This week we are taking a break from publishing any content so that we can spend time with our family. Please check back next Friday, as we publish our look back over 2021 and a sneak peak into what is coming in 2022.
Andrea and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
The notes for this story were gathered in September of 2019. A time that seems so long ago as the experiences and people met for this story were curated during a pre-pandemic world. But, I along with so many others had know idea just how much our world was about to change.
In an effort to do some housekeeping on all of the places I put notes and ideas for stories, I began sifting through a myriad of journals, scraps of paper, and electronic notes. In doing so I came across my musings about Chicago and decided to resurrect this story for you. I hope you enjoy.
I have had the privilege of visiting Chicago several times and let me say, every time I am completely blown away. This is an amazing city brimming with fantastic food, a great but somewhat hidden craft beer scene, fantastic bars, beautiful parks and literally some of the nicest people I have met while traveling in a large major US city.
For me, and perhaps many others, my perception of Chicago was hot dogs with bright green relish, deep dish pizzas, and the Ell. But let me tell you, this city has so much more to offer to someone who chooses to visit.
And while this city is chock full of amazing food (seriously need to try the Italian Hot Beef sandwich from Al’s), great beers, impressive museums, gorgeous parks, and wonderful public art, the one thing that stood out for me in what is one of the largest US cities, are the people. Everyone is genuinely friendly.
So it is this friendliness, coupled with some amazing beers and bacon that I want to share with you a place that I believe embodies all things Chicago.
The Centennial Bar is nestled just off the corner of North LaSalle Drive and Superior Street. This local establishment focuses its efforts on craft beer and high quality food. Having visited twice during our time in Chicago, the Centennial came to embody what is for me a complete representation of all the wonderful things that are Chicago. Great people, great beer, and great food. Like all good discoveries, we stumbled upon this place in the never-ending quest for new beers and unique foods.
The Centennial is carved into a beautiful 4 story building that dates back to 1888 and welcomes the thirsty visitor with an exposed wood, brick and metal design that perfectly complement each other to create a welcome and relaxing vibe in which to enjoy one of the many rotating craft beers on tap or in the bottle. And if you are hungry, the food is of exceptional quality and what one would expect of a gastropub all while not being pretentious, just delicious.
Chris, the bar manager of Centennial who is just as passionate about great beers as I am and is ready and willing to help take you on your journey into delicious beers. If you are new to craft beer, Chris has an ability to help you dial in your flavors and taste to help you choose the best beers to suit your palate.
While Nikki is the kind of great server that has the gift of making you feel comfortable and welcome. Within just a few moments of meeting her we were all talking like friends. Hailing from the west coast, she has made Chicago her home as she pursues her educational endeavors. Also, if she, or anyone suggest that you order the house smoked bacon, do yourself favor and order the bacon. It really is that good and is great as a side to some of the many delicious beers available.
The genuineness of both Chris and Nikki truly embody the spirit of Chicago. So the next time you find yourself in the windy city, stop by Centennial and have a pint or two. You never know, you might just make some new friends. At the least, you will have some great beer and delicious food.
Our stories, and the experiences that write them would not be what they are without the people we meet on our journeys. These once strangers act as the all important thread that holds the tapestry of our experiences together. Without the people that we meet, our travel experiences seem to be more mundane. The great food is no longer an experience, just lunch. The amazing art and architecture, just a painting or mural that we barely notice in or on a building. You see it is the people that we meet that create the connection for us to these things and allow us to truly enjoy them.
As I have procrastinated on releasing this story, I know that Chris has moved on professionally, yet continues to stay in touch with the good people of the Centennial. While on the other hand, I’m not sure if Nikki is still working there or not, but because they both were such an integral part in our experience I have left them in the narrative.
Until next time, wishing everyone peace and good vibes.
It is no secret that I love Costa Rica and because of this I get a lot of questions about the country. What are the people like? What kind of food is there? What is it like to drive there? But mostly, I get the question, why did I choose this as “the place” that I want to move to and live in as an ex-pat (which by the way I dislike the term ex-pat, but more on that later in another story)?
