Search This Blog

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Breakfast in San José

Yesterday morning, we took the Atenas bus to San José because we wanted to have breakfast there and do a bit of shopping.

Got off at the Coca Cola bus station (used to be a Coca Cola bottling facility, then became a bus station but the name still is used and you need to know this if you want your taxi driver to get you to the right place when time to go home).

Walked up to the pedestrian mall (Avenida Centro), which runs eight blocks from calle 6 to calle 9. This is the financial district ... and is the vibrant heart of San José, I think. So much activity, lots of people around. Some stores were closed, some were open because of the early hour. We wanted to find a bank and ATM's and lo and behold, we quickly found a Banco de Costa Rica.

Coming from a small farming community like Atenas, we are used to our BCR having only three ATM's and I think about eight tellers not necessarily all open at the same time. Even the ATM's don't aways work at the same time.

This San José BCR had two floors and lots of people to help us out. It was also very, very busy ... you get your ticket from the kiosk ... for us it was one transaction which I am used to ... but it was so fast to get to my assigned teller .. you have to pay attention to the voice and video recordings on where you need to line up and it is in Spanish. It also opened at 8:30 am whereas our Atenas bank doesn't open until 9:00 am.

Our banking done, we strolled on up the avenue, as the song goes. We found a shoe store and Lance bought himself some shoes. Next we went looking for a place to have breakfast and decided on the Gran Hotel, situated on the Plaza de La Cultura and across from the Teatro Nacional (National Theater). This hotel has been declared an historical and architectual monument by the government. They have an outdoor patio but we ate inside. As usual, it was a beautiful day and the tropical breezes were blowing in through open doors and windows.

We each ordered the bacon omelet which had strips of bacon inside and smothered in fresh tomatoes on top. A large bowl of Costa Rican mixed fruit was also included. For drinks, I had a mixed fruit bebida (drink) and Lance ordered a mora bebida (mora is "blackberry"). Excellent service.

Teatro Nacional

We enjoyed our morning in the city and must do it more often. It's just an hour away by bus from Atenas.

Pigeons bathing in the hotel patio fountain.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Breakfast and Dia de las Madres

We decided to go out for breakfast this morning and headed to La Garita, Alajuela - a nice area where many of the viveros (garden shops) are located and not too far away from Atenas.

There are lots of restaurants along this stretch of highway three and we stopped at Restaurante La Casona del Mais, a typical Tico restaurant. We chose to sit at the back where we could look out onto the tropical hillside. The restaurant is open sided for the most part. Tables are wooden with benches. It's a busy place with lively music.

Today is Mother's Day (Dia de las Madres) in Costa Rica and the restaurant was busy - perhaps lots of mums were being taken out for breakfast.

For our desayuno (breakfast) we both ordered the same thing - pinto con huevos y jamon (gallo pinto with an egg and slices of ham, plus corn tortillas). Gallo pinto (spotted rooster) is a traditional Costa Rican dish - black beans and rice with seasonings and cilantro. It's so filling and I can never finish what's on my plate. There is no rooster in this dish! We also each ordered a bebida (fresh fruit drink with milk). I had zanahoria con naranja (carrot with orange) and Lance ordered a mora (berry).

Driving back to Atenas is always interesting. The road is very twisty and goes up and down. Lots of shift work with the vehicle. Stopped at Coopeatenas in Atenas to pick up a few groceries. We normally shop here or at El Canario for our groceries.

A sweet young lady at the entrance to Coopeatenas was handing out red roses for Mother's Day and she gave me one and said Happy Mother's Day in Spanish. I shamelessly took it (even though we have no children). It was wrapped with fern and tiny daisies.

Here is a short video I made of our day:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Jade Museum and Dim Sum

On Tuesday morning of this week, we rode the Atenas bus to San José to visit the Jade Museum (Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina. This link is in Spanish but can be read in English by using Google Translate). The building is located on Central Avenue on the west side of the Plaza de la Democracia. The phone number is 2521-6610 and it is open Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.


If you are going to the museum by taxi and your driver does not speak English, the phonetic translation is: "moo-seh-oh del hah-day". If your driver is still mystified, it will not be because of your pronounciation, it will be because he has no idea where the museum is. Our driver solved this problem by phoning up his supervisor, who spoke English, and Lance talked to him and we were soon on our correct way.

