Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio Park

Friday, February 13th, 2015 | Posted under Costa Rica, Family Travel

This is where I tell you how to do a light hike in a nature preserve with a sick toddler strapped to your back. Good times, right?

Last year, Husband J, Baby C and I went to Costa Rica and decided to stay only in the Manuel Anotnion area on the Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Manuel Antonio is known for its beaches and its national park. Was it worth it to focus our trip on just one area of the country with its small national park? My real answer is “maybe”, but more about the Manuel Antonio National Park first.

The Manuel Antonio area’s main draws for tourists are its beautiful beaches along with the pretty and accessible Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re looking for hard core hiking and such, you should probably go somewhere else. “Hiking” in Manuel Antonio isn’t really hiking. It’s more like “let’s walk on a semi-paved road and not trip while trying not to bump into a whole lotta other people who are staring upwards”. Almost anyone with any level of fitness can walk in this park and enjoy it, but I recommend some solid walking shoes or sandals because rocks will jump up out of nowhere and trip you up. No joke.

Manuel Antonio Park

The parks consists of several paved trails with look out points, and it does get crowded.

Manuel Antonio Park Crowds

Not really your dream isolated bit of nature, is it…?

Since we were in the area a little over one week and traveling with a kid who naps, we decided to split the park up into three different trips: Once for the beach; once with a guide to really see the animals and wildlife; and, finally, another time to just walk around the park itself on our own.

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Husband J taking a better look. At what I don’t remember…? :)

When I say this Manuel Antonio Park is accesible, I really do mean it. Many of the paths are paved, and there are even stairs.

Manuel Antonio Park Path

The pay off is a beautiful but not swimmable beach. Not bad for a pseudo-light hike.

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One of the park’s beaches. Not swimmable but pretty. Baby C is half sleep because she’s sick. :(

The animals are everywhere in the park. They deserve their own post, but we were joined that morning by several, including this guy right here.

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Guide or No Guide: One thing I do want to address is whether or not get a guide for a walk through Manuel Antonio Park. My answer: DO IT!! There is absolutely no way we would have seen a gosh darn thing without our guide. He knew what to look for in the mass of trees that is the park, and he had the best telescope-like device that allowed us to see some practically microscopic animals. Of course, there are lots of groups with a guide stopping and looking at things, but honestly, most of what we saw that day required binoculars or something like that to see much of anything. Yes, you can see the monkeys, but there’s so much more. The beauty of the wildife isn’t just the pretty birds and cheeky monkeys. It’s also the beautiful insects like this one:

Manuel Antonio Park - Spider

I realize not everyone thinks spiders are cool…

The real prize for going the distance is the main beach. It is by far the most beautiful in the Manuel Antonio area, but it comes at a price: for one its the long walk, plus a good walk down and back up to the main path. Trust me when I say that walk back up was enough to make me think about going back down (but a very good workout, if you’re looking for one). Also there are no facilities besides a bathroom half way up the hill. Bring your own food, too. Lots of people do so you won’t be alone.

Mnauel Antonio Park Main BeachEnjoying the view of the water with Baby C

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 She looks so much younger here…(maybe because she is)

Merchs in MA Park

 Family picture!

So while not the most exciting of Costa Rica’s parks, Manuel Antonio did the job for us. It allowed us to do some basic walking with Baby C while still being able to enjoy more of the area’s beaches.

Where is your favorite national park anywhere in the world?

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The Via Rail Experience

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted under Canada

Americans tend to have a superiority complex about many things, but our rail system is not one of them nor should it be. Most countries, including our northern neighbor Canada, surely have us beat on how to do rail travel and how to do it right. Since I live in the Northeast United States, I’m lucky to have great access to Amtrak. It’s a easy and comfortable way to get between many Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Even with the comfort and ease, Amtrak just doesn’t feel worth it. The seats are old; the wifi can be spotty; and the cafe car offers food that should be in a (bad) vending machine  After taking Canada’s Via Rail, I think I feel like I’m being taken for my money by our expensive, amenity-lacking rail system here in the U.S.!

First, if you’re traveling between Toronto and Montreal, consider taking the train. While the flight is about an hour, and there is a domestic airport right in downtown Toronto, I found the five hour train ride to be comfortable and quite fun. DISCLAIMER: This was my experience in business class. I can’t vouch for the second class train experience.

In Toronto’s Union Station, there is a separate lounge for business class passengers. Just flash your business class tickets to the attendants, and walk right in.

P1090308Yes, it’s fancy; and, yes, there’s wifi. 

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Free drinks. I wish I drank soda because I would have (or should have) totally taken one.

The waiting room in Toronto was a big enough perk to me, but getting to board early as a business class passenger was also helpful, especially since were were traveling with Baby C.

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Baby C is so tiny here! I don’t remember her being so small…

The conductors on the train were a mix of ticket agent and waiter (yes, waiter. I’ll get to that). They were kind enough to let us switch our assigned seats. Assigned seats aren’t as common on Amtrak trains, particularly in the Northeast U.S., so we needed to make sure that we were in the right spot.

