Sunday, December 11, 2016

Costa Rica Anniversary Travel Diary: Our Stay in La Villa Segundo Rio B&B in Alajuela!

By: Mhe-anne O. Isidro

Costa Rica which literally means "Rich Coast" is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. Administratively, Costa Rica is divided into seven (7) provinces namely: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San Jose.

Christmas Bear at Juan Santa Maria International Airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica
Departure & Arrival: Wearing our matching couple shirts from Palawan and our navy - blue high cut Chuck Taylor shoes, we took Delta Airlines direct flight from Los Angeles, California at 1 o'clock in the morning of December 10, 2016 and arrived at 6 o'clock in the morning at the Juan Santa Maria International Airport. Although called the San Jose (Costa Rica) International Airport (SJO), this airport is actually located in Alajuela, the second  largest province next to the capital San Jose. 

There is no visa requirement to get to Costa Rica so our arrival was fast and smooth. The arrival card is filled up and collected by Delta Airlines, so we just get our entry stamp at the Immigration section upon arrival  and present the custom's form upon leaving the airport.  

There is free wifi service at the airport. After changing $300 into colones (with exchange guarantee for the remaining amount), we booked Uber to our accommodation at the La Villa Rio Segundo Bed and Breakfast. 

Our Room Exit to the Swimming Pool!

Accommodation: La Villa Rio Segundo Rio B&B  is located 8 km from Alajuela City Centre and just 10 minutes drive from Juan Santamaría International Airport which is La Villa Río Segundo B&B's greatest advantage (but the greatest disadvantage to guests!) since you can hear the noise from airplanes taking off and landing in at the airport. The property has an outdoor pool, a beautiful garden, hammocks, a terrace, a shared kitchen and barbecue facilities for guests. There is a free WiFi available in public areas, a tour desk and luggage storage. 

Our double bed comes with a swan styled towels

Our room is by the pool with a view of the garden. At $44, the room has a shared bathroom with hot & cold shower and complimentary breakfast offered from 7:00 to 10:00 am. of the next day. 

Breakfast consist of scrambled egg, ham, bread, juice and cereals 

Activities while in La Villa Rio Segundo B&B:  Although we read that an array of activities can be enjoyed in the surrounding areas such as Poas Volcano National Park, Zoo Ave, La Paz Waterfall, and Laguna de Fraijanes, we decided to take it slow, sleep in (to recharge!), enjoyed swimming at our accommodation, and visited the City Mall which is located only 7 km from the property. 

Alajuela City Mall's Food Court

Since check - in time at La Villa Rio Segundo B&B is at 12 noon, we left our stuff at the counter and took Uber to the Alajuela City Mall . The mall has only been operating for a year and is hailed as the biggest mall in Central America (but really it is much smaller than our Mall of Asia). The mall hours works well for us as it opens from 9am until 10pm. We had our brunch at the Cajun Grill ($8) and a yogurt fix at the Yougurt Mania ($5). We were also able to visit Movistar for our phone essentials for our week-long stay in the country.

We enjoyed a dip at the La Villa Rio Segundo B&B Swimming Pool

TRAVEL TIPS (that works for us today!):  (1) Upload an Uber application in your phone. Uber is the safest (and cheapest!) to go around from SJO airport to / around Alajuela since Costa Rica has no address system and asking for directions might be a problem if you do not speak Spanish like us!; (2) Buy a sim card good for one week at Movistar for only $5 and data for $2.5 for 1 GB; (3) Exchange rate at the airport was only $1 = CRC 477 (while it is $1=CRC 560 outside). But it would be good to have colones right away, for transportation and other stuff. So when exchanging dollars at the airport, choose a money exchange that offers an exchange guarantee for the remaining colones at the end of the trip. Global Exchange offered such guarantee if exchanging $300. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

3rd Wedding Anniversary US Travel: Our Top 3 Historic Things To Do In Monterey, California

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

This year is our third wedding anniversary so you can understand that we are suckers for "three"! So while in Monterey, a city in the rugged coast of California about 115 miles south of San Francisco (about two hours drive) and 350 miles of Los Angeles (roughly six hours drive)  last November 11, 2016, we chose to do just three things to get a glimpse of the interesting and diverse history and culture of this so-called "California's First Capital City" as it was in Monterey's Custom House that the first American flag was raised which declared California as part of the United States of America

1. Stroll along the Historic Fisherman's Wharf 

We begin our self - guided immersion of the unique maritime history of Monterey at the Old Fisherman's Wharf which was constructed in 1845 and reconstructed in 1870. At present the Fisherman's Wharf is a bustling commercial shopping and restaurant district where we played with seagulls, hear barking sound of sea lions and checked out the restaurants operating at the end of its pier for its fresh crabs with an impeccable ocean view.

