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Published: September 25th 2017
Source of flight delays
After immigration and customs, our guide, Ollie, found me from amongst the crowd of greeters with signs. He introduced me to Lise and Giselle, from Sudbury, who had spent their extra night in a different Houston Hotel.
With only four travellers, we will be riding in a comfortable van that can easily carry our luggage. During the drive into town, Ollie startled us with the information that San Jose has 2 million people, a third of the country’s population! The city is spread over 72 kilometres in the Central Valley, which is actually a tectonic depression
caused by sequences of earthquakes. Most buildings are one or two storeys because of earthquake risks. Small businesses and shops are neighbours with medium industrial compounds. The economy’s agricultural base is gradually changing to services, particularly tourism and call centres. Education is mandatory through high school, and the four public universities are free upon passing exams; there are also more than fifty private universities, some dedicated to a single profession, such as medicine or law. Although unemployment is around 12%!,(MISSING) many the unemployed are immigrants, mainly Nicaraguans, who gradually do make their way into the wage economy.
Our Park Hill Hotel
has twelve floors. For his
Smaller buildings spread wide
guests, Ollie always makes sure to obtain higher floors looking west to the volcanic mountain range. The view of the heavy clouds in ranks above the mountains and valley was dramatic, provoking a lot of photos.
Lunch called - we had eaten breakfast so many hours ago. Lise, Giselle and I relaxed by just going down to the hotel restaurant, where we met Judi, our fourth traveller. My shrimp salad was astounding! Two gigantic shrimp were accompanied by mixed greens, three hearts of palm, large sections of tomato, and half an avocado.
I needed some bottled water, which seemed a good postprandial exercise. The waiter told us there was a store “right beside the hotel”, which proved to be a block away. It was what we might call a convenience store, with lots of packaged goods, prepared sandwiches, some fresh fruit, and lots of drinks. The water was in the back corner, in a cooler. The price of a litre was 750, but none of us knew the exchange rate because we had been told we could use US dollars. I asked the cashier showing her the dollars, and she said something with “quinque” in it. I thought
Park Inn, San Jose
she meant $5 and offered that to her, although it seemed an extraordinary price. My change was a 1000 bill and a fist-full of coins about the size of a loonie. A few minutes later I realized she probably had not understood me and was just repeating the cost in Costa Rican colones. Since then we have learned the exchange is about C500:US$1.
Nap next. Then a rest. Wrote a few notes. Then met the others in the lobby to go to our welcome dinner. This was an honour, because Ollie took us to the restaurant owned by his father and his brother, located in what used to be their family home. He showed us his former upstairs bedroom, now a private dining room. For our dinner we had the large main room to ourselves, indoors but open to the warm evening air. The menu was extensive, based on Ollie’s mother’s cooking. He was astounded that we knew about tongue and a couple of us had eaten it at home. It is particularly favoured by Costa Ricans.
Dinner: Tongue in tomato sauce, greens cooked and chopped, white rice, side of black beans, Cabernet Sauvignon View map with San Jose
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