Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunsets, Thanksgiving, and the end of November!

A quick break in the Costa Rica trip to take a few minutes to come back to real time! Back to November 2013 and catch up for a minute.  Time is just flying by.  How can it already be the end of November?  As we take time to be Thankful for all that we have today and pause to spend the day with our families and friends and all that is great - hopefully time stood still for just a bit!  Sometimes it feels as though it goes all too fast!

Part of what photography does for me is it allows me to capture those moments that just seem to speed by - those Moments in Time!  Last week we seemed to have some of the most beautiful sunsets.  I was lucky enough to be able to capture a few!

So, while time stood still for just a few moments, and I was lucky enough to capture's suddenly spinning again!  Tomorrow I'll likely be out shopping and we'll move from Thanksgiving to the whirlwind of the Christmas season!  After all - Sunday is the first day of December!

All of these prints, and many others are available in my Etsy store and you can use THANKS2013 through Monday for 20% off all purchases!  If you haven't stopped by, click the link ETSY or the link on the sidebar!  There are a lot of Holiday Gifts there!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Waterfall Trail

We woke up after a wonderful night's sleep.  I love sleeping in the cloud forest.  It gets all misty at night and the clouds settle in the valley.  Our Villa had a wonderful balcony, complete with its own hot tub, and sitting out there first thing in the morning, just listening to the birds was a peaceful way to start the day.  Each balcony has it's own hummingbird feeder.  The birds would stop by often to have a little drink as I sipped my morning coffee.   Today our plan is to start with the waterfall hike and then to visit the other exhibits on the property.

When we checked in, we were told that the trails to the waterfalls were all now opened again after the earthquake, and that the waterfalls were back to being visible.  And I suppose if you've never been there before, you wouldn't know the difference.  But from what I remembered from our last visit, the trail was much shorter.  The starting point was different, and there were fewer falls to see.  But that being said, they did an amazing job restoring the trails from any damage that may have been done.  The paths and steps were very safe and appear that they will hold up in the event of any future landslides or earthquakes.

The hike takes you into the forest, and through beautifully manicured trails, often with some steep steps, built right into the side of the mountain - to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country.  

There are viewing platforms, which was a thrill for the kids.  Nothing like getting as close to these massive waterfalls and feeling the spray! 

It was a great hike, and even though there were quite a few steps at some points, my parents did really well.  The highlight of the hike is the last fall, La Paz.  Unfortunately this time, there was no way to get out to a platform to really see the fall.  The land where the viewing platform had been totally washed away.  We didn't make it down to the road to take a picture.  We ended the hike at the former gift shop, which is being rebuilt.  Although, now, while you're reading this - three years after our trip - I'm assuming it's totally finished!  We caught the shuttle bus back tot he hotel's reception area.

But you can see some of the roads we'd been driving on the past twenty-four hours.  Not for the faint of heart, that is certainly for sure!  

We thoroughly enjoyed the waterfall hike.  We were off to have lunch, and then to visit some of the other highlights at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From Hummingbirds to Frogs!

Another fantastic opportunity that The Peace Lodge offers guests is a night tour of their Frog Habitat.  We had reservations and shortly after our hummingbird feeding experience we were ready to see what the frogs were all about!

We met outside of the Frog Building and our guide was named John.  He was fantastic!  The frog area is divided into a couple of different rooms.  We began in the area with the tanks that held the poison dart frogs.  He took out one of these frogs and held it.  He told us all about these colorful frogs and allowed us to take some pictures.  

After learning quite a bit about the different poison frogs, we moved onto the middle room.  We spent some time here.  Actually a baby green eyed tree frog jumped right onto Alex's neck!  He wasn't too thrilled and had no interest in touching a frog from that point on!  We did get to see some frog eggs on the bottom of leaves in this room.  

And then we moved on to the highlight of the tour.  The third and final frog room.  We saw so many frogs here!  We were allowed to hold the frogs and our guide was amazing at finding them all over the room.  Remember, it's dark - it's night time.  We had flashlights, but it was sort of like a frog scavenger hunt!  John told us about the different species of frogs we were seeing and we never felt as if we were being rushed through our tour.

Now this was pretty exciting!  It's not every day that you get to hold a Green Eyed Tree frog!

Ummm - Mom, I think there's something on my head!  Those frogs really were hopping all over the place!

Between the hummingbirds that afternoon and the frogs that evening, we had a pretty amazing day!  

After our tour we had dinner at Vista Poas, the restaurant at The Peace Lodge.  Everything was good.  My parents went to their room and the four of us wen to our Villa.  It's much cooler here than it was in Arenal.  It will be nice to sleep with the patio doors open here! The mountains are just beautiful.  Another day in paradise!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Have you ever fed a Hummingbird?

