Saturday, July 8, 2017

Costa Rica Part 1: Arrival and La Fortuna

   Arrival:

     Once stepping foot in Costa Rica we were picked up at the airport by our car rental company, Adobe Car Rentals, which I strongly recommend as we ended up with zero hidden fees and no complications whatsoever.  While making our way to the rental company in the shuttle bus I couldn't help but to start feeling nervous about driving in the chaotic city traffic - don't expect the locals to follow any of the posted traffic signs or traffic rules!  Luckily, once we made it out of the main city area things calmed down quite a bit.
Travel Tips: 

1. Download Offline Maps and download the map of Costa Rica before your trip if you want to save money by not renting a GPS.  Offline Maps was a life saver and worked just about every time!
2. Maps will give you a drive time when traveling from one destination to the next - most highways are windy two-lane roads so don't expect the drive time shown to be accurate.
3. Costa Rica has a ton of one lane bridges - don't assume the person with the yield sign is going to yield!
4. Do not expect to see very many street signs.  Most directions I received were navigated by landmarks (which is another reason why offline maps saved my butt - I could type in the destination and it would get me there).
5. The locals are very nice and helpful.  If you are lost, they will try and help get you directions. Opt to stop and ask inside a store versus asking someone alongside the road (Advice from our Adobe rental guy).


Traveling to La Fortuna: 
     Upon arriving in Costa Rica and being handed the keys to a rental car, we made our way towards our first destination, La Fortuna by way of Poas Volcano (which was closed due to volcanic activity) to explore the town and do some hiking around Arenal Volcano National Park.

The drive was windy, yet beautiful, lush and green with rivers and waterfalls, scenic overlooks of rolling hills and valleys.

 Roadside Waterfall near Poas
Valley View at our first stay: Tiquicia Lodge


      Getting to La Fortuna from Poas took us around 5 hours of drive time (GPS said 3) due to winding two lane roads, rain and getting stuck behind trucks.  We stayed at an Airbnb on an Organic Farm around 15 minutes drive from the town of La Fortuna.  It was an easy drive in and out of the town from our place.  


What to do in La Fortuna: 

  • Shop and sight-see around the town.  There are many souvenir shops around the town as well as a very pretty city center park area to explore. 
  •  Hike in Arenal National Park.  We hiked the "Old Lava Trail" which gave us a close view of Arenal Volcano as well as getting to hike through the lava flow areas from the 1992 eruption (see picture below).  Most hikes cost a fee per person- ours was $10 a person for the "Old Lava Trail". 
  • Soak in the natural hot springs.  There are many free hot springs you can soak, however there are also more luxurious places to soak.  We had the chance to experience The Springs Resort and Spa which was a jaw-dropping location with amazing views to take in while soaking up the minerals.  
  • Wildlife Tours.  We also took a wildlife sanctuary tour at Club Rio which is part of The Springs Resort.  Club Rio has many different activities you can schedule - horseback riding, tubing, kayaking, rock climbing. -See photos and more info below-
  • Extreme & Adrenaline Tours. Anything from zip-lining and rafting to repelling down a waterfall. 



Old Lava Hike in Arenal National Park: 
 View of Arenal Volcano

We started mid-day and trekked through the rainforest.  This hike starts and ends with a swinging bridge over a very pretty river (pictured below) that made for a fun photo opportunity.   We walked into the rainforest and immediately got a taste of nature when some very loud-flying, parrot-type birds few over our heads making some odd chirping noises.  From there we hiked up a few inclines crossing a path of leaf-cutter ants and taking a few pictures of different types of lizards until we came to a clearing with the Arenal Volcano view pictured above.  This is about as close as you can get to Arenal Volcano and the views were astounding.   We continued back into the rainforest where we came across some spider monkeys playing in the trees and making their way from one tree to the next.  We continued to cross lava flow areas from the 1992 eruption (pictured below) until we got to the end of our loop.  Overall, it was a fun and memorable experience. 

 Lava Flow from 1992 Eruption
 Hike complete with Swinging Bridge!
 The hike cost $10 per person and took around 2 hours to complete (we stopped and took lots of photos- could be done faster).  It was VERY humid so dress light and take plenty of water.  We saw many different types of birds, lizards as well as some spider monkeys during our hike so be on the lookout for wildlife! I would say this hike is moderate as it does have some steep inclines as well as some scrambling around in the lava rocks but is a fairly short distance. 

The Springs Resort and Spa & Club Rio Wildlife Sanctuary


In the wildlife sanctuary we encountered monkeys, a two-toed sloth, toucans, alligators, as well as the big cats- cougars, ocelot, ect. 




