Our Favorite Meal in Costa Rica: Gallo Rojo, Escazu, Costa Rica

Whether it was COVID related, that we didn’t know what to order, or that it was the holidays, we did not have the best food on our trip to San Jose and La Fortuna, Costa Rica (someone tell me where to go next time!). But, we did have an absolutely fabulous dinner on my birthday at a restaurant in Escazu called Gallo Rojo, or the Red Rooster.

Gallo Rojo.

Gallo Rojo is a casual eatery with indoor and outdoor seating, although even indoor is “open air” in the Western neighborhood of Escazu. There is parking on site, but we took an Uber from our hotel, the Sheraton San Jose. We had made a reservation in advance via messaging the restaurant on Instagram, one of my favorite ways to make restaurant reservations in foreign countries where I don’t speak the language! Luckily our reservation was all set and we were seated at a lovely table outside.

The menu at Gallo Rojo is a mix of Costa Rican and Asian dishes, and it was all excellent. And before you think that’s really strange, the owner’s father is Costa Rican and his mother is Tiawanese, so he knows both cuisines very well. He also studied in Argentina and Los Angeles and has worked at known restaurants world wide. Its no surprise that this place is good. The food is also shareable, so Dan and I split a few dishes over the course of the evening.

Fried chicken Bao bun.

Now, for the good stuff! Dan and I started our dinner with the house sangria. The sangria was very good and not at all sweet, which is just how we like it.

Birthday Sangria!

Thereafter, we ordered several dishes, our favorites of which were the civiche, the dumplings, and pork belly and fried chicken Bao buns! My very favorite was the fried chicken Bao bun. It was just really, really tasty!

Pork dumplings.

Pork Belly Bao bun.

Ceviche.

Fried Bao bun numero dos.

Our favorite part of the meal, however, was our drive home. Unknown to us, San Jose imposed a 9 PM curfew between Christmas and New Years, during which time Uber cannot operate. Well, we just missed the Uber deadline and taxis were no where to be found. Luckily, the owner drove us home to the Sheraton Escazu! Now that is birthday service!!

STEAL OUR DINNER

ON A BUDGET

While cheaper food can certainly be found in Escazu (and even more so in San Jose proper), Gallo Rojo is quite reasonable.

Spending My 37th Birthday in San Jose, Costa Rica!

My birthday is the day after Christmas and since it often gets bundled with that holiday, I like to really celebrate (otherwise, it just gets lost). We usually do not go away for my actual birthday due to its proximity to Christmas, but this year, since Christmas was largely cancelled (thanks, COVID), we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on Christmas evening and were there to properly celebrate my birthday on the 26th!

Christmas wine in JFK Terminal 5. They have really relaxed the drinking situation in T5 during COVID.

The day started out with complimentary breakfast at our hotel, the Sheraton San Jose, which is actually located in the ex-pat friendly suburb of Escazú. I was pleased that were were seated outdoors on an open-air terrace and the weather was gorgeous – sunny and about 70 F (21 C). I was even more pleased to learn that the hotel breakfast was totally delicious and honestly, some of the best food we had on the trip (spoiler alert, we did not love Costa Rican food). For my big birthday breakfast, I had the tastiest cappuccino and a plate of proper rice and beans, plantains, sausage, taquitos, and the most amazing chicken quesadilla-like thing in a yellow sauce, all topped with a spicy red salsa. Birthday off to a great start!

Excellent start to year 37. The quesadilla thing was amazing. I definitely had seconds!

Costa Rican cappuccino.

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Straight From The Plane: Our Morning At The Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

Of course when Dan and I traveled to Iceland last year (pre-pandemic), we paid a visit to the Blue Lagoon. I mean, how could we not? Its one of Iceland’s most well-known tourist attractions and those pictures look just plain stunning. I know, I know. Some “cool” kids think its too touristy for a visit, but I totally disagree. Especially after visiting. After all, you are a tourist for a reason! In any case, there is a ton of information about the Blue Lagoon on the world wide web, but I’m sharing our experience for those planning trips and looking for more than a simple overview of the Blue Lagoon. Happy geothermal water bathing!

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Blue Lagoon pre-sunrise.

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A Gourmet Foodie Tour of the Golden Circle in Iceland!

Dan and I went to Iceland exactly one year ago, in February 2020 over Valentine’s Day(!), and despite being kept inside for an entire day due to Storm Dennis, we had a fantastic time. Since our main hobby is eating and drinking, we obviously joined a food tour in Iceland – 2 in fact! One of these was a full day private Golden Circle Gourmet tour with Magical Iceland. This tour is most certainly the most expensive food tour I have ever done (and probably will ever do), but everything in Iceland is expensive and I found it to be worth the hefty price tag. Booking was easy via email correspondence with the owner and main tour guide, Ymir. And, when our original date had to be rebooked due to Storm Dennis, Ymir was quick to reach out to us and reschedule (or refund if we preferred).

