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adventures of a not so grey nomad

Do you know the way to San Jose....

COSTA RICA | Monday, 9 August 2010 | Views [507]

San Jose Costa Rica 26 – 29 July

It took two buses to get from La Fortuna to San Jose. I slept most of the way so don't remember too much of it-I know it was hot-no aircon on the bus. In San Jose we were dropped off at the side of the main road. We sent Lynn and the packs to Gaudys hostel in a cab and we walked across the busy highway and up a side street. We had a room at the front of the hostel with bunk beds-plenty of room. There was a communal kitchen with free coffee and a toaster-great thats breakfast sorted!-and a large lounge area with a big screen TV. Only downside was the smoke from the smokers-no such thing as smoke free places here! It was our last full day as a group so we set off on a walking tour of the city. First we stopped and had lunch-Lynn then went back to the hostel as she had a headache and the rest of us set off with Veronica in the lead. San Jose-pop 1.5 million in the metropolitan area- is a mixture of old and new. There are still some beautiful old colonial buildings, such as the Teatro Nacional built in 1897, and plenty of green parks with trees and shrubs but there are also plenty of ugly office blocks and concrete buildings. The city centre is hectic and grubby with lots of traffic and people everywhere. It was raining throughout our walk but we saw most of the main sites before calling it quits.

It was our last group dinner that night-we got cabs-$US 3- and went to a nice restaurant in the city-with lots of tin mugs hanging from the ceiling (not sure why)!. We had a local specialty meal-a bit of everything-and the cheapest option on the expensive menu. We oldies called it a night and went back while the young and keen went out and partied-karaoke until about 3am. Ed and the Dutch family left for the airport at 5am so the party was over!

July 27 Margarets Walking Tour

Margaret-shopper extraordinare and super organised - had a list of things to do and see in San Jose and so we invited ourselves along-beats thinking for ourselves! We walked into the city to check out the markets-about four of them-and must have seen the entire range of souvenirs for sale! The Central Market was really interesting-a mixture of cheap eating places , food, herbal medicines, clothes, tin mugs (what is it with tin mugs in Costa Rica?)shoes, etc. It is fully enclosed with dozens of shops and narrow little alleyways between them. Lynn and I were determined to post some stuff home so we checked out the Post Office-a beautiful old building-very well preserved. It wasn't obvious where to post parcels from so after a bit of fruitless wandering about and searching for something likely we asked at the counter in broken Spanglish. We were sent to the information desk where a lovely young lady soon gave up on my bumbling attempts to communicate and rang an English speaker somewhere-she handed me the phone and as I was trying to chat to her another woman from the stamp section approached us-speaking English! She told us which counter to go to-her counter for parcels under 2kg or off to another department on the left for anything heavier. She even offered us two boxes to use for packing. We told her we'd be back manana-mucho gratias! Very helpful staff! We passed an inner city hospital and saw lots of nurses presumably on a break or changing shifts-wearing immaculate white tunics and pants and shoes and a little white hat on the back of their heads or in various coloured scrubs-pink, blue, lemon. There were plenty of doctors about too-mainly male-stethoscopes hanging from their necks. We walked all day covering much the same trail as the previous day-minus the rain. We even repeated the coffee and cake experience in a very nice cafe -part of the old Theatre where the staff remembered Margarita! It was fend for ourselves for tea and we actually enjoyed cooking-made a nice change from eating out.

July 28 Our Walking Tour

Another day to explore the city but first port of call- the Post Office. We collected our stored boxes and packed them ready to go-time for a weigh! Lynn went to the counter on the right (the light counter) -mine to the left (slightly heavier!). I had a very nice young man looking after me-very trendy and bright and breezy but very little English He could read my name though and kept repeating it in a very Spanish accent. He was in a large side room along with another young man who was opening mail. They seemed to enjoy their job-chatting and laughing and racing around on their office chairs on wheels-no stress here! He gave me the price and after checking the contents he let me go and seal it up-this involved lots of packing tape and bits of cardboard to improvise a sturdy lid. Back again to fill out a customs form, pay the money (US103) and that was it-all done-such a relief! Just hope its gets to Oz safe and sound and soon. Now we were free to wander. We went in search of a photo shop to make some prints for Margaret to take home but no luck. We did end up in a dodgy part of the city by the bus station where we wandered through a very local market full of butcher shops, fruit and vege, dried beans and corn and anything a Tico (a person from Costa Rica) could possibly need. We had lunch in a local soda-plato del dia and a pina juice-$US3. We found an umbrella shop-dedicated purely to umbrellas-all sizes, styles and colours-even made to order if required. We checked out the Cathedral-very elegant and subdued colour sheme inside.La Merced was another church with beautiful satined glass windows and painted columns inside the church-quite lovely. After another full day it was time to head back to Gaudys where we shared a final meal with Margarita who was leaving at some unGodly hour in the morning. Time to say goodbye-she has been a great travel companion and provided us with lots of laughs and good company. She always seemed to be the first on every bus-sitting in the front seat with the window open. We had met up with her in Mexico City and had been in awe of her light case of wheels. I am pleased to say her case got heavier and the expansion zip was put to use as the trip went on and the case filled up -shoes, bags, shoes, a bottle of Mescal, shoes....! Good luck with the luggage limit!

July 29

There was a hairdressing college around the corner so Lynn and I went in search of a much needed haircut and colour. The haircut and blow dry was free-we just had to pay for the colour. Luckily for us there was a very friendly, outgoing local woman -Erika-there waiting for her weekly wash and hair straightening. She was able to tell the manager what we wanted-it took lots of translation on both sides but we got the message across. I wanted a full colour and highlights so I had to wait until the big manager got back from an errand-I think she was in charge of the colours. Lynn had her hair washed and cut by the time they started on me. We had the two managers looking after us-maybe because we were foreigners-they probably don't get many tourists looking for free haircuts! The students in their pink uniforms were lovely and most were working on blow waves and hair straightening on a steady stream of local clientèle. I was thinking of some foils but they still do highlights the old fashioned way-with a streaking cap and crochet hook! There were only two caps-one better than the other-so after I had a plastic bag tied onto my head, the cap Lynn had on was taken off her head and put onto mine-obviously the better cap! We also shared a towel-in fact there was only one towel in use in the whole salon-there was one on the line but one seemed to be enough! My hair was finally done enough and it was time for the rinse-cold water! A bit of a shock to the system-especially when I sat up and the water trickled out from under the cap and down my front and back! But alls well thats ends well and I had my hair cut with the hairdresser frequently referring to a picture I was told to choose earlier. The colour was nice-a bit redder than normal but with 4 months to go it would be long gone by the time I get home!

San Jose- or Chepe to the locals- is the capital of Costa Rica and home to one third of all Chicos. It was founded in 1737 but very little remains of the colonial era. Capitalism has boomed leaving many locals poor and disenfranchised and s a result there is a growing crime rate.

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