2. Follow the "Path of History" Walking Tour

The "Path of History" is a self-guided walking tour of California's first theater, public building, public library, publicly funded school, printing press, and newspaper and more than thirty carefully preserved historic buildings and sites throughout Monterey. Most of these buildings are adobes built in the mid-1800s like the Cooper Molera Adobe, Robert Louis Stevenson House, Casa Serrano, The Perry House, The Customs House, Colton Hall, Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library and The First Brick House.

3. Explore Historic Cannery Row

Cannery Row is the historic industrial district located from Foam Street to the ocean just west of downtown Monterey. It operated several large canneries, mostly packing sardines from the 1920s until the 1950s when the sardines were over-fished and the industry collapsed. This old abandoned sardine canning district  by the shore of the bay is a point of inspiration for author John Steinbeck in writing a well-known novel "Cannery Row" that tells of the tale of the unemployed Mack and his friends who wanted to plan a party for their friend Doc, but things don't go as planned.

Steinbeck Plaza

In 1953, Ocean View Boulevard was renamed Cannery Row street in honor of John Steinbeck. Since then, Cannery Row has now become a tourist attraction with numerous establishments located in former cannery buildings, including the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium annexed to the Hovden Buiding, the Cannery Row Antique Mall, Wing Chong Market, and The American Tin Cannery which is a shopping mall.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Leather Anniversary US Travel: A Western Experience At Blazin M' Ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona!

Photo, hats and my shirt all courtesy of our host, Ruby Evangelista Tuttle

As leather is the traditional symbol of our third wedding anniversary, we were seeking for a place that will cater to our inner cowboy and cowgirl, soaking up the old-timey Western fantasy of donning our cowboy hat and breaking our boots & spurs. Thankfully, our thoughtful hosts, Spouses Roy and Ruby Tuttle, surprised us with a dinner invitation at the Blazin M' Ranch on our anniversary night (September 21, 2016).Oh boy! Not only we had a taste of chuck (that's what all cowboy food is called!) but one memorable experience, a giddy ride back into the Old West that let us live the John Wayne in us and said, Yeehaw!!

Behind us is the climate controlled barn

Blazin M' Ranch is a family -owned facility in Cottonwood, Arizona with all the trappings of a fun little "western" town - saloon, a cornerstone of any western town, mercantile, bank, hotel, jail, and vintage farm equipment and tractor. Aside from the diners who are expectedly in their cowboy and cowgirl attires (except for a few KJs lol), there are real live cowboys who simulate western life here and there like robbers, trick ropers and rugged outdoorsman on a horseback with rifle and revolver for that authentic Western feel. Before dinner, guests can ride the classic 1940 John Deere tractor that pulls riders in wagons for a spin around the Ranch, or take a roping lessons with the full-sized stationery horse, or just like us, you too can become an outlaw by throwing yourself into the jail and viewing the outside world from behind bars! 

We Are Behind Bars for Three Years now! Yeehah! behind the bars of love!

Chuckwagon Supper

At 6:30pm, the chow bell rang and all pioneers knew it was time for the Western - style chuck wagon dinner! All guests were ushered to a climate-controlled barn reminiscent of a dinner around a campfire over century ago, and seated in picnic style tables lined up with Old West tin plates, tin cups, mug glass and utensils. Dinner is served buffet style. For the initial serving, we had to line up, grab a tin plate and head through the "chuck wagon" serving stations where we were served with BBQ chicken and pork ribs, foil wrapped baked potato, cowboy beans, luscious flying biscuits aand their signature prickly pear cole slaw. 

For drinks, the complimentary lemonade, iced tea or coffe, or water, or a purchased beverage are served in pitchers. The delectable caramel apple crisp a la mode is served for dessert to round out our dining experience.

Our Dinner Table with our Anniversary Sponsors, Ate Ruby and Kuya Roy

Cowboy Stage Show

After dinner Bill Basset of the Blazin M' Cowboys opened the show, welcoming everyone and announced our names since we were celebrating our anniversary! Then for one hour, or so, Bill with Jim and Jeanne Martin entertained us with their award - winning old style, western swing, country music mixed with cowboy poetry and humor. 