The Jade Museum was founded in 1977 by Marco Fidel Tristan Castro, the first president of Costa Rica's national insurance agency, the INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros). The INS is an agency of the government. The new and present location opened on May 26, 2014, and the building itself is designed like a piece of jade. It contains 7,000 pieces dating to the centuries between 500 B.C. and 1500 A.D.

Entrance fees for residents is 5,000 colones but we got in for free once they looked at our cedulas (identification cards). I'm assuming this is because we are seniors.

The museum exhibits one of the most important Pre-Columbian jade collections in America that come from all the archaeological regions of Costa Rica. Five floors show the cultural and ecological scenarios where the societies that produced the jade were developed.

Las Bolas - the stone spheres of Costa Rica


Hall 1 is called "Threshold". In Hall 2, named "The Jade", the process of jade preparation is demonstrated and its symbolism, social use and role in shamanic ceremonies. "The Day", Hall 3, highlights activities of daily life. Hall 4, "The Night", was unfortunately not open on our visit. Hall 5 - "The Ancestral Memory" - shows the importance of archeology, showcasing Pre-Columbian body ornaments, musical instruments, utensils and so on of the indigenous and non-indigenous people of Costa Rica.

Floor in one of the halls.

Because of the "no flash" rule, it's difficult to take sharp photos without a tripod.


Lastly, Hall 6 - "The Visitable Collection", has shelves and shelves of objects from different materials (jade, ceramics, stone, bones, shells) that come from the three different archeological regions of this country: Grand Nicoya Region, Central Region/Caribbean and the Grand Chiriqui Region. I couldn't stop myself from briefly touching something here, even though there are signs clearing stating not to do this. My fingers touched something made by someone else so very long ago.


The museum collections and displays are incredible and I highly recommend a visit. There is a small cafe on the main level, where we had flavored iced coffees, rather pricy at 2,400 colones, but good. They also offer small sandwiches and pastries. 10% off everything with the museum entrance fee receipt. If you are taking photographs, no flashes please. And no bags can enter but there is a secure locker area just inside the entrance. Also, all the displays provide information in both Spanish and English.

Oh yes, across from the museum there are a couple of Ropa Americanas. All the clothes were nicely organized, lots of high end brand names for amazingly low prices.

Then it was time for lunch and we had both been wanting dim sum for quite a while. We took a taxi to Restaurante Casa China, in the Los Yoses area of San José, located at avenida 10 and calle 25. It was the typical Chinese restaurant we were used to eating at in Richmond, British Columbia, home to a gazillion authentic Asian restaurants of all types. Restaurante Casa China is a huge open room with large round tables covered in white cloths. At one end was a very large screen with a soccer game being shown. You can see into the kitchen which was humming with activity.


The dim sum cart was being pushed around the room and we pointed at what we wanted. Don't ask me the names of all that we ordered - they are in Spanish and Chinese on the menu. The food comes in small steamer baskets, usually three items to a basket. Everything was very good but ordering the steamed pork buns (pan relleno con lechon al vapor) was our downfall because they are huge. We couldn't even eat the third one.

Total cost was 11,800 colones and that included four ginger ales. We'll definitely be going back here when next we crave dim sum.

Tiime to head back to Atenas. We taxied to the Coca Cola bus station and caught our bus.

On the bus.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fruit Pie

It's mango season in Costa Rica and mangoes are literally falling from the trees. Where we live, it seems every property has at least one mango tree and sometimes more then one. Our mango tree is huge as are most of them around here. The scent from the ripening mangoes is quite distinctive.

Two weeks ago, it looked like the mangoes were ripening but it was still hard to pluck them off the branches with the fruit picker. Today they literally fell into the fruit picker basket. I saw that quite a few still hanging on the tree have been eaten by something so they provide food for creatures other then ourselves. Many mangoes are falling off the tree and rolling down the laneway, only to jam up the electric gate.

This surfeit of fruit richness makes one feel guilty. There are only so many mango smoothies one can drink. I give away as many as I can.

Today I made a fruit pie using two of our mangoes (they were huge) and strawberries from the street vendor in Atenas (three pints for one mil - roughly two dollars.) She very carefully selects the three best pints out of her display.

Here's my pie:


The recipe is from the book "Pie-ography, Where Pie Meets Biography" and the author is Jo Packham. It was actually a strawberry pie recipe but I added the mangoes.