3 days in San Jose

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Trip to the Sarapaqui River

Hello! I’m back and happy to share the highlights of my recent trip to Costa Rica. I’m going to break the trip up into two posts. Today, I’m sharing what I did during my three days in and around San Jose.

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is a busy, noisy, interesting city. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but I found a lot of beauty and hidden gems during my explorations.

Day 1-Arrival, concert at El Cuartel

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A busy street scene in Central San Jose

After arriving in San Jose and settling into my Airbnb, I walked around the center of the city for a while. I stopped at a couple of shops and bought some brightly-colored fabric and lace. I ended up at the Mercado Central, which is an enclosed market with all sorts of different food and craft stalls. It was fun to wander around and see everything being sold. I bought a variety of food to go including empanadas, fruit and chicken.

At night, I decided to go to The Public House, which was described as an Irish Pub. Uber now works in San Jose, so I gave it a try and was able to get a car right away. Unfortunately, since there are no real addresses in San Jose, we couldn’t find the pub. I ended up going to El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte, which is a bar, restaurant and music venue in Barrio la California. I stumbled into a band rehearsal for Easy Rider, a classic-rock cover band. I was welcomed warmly and even got a shout out from the band during their concert, which was extra special. I also tried a traditional Costa Rican dish called Chifrijo. It is a mixture of rice, tomatoes, beans and fried pork pieces and it is insanely delicious. I loved this bar so much that I returned on Monday evening for their famous music night.

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A booth at Mercado Central
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Spices at Mercado Central
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Chifrijo at El Cuartel

 

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Tropical flowers

Day 2-River cruise and horseback ride, movie

For Day 2, I booked a river cruise and horseback ride in the jungle. It was an easy, relaxing day. We were transported by boat along the Sarapaqui River, where we saw monkeys, iguanas and crocodiles. We ended up at a lovely house in the jungle where we ate lunch and could choose between horseback riding or zip lining. I chose horseback riding, which was pretty comical as my horse, Paloma, clearly did not want to be doing the tour and keep trying to run me into low-hanging branches. It was still enjoyable, though. After that, we took the boat back to our original location and headed back to San Jose.

There are so many tours you can book out of San Jose including zip lining, hikes through the cloud forest, hot springs, volcano tours and so much more. I had originally booked two tours, the river cruise and a combo tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges, Volcano and Hot Springs. When the second got cancelled, I decided not to book another tour, which I think made for a more relaxing trip, but I was a little sad not to see the bridges and hot springs. And, while I enjoyed bumming around San Jose on Day 3, I feel like I missed some of the more exciting adventures that Costa Rica has to offer. I guess I will just have to go back 🙂

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Paloma going off trail
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Our boat on the Sarapaqui River
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Cine Magaly in Barrio la California

At night, I went back to Barrio La California and saw Lady Bird at Cine Magaly. It was a beautiful theater and a great movie (conveniently in English with Spanish subtitles). I ended up liking the feel of this neighborhood quite a bit and would recommend a visit to anyone spending time to San Jose.

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Museo del Jade

Day 3-Museo del Jade, walking around and craft shopping

On the third day, I went to the Museo del Jade. It had some interesting exhibits featuring pre-columbian life in Costa Rica. I especially liked the top floor which had shelves and shelves of fantastic pottery. I enjoyed the museum but I’m not sure it is worth the entry fee of $20.

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Pottery at Museo del Jade

After the museum I walked to the Museo National de Costa Rica. It was closed, but it has a beautiful park (Plaza de la Democracia y de la Abolición del Ejército) on one side and on the other side is Calle 17, a pedestrian street with fantastic murals (see the featured photo for this post). From there, I made my way to Chieton Moren, which is a fair-trade craft store I had read about. Each piece in the store is labeled with the name of town and craftsperson who created it. They had a great selection of interesting hand crafts in a range of prices. After shopping, I had a late lunch/early dinner at a small restaurant across the street. Casados are offered by most restaurants and are a typical Costa Rican dish. A casado is a large plate with meat, rice, beans, salad and a vegetable stew (not really sure what this was but it was delicious). At around 3500 colones ($6.00), they are a good and filling budget option.

