24 hours later
Finally, we are in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. It has taken 24 hours and needless to say, I’m tired and in need of beer. I have no idea of the real time though it looks like it might be sometime around lunch time!
We flew from Heathrow with Avianca Airlines; no, we had never heard of them but I couldn’t fault them. Comfy as ‘cattle class’ can be, movies, food and a night flight to Colombia that I managed to sleep on. The connecting flight was smooth enough, even gave me a bit of time to shop in Bogota airport!
Being lunch time, after checking in at Casa las Orquideas, a boutique guest house on the outskirts (according to the guide books), we opted for a walk into the downtown areas of the city. It was a longish walk in the blistering heat but a good chance to stretch my cramped legs and swollen ankles (flights have always done this to me – it is not a sign of age!).
San Jose has a vibrant charm and some worthy places to visit – the National Museum, housed in a former penitentiary, the gold museum, the jade museum. We opted on our first visit to forgo these delights and simply aimed for a restaurant and a brief visit to the
Catedral Metropolitana and La Merced church, in the spirit of our Camino it would seem! Even St Jacobus was there in the church to welcome us!
Generally crime is not a big problem in San Jose although our holiday guide warned us about walking from our hotel into the downtown area at night. Walking as far as Calle 33 and the restaurant district was fine; indeed there are security everywhere, outside every bar and restaurant. Does that make me feel better or more insecure? We never witnessed any trouble though we weren’t out late. I knew what the guide meant though. The suburbs are heavily grafitti’d – it seemed to cover almost all vertical surfaces in some areas and to me, it suggests an unloved air about a place. There were many rough sleepers too, slouched in doorways and in corners and a few emaciated old men shuffled through the streets with their hands held out.
But, it would seem that the restaurants do not tolerate begging or selling in their premises, as many places in Europe seem to. I was interested to watch the street sellers beckon me with a surreptitious finger as I sat sipping a well needed Coke zero! One man did break with the rules and shyly shuffled amidst the guests with his cupped hands just for a fleeting moment before melting away as swiftly as he had come.
In the evening, we met up with the other members of our tour and we spent a pleasant evening in a bar drinking Artisan beer, an upcoming craft in San Jose!
We have three weeks to look forward to in Costa Rica, two weeks with a group for some low key cycling and Costa Rican discovery and a week afterwards to discover Costa Rica on our own. We booked with Explore: not the cheapest in the business but it’s a company I have used before and I know that I can trust.