Merry Christmas!

interracial-couple-merry-christmas-holiday-greeting-card

Happy holidays, friends! Alex has just arrived in Costa Rica and we will be touring Costa Rica to show him all of my favorite places and even some new stuff!

Stay tuned.

xo

I Got Published on Matador Network... Twice in One Week.

If you've been following me on social media, you might have read me joyously tell the world that two of my articles were published on Matador Network last week. That was exciting. 

If you haven't read them yet, here's your chance. And start following me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Thank you all for the support!

  "Why You Should Travel With Your Partner Before Getting Serious"    Read the article >>

"Why You Should Travel With Your Partner Before Getting Serious"

Read the article >>

  "6 Memories of Every (South) Bronx Native"    Read the article >>

"6 Memories of Every (South) Bronx Native"

Read the article >>

Happy Holidays from Costa Rica!

   Photo: Olivia Christine

 Photo: Olivia Christine

It's hard to remember that it is even December, let alone Christmas, in Costa Rica. There was a howler monkey screaming for 10 minutes and palm trees swaying from the light breeze. With "Green Season" ending, the humidity is rising along with the temperature.

Then today I heard "This Christmas" on the radio and checked my email to find a slew of retail promo deals for Christmas gifts. I must admit, there was a brief moment of sadness.

Welp. It's kind of hard to complain when you're in paradise, so I'll say no more.

On another note, Urban Outfitters keeps emailing me about sales on sweaters (should let them know I don't have a winter this year?) and Amazon has a 12 days of deals thing going on so... Boom. Happy shopping.

Missing ya'll like cray. Sometimes.

xx

Travel Photo Diary: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

A humid hello from the Costa Rican jungle in the Osa Peninsula (after a long bus ride from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez)! It's been a full week with lots of freelance writing and yoga. 

Here are last week's favorite pictures from my time in Costa Rica. 

I was extremely excited to return to beautiful Costa Rica. What I love most about the country is the mountainous silhouette surrounding me, no matter where I go. This shot was taken on an eight-hour bus ride from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, in the Osa Peninsula, down Route 2.

Upon my arrival, a jeep was awaiting me accompanied by the warm smile of a woman named Haite. She is a Blue Osa employee and kindly shuttled me to my next destination.

Twenty minutes later, down an uneven road plagued with potholes and deep puddles, she turned left and entered what was to be my new home: Blue Osa.

The Blue Osa grounds were exquisite. A striking contrast from the road we'd just befriended, the Osa was draped in jungle greenery that screamed "Pura Vida!", presented amongst chic, minimalist landscaping and architecture.

The fresh water pool is a sweet perk.

My time here isn't all play. I am working on Blue Osa's blog and social media as a writer, and have full days writing and proofreading near beautiful scenery, while trying to squeeze in yoga practice.

Though I post pretty Instagram photos, this is what my work view looks like, most days.

On other days, especially the rainy ones, we nap...

Or huddle around new wildlife discoveries, like this snake near the garden.

Sometimes I catch a ride into town (Puerto Jimenez) and visit the few local shops there, like this art store.

And then there have just been special moments when we just kick back and relax, circle tightly around a laptop, and watch movies.

I know you're wondering...

The food here is actually great. It's farm-to-table and primarily vegetarian for breakfast and lunch; we usually each chicken or mahi mahi for dinner. The kitchen staff is quite creative when it comes to making new meals with the same ingredients.

That's Casey from "A Cruising Couple". Our work here happened to coincide and we all quickly bonded (as all travel bloggers should, I'm sure!). This is Casey having fun as a guest bartender at cocktail hour before dinner. She makes 'em strong.

The past two weeks have flown by and I'm worried the end of my time here will arrive before I know it. So, I try to take a moment and appreciate everything around me as much as I can. I feel extremely lucky to be where I am in life, and as I look out to the sunset, I realize it wasn't luck at all. It was hard work... and maybe a little bit of fate. :-)

Here is our dear yogi Aaron in a photo from yesterday. It was Dan and Casey's last night here and we had an Intention Ceremony where we, in celebration of the New Year and Winter Solstice, put our intentions into the flame while chanting. It was quite powerful.

Namaste.

***

COMMENT BELOW: What's your favorite photo from the trip, so far?