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Chieton Moren: A great fair-trade craft store
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A delicious casado de pollo
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A fountain near the Teatro National
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Afternoon sunlight over San Jose

After eating, I walked past the Teatro National and through Plaza de la Cultura and made my way back to my apartment. In the evening, I went to Stiefel Pub, which was cute and has a large selection of craft beers. On my way to the pub, I walked past groups of political demonstrators who were voicing their opinions on the hotly contested and polarizing Costa Rican presidential election, which was to be held on April 1. It was fun and interesting to get a glimpse into local politics.

In the evening, I went back to El Caurtel de la Boca del Monte and enjoyed the music and had a shot of chiliguaro, which is a local liquor called guaro mixed with tomato juice, hot sauce and lime.

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Political demonstrators

San Jose may not be the most picturesque city, but I enjoyed it immensely. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and very patient with my very basic Spanish language skills. The food was fresh and delicious and the nightlife was interesting. It is not recommended to walk around alone at night, but I had a very positive experience using Uber to get around. It was cheap and reliable and made me feel safe going out at night alone.

How about you? Have you been to Costa Rica or San Jose? What was your experience?

And stay tuned for my next post on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

xoxo Anna

100 followers!

I was so excited to reach 100 followers this week. Thank you to all of you who have followed, read and commented on my posts over the last 10 months. It means the world to me! I feel like I have learned so much by being part of the blogosphere. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow and refine my style and vision for the blog. If you have any feedback on the blog so far, I would love to hear it 🙂

In other news, I am off to Costa Rica in a little over a week. I always find the last week before a trip to be anxiety provoking. So many little details to figure out. I am trying to remember to be grateful that I have the opportunity to travel and not get overwhelmed by annoyances. This weekend I plan to lay low and get ready for my trip. I think this will definitely help with the pre-trip anxiety. I’m hoping to finally share an outfit post with you next week (hint: “travel”). Then I will be off from posting the week I am on vacation. If you don’t already follow me on Instagram, definitely do, as I will be posting all sorts of vacation photos during my travels.

How about you? Any successes you are celebrating right now? How do you deal with pre-trip anxiety?

xoxo

Anna

 

 

 

 

Adventures on St. Croix

 

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The courtyard of my Airbnb

I recently spent a week in St. Croix for a wedding. I will always look back on this trip and smile, but not because everything went as planned. It was, in fact, a combination of minor frustrations, comical mishaps, interesting characters and truly heartwarming moments. It was the first time that I have traveled out of the country with a big group of friends. I’ve done a fair amount of solo travel and have enjoyed it, but there is something very special about being abroad with a bigger group. There may be more time spent organizing the group, but I loved being able to share adventures with some of my closest friends and meet new people as well. It was also very special to me the way that our group came together to handle inconveniences and potential problems with grace and kindness. Here are some of my favorite moments from the trip:

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Rainbow beach view
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Hello Mr. Crab!

Rainbow beach and this crab

Our first beach day was at Rainbow Beach. I rented a beach chair and an umbrella for $20 and proceeded to lounge and swim. There is a cute, beachy restaurant/bar where I got a piña colada and some fried shrimp. Everything was tasty! Overall it was a successful day and I would recommend this beach 🙂

 

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Fort Christianvearn
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Limpricht Park

Exploring Christiansted

I’m a sucker for historic architecture, especially of the colonial, island variety. My Airbnb was in Christiansted and I really enjoyed walking around and looking at the beautiful old buildings. Fort Christianvearn was just down the street and was a great place to wander. There was also a cute park down the street that had a lot of character.

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Beach at Hotel on the Cay

The beach at Hotel on the Cay

We went to this beach two days in a row. I went the first day on my own and liked it so much that I convinced other people to come. It’s a short (it felt like 30 seconds!) ferry ride to a cute island with a small beach. There is a hotel on the island but non-guests are asked not to explore the island beyond the beach and bar. The water was calm and clear and there was a bar/restaurant (great pineapple daiquiri) and a watersports stand where I rented a snorkel on the first day.

