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Friday, September 30, 2011

Visit to Archivo Nacional

On Thursday of this week, we bused our way to San Jose to pick up our mail at ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica). We decided that every time we do this, we will also combine it with visiting some landmark in San Jose.

This trip, we decided on going to the Archivo Nacional (National Archives) in Zapote because they had an exhibit on of early photos and documents of Costa Rica, dating from as early as perhaps 1853. We took a taxi from Casa Canada to the Archives.  AM Costa Rica, a daily English language news source on line, featured an article on this exhibit and that's how we found out about it.

 It took us a while to get in the door, because we were trying to explain why we were there in terrible Spanish and get past the guard with his Magic Wand. Eventually, they let us in and sent a lovely curator who explained the exhibit to us in English. Embarrassing ....  she apologized for her English which was very good and here we are with just a few words of this country's native language. We tried to apologize to her.

Then we took another taxi to PriceSmart, which is like Costco, only the yearly membership is $30 US, not $50 CAD which is what we paid for our Costco membership in Canada.  I decided to sign us up for this thinking that maybe once a month I would take the bus to the PriceSmart in Alajuela and stock up on basics. Then if I go to the feria in Atenas most Fridays, I could get the perishables (fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese). I think I need to get a wheelie cart though.

This particular PriceSmart in Zapote is huge. We got there just before noon so decided to have lunch at their fast food counter. We both got the two pieces of chicken, fries and drink combo - huge portions - we could easily have split one order. Then off to shop - then I realized they don't provide bags - so whatever we bought had to fit in my small fabric shopping bag.

I was particularly looking for gel ice packs - didn't see them. We did stock up on razor blades, found some local Gouda cheese, saw Hebrew National hot dogs which are supposed to be the best, but decided against them because we had a long ride home and what if they went off.

I found shorts! yahoo! for six dollars U.S. and they fit, only bought one pair but now wish I had bought all the colors offered.

This shocked me: a display of lighted Christmas trees for sale along with kids' gifts. I know Christmas is a big holiday here, but this does seem early.

Then, taxi to the Coco Cola bus depot, bought two bottles of water from our now well known snack vender who recognizes us, and seems to be able to speak Spanish, English and French (he said to us "comment allez vous?") so we think he recognized that we are Canucks.

Here are some photos of the fruit drinks we had in San Jose and of the Archives building.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Playa Dona Ana

Last week, we had the good fortune to visit Playa Dona Ana with a great group of people of like minds as ourselves.

If you are already living in Costa Rica and want to join up with Beach Days, contact Paul and Gloria Yeatman at BY CLICKING HERE.  I've been following their web site for quite a while and finally got to meet both of them at last week's Beach Day. We don't have a vehicle so I asked Paul if anyone in the Atenas area was going and could we carpool with them.

Instant response from Sally and Len! Yes, they had two seats to offer in their SUV and we arranged to meet them at 0800 in front of Don YaYo restaurant on highway 3. Sally and Len are super people and we liked their beagle dog, Sprocket, who slept peacefully in his travel crate behind us. We drove the highway 3 route to the coast - the original road - the scenery is so amazing, just beautiful. We climbed up so high, lots of s-curves, then dropped down to the Pacific Coast. Len and Sally filled us in with all the local history of every area we drove through.

I think the drive took about 45 minutes - the traffic was light and road conditions good.

And there it was --- the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. So we have moved from the Pacific Coast of British Columbia to here.... and en route, over the years, we have experienced the Pacific Coasts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Mexico.

CLICK HERE to read more about this beach and where it is located. There is a small charge to park and get into the beach area. The first things we saw at the park gate were monkeys, beautiful white-throated capuchins. The park attendant was feeding them monkey snacks and they were taking them out of his hand. They are, of course, wild animals so they are very cautious. One female had a tiny baby clinging to her back.

Playa Dona Ana is an excellent beach to visit. It is very clean and safe and has a security guard. Workers  were raking the picnic area and beach the whole time we were there. They have washrooms, change rooms and showers. There are a lot of covered picnic areas with BBQ grills. No restaurant so bring your own food and drinks.

