Archive for September, 2008

Costa Rica Impressions

September 28th, 2008 at 5:36 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

With everything we had heard about Costa Rica, and the nature-oriented excursions we had booked in advance of our trip, our expectations as to the beauty and tranquility of Costa Rica were quite high.

Caught another basilisk lizard, this one perched on a red flowerHowever, expectations and reality rarely match, as we discovered upon arriving in San Jose late on a Friday night. Don’t get me wrong – the countryside of Costa Rica is breathtakingly beautiful and lush and filled with fascinating flora and fauna. We thoroughly enjoyed just about every moment we spent outside population centers.

And yes, it rains a lot (and we were there during rainy season, so that was not unexpected).

Graffiti adorns the outside of this closed down building in San Jose, Costa RicaBut where our expectations were seriously at odds with reality was in the cities and towns of Costa Rica, and especially the capitol city of San Jose, where our hotel and most of our day-to-day existence were situated.

Let me preface the following by saying that we’ve been to many cities, towns, and villages all over the world over the last several years including ones in Morocco, Fiji, several European countries, as well as Taiwan and Mexico, but none felt as unsafe or intimidating as San Jose.

The materials we had read about San Jose had indicated that thievery and pick pocketing were common, but we had seem similarly phrased warnings about Seville, Prague, Marrakesh, and countless other places, so we assumed the conditions in San Jose wouldn’t be that different. We had our PacSafe backpacks and camera straps, and planned on exercising common sense with our belongings as we always do when we travel. But San Jose, as it turned out, felt and was very different from everywhere else we had been.

All the houses in San Jose (including San Pedro) had bars, making them look like jails, and many had razor wire tooIt’s not easy to enumerate exactly what caused the inner disquiet and discomfort we instinctually experienced in San Jose’s streets, but there’s no doubt in our mind that a number of visual factors contributed to our unease. First and foremost was that virtually every building, home, and store was enmeshed in steel bars – to the point that even driveways and carports were caged in. And in places were bars were not deemed to be sufficient by the owners and occupants, we also saw copious amounts of razor wire lining the tops of walls, roofs, and even the steel bars themselves.

Added to this was the wariness and furtiveness we perceived in the people walking along the streets, especially after night had fallen as we observed from the relative safety of our taxi or tour bus. All while praying that our vehicle would not suddenly break down.

The observed behavior of the people out and about, combined with the obvious acceptance that living in a cage was part of normality was very disconcerting, but we didn’t realize how right our perceptions were until we started talking to locals – a number of which regaled us with stories about how many times they had their belonging snatched as they walked around, and in some cases, were held up with a knife or gun wielded by the thieves. And in one case, even pistol-whipped. While I admired the bravery of folks who can return back to the streets after being mugged, repeatedly, my inner voice was screaming “get out of there!” But, this acceptance of the status quo that our acquaintances exhibited seemed to be part of the whole malaise as well.

It brought to mind the story of the boiling frog, which, whether true or not, refers to the concept that if change is gradual enough, those within the sphere of change just accept it instead of getting out and trying to make changes.

Sadly, this is the impression that San Jose left us with - razor wire and cloudy skiesSeveral people, from markedly different socio-economic backgrounds, told us the problems with crime in San Jose started getting noticeably worse about eight years ago, and that was when razor wire started appearing everywhere. Of course, that had the effect of forcing those people who didn’t have razor wire yet to also get some or implement other draconian security measures as otherwise they would be easier targets.

And many local neighborhoods have guards sitting in booths on the corners to keep an eye on neighborhood activities, while people with big homes have permanent guards themselves (including, in some cases, body guards they travel about with or who provide chauffeur services) or they live in condominium compounds with a sizable security force shared by and paid for all of the compound inhabitants.

The causes of the crime in San Jose and other Costa Rican cities is attributed to a number of causes, including drug addicts in search of quick cash to feed their habits, organized crime, an influx of criminals from other countries due to lax immigration policies, people too poor to support themselves, a lack of stringent sentencing guidelines for criminals that are caught, and corrupt police, among others. But whatever the actual causes, universally everyone we spoke to agreed that something needed to be done, as things just keep getting worse and worse.