When I respond, I caution the listener that their question is a loaded one and will, on my part, elicit a very detailed response that has some facts but mostly my own opinions which have been formed after having lived in and spent time in Costa Rica, both as a child and now as an adult who owns a home here. Usually, after about 10 minutes the person is either ready to go and visit or they are now regretting their question as I wax poetically on and on about the marvels that are Costa Rica. So, in an effort to answer some questions and satiate the curiosity of a few, I am going to try and distill down the reasons why I love this country in its entirety.
People are the Patches that Make Up the Quilt of a Country
I suppose, for me anyway the people have to be one of my favorite reasons for loving a place. Getting to know “the locals” as I have heard it referred to many times is a great place to start, and I highly encourage travelers or those looking to move to Costa Rica to start by befriending the people that live in the area. When a person chooses to open themselves up and become vulnerable by allowing the people of the country to be a part of their life, then their experience completely changes. Soon you will find yourself learning the places to go for everything, from the best food to the best place to see the sunset, the “locals” will embrace you with open arms if you let them. Andrea and I have made so many friends in Jaco and truly our experience here would not be the same without these amazing people in our life. We have had the privilege to get to know many people and I could write about any of them, but the two that I want to introduce you to are Adrian and Geudy, these two truly embody the ideals and spirit of Costa Rica. We have known Adrian and Geudy for almost 2 years now and we would not have the local connections and feeling of home without them. They along with Luis Torres and Melanie McAlister, Laura, Sabrina and Jaz, Ozkar, Nahuel, and so many others have invited us into there world and community with open arms and Andrea and I are thankful everyday that they are our friends who have become like family.
If People are the Patches, then the Food is the Insulation in the Quilt of the Country
The food in Costa Rica is amazing. From the traditional casados and gallo pinto to the fusion of flavors from the immigrants over the years, the food that makes up Costa Rica is absolutely worth experiencing. My favorite way to try new food places is to find where the locals congregate and simply walk in and sit down. Is it a bit daunting to do it this way? Yes. Do people stare at you and wonder what you are doing? Sometimes. But this formula has never failed me and I am always rewarded with the most delicious food. Case in point. Near our home we have a small soda, Soda Puntu. It is quintessentially local and serves traditional foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On my latest visit, I decided that it was not worth buying groceries and cooking at home since I was only going to be there for a short time. Instead, I would patronize the restaurants, bars, and small groceries in my neighborhood, Quebrada Seca. Upon sitting down, it was pretty clear I was the only one NOT fluent in Spanish. But it didn’t stop me from ordering with a smile on my face. Soon, a gentleman sat down next to me and struck up a conversation about one of the local futbol teams. I explained to him that I could speak a little Spanish, but only if he could talk a bit slower for me. He agreed, and we spent the next hour and half talking the morning away. We learned about each other. We shared stories of family. I was invited to go fishing. In the space of 90 minutes, over food and coffee, I became just a little bit more a part of the community. For those wondering, my coffee and breakfast cost me 2500 colones, approximately $3.90 US.
If People are the Patches and Food is the Insulation, Then the Culture is the Thread of the Quilt that Holds Everything Together
Culture can be a funny thing to understand. It can be strange and sometimes scary. Why does a group of people do things in a way that seem so different to you and I? And to be fair, the culture of Costa Rica cannot be explained in this one blog entry. What I can tell you is that to understand this culture, or any new culture you must first open your heart and mind to new things. Secondly, for Costa Rica, you must understand Pura Vida. And while this phrase has come to define the country and people, I ask you to look beyond the translation, and dig just a bit deeper. When you do this, you will slowly start to unpack what it means to be a part of this amazing country. You see, Pura Vida is more than a slogan on a t-shirt or sticker. It is saying hello and goodbye. It is a response to almost any question. It is a hug and a kiss on the cheek to say hello, you are welcome here. It is what is unique about Costa Rica. It is what makes the place a joy to visit, and for us, a place to call home. Consistently, Costa Rica gets voted one of the happiest places on earth to visit and live. There is a reason for this. The People, The Food, and The Culture are just small pieces in a bigger puzzle that makes up the country of Costa Rica. This is why I have incorporated the words into the name of my blog site and Instagram. I want to always be reminded that I can live Pura Vida anywhere and anytime. As for Andrea and myself, we look forward to getting to know our new home better every day. I invite you to come and see for yourself.
