I would stay in hotels like this all the time.. luxurious, small and with character. But I’m happy with travelling normally most of the time and then taking it up a notch for a few days – I’ve always done this and have stayed in some brilliant hotels – keeps me happy 🙂

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts are included in the hotel, everything from continental, to pancakes to traditional with a twist. My go to has been a version of ‘Antigua’s best breakfast’ that comes with eggs, frijoles, platanos and cheese.

Replace eggs and cheese with mushrooms and hash browns, and yes. This could be Antigua’s best breakfast.  I have thoroughly enjoyed eating it. Nice presentation – check out the frijoles! (And they have an amazing home made salsa – es muy picante!). There is fresh orange juice and fruit to start. And their coffee is excellent!

What I like about this place is breakfast is a la carte – made to order (order what you want and as much – just finish it) so there is no wastage of food.  Other things I’ve been eating are falafel wraps from Roots Juice Bar – extremely tasty and fresh (extra guac of course) and a liver cleanser (beetroot, apple, celery, lime). They have a whole range of juices – all tasty sounding.

Rainbow Cafe is another go to for veggie/vegan options (thank you Happy Cow). I had the falafel plate – wanted to compare them to Roots. Roots wins. These ones were a bit dry, but the tahini sauce and pico de gallo made up for it. And they had hummus which was very good.  I also had a Jamaica iced tea – it was really good, nice and sour but a tad too sweet for me.

I went to the market one day and came across a truly local place. For Q25, I got a plate of rice, veggies and frijoles and a horchata. Simple and tasty, and what really elevated the meal was their home made pickle. STUNNING.

Please don’t hesitate to eat in a place like this – local, high turnaround, simple yet clean – it was a really good meal. I really enjoyed it.  Dinners were back at Frida’s – Nachos con Verduras sin queso y crema. YUMMO. Those salsas are some of the best I’ve had!

I also went to La Fonda de la Calle Real – a popular place that serves authentic Guatemalan food. I wanted to try Pepian, a stew with a sauce made from pumpkin seeds and tomatoes and coriander – and they had a veggie version here!

What came was chayote (or chuchu/shushu) in a rich sauce. It was really dark and full of flavour –  but I found it quite heavy, only had 1/2 of it with the rice.  The little tamale was stuffed with frijoles, but was super dry. Didn’t eat it.  I also had a Jamaica juice – nice and tart and not too sweet (finally!!!!).  Other than that, I’ve been overdosing on fresh juices…

Eating perfectly ripe avocados on their own,


And I also had a cheeky Chinese takeaway. I can’t do MSG – and I appreciate that they were honest enough to say they use it, and that they wouldn’t for me. They didn’t… the noodles were simple yet tasty and light.  I react instantly to it and I know the tell tale signs – so thank you Chinese takeaway place (yep, forgot the name, but it is on the 5th Avenida)


What did I do?

Antigua is such a beautiful town I have enjoyed walking around, exploring the markets I didn’t get to see the first time round, meandering around the streets day and night (it is so safe), having random conversations with locals and tourists and generally just taking it all in.

I finally decided to do some shopping and bought a few money purses. Antigua is also the jade capital of Guatemala, so I had to get myself a souvenir. If you want really pretty jewellery at a really good price, please go visit Jose – tienda cuarenta in the Artisan market.

At first glance I thought, erm…nothing here – but he has got some amazing stuff and is very knowledgable. I got a Lila jade ring, and a jaguar jade ring (seeing that in the Mayan Calendar, my zodiac animal is a baby jaguar – and I like that colour of green), and another rose quartz pendant (you can never have to many!). All at very reasonable prices!! And he even resized a ring for me.. Muchos Gracias Jose!

I also went back to Cerro de la Cruz -the views this time were just as good as last. I can see why so many people enjoy Antigua. It has a bit of everything and I’m glad I stayed here for a bit longer. Next stop – Costa Rica. But first – a stop to Honduras.

