San Juan del Sur in Splashes of Color

Red RoseIn addition to the relaxing atmosphere that has me calling it my happy place, and its status as a gateway to some pristine beaches in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is a charming little town in and of itself. I love the color splash, and there are loads of flowers on every block. Even though SJdS is tiny, all of the little details make walking around a fascinating afternoon. I’ve been so many times, thanks to it being where I headed for visa runs when I lived in Costa Rica, making it one of the few places that I haven’t lived yet I go again and again. More and more travelers are discovering this relaxing bay town as a more affordable alternative to some of the more touristy parts of Costa Rica, but it hasn’t been overcrowded yet.

I just love it!

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My happy place: San Juan del Sur

Tatiana Gogolova and Abby Tegnelia

Having lunch with Tatiana at my favorite SJdS spot, El Timon.

One of the best parts about living in Guanacaste (one of the northern provinces of Costa Rica) is that we were very close to the border of Nicaragua, which quickly became a favorite getaway (and necessity for visa runs). My local friends told me before my first trip that I’d love it, describing it as “Costa Rica 15 years ago.” My first time to San Juan del Sur, we happened to meet a lot of children, and on the next trip, I got out of the main area and into the surf beaches and perfect slices of heaven that are right outside of town. And we drank a LOT of rum. (For a good time, head to Iguana…) This time? Four of us girls rented a gorgeous condo on the beach and ate our weight in good food every day. Like on all of these trips, I was the only American in a group of Canadians — as they reminded me more than a few times… When we weren’t laughing hysterically and leaving each other messages on Voxer. It was a great trip!

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Daydream of the Week: Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur NicaraguaI’m not sure if it’s the heavy news going on the US that reminds me of September 11th, or the fact that I’ll be blissfully on vacation in Central America by this time next week, but I was flipping through photos and was drawn to this one. I love how this stranger is zoning out while gazing in the distance after a long day in the sun. I, too, daydream, although I don’t always have such beautiful surroundings to get me going. This is my kind of beach: chill, relaxing, and not too crowded or fancy. San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua was always a fun escape from my small town of Coco, right over the border. I have a “busy”  ten days planned for this upcoming trip to Costa Rica, an itinerary packed with fishing, lazy afternoons in the sun, visiting with friends, and drinking beer at cheap bars on the beach. I can’t wait!

Cheers to the good life…

My favorite photos of 2010: “best of” my travels

Although I spent most of my year or so abroad living as an expat in Costa Rica, I did squeeze in a few trips. I’ve included photos from my favorite ones here. (Admittedly, I cheated and included a few pics from 2009. I didn’t have a blog then, ok?) In my efforts to get more comfortable with giving my (not technically advanced) photos more attention, here are my favorite travel photos of the year. While I did include a few sweeping beach shots (I couldn’t help myself), I was more interested in images I took that were meaningful to my particular trip. For example, Jorge here became our guide in Granada, Nicaragua. When we invited him to breakfast, he ran to the bathroom to wet and slick back his hair. It was so endearing!

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A Perfect Storm

Some trips seem so much like a slam dunk that it’s hard to get excited for them. My last such adventure? A week in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. My friend Denise invited me, to leave the very next day after I got home from a week in NYC. I love Denise; I figured I’d like her friends. I love San Juan, and I love the beach; easy, peasy. Instead of thinking about it at ALL, I spent weeks getting pumped about NYC. Poor Nicaragua was an afterthought, an “Oh, I almost forgot that I have one night to unpack and re-pack my bags, even though I live in the tropics without a dryer and thus have no idea how I’m going to manage such a fast turnaround.” Continue Reading »»

Nicaragua’s children

Before I left for Nicaragua, everyone warned me of its infamously pushy street kids. I have to say, we did not see much of this at all. In fact, getting to know some of the local children was the most meaningful part of our trip!

In San Juan del Sur, an extremely precocious pottery vendor caught our eye in the lobby of the hotel. Later, on the beach, we spotted him again and motioned him over. Little Manuel had the social skills of a 35-year-old! He was as relaxed as could be, leaning on David’s chair like he owned the place. (This was after he nervously asked the owner permission to step inside.) Turns out, Manuel, 10, had been to Costa Rica more than once, so we chatted about that for some time. His border crossings were different than ours, of course: He and his uncle always traveled through the mountains, taking three full days to travel what had taken us about 90 minutes. He told us of the wild coyotes on the hike as if it were nothing. Selling pottery, he said, was what he did in exchange for his uncle taking him in after his parents gave him up. Continue Reading »»