Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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Costa Rica in May

The rainy season came with May. Most days start sunny, and by mid-afternoon, the clouds roll in and the rain dumps from the sky. Now I understand the deep gutters on the sides of the roads. The temperature drops a bit and the soup and bread making begin.

When we were in Norway, I started making rolls from scratch. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea to learn sourdough bread.  With Linda’s well-equipped kitchen and the rainy season upon us, sourdough bread making seemed right.

I read many articles and consulted Sam, the family bread expert. I’m proud to report after five rounds, all loaves were edible and are improving with each new attempt.

One article explained it’s an art as much as a science and as Sam pointed out, everything will change with each new kitchen. Let the art begin.

If you want to stay dry in May, outside activities take place in the morning. Chelsey and I walk the countryside early mornings and occasionally I do a bit of gardening before the rain starts.

One morning Bob and I headed to Los Alpes, a private rainforest reserve at 1400 meters. Warren, the caretaker, took us on a 5k hike through the virgin rainforest.  Chelsey came but needed to stay on her leash because she might take off following the scent of a puma or a monkey or a jaguar. How often do you get to write that?

Gigantic green leaves, ferns, and sweet humid air dominated the scenery. The vines were strong enough for Tarzan and Bob did his usual “Me Tarzan, you Jane” imitation. Watching Warren’s relaxed manner and ease helped to lessen my fear of snakes, spiders, and pumas, oh my. I didn’t see any but I thought about them. When navigating the trails, I hesitated to grab vines or branches thinking there might be a snake there, or something worse. Actually, I loved our rainforest hike and was grateful that Warren took the time to guide us.

We drive into San Ramon for the Friday farmer’s market and other days just to explore. The main park across from the cathedral is my favorite area of town. It’s great people watching.  

Our time in Costa Rica comes to a close June 5th. We travel back to the rolling hills of Peebles, Scotland for our third year in a row.

Stay tuned –

 

Just in case you missed the Sesquiáltera – Música Antigua Iberoamericana from my last blog, take a minute to listen. My favorite is Credidi de 6.

https://sesquialtera.bandcamp.com/album/sesqui-ltera

 

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Costa Rica, April 2018

As wonderful as the experiences over the past four months have been, we moved around a lot. So, living on a mountaintop in Costa Rica for a two-month stretch soothes my soul.

We flew into San Jose in the evening of April 3rd and were greeted by Scott, our host, holding a sign, “Bob and Jane.” Being met at the airport, not having to navigate to the house sit after traveling all day is one HUGE gift. Thank you, Scott! We drove the hour and a half to the house and were greeted by Linda offering fine wine. Again, a gift.

We settled in for a great night’s sleep, and then Scott and Linda taught us about the house and the area. We went to the spectacular farmer’s market and Linda introduced us to her favorite vendors and showed us around town. Our orientation set us up for a wonderful stay in Costa Rica.

One benefit of house sitting is instant friends. Joanna and Victor invited us to a free concert in San Ramon. Sesquiáltera – Música Antigua Iberoamericana, performed, captivating the audience. From the moment the concert started, I was in. Take a minute to listen. My favorite is Credidi de 6.

https://sesquialtera.bandcamp.com/album/sesqui-ltera

So, the concert started at 4:00 pm, which created a small “issue.” Sunset is about 5:50 and I’m not a big fan of driving at night on these country roads. Driving in daylight is harrowing enough. Think driver’s ed simulator times ten and you have a good idea of driving in rural Costa Rica. Anything or anyone can pop out at you at any time.

Perhaps it’s a mom and child walking in your lane. The roads have no shoulders, just rain ditches, so the people have no choice but to walk on the road. I get it, but it makes driving tricky. My hands haven’t been at 2 and 10 since my driver’s test in 1977.

One day, Bob and I were coming back from town. We rounded a hairpin turn and there in front of us was a truck with a flat tire and a motorcyclist helping with his bike parked across the road.  Another time, a mom was pushing her toddler in a plastic toy car up the hill, of course in the driving lane.

And another time, a frail elderly man with a cane stepped out in front of our SUV. We stopped to avoid hitting him, and he just got into the back seat. He calmly told us to take him to the grocery. So, we drove him to the grocery.

Add in numerous dogs treating the roads as their backyards and you get a pretty good impression of driving in our area. In the three-plus weeks we have been here, my hands are still at 10 and 2, but my shoulders are no longer up to my ears.

Thank goodness we are driving an SUV as we took the gorgeous valley route to Punta Arena. The road was labeled “route 742”, which led us to believe it was very drivable. Google Maps presented it as a good route to the beach. Well, it did get us to the beach.

The first 30 minutes were what we expected with a mix of blacktop and smooth gravel roads. All good. As we continued on route 742, the road became a bit bumpy. My focus became avoiding potholes and soon included avoiding large rocks protruding from the road. Our driving speed slowed to a creep.