My favorite moments at The Springs took place in the pool pictured above.  Not only was the pool the perfect temperature but it also had the most amazing view of Arenal Volcano.  We were able to grab some pretty amazing margaritas and enjoy the view while sipping away.  This place is true magic! 


The Springs Resort & Spa was featured on the television show The Bachelor in 2011 and it is easy to see why!  The first hour or so we were all speechless as we took it all in. The Springs has a swim-up bar, five different restaurants, a large selection of different hot springs pools all over the hillside at different temperatures and they even had a mineral spring water slide (which I totally utilized).  

La Fortuna Eats:
  • My Coffee - pretty much our favorite coffee of the trip and being that I was traveling with 2 baristas, that's saying a lot!
  • We opted for typical 'tico' restaurants while in Costa Rica.  These are restaurants that are labeled "Soda", often have a variety of options, and are much cheaper than the more touristy restaurants.  We went to Restaurante Rana Roja and La Parada (recommended by a local), both of which had great food at lower prices. 

Any questions are welcome - 

Cheers!

-Kristine



*Thank you to The Springs Resort and Spa for partnering with me during this trip.  All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Downtown Siloam Springs, Arkansas: A Walking Tour




Welcome to our blog, Passports & Pints!  We hope that through our pictures you will be inspired to visit places and try new things.  For our first official travel blog we wanted to focus on a place in which we grew up, moved away from, and have seen grow quite a bit over the past decade.  We travel to Siloam Springs, Arkansas about once a year to visit family and we were quite honestly surprised to find out much things have changed in our absence.  What was once a 'ghost-town' of a downtown area is now thriving and full of life and fun.

So, we decided to check out a few of the new kids on the block and truly embrace this vibrant, growing downtown community.

The locations below are in what we found to be a great walking order for lunch, afternoon ice-cream, dinner, and then an evening of craft beer.






Ziggywurst: A German Style Restaurant 

 Ziggywurst recently opened in downtown Siloam Springs in May of 2017 and has quickly become a favorite of both locals and tourists.  They offer traditional German dishes with an American twist.

Their European-Style crepes, traditional Jagerschnitzel, Currywurst and Bratwursts taste straight out of Europe.  We can honestly say we have not had Schnitzel or Wurst this good state-side.  If you are looking for a good meal and a litre of German beer, than look no further.  Oh, did we mention they had German beer on tap?!?  From home-made mustard to locally roasted coffee to mouthwatering crepes, Ziggywurst is a must stop for lunch (or dinner) on your next stop to Siloam Springs.

Lunch Suggestion:  Sweet-Currywurst or Schnitzel Sandwich paired with a Radler, followed by a Chocolate Crepe

 
Image may contain: drink, coffee cup and food

Image may contain: food

Ziggywurst quickly became a part of our morning ritual: coffee and crepes by the window while people watching.

 

 One of my favorite parts of my experience at Ziggywurst was enjoying a Radler in their outdoor patio.

 
(Ziggywurst's outdoor patio)
Find Ziggywurst's Webpage HERE for more information.
Instagram: HERE
Facebook: HERE


Pure Joy: Hand Crafted Ice Cream


 We were lucky enough to catch Pure Joy Ice Cream during their soft opening (Grand Opening is June 15th) and what a treat it was.  From their small tasting room you can see them making the ice-cream fresh in the adjoining kitchen.  Mouthwatering flavors such as Lavender Chip, Cookie Crumble, and Midnight Mocha are just as delicious as they sound.  We enjoyed it so much we came back at least twice more so we could get all the flavors in.  Only in town for one night?  No big deal, they sell pints to go.

Our Suggestion:  Lavender Chip or Strawberry Lavender Sorbet (dairy free)






Jason and Pure Joy Owner- Matt Feyerabend

Find Pure Joy Ice Cream HERE
Instagram: HERE
Twitter: HERE


 Fratelli's: Italian Pizzeria

The hardworking staff and owners of Fratelli's Pizzeria go the extra mile to give you a true Italian pizza experience.  The pizza is fresh, crisp, and topped with excellent toppings, most of which are imported directly from Italy.

Don Lurie, who purchased Fratelli's in September of 2016, was kind enough to sit down with us and chat about the business and downtown in general.  Don and his wife moved to Siloam from California and really consider themselves pizza snobs.  After working in the cooperate food industry for over 40 years he finally loves coming to work each and every morning. He also said he was very excited to see new eating establishments popping up left and right.  "The more restaurants the more people, this whole of idea of competition is over-rated", said Don with a genuine smile, "People like coming downtown."

With a good sized menu there is something for everyone, including gluten free options.  We choose to sit outside, which was great for people watching and enjoying the evening air.  With several local and import beer options, as well as made fresh gelato, Fratelli's is a must visit for dinner in Siloam Springs.

