So we ended up going up to Joliet on Friday after work and staying with Steph and Kyle before we started our original weekend plans.
We had such a great time catching up with them and meeting their two little dogs, Arnie and Henna. (Henna was my favorite! She's the cute black one)
Their new place was really nice, and after a good night's rest, we got up pretty early in the morning to get ready for our respectively busy days. Steph's sister was heading up and they were going to the Taste of Chicago. Ryan and I were heading to Six Flags for the day! So we had to say goodbye way too soon...but it's nice having her closer, because now we'll actually see each other more than once a year!
We had a blast at Six Flags. We paid for The Flash Pass and it was definitely worth the extra cost. We didn't have to wait long for any rides and besides The Giant Drop, we got to ride every ride we wanted to...sometimes more than once! =)
Ryan found fireworks for us to go to that night at the Oak Brook Country Club and I am so glad we didn't miss that show. It was bizarre walking through a 27 hole golf course at night and finding people sitting all over the course. There was a massive gathering of people for the festival with lots of food stands and a McDonald's tent. Turns out the corporate headquarters for McDonalds is in Oak Brook and they sponsored the event. Which would explain the AMAZING fireworks!
The next day, we went to the Brookfield zoo. It was such a beautiful zoo and being as how I love zoos, it was also one of the best I had been to.
We watched the dolphin show from below, which was actually kinda cool! We also got to pet and feed stingrays, which was great, but not as good as the stingray pool at Sea World.
It was a gorgeous day, but definitely pretty hot. But the zoo had a lot of indoor exhibits which helped cool it off.
One of the coolest exhibits was the gorilla enclosure. They were entertaining, and we got some great pics!
After the zoo, we toured Goose Island Brewery. There wasn't much to tour, but there was a tasting which, if anything, was very informative. We got to sample great beer and get a souvenir glass.
We also went to IKEA and got some great deals on some fun stuff. I love that store and wish there was one that was closer.
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and went to the Oak Brook shopping center...definitely Ryan's favorite part! Lol. Then we went to Trader Joe's to stock up on great groceries and headed home. It was a great weekend and I can't wait to go back. Chicago is definitely my favorite vacation spot, because there is so much to do!
We had also stopped at this specialty beer store and picked up some good brews =) After dinner and a couple drinks, we headed to the Huber-Haus, a German bar in Midtown. We decided to tackle "Das Boot"!
The rule with Das Boot is that you are never to let the boot touch the table once it has been picked up. Also, the toe must always point towards the center of the circle.
We easily downed the first boot between the six of us, we decided to embark on a second boot...with darker beer. Ick! But I participated reluctantly, and it was a good night!
The next morning we went to the Omaha Farmer's Market...it was packed!! But it's such a good selection and we picked up some good stuff!
Later that afternoon, we toured Lucky Bucket Brewery and Distillery. It was a free tour and you got lots of free beer if you wanted it. It was really fun and I'm so glad Ashley found that for us to do.
We also made a trip to Cabela's and then spent the later part of the afternoon at Dave & Buster's being a kid again!
We went to this bar (name?) that was decked out in 60's style tiki bar decor and we got these sinful drinks called Zombie's. Ashley and I were DDing together though, so we just shared one...those are potent drinks!
We hit up a couple of other bars and played Euchre at a bar called The Library Pub.
The next day/night was more low-key. Ashley and I went shopping at the best stores: Scout and The Giving Tree. We also went to the mall and then HyVee to get groceries for dinner.
We cooked enchiladas and played Euchre that night. Then Ashley and I got the brilliant idea to get on Chat Roulette for the first time. It was funny, and semi-addicting. We didn't go to be until 3:00 am!!!
The next morning, we cooked breakfast and then had the intention of taking this cruise on the Missouri river. Unfortunately, the cruise was sold out...so we went to the Ped Bridge instead.
It was a gorgeous day out, and it was hard to leave. But we are looking forward to going back again soon to visit our good friends, that luckily only live five hours away!
We were tired, but we were also really excited! We got a little sleep on the plane and arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, around 1:00 in the afternoon. Once we were dropped off at our hotel, we got really vague directions to some tourist destinations, and we got lost in San Jose...which is not a very pretty city to get lost in!
We stuck by the busy areas and shopping centers, we wandered into a beautiful Catholic Church and then we finally found the Teatro Nacional that we were looking for!
We found our way back to our hotel and since it was getting dark, and we were told to stay in after dark, we just ate at the hotel restaurant. It was not cheap, but it was DELICIOUS! Ryan's meal, pictured below is a traditional Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, beans, plantains, chicken, pico de gallo, apple/potato sauce, lettuce with guacamole, and a friend egg...it was awesome! I got the traditional chicken and rice, which wasn't as exciting, but tasted great.