Now, the views were spectacular and moving at a creep let me take it all in. The scary moment was coming face to face with a rickety makeshift bridge. Driving a 2 ton SUV over a few pieces of sheet metal to get to the other side of the river didn’t make my to-do list that day. Well, I had no choice.

My first instinct was to floor it and get over it really fast, but I reconsidered. Slow and steady was the way to go. I wanted to close my eyes, but not a good plan while driving over a bridge. So I pushed the accelerator and low and behold, the bridge held and I’m here today to tell the story. OK, I’m sure the bridge was safe, but it’s not what I’m used to.

We spend most days enjoying the house. I’m taking advantage of Linda’s amazing kitchen and relaxing into the calm of the house and the spectacular view from 3000 feet, which, on a clear day, stretches all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Next up, a hike into the mountains and a look at San Ramon.


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Venasque & Martinique & More… Jane Catching Up

Well, I’m WAY behind on the blogs. It’s time to catch up with a quick look back. France, Martinique, Philadelphia, Albany, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, and now Costa Rica. There, you’re all caught up!

Now for a few, but not all the details.

We left Dubrovnik, Croatia Dec 8th (yes, that’s how far behind I am, yikes) and headed to Venasque, France for a three week house sit. We found this house sit through Linda, a friend of Bob’s from over 40 years ago. We house sat for her neighbor. Linda and Dan took us under their wings, included us in all the holiday celebrations, introduced us to wonderful people and showed us the sites.

Venasque sits high on a mesa creating striking views in all directions. At least once a day, I was compelled to pause to take it all in.  It’s a hiking community with well marked trails, so a perfect stop for us.

Lolly, the Jack Russell with never ending energy, kept us moving with at least three walks a day winding us through those trails with the stunning views of the Provence countryside.

Our time in Venasque was too short and we hope to return for more of its beauty and time with Linda and Dan.

The next stop was Martinique for a three week dose of ocean and sun. A bit of hiking, lots of exploring and a fun week visit from Michael and Randy filled out the time. Again, too short.

We spent February in Philadelphia at a fabulous house sit around the corner from our grandkids. We took care of a cute little dog named Yaffa, who stole our hearts. In March, we visited the rest of the family in New York and friends and family in Wisconsin.  Now we are near San Ramon, Costa Rica for a 2 month house sit.

Sorry for not blogging and thanks to all who so kindly reminded me to get my butt in gear and get writing.


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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some places have a magic and Dubrovnik, Croatia makes that list. Situated on the Adriatic Sea where the hills meet the sea, the views are spectacular. The red roofed buildings contrast with the blue sea calming the soul.

Communities tuck into the hillsides accessed by many stairs and a few roads. (Mom you would live close to the water. No stairs!) To get to our house, we walk 316 stairs to our doorstep. Who needs a stair stepper.

We’ve rented a quirky apartment and couldn’t be happier. Our patio offers magnificent views of the peninsula, the bay and the sea. Each morning I’m surprised by the beauty. Grape vines grow in the yard and produce the sweetest purple grapes that I have eaten. I pick them most days. Yum!

The apartment is decorated with dated quirky art work, clocks, and a cabinet filled with liquor glass. I’d love to know the stories behind this stuff. “Grandpa gave this clock to Grandma on their wedding day and Grandma finished this needlepoint just before you were born.” It’s fun to guess the stories. The place is simple, clean and has a powerful shower. That’s all we need.

Bob tried to turn on the lights in the bathroom, but he flushed the toilet instead. It’s an updated version of the Thomas Crapper style toilet, and it’s got a powerful flush.

I’ve been going to the fresh market most days to pick up fruits and veggies. One woman sells her olive oil. I love the rich smooth flavor. I hope she’s back at the market soon. So many little surprises in Dubrovnik.

One week in and we’re settled and starting to explore outside our immediate neighborhood. We walked around the peninsula the other day and have lots more exploring to do. HIstoric Old Town is next.  Stay tuned.


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The French Alps

On August 14, Bob and I left Scotland and headed for the French Alps.

We had a week before our next house sit in Chambery, so Bob set us up in Chamonix, at the base of the highest mountain in the Alps, stunning Mont Blanc.

We arrived in Chamonix under the darkness of night. I woke up, looked out the window, and “Wow”. That pretty much describes the place. Every direction has a view of the mountains, some so high they are permanently capped with snow. I got dizzy looking up at the beauty.

Paragliders floated down from the mountain just outside our window. I signed up to tandem glide, but it was canceled because the lift up the mountain wasn’t running. Slightly disappointed, I wrapped my head around the idea that it wasn’t meant to be. BUT, I will jump off a cliff another time.

Chamonix, which is a most popular ski resorts in Europe in winter, has gondolas, tramways, and cable cars that take you up to the mountain peaks where all the great hiking happens. So, that’s where we went, to the top.

