Category Archives: Travel & Leisure

Escuelita de Verano

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Friends in boat pose

This year I vowed to give back more. I started small during my recent trip to Costa Rica. A few weeks before we left I contacted Friends of Nosara to ask if I could visit the local elementary school. In Costa Rica January is considered summer and the schools close for the month. That leaves kids with nothing to do for the day, so the Surfing Nosara Foundation sponsors a summer camp with free lunch and activities for the kiddos. The English speaking coordinator Sarah was thrilled to have us visit. We volunteered to bring a blender and fruit to make smoothies and I planned to teach a yoga class. I practiced my Spanish beforehand and looked up a few key words and phrases. I also brought along these colorful cards. On the day of our visit we stopped at a roadside stand to pick up fresh bananas and pineapples. The students loved doing yoga, despite my broken Spanish. They adored Max. We had so much fun being part of the local community for the day.

IMG_3362Savasana works in any language

_DSC3275A helper adding pineapple chunks to the mix

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Every student got the chance to assist

_DSC3267Patiently waiting

M and have traveled extensively, but only recently did I think to reach out to a local school for a day visit. A few years ago I spent a month volunteering in Peru and I guess I thought that giving had to be some grand gesture. That’s nice when you have the resources, but even one afternoon can brighten someone’s day or $20 can make a difference.

I would love to hear about your volunteer experiences!

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Costa Rica with Max

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A monkey at Playa Dona Ana…the best rest stop in the world

The perfect place to stop for lunch on the way to the beach after a flight into San Jose

IMG_3326Yoga in the treetops at the Nosara Yoga Institute

IMG_3336Baby Max chasing a beach puppy at Playa Guiones

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Swinging at a family-owned restaurant in Nosara town (across the street from the air strip)

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Playing around on a long board

We stayed two nights in Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s hip surf town with a large number of expats, beach bars and surf shops. The yoga class that I took there was for the most part in Spanish with a little English and focused on hips, which I so needed after the journey. On Saturday we drove three hours through mostly dirt roads to the quaint little town of Playa Guiones near Nosara. M and I rented a long board to take turns on while Baby Max happily played in the sand. On our last day in Costa Rica we headed back to the San Jose area to a Swiss chalet…yes a European style hotel in the mountains of Heredia. The air was crisp and cool and the scenery was stunning. Although the truth is…it was quite an odyssey to get there. The internet said four hours, and after six and several trips around the same town I was starting to think a nice boring safe Marriott next to the airport wasn’t looking so bad. Baby Max was crying and everyone we asked kept saying take the main road up the hill. Problem was the main hill wasn’t labeled along with all the rest of the roads. Alas we finally made it and like always when traveling, it was worth it.

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“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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Layovers & Baby Love

IMG_3307Two days later…finally in Costa Rica with a gorgeous view at a roadside stop for lunch

Our vacation got off to a slow start with a delayed flight out of Atlantic City due to fog. The first leg of the trip was scheduled to depart at 7 a.m. and we ended up leaving around 11:30 in the morning. That’s an extra 4 hours of entertaining baby at the airport, but surprisingly things went pretty well. The AC airport is small and there aren’t many flights scheduled at the same time so there was plenty of room for Baby Max to crawl around and play. For the first half of the three-hour plane ride to Fort Lauderdale he was energetic but happy. Then at last, the nap came.

IMG_1113Airport fun; meeting new friends

Travel tips that work for us:

  • Hide a few toys in the days leading up to travel. Take them out one at a time on the flight.
  • Water bottle fun: shake it, peel the label off, drink it
  • Nurse for takeoff and landing (it’s supposed to help alleviate pressure in the ears).
  • Bring plenty of snacks, but try to wait as long as possible to break these out. My goal is to wait until at least the second half of the flight. I also dole them out very slowly.

IMG_1115Publix stop on the way to the hotel for an avocado roll

We missed our connection and ended up staying the night in Fort Lauderdale. Exhausted but excited and unwilling to waste our one night in South Florida we headed out for dinner and a stroll through South Beach. Max hung out in the Ergo for the evening and M and I found amazing veggie risotto.

