Exploring San Jose | Coconuts | Attack of the Ants!
Updated: Jul 6, 2022
3am. 3. Blooming. AM.
That's the time we ALL woke up this morning. Hurrah for jet lag! Thank god breakfast is served from 6am. Just three measly hours in the dark to sit and wait until we could feed ourselves.
It was worth it though. We're staying at the Radisson in Costa Rica (nice staff, musty rooms, looks good but smells bad) but the food makes up for the general dampness of the place. Our first time eating Gallo Pinto! DELICIOUS!! One of those times when you wish your stomach was twice the size just so you can go on eating more of that stuff. (Actually, that's probably why I'm the size I am - if I like something I get too disappointed if I have to stop!).
There was piano music playing and a lovely view of the tropical garden outside. Oh and what were they showing on the telly? Ah yes, of course, Wimbledon. We've travelled over 5000 miles to watch what was going on back home.
Anyway...once we were happily fed and watered we decided to set off on an intrepid adventure around San Jose.
It's fair to say that it wasn't long before we realised we weren't in Kansas anymore (aka Wakefield).
Note to self - never complain again about the state of the roads and pavements in Wakefield. At least you don't run the risk of dropping down a 6 foot hole if you don't look where you are going.
The streets are a touch crazy, and you find yourself walking around this grid system (Avenidas go East-West and Calles run North-South) literally jumping over massive holes and dips while being surrounded by incredible mountains dripping in rainforest. It's so haphazard. One minute you're surrounded by almost derelict looking buildings, the next a beautiful blast from the past appears in front of you.
They also have an interesting approach to networking the buildings with (presumably) electricity, cable etc... Here's one example of the chaos. The picture really doesn't do it any justice!
It may not be the most beautiful city in the world, but we really liked it. There was no sense of urgency, or impatience or anger. Everyone was just doing what they needed to do in an incredibly chilled out way. Even when we heard the occasional car horn it sounded polite - more of a "oh excuse me, would you mind moving" than a "getting out of my you f****....etc etc"
We wandered around the central district with the vague aim of heading to La Sabana Park. We found a bustling centre with everyone chilling and generally in a good mood. Lots of places selling fruit and random goods on the street. Including one who was selling woolly hats. In Costa Rica. When it's 27 degrees C?!
We eventually made it to the park to yet another interesting building (see pic below). Turns out it's even more interesting than we thought. Today it's the Museo de Arte Costarricense (Museum of Costa Rican Art), but previously it was the San Jose International Airport terminal, and the park was the Airport! It's so close to everything I just can't imagine how planes landed there without the risk of overrunning straight into some market seller.
We didn't get a chance to go in but may try if we have time tomorrow. Besides I didn't check who the statue was and it's now bugging me. Presumably they were important?
Instead we headed into the park and saw a seller with some strange looking objects. Then it clicked. Coconuts! Fresh Green Coconuts! Something we'd been looking forward to about our trip to Costa Rica! Just what we needed, refreshing, rehydrating, and expertly sliced with a machete by a lovely old lady with no teeth.
If anyone knows what you're supposed to do with the rest of the coconut once you've sucked out all the lovely coconut water please let us know!
Fresh fruit is available everywhere in San Jose by the way. There were also mango sellers, randoms on bikes selling sliced up fresh fruit, fruit stalls etc. Lots of fruits I've never seen before, don't know what they taste like or how to eat them. We've also discovered that plantain is served at pretty much every meal so far (fried, boiled, dried, sliced you name it!). It's like a slightly savoury banana.
So there we were, chilling with our lovely bunch of coconuts when Esme made a sudden move away from the table. Why? Ants, hundreds of ants. Not just any ants though, leaf cutter ants! In other words not interested in us (cos we're not made out of leaves). It felt like we'd entered a David Attenborough documentary. Cue the next 30 mins of us following them, taking photos and videos and generally marvelling at how some of the ants could carry leaves that are the equivalent of a human carrying a car on their heads.
Now I would love to be able to share some amazing nature documentary style footage of these industrious creatures but 1) those BBC guys have better equipment than me and 2) those ants move FAST. So here's the best I could do...
There wasn't much that could top that so it was time to head back to the hotel for a nap. Simple yes? After all we'd walked there quite randomly without incident and it's all a grid pattern yes?
Tip #2 don't assume that just because a street is parallel to the one you walked in on that it's just as safe.
Let's just say that, in the space of 5 minutes we discovered the San Jose red light district, all the local (and quite dodgy looking) bars and everything from crowded Tico market areas to deadly quiet streets with a few randoms who were eyeing up our backpack and phones. Luckily we got by without incident, partly because we tried our best to look like we knew where were going (we didn't and overshot our turn multiple times), partly because they are very family oriented here so probably didn't want to upset Esme and partly because Ali was looking well buff so prob not worth the risk. Either way, we got back just fine, ready to collapse for the night ready for a whole new day of adventure tomorrow!
Final thought for today - I can see why everyone says not to bother spending too much time in the capital itself. It's not London or Paris where you could spend months and still not see everything. But don't let that put you off. It has it's own charm, and that's worth exploring.