Dinner Suggestions:  Strobolli or Gorgonspeck Pizza (Marinara, Gorgonzola, and Speck)

"I know everyday that we have done our very best to give each and every customer our very best"
-Don Lurie, owner of Fratelli's Pizzeria



Find Frateli's: HERE
Instagram: HERE
Twitter: HERE


 Creekside Taproom: Arkansas Craft Beer

Creekside Taproom is known for their array of Arkansas only craft brews and ciders from local breweries around the state.  Opened and run by a pair of retired teachers, they bring a love for craft beer to a city that until just a couple years ago was 'dry'.  Enjoy a flight in their small taproom or grab a pint and head outside for evening sun, music, or a game of corn-hole.  The staff is friendly and beer-knowledgeable and the beer is chosen for its quality and diversity.

With 21 beers on tap there is very much something for everyone!

Our Suggestions:  Lost 40 - Pale Ale or New Province - Philosopher IPA or Zwinger Göse





Creekside Taproom features a large beer-garden area including a cornhole pit.  They often hosts Cornhole tournaments, have live music and regular Thursday Night Trivia Tournaments. 

Find Creekside Taproom HERE
Instagram: HERE
Twitter: HERE


Cheers!
Kristine & Jason 


Monday, May 29, 2017

New Mexico Sunsets

New Mexico Sunsets are truly magical!
Here are some photos of a few of the dramatic sunsets I have captured over the past few months to inspire YOU to come experience one of these amazing evenings for yourself!
There is a reason New Mexico is “The Land of Enchantment”….
DSC_0178DSC_0183DSC_0175DSC_0215DSC_0216DSC_0525
Cheers!
Kristine & Jason

Chef's Cut Jerky and Beer Pairing

Jerky & Beer:  Passport to Tasty

Was so excited to partner up with Chef's Cut Jerky (@chefscutjerky) who sent me some #delicious Jerky for a beer pairing. The obvious choice was my local Cooperative Brewery, Bathtub Row Brewing (IG @bathtubrowbrewing)




In this pairing we have:

Original Recipe Real Steak Jerky & Foreign Stout

Buffalo Style Real Chicken Jerky & Waimea Pale Suds
Honey Barbeque Real Chicken Jerky & Honey Double IPA
Applewood Real Bacon Jerky & Atomic IIIPA




The pairings were delightful, I highly recommend jerky & beer combos, it worked out exceptionally well.
#chefscutjerky #jerky #meat #beer #craftbeer #beerblog
#cheers🍻




Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Oh, Colorful Colorado!
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the gorgeous little mountain town a few times a year and only a 2 and a half hour drive away! It is a wonderful little gem of a town, perfect place to take in the fresh mountain air. Whether it be a day of hiking, biking, skiing, snow shoeing, or fly fishing…truly an outdoor lovers paradise.
DSC_0286
Downtown Pagosa Springs, CO.  The Malt Shoppe– yummy patty melts and ice creamDSC_0284
The Springs:  Pagosa is home to many thermal hot springs.  The Springs is located in the heart of downtown Pagosa Springs and also happens to be right on the San Juan River!DSC_0187

The town of Pagosa Springs has a great little historic downtown that includes antique shops, Colorado merchandise, Southwestern memorabilia along with some great places to eat and drink.   A few favorites of mine include Riverpoint Coffee, Kips Grill (fab tacos), and Riff Raff Brewing.
DSC_0251
Pagosa Springs is split into Uptown and Downtown (the photo below was taken uptown).  Uptown also has some great areas to grab a bite.  My favorite is Rosies Pizzaria (Happy Hour daily AND MASSIVE PIZZA),  Pagosa Brewing Company, and Higher Grounds Coffee.DSC_0303
For our most recent trip to Pagosa Springs, Jason and I stayed at the Wyndham Pagosa. It was absolutely a beautiful location, the condos were spread out around a series of lakes (located in uptown Pagosa Springs).  The photo above is from the check-in area- No Joke! Our condo at the Wyndham had everything we needed and more….from a full kitchen with everything required to cook a meal to a large dining area and the biggest plus was a hot tub attached to the back of the condo building (shared between 4 condos)!

DSC_0154

(Sunset photos taken from the Wyndham)

DSC_0152
DSC_0131
A celebratory beer for the weekend: Big Bad Baptist by Epic Brewing
Side note: the liquor store next to the Uptown City Market has an amazing beer selection for all of you craft beer lovers! We have found everything from Russian River Supplication to this bad boy pictured below.
DSC_0335
Cheers!
Kristine & Jason