Cinnamon Sun Part 2 – Sloths!

Check out part 1 of the Cinnamon Sun adventure here!

After we left Oxygen, we headed back to San Jose for another night at the Brilla Sol before the volunteering part of our honeymoon began. The trip from San Jose to the Sloth Sanctuary on the Caribbean coast (near Cahuita) is about 4 hours. We used a service called Interbus to get out there. Interbus picks up from various hotels, and shuttle you where you want to go. They have a rough schedule, and you’re in a nice air-conditioned van that seats about 10. We also used Easy Ride to get back to San Jose from the Sloth Sanctuary later. Given the choice, I’d pick Easy Ride, as they were more flexible about where they’d pick you up and drop you off, and you don’t need to pre-pay. You can just pay your driver when he shows up!

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We went to the Sloth Sanctuary to volunteer. Yes, it was our honeymoon, but this sounded like such a unique experience that we knew we both wanted to do it. Here is a basic run-down of a day as a sloth sanctuary volunteer.

5:30am – Wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys outside your window.

6:00am – Head to the sloth cages. Grab a dustpan, brush, cloth, and bottle of vinegar/water and get to cleaning your section’s cages! They tried to have everyone have a set section, so you could bond better with the sloths. Obviously with people coming and going and days off you weren’t always on the same ones, but it was pretty close.

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7:00am – First feeding (for the sloths. You still haven’t had breakfast yet!) Count out leaves for everyone, then deliver to the cages.

8:00am – Human breakfast! We took turns cooking breakfast for the group, and ate on a beautiful dock outside.

8:30am – Enrichment time. This was an alternating schedule of volunteers. Each day one group would take some babies out to the jungle gym to learn how to climb, and another group would take some of the sloths out on the jungle trail to have a good sniff of everything.

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Cuddling baby Mirra

 

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Baby Mirra on the jungle gym.

 

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CB taking a bradypus (3 fingered) sloth for a walk.

 

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Arthur the choloepus (2 fingered sloth) going walkies.

10:00am – Project Time. There were a couple segments of project time each day. This was where you got to use your own skills to help the sanctuary. Good at SEO? Help with the website! You’re a writer? Write some blog posts! Want to work with your hands? Chop some paths! Once Cinnamon Buns told them that my job is all about organizing and scheduling…. we were made the volunteer Volunteer Coordinators. That part was almost a little too much like working, when I’d gone there to be on vacation, but once we had a scheduling system down, all was good. We did it together to make sure that neither of us missed out on any sloth time.

11:00am – Choppy choppy time. This was when we prepared the sloths’ food. We peeled and cut lots and lots of veggies at this time, and sorted pounds and pounds and pounds of leaves.

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Jojo sez: "Mmmm, cecropia leaves!"

12:00-1pm – Human lunch. Lunch (and dinner) were cooked for us by Sloth Sanctuary staff. We ate a lot of rice and beans, traditional Costa Rican cuisine.

1pm-2pm – More project time

2pm – Second sloth feeding. This time we just got to feed them, we didn’t clean the cages like we did in the mornings. At this feeding, the sloths got all the carrots, tubers, and beans we prepped earlier in the day. I always carried my camera with me when feeding, and we came home with about 1000+ photos from the trip, most of them of sloths.

3pm – Free time! Some days we’d all go out to Cahuita, the nearby town, most days we’d stay at the Sanctuary in our rooms or on the deck and read/write diary entries/Skype home/explore the grounds/whatever you wanted.

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Part of the Sloth Sanctuary's grounds.

We made friends with some creatures that we will never forget. I want to introduce you to:

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Billy, and his stuffed bunny.

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Cinnamon Buns and Jojo doing ‘Thriller’. (Jojo wouldn’t go to the bathroom in his cage, and has learned to climb into your arms/up your legs/jump on your head to be taken outside to go on the grass).

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Laylo coming over to say hi to me and be picked up.

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Laylo’s cage-mate Wall-e trying to decide if my shorts have enough claw-holds to climb. Laylo and Wall-e were two of the friendliest little guys – they’re the ones that would climb all over you while you’re trying to sweep their cage!

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Snaggletooth.

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The adorable Zoe.

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A wild bradypus sloth who came to visit after some females had been making their ‘I’m in heat!!’ calls.

Oh, and we met some awesome people, too. πŸ˜‰

It was definitely a non-traditional thing to do on a honeymoon, but it was amazing. We got to spend much more time in Costa Rica than if we’d been staying at hotels and doing touristy things. We got to spend the so much time together, which was wonderful after our crazy work schedules. We learned all about these amazing creatures – neither of us really expected them to be so full of personality, but they’re all little furry individuals! It’s sad that so many have been injured or abandoned, and need this sort of care, but it was great to meet them. The Sanctuary did also release some sloths back in to the wild while we were there too. (Not counting sneaky Jasper who escaped after picking his lock with his claws!).

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Us, with Toby and Velcro.

This was more than just a honeymoon, it was the trip of a lifetime, mainly because of all the little furry friends we made.

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If you need more sloths (and who doesn’t?) have a look at this video CB cut together once we got home:

 

Would you ever consider volunteering on your honeymoon / a big vacation with your partner?

Cinnamon Sun – Costa Rica Part 1

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This photo taken with my camera by one of Oxygen's staff.