IMG_1120He loves avocado sushi

Normally when I travel I can be a bit of an introvert. I never talk my seatmates. I’m usually reading or wearing headphones. However, traveling with a baby is a little lot different. No books and no headphones. Traveling with a baby is all about living in the present moment. And so far I’ve learned that almost everyone loves babies, even that thuggish looking guy with the backwards hat and tattoos. On our way to Costa Rica M and I ended up chatting the whole way with a soon-to-be groom on the way to his bachelor weekend. The conversation started when he asked us how old Max was. He sipped mixed drinks while we entertained Max and the flight passed pretty quickly.

Costa Rica is a baby friendly nation. Upon arrival we (and another family with an infant) were whisked to the front of the customs line. The rental car guys oohed and aawed and strangers all around stopped us to say hi to Max.

IMG_1123Since he was up most of the plane ride he napped for a big part of our 5 hour ride the the beach

There were a few tough moments, but overall the trip here went pretty well. Now it’s off for some fish tacos and fruit smoothies.

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Traveling with Baby

I’m super excited and somewhat nervous about this Wednesday’s trip to Costa Rica. M and I are taking Baby Max south for 10 days of sun & surf. This will be my fourth trip to the most peaceful little nation in Central America. I love the people, fresh fruit and expansive coastline. We are headed to the touristy beach town of Tamarindo for the weekend, followed by the quiet village of Nosara for nearly a week. We rented a modern condo in Tamarindo and a private house in Nosara. Baby Max has been traveling with us to and from Florida since around six weeks, but this will be his first passport stamp. And his first long plane ride, with a layover. Once we arrive in San Jose it’s a 4-5 hour drive to the Pacific coast. We might be a little crazy to attempt this type of trip with a ten  month old, but it’s been a while since we had an adventure and we’re itching for one.

IMG_0934We won’t be needing the hat and jacket next week

The past few days I have read this blog up and down for advice and inspiration: Have Baby Will Travel. It’s full tips for everything from what to pack, whether to bring your own car seat (yes) and how to entertain little ones through security and on the plane. Speaking of car seats, ours is a bit to bulky to lug around the airport so we picked up a cheapie at Burlington Coat Factory Baby Depot. Until now we’ve been squeezing our little 20-pounder into an infant car seat stroller system at the airport, which he is way too old and big for. The journey is worth it…once we’re there I’m looking forward to yoga, waves and spiked tropical smoothies.

Do you have any advice for traveling with an infant?

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Eskimos & Their Babies

I absolutely love traveling. One of the best things about jumping into a foreign place is learning from a different culture and noticing how other people around the globe carry on about their daily lives. Among my favorite places: the laissez faire attitude and siestas of Spain, the emphasis on simplicity and quality in France (and fabulous French islands), and family friendly atmospheres found all around Latin America. On our recent trip to Mexico I watched with a smile as moms drank wine in open air lounges and strolled down the main street pushing their babies in little buggies.

As I was perusing baby name books at the library I stumbled across this title:

I found it utterly fascinating and couldn’t put it down for two days. Mei-Ling starts in Argentina where she writes that parents care more about letting their little ones enjoy time with family and friends than sticking to a rigid bedtime. Bring on the Malbec and dulce de leche! In France toddlers help grow veggies and participate in picking out fresh produce at the market so that they’re accustomed to greens at an early age. Kenyan mom skip the stroller since they’re expensive, plus they believe babies are happier strapped to mom’s back. Many people around the world think it’s a little mean to leave the baby alone in a room to sleep instead of surrounded by family. And as for the eskimos? They keep their babies warm with skin-to-skin contact on mommy’s back before covering up with furs.

Which cultures do you admire? What lessons have you learned from traveling?