One of the absolute highlights of our stay at The Peace Lodge in Costa Rica is getting to feed the Hummingbirds.  When you stay at The Peace Lodge you have access to La Paz Waterfall Gardens which is home to rescued wildlife, a butterfly garden, hiking trails to beautiful waterfalls and this wonderful Hummingbird Garden.  Twice a day you can visit the Hummingbird Garden and they allow visitors to hold these little red feeders.  There are seemingly hundreds of birds that will buzz all around and land right on the feeders in your hands!  If you like birds, or even if you didn't think you did, you probably will after this! Feeding the hummingbirds here is really a once in a lifetime experience!

At first it can be a bit unnerving to have these little birds zipping right past you, but soon, before you know it, they will even land right on your fingers!  It's amazing really!

We spent quite a bit of time out there, just enjoying the birds and relaxing.  After the stress of the drive, this was such a wonderful way to get back to the calm!

After a bit it started to rain.  My dad commented that he couldn't remember the last time he was outside in the rain, just sitting and totally enjoying himself.  I was so happy that my parents were enjoying this beautiful country!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the Road...a Road Devastated by an Earthquake!

It was time to leave Arenal and make the trip to our next destination, The Peace Lodge.  Our driver was right on time.  When he dropped us of earlier in the week he had reminded us that the ride was going to be longer than what we had remembered from our past trips due to the earthquake of 2009.  There was a lot of destruction in the areas we would be driving.  However, when he picked us up, he told us he was just informed that the road from San Miguel was just reopened that week!  If we wanted to give it a try we could!  It would save us a few hours.  Apparently the locals were tired of waiting for the government to fix the road, so they did it themselves....well, that should have been our first clue!  But we said, sure - if the road is fixed, and it's faster -why not!  Off we went!

On our way we stopped at what is knows as the "Iguana Bridge". It's a nice break in the drive to stretch your legs and of course get some pictures!  

The kids, especially Alex, enjoyed this stop a lot!  After our short break we were back on the road.  Everything was going well, and when we got past San Miguel, when you make that sharp turn at the police station, little signs of the earthquake damage started to become visible.  We kept going a few miles and later passed the "Road Closed" signs....Hmmm....but we kept going!  I took it as a good sign that a car came towards us from the opposite direction, but I immediately tensed up.  This was NOT a road to be driven on!  Especially not in a van!  

As I was looking around the area you could see the damage so clearly.  I had no idea.  This road, no one has driven on it really since the earthquake, no one, until this week.  All along the mountainside you could see the bare areas where there used to be trees, but mudslides ripped them out.  

There are houses and buildings along the side of the road, just destroyed, halfway down the cliffs.  As we're diving along I just feel sick.  It's so sad.

This "road" is on the side of a cliff and it's curvy and winding and I have my kids and my parents with me.  I keep a calm front but I am so tense as we wind up and down the snaking dirt pathway that is barely wide enough for one vehicle to pass!  It's full of dirt and holes and boulders!  Occasionally a car comes the other way and we have to share this narrow passageway, but it does make me feel better because that means they made it through were we're heading!  I just keep holding my breath, trying to not look out my window at the drop off right next to me.  Of course there are no guard rails!  Just a drop off!  

I know that our driver is regretting that he took us this way, but he can't turn back now.  He tries to keep talking to make the ride go smoother.  He tells us about a town that was destroyed and how they're rebuilding.  But not here, not in the hills.  He shows us these waterfalls.  He says that you can only see them now because the trees that used to hide them were destroyed. 

Finally, we get to the bridge at the bottom of the last waterfall by the reception area of the Peace Lodge.  I breathe easier.  I know we're almost there!  This reception area used to have gift shop.  Now it's only a shell of a building.  It's being rebuilt.  How in the world did the Peace Lodge survive this earthquake?  My mom asks me if I'm sure we're actually going to a hotel that's in one piece!  She can't believe it, given what we've just driven on and what we've just seen!

But we pull up to the reception area and it's as if nothing happened right here.  This is my third visit and we're very familiar with this property!  We checked in and all of the tension of that ride just melted away.  We had lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready.  For me, the Peace Lodge is a mystical bit of luxury tucked away in an oasis.  And you'll soon see why!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Arenal, Costa Rica

Ok!  Let's go back to 2010 and my last big adventure to Costa Rica with my parents and the kids!  I started blogging about this trip way back when and then somehow sort of got sidetracked!  But now let's get back to it!  This post is a bit of a summary of where I left off...