I just have to tell everyone, right now, that our honeymoon was amazing. It was a life-altering experience. I had the time of my life, and I had never felt that way before. And, I owe it all to youuuuu. Had I not been part of Weddingbee, I don’t know that I ever would have heard of Oxygen Jungle Villas (from Mrses Brooch and Lox). Maybe Costa Rica would never have been on our radar! But thanks to those two ladies it was, and now I’ll tell you all about it. We spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica, this first post will be about the first 4 days we spent at Oxygen and the surrounding area. This honeymoon happened the February after our June wedding.

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Flying from Calgary to Costa Rica was pretty easy – one change in Houston, which we made with enough time to eat dinner at the airport before heading onwards. We got in to San Jose at night, so we needed a hotel to stay at that night before we went to a smaller regional airport (San Jose Pavas) to take our little flight to the Pacific Coast. We didn’t want to spend lots of our trip driving, so we chose to fly from San Jose to Quepos on the Pacific coast, pick up a rental car in Quepos, then drive to Oxygen. Driving from San Jose to Oxygen is 3-4 hours I believe, while our flight was 25 minutes, and Quepos to Oxygen was about 45 minutes. That way we’d still have a car to explore with, but wouldn’t have to navigate San Jose or any major roads. We chose to stay at the Hotel Brilla Sol that first night in San Jose. It had been recommended by the place we were volunteering at later in the trip. It was cheap (but cash only!) and cheerful, and included a breakfast where we both gorged on fresh fruit. We ate a lot of fresh fruit on this trip.

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Breakfast on the terrace at Brilla Sol

The Brilla Sol is behind a big iron gate, which was a bit scary, but most businesses in this area seemed to be surrounded by fences, gates, barbed wire, or some combination of the above. The Brilla Sol was close to the main airport, but not so close to Pavas airport, so we spent a fair amount of time in a taxi during rush hour, both relieved we weren’t driving.

Once at Pavas airport, they weighed our luggage, our carry-ons, and us. Yes, the plane is that small. We had a bit too much luggage, but we’re both small people so I think the airline clerk was nice to us and didn’t charge us for being over on baggage. We had some great views of the country as we flew over it:

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At Quepos, the adventure began. We had arranged our rental car through Alamo, who had been recommended by Oxygen. There was a man with an Alamo truck at the Quepos ‘airport’ (really just a Quonset hut by a small airstrip). Hm, we hadn’t rented a truck. Turns out Alamo was all out of cars, but Elvis was here to drive us to Oxygen, and would drop off a car for us at the resort as soon as one was available.

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We were at Oxygen by 10:30am and it. was. amazing. Our room wasn’t ready, but the staff was very welcoming, so we basked poolside with fresh fruit smoothies until the room was ready. Really, we would have just put our stuff down in the room and come out to bask anyway, so it didn’t bother us in the least. As we had no car, we spent the day basking, lazing, and swimming. Not a bad way to spend the first full day of your honeymoon! And what a view!

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Now before you get too excited about the adventures we had once the intrepid Elvis brought us our car…. it never came. The lovely Oxygen staff kept phoning Alamo for us, and the answer was always ‘Soon!’ Soon never materialized, but it honestly didn’t phase us. We spent some much-needed down time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We ate every meal at Oxygen, and every meal was amazing. The 5-course surprise dinner menu? Worth it, every time. The wine was also reasonable… we may have polished off a bottle every night we were there!

We did a little more than just lazing by the pool, though. We went on a mini-hike to a waterfall on Oxygen’s property:

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We saw some wildlife:

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That is a coati, a bit like a raccoon.

We hung out together in the shade of some lovely umbrellas:

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Umbrella by day

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Umbrella by night

And for a bit of adventure we went down to the village (Uvita) and went on a waterfall rappelling adventure! One of the staff at Oxygen recommended this trip to us and it was awesome. I overheard an older couple the morning before we went saying ‘$80 each is too much to walk down a river! Why would I do that?!’ Let me tell you, this is not walking down a river:

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The trip was run by Costa Canyoning, and I would recommend it over and over! I felt so safe, and it was tons of fun. The guides even had a waterproof camera, and we all got a DVD of photos at the end of the tour. We even had delicious beverages and homemade salsa after all our exertions! The funny part about this excursion was that it was Cinnamon Buns and I and 3 other tourists. The three others were from…. (wait for it)….. Calgary! Small world. If you go on this trip, leave everything at your hotel. EVERYTHING. You do have to swim at some points, plus the water pelting down – not a good combo for things in pockets. Luckily, we both managed to keep our glasses on our faces, although one of those glasses tie things might have made me feel a little more secure. We even left our wedding rings at the hotel, which I think was a good choice. I would have worried to much about losing them to enjoy the excursion!

After that adventure, we had a couple’s massage back at Oxygen, which was an excellent combination.

As our car never appeared we taxied back to Quepos airport. All in all, not having the car saved us money, as we only had to pay for the taxi back to Quepos ($80). I did have a moment of worry when the driver who picked us up at the resort stopped at the crossroads in town, got out, and his friend got in to drive us, but we got there! I’m a little sad we never got to tip Elvis, who was lots of fun on the drive to Oxygen – we assumed we’d be able to do it when he brought us our car.

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In short: I would recommend Oxygen Jungle Villas to anyone and everyone! They aren’t an all-inclusive but we feel that what we paid for everything (room, meals, drinks, massage) was very reasonable. More reasonable that a lot of all-inclusives I researched, even. It’s a beautiful location with a wonderful view that we just didn’t get tired of.

Next up: Slothymoon!