I know that this short entry is not near enough to tell you about the amazing country that is Costa Rica. But, I hope it has at least piqued your curiosity. So, if you have any questions about what it is like to live or visit here, please don’t hesitate to reach out through comments or email.
Also, if you are interested in knowing more about the process of owning property in Costa Rica, I invite you to reach out to my dear friend Melanie McAlister. She is a dual citizen of both Costa Rica and the US and is a real estate agent in the Puntarenas Province area. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear your comments or answer questions about this story or any other stories in my blog.
The Canyon has the ability to make one feel small and sometimes it’s imposing nature can be intimidating. But, when you allow yourself to calm your spirit and breathe in the air and hear what the Canyon says to you through the sounds of the wind in the trees and animals that call it home, you will find yourself refreshed and a feeling of peace and contentment will wash over you.
The Canyon, for me, has a similar spiritual impact as standing in a grand cathedral in Europe although I might argue that the Canyon is more spiritually impactful. Standing at the North Rim and looking out upon this magnificent natural wonder I now understand why this place was so sacred to the original peoples who called this place home.
We have been to the Canyon many times and its grandeur never fails to shake me to my core. It is imposing, beautiful, sometimes scary, but always it is Grand. This park will always be one of my favorites and the North side, while more difficult to reach is now my absolute favorite part of the park. I hope you will have a chance to visit soon.
My recommendation is to travel to the north side in the fall and see the aspens as they put on an amazing display of color. Also, take a moment and find a quiet place to simply listen to what the Canyon says to you. You may just be surprised with what you leave with.
Peace and good vibes to you all 🤙🏼
“We haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on our list.” ~ adapted from Susan Sontag
I always tell people that realistic expectations and clear communications will solve 90% of an individual or groups problems. Well this story needs to begin with an apology, first to my readers, and secondly to myself. I failed to follow my own advice as it pertains to my writing.
When I first set out to write about travel, I had the greatest of intentions of publishing a story at least twice a month. Well, here we are seven months into this journey and I have completed six stories. While the stories are abundant in my mind, getting them in print has been much more difficult than I anticipated. So, my apologies.
The upside is that I have been traveling and exploring which only deepens the well of experience from which future stories will be born. I look forward to sharing these past and future experiences with you as I continue to drink from the cup of world travel.
The Corona-Virus and the Fear to Travel
All it takes is a quick glance at the latest headlines to know that all of the talking heads and media outlets are doing a fantastic job reporting the spread of Covid-19 also known as Coronavirus. And while this illness is devastating, please don’t allow it to create fear in you and prohibit you from experiencing an adventure through travel. Hear is my unsolicited advice. Keep traveling. But, be smart and intentional in your selection of places to go by researching your destination, don’t just take the advice of today’s headlines. Follow good hygiene practices. Wash your hands. Chances are, you will be fine. Rant over.
I will be returning to Costa Rica and this time I have the privilege of introducing the country I love to my daughters. I am so excited for this trip that will take place in March 2020. We have a huge surprise for them, and I will be writing about that in an upcoming story. So stay tuned. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @puravidajurnys for photo content and short stories about places I have been and places I am going.
Wrapping it Up with a BIG Thank You
Those closest to me know that I love the written word and I like expressing it for others to read and enjoy. So to those individuals who keep encouraging me to get my stories out there, thank you. You all keep me motivated and inspired to tell of my adventures.
Today I read that Uruguay a country that I lived in, called home for several years has issued a travel warning for my home country of the United States, and this breaks my heart. I don’t blame the government of Uruguay. Unfortunately we share this planet with some bad people, people like the two individuals who this past week collectively killed 31 humans and injured countless more. Does this mean that for those that want to explore and see the world, they shouldn’t? Read on, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
As a citizen of the United States, I am angry, frustrated, and scared. And my level of hope in humanity seems to diminish more when I read about tragedies like the recent mass shooting. But, these are emotions, emotions that I, as a normal, healthy, reasonable human being can work through. To acknowledge the loss of so many lives this week in my country is vitally important. My heart and prayers go to the families, friends, and survivors of these horrific tragedies. Yet this is a travel blog, and this story will be a travel story.
