I learn time and time again when I travel that no matter how many Google searches and Frommer’s books you read, you will never truly know the places you travel to until you are finally there. I found this again today as soon as we flew over the Caribbean and into Costa Rica. Yes, we’re finally here! After however long we took planning this trip, it didn’t actually feel real until I looked out the window and onto the green mountains, so lush and beautiful! Even though I was only 4 or 5 when I was last here, I felt like I remembered the magnificent scenery that lay below me. The scenery is breathtaking from an aerial view and I wish we would have gotten pictures.
We flew into Alajuela, just outside the capital of San Jose, around noon and caught the bus to downtown, where we’d hop in a taxi for a short 7 or so minutes to the place we’re staying. We initially thought we were being ripped off when we first got onto the bus– the downside looking like true tourists with our Osprey packs and blonde hair, I was thinking. Jason handed the driver 10,000 colones (equivalent to about $20) for our fare, yet received no change back for the meager $1.25 it was supposed to cost. He kept insisting that we move to our seat, as there was a line forming behind us. We sat down towards the back feeling defeated after being ripped off. Turns out the drivers wait to give us the change as we depart the bus, which is something we’re just not used to in the States. We did end up receiving our change, albeit a $1 or so short. Lesson number one learned.
Our faith in ticos (a name for Costa Ricans) was quickly restored after that first experience, thank goodness– otherwise it would have been an unfriendly beginning to our trip! We got off the bus in San Jose’s city center and walked the main drag, Calle Centro, in search of a place where we could grab a quick bite to eat. We ended up at a little cafe, where we shared a panini and a quesadilla de papas, which was more like a cheese- and potato-filled flaky pastry, than the flat tortilla sandwich that we’re used to.
After our quick lunch we hopped into the cab to our room across town with a friendly, talkative cab driver named Guillermo. He was kind enough to speak perfect English after hearing us struggle in Spanish with our directions. As soon as we arrived we saw our host, Oscar, standing outside waiting for us. Oscar and his partner Juan live in a wonderful neighborhood that’s quiet and has a ton of restaurants and shops within walking distance. We arrived a little tired after our journey so took some time to unwind, check emails, read, and snooze a bit. The rain had started pouring about 10 minutes after we arrived to their house, so it was a perfect, relaxing afternoon following our travels.
We ended up with a leak in the roof right above our bed, so after moving the bed and placing a couple pans under the drip we had the situation under control. I had a feeling that things like this were normal happenings here when the rain fell like a monsoon for a couple hours.
Finally the rain let up, so we decided to walk around and see what the area was all about. We walked for a good chunk of time, grabbed some groceries at the supermercado down the street, and had a delicious dinner at a vegetarian restaurant named Ravi. We had the sweetest girl take care of us– it was obvious that we didn’t speak much Spanish and she spoke great English, so we were thankful for her help! It certainly gives me that drive to learn more beyond the basic high school Spanish I currently know.
With Jason’s belly full of delicious gnocchi and mine full of an awesome vegetable miso dish (and both of us– a couple tasty glasses of house made sangria) we strolled on back to the house to read, reflect, and take an early bedtime. It’s so wonderful finally being here in the environment we have looked forward to enjoying for so many months now. We’re super excited for a day of museum seeking and city perusing, but for now I think my pillow is calling my name.