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Sloth self-portrait

The sloths are coming!

Friends have been having fun with us on Facebook lately… our sloth-filled honeymoon to Costa Rica is rapidly approaching!

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This video is one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen.

And that’ll be us soon!

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That will also probably be me soon. :)

Honeymoon Shawl

So way back in the day, before the wedding, I had this crazy idea that I would knit myself a shawl in our wedding colours, teal and green. When I was assessing my works in progress in October, I found it again, and decided that it would be a great thing to take on our honeymoon. I could wrap up in it on the plane, use it when it gets cooler in the evenings, and it is a bit like having a piece of our wedding day there, colour-wise. I thought all these thoughts, and then knit myself some mittens, a few hats, and even designed P his own special hat. At the end of January, I realized that if I wanted to take it on our honeymoon, I better get knitting.

Potager is constructed by making two identical halves, and them sewing them together at the end. I finished one half quite quickly, as the edging part with the beads was already done from earlier in the year:

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I worked on this half every spare moment I had, and when I was done, I started the second half. That went pretty quickly for a while, but doing the 60-row edging chart twice was quite daunting, and I slowed down near the end of it. Now I’m on the easier column section, but I keep finding other things to do when I should be knitting. I think I was going so fast earlier that I’ve knitted myself out.

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I want a shawl that is about 60″-64″ long, and currently the one half I have done is measuring at 24″. I thought that would be fine, because everything stretches out when you block it – my Evenstar grew huge after a good bath and a good stretch! It was about when I lost the knitting mojo when I remembered that the teal yarn I am using is 100% silk and won’t block out like wool does. I should really try blocking the one half to see how much (if any) it grows, and to see if I need to add a few more repeats to it, and the one I’m currently knitting. The good thing is that all those stitches are still live and easy to knit on to, as you kitchener stitch it together in the middle.
honeymoonshawl2ndhalf2Luckily, I’m getting a lot of knitting time at work lately, and I make sure that the only thing I bring to amuse me then is the knitting, so I have some ‘captive’ knitting time. It will definitely get done, if the silk blocks out bigger. If I need to knit 6″ more on both ends, I’m not so sure.

Any tips on blocking 100% silk? Will it GROW?

Keeping it different

One of the things that has been exciting me the most about our upcoming honeymoon to Costa Rica is that it will be a totally different culture. A different language, even! While I have traveled, I’ve traveled from Canada to England and the USA. Yes, very different countries, and different cultures, but not different in the way I’m expecting Costa Rica to be different. It’s one of the reasons that when we decided to go somewhere tropical, Hawaii was never on the list. I want to try / see / experience totally different things!

Why then, do I find myself thinking thoughts like:

“Ooh, I should remember to pack some of our favourite tea bags!”

“Maybe a box or two of granola bars for snacks?”

Luckily, I hadn’t gotten as far as wondering if I should pack 3 weeks worth of cereal, but that isn’t too far off from those original thoughts.

Every time one of those thought bubbles putts its way across my brain, I remind myself that we want this vacation to be different from home. We want to try new things! So what if I don’t drink of cup of Stash’s Meyer Lemon or Green & White tea for 3 weeks? It’ll be waiting here when I get back. I don’t eat granola bars on normal days anyway, why would I drag a box all the way to Costa Rica? It isn’t like they don’t have things like tea or snacks. I want to truly experience the country, be immersed in it. Bringing things like that from home waters that down a bit, I feel.

Responsible Honeymooning

We did the responsible, adult part of our honeymoon prep yesterday: bought travel insurance, and got some vaccinations.

Poor P had a shot in each arm, one for Hepatitis A, and one for tetanus. I just had the tetanus one because I got my Hep A earlier in the year. We’re also both currently on a series of pills to prevent typhoid fever.

We went to a travel clinic, and what I really wanted there was advice on whether we should take any preventative malaria drugs. Reports I find on the internet vs my travel guide vs actual info I have from people living in Costa Rica don’t all agree on whether or not you should prepare yourself against malaria. I decided to trust implicitly in what the travel clinic nurse said. She pointed out the one little area on the map where there is enough risk to recommend taking the drugs. It’s on the Caribbean coast, but north of where we will be. Our area, south of Puerto Limon, just had some hash marks that meant wearing long sleeves at dusk should be enough mosquito protection. I’m happy not to have to take that stuff, because a nurse acquaintance said that some of them can have crazy (literally) side effects, and if we had to take the drugs, to watch for mental problems.

The nurse did say that some studies have been done of the effect of taking the vitamin B6 – it seems to make you less tasty to the mozzies. She did warn us that you can overdose on B6, so to get it through a multivitamin.

The people at the sloth sanctuary we are volunteering at said in their info package that we don’t need to worry about rabies vaccinations, which is also nice. P and I have agreed though, that if you’re slow enough to let a sloth bite you, you probably deserve it.

Yo hablo…. francais?

Our honeymoon to Costa Rica isn’t for a little while, so I’m using the time between now and then to get well-and-truly obsessed prepared. We were accepted into the volunteer program with them knowing neither of us speak Spanish, but I figured it would be a good idea to learn a bit of the language beforehand.

Being Canadian, and us having two official languages up here,Β  I can speak French. Not well, and I understand a lot more than I can speak, but I was taught French in school from kindergarten until grade 12. Reading the backs of cereal boxes, jam jars, and shampoo bottles doesn’t hurt either. But, French is not Spanish, although knowing French does help with some Spanish words.

