San Jose, Costa Rica

Trip Start Jul 02, 2012
Trip End Jul 02, 2014

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Saturday, March 9, 2013

This morning when we awoke we each had a very relaxing shower.  Afterword we went to the same restaurant for breakfast that we had gone to the night before.  It is a buffet included in the price of the room.

After breakfast we spent some time looking at our Lonely Planet guide.  The two places we decided to go to were the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) and the Museo del Oro Precolombino (Pre-Colombian Gold Museum).  So, close to 09:00, we got a taxi and headed to central San Jose.  The driver let us off right beside the theater.  It was not quite open so I busied myself with taking photos of the plaza in front of the theater.

As soon as the theater opened, Leslie and I went in to buy our tickets.  We were charged 7,100 Colones or about $7 each.  The theater was originally built in 1897.  The décor and architecture is striking.

At the entrance to the theater, if one looks to the ceiling one sees a painting depicting a banana harvest.  That is apparently one of the more famous paintings in the building.

There are statues scattered through much of the lobby and stairwell spaces.  Some of them held light fixtures while others were just simply display pieces.

The floors were done in various types of marble.  The intricate patterns were all visually appealing, I found the workmanship to be amazing.

When I actually walked into the seating area of the theater I was reminded of the old Chief Theater in Colorado Springs.  The ornate decorations, the paintings on the ceiling, the multi- levels of box seating all reminded me of the Chief.

The theater is not only a show-piece for tourists.  It is still a functioning theater with many performances each year.

The level of detailed workmanship was evident in even the most mundane things; the brass plates above the box seat door knobs; the mirrored door push plates used to exit the box seats; and even the signage for the restrooms were unique.

After exploring as much of the ground floor as we could we set our sights on the second floor.  The marble staircase reminded us of places we had seen in Europe.  I think the overall themes and details were every bit as good as some of the palaces we have been through.

For example, the light fixtures at the turn of the stair rails appeared to be bronze.  Each one sported two very detailed cherubs.  The appliques and paintings on the walls were very eye-catching too.

At the top of the stairs at the front of the building was a large reception hall.  It had wood parquet floors and, of course, all sorts of opulent things on the walls and ceiling to match the rest of the building.  In this hall there was also a very imposing statue of a winged male figure.  As if that weren't enough, there were faces detailed on the columns and settees.

The building was in the final stages of a restoration project.  As part of that there were a few displays available to inform the public what was happening with the project.  Because of my job I was particularly intrigued with the floor plan of the ground floor.  Things like that help me to better understand the building as a whole.

When we got back to the main lobby we noticed more and more people arriving.  We were going to go into the coffee shop to sit and relax a little before we departed.  Just before we entered, a statue of a flamenco dancer caught our eye.  We both marveled at how someone can carve stone with such detail.

When we entered the coffee shop, Alma de Cafe, it really reminded me of the bar frequented by Picasso in Barcelona, Quarte Gats (Four Cats).  We both ordered coffee, sat by an open window, and watched San Jose become more and more vibrant.

Leaving the coffee shop we walked just around the north side of the theater into the Plaza de la Cultura.  We had seen a sign for the gold museum there.  As we walked around the plaza we did not see anything that looked like a museum.  So I asked one of the roving security guards if he could direct us.  He simply said "A bajo" and pointed to the ground.  The museum is actually under the plaza.

We walked down a couple of flights of stairs, turned toward the west, and there it was; the gold museum.  Our entry fee was 11,000 Colones which is about $22.  When we were given the museum brochure we were surprised to find it was more than just one museum.  There was the gold museum which had originally drawn us, a numismatic museum primarily of Costa Rican currency, and a temporary exhibition gallery.  For the museums and gallery there are a total of three floors below ground level.  The construction style is very modernistic.

Our visit began on the entry or first level.  That is where the numismatic museum is housed.  It is actually inside a very large vault.  There were many gold coins and rare paper currencies on display.  There were also several displays on the evolution and manufacturing techniques for both coins and paper money.

From there we went down to level two.  Upon exiting the elevator we found ourselves in the temporary exhibition space.  The works on display were by the artist Lola Fernandez.  I had never heard of her before; however, I did find several of her pieces appealing.  There were paintings, textile pieces, mixed media, and some drawings.

Once we finished looking at the art we entered the vault on the second level.  This was where the gold museum began.  One of the first pieces we saw was an intricately made figurine.  The figurine was made of pure gold, of course.  It was only about three inches tall.  There was case after case of gold objects.  Many of the pieces were caricatures of the animals encountered in daily life such as bats, jaguars, frogs, pigs, and lobsters.