To me travel is an opportunity for people from one place to go and explore, vacation, and take holiday in a different place. They have the opportunity to fill their social media with 100’s of pictures and check-ins. They can try new foods, hear different languages, and shop in little markets. And it is opportunities like these that are vitally important. They are important because they allow individuals to expand their world and develop a tolerance for others. To see people and places that are supposedly different from their norm, is healthy. The reality is that when we travel and get outside of our norm, we truly begin to grow.
So, I encourage everyone to get out and see a new and different place. Go meet new people, try new foods, explore new spaces. But most importantly, don’t let the emotion of fear guide you. Don’t let fear stop you. There are more good people, than bad. There is more beauty than there is ugly. We deserve to see the good and beautiful. To enjoy it and experience it. You can unlock the positive in humanity by travelling and exploring some place new. And if you are really courageous, share a meal in a new place with someone you don’t know.
Recently, I found myself traveling to one of my favorite American cities, San Antonio, Texas. While I have had the pleasure of visiting San Antonio and the myriad of other cities in the region many times before, it was during this visit that I saw this beautiful city much differently.
Boasting a population of 1.5 million people, San Antonio has much to be proud of, this thriving metropolis that just brushes the southern edge of Texas Hill Country is the seventh most populous city in the US and second in Texas. Founded in 1718 as a Spanish Colony and Mission, the fabric of this city was and still is created from many different nationalities, cultures and languages.
And it is here, where the story really begins. You see, the immigrants and migrants that helped build this city so long ago have left an indelible mark for us. Visitors can see this influence in the naming of streets, food, architecture and much more. But guess, what? Immigrants and migrants alike are still helping to shape the city today and on any given day, you will hear many different languages and be exposed to many different cultures. From street markets to taquerias to bakeries, the vibe of San Antonio is decidedly influenced by the many generations of many different people from different places that call this city home. While walking through the Central Market in San Antonio I recalled what one of my geography professors once said about the phrase melting pot as it refers to immigration/migration and a people becoming the “same”. He said, thinking about the US (or any other place for that matter) as a melting pot was all wrong. Rather, we are more like a stew pot. You see in a stew, all of the individual ingredients work together, in concert to create and complete the dish.
Right now, in many parts of the world there seems to be a war on immigration. It is important to remember that the majority of those immigrating are doing so to find better opportunities. Is the potential there for bad people to come into a country through immigration, sure. But, there is also the potential that I will win the lottery, or be struck by lightening. My ask is this, remember that rarely is anyone from where they are, but that at one time, all of us were immigrants or migrants, going from one place to another, usually in search of a better opportunity. I too, will be migrating one day. As many of you know, it is the dream of my wife and I to live abroad in Costa Rica and points beyond. We choose to do this because we recognize that there is a richness in diversity. There is value in other cultures. There is life beyond the norm of where we are from.
The push and pull for one to migrate is powerful and the reasons can be financial, cultural, social, or simply for love. All of us come from somewhere and are going someplace.
Madrid is a city that provides the traveler every opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture. From paella to tapas and Flamenco to street markets, the opportunity to fall in love with this beautiful city and its people is abundant. Oh the things you will discover when you allow yourself to get lost on the side streets and off beaten paths of Madrid. The city will open up and share with the traveler her secrets and beauty.
It has been two days since arriving in Madrid. The jet lag is subsiding, and our bodies are becoming accustomed to a much different eating schedule. It is 10:30 pm and we are scheduled to meet a couple who has agreed to show us around the city, and give us the tapas experience that only locals can provide.
