Sun, Beach, and Quiet? Consider Samara!

FullSizeRender (1)

“Where are all the tourists?”

It’s a question I asked myself throughout my stay in Samara, Costa Rica. Being accustomed to busy beach towns of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the peace and quiet struck me as strangely odd. What’s more, we were smack dab in the middle of their busy season!

Laid back and carefree, Playa Samara in Costa Rica is a peaceful retreat from the busyness so many of us get caught up with back home in North America. It’s a place to spend a day swimming in the warm Pacific ocean, relaxing in the shade of a palm tree, or sitting at one of the handful of beach digs for a cool drink.

Located a two hour drive from Liberia airport, Playa Samara is located in the dry forest area of the Nicoya peninsula, in Guanacaste province. It is a great location for singles seeking solitude, couples seeking to re-connect, and families looking to spend quality time together taking advantage of the many excursions available – from kayaking, snorkeling, jungle hikes and tours, to yoga retreats and surf school. Just don’t expect crowds of tourists, and don’t be shocked when vendors don’t aggressively pursue you to buy their wares – you just won’t find that there.

IMG_0948

Dinner time at Samara Pacific Lodge

Playa Samara is free of all-inclusive hotels, so if you prefer big mega resorts with all-day buffets and swim-up bars, this is probably not the beach town for you. There are a number of small, basic hotels located close to or right on Samara’s main street to choose from, but we split our stay between Casa del Halcon (a house rental) located about a 20-30 minute walk from the main street in town, and the Samara Pacific Lodge, located about a 10-15 minute walk from town. What we enjoyed about the house rental was spending the mornings sitting on the front patio, enjoying the sights and sounds of the jungle, and the cold water pool – especially refreshing after a hot day at the beach. It’s the perfect hideaway from our busy world and ideal for families (there are 2 bedrooms and a kitchen) who want to do some cooking at home, and maybe have a rental car to get around (I should mention that bikes are available for guests). What we loved about the Samara Pacific Lodge was the large, warm salt water pool, the onsite restaurant with a different dinner menu each night (and a full breakfast included with the room rate), and the closer proximity to town. We also enjoyed being around others who were experiencing Costa Rica for the first time along with us!

FullSizeRender (2)

A Fiery-Billed Aracari in the trees behind our hotel

One of the perks of visiting Costa Rica was the rare opportunity to see wildlife during our day-to-day comings and goings. There really is a sense of man and nature co-existing respectfully and in harmony. I know things are never perfect when man encroaches on wildlife space, but Costa Rica seems to be doing a pretty good job of managing this delicate balance. On our first day in Samara, we saw howler monkeys moving through the tree tops above us, and constantly heard them throughout our stay, even if we couldn’t see them. We experienced wild horses roaming the beach and trotting down the main road carefree. One day the owner of the Samara Pacific Lodge took me behind the building to see a Fiery-Billed Aracari that was perched in a tree!

Our trip to Costa Rica was wonderful, and a great bonding time for my 12 year old and I. However, if you plan to go, schedule at least 10 days there. Our only regret was that our time was too short.

IMG_0937

Fabulous sunset view overlooking Buena Vista beach

 

 

Advertisements

What if Your Child Was to Fall Sick While Travelling?

FullSizeRender (1)

It’s just not something you think will happen.

On our first night in Verona, Italy, with Amsterdam, Brussels and Munich behind us, my daughter started feeling “off” at around dinner time. But by the end of dinner, she was back to her chatty self and feeling good. That night she became feverish and restless and in the morning it was clear that her feeling “off” was not going to go away just yet. She was sick with a fever.

I was thankful we were at a lovely Bed & Breakfast in Verona run by such a sweet couple at that point in our travels. Nadia, the wife of the husband and wife team was caring and compassionate, explaining that whenever she had traveled with her son when he was young, he always got a fever at some point. She was a mother and she understood.

