Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pura Vida de Costa Rica

Well, I am late in posting this (quite late, actually, seeing it as this is January 23rd), but, just a month ago, I had spent a holiday vacation with family in Costa Rica. Simply put, I was so taken aback by the experience that I thought that it would be ideal to create a blog about it. I did this because the resources for Costa Rica travel can be a bit spotty, so hopefully this will give a willing reader a better idea of what to expect, and how to create a happier, more cohesive experience.

First off, one must realize that upon landing at the main airport in San Jose (Juan Santamaria), it is ideal to book a shuttle beforehand or make sure that one can book an arrival that will arrive in conjunction with a bus departure, as wherever you choose to go in Costa Rica, whether it be Tamarindo, Puntarenas, or Limon will be at least 2 hours away. Most of the hotels do provide shuttle service, as Costa Rica is flowing with tourism and people to accomodate them. Just a suggestion, and also a disclaimer: Costa Rica does not have a very sophisticated infrastructure, and it is not a place built for cars, but for people. Which, if you have spent countless time in a metropolitan city as I have, you will grow to appreciate over time. In our case, we spent the majority of our time in the Monteverde/Santa Elena area. We had stayed with a nice family of Ticos in their Rancho Makena hotel. The husband, Carlos, was a friendly purebred Costa Rican, and he is often accompanied by his wife, Rosanna, who is originally from Uruguay and was responsible for most of the booking and arranging of amenities. We had the total experience of the rainforest from our comfortable suite, being able to get a great view of the terrain and the ranch from our quarters. Breakfast is complimentary and made from their own land (although you will be hungry if you don't like eggs, rice, and beans), and for about 4,000 colones, Carlos will be more than willing to drive you to the center of the city area, about 15 minutes away from the ranch.

 Just to review: 500 colones=1 U.S. dollar.

 The center, as one would imagine, is very tourist friendly, and laden with tourist centers and gift shops (although I would recommend the one with the supermarket inside, not too kitschy, and not too pricey, either). Some of the more recommendable areas of the city center include the Selvatura Park tourist offices, where you can book tours for the ziplining tour (18 courses, last one is 1 km!), the butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and also the bridge tours of Selvatura Park, which will give you a great lay of the land, and also a great view. Best to book these in advance, though, as spots can fill up quickly. Another notable experience in the city center came to us in the form of Musashi, a Japanese restaurant tucked away in the city center which gave me the best sushi experience that I have ever had. The decor and presentation was unlike anything I have ever seen as far as Japanese restaurant ambience goes, and the main chef, Jesus, knows what he's doing; he's hospitable, creative, and works to satisfy the customer. Really interesting guy, too; he is a brazilian/venezuelan who honed his craft in Brazil, and can concoct things like the Pura Vida roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese, fried plantain, and avocado), and real green tea ice cream (not the sugar and milk that we are accustomed to). Lunch at Musashi will set you back a few colones (or dollars, most places here will accept U.S. dollars as well). However, it's certainly worth it, as good food can be a commodity in Costa Rica, as you may not enjoy the culinary delicacies of Costa Rica, which can be a bit limited in variety (the national dish here is Gallo Pinto, red beans and rice).

The other notable find that I was able to scope out here was Stella's Bakery (a little further down the road, right next to the Casemcoop art gallery, which we were a little disappointed by). Nothing very fancy about it, just a nice little cafe where you can dine on a quiche, a sandwich, or a cream of potato soup, all of which are exemplary. I myself had a sandwich with toasted wheat bread with basil, tomato, and fried cheese. Simple, but tasty. Gives me an idea for recipes back home. This restaurant also includes a bakery. I suggest the peanut butter cookies, the brownies, or the cheesecake. The lemon bars will disappoint you, though. What thrills me about the area, apart from the endless scenery and the easy access to a taxi, is the hospitality of the people. Very helpful, polite, and friendly. Nothing is ever too far out of reach, and people are glad to inform you of the climate (often windy and rainy, but the sun comes out a few hours of the day), directions (the beach is a 90 minute ride away from Santa Elena), and will take an opportunity to chat you up about football. Alajuelense is their preferred team; their color scheme reminds me of AC Milan. They had just won the league title when I was there, and were happy to take pride in their fellow Ticos playing in the main leagues in England and Spain.

 Before it was time to leave, we had passed a day in San Jose to make the trip to the airport for our departing flight back home a little less painful. San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, is in stark contrast to the natural beauty of Costa Rica; it is a city laden with traffic, overpopulation, and poverty, so discretion is advised in this particular area. Watch out for people congregating outside of hotels waiting to loot an unsuspecting tourist. One thing I did enjoy about this city, however, was the restaurant located in the hotel Grano de Oro. Impeccable service, and they certainly don't water down their drinks, either. Ask for the bartender Carlos, he is top notch and knows what he's doing. The scenery is fantastic, and the service is attentive, and the food is delicious. Fantastic way to spend a Christmas Eve. Overall, a lovely way to spend a holiday, and I would certainly aim personally to return with friends, maybe for a surf trip to Tamarindo, or exploring the volcano of Arenal, something that I had been dying to do, and that Carlos strongly recommended. However, the hikes and ziplining were certainly worth their weight, and will give you perspective of nature that you never even know existed. I could go on and on about the experience, and maybe I have to some degree already, but, here are some basic do's and dont's for enjoying Costa Rica:


 -Pack long pants, long shirts, and a good outdoors jacket. Costa Rica has a damp, windy climate, so best to be well prepared ahead of time.
 -Try to book as much in advance as you can. Remember that Costa Rica is a highly Catholic nation, so many attractions could be closed on Sundays (such as the cheese tour).
 -Learn Spanish. I'd say that about 5% of the population can speak English to a degree, and it's unlikely that you'd find a whole lot of that 5% outside of tourist offices and attractions. When I was there, the only people I spoke English to were in my family. Best advised to learn Spanish to at least a conversational level before traveling, or, at the very least, travel with someone who does speak the language.
 -Have fun! Life is to be lived, correct? This is a festive vacation spot, and it is filled with different parts to explore, as well as wildlife to comingle with. Take full advantage of your time spent here.


