Mexico on My Mind

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I’ve been thinking about Mexico lately. Part of me wants to go back, but another part knows that Mexico has moved on without me. It’s been developed and continues to expand, and with the increase in tourists has come the increase in violence. I used to visit three times a year. I miss the few friends I made, and sharing a meal and catching up on everything that’s happened since my last visit. I believed for a long time that one day I would move there for a few months each year.

I would see people every day at Coffee Culture, sitting under palm trees at little bistro tables, laptop in front of them, and I wondered if they were working on something that allowed them to live in Mexico. One day I asked a guy what he was working on, and he told me he about a project that would bring a brand of flavoured water to Mexico. In the back of my mind, I hoped that one day my writing would be able to support me full-time and I would be able to realize that dream of being in Mexico. Now I wonder if it will be Mexico.

The last couple of times I was there, it didn’t feel the same. It felt as though that moment in time, that love affair with Mexico was over. I wanted to have that same feeling back, and felt sad that I didn’t. And so now when I think about going back, I’m afraid that maybe what I’m feeling is nostalgia for the adventure that used to be, instead of what is. And perhaps it is just the memory of the adventure of it all that pulls me, and that my next adventure awaits somewhere else.

Somewhere yet to be discovered.

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Sun, Beach, and Quiet? Consider Samara!

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“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.

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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!

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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.

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Fabulous sunset view overlooking Buena Vista beach

 

 

What if Your Child Was to Fall Sick While Travelling?

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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. 🙂

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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.