Monday, May 30, 2016

Montezuma, Costa Rica

We left San Luis early in the morning for our long drive through dirt roads to Puntarenas where we caught a 70 min ferry ride to Paquera, (cars cost $24) from there we could drive to Montezuma, all the way at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. We left with clean laundry & smiling faces, as most of you know when you are backpacking for 5 weeks, clean clothes can be hard to come by. The sun was setting as we reached Paquera which meant more driving in the dark, I knew this would be trouble for us as navigating roads in the dark is always so much fun (not). We found that GPS just didn't cut it for Costa Rica so we rented this dongle you can carry with you providing you with unlimited internet. We used it on the beach, by the pool, in the car, it is well worth it. People told us we would need a 4x4 for Montezuma because of river crossings, I was worried about this. Sure enough google maps takes you the fastest route possible & that means an actual river crossing. In the dark, you have no idea how deep it is. A jeep comes across, he tells me to stay to the left where he came from, I should be able to make it in my car but to be careful. It's night, not a sinner around & I chance it twice, the wheels start sticking so I reverse quickly. If we get stuck, we might not get a car passing to pull us out. I opt out & decide to head back to the main road thinking surely there's another way because buses drive to the town. Once I started back on the main paved road she re routed us & of course there is another way, it may be 10mins longer but I certainly do not need a 4x4 for this.In fact there are about 3 or 4 ways to get there so don't let the rental places fool you into thinking you HAVE to go through that river crossing. We arrived around 9pm into this magical town, fairy lights dotted the one small road into the village. It was so cute & we happened to be staying a 5min walk away in the Los Mangos Hotel & Bungalows, so I wouldn't need the car much at all. Once we stepped out of the air conditioned car, the first thing you notice is the heat & humidity, I was loving this after a cold/rainy Monteverde. Our bungalow was dark but its cool & clean. You can hear the sound of monkeys scurrying on your roof from time to time. The staff are nice, there is only internet at the front reception unless you have the dongle like us, the pool is perfect & the added bonus of morning/evening yoga classes is great.

Monteverde is well known by backpackers and eco tourists. It seems like a lazy, enjoyable town with lots of nature activities as well as yoga and spa retreats. It is the ultimate place for a time out.We spent our first evening strolling through the town & we ate dinner at Cocolores which was delicious. Their curries are epic. That night, I slept hard after the long drive. We spent our first day having breakfast in town, soaking up the sun on the beach, reading, swimming, reading by the pool, lying in hammocks. That afternoon we went about 10miles down the road to see the biggest strangler tree in Costa Rica. You can see from the photo exactly how big it was. That evening our hotel had an outdoor yin yoga session, so we joined it. Yin is more about stretching & long holds. It was quite nice, except for the odd mosquito bite. For dinner we went to this artsy beach spot across from our bungalow. We waited a full 45mins just to see a menu, because there are only 2 menus in the whole place.

Up at 8am & out the door for our trip to Isla Tortuga. After a 40mins boat ride we were snorkeling along rocks & reefs in crystal clear water, with some of the prettiest, colourful fish. We snorkeled for 2 hrs & then headed to Isla Tortuga for a bbq lunch of fresh fish. We read, swam and just lounged here for hours. It is so gorgeous there & the water is a mix of greeny blue & crystal clear & warm, so warm. It saddens me that I don't have photos from here because I was afraid to bring my camera with all the snorkeling & water. No one lives on this island except a few chickens & peacocks.

After 2hrs in the blistering sun & it was only 11.30am, I wonder how hot it will actually get here. The hottest part of the day still to come but the sand is not touchable without shoes & the mercury reads 35deg. Farah hides in the shade of the trees, a while later I join her & devour Mindy Kaling's book. It's funny, real funny. I finished it by 1pm & that's when I decided I needed ice cream, I thought I was melting from the inside/out. The day continued like all days in this town. Reading, swimming in the pool, eating fresh fruit, massages & the daily quest for where to eat dinner. It's a rough life. Things got interesting at dinner. A group of American girls were seated near us. They grabbed the attention of every customer by being obnoxiously loud & rude to the waitstaff. One girl repeatedly said she was going to punch the waiter in the face, he had a smug look. The atmosphere in the room changed with all their aggression & calling him an asshole at every chance. Later, I find out the one girl who is seething with rage is dating the waiter & her friends were visiting. So the plot thickened. I have no idea what he did or what the story was but he should have removed them for causing such a stir in the restaurant.

So our adventure came to an end for Montezuma. It was some of the best food we ate in Costa Rica though. If I ever went back, I would definitely do the deep sea fishing tour.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Anita & Mike, Ballyseedy Castle, Ireland

I was absolutely delighted to get an email from Anita asking me to be her wedding photographer. This would be my first destination wedding across the pond to Ireland. I would finally be going home & shooting a wedding, a dream I longed for. I know Anita from secondary school, we were in the same year & had the same friends. Her closest friends & two of her sisters were my basketball buddies. Her sister Mags, had the pleasure of sitting next to me in French class for a year. Knowing that I would see a lot of old friends at her wedding had me reeling with excitement.

I arrived in Ireland just before Paddy's day & the wedding was the following day. I was nervous about the weather, it being in Ireland where it never stops raining but someone must have left a child of Prague or even a dozen under a bush, because we got an absolute cracker of a day. As I got lost looking for Anita's house that morning, because Irish addresses are something else lads, you won't believe it till you try it, her dad saved me by coming to my aid. I entered a house full of joy & laughter. After recognising so many wonderful faces all at once, I knew instantly this was going to be a fantastic day. Anita was as cool as a breeze, just taking it all in her stride. Her dress & jewellery hanging in her room. Mom helped her get ready, buttoning carefully. Her bridesmaids faces dropped when they saw her emerge from the room. Out in Ballyseede castle, Mike was popping bottles of champers with his bestmen. Jokes, suits, shoes, watches, cufflinks & boutonnière's filled the room. Family members popped in & out to see all the goings-on.

The ceremony was held at St John's church, Tralee. It brought back tons of memories, that was our school church, many a mass had been held there. The priest, a close friend of the family was witty & spoke highly of Anita & Mike. After we headed to Ballyseede for the reception. Ballyseede is a 1590's castle with a forest and lawns. The old stables are now converted into the dining room where the reception was held. There are two drawing rooms, a bar & a breakfast room. There is a lot of chatter that this is also one of Ireland's most haunted hotels but to be honest, we didn't see nor hear a thing. We opted to do our couple portraits around the gardens of ballyseede, because the day was so perfect & the setting was gorgeous. Anita & Mike were simply wonderful & very easygoing, gems of clients to work with. You two looked so happy during our shoot that it would make any couple envious. After hearing your speeches, how you met, your love for each other & your families, you had people in tears & it continued when both of yer fathers took over to wow the crowds with stories that left laughter ringing for days.

Anita & Mike, thank you so much for trusting us with your big day & for giving me my first wedding in Ireland.

Second Shooter - Farah Khan // Dress - Justin Alexander// Suit - Canali// Florist - Every Occasions// Rings - Appleby Dublin// Make Up - Mary Kelly, Tralee// Shoes - Minx, Tralee// Jewellery - Chupi//