My mum has a university degree in speaking Spanish, and has spent some time in Spain, so I have a coach on the other end of the phone if I need it too. But being the iPhone-obsessed person that I am, I looked for apps for that.

I downloaded two learn-Spanish apps recently: iStart Spanish! and Living Language – Spanish. The fun thing about iStart Spanish is that there are two Spanish speakers – one from Spain and one from Colombia. This sounded good to me, because I know the difference between trying to understand France-French and Quebecois-French, and wasn’t sure if there would be a similar difference in the different areas of the Spanish-speaking world. So far I have discovered that Costa Rica (maybe all of Central America? I’m not sure) doesn’t have a lisp like the Spanish in Spain does.

I have also purchased Lonely Planet’s guide to Costa Rican Spanish. I think this little phrasebook will be handy to keep in my purse in Costa Rica, and easier to look stuff up in than an app. I really think the apps will help us with learning vocab and especially pronunciation! The book will be great to have for when my brain dries up under pressure. (Like last night, when I couldn’t remember the French word for ‘cat’ of all things. For the record, it is ‘chat’, only one letter different than the English word. I think my brain is disintegrating).

The funny thing is that trying to learn Spanish is making the language centres of my brain churn, and most of the time my brain supplies me with the French phrase or word I’m looking for, but not the Spanish one I’m trying to learn. I realize that where we’ll be we won’t need to know Spanish, but I think it is only polite to try to learn!

Did you honeymoon somewhere that speaks a different language? What do you do when you travel somewhere that doesn’t speak your native language? Do you hope you can get by without, or try to learn at least the basics?

Sleeping with the sloths

(disclaimer – we do not have any kinky relationship with these Sloths. Continue reading to find out what I really mean.)

So we’ve taken our two little summer trips to Portland and Seattle, and it was suddenly time to plan our ‘real’ honeymoon in earnest. In this post, I’d mentioned that we were gunning for Costa Rica, Oxygen Jungle Villas (like two Bees before me), and a trip to the Sloth Sanctuary. Our vision has changed a wee bit, making for the most awesome honeymoon plan ever, I think.

Awesome point #1: We’re going for 3 weeks! I work on a contract basis, and within my contracts there is NO leeway for time off, but I do have a couple 2-3 week gaps this year. Mr CB’s job is a little (but not much) easier to get time off from, and luckily a week that he had no work scheduled coincided with one of the weeks in my gaps, and he was able to get 2 more weeks off. But, 3 weeks is a long time to spend somewhere, wouldn’t hotel and food costs be crazy for that long a time away from home?

Awesome point #2: We’re going to be doing volunteer work for 2 of the weeks we are in Costa Rica. This means we are paying a dirt cheap ‘fee’ per day that will cover accommodation, 3 meals a day, and our laundry being done for us. And most of the money (ie that that doesn’t pay for the cook/laundress) goes to the charity we are working for. Which leads me to….

Awesomest point #3: We’re volunteering at the Sloth Sanctuary. Yes. The place where this video was taken (this was all I needed to see to be convinced that we had to do it):

My favourite part is at 0:19. We both play this video for each other way too much!

Awesome point #4: We’ll have enough time for 3 days at Oxygen Jungle Villas, the place that attracted us to Costa Rica in the first place. If you want to hear more about OJV and things to do nearby, here is a post from Mrs Brooch, and a twoparter from Mrs Lox.

The work we’ll be doing means less cute outfits and more practical hot-weather work-wear, but I’m ok with that. It also helps that all the camping stores in town are having crazy end-of-summer summer sales on “technical” clothing with wicking properties, UV protection, and no-chafe seams.

I personally think it will be fascinating to stay in one place so long in a foreign country, and be working with people who actually live there. I think we’ll get a real locals-eye-view of the place. Cinnamum phoned the other day, concerned that in 20 years when someone asks us what we did for our honeymoon, all we’ll be able to say is ‘shoveled sloth shit’, but I am seriously so looking forward to this. It’s totally different from my original honeymoon goal of sitting around and being brought drinks with umbrellas in them (although we do have our 3 OJV days) but I am more excited about caring for the sloths than I ever was about tiny umbrellas. It’s a total life experience and a chance to do something we have never done before.

Next thing to do: learn some rudimentary Spanish.

Would you consider working on your honeymoon? For a good cause? How about a cute cause?

Shoe Chronicles

The last time I wrote a post squeeing about shoes, they looked like this:

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My Anthropologie wedding shoes.

This time I’m squeeing about shoes of a different type. They look more like this:

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Keen Coronado Sandals

Shoes for our Costa Rican honeymoon! Details of the honeymoon aren’t set in stone yet (soon, hopefully!) but when I found these sandals on sale now, at the end of summer, I snapped them up. They have good soles, an anti-microbial and hydrophobic lining (good in damp places like jungles!), and closed toes so no scary critters can get in.

I’ve tried Keens on before, and never had much luck, but these shoes looked so perfect I decided to give them a try. I tried on my normal size 8, and like all Keens, I felt like my feet were floating around in two boats. They were on a sale table, and there was no 7.5 or 7 in the pile. There was another pair of Keens on sale on a different table – those ones were more like mesh hikers, and didn’t have any fun touches of pink, but I figured I’d need shoes of some sort of Costa Rica, so I picked up a box marked 7 from that pile. When I opened it, it had ‘my’ sandals in it! Destiny! Going a full size down definitely made these shoes fit me properly.

