Walking around San Jose, Costa Rica

Trip Start Feb 01, 2012
Trip End Feb 21, 2012

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Flag of Costa Rica  , San Jose,
Thursday, February 2, 2012

The hotel has a nice breakfast buffet with fresh juice - passion fruit maybe.  I got out as soon as I could after breakfast - the walk to the central plaza is not far and quite direct.  I think I wandered around a bit in the beginning, passed by the Teatro Nacional and the second of the bird statues that are all around town and went to the Gold Museum in the National Center of Art and Culture.  The Museums are underground.  There is a park-like area with air vents - not sure whether they are air vents or art work - and you walk down steps below street level to access the Central Bank Museums.  The Numismatic Museum dealt with the history of Costa Rican money and was quite interesting - lots of old coins and paper money on display with a history of Costa Rica and the various emblems pictured on the coins and paper bills.  They went from bananas and tobacco to more eco-sensitive dolphins, panthers and their national flower, an orchid.  They also pictured a woman politician to give more equal treatment to women
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum goes even lower below ground.  I was reprimanded at one point.  I had been given permission to take photos - without flash - but I may not have remembered the prohibition against taking photos of the building itself.  It was modern, with a massive staircase, and interesting lighting, but compared to the Harpa in Reykjavik, it wasn't as photogenic, or at least I had a difficult time getting a decent shot.  And no one can see them to judge because I don't want to endanger the collection.  There were great gold pieces and commentary to go along with them.  I loved the little gold animal depictions.  The sun disks and gold collars were also stunning.  And a gold bat - I want one!

From there I went in search of food, landed at the central post office, quite an ornate, impressive building on the outside.  I thought I might as well buy some postcard stamps, stood in line behind a couple where the man was definitely not in line with Costa Rican custom of not publicly displaying affection.  He couldn't keep his hands off his woman.  The line moved slowly but I was astounded at how little these stamps cost compared to Iceland and Africa.  A nice surprise.  Back to searching for food.  A man stopped me and asked me if I spoke French and then asked if I needed help finding anything.  I said I wanted something to eat.  So he pointed to McDonalds across the street.  I shook my head no and he offered Kentucky Fried farther down the street.  Since I was from the US, he expected me to want US fast food.  So when I told him I wanted Costa Rican food, he said that the Central Market was close by and they would have prepared food.  Good advice.

And that they did.  So many choices, I hardly knew what to pick - plus I had left behind my Spanish phrase book so I was more limited in what I could decipher.  This market reminded me a lot of the one in Santiago Chile but the stalls were not so upscale I think.  First I had an ice cream - cinnamon and vanilla - that was quite good.  While I wandered around looking at the market stalls, two people stopped me and spoke to me in Spanish - maybe asking me where I got the ice cream.  I really have no idea.  Then I picked out a place that offered tamales and ordered one.  It was quite tasty.  I ate it while I sat on a stool at the counter that surrounded some tables.  So there were tables, then a counter/barrier with stools on the inside and.outside.  My tamale was 800 colones - not quite $2 - and my ice cream was 1000 colones - more than $2.  Not too bad.

From there I was looking for the art museum but went back to the central plaza and discovered that the art museum was in direction I had just come - about 4 or 5 blocks maybe (so that's 10 blocks out of the way) - so off I went for a long km to find the Museum of Costa Rican Art.  They had an exhibition by a man named Otto Apuy....., from Guanacaste in the north.  He had a wide variety of styles throughout his career and spoke of the links between his art and his background, the natural materials of Costa Rica.  Outdoors were some sculptures.  I was a little worried about rain since I hadn't thought to bring my rain coat and it was very windy and the sky had darkened at one point.  So my whole walk back to the central square I was afraid of being drenched.  So this museum was converted from San Jose's first airport terminal.

Now I was in search of the National Museum and it was 5 blocks farther beyond the Central Plaza.  I got there just 40 minutes before closing.  I was willing to pay my $8 in dollars to get in however.  The two women took my $20 bill and proceeded to work on the computer....and work on the computer....and obviously something wasn't happening.  I offered to pay in colones if that would be faster, but no....Finally, as I was getting more agitated with minutes ticking by, they let me in for free.  I think that was the problem, the computer would not accept payment after a certain time.  I rushed through what appeared to be a butterfly exhibit but I saw no butterflies.  There were lots of plants and tiled floors.  I have to look up what was converted to make the museum - yes, army barracks.  Finally I found some archeological exhibits in some rooms - more gold, pottery, and the giant round stone spheres that were created by the indigenous people.  No one knows exactly how they did it because the spheres are perfectly round.  There were a number of exhibits of funerary artifacts and at least one display spoke of the important role of women in the society of the early peoples of Costa Rica.

After being kicked out of the museum, I decided to walk back on the next block over and found the Artisans Market.  It had some nice jewelry but I was running low on colones so decided to postpone souvenir buying.  I did stop for a cookie because I was getting hungry again.  Once I got back to the central plaza - my orientation point - I headed for the hotel since I had put in a full day of touristing, although I would have liked more time in the National Museum.  I stopped for some supplies at the supermarket on the way and here I am and it is almost 7:30 San Jose time.

So now it is midnight.  Should I work on postcards now??

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