Costa Rica - Part I

I seem to have picked up a penchant for making grand adventures with (almost) strangers. Sometimes you just spot a kindred spirit and roll with 'em, all while ignoring that voice that sounds oddly like your mother's saying "hey! there is a slight possibility you may end up dead in a ditch for this move!". But I think this is just part of life - listen to your gut, take a little bit of a gamble, and run with it. We live in such a digital age, where face-to-face exchanges are much less common than numbers and photos and emojis that it's kind of refreshing to break from the safety net of texts and e-mails to utterly throw yourself in to a real tactile feet-hitting-pavement adventure.

So here we go - in a nutshell, I made a friend in Chicago online who told me to nab my passport and follow him to Costa Rica. We hung out just a few times before I packed up my backpack with snorkel gear and bug spray and (of course) my cameras and headed to DCA for my first trip abroad.

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A beautiful morning to leave home and get stuck in DC traffic! Fortunately DCA makes for quick check in and it's off to Boston for a VERY delicious layover (lobstah rolls and beeahs, anyone?!).

And then it's sunny and beautiful and no-longer-frigid-winter Chicago - stopping to explore this great city...

I really loved this spot - the willowy tree, the shock of blue lake, and dandelions EVERYWHERE made me feel rather Seuss-ish.

Reubens and beer flights in a speakeasy-turned? Don't mind if I do! Green Door Tavern was super tasty, and they had my favorite watermelon beer on tap. 

Off to Millennium Park to photograph Lindsay and Josh's pre-wedding portraits. So much fun, and so sweet!

I'm so totally enamored with Cloud Gate - it's such a cool piece, and it's a blast to watch people interact with it.

A delicious dinner in chinatown, and it's off to sleep - 4 a.m. comes early!

O'Hare is pretty damn pretty, I dig this tunnel - ooooh, chromatic ordering. A few pre-flight beers and we were off!

Up in the air, and then voila! Five hours later, you're in another world (one with real mountains!). Hello, San Jose!

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To continue the trend of making grand adventures with almost total strangers, our awesome airbnb hostess invited us to tag along to see a pretty incredible house dj later that night. First, we had to settle in to our digs for the night - a big, comfy room in a 100 year old home-turned-yoga-studio.

It was hot and muggy when we landed at the airport, but once we got in to the city, there was a great cool breeze running through constantly. I suppose sitting at 3700 foot elevation helps to keep things tolerable, even at the end of a dry season.

Apparently the owners of this gorgeous house went to sand the walls down and discovered multiple layers of paint.

A little herb garden in the back courtyard! After we'd settled in, we headed out to explore San Jose a little, with the goal of heading to the central market - intent on devouring ceviche! 

The city was bustling with people, as this was a holiday weekend. So many people to see, and stores to walk past. I wish I'd had about two more sets of eyes to scope everything...

Finally to the Mercado Central! It takes up an entire city block, and is home to over 200 shops selling fruits, vegetables, meats, herbal remedies, clothing, plants - you name it.

A rooster in a butcher shop. "Is your meat fresh here?" "Si."

The best part are the many little sodas - little shops that sell cheap, quick, and delicious meals. 

Fiiiiinally, ceviche! A huge bowl of fish, shrimp, mussels, onions, and lime juice. Topped with a hit of mayo and hot sauce, and eaten with boiled bananas (a not sweet, very starchy variety) - delicious! 

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Bottoms up at the little bar inside. Luckily, my travel buddy is fluent in Spanish and spectacular at making friends (my language skills aren't quite good enough to politely ask to photograph people).

This gent bought us welcome-to-costa-rica shots. Cheers!

Not pictured: dancing from about 11 p.m. to almost 4 a.m. I had a TOTAL blast, but might have been a bit groggy the next morning. Luckily, the bus station we had to be at bright and early had a soda.

Gallo pinto will change your life and/or save you from wanting to die from a hangover. Directly translated as spotted rooster, it's a breakfast named for the speckled appearance of rice cooked with beans. I'm quite literally drooling looking at these pictures. One of my favorite meals of the trip!

On to a rickety old bus (sans-air conditioning, of course) for the four-ish hour trek out to Puerto Viejo. But that's for the next installment! Chocolate and wild jungles and poisonous critters lay ahead. See ya later. -MJ