We were personally told a number of times to not wear expensive looking clothing or watches (not that we brought any with us), not wear jewelry of any sort (I only wear a plain wedding band anyhow), and not visibly carry cameras with us in the cities. We even had a taxi driver admonish us for using a camera to take photos from inside the taxi through an open window, as he was concerned someone might try and reach in and steal it from us.

And most stores and all the hotels we visited had security guards. And security guards in banks kept the doors locked, only letting people in after they had been scanned with a metal detector wand, apparently in an effort to prevent armed robberies at banks.

And security in parking lots was heavy too, with entrants receiving a parking chit which had to be returned in order to exit, and with police guard towers overlooking the parking lot at the local Hiper Mas super store (Wal-Mart in all but name, for now – it will be changed to Wal-Mart in 2010, we were told, as it was already owned by them).

So, overall, San Jose felt like something of a war zone threatening to erupt into open combat at any moment. Day time was better than night time, but that’s not saying much. We count ourselves fortunate that we were not victims of any crime ourselves, but we also severely restricted our movements and our use of cameras in urban areas, which was disappointing to have to do, but no doubt safer.

That was the downside to Costa Rica, and I will add that our visit to Tortuguero had none of the safety issues we found in San Jose, and we understand that the Pacific coast’s towns are not quite as disquieting as San Jose and the surrounding urban and sub-urban areas we visited.

The “good” about Costa Rica was very good. First and foremost, the people we met and spoke with were generally warm, friendly, and welcoming, even with our minimal Spanish-language skills (which did improve significantly during our two weeks of intensive immersion training). And the countryside… Oh my.

A very cute capuchin monkey ignored us while foraging in the trees above the canal - the tongue sticking out is preciousComing from a Caribbean island which looks remarkably like the deserts of Arizona, we were stunned by how incredibly lush and fertile Costa Rica was once we got outside of urban realms. The frequent and heavy rains intermixed with brilliant sunshine and volcanic soils have produced incredible beauty, and created great habitats for a plethora of wild life, including monkeys, birds, arachnids, and much much more. I will get into some of that in a future post.

Suffice to say that all the negative things about San Jose aside, Costa Rica is a place that is well worth visiting, but limit your in-city stays to the absolute minimum necessary, and stay in a nice, comfortable hotel and don’t plan on walking around after dark.

At long last, the Hotel Casa Conde is in sight, or at least the sign to the hotel

We stayed at the Apartotel & Suites Casa Conde, and had a very nice stay. Decent sized rooms (ours had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living area, and a kitchen which included a washer and dryer, all for about US$105/night. It was a US$6 or more taxi ride to get to anywhere of interest. This hotel was chosen for us by our language school, and it was a good choice.

There are a fair number of other small but nice hotels all over the place, including Jade Hotel in San Pedro (to the east of downtown San Jose), Grano de Oro in San Jose, Hotel Le Bergerac in San Pedro, and the Alta Hotel high atop Escazu (south of downtown San Jose) – we saw each of these four hotels while dining at their respective restaurants (more on that later too), and would recommend them all. There are also a bevy of name-brand chains, such as Marriott, Inter-Continental, and Choice/Clarion, among others, to choose from.

Beautiful jungle along the Rio PacuareHowever, the real highlights of Costa Rica are the relatively unpopulated areas, and these are best seen using expert tour operators. We used Costa Rica Expeditions, as I had previously mentioned, and couldn’t be happier with their services. And, because it was technically low season (because it was rainy season), tours that might otherwise have other people on them were limited to just the two of us, in effect granting us a private guide for just us – simply perfect.


Photos from our Costa Rica Trip

September 26th, 2008 at 12:58 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It took a while, but I have tagged, cropped, and titled 492 photos from the over 2000 that we took during the 15 or so days Krystyana and I were in Costa Rica.

You can see them here on Flickr or here in The Traveling Richters Gallery.

Now that the photos are up, we’ll work on some posts about our experiences.


Back from Costa Rica, Heading Home to Bonaire

September 23rd, 2008 at 12:45 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Our 18 days in Costa Rica flew by, and we have some great experiences, as well as some observations about life in Costa Rica to share. And our Spanish classes were also very worthwhile, but at the same time they taught us that there was an awful lot to learning Spanish we had not quite anticipated.