Did you buy any special footwear for your honeymoon? Was it much more glamorous than mine?

Portland Part 2 – Stuff We Didn’t Eat

Here’s the part where I talk about the stuff we did in Portland that didn’t involve food. …. …. well, we had to sleep somewhere, right?

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We stayed at the Kimpton Vintage Plaza. One of the reasons we chose this hotel was we had such a great experience at the Kimpton Serrano Hotel on our San Francisco engagement trip. Another reason we chose this hotel was the amazing ‘Starlight Rooms’. I came into the room and immediately raised the blinds! It was a cityscape view (read, buildings) but I just loved having such huge windows. And, we did get use out of them. It was hot the whole time we were there, so we left them down during the day when we were out, and left them down when we were asleep, but we had a couple evenings sitting on the bed and reading, and that natural light was amazing.

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We had a great experience at the hotel, and would definitely stay here, or at any other Kimpton property again. The hosted wine hour between 5pm-6pm was quite nice too!

All joking aside, we did do other stuff in Portland that did not involve food. The only thing we pre-booked (well, for us. I had all sorts of knitting stuff booked for the day and half I was alone!) was an underground Portland tour. It was fascinating, amazing, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone in Portland. It was a great 1.5 hours, and for only $13! We went through a trapdoor in the sidewalk (!!) and went on a guided tour of the network of tunnels under Portland’s buildings. Shady types would lure/trick/drag strapping young men down there, stick them in cells, and then sell them to any ship’s captain who needed new men. Women were also ‘broken’, smuggled, and sold through the tunnels. It’s something nice-happy-modern-Portland tries to cover up, but there is just so much history down there! There are so many artifacts, and so many that can’t be reached anymore because modern construction has been breaking the links. You can no longer get from 20th Ave to the river underground because of construction. No one has been to the 5th level down that they know exists. Amazing. If I lived in the area, I would be helping them dig. Now, as were were underground, there wasn’t much light, but I did manage an ominous portrait of the Mr:

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We had fun with some of the statuary in downtown Portland:

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Never get between a mother bear and her cubs! Somehow, I made it out alive.

We went to the zoo, which was fun. We went within a half an hour of the zoo opening, which I think was smart for (a) heat reasons, and (b) child reasons. There were scores of kids coming in when we left, and it was getting quite crowded. But when the place wasn’t stuffed with kids, we didn’t feel bad about standing at the front of all the exhibits. Excuse us folks, newlyweds coming through!

We saw a polar bear and his bukkit:

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A crocodile just chillin’:

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A crazy man riding a lion:

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I took the single most impressive photo I have ever taken. It’s the only one I managed to take of this humming bird because there was a gaggle of kids coming around the corner who scared him off. People with fancier cameras will hate me, but this was everything set on auto. And, I ended up not replacing my camera before this trip.

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After the zoo, we went to OMSI, the science centre. It wasn’t somewhere we’d really considered until we were in Portland and saw a billboard with Sonic the Hedgehog on it. Turns out there was a ‘history of video games’ exhibit going on while we were there! So of course we went. Sadly, that was one of the ‘no photos’ area of OMSI, as was the Chronicles of Narnia room we wandered around. But we did see a random mechanical cow with a TV in its side and a plug coming out of its udder with this sign below it:

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Plus, of course, we of the book-themed wedding couldn’t go to Portland and not spend some quality time at Powell’s! No pictures from there, we were a little busy with all the books. We also went to the Saturday Market on (unsurprisingly) Saturday and hung out with one of Mr CB’s gamer friends for a bit. I would totally go back to the Saturday market, there was all sorts of tasty-looking food, great crafts, great music. It was a little busy the day we were there because it was all Beerfest the weekend we were in town, and the beer gardens were very close to the market.

Overall, it was an awesome, chill time with just us two. It was such a great feeling to have that one-on-one time with him, because sure, we’ve spent time together since the wedding, but there’s always laundry or dinner or dishes or something in the back of our minds that needs doing. But just us two on vacation? Bliss! I have high hopes for the other half of our mini-moon, Seattle.

Did you take time to chill on your honeymoon, or structure more stuff for yourselves?

 

What We Ate in Portland

We’re back from our little mini-moon in Portland, Oregon! And if I were to use one word to describe our trip, it would be ‘delicious’. There are just so many great places to eat in Portland. I knew that going in, but it is a whole other thing to know it because your belly is so stretched out with tasty tasty meals. This is going to be a not-so-little post about what we ate, and later I’ll do one about the rest of the trip. :)

Thursday:

I arrived at 2pm or so (sans Mr CB, he joined me Friday night. Yes, this was the plan. Sock conference, remember?) and I was starving. I had seen Brunchbox on Food Network ages ago, and decided I needed to go, so that is the first place I went for food on this trip. I decided I just couldn’t face a burger with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns, so I had a BLT. Their Texas toast is delicious, and the bacon so crispy! Yum! That was my dinner too, it was so big.

Friday:

Breakfast – Scone and an iced tea from the Peets next to the hotel. Good, but nothing to write home about.

Lunch – Some knitters and I explored the food carts. I can rarely make the adult choice when faced with sweet and savoury options, so I had this for lunch:

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Why yes, that is a fresh waffle filled with Nutella and organic raspberry jam (it’s called the ‘Black Forest’) from the FlavourSpot on 3rd and Ash.

I felt a little guilty about having that for lunch, so I got something tasty and vegan from Sonny Bowl after, but only had the room to eat half of it (and I ordered the half size!).