Tapas are quintessential Madrid and the tapas bars in this city are too numerous to count. We begin in an area within walking distance of the famous public square, Puerta del Sol. Like many cities, there are those places that cater to the visitor, and then there are those that are favored by the local. It is in these local bars that we were fortunate to find ourselves sharing plates of olives, jamon serrano, anchovies, gulas, shrimp, morcilla, and tortilla de patatas. Of course, we washed all of this wonderful food down with glasses of local beers.
How do small, shareable plates of food that are consumed late into the evening translate into an experience worth writing about? It is in the word shareable. During our time in Spain, we shared tapas with strangers who have now become friends. In so doing, we have made our world a smaller and friendlier place. You see, during those nights we didn’t just share food and drink. We shared with each other our cultures, languages, and even a few jokes. I truly believe that if you want to get to know a place and remove cultural barriers, simply begin by sharing a meal with someone. Now when we return to Spain, we will return knowing that we can reach out and connect with our new found friends for another round of tapas.
So you are ready to travel to Madrid and eat your way across the city. Los Gatos, Cervezas La Fabrica, and La Dolores are all great places to get started. All of these are located minutes from each other and make for a great evening of tapas and beer. Lastly, throw out your hesitations, and simply order what looks good, chances are it will be delicious. Salud to you all, and if you make it there, drop me a comment or a picture of you on your tapas crawl.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
First of all, London is one of those cities everyone should visit. It is a place that seamlessly combines the old and new. And like most metropolises it caries the grit and grime of a busy city, but London’s beauty is unequivocal. There are truly so many things to see and do, and I have always said that if there was a capital city for the world, London would be the one.
London is truly a remarkable city. I had the pleasure of visiting during the Christmas and New Year celebrations and I wanted to share a few things that I think a visitor might consider while visiting London.
First, when traveling, try and walk as many places as you can. And when you can’t walk, take the public transportation options. Generally they are easy to use, affordable, and offer so many new opportunities to explore a city. London is no exception, the tube and bus options are both easy to use. You can read more about how to get and use the #oystercard here. Lastly, don’t forget to #mindthegap and look #right then left before crossing.
Of course when you walk, you are naturally taking the slowest method of transportation. And it is when you walk, that you will truly discover some of the best places. For example, one evening while walking, my wife and I noticed quite a crowd outside a smallish size restaurant. Curiosity got the best of us and we discovered what was quite literally the best fish and chips we have ever had. If you visit London, you must visit the Mayfair Chippy. Get reservations, they are always packed, we just got lucky. 😉
Pubs and Beer, this may be a future post. But for now, pubs and beer in London. The Pub or Public House has been a fixture in London for nearly as long as people have inhabited the city. London offers a wide range of variety for the thirsty traveler. When you are ready for a pint you will find an opportunity on nearly every corner. These pubs vary in that some are definitely catering to the tourist, while others are most certainly local haunts. Pick one and pop in for a pint and possibly a meal. Three pubs that I really enjoyed while visiting London fell squarely in both categories. The first was a little pub tucked away named Victoria’s. This pub located in Paddington offered coziness and quintessential pub vibes. And while it had a mixture of locals and visitors, it truly was a comfortable place with a full selection of #fullerbeers and great food. If you find yourself in London, check out Victoria’s, you won’t be disappointed. The other pub I suggest for a pint is the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, check them out on #tripadvisor. Now due to the historical significance and cool factor, the Cheshire Cheese fits squarely into the touristy vibe I mentioned above. But, let me qualify by saying this, Charles Dickens was known to drink here. It can be tough to get in and get a seat in the original bar area (reservations can be had) as you walk in the front door, but the pub winds itself in and around and up and down, so be patient, find a seat and have a pint. You’ll be glad you did. Towards the end of our trip, we found ourselves exploring the area near and around Parliament. As hunger and thirst rapidly approached we found ourselves staring at the Red Lion Pub on Parliament Street. Now the Fuller’s Brewery owns the current establishment, but a pub has stood at this location since 1434. The food is great (see picture below) and the atmosphere is outstanding. And with the pub’s proximity to many of England’s government offices, you never know who you might be rubbing shoulders with that day.
