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Travel With Tessa: Costa Rica Visual Vibes

Put together a Youtube video/vlog of my trip! I will update my next Chapter of Costa Rica soon.

This is a taster of things to do in Costa Rica

 

Places included was:

  • Playa Flamingo
  • Cerro Chato
  • Rincon de La Vieja (Adventure Day)
  • Potrero Bay
  • La Fortuna
  • Arenal Area
  • Heredia Province
  • Playa Islita

I went with my friend Cody, we met in Europe last year, he’s pretty cool

 

 

 

If you have any questions, give me a shout!

 

Travel With Tessa

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Costa Rica: Arenal Area: El Castillo: Birdsong Villa

 

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I’m back yo. I find it hard to write about this adventure because it breaks my heart that it is over.

Recently I flew to the US and Costa Rica, around mid June with my friend Cody. We stayed in 4 different locations in Costa Rica including La Fortuna, Playa Flamingo, Playa Islita and Heredia. I travelled mid June to the end of June, which is there ‘green’ season. Many people travel during October/November which is high season and can be quite expensive. We found the temperature perfect! It was warm during the days and we would get one or two showers of rain every day which cooled everything down. If you want sunny skies 24/7, then travel to Costa Rica in December/January.

We flew with Southwest direct to San Jose and landed on the Saturday morning. The flight was only 4 and a half hours! We decided to rent a car before hand, we waited around for the shuttle to bring us to the car rental. There were many taxi men outside that were harmless and very helpful, even called our car rental company! Just tip a dollar, be grand. We rented a Toyota Rav4 from ‘GreenMotion‘ and were relieved to have rented it due to all the unpaved roads. They were super friendly and helpful!

Our first place we stayed at was Birdsong Villa, a 3 hour car journey from San Jose which flew by. Warning that the roads aren’t all tarmac, the road up to the villa is very steep and can be slippery when raining. We stayed for two nights.

The beautiful villa is 2 stories, with two suites to rent. The Garden View suite (July2016: $180) and the Bird View suite (90$ as of July 2016). We opted for the Garden View which was completely worth it. It was filled with wide windows with a 180 degree view of the mountains, the Arenal mountain and the Arenal lake. At night it would rain a lot but it was amazing! We’d open the windows with the screen closed, we could feel the cool air blowing in which cooled us down in the humidity. Warning, there isn’t any air con but didn’t need it although there is a ceiling fan!

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Active Arenal Volcano in the background!

It had a fully equipped kitchen where a chef would make guests their breakfasts in the morning, he’d come into the suite around 8am. We’d sit at the patio outside the room with the other guests and the owner Alan and eat our breakfast. There was a living room area in the suite. There was an inside and outdoor shower. We picked the Garden View suite for the beautiful views and the jacuzzi bath in the room, no ragrets (yes ragrets), when am I ever going to be in Costa Rica again? One of my favourite parts was watching the low clouds roll across the hills.

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Garden View Suite

Things to do when staying at Birdsong Villa, El Castillo, Costa Rica!

  • Hike to the nearby waterfall! Alan the owner will give you directions, but remember, if it looks like a small waterfall… KEEP WALKING! We made the mistake of thinking that was the waterfall and when we told Alan he was like ‘That is barely a spring!’. Whoops…
  • Places to eat, there is a restaurant called ‘Phoenix Restaurant‘ a 3 minute walk away! Which you’ll find a bit strange because its located in, what feels like, a rural area but the food was amazing. I’m not a big drink (okay a bit) and had a vodka tonic. It was dangerous because it was actually too lovely to stop. Alan knows the owner, can call and make a reservation for you. The history behind the restaurant is fascinating as well!
    There is also Pizza Johns AND IT WAS AMAZING. I weep because I know I won’t be able to taste their homemade coconut ice cream anytime soon or maybe ever!? The restaurant has great sign posted directions, it may look a bit out of the ordinary as it looks like a house. There was a lovely girl that greeted us the two times we went and her English was impeccable. We were reluctant at the start, who wants to get Italian pizza when you’re in this incredible place BUT it was incredible pizza! It was cooked from scratch by this woman that only spoke Spanish and always had a smile on her face. They even grew their own basil! People have written on the walls inside from all over the world, it was so beautiful.
  • Climb Cerro Chato, seriously, do it. Its an inactive volcano that has a lake in the crater (WHEN WILL YOU EVER SAY YOU’VE CLIMBED SOMETHING LIKE THAT!). Its about a 20/25 minute drive from the villa from what I can remember.  The clouds roll in and out of the lake but we never got a view from the top. The clouds will usually always cover the volcano. I’m not the fittest gal out there and it was tough, very tough. I’m diabetic and had low blood sugar at one point, then faked another one hahaha (I’m so so sorry Cody, you don’t know this, I really needed a rest!). It was so worth it though. We climbed a steep incline for around an 1 hour and 40 minutes, then had to go down a steep decline into the crater to get to the lake. Which was kind of heart breaking knowing that I had to climb when I thought the climbing was over! Don’t be fooled, the water is cold. Although, it is so worth it after a sweaty hike! We were lucky to have 40 minutes by ourselves before other hikers arrived. There were even little fishies that ate the dead skin around your feet which felt amazing. If you want a challenge and don’t mind getting a little muddy then GO FOR IT!
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Lake at the top of Cerro Chato, Costa Rica