One day, we rode a cable car up, hiked across the mountain ridge to another peak and took a gondola down. I forgot my camera in the cable car on the way up and realized it about 10 minutes after we got off. Panicked, I hiked back to the cable car station, pantomimed that I forgot my camera and without missing a beat this kind Frenchman called down to the bottom and my camera got it’s very own cable car ride up the mountain. Now that’s some luck.

Another day we went all the way across the glaciers to Italy on a cable car. Yep, traveling in three different gondolas, we climb all the way to a mountain peak overlooking Mount Blanc that’s so sharp it’s called a “needle” in French. We’re talking serious altitude here, over 12,500 feet. Today, however, the needle is covered in clouds and the visibility is zero.

It’s an eerie feeling to look out and only see white. Getting off the gondola, I start adding my layers as the temperature has dropped by 30 degrees. Brrr…. We walk through a short hallway dug out of the mountain to the cable car to Italy. We get in, the door closes behind us, and the tiny little cable car, with just us inside, slides out into the white nothingness.

I’m a bit nervous. When we first start out, the only thing I can see is the cable piercing the clouds. We are descending a bit now, so within minutes we travel out of the clouds and realize that we are above a gigantic glacier. Again, WOW. What a view.

We get out at the top of an Italian peak and  wander around the station, looking at the spectacular views in all directions. One mountain looks just like the peak above Whoville where the Grinch lives. I listened for the Whos singing, but no luck. By the time we got back to the “needle” in France, the clouds had cleared, and there was Mont Blanc so close we could almost reach out and touch it.  We had incredible views the whole way down. Once again, all I  can say is, “Wow.”

Chamonix was a short six days and soon Sunday came and we were off to Chambery, still in the French Alps, to start our six week house sit for Sabrina’s furry friends.

Sabrina introduced us to a few of her neighbors and we’ve been adopted. Guido and Felicia took us on a fabulous hike to La Croix du Nivolet. To get there we drove half way up the mountain through the beautiful countryside, surrounded by mountains.

We started the hike serenaded by the clang of cowbells, not for a Wisconsin football game, but around the necks of actual cows.  The mostly wooded trail took us to the top, but not before the rain. Just in time for lunch, we turned a corner as it really started to pour, and there was a refuge filled with hikers waiting out the rain.

We were warmly welcomed as people scooted over, making room for us to sit on the benches. Cookies, coffee, wine and some amazing homemade cordial were passed around. I like French hikers! We hiked up to the cross despite the rain. The view was a bit cloudy, but still great.

After the hike, Guido and Felicia drove us to a spectacular overlook to see the Chambery valley stretched out far below and promised more hikes in the future.  Then we descended down the mountain and home.


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Peebles, Scotland – Round Two

Since our house sit in Vancouver that ended in late May, I’ve been to Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Albany, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Royalton, Denver, Door County, Madison, and back to Milwaukee. Just listing these locations makes me tired yet it’s where my people live so its been the best of times.

We arrived June 30 in Peebles, Scotland which is the first place we have returned to since we started our adventure. Both house sits invited us back to care for their pets. As Peebles is one of our favorite places, we were more than happy to return. And, after all the visits in the US, it’s a great place to relax and regroup.

Our first week was at Hannah’s with the dogs Rusty and Nell, and her cats Sparkles and Ernie. Each morning the dogs and I walked through the enchanted woods where fairies and elves live.

Now we have moved over to Julie’s with Misty the whippet. Our morning walk takes us up to a ridge overlooking the rolling hills, the patches of foxglove and grassy meadows of Scotland. Each morning I’m inspired by the sweet smell of the morning dew and the sound of the wind.

Hiking trails cover the countryside and we plan to hike as many as time allows. Bob, Misty and I took our first hike following the River Tweed past the Neidpath Castle, built in the 14th century. We continued up the ridge overlooking wooly grazing sheep and a picturesque view of Peebles.

Oh, almost forgot. Bob and I both had birthdays in July. Bob celebrated with an ice cream cone. We celebrated my birthday with lunch at an 11th century hunting lodge, a place where royalty hung out. Happy Birthday to us.

In between the spots of rain, we plan many more hikes and cherish every minute in magical Peebles before heading to the French Alps in mid August.


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House Sitting in Vancouver, Canada

Hi, everyone. We are enjoying our two week housesit in Vancouver, Canada. Country Thirteen. 

We left Malaysia April 26th and traveled a grueling 28 hours including flights and layovers. Talk about jet lag.

Normally we wouldn’t take a two week sit, but it’s Vancouver! We lucked out and were welcomed by the cherry blossoms in full bloom and two happy pups.

It turns out to be a perfect transition to the new time zone. We’ve had a relaxed first week walking the city’s amazing seawall, and giving ourselves permission to be a bit lazy.

Cocoa and Noville keep us busy with daily walks to the park and cuddles on the couch. The pups have won our hearts and it will sad to say goodbye.
We leave for the East Coast to catch up with our six grandkids and the rest of the family in the Northeast and Wisconsin, including a housesit in Brooklyn. After that we are off to Europe again with housesits in Scotland and France (the Alps and Provence).