PB Travels… Panajachel

Goodbye Mexico (mi amor), hola Guatemala (again). I could tell instantly that I was back in Guatemala – the place just feels different – in a good way! We were on our way to check out the mother of all lakes, Lake Atitlan, but before that, a homestay!

I love meeting locals and hanging out with them – you get a completely different view of the world. We crossed the border and got into the town, a lot more vibrant and bigger than I was expecting. My host was young Derrick, 23 years old, married with the most gorgeous, cuddly baby – or gordita (haha) as he called her.

He lived with his younger brother (21 and also married) and his amazing mother. She was so cool – so strong and independent and with it, it was a pleasure spending time with her. She definitely took me through my paces regarding Spanish! They were absolutely wonderful, hospitality rate = 100%. I helped make the meals (sorry no pics of the soup), including tortillas!!

Guess which are the mum’s and which are mine.. haha. We dressed up like a local ladies and had a whale of a time. We also spent time checking out the town – small, vibrant and very local. Almost all the women were wearing traditional clothes. It was a lot of fun. Next stop? Panajachel or Pana as affectionately referred to by the locals.

Where am I staying?

Panajachel is a beautiful but very sleepy town in my opinion. Once you’ve checked it out, if you’re not there for a specific reason, there isn’t a need to stay (or so I think). We were there for 2 nights, staying in the Utz Jay (‘Welcome’ in the local Maya dialect).

Beautiful grounds (as usual), quirky hotel, room furnished with local textiles, lots of natural light, another hotel that I liked.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low. A bit tired but clean.
  • Shower = 7/10. Hot water but dodgy showerhead which meant I had to dance in the shower to ensure the water got to where it had to.
  • Bed = 7/10. Comfy enough, but with Lilliputian pillows – slightly challenging.

What did I eat? 

Ignore what I ate for now – Let me tell you what I drank!!!!  The best coffee in the world. I kid you not. This coffee was sublime verging on orgasmic. The Best Coffee I Have Ever Had. Where? Cafe Loco.

Those amongst you with eagle eyes will notice the Korean text. Yes. This cafe is run by Korean brothers living in Pana. And God bless them for doing so. Cute little cafe, with all coffee related paraphernalia (who knew there was so much).

Look at the size of the dream catcher!!!!! I had a flat white with  soya (the last of their non dairy milk). BLOOMING HECK. I was speechless. It was like drinking liquid velvet that tasted of all my favourite things put together. And it wasn’t just me – everyone loved their coffees (with the staff smiling smugly – and rightly so). They were great with their coffee art – reminded me of the guys at Riso in Tromso.

Next coffee – iced hazel Americano and I also tried a hot version – both super amazing. They also have creative names for their coffees, everything from Dark Knight (mocha with orange) to hulk (mint and coffee).  These guys have mastered the art of making a good cup of coffee – every step of the process. If you are ever here, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE. OR ELSE. YES. This is a threat. GO GO GO. Make it the first thing you do.

Breakfasts – included at the hotel, the usual continental, fruit, toast and coffee – but it can’t compare to Cafe Loco!

Lunches? We came across a ‘Vietnamese-Mayan fusion’ food joint. Sounded good.  I had a veggie coconut milk curry – full of sugar! It was ok – the Mayan veggies were good – but it did feel like I was eating dessert. Had to pimp it with my usual suspects – lime and salsa picante to make it enjoyable.

Lunch the next day was much better – on the island of San Juan, we found this cute little cafe – Cafe Atitlan – servicing local, simple, home cooked food.  Fresh pineapple juice and a veggie plate with salad, veggies, frijoles, rice and avo. Delicious!

Dinners? I went to Circus Bar on one night – it was absolutely brilliant. The decor, layout, menu, staff – everything was on point, including the food.  There was hummus on the menu! I had to order it. Delicious and full of flavour. One of the girls ordered a salad – it was really good.


I ordered pasta with tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Sounds bizarre but I mixed the rest of the hummus in the pasta and that just took it to the next level. Might start doing that at home! There was also live music – so much fun and entertaining.

Dinner on the next night was at Chintas. Asian food. The decor was beautiful, it was a nice space to chill and eat in.