Stay up to date with my journey on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

How to Get to Puerto Jimenez from San Jose, Costa Rica by Bus.

sjo-san-jose-to-corcovado-puerto-jimenez-bus-costa-rica
puerto-jimenez-costa-rica-road-jungle-nature-olivia-christine

I booked my trip to the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa with the expectation that I'd be able to Google straightforward tips on how to get to Puerto Jimenez from the SJO airport by bus ... I was somewhat mistaken. Blog after blog, forum after forum, website after website: each tip contradicted the other; I was left timid and confused. Set on not taking the fifty-minute connecting flight via Sansa or Nature Air ($100-200 one way), I crossed my fingers and went on my way.

Here is my first hand experience of how to get from SJO Juan Santamaria International Airport to Puerto Jimenez, connecting in San Jose, by bus.

Duration: approx. 9 hours driving time
Realistic Timing: 2 days
Transportation: 15 minutes walking, 2 buses
Total Transportation Cost: 8,060 CRC ($15-16 USD)
Hotel Cost: $26 USD

I arrived at SJO in Costa Rica around 11:45 am and quickly went through immigration / customs (approx 30 minutes). Don't forget to bring your pens, guys. The airline never supplies them.

Signage was pretty straightforward, in both English and Spanish, so I exited the airport with ease, greeted by a swarm of people I didn't know. Families, chauffeurs, taxi drivers, shuttles; they buzzed around me in search for a familiar face or new client.

FIND THE BUS STOP FROM SJO:

I already knew where I wanted to go: el autobús. Thankfully the taxi drivers in Costa Rica are helpful, even when you deny their services, so I was directed to cross the street to the parking lot and walk along the left side of the curving structure. The ramp-like sidewalk curved right, leading to the street and a nearby bus stop (also known as la parada de autobús). There were three buses at the stop, including one with the sign "San Jose" on its rear.

Although the directions from travelers online suggested I only take the TUASA labeled bus, a local Tico reassured me the bus in front of us would suffice.

I boarded the bus, and greeted the driver. 

"Para San Jose? Coca cola?"

He nodded.  

I was now reassured that the bus was going to the correct neighborhood, Coca Cola. I guess its called this because there is a Coca Cola distribution center not too far away.

I boarded the bus and paid 500 colones (used to equal $1), only to learn that the exchange rate has since changed, as well as the bus tarifa.

FYI: The new exchange rate is about 535 CRC per 1 USD. The new bus fare is 555 colones.

Arrive AT TUASA Terminal (COCA COLA):

Some thirty minutes or so later, we arrived in San Jose, at the last stop. It brought us to the TUASA Terminal (according to Google Maps), which is right next to the clinica and what I think was a church, on Avenida 2 between Calle 12 and 14.

Walk to Terminal San Carlos
(Atlantico Norte):

When I got off, I knew I had to get to the next bus stop, Terminal San Carlos, so I walked straight up Calle 14 until I got to Avenida 9 (about a 10-15 minute walk), where I then turned right and walked one block over to the San Carlos bus terminal (also known as Terminal Atlántico Norte).

At this point it was already 13:30 (1:30 PM) and I knew there was no bus waiting for me. I just wanted to scope out my surroundings and clarify if the morning bus left at 6:00 or 8:00 the next day, as well as find where the heck the boletería specifically for Blanco Lobo buses were located (which is the ticket office for the bus that goes to the Puerto Jimenez route) .

Terminal San Carlos, Costa Rica
Photo: Olivia Christine

Find the Blanco Lobo Ticket Booth:

I eventually asked a couple of taxi drivers, who gave me mixed answers. Then I met one driver who accurately directed me to the ticket window (located up the short steps on the other side of the peach colored wall, where the wooden bench is) and explained that the bus time used to be 6:00 but they recently changed it and it is now at 8:00. Somehow I felt confident with his answer.

Since I knew I wouldn't make the bus to Puerto Jimenez that day, I booked a nearby hotel at Hotel San Jose, on Calle 14 and Avenida 5. It is on the left side of Calle 14 if you are coming from the San Carlos bus station, and on the second floor, above a few sodas (stores/restaurants).

NEARBY HOTELS + Food:

The hotel wasn't anything to write home about but was clean and cheap. I paid $26 for my own room and bathroom for the night. They gave me a towel, soap, cable TV, and an extra blanket, and even had hot water. I went outside and ate rice, beans, chuletas, and freshly squeezed pear juice at the soda directly below the hotel for 2,300 CRC.

Anticipating night fall and the surrounding city dangers, I headed back to my room and prepared for my next journey.

I woke up the next morning, after achieving sleep despite the late night city commotion, and quickly dropped off my key and walked up the block to the station.