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Now to my favorite part of this experiene: the food! Via Rail’s business class includes breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the time of day you travel. Did I mention that there is more than more than one course? Yep, that too. When I first read about this I was shocked. A multi-course meal on a train just can’t be good…but it was good, and pretty tasty. Before we had barely left Toronto, we had already been served soft drinks and cookies. A couple of hours in, lunch was served by our double duty agents:

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Goat Cheese with cucumber and tomato, plus bread. Also a sneak peek of dessert is included on this plate. 

There were choices for the main entree but I chose the mango chicken that came with smooth and savory mashed potatoes and crispy steamed veggies. My kind of meal.

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Not the  best picture, I know.

 Dessert should never been too far away. This was a hazelnut mousse cake (I think).  I finished it. Of course….

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One thing that I didn’t get to document was the rich truffles that came at the end of the meal. Apparently these are so popular that they’re actually sold separately. Check them out here (there are also other shots of fabulous Via Rail meals).

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 Baby C was sleeping underneath that nursing cover, and I was quite happy about that. 

To summarize:

1. Take Via Rail Business Class while in Canada.

2. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.

3. Watch some scenery while eating said dinner.

Sounds like a plan to me. Do you get why I think Amtrak is not making the grade?

What has been one of the best rail experiences you’ve had? This was definitely one of mine.

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Happy 2015!

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Posted under Personal, Video, Vlogging

Here’s a video to say hi to you all! I hope 2015 has started out well for everyone!

Also that is the world’s weirdest screen shot. Ugh….. :) Happy to be back! :)

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A Family Day at the CN Tower

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 | Posted under Canada

**Hi….my name is Terri, and apparently I write a blog…..**

The CN Tower will always be pretty special to me as it’s technicallly the first sightseeing that Baby C has ever done.

When you go to Toronto, you can’t say that you don’t know what the CN Tower looks like. It dominates Toronto’s skyline, and it’s striking.

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Baby C and I ready to take in the tower.

Downtown Toronto is super clean (a New Yorker would notice this, of course), and the CN Tower lies in a entertainment district close to Lake Ontario. It’s right next to the Rogers Centre (love that British spelling), where the Toronto Blue Jays play; the Air Canada Centre, where the Raptors play, and it’s not too far from its rail station, Union Station. In other words, the CN Tower is in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District.

I will say that we were a little confused even getting ot the entrance. Just know that you’ll need to get through some doors, hallways, and what not just to get a ticket and to get to the elevator that takes you to the to see the tower’s views.
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About that ticket….it’s NOT cheap.  It’s about $32 for adults, if you don’t buy it online before hand (FAMILY NOTE: For kids under four years old, there is free admission). Plus ,there is a line and a fair amount of waiting, so for those of you who lack patience or travel with children who may wig out after awhile, just build that into your expectations.

So, was it worth the price and the wait? Well, somewhat…. :)

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Baby C and I taking in the view

The views are spectacular, and there is ample space to see all of Toronto from all areas of the observation deck. Stepping outside, you will get whipped by the wind, so hold onto your hats. What are you supposed to expect being 1,200 feet in the air? Even on a very warm summer day, it was cold out there. Beware if you’re there in the fall or winter (gulp! Canada is cool, but I don’t think I could take it in the winter).

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There are more than enough reminders that you way up high.

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 Luckily, Baby C has no fear of heights.

CN Tower View

Did you know that Toronto has an airport downtown? Why yes, it does. You can fly to other parts of Canada and select cities in the U.S. We thought about flying to Montreal, but we took the train instead (for another post).

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In all, this was a nice way to orient ourselves in Toronto. We didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would have liked, but at least we can say that we saw it from above.

Do you remember your first trip with your family as a child or with your own family that you’ve formed?

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WeVerb Day 7 – 10

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 | Posted under Personal

More WeVerb…..

Day 7 – Send

What was the best thing that you sent someone in 2013? What will you send this year?

Continuing with the ever present Baby C theme…I loved that we got to send people beautiful birth announcements this year. While I’m not into just sending random pictures of me and my family, these were special to me for obvious reasons. While not the best newborn pic of Baby C, we sent this picture (the announcment had her vitals on it). I still can’t believe that she was this small.

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Courtesy of Raquel Frechette Photography

Day 8 – Accept

What imperfections have you come to accept in 2013? What will you do to embrace it in 2014?

I am not patient. It can be kinda hard with the whole motherhood thing. Just sayin’. I’ve learned with Baby C and with husband J that I need to occasionally have breaks for myself. Even if it’s just a short walk, I do need to sometime get away so that I can be a more patient wife and mother. I hope to have a little more reflection time in 2014.

 Day 9 – Laugh

Tell us about your biggest belly laugh in 2013. 

Baby C, I know when you’re old enough, you’re going to be upset that I posted this, but come on. This has to be one of the funniest pics I took of Baby C last year. I think Husband J and I laughed a little too long at this one.

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Actually this one might be more funny.

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Okay, I’m going to stop embarassing my child now.

Day 10 – Support

How did you volunteer your help last year? What will you do this year?

i didn’t really get a chance to volunteer in the traditional sense, but recently I’ve found out that a few friends are pregnant. I’ve been trying to be as supportive as possible. I’m hoping to support friends and family with their life goals and challenges this year.

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