 

Tip: When you drive up, you will be stopped by the first man… DON’T TAKE HIS WORD. We met other hikers that climbed an extra 2 hours. If you want a challenge then go for it! But it takes longer and it is very exhausting. Go to the barriers, its only 10$ per person and you can drive up and park in an area that is closer. Alan will explain anyway!
Make sure to bring food, water and a GoPro (didn’t bring my phone because I didn’t want to fall and crack it). We decided we didn’t need to bring hiking boots and man, did I regret it. My Nikes were very slippery with no grip, especially since most of the trail was muddy and wet. I know they can be heavy, but its the best option. Bring a raincoat, maybe a spare top if you don’t feel like climbing back into a sweaty top you hiked up in. We saw one tiny snake in the river at the bottom.

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Trying to show how steep it is!

  • Visit the hot springs in La Fortuna! There are loads to choose from but sadly we didn’t go. We were staying on a weekend and during Saturday and Sunday it is filled with bus loads of people. We were going to another place with hot springs in an adventure day package a couple of days later but sadly that part was under construction. A friend of a friend mentioned Baldi HotSprings, it looks amazing! So don’t miss out.

If you have any questions, ask away! I will be publishing a post in the next week about our next villa!

Tess!

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Next post: Mariposa

 

Ps. A video will be coming out soon of my Costa Rican adventures…..

Snapchat: TessBradford for more adventures

 

Amsterdam view

Interrailing – Amsterdam Hostel – Hostel Meetingpoint

 

European Hostel 1: Hostel Meeting Point

While researching Amsterdam hostels, we wanted somewhere that is close in the main area or ‘hub’ of the city. We wanted to be in walking distance of tourist attractions and decided that if anything was further out that we would rent bicycles. The hostel is on Warmoesstraat and the street is adjacent to the Red Light District. I felt completely safe.

We booked our hostel a month in advance but I felt like it was a bit late as a lot of other hostels were booked out and prices had increased. We thought from the reviews that it wasn’t the nicest of places and there were even stories about bed bugs (which weren’t true). The Dam square was a 6/7 minute walk from the hostel. There are restaurants and coffee shops all along the Warmoesstraat street but it can become quite busy with tourists. It’s one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam, originating in the 13th Century.

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We stayed from Sunday the 31st of May to Tuesday 2nd of June. We paid €44 each for 2 nights in a 8 bed mixed dorm (remember it’s busy season) and booked through ‘HostelWord’, which included paying for a deposit which was part of the total cost of the stay. It was either 8 or 18 bed dorms so we paid a little extra for the 8 dorm room. We arrived early and the beds weren’t ready yet but the staff were so lovely and let us leave our bags down in the laundry room where there was always someone working there. They gave us a yellow note with our room number and name so we can show before going into the bar which we have to walk through to get to the dorms upstairs. Hold onto the yellow note as it’s your only way of getting back into the hostel. People who are not staying at the hostel, do not have access to the bar and other areas. The room was bare but had a view of the ‘Damrak’ road and part of the canals.

The bathrooms/shower facilities were small but always clean. I never had any problem with bed bugs but I did use my sleeping bag. Don’t expect glitz, the hostel is mediocre but has character and feels kind of homely! They have their own bar and drinks are cheap (especially being in Amsterdam, I paid €3.50 for a bottle of Diet Coke </3). They had a beautiful white cat called Micky who sadly passed away in October, he was 17 years old and one of the most chilled out cats I’ve ever met.

