He went with us in our trip to Tokyo, so of course he took photos is what he liked.
“Pura Vida, Tico” or visiting Costa Rica
Last December, my wife and I took a holiday to Costa Rica (well, we stayed at San José and moved around). Fun fact: traveling and staying there from Mexico is for us, Mexicans, quite cheap. Almost as cheap as visiting the Rivera Maya (if you know how to book a holiday and avoid most hotel schemes). But buying stuff or taking regular cabs there is really expensive as they charge in dollars or their equivalent. Even for the Costa Ricans.
Anyways, visiting Costa Rica is something I can’t recommend enough. If I could, I would go back to visit the rest of the places we couldn’t due time. Given the time it takes to displace from San José to many of the natural reserves and other touristic spots, my wife and I focused on those that were relatively close to us, to make better use of our time and have rest (and to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet for guests at the hotel).
First, we visited the Municipal Handcraft Market, where we tried to buy a few souvenirs for the family. Nice place (clean restrooms which are welcomed) and accessible vendors. And some really odd souvenirs that I can’t share a pic of them for being NSFW.
A few days later, we went to ‘Cascadas la Paz’. it’s a national park funded by a private organization, placed in a land with three waterfalls, in a mix of cloudy and rain forest. It is also a place where rescued animals -most of them protected species in danger of extinction like jaguars- were taken from irresponsible owners and placed in a safe environment for their recovery. It also has a good ‘collection’ of hummingbirds, butterflies, and frogs, including some venomous ones.
Another day we made a trip to the Irazu Volcano, one of the highest volcanoes on the continent. From it, in a good, clear day you can see both the Caribbean and the Pacific coasts. After that, we traveled down to the Orosi Valley, where we visited a private thermal water resort. And the food there was delightful!
We also visited a coffee roaster enterprise called Britt Coffee, where the tour guides are informative and amusing (they could have their own stand-up comedy show).
Fun facts about Costa Rica (as related to us by our tour guide):
1) It has no standing army. Instead, all the money that would be used for that goes to education.
2) It’s a pioneer in the use of renewable energies for grid supply and ecotourism.
3) Has a somewhat small police force for the whole country.
4) Due to its extreme volcanic activity, there are small earthquakes daily. Thus the construction laws of the country don’t allow for taller buildings (not even hotels have more than 6-7 floors so no skyscrapers) and all the roofs are made of light metal sheets (that way if the worst happens, no one will get crushed by the roof collapsing over their heads).
5) Has the largest stray dog shelter ever, with around 1.3k dogs in it. Which was featured in the ‘Dogs’ documentary series by Netflix.
6) ‘Pura Vida’ -the title of this blog- its the motto of the country, used for almost anything.
There are more activities to do: extreme sports, beach visits, trips to other volcanos and natural reservoirs and cultural events. I can’t recommend enough to visit the country, either for inspiration as a writer or if you like nature and sustainability. If you wish to see more of our photos about the natural beauties that Costa Rica has to offer, please visit my wife’s photography website and the page dedicated to this trip.
And of course, Raph, the traveling Ninja Turtle finally managed to go on the trip.
Musings on the Tower of Terror
When I was a pre-teen/teenager and my parents took my sister and me to Walt Disney’s World in the decade of the 90’s, there was a ride I died -pun kinda intended- to ride: The Twilight Zone, Tower of Terror.
Alas, I never got the chance because my family is not into spooky/weird things and despite my dad allowing me to watch the Twilight Zone revival of the 80’s, considered that the ride and the setting were too ‘extreme’ for our malleable minds. In reality, their refusal was mostly, because my sister was afraid of anything spooky and we were there to meet the Disney Princesses and not to be scared. At least I got to spend my time at Star Tours, but that’s another story…
Man, every time I watched this commercial at the hotel I begged to go. I only got as far as the gift shop.
So when my wife and I went to WDW a few years ago for our weeklong celebration of our wedding anniversary, she, in her infinite patience and love, went with me one rainy day to Hollywood Studios and the first thing we did was to enter the Tower of Terror.
Of course, as an adult, the ride wasn’t as shocking as you expected as a kid. And my wife prefers rides that are a bit more extreme -if her back injury allows it-. However, we had a lot of fun. We made a point on going into it, not only due to my past history with the ride as an object of desire, but by that time the California version (to which sadly I have never been to) was going to be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy ride -I admit, GoTG is one of my least favorite movies from MCU- and we wanted to experience the whole Tower before that fate befalls upon it.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a true masterpiece of narrative and worldbuilding. You take a complex concept as the Twilight Zone, through the lens of a haunted house -hotel in this case- and milk it for all its worth to get a good scare from a common nightmare: failing elevator. Add ghosts and its own urban legend about the ghost of a cast member haunting the ride and you have a very unique experience for the lovers of the spooky-kooky.
The lobby looks like a true earlier 20th-century hotel and is cold as hell. The smell of coal and humidity from the boilers downstairs transport you into the moldy feeling of a crappy yet ominous tourist trap hotel. The tv screens that fail, with the ever-present image of Rod Serling and the ghosts, plus the cast members playing the roles supernatural bellboys make you feel like you are actually in an episode of the Twilight Zone. And the view. Once you are in the drop, you can get a wonderful, if brief, view of WDW. If I could, I would write a horror/comedy story about a similar haunted hotel.