And bring bananas for the monkeys! We did and it was such a thrill to have these small monkeys gently and politely take bananas pieces from our outstretched hands.

The picnic area is heavily shaded with lovely trees so you can sit and read or nap. The day started out cloudy, the sun eventually came out, there was a brisk breeze off the ocean - it was marvelous. More humid than in Atenas.

I saw brown pelicans fishing and frigate birds riding the thermals. There are howler monkeys in the area but we neither saw nor heard them this day.

Ah, the water! So warm and salty. Perfect for body or boogie board surfing. The rip tides are very strong though. I couldn't get enough of the ocean and suffered for it the next day with a bright red burn. We need to be using much stronger sun block.

We met really nice people, made new friends and will do this trip as often as we can. One image that remains in my mind is of a Tico father and his son at the beach that day. Dad played with his boy for hours in the water and later they had a nap together on the beach.

Thanks again to Sally and Len!


Picnic area

At low tide, it's possible to walk around this rock formation to the other side, which is where the surfers go.

Resident park kitty. Apparently the capuchins like to  chase it with sticks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Independence Day in Atenas

Thursday, September 15, 2011, was Costa Rica's 190th celebration of independence from Spain. Celebrations went on for most of the week across the country. It was also the first celebration we have been to since moving here in late May.

We went into Atenas around 9:00 a.m. and had a great time watching the parade and walking around the park. The weather was perfect. Lots of marching bands from different schools in the area.

The central park gradually filled up with kids and families and everyone was enjoying the food booths. We had pork brochettes with a small corn tortilla stuck on top of the stick. If we hadn't had breakfast, I know I would have tried a lot more.

I made a parade video but I cannot seem to get my videos on my blog - the message claims it is loading but then nothing ever happens and I've left it for an hour just to see what would happen.

So, here are some photos. I was delighted two horses were in the parade as now I have some more reference shots for future paintings. Can't wait until the oxen parades start.

You can't beat the colors in Costa Rica.

I bought my first Costa Rican orchid - and so the new collection begins. This is a phal.

The pork brochette guy - they were really good.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Here and There in Atenas

A couple of days ago we went into Atenas for supplies. We stopped to pick up the jeans Lance had altered at a local tailor (see previous post) - the bill was 1000 colones (2.00 CAD).

Then we walked over to the Supermercado to shop for groceries. Along the way, we met the nicest senior you would ever want to meet. We first met him at Kay's Gringo restaurant not long after we arrived here. This lovely guy walks around Atenas with a wicker basket full of fresh made tortillas, hot, 2000 colones for two packages. We've been eating them for the last two days. These are not flat tortillas, they are puffy and I think they have cheese in them. He or his wife must make them at home I guess.

They are so good with lots of butter on them!

Here's a picture:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

She Travels By Herself to Alajuela

One of my goals here in Costa Rica is to be able to travel around by myself when I want to, after having been indoctrinated along with someone else, like my husband.

So today I went off to Alajuela by myself on board the Atenas-Alajuela bus,  600 colones, or about $1.20 CAD for an hour's trip. I boarded the 0900 bus and got to Alajuela just before 1000.

I was aiming to get to Llobets, a landmark department store in Alajuela. I knew enough to get off the bus and head right, and I did that. I had the directions for Llobets and the street addresses but - of course - there are no street addresses!  Defeated, I stopped and asked a couple of smart looking local policemen/women and they were both so helpful. I brightened up when I realized I could understand quite a bit of what they were saying in Spanish and I found my way to Llobets.

Llobets is three stories high, sells men, womens' and childrens' clothing plus linens, etc. I was hoping to buy shorts, a couple of dresses, some light weight trousers, and maybe a few cotton shirts.  Doom!!!

No shorts! no trousers that fit me! no dresses! no shirts that fit me! I did buy a pair of smart looking sandals, so I don't have to walk around in flip flops when we go to town - they are kind of frowned upon. Also bought a pair of high water pants. That's it - I tried on a pile of clothes and nothing fits. The sizes are not like we are used to in Canada, but then Ticas are smaller built than we are.