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There were so many gorgeous chickens!
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An iguana grabbing a maraschino cherry!

Good weather

Rain was predicted for our entire trip. There were a few storms, including one torrential downpour, but we also had plently of sun and beach-worthy weather. The weather even cooperated on the day of the wedding which was a blessing.

The wedding

The wedding itself was beautiful and intimate. It was on the beach at one of the island’s resorts. I was asked to perform the wedding ceremony and I enjoyed the process of getting ordained, writing a ceremony and performing the actual marriage. I am not a confident public speaker, but when the time came to do the ceremony I was reassured by the happiness of the moment and everything fell into place naturally. The wedding was followed by a dinner/reception. There were only about twenty people there in total and I really liked the intimacy and relaxed nature of a smaller wedding.

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Relaxing before the wedding

 

A few frustrations…

Lack of transportation options

I would recommend that anyone traveling to St. Croix rent a car. A great deal of our group’s frustrations came from figuring out how to get people staying in a variety of locations to and from different places. The island is fairly big and places were farther away than they seemed they would be on the map. It was off-season and finding a cab after 6 pm (and sometimes even during the day) was difficult and expensive. I didn’t end up renting a car, but some of my friends did and I would say it saved the vacation. I will note that driving is on the left-hand side of the road and some roads have sharp turns, and steep inclines or declines. But I think these discomforts would be outweighed by the convenience of more control over your transportation.

Comically (?) strange lodging experiences

To the person, all of us had some sort of funny, annoying or awkward story about the places we stayed including strange Airbnb hosts, poor service, remote or hard-to-reach locations, flooding, and beaches overrun with seaweed. I’m purposely not including the names of the places as this is not meant to be a review of specific establishments and more of a commentary on the travel in general. When you think of spending a week on a tropical island, or really on any vacation, you have certain expectations built up in your mind about stress-free, perfect travel. But that’s not always how things play out. Previously, these imperfections would have weighed on me and affected the joy I took in the vacation, but this time I was able to focus on the good things and really enjoyed the time I spent with the other people on the trip. I think it was the difference between dwelling on what you imagined your trip would be rather than being present and thankful for the opportunity to share experiences and find beauty in unlikely places.

I would definitely return to St. Croix. I feel like I just got a small taste of what the island has to offer.

How about you? Have you ever taken a group vacation? And how do you handle unexpected trip snafus?

xoxo Anna

Bound for St. Croix

Hey everyone! It has been a whirlwind few days. I came home from Phoenix on Saturday and tomorrow I am headed to St. Croix for a wedding and some tropical fun. I have never been to St. Croix before, although I have been to St. John where I got stuck in a tropical storm! I love the tropics almost as much as I love the desert. There is something so magical about that aqua water. I have my own tiny Airbnb apartment located in Christiansted. I am looking forward to snorkeling, hanging out on the beach and discovering the history of the island. By the looks of the map, I will be in the heart of town and very close to the historic Fort Christiansvaern.

I will be taking the week off from posting to focus on spending time with friends and drinking things out of coconuts! If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram for snapshots of my vacay! I have plans for lots of content when I get back including a St. Croix travelogue and more ethical fashion looks.

Till then,

xoxo Anna

 

Six snaps

 

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Pretty but dangerous

If you follow my blog, you know that I have been spending the month of July in Phoenix visiting family. I thought I would share some snapshots that I have taken during my visit. This will be a recurring series where I share interesting snapshots and moments that don’t really fit into a set category. As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and cooking, observing local animals (chipmunks, lizards, quails) and plants (so many kinds of cacti!), and shopping at the local Goodwill. Every time I come out here I try to spot a rattlesnake, but no luck so far. I look under every bush when I go on my daily walks because I feel like that is where I am going to see one. On past trips I have seen coyotes and javelinas, but never a snake! Wish me luck 🙂

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Homemade dinner rolls
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Love the pastel shades on this prickly pear cactus
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Denim and red nail polish
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I made two strawberry rhubarb pies!