We are presently ending a couple of days of rest and relaxation in Miami in order to sync up with the now abbreviated, three day a week flight schedule on American Airlines to Bonaire via San Juan. We should be home tomorrow night assuming the weather system hovering over Puerto Rico doesn’t get in the way of our travels.

The next task I have is to finish tagging and making ready the 550 or so pictures of our trip that are worth sharing (out of the 2000+ pictures we took while in Costa Rica). Once I have them ready I will post them, and then start sharing some stories and commentary. I still have a few stories about our New York City trip to post too, and those will come along in the next week and a half, hopefully before we take off to see the Canadian Maritimes in early October.

Hasta luego!

P.S. Krystyana has promised me that she will soon start contributing to The Traveling Richters blog, so stay tuned for that to happen.


Rafting and Exploring in Costa Rica

September 8th, 2008 at 1:07 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Krystyana and I made it safely to Costa Rica a couple of nights ago, dodging two hurricanes along the way, and arriving only about an hour late. Saturday was spent exploring the highlands south of Costa Rica, as well as an incredibly fertile valley where we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the rare Quetzal (pictures later), as well as a large number of hummingbird species and a number of other avians.

We followed that with a great sushi dinner in Escazu with our friends Eric and Isabella, whom we caught just a few days before they head off on a whirlwind tour of Europe.

And on Sunday we had a most excellent time white water rafting on the Pacuare River, navigating Class III and IV rapids for around three hours, getting soaked and sunburned in the process, but loving it all. I may have video from that as well as photos, but it’s too late tonight to edit them for posting. Later, hopefully.

Both of the above expeditions were booked with Costa Rica Expeditions, and so far we couldn’t be happier with their services – our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about both their fields of specialty as well as about Costa Rican history, culture, trends, and much much more. Looking forward to exploring the Tortuguero area of Costa Rica with their associates next weekend.

Unless I can miraculously learn to write in Spanish in the next few days, this will probably be my last post to The Traveling Richters blog for the next two weeks. That’s because our Spanish language immersion course starts tomorrow morning, bright and early, and we intend to stay true to the immersion aspect of the program we’re enrolled in.

Hasta la vista!


Cooking With Liquid Nitrogen in New York City

September 8th, 2008 at 12:46 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Thanks to yet another missive from American Express – this one offering discounted prices on some cooking presentations at a place called Astor Center in New York City – we checked out what sort of culinary seminars Astor might be having during our visit in August. One particular course caught our attention – “Chilling Out With Liquid Nitrogen”, a presentation which promised to share a variety of uses of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen.

We first discovered the whole concept of using liquid nitrogen for “cooking” just a few months ago (May 2008), when we dined at The Fat Duck in England. Two of our courses were prepared with LN2 (as liquid nitrogen is called in technical circles).

After returning home we tried to find some affordable devices to generate LN2 for experimentation in our kitchen, but the cheapest system we found was over $11,000, and only available in the United States. Geography aside, that was well beyond our budget. And unlike in the U.S., no one on Bonaire makes LN2 for sale, so we’ve been unable to pursue our desires for experimentation with LN2 in the kitchen.

We spent a couple of hours one evening at the Astor Center learning from Ideas In Food's H. Alexander Talbot about cooking withBut, this class at Astor Center sounded like it might provide us with more insights, so we signed up, and were even given the courtesy of reserved seats so the kids could be in a location where they could be assured of a good view of the demo kitchen. Bas and Krystyana were the only kids present, and we surmise that a vast majority of the rest of the audience were “in the profession”, meaning they were chefs and restaurateurs. That was later confirmed for us when we discovered that Wiley Dufresne, the chef of New York’s top molecular gastronomy restaurant wd-50 had been sitting behind us during the presentation at Astor Center.

Aki and Alexander show us how to make a frozen yuzu cloud with liquid nitrogenThe presentation was conducted by newlywed chefs H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, who run a business called Ideas in Food. Alex and Aki also write a column for Popular Science about kitchen alchemy, including this article on playing with liquid nitrogen, a copy of which was given to us at the presentation.

A few facts of note about Nitrogen are important before I continue.

Nitrogen makes up about 75-78% of the air we breathe, with oxygen at around 21% and various other gases making up the difference. Nitrogen needs to be cooled down to around -196° C to become a liquid (it becomes solid at -210° C). Once liquid nitrogen hits -195.8° C, it boils, turning back to gaseous form.