Having been founded in 50 AD, London is truly a historical city. And as such, has many amazing things to see and explore. From palaces to pubs and churches to cathedrals, one will not be without an opportunity to experience the historical fabric of the city. And to make this history convenient and accessible, there are a plethora of museums to visit. The most obvious museum I would recommend is the British Museum. Not only is the museum affordable (entrance is free, but they do recommend a £5 donation) it truly gives the visitor an opportunity to explore so many wonderful artifacts from around the world. Checkout the museum’s website for suggestions on what to see based on the amount of time you have. Another recommendation for a visitor to London is to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is truly magnificent. The most current building was consecrated in 1697, survived the Blitz of WWII and has been the site for many historical services (Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married here). Plus if you don’t have claustrophobia and can manage the climb up the 528 winding, sometimes narrow and low steps to the top of the dome, you will have access to some of the most amazing views of the city.
One of my favorite activities while travelling is shopping at street markets, bazaars, or local antique stores. These are great places to pick up little gifts for yourself, or those back home. And one of the best street markets that I have been to is Portobello Road. One can spend hours traversing this approximately 1000 meters of antique shops, street merchants, and clothing stores. And when you are tired, find one of the local pubs I mentioned above and pop in for a pint and a refresh.
If you have been to London, you know one blog story is simply not enough to speak to all of the amazing opportunities that London holds for her visitors. I know that I will be returning many more times to try and discover more amazing adventures in this remarkable city.
Remember, go travel and explore. Not only is it good for the soul, but you can truly grow as an individual when you experience other places and other cultures. Get outside of your comfort zone, for when you do, you will find that you grow stronger.
I hope you enjoyed this short write up on London. If so, please consider subscribing below. Cheers!
I thought I would write a post today about why I travel. As you read this, I would love for you to consider why you travel, or don’t and comment. I am always curious about what motivates or holds people back when it comes to travel, whether it is international or domestic within your home country.
For me, travel has always been about the excitement of something new and different. What secrets are contained around the next corner, in the new place? You see, as a person whose curiosity knows very few boundaries, I have always been drawn to adventure. When I am looking for a place to explore, I want to hear the stories and find the secrets that are held there. It could be as I explore a street market (be watching for a story on street markets) or sample new foods, or share a beer with a local. (Tip: If you want to find a key to unlock the mysteries of a place, find a local tavern and buy someone a pint. You will be surprised at what you learn about the place, the person, and perhaps yourself.)
Humans have a propensity to accumulate things, myself included. I know a lot of people who collect a lot of things. From antiques to cars, I even know someone who collects shoes. But, several years ago (I was probably watching one of my favorite travel shows, most likely Anthony Bourdain) I decided that I wanted to accumulate new experiences through travel. I want to collect all things culture and I want to try all the food, especially street food. I want to meet new people and see the world through their eyes, walk their streets, taste their food, and drink their beer. This is why I travel. I can look back on my photos and I am immediately transported back to the place and can recall the wonderful memories.
It is for this reason that I have dedicated myself to travel someplace new at least once a year. But Jeff, travel is expensive. Yes, it can be, but like anything else, if you have a plan and are intentional about it, travel can be attainable. For example, I am an avid #airbnb traveler. Rarely do I stay in hotels anymore. If you haven’t used Airbnb, I highly suggest giving it a try. It has proven very reliable for me. For flights, there are so many options now to find affordable domestic and international flights. I always begin my search at #googleflights, it is easy to see prices on their flight calendar. Also, Google Flights allows the individual to watch flights and will notify when there are fare changes. Another flight searching option is #scottscheapflights. I have used both the paid and free option on Scott’s Cheap Flights and find it very much worthwhile (and affordable) if you are looking for international air travel give it a try and let me know if it works well for you. A new one that I am going to be looking at is #nextvacay. NextVacay’s slogan is “We’ll find the cheapest flights in the world, so you can have the trip of a lifetime.” Sounds pretty good to me.
Do you have a go-to method for booking travel, if so I would love to hear about it? Please share in the comment section below. Also, click the subscribe button to stay up to date with the latest story.
Remember, travel is a key that will unlock many treasures. It will remind you that the world is a much smaller place where we have more in common with others than you may realize.