The Next Morning:

I arrived at the bus station at 7:00 am to a closed ticket window. Worried, I ran to another window for buses heading towards Puerto Viejo and asked if anyone was coming to the Puerto Jimenez window. The attendant reassured me that the Blanco Lobo window (for Puerto Jimenez buses) opened at 7:30, so not to worry.

I waited anxiously on the wooden bench by the stairs and peeked over to the ticket window every five minutes, afraid that the line would fill up and the bus would sell out. I was wrong. It was totally fine. The boletería opened at 7:30, as indicated, and I paid my 7,505 CRC ticket to Puerto Jimenez on the 8:00 bus.

Find the Correct Bus Lane:

Mistakenly, I forgot to ask which lane the bus would arrive in, so for the following 15 minutes I nervously watched a flock of buses fly in and out of the station, wondering which one was mine. I finally got the courage to go back to the Blanco Lobo window and bashfully asked the attendant where the pick up area for Puerto Jimenez was. He looked at me like I was mad, and urgently pointed to the first bus lane, where a green and white bus awaited.

Oops. I guess my pride almost made me miss the bus. I seriously hate asking for directions!

I hurried over to the first lane, where the big sign for the Monteverde boletería is located and confirmed that I was about to board the correct bus. I threw my large backpack under the coach style bus and headed on board, greeted by air conditioning and new seating.

Whoa. Yes, I said air conditioning and new seating. It was awesome!

The Bus ride Experience:

Less than 20 people boarded the bus with me and I had a seat to myself the majority of the ride. There were many drop off stops, but the bus driver only accepted pick up passengers that pre-purchased a ticket, so many people weren't able to get on.

There were also two rest stops:
- One bathroom break, 2.5 hours later for 10 minutes
- One meal break, another 2 hours later for 30 minutes, at a open bar/restaurant called Restaurante El Brujo.

FYI: The second stop is when the driver takes your bus ticket so be sure not to throw it away.

The remaining 3 hours were easy and I was quite comfortable napping the majority of the way there. I kept my purse close to me as I always would, no matter the country, so I didn't have a problem there.

When I finally arrived to the last stop, Puerto Jimenez, I was immediately approached by taxi drivers. Before I could respond, a soft voice from behind the crowd called, "Olivia?".

 A woman emerged, with a warm smile. I responded, "Blue Osa?"

"Si, bienvenido a Costa Rica."

I returned a grateful smile, happy to not have to search for a way to get to Blue Osa, 25 minutes away. As we walked to her car, I responded, "Pura Vida!" ... on my way to a new journey.

Airline Tips for Thanksgiving 2014

 JFK Airport 

JFK Airport 

Thanks to Airlines for America and 52 Perfect Days, here are the top 10 airports and travel days projected to be the busiest this Thanksgiving:

Read more on 52 Perfect Days >> 

"The 10 busiest airports, from most to least:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Chicago
  4. Dallas – Ft. Worth
  5. New York JFK
  6. Denver
  7. San Francisco
  8. Phoenix
  9. Charlotte
  10. Houston International

No, big surprises there. The busiest travel days duirng Thanksgiving 2014, as you’d expect, will be as follows:

  1. Sunday, November 30
  2. Monday, December 1
  3. Wednesday, November 26

And the least busy days:

  1. Thursday, November 27 (Thanksgiving)
  2. Friday, November 28"

- Alexa Meisler, www.52PerfectDays.com

 

Top 5 Free Photo Editing Apps for Travel Photography

One of the most difficult tasks to keep up with while traveling is photo sharing. How do you keep everyone in the loop without sacrificing the quality of your photos? Let's face it: for most of you backpacking, that expensive camera you purchased and CS6 sitting on your laptop aren't going to be used as frequently as you thought, so your iPhone or Android will just have to suffice.
 

Here are my top five favorite (and FREE) photo editing apps:

1. Snapseed (available on iOS and Android devices)

Snapseed is a powerful photo editing app that allows you to make changes to specific elements of your image. I use this app on my iPhone to adjust brightness and saturation in select areas, as opposed to the whole photo.

Santa Monica, CA
Photo: Olivia Christine

New Orleans, LA
Photo: Olivia Christine

2. VSCOcam (available on iOS and most Android devices)

VSCOcam is like the hipster editing app for photos. There are paid features in the app, however, the free preset filters work just fine. This app does not allow for selective editing, but has a great fade and shadow feature that I find helpful when trying to give my shots a minimal, vintage effect.

Harlem, NY
Photo: Olivia Christine

Montréal, Quebéc
Photo: Olivia Christine

3. Studio Design (available on iOS and Android devices)

For those adding an editorial twist to your images, Studio Design is typography heaven. It is a sweet app preloaded with a plethora of filters, text, shapes, crops, frames, and preset design packs. The app also frequently offers new overlays for download to add to your design stash. It's a great way to practice turning your favorite photos into the perfect viral meme.

