Day 8 – El Centro, a Pie

[Disclaimer: It’s “ah pee-eh” (Spanish for “by foot”). There’s no pie here. In case you were hoping to find some.]

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012:

We awoke when the sun brightened our room, then headed downstairs to the cute courtyard to enjoy coffee and a tasty breakfast provided by the hostel (fresh fruit for me, fruit and crepes for Will):

We also killed some time playing with the 3D camera. Needless to say, the images aren’t quite as cool in 2D.  Just goofier. =)

We enjoyed the courtyard and the incoming breakfast crowd through a couple cups of coffee then headed back to our room to pack our things and put them in storage for the day. With the hostel holding our bags, we set out to tour the town for a day.

Our first stop was the Plaza de la Democracia next to the Museo Nacional

From there we headed to the artisans’ market adjacent to the plaza (the landmark our new acquaintance, Ben, referred to as “S#*t in Tents”) to acquire some souvenirs.

We spent way too long there, but eventually selected an embroidered bag for Will’s mom, a magnet for his dad, a monkey purse made from a coconut for his niece, a sarong for me, a t-shirt for him and a cutting board/hot plate for the kitchen.

While Will was bargaining with the monkey purse vendor, I stepped outside to sit down and snack, and entertained myself by watching a panted pigeon shuffle around the plaza.

By the time we wrapped up the shopping, we were both getting pretty hungry. Thankfully, I had scouted out some vegetarian-friendly restaurants listed online, so we bee-lined toward the nearest one: Jardin del Parque, a beautiful outdoor restaurant adjacent to (and owned by) the Hostel Casa del Parque, across from the Parque Nacional.

We sat down and the waiter ended up taking our 0rder in English, but conversed with us in Spanish awhile and kindly answered all our questions about Costa Rican Spanish, including the big one: “What’s the word for ‘cool’ or ‘neat’ or general approval?” (It’s “tuanis” – too-AH-neece – if you were wondering.) 

While waiting for our meal, we admired the surrounding and unique bamboo decor (hoping to steal some ideas for home):

Lunch (all freshly made) included tomato soup, a kale and mustard salad with popped amaranth, a vegetarian mushroom burger patty and a vegetarian quiche, with some tasty fizzy juices and delicious coffee. (Click here to see their menu.)

The meal was absolutely delicious. If you’re in San Jose, take the time to visit this place (even if you’re not vegetarian). And while you’re at it, check out the inside of the Hostel!

Researching hostels before the trip, I came across listings for Casa del Parque, but – not knowing the scale or layout of the city, or the transportation means available in San Jose – wrote it off as too far from where we wanted to be. Walking into the hostel, I realized what a huge mistake I had made.

I would return to San Jose if only to stay in this place. It’s freakin beautiful. The owner said he’s the son of the former Costa Rican ambassador to the US (or vice versa – can’t remember), and that the hostel was his father’s house. Given the architecture, decor and opulence, I was amazed to find out that they charge about the same amount (give or take $5, depending on whether the bathroom is shared) as we were paying for the closet-sized room at Casa Ridgeway. Ouch.

Here are some pics:

All the rooms had hardwood floors (SO MUCH DANCING TO BE DONE!!) and were … well, roomy.

We met the owner, hanging out in a lounge (with a big screen TV and a karaoke machine!!!) with one of the guests. He was delightfully laid-back and and told us all about the weekly karaoke they host for the guests. This place was a dream come true. (Can’t believe I didn’t book us here!)

After wandering around awhile, we had to leave (if only to escape my lament) and crossed the street to the park with the Monumento Nacional:

We sat on a bench (among the other scattered benches occupied by couples enjoying the park) and people-watched, chuckling particularly hard at a crazy young boy dashing around, comically running into stuff. Ah, kids.

The rest of the evening was spent strolling around downtown, exploring and taking pictures:

 

We ate some vegetarian fare at a chain restaurant called Vishnu:

Whatever it was that I ordered was horribly tasteless, especially compared to the deliciousness of lunch, but Will liked his meal well enough, and I had fun photographing Batman nonetheless:

We ended up hitting the same supermarket from the night before to grab some more flan and rice pudding, then returned to the hostel for our bags and took a cab to the local bus station (North of Parque de la Merced) to catch a bus to the airport.

The bus ride out to the airport was an easy one (and much cheaper than a cab), but the whole airport process (and most of the remainder of the trip) was a nightmare.

But I’ll get to that in the next post.