I knew Costa Rica was someplace special the first time Keith and I visited in 2008, and this trip in 2010 was our third trip back.  It's not only a country with such diverse ecology, and amazing wildlife, but everyone you meet there makes you feel so welcome. We took a second trip with the kids in 2009, and then returned again in 2010 with my parents.  I couldn't wait to show them the beauty of this country!  I knew my mom would love the wildlife, especially the birds!  And my dad, he loves the outdoors!  This was a pretty adventurous vacation for them.  It was truly a multi-generational trip.  

We started our trip with a few days in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  The highlight here is the Arenal Volcano.  

When we visited the volcano was still active, rumbling and puffing smoke pretty frequently!  We decided to stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge this trip.  It's as close as you can get to the volcano and the wildlife viewing there is some of the best in the area. It's not a fancy resort, but it was just what we were looking for.  There were some great hiking trails and they had a nice pool to hang out in after a day of adventure!  Not to mention that the views of the volcano, right from our room, were amazing!

While we were in this area we got to do some great things!  We went zip lining - well, some of us did anyway!  Sky Trek adventures has the fastest and longest lines in the areal.  You can read my post about our zip lining here.  And for those who weren't up for quite so much of the adrenalin rush, but still into a bit of jungle adventure, we went on a guided hike at the Hanging Bridges.  You can read about that here!   We still barely scratched the surface of the activities in the area, and I know we'll be returning to La Fortuna and the Arenal area sometime!  My kids loved it and my parents could definitely appreciate it!

Our first stop in Costa Rica was a fantastic success!  But it was time to move on.  There's a lot to see and do in this amazing country!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall at it's Finest!

I'm definitely a summer time type of person.  Every year I look forward to the warm sunny days and start to dread the short dark days of winter as the kids go back to school and fall arrives.  However, one thing is for sure, fall is stunning!  As a photographer, I can't help but want to get outside and start shooting away with my camera!  

Yesterday was one of those days!  Keith, the kids and I went to Hibernia Park and while they got some much needed outdoor time, away from all of the electronics, I got to capture some great Moments in Time!  

We hiked along the trail to the Damn, the views there were beautiful.  Every once in awhile we'd pass another family, or someone walking a dog.  But for the most part, it was just us, alone.  It was so serene!

Then we walked back along the trail to the what's called the Old Damn.  

There are some remains of some old buildings along here, and most fun for Alex, a stream with lots of down trees to climb over!  

It seemed that most of the trees by the stream had already lost their leaves though.  I'm not sure why.  The colors there weren't nearly as vibrant.  

But it was still just as beautiful, with the sun setting behind the trees.

We made our way back up to the parking lot....and called the day a total success!  Ok, I suppose this Summer Girl is ready to give fall a chance.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family, Friends and Food!

Backtracking again just a little bit!  I know I just posted, saying that I was going to continue along with our visit to Costa Rica in 2010...and I will!  Promise!  But as I'm getting back into this whole blog thing, I've thought about the title of the blog...Trips, Pics, and Tales...and I forgot all about the "Tales" part!  So before heading back to Costa Rica, I want to share a current Tale!  And going forward, that will be the new format of the blog!  The trip journeys may have some tidbits about travel or some current tales from my life mixed it - just to keep things interesting!  Otherwise I would never get back to the present, if you know what I mean!

This post is all about Family, Friends and of course Food!  When we were in Italy this past summer, enjoying our day in Chianti at the winery, we were enjoying each other's company so much and the amazing food that we came up with the idea to have a similar event at home.  You can read about our winery day here.  We had some Chianti shipped home and started planning!  

My mom grew up in a home where there was always family and friends over and I'm sure her Italian heritage played a big part in the fact that wonderful meals always played a huge role in the togetherness!  I remember as a child spending almost every Sunday afternoon at my grandparent's house!  There would be pasta and family and just a togetherness that seems to be lost in today's world!  We always knew what we'd be doing on a Sunday afternoon!

So last week, my mom, Alex, Megan and I went into Philadelphia to the Italian Market and hit the traditional shops to get the best of the best!  We were going to have our own Italian Day!  

One of our favorites from our trip was Pasta Carbonara and it didn't disappoint when Keith made it here at home!  We recreated our class with Florencetown Tours by making homemade pizzas and homemade gelato as well!  We enjoyed our Chianti, straight from our tour in Italy, and added some Prosecco that we found here at home.  It was fantastic! 

Of course the night was capped off with some Lemoncello!   There really is nothing like family and friends.  Well, maybe the leftovers!