Nadia provided a thermometer and aspirin and checked in on us regularly. She called her doctor when my daughter’s fever reached 103*F, arranging a home visit and then interpreted the suggested care by the doctor. Her husband (a chef) prepared rice with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese (the Italian version of “plain rice”) when my daughter was up to eating a little. She even let us extend our stay in her home for a night, at no charge (who does that?!), because I didn’t want to continue our travels until my girl was feeling better. I couldn’t have asked for more support. Her and her husband Mario went above and beyond.

In addition to their support, I also had the support of my mom (albeit from afar through Facebook and different time zones) which also helped when I didn’t know what else to do but hold cold cloths to my daughter’s head and give her ibuprophen for the fever. A kind lady staying at the Bed & Breakfast, an American doctor in fact, was also nice enough to give to me her supply of Tylenol.

So after that experience I started thinking about what advice I would offer a parent who is traveling with children.

  • pack a thermometer and Tylenol. They take up very little room in your suitcase but can prove to be a lifesaver. You probably don’t want to be scrambling to find a pharmacy in the middle of the night in a foreign country.
  • make sure you have travel insurance. Very important. Had this been a more serious sickness, things could have been a lot more expensive than the 50 euros doctor’s visit.
  • try to stay positive. There were a couple of times I became discouraged, but overall I tried to stay upbeat, knowing this was just one of those things. When my daughter was resting and her fever was low I took an hour to explore Verona on my own. After checking on her again, I would leave to go to the market and buy lunch. Evenings seemed to be better for her and we were able to get out a bit and explore together.

Three days later my daughter was back to feeling more like herself and we were off to Venice for the last leg of our trip. It’s too bad she missed so much of Verona, but hey, that just means we have a good reason to return one day. 🙂

FullSizeRender

The view outside B&B Agli Scaligeri

This post would not be complete without mentioning the amazing B&B we stayed at in Verona: B&B Agli Scaligeri. Obviously, I would highly recommend them when visiting Verona.

In Search of the Belgian Waffle Maker

Brussels-train-travel

It was August, 2015…

It was time for us to leave. My daughter and I had been browsing the Art Nouveau area of Brussels for the past hour and we had to get back to the Grand Place for our pre-booked Belgian waffle workshop. We made our way back to the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus stop and took the bus back to the stop closest to Grand Place, the central square in Brussels.

We were to meet a chef dressed in a black apron, standing outside the Tourist office. From there he would lead us to our workshop. Pre-booked and pre-paid ahead of time from home, I had mentioned the workshop to a friend who had lived in Brussels for a time. He had told me me to try the waffles with the exploding sugar. Exploding sugar?

The bus pulled up to our stop and I asked the driver how to get to Grand Place. He pointed the way and we made our way, walking down the narrow street towards the square. We took a right once reaching the centre and looked for the Tourist office among the vendors and crowds of people walking this way and that way.  After walking for some time, and not seeing our meeting place, we turned around and went back to the centre of the main square. I asked a woman vendor if she knew where the Tourist office was and she pointed us back towards the direction we had just come from. “Not more than 50 metres and it’s on your left.” So we headed back in the same direction, our eyes peeled. Still no luck. I asked another vendor and he said he didn’t know of any Tourist office. Now it was twenty minutes past our meeting time and it became clear the workshop was not going to happen. We gave up looking.

Disappointed, we sat down on a park bench and wondered what to do next. Eyeing and smelling some freshly made waffles on the other side of the square we decided that even though we couldn’t make them, the best part of waffles was in the eating of them, anyway. We walked over and ordered two hot waffles – one with chocolate sauce and the other with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I didn’t see the option of exploding sugar and I was slightly relieved. They were quite delicious.

After spending some more time at the square, we walked back to our hotel and I contacted the waffle place, explaining our predicament. They refunded the cost right away. Then later, as I looked through photos from that day, what did I see in one of the photos? The Tourist office.

grand-place-tourist

The Tourist Office.