But -- I am so pleased that I was able to shop and buy in Llobets - not a word of English is spoken there, or so it seemed to me. I wanted size 8 shoes and asked for ocho (eight) and got them!! This is the best way to learn a foreign language.

Found my way back to the bus station and boarded the Atenas bus just before it was ready to leave.  No seats available ... so stood all the way to Atenas. That's OK, lots of fresh air blowing in the windows. Caught a cab in Atenas to take me home to Vista Atenas. Had a cold shower to cool off. Think I will have to do on line ordering for my clothing. But I had a blast doing this all by myself!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Museo de Arte Costarricense

Last week, we were in San Jose and when we finished our business there, we walked over to the fabulous Museo de Arte Costarricense.

The art museum is located at the Metropolitan La Sabana Chapui Park that was once the international La Sabana airport, on the west side of San Jose.

The current exhibition is called "Otto Apuy: Journey 1974-2011". Otto Apuy holds an important place in Costa Rican art history and we very much enjoyed looking at his work. I always learn a new technique when studying other artists' creations.

The land the park is on was bequeathed for the benefit of the poor in the 18th century by Reverend Father Chapui, so they could graze their cattle on the fields. Later the land was used for horse racing and as a training field for the Costa Rican army (since abolished), and various other uses over the years.

Long story short: the most incredible airport terminal I have ever seen was opened in 1940. You have to go see it. And don't miss the Golden Hall upstairs, the original VIP lounge.  This airport served as an international air terminal until 1955, when air traffic was transferred to the Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela (note: SJO is not in San Jose, as many visitors believe ... it is about 17 km away).

This is the control tower - it's beautiful. There is a lightening rod on the top.

The rear of the terminal building. Can you picture yourself waiting here for your DC 3 flight to Panama?

Every time we are in San Jose, we are going to go see a different museum or building. Costa Rica has a very interesting history - lots of beautiful old, old buildings to explore.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hedge Trimming Time

Yesterday, we both decided it was time for haircuts. The last cut I had was in San Francisco the day before we flew to San Jose (May 31) and, folks, that cut cost $155 U.S. It was a great cut but surely the most expensive one I've ever had in my life and I was used to expensive Vancouver, B.C., salon prices. Lance's last haircut was even earlier than that.

Even in Cloverdale, where we lived and that was outside of Vancouver, my cuts cost $60 and Lance's cost $7 for a number 3 (shave the head, 5 minutes) which was a heck of a lot less than the $30 or  $40 that was charged in Vancouver.

So Lance went to a barber - Yugo - this morning ($5.00 CAD) and I went to the salon next to El Balcon del Cafe y Bistro where we had breakfast, and the cost for my great cut was 5,000 colones or $9.71 CAD.... that included a shampoo with conditioner, the cut and styling. I had brought in a photo of the cut I wanted and, although there was barely any Spanish/English cross-communication, my stylist did a fantastic job.  And I am sorry that I did not think to ask for her card so I could share the info with everyone. But everyone knows where the Balcony Cafe is, I think - you can order a Tico, German, American or light breakfast and they have a cooler full of locally made sausages, etc., for sale.... so it is the only salon right next to the cafe.

I said to Lance that my head looked a lot smaller and he said that is because you got rid of the big hair. I feel a lot cooler topside.

Oh, and I have to mention our taxi driver, Mario Castro. He and Jorge Calderon appear to be in business together and, if we can't reach Jorge, then we call Mario. So Mario picked us up this morning and we needed to be dropped off near a tailer I had found because Lance has a pair of jeans he bought in San Francisco that are much too large now. We both have dropped weight from around our midsections since arriving in Costa is the healthy food, the weather, the Pura Vida!

The tailer was closed but Mario drove us, gratis, to another place that sells mens' clothing and also does alterations. Lance's altered jeans will be ready next week.

We are amazed, over and over again, about the friendliness of Ticos and Ticas .... both Jorge and Mario try to help us with our Spanish every time we meet them. Costa Rica is an amazing country.