Working with liquid nitrogen is not particularly safe, as it can splash or splatter on your skin and cause “burns”, and likewise, if used in conductive containers you can suffer burns or even more embarrassing side effects from touching such containers, especially with damp body part (flash to the tongue stuck to the frozen metal pole in the movie “Christmas Story”). Liquid nitrogen is also commonly used by dermatologists to try and freeze off warts, as I can testify to from personal experience.

Also, as LN2 becomes a gas, if there’s not even ventilation you could potentially asphyxiate, or at least suffer from dizziness or nausea, if not a loss of consciousness. On a related note, in a recent episode of Burn Notice, nitrogen gas was used to assassinate someone by causing them to asphyxiate.

But, if you can overcome these varied dangers LN2 can be pretty fun to play with, as we witnessed in the presentation by Aki and Alex.

To whit, LN2 has been used for some time to make ice cream because it freezes fats and sugars so quickly you don’t have to spend lengthy periods churning the cream to break up the ice crystals that would otherwise form in traditional ice cream making. However, at the same time, you actually have to temper the produced ice cream to ensure it’s not so cold as to cause burns. Aki and Alex suggested that in order for items which have been thoroughly frozen with LN2 to be edible you should temper the items in a regular freezer to warm them up. Weird concept – thawing something in a freezer.

This is what black olives look like after they have been frozen with liquid nitrogen and then powdered in a commercial blenderAlex and Aki also recommend using LN2 for several particular kitchen functions other than making ice cream. One of those is to create finely ground or even powdered versions of pretty much any ingredient. During the presentation at Astor Center, they deep froze and then powdered (using a Vita-Mix commercial kitchen blender) the following ingredients (many of which we got to sample in one form or another):

  • Raw shrimp
  • Chorizo sausage
  • Pepperoni
  • Black olives
  • Raisins (normal)
  • Sultanas (blond raisins)

Using traditional methods, none of the above items could be turned into a powder. Instead you’d end up with either a greasy or sticky-sweet mush at best. But the low temperature of LN2 causes even fat to become a hard solid that can then be easily (with the right equipment) broken and shattered into a powder.

Creamy grits cooked with powdered shrimp made by freezing the shrimp in LN2, on a bed of powdered chorizo and pepperoni also preWhen raw ingredients like shrimp are used, the idea is that you’d use the resulting powder to flavor a dish you will later be cooking. This was demonstrated with an extremely creamy grits Alex had made using cyro-vac sealing and a pressure cooker. After the grits was finished it was then put in a pot with the shrimp powder and the two blended together by hand over heat, resulting in shrimp-flavored grits. (And then served to us over a bed of powdered chorizo and pepperoni – delightful!)

Krystyana breathes onto carrots frozen in liquid nitrogen and then shattered in a bowl at the Astor Center class room

A side effect of cooking with LN2 is that it will also dehydrate things put into it. Visually this results in clouds of vapor as the nitrogen boils off and takes water with it. Aki explain that when “cooking” with LN2, one way she knows that things are thoroughly frozen is when the LN2 stops bubbling and crackling, much in the same way oil stops sizzling loudly when it has cooked away the water in an item placed in it. This dehydration also aids in the powdering of food items frozen with LN2.

Alex also told us that he has found that using LN2 to freeze vegetables both retains and even concentrates the flavor of the vegetables, while at the same time tenderizing them and more cool yet, allowing one to shatter the vegetables to produce dramatic presentation when the vegetables are incorporated into a dish.

With things like nuts, you can make natural butters with all the flavor of the nut and no additional ingredients when you first freeze the nuts with LN2 and then grind the frozen nuts.

And, LN2 is so cold that you can even freeze alcohol into a solid, although it’s then too cold to consume without being tempered, which might cause it to melt. But a neat concept nonetheless.