Hostel Tips + Quick Info:

  • There were lockers situated in the rooms because the rooms were always unlocked but they are €2 (for your whole stay) and a €10 deposit which you will get back. The locker fitted my rucksack in with a little extra space. I recommend as the dorm room doors were always open.
  • You’ll climb a lot of stairs if you’re on a high level…
  • There is a little indoor smoking area that one can smoke in that looks out onto the canal and other streets. (Featured image is the view)
  • There are no kitchen facilities which is a minor set back when this isn’t our only stop, we wanted to save our pennies instead of eating out all the time. Especially when Amsterdam is generally an expensive place.
  • If one wants to stock up on food, there is a supermarket around the corner from Dam Square called ‘Albert Heijn’. It took forever to find one. Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 17.43.17
  • There are no charging units in the rooms, only down at the bar which was frustrating as we didn’t want to sit at the bar all day (and we didn’t). Yet it may be annoying, it did allow us to chat to other travellers and make friends.
  • All staff are really friendly and if you have any questions, they’ll always have an answer! I had a problem with keeping my insulin cold (I’m diabetic) so they let me put some of my freezer packs in their freezer so I could rotate packs. I really appreciated this as I stressed about my diabetes while travelling.
  • Wifi was not available in rooms, only in the bar area.
  • The hostel is only a 6 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station.
  • There is a funny condom shop when walking down to the Dam square, it made us laugh.
  • If you want something quick and casual to eat, go to ‘Da Portare Via‘ which is located on Warmoesstraat street. I know, I know, it’s not traditional but its something tasty and cheap about walking miles through out the day.

Hostel Meeting Point Trip Advisor 

Hostel Meeting Point Facebook

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If you have any questions, ask away! I will put up a blog post about all the things to do in Amsterdam very soon! (i.e. by next week)

Interrailing – Budapest – The Szechenyi Bath Party (Sparty)

JUST GO FOR IT

When I first heard of the Bath Parties in Budapest, they weren’t amazing stories. I asked around and researched online and heard a lot of mixed reviews but we were like ‘sure, why not?’.

   The Budapest ‘Sparty’ is a bath party that is held every Saturday (that I know of) in the Szechenyi Baths (couldn’t tell you how to pronounce…). When we booked, it was online before the event so it turned out cheaper and it was less hassle with printing out tickets on the go etc, it cost around €35. If you are in a bigger group, it’s cheaper. The Szechenyi Baths are one of the biggest baths in Europe but some of the parts are blocked off at the party for security reasons. There was amazing lights and huge decorations everywhere with a DJ. The music wasn’t amazing but we were all too busy drinking away and chatting to everyone.

    It starts at 10:30pm and finishes at 3am but by the time we had finished predrinking, we got there around 12am. We got a train and walked, trains stay open quite late then shared a taxi back to the hostel with others.. It worked out well because we were shrivelled up raisons by the end. There are lockers available that is included in the ticket so you can store your towel, dry clothes etc. It’s over 18’s so don’t forget to bring ID as well, I brought my age card and my passport just in case.

    If you want to buy drink, you are given a card that you have around your neck, you put your money on the card and use that as a way of paying for your drinks. It comes in so handy since no one wants to carry around loose changer. My friends and I just got one so we wouldn’t lose it. If you’re going to get a drink, get the cherry cider. I’m not sure of the name but it was definitely cherry, it tasted like a cocktail.

   Clothes, what to wear – Most girls wore bikinis, didn’t see any swimsuits but you can wear what you want! Don’t be self conscouis because by the time you get into there, you’ll probably have a drink in your hand and everyone is in the same boat so it’s all good. Don’t bother with makeup, I stupidly did and I looked like a panda by the end of the night with mascara running down my face. It’s not overly bright or anything and no one really cares. Lads just wore swimming trunks.

   If you hate PDA, you probably won’t be too mad on the bath party. Inevitably, most bars or clubs, there will always be people getting together and this is definitely one of those places. Also if you’re a germaphobe, I’d ask for you sit this one out. Obviously people will be drinking, so there was always empty cups floating around and spillages.

It’s a lot of craic and worth the money, don’t believe the bad reviews. If you’re open minded and up for some fun, go for it. It was one of my favourite nights and I’m still trying to piece back the memories.

If someone offers you Palinka shots, careful not to drink a lot. My hostel had Palinka tasting before the party as other people staying were going to the bath party as well. Palinka varies in alcohol percentage. I thought I was a big girl and took 3 shots (a long with wine before) and I have no recollection of getting the underground train to the bath party… They were seriously strong and tasted worse than vodka. As I say, not just the bath party but whenever you go out, always keep your drink on you to reduce the risk of getting spiked and always make sure you’re with someone you know. I didn’t have any bad experiences at the bath party but some people can be forward which I just declined politely and everyone respected that and didn’t bother again.

If you have any questions, ask away!

 

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General Tips about traveling Europe by trains (Irish Edition)

Taking into account, I pre-booked all hostels because main cities in Europe are crowded with tourists and other travellers during June-August. I travelled with my two best friends and we were fortunate enough to travel theft free. We never got ourselves into sticky situations and our things were always safe. I’ve heard bad stories of other people getting hurt or things stolen but never experienced anything like that! These are little specific tips, if planning is your thing, this probably will really help.

These are non specific, completely out of order tips.