I forgot to take a pic of my food. I ordered a satay plate – rice, salad, tofu skewers and peanut sauce. Super tasty, and there were loads of items on the menu that I would have liked to try.  Snacks? On the way to Pana we stopped for a fuel break and came across this tray of wares.

Coconut, orange, pumpkin, brittle – all coated/soaked/immersed in sugar. I went for the coconut – middle right – super sweet, to the point my teeth started to hurt – and that is coming from someone who can handle her sugar!!

What did I do?

Carrying on from Las Cristobal, I continued to relax. This included walking up and down the town. There was stall after stall and shop after shop selling the same stuff – it became quite exhausting after a while even just looking! The one thing that I realised was how expensive Guatemala is in comparison to Mexico!  What I really enjoyed doing was going down to the shore and watching the sunset over the lake – very beautiful.

One night there was a guy tossing fire balls (don’t know what that is actually called), another night there was a band (a really good band) playing – most enjoyable. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the live music on this trip. The other taxing activity (NOT) was taking a boat across Lake Atitlan to San Juan. There are lots of islands, and lots of tours where you can visit them all, I choose just one. Q25 for a one way ticket, 30 minute ride and you’re there. A bumpy ride (it was a windy morning), but nothing too strenous, unless you’re this American girl who became hysterical and put on her life jacket when the boat started bouncing.

Stunning views on the lake, and the island was quite pretty too – once you got past the shops and galleries (selling the same paintings). They were pretty but a bit too busy for my taste. We just walked around at tourist pace, taking it all in, not a care in the world.

I did like this pic of a couple in a boat – but not enough to buy it. So where am I now? I’m chilling in Antigua, planning the next steps of the holiday. Stay tuned!

PB Travels… San Cristobal de las Casas

So I’m down to the last few days in Mexico – boohoo- and I’m spending them in San Cristobal, essentially a mountain town with picturesque views, beautiful churches, cobbled streets and good food. Oh. And lots of shopping. 

There is a distinct change in temperature – we went from shorts and shirts to fog and freezing cold!!! And I’m not exaggerating. It was really horribly chilly. Bring back the sun I say!!! 

Where am I staying?
The hotel is called Parador Margarita, and one of the best ones of the entire trip. Stunning grounds, and the rooms were something else. Beautifully furnished, very rustic and tasteful, my kind of a room.

Location was also brilliant, 5 minute walk to Real De Guadalupe, and about a 10 minute walk to the main square. Don’t think twice about staying here. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = non existent. 
  • Bed = 9/10. Comfy bed, comfy pillows and since it was so cold in this part of Mexico, comfy duvets and blankets – lovely lovely lovely. 
  • Shower = 10/10. Super hot shower, amazing pressure, I was having two showers a day. Loved it. 

What did I eat?

Our first stop for lunch was at Agua Azul, the beautiful blue waterfalls where there were about 100 stalls all serving the same thing – empanadas, 5 for 20 pesos. So I chose fillings of frijoles and papas (you could have had queso, carne or pollo too) – freshly made to order. 

More filling than tasty (how can deep fried food be so bland? Well. It can), they were just ok and served the purpose they were meant for – to fill my belly. What I enjoyed most was the cabbage and carrot salad, doused in lime. Could have had just that for lunch! 

Once in San Cristobal, I noticed that it was another hippy town, which meant lots of veggie options – I would eat well here. Yay! 

So I didn’t really have breakfast while I was there, only super amazing decent coffee from the cafe opposite the hotel – only 12 pesos! Muy delicioso!

I also had a coffee in the market one day – this time 6 pesos and flavoured with cinnamon. Lush. Will be doing that back home. 

Lunch one day was at Tonantzin, a restaurant on Real de Guadalupe specialising in veggie and vegan food. As it was still very chilly – about 12 degrees, I went for a soy milk hot chocolate – with real Mayan cacao. Exactly what I needed. 

It was really warming and the chocolate really came through. 

For mains I went for a vegan tamale. I was quite excited as all the tamales I have come across so far have been meat filled. 

