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.