Santa Monica, CA
Photo: Olivia Christine

Whole Foods
Photo: Olivia Christine

4. No Crop (available on iOS and Android devices)

Anyone who uses Instagram knows how annoying its auto-crop "feature" is: cutting off our artsy rectangular photos to fit their square format. No Crop is a simple, easy-to-use app that lives up to its namesake. Simply upload your picture and resize it until you see that your photo isn't cut off. This quick fix will now leave a square of white space surrounding the image, tricking Instagram into thinking that you have given in and conformed to their requirements. I don't use this app often, but when I do, I feel very sneaky. 

Brooklyn, NY
Photo: Olivia Christine

Peaks Island, ME
Photo: Olivia Christine

5. Picslide (available on iOS devices)

If you are looking to create a slideshow with multiple photos from your trip (and avoid annoying your followers with photo-overload), a useful app to download is Picslide. Unlike other slideshow apps, this free version does not leave a watermark on your finished product, so no one has to know you didn't pay. The app features the signature Instagram square format and allows you to select a 15 second time limit. You can also speed up or slow down your slideshow, as well as choose a song from your phone's music library to accompany the video.

New Orleans Dining: Acme Oyster House

NOLA Nightlife
Photo: Olivia Christine

Update: This post was picked up by Canadian Traveller magazine: "50 Things to Do in New Orleans" in July 2015.

The Acme Oyster House came highly recommended as a must have dining experience during our time in New Orleans. Planted right in the French Quarter, it was an easy walk from our AirBnb rental.

We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30 pm and were greeted by a line spilling around the corner. Approaching the queue, we asked how long the wait was: 30 minutes. The hostess then walked outside and informed us all that it would be a 30-40 minute wait. I found it hard to believe we all had the same wait time.

Luckily,  my boyfriend Alex, paired with a bit of flirting, became a hostess favorite. We were called out of the line within 20 minutes, escorted through the loud, bustling room, and seated. The menus were opened quickly, revealing a straightforward array of seafood options, and within three minutes our waitress arrived. We immediately ordered one dozen raw oysters, one dozen chargrilled oysters, and oyster shooters to start.

Disappointed by the oyster shooters, made with vodka and an unimpressive house sauce - I gag as I recall them - we were glad to receive our oysters and begin the chow down. The raw oysters, although appetizing, were not my favorite. However, Alex and his best friend, Andrew, were enamored and quickly devoured them. While Andrew timed himself on how quickly he could make a dozen oysters disappear, Leo and I gazed at the acclaimed chargrilled oyster plate, which we'd never tried, being placed on the table.

With one bite, the heavens opened. And it was GOOD.

And on the seventh day He rested.

Seriously.

Acme Oyster House
Photo: Andrew Nguyen

The chargrilled oysters were phenomenal. Smothered in butter and Parmesan cheese - two of the best things on Earth - we scraped every last bit of each oyster with our forks and then proceeded to lick the shells just to make sure we left nothing behind. We ordered another round of one dozen chargrilled and raw oysters, each, and explored the rest of the menu.

As our hunger slowly satisfied, our gastronomic pleasure turned to gluttony and we continued ordering more food; we requested red beans with rice poopa (grilled smoked sausage) in a large French bread bowl, jambalaya (seasoned rice dish with smoked sausage and chicken), and a fried fish platter.

We consumed so much that we forgot to order our drinks. There was no need for alcohol, anyway. We were drunk in love with food. And full. Very full.

Acme Oyster House
Photo: Olivia Christine

By the time we cleared our oyster plates, poopa and jambalaya, the fried fish platter was making an entrance. I stared down at the dense display and pondered how the three large pieces of breaded filet and fries would fit into our stomachs. I distributed the portions and took the first bite. At that moment I realized I was biting into the best part of the night's meal. I looked up at the others, wondering if they'd tasted it yet. Silence. With eyes wide open and fish stuffed smirks on their faces, the countenance alone read, "Delightful." The swai fish fillet was light, moist, and flakey, breaded and fried for a smooth, buttery experience.

Our taste buds were in heaven but we could take no more. Engorged and blissful, we began to slouch and adjust the waistlines of our pants.

Check, please.

The bill came reasonably priced, with most items ranging from $10-20 each; Andrew kindly treated us to the meal. We left the restaurant in glee, impressed by our appetizing adventure.