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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Road Trip to Santiago de Puriscal

The other day, our friends Diane and John invited us to go with them on a day trip to the town of Santiago de Puriscal, the capital city of the canton of Puriscal in the province of San José. The average altitude is about 3,600 feet.

We left Atenas around 9:00 am, heading west on route 27, exited at the Escobal turnoff and turned left towards the hanging bridge on the road to Turrubares. The bridge was built in 1924 and rebuilt in 1928. The scenery is incredibly beautiful. The road and the bridge were a bit unnerving. We stopped after crossing the bridge to take pictures and look down into the deep river canyon below. During the green season, the gorge fills up with water. Standing on the bridge, I could see gaps between the metal plating - tiny but I could still see the water down below.

Then we headed on to San Pedro and through San Pablo, onto a paved road and drove on steep hills with switchbacks to Santiago de Puriscal. En route, we stopped at a small soda for some cold drinks. The view was amazing. If it had been closer to noon, I think we would have had lunch here. They offered lots of different casados (set platter with rice, beans, fried plantains, salad and a choice of beef, chicken, pork or fish).

We made a couple of other roadside stops just to get out and gaze at the vistas around us. The air in Costa Rica is so very clear that it is easy to see miles away and pick out towns and roads. Standing on one mountain-side, we could see the very top of Vista Atenas, where we live ... and we were several valleys and mountains away - and about ten miles as the crow flies.

Santiago is a very nice town, larger then Atenas. It was busy with lots of people going about their morning business. We went into a large grocery store that had an amazing display of local fruit and vegetables for sale - much larger then we see in the Atenas groceries - and cheap too.

A point of interest is the Santiago Apostle Church, built in 1936. It suffered badly during the 1990 earthquake and could no longer be used. Currently, it is surrounded by chain link fence and bushes are growing out of the once beautiful stained glass windows. I understand there is a lot of debate on what to do with the church and property.

We strolled around town, looking for a restaurant for lunch. Found a soda, La Choza de Doña Toña, and had a terrific lunch. Costa Rica has the best chicken and we each ordered a chicken dish - BBQ, sauteed and breaded. I had the BBQ chicken and it was delicious. As usual, the portions were large - tomato and cabbage salad, fries, half a chicken breast and a leg. We didn't eat dinner that night.

For just a little over $5.00 per person, we had four dinner size plates of food, beer and fresh fruit drinks. They don't carry the beer in the restaurant, but our server/chef ran out to the nearest grocery store and bought it! Costa Rica's sodas (small restaurants/lunch counters) are the best dining deal around and the meals are delicious. No charge for the big smiles and warm hospitality from the Ticos.

We had a lovely day exploring new roads and towns. Although Costa Rica is a small country, because of the mountains, valleys, and some road conditions it can take quite a while to get around.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Festival Internacional de las Artes

This past week, we took the Atenas bus to Sabana Park, San José, to visit the International Festival of the Arts, which is scheduled from April 3 to 13th this year. Two years ago, we went to it and found that this year it seemed smaller with not as many displays or food tents.

However, there were many concerts on the schedule, although we did not go to any of them. We enjoyed wandering around. There were some exceptional hand-crafted items from Costa Rica and other countries and I ended up buying a great hat from Peru.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Flor de Itabo/Yucca Flower

Here are photos of some flowers I bought at our our feria last Friday:


These are the flowers of the yucca plant (Yucca guatemalensis), also known at Itabo. This is not the same as the yuca. So pretty and delicate - and edible! The yucca flowers and fruits around Easter time (Semana Santa) so that is why we see them in our markets at this time of year. I bought my bunch for 1,000 colones (about $2.00) from Ricardo Cortez Castro, the gentleman who sells his handmade miniature oxcarts at the feria and around Atenas.

Marcial Artavia, who makes and sells his terrific sausages at the feria (Sperone Italian Sausage) saw me walking around with them and called me over. He showed me how to pick the flowers off the stems and told me how he cooks them. They can be used in soups and omlettes or just sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Here is what I ended up doing: I boiled a few potatoes and added about a cup of the flowers towards the end, then drained them. I chopped the potatoes into cubes. Sautéd an onion and some garlic. When those were done, in went chopped tomatoes, achiote paste, boullion, and Lizano sauce. I also added a couple of Marcial's sausages. Then I tossed in the cooked potato cubes and flowers. It was very good.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Eyes on Costa Rica - a Continuation

This follows my blog entry of last October. The number of identifiable countries or quasi countries from where people have visited this blog has risen to 95 from the mid 80’s. The newest include Guatemala, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Iceland, Guernsey, Lithuania, Slovenia, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa.

In addition, there have been one or more visits from unidentified locations including “Anonymous Proxy”, “Satellite Provider”, “Asia/Pacific Region” and “Unknown Country”

What we find remarkable is that there are people in so many countries with so many different languages who are drawn towards an English language blog about someone’s experience in Costa Rica. It is a bit embarrassing because our proficiency with the Spanish language remains as a work in progress. If the tables were turned, we would have real difficulty reading a Spanish language blog about experiences in Costa Rica. We could stumble through, but it would take time.

What is even more remarkable is that earlier today (April 1) my husband announced that there was another “unidentifed location”. He said that it had the handle “ISS/UN”. He looked at me dead serious and said that this must be the International Space Station - the letters UN meaning the United Nations. He questioned whether those people orbiting the earth had nothing better to do than surf the Internet. But, it seemed to make sense and I was thrilled. He then reminded me that it was April 1 (April Fools!).

Well, I won't forget that.