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Views driving through Iceland.

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Yes, I Went To Reykjavik, Iceland In February (Pre-Pandemic), And It Was Fabulous!

I have to add to this post prior to publicly publishing that Dan and I went to Iceland in February 2020 – pre-pandemic. Things were normal and COVID was just a slight thought in the back of our minds causing us to carry extra hand sanitizer. While things have certainly changed since February 2020, Iceland remains a great destination and it looks like they are some what opening up in 2021 (fingers crossed)! Happy future planning (February 2022?).

Dan and my last international trip pre-Coronavirus was an escape to Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland, over Valentine’s Day weekend. Yes, another cold-climate country in the Winter (read about my prior cold-climate February trips here and here)… We enjoy visiting cities in their off-season, as you can usually find deeply discounted flights, particularly from the NYC area (hopefully that’s not a pre-corona memory of the past) and these destinations are less crowded in off-season, yet almost everything we want to do, see, and eat is open for business. And, honestly, its often colder in New York than the winter destination we visit, which was the case last February in Iceland.  Further, Iceland is a super easy, five and a half hour flight from NYC and a long weekend (Wednesday night – Monday evening in our case) is a good amount of time to see the highlights. However, had I known that this would be our last trip pre-Coronavirus, I would have definitely stayed longer and seen more of Iceland. 

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Dan and me at Gulfoss Falls. I would note it was not as cold as it looked – it was just super duper windy.

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Friday Brunch in Dubai. It’s A Big Thing.

When researching things to do in Dubai, I learned that Friday Brunch is a very popular thing in Dubai. So, clearly we had to sign up! There are so many options for Friday brunch in Dubai, from pub fare at Dubliners Irish Pub to super upscale experiences at top notch restaurants. We opted for the renowned Traiteur Brunch at the Park Hyatt Dubai! Known to be one of the best and most popular brunches in town, we booked a table before we left the US and were not disappointed. When planning, however, I had a lot of questions. Hopefully this post helps to answer some of your questions.

Brunching at Traiteur.

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4 Fabulous Days In Dubai En Route To the Maldives!

En route to the Maldives last November, Dan and I spent four fabulous days in Dubai! Partly as a stop over en route, but mostly to see some of Dubai! It was our first time in Dubai, and given its location and good flight connections, I’m confident we will return. There’s a ton to do in Dubai and we had a difficult time deciding exactly what to do and how to fit everything into four days! For those planning a trip, here’s a recap of what we did during our four day stay. Feel free to replicate!

FIRST DAY IN DUBAI – 12.5 HOUR FLIGHT & ARRIVAL IN DUBAI!

Emirates’ direct flight from New York to Dubai departs around 10:30 PM and arrives the following evening, around 8:30 PM local time.  After a very, very long flight, we finally arrived in Dubai shortly after sunset! Customs in Dubai, where we presented our COVID-19 negative results (a simple PCR print out in English – nothing like French Polynesia), was quick and easy and we soon had our luggage and were en route to our hotel, the Intercontinental Festival City. We arrived shortly before 10:00 PM and were excited to see the entire hotel was decked out for Dubai’s national day on December 2nd. Very fun.

Intercontinental Festival City going all our for Dubai’s national day!

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How I Spent 1 Week In The Maldives In December, 2020!!

If you read my last post, you know that my husband, Dan (a bit of a points guru), found a crazy deal for a week in the Maldives at the Conrad Rangali Island, Maldives the first week of December – 5 nights in an overwater bungalow totally on points. So that became our Thanksgiving vacation! I was a little iffy about staying a full 5 nights and 6 days on a remote island with no realistic ability to leave, but we had a wonderful time and it was perfect during the pandemic.  And actually, Dan and I both felt that our Maldives vacation FLEW by and we easily could have spent another week. Big surprise! Here’s a run down of our week if you are curious (or hesitant) about what you would do on such a stay!

Palm trees at the Conrad Rangali Island.

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Resort Review: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island!

Dan and I spent a week at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in December 2020, during the COVID global pandemic. The resort was at around 35% capacity, we felt totally safe, and we had a lovely time, particularly enjoying the resort without other people! Here is our review of the resort, which may change slightly once COVID ends… In any case, I hope that this helps you plan your trip!

Conrad Rangali Island airport. Smack in the middle of the resort.

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is obviously in the Maldives, a national of many, many islands located off the south west coast of India (making it fun to combine with a trip to India or Sri Lanka).  The Conrad is in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives, and is comprised of three private islands. It takes exactly 29 minute to arrive via sea plane from Malé, the capital of Maldives and home to its major airport.

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