This one was stuffed with carrots, peppers, peanuts, raisins, spinach. It may have not been traditional, but dang, it was good. 

Doused with that fresh tomato sauce and habanero salsa, it was the perfect meal for a cold day. Full of texture, flavour and substance. I’d eat it again. And again. 

Lunch the next day was at Kinoko, more like a hipster cafe with two, tiny 4 seater cinemas that played hard hitting/meaningful movies. All in Spanish, so we didn’t watch any. 

I LOVED this place. The decor of this place was great, and so was the menu. Lots and lots of veggie options. Oh, and the views from the restaurant were beautiful too. 


To drink, mainly for the name and my love for all things Hayao Miyazaki, I went for the Princesca Mononoke – with strawberries, ginger and sparkling water.  Good decision!! It was Perfect. Delicious. Refreshing. And gigante. 

I went for a salad crammed with lettuce, beetroot, carrots, olives, avocado and peppers. Oh, and a side of guac. As expected. 


Massive portion, so delicious. I could taste each and every veggie. Loved this meal in it’s entirety. 

Dinners? First night was at TierrADentro, a restaurant supporting the Zapatista movement. 

We were all FREEZING cold, so what better drink to have than a mescal hot chocolate?

Ho ho ho. This blew my socks off. Potent, with a strong hit of both chocolate and mescal, believe you me, I wasn’t complaining about the cold any more. Won’t ever order it again though. Waaay too strong for me. 

For my main meal? A pizza. MEH. Not a wise choice (I blame the cold), but the selection of salsas almost made up for it, along with the avocado, obvs. 

What is brilliant about this place is that they have live music every evening. And tonight’s entertainment were 2 Italian guys – playing traditional folk music. Absolutely brilliant! The guy on the left played at least 7 instruments!

We went back there on the last night mainly to listen to the music – this time two girls from Argentina. I had a bowl of veggie soup with noodles – which was super tasty! 

There was this sweet old woman trying to sell her wares. Now most restaurants allow vendors to come in and sell their stuff. Her style was unique. She would walk up to each table, not say a word, lay out all her stuffed animals and then look at you with puppy dog eyes. 

It worked!!! I bought a lion which turned out to be be perfect present for the 5 month old baby at my homestay! 

Dinner on another night with a few of the girls was at La casa del Pan, a lovely restaurant with artisan shops. 

I ordered yes, guac – and look how it arrived! What a beautiful presentation! The best yet. And it tasted yummy!

I also went for a glass of home made kombucha. Refreshing but a bit too sweet for me. 

For mains, a stunning stunning stunning meal. Black corn tortillas, stuffed with mushrooms, carrots, onions in this wonderful sauce. 

Look inside. Pimped with lime and pico di gallo, it was an excellent dish.

So filling – I could only finish 2 of the tacos.  As for snacks? More of that mango doused in lime and chilli. I also tried a cold chocolate from Cacao Nativa (there were about 5 of them in the place).  I went for an 80% chocolate (you could choose which chocolate you want – try before you buy). 

Yummy. Just how I like it – not too sweet, slightly bitter and a super depth of flavour. I even bought a bag of cocoa beans to take back with me. 

What did I do?

We stopped at 2 water bodies before getting to our final stop. First one – Misol Ha, a beautiful waterfall, which you could walk around.

So calming and relaxing, I spent 1/2 hour just sitting on a rock taking it all in.   Next stop – Agua Azul, and you can see why it is callled that. 

Perfect backdrop for your sweet sixteen pics, eh?

When I got to San Cristobal, I wanted to do nothing.  This was the chill time of the holiday. I decided I didn’t want any day long activities and decided to spend 2 days walking around, visiting the markets, taking in the  views and visiting as many churches as I could. Very worth it. 

We did visit the jade museum, which I would recommend. And only 30 pesos fee! Didn’t know there were so many kinds of jade. I love the Lila – was instantly drawn to it. 

I enjoyed my time here. San Cristobal is an expressive town – from the people to the graffiti to the streets.  Definitely worth spending a few days here to relax.