Nice and Paris highlights

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Cap D’Ail
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Salade Nicoise

From Dublin, I made my way to Nice, France. You can read about my time in Ireland here. I was originally supposed to meet a friend in Nice but because of a travel snafu, I ended up flying solo for my week on the French Riviera. Here are my favorite moments…

Watching locals jumping off the pier at Castel Plage

I spent a lot of my time in Nice at the beach. Following tips I read on the internet, I splurged on private beaches. The going rate for a towel and beach chair was around 20 euros for the day. Since I was alone, it allowed me to safely leave my belongings on my chair and go for a swim. On my first day I went to Castel Plage, conveniently located at the end of the Promenade des Anglais. I felt pretty chic sunning on my beach chair, drinking mojitos and watching acrobatic locals jumping of a nearby rock outcrop. My only complaint (really more of an annoyance with myself) was that I kept forgetting to bring reading material. Oh well, I guess I’ll get another mojito and people-watch some more! Most beaches in and around Nice are composed of pebbles of varying sizes. Some are large, like rocks, and some a tiny and more like sand. Castel Plage had the first, making it a little uncomfortable to get in and out of the water. My favorite beach for swimming was Beaulieu-sur-mer, which I went to on my second day. This was a tiny pebble beach and was very comfortable to walk on. After Beaulieu, I visited Villefranche-sur-mer which has a lovely old town. I had an excellent dinner at Les Garcons followed by coconut gelato overlooking the harbor.

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Fresh vegetables at the market in Nice
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Villefranche-sur-mer

Eating socca and farcis

Socca is a crispy, thin chickpea pancake and a traditional street food in Nice. Farcis is vegetables (I had tomatoes and zucchini) stuffed with a ground meat mixture. I sampled both of these classics at Lou Pilha Leva at Place Centrale. After ordering at the counter I settled at one of the communal outdoor tables to eat, where I was immediately engaged in conversation by the other guests. I had a fun time practicing my French with actual French people in actual France 🙂

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View from the citadel in Entrevaux

A rainy day in Entrevaux

The Train des Pigne runs from Nice through Haute Province to Digne-Les-Bains. I decided to take the train to Entreveaux, a small medieval town along the route. The views along the way were magnificent. Entreveaux itself is a sweet, little walled village with winding, narrow streets and a high citadel. For a small price you can take a self-guided tour of the ramparts and visit the citadel. The ramparts contain a strange, somewhat comical museum of sorts which has dioramas about the history of the town. It started to rain while I was exploring. I dodged into a small shop to avoid the rain and ended up having an extended and lovely conversation with the shop owner in broken French. When the rain subsided I hiked to the top of the citadel and explored the ruins. It was quite a hike, but well worth it for the views and the citadel itself. There were no restaurants open inside the town so I ended the day at a small café across the street from the entry bridge. They were not serving dinner but the shop owner made me the most delicious jambon et beurre avec cornichons (ham and butter with pickles) and I sat on the porch drinking coffee and watching the rain for quite a while before catching the train back to Nice.

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Cap D’Ail

Getting lost on the way to the beach in Cap D’Ail

On my last day in Nice, I decided to go to Cap D’Ail by train. When I got off the train, I tried to make my way to the beach, but couldn’t find it. I figured if I walked in the direction of the water I would find it, but ended up getting more and more lost. I was wandering along a random road when I spotted a local driving by and asked for directions. They instructed me to climb over a fence and some rocks to get to a pathway that ran right along the sea. The path turned out to be magical, running up and down along rocky outcrops with the turquoise Mediterranean waves splashing below. Unfortunately, it ended in a locked gate. The gate was high and I couldn’t climb over. To get around I would have to scale the side rail and suspend myself over a 30 ft drop to the water before climbing over the side rail on the other side. I had spent 20 minutes on the path and didn’t want to turn around and go back. A woman passed by on the other side and tried to help (I’m pretty sure I looked mildly crazy clutching the bars) but there really wasn’t any way so she moved on. Finally, I decided to risk it and climb around the gate. 30 or so seconds later, during which I questioned all my life decisions, I was over and on my way to the beach. The beach at Cap D’Ail was stunning and I quickly forgot my adventure in haze of swimming, sun and more mojitos. Comically enough, on the way home from the beach I found out there was a stairway that went to the beach just a little further down the random road I was walking on. Oh well!