In big cities like New York, LN2 can be had for about $2/liter. You need to get a dewar (eBay) – basically a giant ultra-thermos which costs many hundreds of dollars and then determine if you want a nozzle to pump the LN2 out, or if you’re comfortable simply pouring the LN2 into the vessel(s) you plan to “cook” in. Alex and Aki used Styrofoam coolers for their demonstration. It should be noted that while LN2 does boil at a low temperature, this boiling effect is more of an issue when in contact with warm solids than with air, although the cooler the air in the work area where the LN2 is being used, the longer the LN2 will survive before boiling off completely. That could be another reason that LN2 might not work so well for us on Bonaire, where the average temperature is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Popcorn ice cream made with liquid nitrogen - made by injecting the popcorn cream into the LN2 with a gas bottleThe class lasted almost two hours, during which time, in addition to all the information I have noted above, Alex and Aki created a popcorn gelato, a frozen yuzu cloud used to chill a smoky mescal, creamy shrimp-flavored grits on a bed of powdered sausage, pureed almonds, frozen shattered carrots and beets, and a taste-packed rum raisin ice cream covered in powdered sultanas. And all prepared with liquid nitrogen.

Alex with a 20 liter dewar for holding liquid nitrogen during the LN2 cooking presentation at Astor CenterWhile we learned a lot about the practical application of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen, we left yearning for a way we could experiment with LN2 ourselves back home in our kitchen on Bonaire. Sadly, that’s just not viable at this time (although Alex suggested we could try with dry ice), but we may well see about borrowing some friend’s kitchen in big cities in the U.S. when we come to visit, and having a dewar shipped to them in advance of our visit.

The Astor Center also has remote cameras and TV screens so that every can see what's going on in the kitchen in the class roomIn closing I should add that the Astor Center’s classroom is quite well set-up, with two levels of seating arranged so that pretty much everyone has a good view of what the presenter is working on, with video cameras and flat screen displays to show more detail when needed. We’ll definitely be checking their schedule again when we next visit New York City.

More details on cooking with liquid nitrogen, as well as some recipes can be found in Alex and Aki’s article.

Click on the above pictures to enlarge them and get captions. You can also see all photos taken during this presentation on Flickr.


New York City – Cooking and Eating at Aureole

September 5th, 2008 at 5:54 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As previously mentioned, one of the many highlights of our just-completed visit to New York City was spending time in the kitchen of restauranteur Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurant with Chef Tony Aiazzi.

We had wanted to arrange some sort of cooking class for The Traveling Richters while in New York, but had no idea how to find someone to spend time working with us.

That’s where Relais & Châteaux came in. Relais & Châteaux is an association representing fine hotels and restaurants all over the world, based in France, but with offices in London and New York City. Their affiliated lodging properties tend to be high quality inns and even castles, not traditional hotels. And on the dining side, their affiliate restaurants tend to represent some of the best restaurants in the world. In the last few months, the Relais & Châteaux restaurants we have dined at include The Fat Duck outside of London and Le Pre Catalan in Paris.

Linda and I are members of the Relais & Châteaux 5C Club, which provides VIP treatment at Relais & Châteaux properties, and more importantly, provides priority access for reservations at Relais & Châteaux restaurants. We even have a special concierge available to us to help arrange such reservations and other special events, which is how we got connected with Chef Tony at Aureole.

Aureole's chef, Tony Aiazzi, puts the finishing touches on the market sushi course, featuring yellowtail flown in from Japan witWe were told to show up at Aureole at 10am on Tuesday wearing comfortable clothes that we would not mind getting dirty. We did as we were told, and found Chef Tony waiting outside the restaurant for us. He guided us in through the delivery entrance (the restaurant was only open for dinner that day), along the way showing us various aspects of how a professional kitchen is set up. Aureole’s is actually on two floors, with desserts prepped in the basement, and the hot and cold kitchen on the second floor behind the upstairs dining room. That’s Chef Tony in the photo at right.

We were also introduced to Sous Chef Marcus Glendow-Ware (he’s in the photo with the pasta below), who actually ended up joining us for our cooking class as well – a pleasant surprise, as we were not expecting two chefs to be working with us.