Dinner – I made some new BFFs at Sock Summit the night before, and bumped into them Friday around 5pm. They were going to Pok Pok, did I want to come? Um, only since I saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives 6 months ago! We went to Pok Pok Noi, as one of my new BFFs had a car.

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Papaya Pok Pok! Delicious, but much much spicier than I expected. MUCH spicier. I ate all that cabbage on the side and a bowl of rice trying to cool my mouth down. Dessert really helped:

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Mango coconut sticky rice. I also had a salted plum vodka collins. It was… salty. To be fair, the guy at the bar warned me that it would be salty – he said some people are surprised when they get theirs. It was good, I’m glad I ordered something more than my usual vodka & cran, but I don’t know that I’d order it again. I definitely wouldn’t order more than one in a night (because of the salty factor, not the alcohol factor).

Saturday:

Breakfast – Cinnamon Buns was with me now! We wanted to go somewhere for breakfast, so I turned to Google maps. A place called ‘The Original‘ showed up as near our hotel, and they served breakfast, so we headed off. And by ‘off’ I mean two blocks away. And now, I just have to show you the pictures.

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Cinnamon Buns had the Mac & Cheese pancakes, and I had the creme brulee French toast. Have I ever told you that my favourite breakfast food is French toast (I was very close to being Miss French Toast at one point!)? How about the fact that creme brulee is my favourite dessert? What about the happy mac & cheese-induced comas we regularly put ourselves into? Yes, this was our dream breakfast place. I’m a little sad we didn’t get to go back so I could have the Fruit Loop pancakes. And the bacon waffles. We really wished they had a pancake sampler plate with one of each. I’m a little picky about what I eat for breakfast, and the burnt sugar taste that is so tasty at dessert time with creme brulee was on the edge of what I wanted for breakfast, but I still licked my plate clean. Cinnamon Buns, shock of shocks, couldn’t finish his pancakes! There was actual macaroni cooked into the pancakes, which made it as filling as 3 pancakes + a bowl of mac & cheese, so I guess I can’t fault him.

Lunch – Are you kidding? After that breakfast?!

Dinner – We spent dinner at H50 Bistro, with a gaggle of knitterly friends celebrating a birthday. Cinnamon Buns had way more fun than he thought he would (we don’t talk about knitting all the time!) and the food was, unsurprisingly, amazing.

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Wild Mushroom fondue. Luckily, we ran out of crostini, so we finished it with the spoon they so nicely include on the plate.

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On the ltop, my main course: TAGLIATELLE – Oregon spot prawns, lemon red chile, scallion, adelsheim vineyards pino gris butter. Only they were out of spot prawns, so the option on the menu was for a vegetarian dish with lots of mushrooms and veggies. On the bottom, Cinnamon Buns’ main course: OREGON KING SALMON – sweet potato ravioli, zucchini, cherry tomato, rosemary, sage, beurre fondue. The ravioli were to die for!

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Hello, chevre cheesecake with strawberry rhubarb puree, granny smith, rhubarb confetti. The ‘confetti’ are little homemade gummies! It was amazing, and because it was chevre (goat) cheesecake, I didn’t get the unhappy belly that (cow) dairy products give me.

All the pictures of this dinner are blurry because of this:

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Cinnamon Blood Orange Margarita. I could do with one as I’m writing this post up, actually.

Sunday:

Breakfast/Lunch – yeah, we had a late meal this morning. A late, delicious meal at Kenny & Zukes. Sadly, the latkes had run out just before we went to order, so we both had to pick fall-back choices. And the fallbacks? Scrumptious.

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Mr CB looking very pleased with his pastrami hash.

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My mushroom and caramelized onion Benedict. Both these plates were clean very soon after the photo, and as you can see, they smelled so good it took us a while to remember the camera!

Dinner – good Italian comfort food at Mama Mia Trattoria. I ate so much gnocchi I almost felt a little ill on the walk back to the hotel. And I only ate about half the plate that came. It was here that we had the ‘Portion sizes really are bigger in America, aren’t they?’ discussion (H50 excluded, but they were doing the fancy-restaurant-tiny-plates thing, which worked out to just the amount I wanted to eat).

Monday:

Breakfast – I had a pain au chocolate, and Mr CB had a muffin in the bakery attached to hour hotel’s restaurant. (Yes, we apparently decided to nosh our way through the brunch Bee generation!).

Lunch – Sushi and some General Tsao chicken from a food cart on Stark, right by Mother’s, a restaurant we didn’t get to. My sushi had salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, and the cream cheese added a great tang to it.

Dinner – Pizza from Pizzicato, an awesome little pizza joint that we noticed to be near our hotel. Turns out they’re all over Portland, but they started as a mom-and-pop pizza place in 1989. We had the ‘Rudy’ with caramelized onions, lamb sausage, mascarpone cheese, and green onions.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – the only meal we ate in our hotel restaurant! Pancakes and French toast, very nice. Is it time to burst yet?

Nobody Puts Costa Rica in the Corner

I revealed our two mini-moons, and if you read my original post on honeymoon criteria, you may have noticed that neither destination has “…beach, sunshine, and people to bring me drinks with umbrellas in them all day long…” Don’t worry hive, I didn’t give up my dreams that easily.