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Waiting at 12am with salad and lots of water

  1. IMG_6626DO NOT bring a suitcase, it won’t fit on the shelves above on trains, also backpacks add to the experience. As you can see I used this bad boy, never had any trouble with airlines about the sleeping bag on the outside. I put a green ribbon just for recognition.
  2. If you’re travelling in July/August, try book hostels if you can as it can be more expensive when you cant find a lot of availability but if you don’t want to plan out where you want to go, then save up a bit more cash.
  3. Always use the Interrail Rail Planner (App). It helps when you miss a train and works without wifi.
  4. Always have snacks, snacks are your best friend friend. I lived on chocolate croissants and Nature Valley bars. We walked so much during the day, there’s no need to worry about dieting and getting 3 main meals a day. Hopping from one train to another could take up an entire day so bring all the snacks you want.
  5. Water is your other half. I know, it’s very obvious but pick up a few litres in Aldi or Lidl instead of buying a tiny bottle of water on the train for €3/4. Bottles are heavy but necessary, we always bought as we didn’t know a lot from water regulation in each country.
  6. If you are going through interail.eu, make sure to book/reserve the compulsory trains as inspectors do check that you’ve reserved. Especially if it is a night train! You can always call in before booking online as we got a better deal through the phone. We picked up the tickets at the train station.
  7.  Comfy clothes will save your life on trains. My friend was smart enough to bring a mini travel pillow that folded up into a little pouch. I was extremely jealous. I packed jogging leggings and a jumper for when it got chilly on the trains at night.
  8. Be ready to wait around for hours, that’s what stopovers are. This is us waiting for our train in a ghost town stattion to Lake Bled in the early hours of the morning.
  9. Don’t bother reserving beds, we were lucky enough to get a night train with little to no people on it, this meant our chairs in the carriage folded out into beds. One other woman was in the carriage with us but she was lovely and just read while we slept. Even though we never had any problems, keep your bags away from the door as I’ve heard stories about people hopping on and stealing while passengers are sleeping. Be ready to be woken up by rude ticket inspectors that will ask for passports as well.
  10. Pack for all weather. We started off earlier on than the usual travellers which meant it was raining for the time we were in Amsterdam. This wasn’t so bad as we went to museums, coffee shops and markets. I had one pair of jeans, a pair of leggings, a rain jacket and a hoodie. Umbrellas are super handy as well.
  11. Have your route filled out. We didn’t realise it was even a thing until we had a Slovenian ticket inspector shout at us. Fill in your train and where you are going with a black pen. I made a mistake of filling it in red…
  12. Try not to be one of those annoying tourists on the train, you know those young ones who blast their techno on public transport? Please please please don’t be one of those people.
  13. If you do happen to miss the train, don’t fret. There is usually a conductor on the platform or in the conductors office. We missed one of our first trains as we didn’t read the board correctly (we literally watched our train leave.) We ran the to the conductor and he had us on a train, catching up with one that we reserved. They usually speak English really well and they’re generally so friendly.
  14. Chat to people on the trains! Be friendly and you’ll find amazing places to go! We met a lovely, beautiful boy on the trains to Bled. We sat by a lovely german man that told us to go to certain places in Vienna as we only had a couple of hours. Anywhere you go, be friendly, you never know where you will go.

If you have any questions, please ask!

Traveling Europe (Interrailing) – Berlin – Klunkerkranich

 Klunkerkranich 

(Neukölln Arcaden, Karl-Marx-Straße 66, 12043 Berlin, Germany)

This is an amazing little find in Berlin on top of a shopping centre that no one would ever think of! It is a roof top bar located above a shopping centre on top of a carpark. My friend Heidi, who moved to Berlin for a year (Yes her name is Heidi what are the odds) recommended this quirky place when we met up. There were german beers, music always playing, benches and tables everywhere. The rooftop was decorated with bunting and tinkle lights. I would say it’s like if Urban Outfitters set up a bar but cheaper. As in it is a very industrial and DIY type of place. All I can describe the music was as ‘funk’. Even though it is a bar, we were charged €4 (it can change to €3) which I thought was strange as it’s a bar and people are obviously going to buy alcohol, but they had a DJ inside. Even though it was May, it was quite chilly so do bring a thick coat. We had some trouble finding it as well, you have to go into the actual shopping centre and use the elevator to the 7th floor (I think) then follow the handmade signs. I found it funny that you had to walk up the spiral part where cars drive down to get to lower levels, obviously it was not in use. We met some americans previously and invited them along and to our amazement they founded it quicker than we did. Eeek. They even have a little garden filled with plants and flowers. Apparently in the day, Klunkerkranich holds flea markets.

If you are looking for a more quite kind of place where you are not surrounded by tourists, this is the place to go. Bring ID as it is over 18’s and have a few pints.

Other reviews: Yelp yo