Bas looks amused while Krystyana and Linda review their recipes for our five course lunch cooking lesson at Aureole in New YorkIn the upper kitchen we found four spots set up for us, each with an apron and a menu, and were asked to select the menu items we wanted to work on. The menu actually had five courses:

  1. Tuna Tartare with Ponzu Sauce
  2. Chilled Golden Tomato Soup with Piquillo Pepper, Melon, Fennel
  3. Market Sashimi with Fresh & Pickled Celery, Capicola, Black Lava Salt
  4. Caramelized Scallops with Fresh Linguine with Crab and Lemongrass Emulsion
  5. Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding with Figs

Jake and Bas stretch out pasta dough for the linguine course with Marcus at Aureole_Bas picked the Chilled Golden Tomato Soup, Krystyana the Tuna Tartare, Linda chose the Ponzu Sauce, and I started on the Lemongrass emulsion. The first quarter hour was spent chopping, cutting, measuring and blending, all under the careful supervision of the duo of chefs.

We ultimately each ended up doing a variety of tasks, learning along the way about a great way to make fresh pasta (use a cryo-vac machine to firm up the dough first), how to make a foam (use soy lecithin granulate, but make sure it’s not flavored), how to make fresh tortellini, and a variety of other tips and tricks we are certainly going to be putting to use in the coming months when we are home for a spell.

Marcus and Tony also explained how a commercial kitchen actually operates, including staffing, order processing and delegation to make sure orders are accurate and complete, how and when supplies are procured, and much much more. Anyone contemplating starting a restaurant without real hands-on experience should think twice – it’s not easy work. But Tony and Marcus have it all well in hand, which was even more obvious the following evening.

A special treat - Kobe beef carpaccio made by Tony at AureoleA cooking class in a top restaurant can be very rewarding, as we discovered when we got to sample the fruits of our various labors, and were also treated to two bonus courses: self-made ravioli and tortellini with a wonderful fresh ricotta filling and a Kobe beef carpaccio which Tony made for us using as a drizzle the Ponzu sauce Linda had helped prepare for our tuna tartare.

Chef Tony helps Krystyana make the dessert during our cooking lesson at AureoleHere are the sticky toffee banana puddings Krystyana made cooling out of the oven at AureoleAnd as a sort of kudo to Krystyana’s culinary efforts, the extra sticky toffee banana pudding that Krystyana help prepare was put aside to serve to the kitchen staff later as a special treat.

Linda enjoys the excellent tuna tartare with ponzu sauce we helped prepare in the kitchen at AureoleWe spent just over two and a half hours in the kitchen prepping, cooking, learning, and eating, and could have not been happier with the way it all worked out. Tony and Marcus were both enthusiastic, helpful, knowledgeable and charming. We learned that they had actually never had a small (four person) cooking class in the kitchen before – only cooking presentations where they did the work with an audience looking on, so this was as much of a first for them as it was for us. And it was executed splendidly. Close-up of the caramelized scallops with fresh linguini with crab and a lemongrass emulsion I helped make at Aureole

Before leaving Aureole after our cooking session, we ended up making reservations for a chef’s tasting dinner the following night.

And when we showed up Wednesday evening we got the full red carpet treatment, including some special courses – sashimi four ways, three cheese ravioli, butter roasted Maine lobster, country ham crusted pork tenderloin, and a phenomenal grilled lamb with charred eggplant (and is an appraisal from a person who does not generally enjoy lamb). Great wine pairings made the meal even more special.
The night after our cooking class at Aureole we went back for a chef's tasting menu and Tony and Marcus treated us to a Grand Dessert
We also had personal visits to our table by both Tony and Marcus, and were provided a grand dessert tasting featuring six different plates of sweet delectables (including the best trio of creme brulee we have ever had – see photo at right, center of table). Capping off the evening was a present to Linda of a bottle of verjus (which was an ingredient used in making the ponzu sauce) and then to top that, we received a personal tour by Marcus of the fully operational kitchen at night.

While the cost of the cooking class or the subsequent dinner were not insubstantial, we felt it to be a very worthwhile investment as this truly was a remarkable and educational experience we would have otherwise not had, nor likely have ever been able to experience if it hadn’t been for Relais & Châteaux.

So, in summary, if you’re looking for an excellent fine dining experience in New York City, definitely visit Aureole – they are presently on the lower upper East Side (61st Street near Madison Avenue) but moving to Times Square later this year. And tell them The Traveling Richters sent you. I can’t promise that you can get cooking classes though. But if you can, jump at the opportunity. You won’t regret it.

Click on the above photos to see larger versions in our photo gallery. You can also see all of our photos from our experience at Aureole on Flickr.