Once we decided to take two little trips this summer, we thought we’d postpone Costa Rica until later this year/early next year. Do you know what this means? This means that we will be going somewhere warm in the winter. Let me say that again in case you missed it: WARM in the WINTER. It might be my fault for living where I do, but I spend the majority of winter whining about how cold it is, how much I hate cold, hate snow, hate my snowboots, hate my puffy down coat, hate the windchill… you get the picture.

To give you a hint about what bothers me so much, here are some visual aids:

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Pretty, yes. Also FREAKING COLD. You can tell it is FREAKING COLD because I’m standing on a lake. (Lake Louise, for the curious.)

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Exhibit B: I took this photo the night Cinnamon Buns and I got together. Our dating anniversary is June 18. No, that was not a typo, I did mean June. (The picture was taken in Banff.)

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Exhibit C: This was my birthday morning this year. I’m an Aries, so I’ll let you figure that one out.

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This is 3am after the stumble home from birthday / closing night beverages at the bar, and an impromptu snowball fight. (Cinnamon Buns made a snow angel, and walking by it every day for the next week did make me smile).

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More fresh snow on my walk to work, April 14th, 2011 (that taxi is photobombing me!).

So if you consider winter as ‘months in which it snows’ our winter is September – May (with the odd freak snow or hail storm June – August). The worst part is definitely November – February though. We walk to work every day, no matter the temperature or the conditions, so I walk to work in -35C some weeks in the winter. Luckily, although we’re still getting snow now it at least isn’t that cold anymore. Calgary also gets these awesome warm winds in the winter that warm the whole city up 20C in a day, but that isn’t the point! If you want more Calgary climate data, here’s a handy little table on Wikipedia.

The point is that once I thought about it, it seemed silly to go somewhere warm while it was warm here. Why not actually make good on all those “next year I’m spending winter in the WARM!” whines I have, and do it for reals? We’re not certain exactly when we’re going, or for how long, but this year we will escape the grossness for at least a week! I expect to cry at the airport when we get back. We’re not planning on planning any of that trip until after the wedding though – my head might essplode. I’m already looking forward to it, and anticipating the joy of packing shorts into a suitcase while wearing two sweaters and my woolly socks with the thermostat cranked.

Did weather influence your honeymoon?

(heh, I just realised that I did a whole post about Costa Rica with only snowy photos!)

Love Me, Love My Hobbies

As I have already covered, I am a knitter. With my Stampede ribbon, sometimes I wonder if I now qualify as a Knitter, but that’s just semantics.

Mr Cinnamon Bun is a Gamer. While I play some silly, fun games (Mario Kart, Katamari, Angry Birds) every now and then, he games almost daily.

In 2009 we each went on summer vacation. Separately! We’d never travelled together (our San Francisco engagement trip in 2010 was the first time) so why did we choose to take separate vacations in 2009? Answer: our hobbies.

Early in 2009 I heard rumours through the knitting grapevine that a major event was being planned in Portland, Oregon, and any self-respecting knitter would do all they could to make it. The event was Sock Summit, and I had a 100% A-mazing time there. I was in Portland for 4 days, I took amazing classes from the glitterati of the knitting world, spent waaaay too much on yarn, knit on the MAX, knit at Burgerville… It was sock-knitting Woodstock. Cinnamon Buns didn’t come with me because he cares about knitting about as much as I care about gaming (in that it is good, because it makes my partner happy!).

2009 also marks the first year that Cinnamon Buns made it to PAX – a huge gaming festival (not just computers, tabletop too!) in Seattle. He drove down with a few guy friends and had a great time talking games non-stop for 3 days. I didn’t go because, well, I will sit through a sushi dinner with him and Best Man L talking games and computers non-stop, but 3 solid days seemed a little much. Plus, I had to work that weekend.

I found out that Sock Summit was going to be repeated in 2011, and as soon as physically possible I phoned up and booked into the same slightly dive-y inn near the convention centre that I stayed at in 2009. All I cared about was being less than two blocks from the convention centre, and having somewhere to store the mountain of yarn I was going to buy (don’t ask me about the mountain of yarn from the last Sock Summit and haven’t knit yet). Then we started talking honeymoons and I realised that our potential honeymoon plans might prevent me from going back to Portland, either through the budget, or timing. Cinnamon Buns wasn’t sure if he’d make it PAX this year because of the same reasons.

As all our honeymoon ideas fell through one by one, I joked that he could take me to Sock Summit for our honeymoon. He said he’d been thinking about. Say what?! That’s when we decided that maybe the best honeymoon for us would be two mini-moons this summer, so neither of us has to miss the events we’d so been looking forward to!

Now that Portland was my honeymoon, I started researching hotels. The hotel I had booked already was fine for sharing with a roommate and filling with yarn, but if Cinnamon Buns and I were making it our honeymoon, I wanted something nicer. I also wanted to see more of Portland than just the two blocks between the convention centre and Burgerville. We came up with a shortlist of 3 hotels to stay at in the downtown area:

Image via the Ace Hotel‘s website

Image via the Vintage Plaza‘s website

Image via The Nines‘ website

The picture from the Vintage Plaza is of one of their ‘Starlight Rooms’ – 45-degree conservatory windows throughout the whole suite (yes, they all have blinds too πŸ˜‰ ) I read somewhere that the Vintage Plaza is in an old department-store building, and that’s why they have those windows. I saw those rooms early on in the search and pined over them, but they were too expensive. Last week we sat down with both our schedules and figured out exactly which dates we will spend in each city, and then agreed that that night we’d book both hotels. I checked the Vintage Plaza again and there must have been an aligning of the planets (and discounts) because the Starlight room was now in our budget! After debating briefly between that and a room at The Nines, we went with the Starlight room at the Vintage Plaza just for the wow-factor of the room. I loved the look of the Ace, but feel that I’m probably not hip enough to stay there. πŸ˜‰

I’m happy to be staying at another Kimpton hotel – we stayed at the Serrano in San Francisco and the service was wonderful, and the decor amazing. I have high hopes for the Vintage Plaza!

