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Oct 20, 2012

The Caribbean side of Costa Rica during the rainy season

We had a wonderful trip to Costa Rica and I want to share some of the highlights with you. We visited in late September-early October, which is usually considered to be the rainy season in Costa Rica. After some research, we determined that the East Coast of Costa Rica was going to be our best bet at this time of year. And we were not disappointed.

We arrived in the evening, after a long day of travel, so we decided to spend the first night in the capital, San Jose. While we wanted to visit Costa Rica for the nature, we were glad we got to see the capital and some of the local culture. Before heading to the East coast, we spent our first morning visiting the city center, checking out the old building, watching street musicians and getting our first taste of Costa Rican fauna: the butterfly museum. It was an exciting experience for the kids. So many butterflies!

In the afternoon, we left the city and headed to the South-East corner of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo. It was a nice first stop of our trip. Puerto Viejo is a relaxed beach/fishing village and we finally were feeling that we were on vacation.  As soon as we arrived, we made our way to the beach, which was a good idea, as storm was coming and we ended up witnessing strong rainfall that evening.

Puerto Viejo beach on a stormy day

But this didn't dampen our spirits. We loved our cabins at La Costa de Papito, and enjoyed a nice relaxed evening and dinner at the wonderful restaurant.

On the next day, our adventures continued and we got the chance to visit the nearby rescue center. It was a great opportunity for the kids to see the local animals upclose, and to get to know new species like ocelot or sloth. But the big highlight was being able to take care of the baby monkeys. What an experience for our 2 year-old. From stuffed animals to real animals. She had a blast.

Sloth at the rescue center

After a few days in Puerto Viejo, we made our (long and tricky) way to the highlight of our trip: Tortuguero. The trip included driving on bumpy road for 30 or so minutes (not great when pregnant) and a long but beautiful boat ride. It included a stop at the mangrove village of Tortuguero (incl. tasting a freshly cut coconut!). Our final destination was the Turtle Beach Lodge, which you can only access via boat. It is not high end luxury, but the location is amazing. We had howler monkeys over our heads the whole time (one dropped a coconut 2 inches away from Daniel’s head; that was a little scary!) 

The "entrance" to Turtle Beach Lodge

The jungle around it is amazing. Wow! We were able to enjoy it through the various little canals and by foot (Daniel almost stepped on a Fer-De-Lance viper!). We got to see a variety of monkeys, basilisks, iguanas, caymans, frogs, etc...
We also got the chance to see turtles lay their eggs on the beach. What an experience, and great timing that the season coincided with our visit.

Jungle hike by the resort

Capuchin monkey watching us paddling in our canoe

After a few days in paradise, we made our way to our final destination, Monteverde. We had read wonderful reviews about the region, but whether it was because of the rainy season or because we were limited by the kids in terms of activities, we didn't enjoy it as much. Our favorite activity was hiking in the tall bridges in the middle of the rainforest. It's definitely an experience although I didn't think we saw very much wildlife in the tour. So it was basically a hike on bridges. 
Bridge hike

We spent the remainder of our days visiting a coffee plantation (in the pouring rain), enjoying the pool at our hotel (Monteverde lodge and gardens) and by nice weather, walking around in the gardens or into town.

This rounded up our first (but hopefully not last) trip to Costa Rica. We hope we can visit again soon. 

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Sep 15, 2012

Lassen Volcanic camping trip

After our fun trip to Yosemite, our second camping trip of the season was at Lassen Volcanic National park, and it was a great end of a fun summer. On our longest camping trip yet (3 days), we had the chance to visit most of the park highlights.

First, we visited Sulphur Works, with boiling mud pots and geysers. It was a fun and relaxing hike, and a great way to get to know the park.

On the second day, we climbed Cedar Cone, an old volcano that offers amazing views from the top. The hike is quite challenging due to the sandy aspect of the climb. But Daniel did great, climbing faster that some of the grown up around us (and despite wearing a shoe that was way too tight, as we discovered later!) The reward as the top is astounding views of the surrounding mountains and lava flows.
The spent the afternoon after this long hike splashing in the river by the campground, which the kids loved!

On our last day, we drove all the way to the other end of the park, to Drakesbad Ranch, where we hiked one last time and enjoyed a fun lunch next to horses. It was another rough farewell, where the kids had their share of whining. But it was again a great sign that they really enjoyed this type of trip.

I see more camping trips in our future!

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Jul 28, 2012

Yosemite trip

Last week, we had another big milestone in our family life. After last year's first quick camping trip at Pinnacles, we went camping for 2 nights for the first time. And it was a great success. We were lucky to get a reservation at a campground in Yosemite, on a weekend where the weather was perfect, if not a little too hot. We spent a weekend exploring the valley, hiking, looking for wildlife (not very successfully though) and enjoying the outdoors. It was fun!
Even though Daniel had a short phase of accidents after a long hike to the top of Bernal Fall (bitten by a squirrel - or so he thinks, and a fall leading to a cut gum), he quickly recovered and enjoyed the rest of the trip. A few minutes later, he was again climbing on boulders, running around, and enjoying being outdoors to use his endless energy. The hardest part was leaving. Everyone was heart-broken, but Daniel had the hardest time. It seems to be a pattern for him lately, and I think this had to do with the age (although he already showed similar behavior at 18 months) . Daniel is so passionate about everything, and he loves new adventures. Even though we keep telling him and finishing an adventure means that a new one will be starting soon, he still has a hard time saying good bye. Fortunately, a few days later, we were on our way to a great trip to Europe. So the Yosemite nostalgia was limited. And we have another camping trip to look forward to in a few weeks, which should be a great way to wrap up the summer.
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May 1, 2012

Hawaii trip

We just came back from a short (too short!) but fun trip to Hawaii. Even though it was only 4 days, we needed the break and it turned out to give us a good reason to relax. We went to Kona, to a resort that was very suited for kids, which therefore means easy for the parents. And it was really perfect for the kids:
- several pools with 4 slides, one of them 70 feet high.
- one tram to go from one side of the hotel to the next
- a boat service on an artificial river
- a dolphin show several times a day
- a protected lagune (easy to snorkel, even for a 4-year old) where a variety of fishes and many turtles find their way

What else could we want?
It was truly paradise on earth for Daniel. He spent a lot of time testing the slides and, after quite a bit of nudging at the beginning, fell in love with snorkeling. He would keep going back to the lagune to look for more turtles, more fish, more new things to experience.

Charlotte enjoyed jumping in the pool too, although she was also disappointed not to be able to take the slides on her own. It was tough for her to see big brother having so much fun, and not being able to tag along. Hopefully, this will mean great motivation to start swim classes in a year when she turns 3.

We also spent one day at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which was very interesting (although a long trip for what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation). Daniel loved learning about the lava and the mechanics of volcanoes. He definitely is at the age where he benefits most from all our trips: old enough to comprehend everything, and young enough to be fascinated by what he sees. It's really a great age for travel, and I can't wait for Charlotte to get into this phase too. She will be there soon enough!

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