Interspersed throughout were some life-size and some miniature dioramas that helped tell the story of the lives of the pre-Colombian peoples.  There was even more gold to be found on the third level.

I have been to many museums around the world.  This museum is certainly one of my favorites.  I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to San Jose.

Exiting the museum we walked back to the Plaza de la Cultura.  We decided to walk west along Avenida Central, a pedestrian street.  We were looking for touristy type shops.  It was a bustling street, but after four or five blocks we found zero tourist shops.

Since we struck out on that front we decided to hail a taxi and head back to the hotel.  So we headed to Parque Central (Central Park) which is in front of the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral).  The north and east sides of the park is where the taxis cue to wait for passengers.  Every city has their own paint scheme for taxis.  In San Jose it was bright, fire engine red with a small yellow triangle on the side.  One cannot miss them.  We got in one and started back to the hotel.

When we got to the hotel we went straight to the restaurant.  We had a glass of wine to accompany our selection of cheeses and olives.  Ultimately I had a chicken Caesar salad.  Leslie ordered the Aztec soup.  The soup was delicious.  It was sort of a tortilla soup taste.  It was served with three small side-dishes containing small pieces of corn tortilla chips, cheese, and sliced avocados.  Using those with each bite, she thought it was just possibly the best soup she ever had.  To top off lunch, we shared a piece of lemon pie; wow, was it delicious!

We had our lunch at a table overlooking the swimming pool.  At one point we saw two young men, probably in their early 20's, approach the side of the pool.  They were both wearing shirts and shorts.  They each had on day packs.  One of the men had his sunglasses perched on the top of his head.

The one with the sunglasses decided to test the water temperature.  He knelt down and ran his hand through the water.  As he did, the other man grabbed the kneeling man's day-pack and pretended to push him into the pool.  The kneeling man reacted by quickly throwing his weight away from the pool.  With that motion, his sunglasses fell off his head and went straight to the bottom of about four feet of water.

Both of them looked at the sunglasses.  Then the victim stood up and looked at his buddy as if to say, "What the ..."!

They continued to look at the sunglasses and each other.  They were obviously trying to work out how to retrieve the glasses.  They knelt down once and each tried to reach them with their hand.  It was too deep.  They looked around the pool for something to use to fish them out, but saw nothing that would work.

Soon, the victim began emptying his pockets and handing the items to his buddy.  Pretty soon his buddy started handing them back.  Then the buddy took off his shirt.  He unbuttoned his shorts and stopped.  He walked over to one of the lounge chairs to get a towel.  He came back to the scene of the "crime" and dropped the towel on the deck.  Shortly after that he dropped his shorts on the deck too.  Then he jumped in the pool, got the glasses and handed them to his friend.

The buddy got out of the pool, his navy blue boxers soaked, and dried himself off with the towel.  They both went to a lounge chair.  The buddy laid out in his boxers too continue the drying process.

Part of what made this humorous was thee fact that on the opposite side of the swimming pool there was a luncheon in progress with nearly 100 people.  Most of the people were young women who were softly giggling and needling their neighbor to look at what was happening.

That night for dinner, Leslie and I joined a group of people from the conference.  We went just a couple of blocks from the hotel to a restaurant called Fogo Brasil.  It was a carnivore's paradise!

First, there is a massive salad bar, soup bar and pasta bar.  Then, when one is ready for meat, one simply flips the plastic disk on the table from the red side to the green side.  Once that is done the servers stop by with all sorts of meat; sausage, lamb, different cuts of beef, chicken, and prawns.  They will continue coming until the disk is turned back to the red side.

Each server has their meat on what essentially looks like a sword. They hold a metal plate at the tip of the sword to catch any drippings. Each server is also equipped with a large knife. The knife is used to push meat, like sausage, off of the sword onto one's plate. For beef, like sirloin, they would actually carve a piece to order. In that instance, the diner is equipped with a pair of tongs. As the meat is sliced, the diner grabs it with the tongs. When the cut is completed, the diner moves the piece of meat to their plate.  If one can stand it, this "dance" can be repeated until the restaurant closes.  It was delicious and fun.

I remember Leslie and I went to a similar restaurant in Addison, Texas years ago.  We had the same fun experience there.

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Joleen on

Beautiful pictures and very well written story...thanks for sharing

tlvice on


I should have the rest of our trip and photos up in the next few days.

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