We bought some cans of beer and Cuba Libre (Rum & Cola) and hung out in the hotel, hitting the hay kinda early because we were so tired and had a day of traveling ahead of us.
We woke up Wednesday and were picked up to travel to Arenal. The road trip was fascinating because once we got out of San Jose (scary car ride!), we had beautiful scenery the whole way. We drove through mountains, and spotted volcanoes in the distance. The roads are narrow and curvy, but I decided to not freak out like I probably normally would and just enjoy the ride. Thanks to my Dramamine, I didn't even get car sick.
We stopped to use the restrooms at a cute little gift shop along the way. I bought some hand-carved wooden earrings for my sister and my mom and I used the FREE bathrooms. This is important, as I learned later, because most public restrooms charge you 500 colones (nearly a dollar) to use, and sometimes extra to get toilet paper.
When we arrived at our hotel in Arenal, we took a nature hike behind the resort. The hotel and surrounding gardens were absolutely beautiful...we already know we'd love to stay there again when we go back. And yes, we are SO going back to Costa Rica.
The hotel room had a patio off the back and we had a view directly to the volcano. It was absolutely stunning and I could have just sat on the patio all day looking at the volcano. It is so awe-inspiring to see something like a volcano so close, it was just beautiful.
We went on a Volcano Hike the next morning and it was quite a workout, but so worth it. We learned a lot about the area and the animals and our guide was really great. We had an excellent view of the Arenal Lake as well.
Unfortunately, Ryan was not feeling so great the rest of the day, so we skipped our afternoon horseback ride to the waterfall...that's on our agenda for the next trip ;) So I sat on the balcony taking in the view of the volcano while reading my book. I also went swimming by myself, which ended up being great because it was so relaxing.
The following morning, we left for the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Our trip was long, but it wasn't too bad because the first 45 minutes of the trip was by boat across the Arenal Lake. It was very refreshing to be outside and take in the gorgeous views of the volcano and surrounding areas.
We arrived at our hotel in the cloud forest in the early afternoon. While Ryan was recouping, we just decided to take it easy that day since we had more hiking to the next day. The view from our room was great and we enjoyed watching a storm roll in.
The next morning, we went hiking in the rain forest and had another great guide. It was definitely more of a bird watching/calling hike, but I feel like it was very informative and the rain forest is unlike any other hike I've ever taken.
Back at the hotel, they had a happy hour special, so I enjoyed some margaritas, which taste quite different in Costa Rica, but they were delicious.
That night, we went on the Santa Marias night hike, which is one of my favorite memories from the whole trip. You start at dusk, with flashlights and go hiking through the cloud forest while it's pitch black. It's a totally different world at night! We saw several sloths, weird bugs, tree cats (not sure of the name), and tarantulas!
The next morning, we left for the beach!! This trip was the windiest, steepest, scariest ride of all, but we were finally with other people, so I couldn't panic too much.
We made one stop on the way to trade vans and I finally got to see some monkeys! The pictures didn't turn out to great though, but they were so cute. There were a lot of parrots there too, so I'm glad we made that stop.
We were in the town of Tamarindo, we we took a day going into the city and shopping. I had the best mango/pineapple smoothie in the world, which helped cool me off in the 110 degree weather!
The resort on the beach, Barcelo Playa Langosta, was GORGEOUS! It was also over 100 degrees the whole time, so we had to adjust a little. Luckily, we were right on the ocean and there was huge pool, and most importantly, there was unlimited drinks! =)
Our final day in Costa Rica, we opted to take a catamaran out to sea which included unlimited food and drinks as well as a one hour stop to snorkel. It was quite the party boat, but unfortunately, I began to feel a little sea sick...I forgot to take a Dramamine before we headed out that morning.
The snorkeling was the absolute best hour of the entire trip! I felt so much better once I got in the water, and though I had gone snorkeling before, this was the best experience I had ever had. We got to hold a starfish, pet an puffer fish, see several eels and cool fish, but best of all, we ended up swimming in the middle of a HUGE school of fish for about 5 minutes. I wish I had an underwater camera to capture that moment...but I'll never forget it.
We sailed back at sunset and went back to the hotel to enjoy our last night of our honeymoon. Saying goodbye to Costa Rica the next day was so hard. Usually, when I go on vacations, I'm ready to go home...but not this time, I wanted to stay longer!
I almost forgot to mention the meaning behind my blog title, "Pura Vida." It literally means, "the pure life," and in Costa Rica, they use it to say good bye, hello, thank you, etc. To them, it simply means, enjoy life and live well...and I think that's a pretty good motto to live by! =)