Here’s a tip for the savvy traveler: When guidebooks use phrases like “gritty charm” and “a few surprises under the rough and tumble exterior” to describe a destination, it might be a place you want to avoid.
(Note: You should also avoid blind dates with those same descriptions.)
Despite myriad warnings, we decided to spend a day checking out the gritty charms of downtown San José, and I can now safely report that downtown San José has a nice personality and — hoo boy! — I’d love to come up for a nightcap but I have an early meeting and I’ll call you sometime.
Anyway, it turns out that our San José Bed and Breakfast should have technically been called a Bed and Make Your Own Damn Breakfast, since they provided a kitchen and some ingredients but didn’t actually provide any “cooking.” I’m somewhat surprised they didn’t provide a hammer, 2x4s and a goose and have us assemble our own bed.
Undeterred, we whipped up some eggs, went for a brief run in La Sabana Park and then caught a taxi to the Mercado Central in downtown San José. Mercado Central is a block-sized building filled with food vendors, fishmongers, meatmongers, vegetablemongers, and various knicknackmongers. (Pro internet tip: knicknackmongers.com is still available. Snap that up and get rich. You’re welcome.) The mercado was not particularly exciting, so we lingered only long enough to enjoy second breakfast at one of the many food counters. Hadas had a delicious bowl of beef soup with various exotic root vegetables. She ate half of it and we put the rest in my backpack to show the owners of our B&MYODB what assembled food looks like.
From there we wandered around downtown a bit, poking our heads into the Teatro Nacional (looks like a theater) and generally getting the feel that downtown San José was more gritty than charm. There was also an overwhelming police presence, with uniformed officers and police towers on nearly every corner. The feeling was a city that is fighting very hard to remain orderly. Strange, considering how laid back, charming and kind the rest of the country is.
As is traditional, Hadas had injured her leg while running that morning, so we cut our walking tour short and hopped a taxi back to the B&MYODB, enjoying the traffic patterns through central San José that could best be described as “lane-curious.” After a nap we went out for a walk in Parque Sabana, where we watched children throw rocks at muscovy ducks and lamented the state of humanity.
Back at the B&MYODB we discovered that pretty much all the guests except for us had come to Costa Rica for dental tourism. The George Bush doppelgänger we had met the day before announced that his tooth surgery had healed up completely, after which he went into his room and proceeded to take a shower that included loud groans of either pain or pleasure. I guess I had missed the part of the AirBnB description where it said “Meet exotic guests from around the world and listen to them masturbate painfully in the shower.”
Luckily, we were distracted from the shower noises by the obnoxious guest from Portland, who proceeded to whine and moan about Costa Rica, her lodging options, her dental work, the airlines, food, health insurance, the city of Vancouver Washington and the general state of the building’s wi-fi. I was moments away from flying across the room and performing an amateur root canal, or at least inviting some children in to throw rocks at her.
Today we were up at 3:45 a.m. for the drive to the airport. Hadas had a flight at 7 a.m. and I had a flight scheduled for 9:30 a.m. It is currently noon and I am sitting on the plane. We have a malfunctioning navigation radio on board, which technicians are trying to troubleshoot. I’m not really sure what the big deal is — the USA is a big country and I’m sure they could just point the plane at it and come reasonably close to hitting it. Worst case scenario, we end up in Kiev and I get an extra week of vacation. I hear Kiev has gritty charm.
The plane never took off. After 45 minutes sitting at the gate they unloaded us back into the terminal, and another 30 minutes after that they announced that the flight was canceled and we would be re-booked. We had to go down through customs to have our passports checked for re-entry back into Costa Rica, then past the baggage claim, outside the airport, across the street, up the escalator, across the skybridge and back into the terminal. Luckily, I’d anticipated this dance, so as they announced the cancellation I’d sprinted the entire way like Usain Bolt on a Hadas-quantity of coffee.
I was second in line for rebooking and was swung over to Delta to fly home with an overnight in Atlanta. The line to go back through security was punishingly long, but I made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare and actually got onto a plane that departed the airport, 11 hours after I’d arrived. Delta wins the travel day because they showed us this safety video.
After an overnight at the lovely Springhill Suites, which is two minutes from the Atlanta Airport by SkyTrain, I flew home this morning. It’s good to be home, although my cats still haven’t gotten used to wearing the saddle for giving monkey rides.
[Hadas and I are writing he-said/she-said blogs about this trip. You can read her blog at klutzinmypants.wordpress.com. I stole the Kiev joke from my cousin Sara. Hi Sara!]