From a designer/theme park enthusiast/spooky things aficionado, the whole ride has it all. I personally believe is one of the best rides in terms of theme creation through interior design. And one of the best examples of Emotional design around (like most Disney things).
There are plenty of videos that show you the ride inside and out, in case you can’t visit it. But if you can go, and even better if you visit the park during Halloween season, you definitively should experience it before something happens to it. Like disappearing into another dimension.
Coming back to the blog, after the holidays, I thought in talking about my most recent travel. A few weeks ago, just before Christmas, my wife and I spent a whole week at Vancouver. It was our second wedding anniversary (we celebrated the first going to Disneyworld, I might talk about it in a later post). When we got married one of our personal vows was trying to travel as much as possible since my wife had never traveled abroad before that, while I have been lucky to visit my decent share of countries. In this case, we chose Vancouver with the hopes of seeing snow but not freeze to death like in Toronto. Originally we planned to go and watch the Northern Lights, but it was way out of our budget (the Mexican peso being what it is, means that we have to save a lot for these trips).
Vancouver didn’t disappoint. It has to be one of the best trips I’ve had (alongside Disneyworld). Even with the cold and rainy days. Good thing that our hometown has similar weather at certain times of the year.
The city is beautiful, peaceful and very friendly. Especially for photography aficionados such as my wife that took pictures of anything and everything. If you want to see better pics of the trip, visit my wife’s Instagram, she will be uploading them in the forthcoming days. The ones you see here are the ones I took (and I’m still learning to use a DSLR camera).
Aside the sushi, we had the opportunity to taste a wide range of food: poutine, Greek pitas, taco bowls -one of them at a great restaurant at Granville Market, ‘La Tortilleria’, founded and supervised by a Mexican lady from Michoacán- massive bowls of ramen near Chinatown, fresh salmon with cheese… But the best one by far was the Korean Barbecue. I don’t think I have eaten that much besides Christmas’ dinner. If you find yourself in Downtown Vancouver be sure to go to Shabusen Yakiniku House, there might be a bit of w wait to sit and enjoy the food, but the wait is worthwhile when there is the ‘All you can eat’ menu.
One of the best things about traveling with my wife -opposed to alone as I used to do- is that she has this friendly aura around her that makes not only the trip an enjoyable experience but also allows us to meet interesting people. There were several occasions when, while we were eating in a crowded market or waiting for transport, people approached us to talk: a retired man was waiting for his wife telling us his life history, a fellow Mexican traveling back to Mexico for the first time in years or a fellow photographer who shared tips with my wife -the photographer of the family-. With my wife around there is never a dull moment during a trip.
We visited several -one would say obligated- spots that kept our days -and nights- busy. While we didn’t see much in terms of a nightlife, given that it was Christmas time and night fell around 4:00 pm, Vancouver still offers plenty of places to see:
Granville Market: diverse food, diverse shops and a two-story toy market, where my wife and I bought a couple of board games. Be sure to visit ‘La Tortillería’ for real Mexican flavor.
Vancouver Christmas Market: near Canada Place, this is a traditional European-style market with food, wooden Christmas decoration, and warm vine. They offer the option of a return pass that allows you to come back several times for a single payment.
Museum of Anthropology: deep inside the University of British Columbia, lies one of the most eye-catching collections of totems and First Nations art. The tour guide that gave us the explanation of the place opened my eyes to the rich culture of the First Nations. I will be sure to research more about them in the next days. Just a caution note, be sure to be on time to catch the bus back to Downtown. During holidays the campus is empty and there are no other means of transportation back (the walk back is too long to do it after dusk).
Gastown/Chinatown/Downtown Vancouver: the main place to visit for the historical side of Vancouver, with a wide range of restaurants, souvenir shops -try the maple cookies, they are addictive- all in a relatively small area to walk around.
Golden Age Comics: if you are a comic book/manga/toy collector like me and my wife, this is the place to go. Wide selection of books, board games, t-shirts, Japanese figures and everything the geek needs.
Flyover Canada: it’s a nice 4XD ride, similar to the Soaring at Epcot Center, but focused only on Canada and it’s natural beauties. During Christmas time they add a bit, visiting Santa’s workshop. It is a cool ride, but really short for the size of the queue and kinda expensive the overall cost.
Capilano Suspension Bridge: if you are more nature persuasion but don’t want to travel far from the city, you should go to the north and visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s cozy, you can breathe clean air and during Christmas time it is decorated with lights. It is one of the most romantic places we visited.
Vancouver Aquarium: inside Stanley Park and not far from the Totem Poles, the Aquarium is a beautiful collection of fauna from British Columbia. Otters, seals, sea lions, penguins, dolphins and the occasional wandering raven among others make for a wonderful family time.
If you are of a photographer inclination, I would recommend you to take this Night Photography tour. Suzanne, the instructor was amicable, patient and fun, teaching us a few tricks of night photography. It will be worth your time and money.
The visit to the city -and the MoA in particular- inspired me to revisit some parts of the Tempest Blades world building, particularly the map, a few cities and the inner works of the freefolk people. The First Nations cultures and the meaning of the totems part were really inspiring.
In the last day, Vancouver didn’t disappoint. It bid us farewell with snowfall all the way back to the airport. This was one of the items on the bucket list of my wife, so in that regard we can say: mission accomplished. This is a trip my wife and I found so wonderful that we wish to return to Vancouver.