Jim & Jeanne Martin, Tom Jepperson a.k.a. Otis and Bill Basset

Tom Jepperson or Otis, named Cornville's most eligible bachelor since 1986 also appeared to relive the good old days and heavy doze of Western tunes. Towards the end of the show, there is a light and sound featuring the Ranch most infamous occupant, the Ghost Rider, who "stole us away forever to ride the devil's herd across the endless skies".

Blazin M' Ranch is located at 1875 Mabery Ranch Rd. Cottonwood, AZ 86326
All activities (except photo opt and shooting) are free with the Dinner Pricing.
Adults - $39.95
Seniors (65 & Better) - $34.95
Children (5-12) - $19.95
Toddlers 4 & Under - Free

Monday, February 15, 2016

Celebrating Valentine's Day From A Distance!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda - Isidro

the Mr. & Mrs. Salt and Pepper shakers are gifts from my friend May M. Rogers

Since our wedding day, Raymond and I had been inseparable 24/7 (except of course during that dreaded monthly red-letter day when I didnt't want to be with hubby lol!). We'll I mean, we have never been away from each other on an extended period and always been together in all our travels, anniversaries and important occasions like Valentine's Day! 

This year though is quite different, as we were not in the same place and time zone on February 14, 2016! But that's no reason for me to sulk or for us to not celebrate heart's day with each other! 

How we did it? We advanced the Valentine's celebration this year! 

As we were traveling together around the United States of America from December 14, 2015 until January 29, 2016, we look for the "heart" during the last week of our togetherness. 

January 25, 2016. Ralph's Supermarket in Goleta, CA

We stopped by Ralph's, my favorite supermarket, on our way to Seal Beach from San Francisco and found it with everything we need to say "I love you" and show how much we care. Then we bought his fave chocolate "ice cream" and munched it on a winter night to keep us holding on to each other for the rest of our trip to Seal Beach while singing ala Elsa "the cold doesn't bother me anyway"!

January 26, 2016.  Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.

Though we know that Disneyland does not really decorate "hearty" even on Valentines' Day, we chose to be at the happiest place on earth for our advanced V-day celebration simply because we "heart" Mickey Mouse and glad that we were able to meet him at his house and hang loose with him (see my hand sign!). And even without little romantic help from the decors, we were able to declare our sweet nothings for each other just the same while aboard Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and Storybook Land Canal's Boat among other attractions that we tried. Also it was Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration this year so we commemorated 60 years of Disney magic during the Parade of the Stars, and night time spectacular - Paint the Night Parade and  Disneyland Forever that visually took us into amazing adventures of timeless Disney tales like Simba, Peter Pan, Nemo and Frozen in fireworks display! Truly an unforgettable destination to be with hubby on our own Hearts' Day celebration, so what not to love?
"Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are FOREVER". - Walt Disney 

January 27, 2016. Micheltorena Stairs in Los Angeles, CA

Ok, I confess it was my idea to visit this hidden staircase in Micheltorena Los Angeles after I saw online the cute "hearts" painted on the stairs! I knew I cannot passed the chance without taking a selfie with hubby at this so - called "Stairway to Love". 

January 28, 2016. Benihana in San Francisco, CA

As a going-  away dinner since I fly back to the Philippines the next day, my BFF Dearie made reservations at Benihana in San Francisco for a party of four after our Los Angeles road trip. Benihana is known for its teppanyaki style of a chef cooking in front of you on a hibachi. Our assigned chef was funny, very entertaining and brought the house down with his cooking tricks. But he got a hearty thumbs up from me when he prepared a heart-shaped fried rice and let it thump and pump!! It was a perfect V-day surprise for our early Heart's Day celebration! 

January 29, 2016. We say it on tee!!! San Francisco

Of course, our advance Hearts' Day celeb will not be complete without our couple shirt staple. We got each other an "I HEART SF" shirt and dined at IHOP for a hearty breakfast just before my flight!

And since we have already advanced our "love day" celebration, we can be with other people who also matter in our lives - like families, friends, and those we work for on February 14! Besides, not beig together and living on a different time zones this year's Valentines Day means celebrating the Hearts' Day twice and getting two "hearty" phone calls (because of time difference!) which I never get to experience when we are together on Valentine's Day!