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Isla Mujeres

M and I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It’s one of our favorite spots in the whole world with its blend of European chic, friendly Mexican smiles and laid back tropical beauty. After three nights we ventured to a new destination that a cool couple told us about years ago. Whenever we meet avid travelers we ask them their favorite places and jot them down in a file. It’s led us to a few far-flung destinations we would have never known about. This time it brought us on a short ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, translated as Island of Women. It’s a laid back little island with an eclectic mix of boutique hotels and youth hostels. M loved that we could rent a golf cart to cruise around in and I loved the sexy vibe of our hotel.

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A barefoot sunset

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Breakfast in (an outdoor) bed at the Hotel Secreto

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What’s not to love?

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Of course being pregnant meant this trip was a little different than our usual tequila-drinking Mexican jaunts. Not having a hangover every morning means plenty of time for yoga, true relaxation, reading and reflecting. I brought along copies of Yoga Journal and Yoga International. Yoga Journal had a great article about letting go of past mistakes and bringing in the new year with positive intentions. The article suggested spending a few moments in reflection about how difficult situations were handled in 2012, not so that we can beat ourselves up but so that we can learn from them and think about how we want to grow. I want to be the best mother possible and I believe that starts with being a vibrant, positive, healthy person. Part of personal happiness is getting rid of crap I don’t need whether it’s clutter, excess sugar or negative conversations. Alicia Silverstone shares my sentiments in this blog post. And on a side note, here’s one change I’m currently making: starting the day off with warm water & lemon.

Happy 2013! Do you have anything you are getting rid of? Do you have an intention for the new year? Do you have any new year’s traditions or rituals?

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Nicaraguan Babymoon

Babymoon~ a vacation taken during pregnancy with your significant other

Road trip; Central America

M and I spent the week on quite an adventure in Nicaragua. We flew into the capital city of Managua (pronounce muh-naw-wah) and drove through city, countryside and small towns for four hours to Aqua Wellness Resort, an eco-friendly hotel along the Pacific coast. A fellow traveler posted on Frommer’s that driving in Nicaragua is not for the faint of heart, and I give M a lot of credit for chauffeuring me around this week (Frommer’s is my most trusted source of travel info). After three nights of quiet relaxation we headed to the colonial city of Granada for historical architecture and some hustle and bustle.

Here are the highlights:

Passionfruit ginger smoothie

Granola with locally grown cashews

Always ripe fresh fruit

Best food & drink:

Jugo natural: fruit juices usually blended up on the spot, cheap and delicious!
Gallo pinto with maduros: rice and beans with fried plantains
Juicy pineapple, watermelon and papaya

Top Three Nica Experiences:

Watching the monkeys swing through the trees at dusk right outside our villa
Three days of 8 am yoga on a platform overlooking the ocean
Splashing around in the warm waters of Laguna Apoyo, a crater lake at the base of a volcano

Best value:

One hour couples massage in San Juan Del Sur: $50
Tire patched in Granada: $2

San Juan Del Sur~ Nicaragua’s “touristy” town

Biggest Surprise:

The rental car company did not provide a map (three gas stations and a hotel later we found one)

Know Before You Go:

How to change a tire if you plan to rent a car
A few Spanish phrases; especially left, right and straight

Thank goodness for my manly man


Granada

Juice at Laguna Apoyo; a warm-water crater lake outside of Granada

A magical spot

Baby-related highlight from the trip:

I felt him/her move for the first time…and then many times after that

A woman working at our hotel in Granada asked me if I knew the baby’s sex yet. She made a prediction based on my belly, which M found amazing that she even knew I was pregnant since I kind of look like I’ve gained the freshman 15. Anyway, I wouldn’t tell him what she said (the conversation was in Spanish) but we’ll find out the answer this week. My appointment’s tomorrow and I plan to have the technician write the sex on a paper and seal it in an envelope. M and I will find out along with friends and family this Saturday at our “Gender Reveal” party. In case you haven’t heard yet, they’re all the rage for expecting moms and dads.

Have you been to Nicaragua or another Central American country? Please share travel highlights and experiences!

 Would you find out the sex of your baby or wait until they’re born?

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