-Get into a unmarked taxi (the taxis here should always be red or burgundy). The unmarked ones can gouge you, or even worse.
-Be careless with your belongings. Especially in San Jose, tourists are targets for pickpockets. Best not to carry a wad of cash with you. Take advantage of a safe (caja fuerte) if you have access to it.
 -Be late for bus departures. There is one main busline that sells tickets for 2,750 colones ($5.50) that runs through all major hubs in Costa Rica. The taxi drivers will know where the stops are. It only leaves twice every day, though, so be sure to plan accordingly.
 -Wear uncomfortable shoes. A good pair of cross trainers is highly recommended, as Costa Rica is not built on a metropolis. Terrain and hills aplenty await.

 Thanks for reading! I leave you now with a few moments of Zen.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nathalie Alice website now up!

Nathalie Alice, a friend and person who I have worked with, has recently released her new website at Be sure to check it out and keep tabs on someone who is truly maintaining the art of making music to emote and express to her audience, and has built herself on an ideal of forming connections with people through her music. I was responsible for writing her biography, which I certainly feel captures her essence in a matter that is both honest and captivating to the reader. Here's that link again, just in case you missed it the first time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

And now, for a very special profile...

Greetings! I recently did a profile on Nathalie Alice, a Los Angeles-based jazz musician. In it, she talks about repertoire, her influences as a musician, and even a chance encounter with a very popular radio show in Paris. Born and raised in France, Madame Alice proved to be quite endearing and engaging. Read more on Nathalie here on the link below, and be sure to keep tabs on her, as she will soon be releasing a new website!

Sunday, July 22, 2012



My name is Alex Dominguez. I have chosen to maintain this particular blog to entice anyone who is looking to get in touch with someone to hire for press writings, to keep people posted on things that I have written and/or published, or to simply entertain anyone who needs something good to read and just doesn't feel like going to the library, God bless them.

Well, where to start? My name is Alex Dom...well, I already said that. I first started to enjoy writing when I was just a lad in school, and had found my nose in a book most of the time. Granted, these were not always necessarily the books I needed to study out of, but I was able to expand not only a lexicon, but also a way of understanding the written word. And, besides, it made for excellent term papers when the time came to be. Although I didn't find myself doing particularly well in otherwise important areas such as Advanced Placement Physics or Trigonometry, I was able to take this enthusiasm and way of understanding with me to many different places. Those places would come to pass with the years. I had published my first work by the time I was 17. I had found work with an entertainment company that had held various shows in Hollywood, and is currently working with artists that are touring nationally. I had written songs for the numerous local LA bands that I had played in, most notably for the EP release of "4" from Chamomile First, a band that had played the Sunset Strip Music Festival in 2010. It could be that you were there yourself, but you didn't notice us because you had chosen to see Travie McCoy instead. I still love you.

That way has grown in many different roots, and it has taken me to where I currently am with the written word. Some people write for fun, some people write for money, I just write to write.  If I should be entrusted with an artist bio, let's say, I see it as my duty to explain as best as I can the beauty and imagery that runs through the particular artists music. Or, at the very least, to try and magnify what is good about the artist, if I should get put in a situation where I can't be perfectly honest. Hey, it is a writer's job to be as objective as possible and try to see the beauty in everything, instead of attacking anything with any preconceived notions. It is all about the experience, and that's what I like to bring out whether I write for someone else or write for myself. If I should be on the top of the highest peak of the Andes, or witnessing the abrupt and sudden fall of an powerful empire firsthand, or just taking in a great night out, I'd like for you to know what that feels like, as if you were there with me. A multitude of writing ignores that aspect, I choose to embrace it. We are fortunate to be in a world with such a large and wonderful canvas to gawk at and admire. Why not express accordingly?

I have always been particularly enthralled with music, as I had spent a good part of my life trying to make it in the industry before switching to other endeavors to pursue (such as writing). For this, you will find that a good deal of my work revolves around this, as I have been able to use this to meet a fair quantity of wonderful artists and people, and even make a little money in the process. Other areas of interest for me include art, literature, foreign languages (fluent in English and Spanish, currently studying French and Catalan), politics, football (the real kind), and good food, maybe even washed down with a good glass of beer and/or wine. I do keep a yelp page, hopefully it will find the eyes of a transplant in dire need of a delicious pasta in the Los Angeles area.

If there are any artists who are in need of a bio, any upstart company that is in need of press for a particular going on, or just a person with a story to tell, please get in contact with me. For your consideration, I have also enclosed samples of my work for anyone interested.

Alex Dominguez, Writer

LA Youth Magazine
November/December 2004 issue
January/February 2005 issue (Cover Story)

Chamomile First, Pasadena/Los Angeles based Indie Rock Band
4 (EP), "Chamomile" 2010

JM West Entertainment
JM West Live Show Blog, October 2010-July 2011

Nathalie Alice, Los Angeles based Jazz Musician
Press kit
Album notes, Migrane

Yelp blog