In Seattle we will be staying at the Red Lion on 5th Avenue:

Image via the Red Lion‘s website

Near the convention centre, and Pike Place Market!

We’re both really excited to be returning to “our” events, and also excited to share them with each other. I’ve agreed to wander the trade floor at PAX with him, and he’s going to be my yarn sherpa in the Marketplace at Sock Summit. We are also going to explore both cities more than we ever did on the last trips, we’re staying extra days before on one trip and after on another, as well as not committing to going to everything on offer at our respective conventions.

Yes, we will visit Powell’s in Portland. Portland made such a great impression on me two years ago that I can’t wait to share what little I know about the city with Cinnamon Buns, and discover new things with him. I think he feels the same way about Seattle! I haven’t been to Seattle since high school, and that was (the reunion group on Facebook keeps reminding me) *ahem* 10 years ago.

Did your hobbies play a part in choosing a honeymoon? Have you ever been to a similar convention? (If you have a passion I totally recommend it!)

So Many Options, So Little $$

Soon after Cinnamon Buns proposed, we tossed around a few ideas for our honeymoon.We knew we’d both have time off in the summer to go places, as theatres tend not to run during the summer, thus putting us artsy types out of our regular work. At this point, we could book our honeymoon any time in July and August and not have any conflicts. Sadly, we can’t afford to go anywhere for two months, I need some time to come back and temp in some office to pay for it!

My original criteria were that I wanted the beach, sunshine, and people to bring me drinks with umbrellas in them all day long. He thought that sounded fun, but was also thinking much bigger than I was. What about somewhere we’d always wanted to go? Make it a huge trip? Egypt! Or Japan! Then the year went on, and we decided that maybe we should wait until Egypt settles down a bit. Then, more recently, the earthquake in Japan happened, so we’ll put off that trip for a few more years.

I was happily researching all-inclusives in Jamaica, Mexico, and Costa Rica when Cinnamon Buns said ‘What about New Zealand?’. I laughed and said ‘I’d drag you on a hobbit tour or 12!’. He said he knew that any trip to New Zealand with me would include hobbit tours (my geekiness has even been documented on WeddingBee). :) So for a while I forgot about sun and sand and started looking at hotels like this:

Image via Lord of the Rings Tours

We were really excited about this option for a while and I was completely ready to give up my visions of beaches and drink umbrellas for hobbitses and elves, but then I realised that our wedding (and time off) is in the summer. Here. Summer here is winter there. We get so little summer here anyway that missing our summer in favour of winter elsewhere was silly. New Zealand is also a much longer flight than Cinnamon Buns realised. Like, travel for 20+ hours far away, and $2000+ each for flights. It’s sad, but I put the idea of New Zealand on the back burner. (And a month later, New Zealand was hit by a quake…. I’m starting to wonder if I have terrible, terrible superpowers?)

For a while I tried to convince him that our own private island was the way to go:

Image from the Royal Belize

Seriously, you get the whole island! To just lounge and eat and read and soak up the sun in our swimsuits! But that option was too expensive, and I think Mr CB thought it’d be a little too low-key. He’s much more social than I am, where I could very easily hole up on an island paradise and not care about not seeing other people for two weeks. Sadly, this option was also too expensive.

Then the fabulous Miss (now Mrs!) Brooch posted about her honeymoon, and how they were considering Oxygen Jungle Villas. I fell head-over-heels in love with Oxygen, and so did Cinnamon Buns. It was the right amount of reclusive and relaxing and active and social. We could lounge on our own balcony, or by the pool, but we could eat in a restaurant with other people. Not to mention all the ziplining and hiking and other stuff you can do in Costa Rica!

Then I found out that sloths are native to Costa Rica (well, not this one). I joked that I wanted to go to a sloth petting zoo. Then, while Googling “sloth petting zoo”, I found the Slothpital. It is really called the Sloth Sanctuary, but they have a slothpital onsite for little injured sloths. Talk about cute overload! It was now our goal to go to Costa Rica, laze at Oxygen for a week or so, and make sure to visit the sloths before we left. We were so in love with the place we actually went out and bought the Moon guide to Costa Rica before booking anything. I did some research and found out that June/July is considered rainy season in CR. I didn’t mind the idea of going in the rainy season, because most websites claimed it wasn’t that bad, and would only rain later in the day. I also thought rainy season meant that I would find great deals on flights.

I thought wrong. It was March, and travel agents were offering $500 deals to Costa Rica for the next month, yet when I tried to find flights in June/July, flights were twice that (or more) and always included more layovers. Apparently rainy season doesn’t mean cheap flights, it means less flights. Easier/cheaper flights to places like that is something that makes me rather jealous of Americans. Although, I suppose I can get to Cuba easier. That doesn’t make it up in my mind though.

All those trials and tribulations, plus I already had plans for a trip (by myself!) in summer of 2011 before we got engaged! All that, and our (semi)-final decisions next.

How hard was it to choose your honeymoon destination?