In my previous post I got all nostalgic about summer and highlighted 7 spectacular spots from my summer months in British Columbia – but even though I’m happily embracing Autumn (complete with at least 7 pairs of boots to assist me) I’m still singing the praises of some of last season’s most special memories.
Here are my top 7 secret summertastic spots selected from my last few months’ travels in Europe and Central America…
I touched down in London Town, Ljubljana, Slovenia and explored 3 different aspects of Costa Rica this summer, these are the 7 places that stuck out for their sun-drenched secret awesomeness.
1. Secret Parks; Returning to my childhood sweet spot on Hampstead Heath, London
Hampstead Heath is my absolute favourite green space in Central London. Well, after Regent’s Park. And Hyde Park. Ok for a metropolis of 8 million people London has an incredible amount of beautiful parkland.
But Hampstead Heath will always hold a special place in my heart, it is the park I’d walk through on my way to school while growing up. It’s also a great place for a celeb spot – in fact its where I broke up with my first serious boyfriend, which went like this (for real): ‘I’m gonna really miss y…wait a minute is that Micheal Palin?…’
So I was chuffed to go for a picnic there this summer to celebrate the birthday of one of my travel blogger pals Jen of She Gets Around, and catch up with the London blogging crew. I have a couple of specific secret sunbathing spots on the heath from my years of hanging out there – but if I told you exactly where they were I’d have to kill you.
2. Secret swot; Happening Upon An Outdoor Library in Ljubljana
One of the best things about exploring a new city, especially a walkable one like Ljubljana, is discovering totally unexpected nooks and crannies – and what could be any more unexpected than a hidden library set in a park, built inside Roman Walls?
It turned out that this Library Under Treetops was just one of a host of secret summer spots dotted around the city where you can doze, laze and read in the summer shade – my only question is why aren’t they doing this is ALL cities?
3. Secret Cycling; Pedalling Around An Alternative Artists’ District in Ljubljana
Combining a bunch of things I love here – cycling, sunshine, and of course hanging out with Monica aka The Travel Hack, all while discovering a new city and finding that city’s artistic underbelly.
Ljubljana turned out to be the perfect place to escape to for a summer weekend but the icing on the weekend-break-cake was the fact that this pint-sized city has it’s own alternative district, Metelkova which is a great place to spot street art by day, and to return to and party in by night.
4. Secret sweat; Practicing Yoga at a beach side retreat in Costa Rica’s Puerto Jimanez
After years of putting it off I finally tried a yoga retreat this summer, and what a place to re-connect with my inner yogi Blue Osa turned out to be.
Now that I’ve practiced my postures with yogi Aaron in his own eco-chic treetop studio accompanied by a view of the waves crashing on the deserted beach outside I’m not sure how rolling out my yoga mat in the sweaty confines of my local recreation centre with a view of the car park can measure up, but if my time at Blue Osa taught me anything it’s that you can find Dalai Lama-level wisdom and inspiration anywhere if you’re just willing to look for it.
5. Secret sea-life; Releasing Baby Turtles into the Ocean
On my previous trip to Costa Rica such was my devotion to the prospect of seeing sea turtles that I stayed up all night on a turtle watching excursion hoping to spot these endangered creatures.
Turtles come onto the beach to lay their eggs based on the cycles of the moon and sadly for myself and my group this particular moon coincided with New Years’ Eve and the turtles, probably scared off by the sound of nearby fireworks, were a New Year no-show.
So I was beyond delighted to live out the lifelong dream of interacting with turtles on the southern beaches of the Osa Peninsula where two species of nesting turtles(Olive Ridley and Black or Pacific Green turtles) return year after year to lay their eggs.
While carefully placing each baby turtle onto the beach for it to begin it’s journey we’re taught that their survival rates are close to 1 in 1000, a disheartening statistic but still ultimately a heart-warming experience.
Each of us I’m sure secretly hoped ours would be the one to beat the odds, and make it back to this very beach to lay its own eggs one day.
6. Secret San Jose; Finding A Rainbow in the city
On my first visit to Costa Rica I eschewed the capital altogether in favour of spending my pre-flight night out of San Jose airport in the nearby yet somehow world’s away town of San Ramon, and on this my second visit to the country I dipped my toe into the Tico metrolpolis for a few brief hours – only to discover that it was Mother’s Day and everything was closed.
Que sera that’s how travelling goes sometimes, but in a city which is shut down in deference to its mamas and grandmas (kudos to them for that) you can still find beauty in unexpected places; my favourite moment from my day in Costa Rica’s elusive city was probably spotting this rainbow extending outward from behind one of the colonial-style buildings, reminding you that if you keep your eyes open you can often find something joyful even in the pouring rain.
7. Secret swinging; Canyon Adventure in Costa Rica
I came to Rio Perdido to try all the outdoor options the thermal river setting could throw at me – the canyon adventure is a sort of extreme zip-lining circuit involving skinny suspension bridges and rope swings.
I’ve been zip-lining before, in France and Canada so knew that I’d enjoy the experience, but here the addition of a Tarzan-style swing really elevated the experience (terrible pun I know) – the bit where Jane (that’s me) gets pushed back and forth on the swing over a giant precipice, instead of being caught by my guide as promised is hilarious – and doubly so to the people watching from the overhead platform.
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