Yen's Blog

Lens, Wheels, Skates, Keyboard

Costa Rica Day 1 (Tuesday) - San Jose

I just came back from a second visit to Costa Rica, the first being 2 years ago.  This trip was quite spontaneous, after plans to catch a friend during her last semester in Venice fell through.

After not being quite prepared for the torrential tropical downpours or having a decent camera last time, I resolved that things would be different this time.  Checklist:

  • guide book (2008 edition),
  • Spanish phrasebook (unfortunately meant for Spain/Portugal as I lent someone the Costa Rica edition),
  • camera + telephoto lens + tripod  for waterfalls shots,
  • Bose noise-canceling headphone,
  • book club read (Blue Highway by William Least Heat-Moon),
  • pair of binoculars,
  • bug repellent,
  • waterproof jacket, hiking boots, quick-drying pants and shirts, and
  • ATM card (I had already called ahead to notify the bank that I would be using my credit and debit card abroad).

First stopover was the cavernous Hartfsfield-Jackson International airport in Atlanta. Lots of servicemen abound.  After a hasty bite of so-so airport food, we were on our way to CR.  Flight consisted  mostly of gringos.  Judging from their footwear, some people must have planned to stay on the beach or in the hotel for the entire duration of the trip. I guess we wouldn’t be seeing them on the trails any time soon.  Not a bad thing, too many people would scare away the local fauna.

After about 4 hours, we approached San Jose around 20:00 local time.  The ground below was mostly pitch-black punctuated by isolated dots of light.  Sometimes the lights were strung together like a string of pearls.  Then the disorderly jumble of lights that was San Jose came into view.  The city is quite large, but doesn’t have anywhere near the same kind of glow as, say, Las Vegas.

After custom, we stepped into the mad scene outside the airport arrival gate.  We were accosted by no less than 8 cab drivers, speaking very good English. It was the first, and only time, we had to use “No, gracias” more than once.  At no time, however, did we feel that we were being harassed.  One guy, upon being turned down, offered a grin and a “welcome to Costa Rica”.  My pleasant impression from last time of the Ticos and Ticas remained intact.  Shortly afterwards we spotted our rental car contact holding a sign with our name on one side and “Cooper” on the other.  ”Cooper” was nowhere to be seen, so after 10 minutes we were on our way to the Adobe Rental Car office about 5 minutes away.

Our ride was a compact Suzuki SUV, everything manual!  I hadn’t seen once of those since, um, the last time I drove my sister’s car.  The tread on the tires was all worn down; this came as no great surprise given what I knew of the Costa Rican roads on which we were about to embark.  About 15 minutes later an older couple arrived—it was our friends the Coopers!

First accommodation was Best Western.  On the way there we saw an enormous warehouse with the sign “Lizano”.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of my love affair with the green stuff.

Everything apparently was closed around 22:00 when we arrived.  The only option? Denny’s!  I hadn’t even been to one in the US.  Kate said that the menu, decoration, uniform, music, and even the table mat were identical to those at all the other Denny’s.  Isn’t it wonderful? The main courses tasted just about what I expected, but the fresh fruit juices were a huge redemption in my eyes.  Also a bonus, they accepted dollars, which was good news because we didn’t have the chance to stop by an ATM.

Needless to say, there are no pictures.  If you’re wondering what it looks like, feel free to drop by your local Denny’s!