From Nice I flew to Paris for the last 3 days of my trip.

3 relaxed days in Paris

I ended up meeting my friend in Paris. It was so nice to see a good friend after all my solo adventuring. We had both been to Paris before and had covered most of the major touristy stuff, so we had a relaxed three days wandering around shopping and eating. We were staying in Bellville near the Parc de Buttes Chaumont so we had a picnic there (which involved a trip to the local grocery store, one of my favorite things to do on vacation). We also had a fancy dinner at Pirouette in Les Halles (super!) and found a bunch of really cute boutiques to shop in. I am guilty of buying some clothing at H&M. However, I am convinced I made different decisions because I was in Paris, and my purchases have mostly stood the test of time.

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Pigeon for dinner at Pirouette
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Rosé for days at the supermarche

I also got a tattoo 🙂 I had been wanting to get a tattoo in Paris since the last time I visited and spontaneously decided to do it. However, I didn’t choose the best place and the tattoo didn’t stand the test of time. Instead of a tiny heart (so cute!) it ended up looking like an amorphous blob on my wrist (not so cute!), so I recently had to have it touched up (cute again!). No regrets, tho!

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Last meal in Paris

Then it was back to my other favorite city, NYC. I will be sharing details of the souvenirs I bought in Ireland and France, as well as my strategies for choosing souvenirs and gifts while on vacation, in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

 

Welcome to Fashion Spirit

Welcome to Fashion Spirit! My name is Anna. I love whiskey, fashion and my cat (and my friends and family, of course). I have struggled my whole life with the same problem—too many hobbies and interests. I’ve dabbled in a number of careers including fashion, culinary arts, a variety of craft enterprises, scientific research, journalism, photography, travel writing and graphic design. Thankfully my career trajectory, at least in terms of day jobs, has settled over the past few years, but I still find myself seeking an outlet that will allow me to explore some of my other interests. I’m not sure how it didn’t occur to me before (I am a notorious late adopter) but authoring a lifestyle blog might just be the one-stop-shop I’ve been searching for.

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I hope to infuse this blog with all the wonder and inspiration I feel every day, living in NYC. It may sound a little hokey, especially to my fellow New Yorkers but I still get a rush when I come out of the subway into the sunlight and see the buildings rising up and the sky. I still smile every time I see the skyline from an airplane or bus window upon coming home from a long trip.

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That said, I also love to travel and I will be sharing some details of adventures that I’ve been on and places I am dreaming of going. Watch for posts on Nice, Ireland, St. Croix USVI and more in the coming year.

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There will also be tons of fashion. It’s hard to sum up my personal style but maybe the best term for it might be “personal classics” as I enjoy borrowing from my own mind bank of fashion inspiration and reorganizing things into unique combinations. Shout out to mixing patterns! In the past, (you know, up until yesterday) I have been addicted to what is being called “fast fashion.” After reading about the impact this kind of clothing manufacturing has on our planet and people, I will be attempting to move away from old habits by buying a smaller amount of better quality pieces and shopping second-hand stores. It will be a slow process, but I am looking forward to the challenge and will keep you posted on my progress.

One of the reasons I have relied on inexpensive fashion is that I am constantly in the process of “losing weight”. I will be sharing the (literal) ups and downs of my fitness/nutrition journey. Let’s just say I may have issues with consistency in this area, which is something I think many of us struggle with.

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And speaking of nutrition, you can expect a variety of recipes some healthy some not so much.

And speaking of home décor (well not really, but I couldn’t think of a good segue) I am always refining my one-bedroom apartment in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Stay tuned as I tackle clutter and attempt to define my interior design style.

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I look forward to sharing my adventures with you. And hopefully hearing about some of yours. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram at fashionspiritbklyn. Till tomorrow ☺ Yours, Anna