Our final stop in Costa Rica was two days in the Santa Elena and Monteverde area of the country. Known for its rolling hills leading up to cloud forests, the beautiful Central American country continued to impress me with every bend in the road.
As I hinted in my post last week, the road to Santa Elena can be a bit rough. Coming from La Fortuna, around the north shore of Lago Arenal, the road is paved for only about two thirds of the journey. The other third? A bumpy, rough ride that takes about the same amount of time as the first two thirds of the drive combine. I couldn’t go above 20 kilometers/hour, because we were getting nervous that the wheels would shake right off the rental car!
Once we pulled into town, the rest of the day was smooth sailing.
After 2 hours of winding mountain roads through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, we made it to La Fortuna. The town’s claim to fame is the nearby Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal. Looming over town to the east, the volcano separates the town from the man-made Lago Arenal – an important source of hydroelectric and wind power for the country.
We had planned to visit the Poas Volcano on our first morning in Costa Rica. Only half an hour north of our hotel in Alajuela, we were going to get up early, drive to the National Park, and hike to the summit. On a clear day from the top of Poas, you’re able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There’s not many places in the world you can see both of those oceans at once, and we were really looking forward to the hike!
As luck would have it, the park was shut down due to a recent eruption! (Check out some of these articles for some information and neat pictures – 1, 2, 3) It was very cool to see the news stories, and talk with a few ticos (local Costa Ricans) about it, but we obviously couldn’t go hiking with the park closed. The government had even ordered the closest portions of Alajuela province to evacuate!
With Poas out of the picture, we changed up our road trip, and drove northeast out of Alajuela!
So by now, you know I was in Costa Rica last week.
And from my post Sunday, you know the trip was great. Maybe short, but still a great time. After flying into San Jose, the capital of the beautiful Central American country, we picked up our car and drove to the inn we snagged in Alajuela. We dropped off our bags, and drove straight into the heart of the city for a quick taste of San Jose.
We woke up on Monday to another day of beautifully clear skies. Our flight was scheduled to leave BWI at 10PM, so we had plenty of time to wander the city some more. We slowed down for the morning, and took our time with breakfast at the hotel and packing up our bags. Once we checked out, we left our bags in storage again, and hit the road.
Somewhere between reminders to “Be careful!” and short interrogation sessions – “Why would you even want to go there, what is there to do?” – we planned our visit to Baltimore over President’s Day Weekend.
We walked around 30 miles this weekend, no joke!
We weren’t scared off. We didn’t feel scared at all, even walking through some of the trickier neighborhoods. I believe a little common sense goes a long way when travelling, and, let’s be honest, every city has its rough neighborhoods.
Despite all the warnings, we used the weekend to its fullest. Eating some great food, learning quite a bit of history, and enjoying one of the best weekend’s worth of weather I’ve ever seen during February! I mean, seriously, people acted like we were getting deployed into a war zone. I know Baltimore has had its fair share of troubles (recently and in the past) but we really enjoyed the city. It’s got character. It’s got a beautiful harbour. It’s got plenty of history and some great food. Each neighborhood has a different feel. I love cities like that. I want to walk from one end to the other, and see different people, different buildings, new food. That’s what make cites so great, you can find a little bit of everything.
I mentioned briefly a few weeks ago that I’d be taking an overnight train with the family down to Baltimore, and we made it! Honestly, I was a little apprehensive at first. I really hit the rails running, making my first Amtrak journey a nine hour overnight ride. I’m sure many of you are much more familiar with trains than I am. So as a first time rider, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the overnight train experience.
Had to make sure a few things lined up, but I’m happy to say we’re planning our first international jaunt of 2017. We’ll be flying down to Costa Rica for a few days in April, just at the end of the dry season!
Hopefully by then we’ll have more trips planned too, but this is all we have on the calendar so far, so I’m extra stoked for this one. We’re going to try and squeeze another international trip in towards the end of the year if we have time, and I’ve got a few shorter domestic trips on the list for 2017 too.
Admittedly, we didn’t have much time in Chicago, but it was great to explore another new city this year. It seems for every place I check off my list, I just keep adding more to my “Have to go back there” list!