I was planning to begin this post with an apology. My pristine blogging system has gone quite down the drain in these last few weeks, and I was going to say that I’m so sorry for just copying out the running commentary that I kept in my lovely Liberty notebook as I was travelling.
I’m not going to make that apology, because I wrote and wrote and wrote in that notebook during those three weeks of madness, and while it won’t be super-eloquent or reflective like some of my later posts have been (thanks, Jenny, for noticing that it appears I have found my blogging voice!); it will provide an adequate description of what adventures Grant and I got up to. And I can come back and revise it later, but I put a lot of effort into keeping the notebook up to date, so I’m not sorry at all. : P
I’ll start where I left off earlier, and tell you all about my time with him in San José. Here goes.
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For the second morning in a row, Mum rose early. I half-woke as she gave me a hug goodbye and quietly wheeled her suitcase out the door. I was too sleepy to register that I wouldn’t see her until Christmas, but the next morning I felt, predictably, sad and alone. After being around my mum every minute of every day for a fortnight, I wasn’t really sure how to behave on my own. Rémy, a Portuguese/Ukrainian man I sort-of met in the hostel, later told me I’d seemed nervous for the first few days before relaxing a little. I barely exchanged words with the guy; so I guess it must have really shown, how awkward I felt on my own.
I spent six days surviving off pasta and sauce from AMPM, blogging, watching movies and chatting to Michelle, a Canadian girl I befriended over our identical meals a couple of nights in. When I was feeling down one evening, she came up to the dorm to find me crying and we had a long heart-to-heart. It reminded me of when I first made friends with Jenny, who has been my flatmate for two years now and is currently teaching English to kids in Romania (edit: this was true when I wrote it in my notebook all those weeks ago). I think most girls have a point which takes them to some new realm of friendship, and while I only knew Michelle for three or four days, that evening when she told me I was doing fine changed her from a girl from Québec into ‘my Canadian friend from Casa del Parque’. We ended up exchanging email addresses and promises of hospitality if either of us ended up in the other’s corner of the world; I hope I see her again someday.
Grant arrived on Wednesday and I had fresh fruit, a baguette, wine and plenty of animal-shaped balloons waiting for him. Our room was teeny tiny and windowless, but the lack of bugs and street noise was worth the stuffiness and cramped space. We explored our area and followed the advice of our fellow hostel-goers, to great success: the bakery around the block had excellent cappuccinos for $1.50, the Argentinian pizzeria served a mean caramelized-onion specialty (Grant was confused by ‘all the Argentinia ads’), and the chips and coffee milkshake at Costa Rica’s first ever soda, Soda Tapia, were every bit as good as Galileo’s friendly owner had said. San José is nowhere close to the nicest city I’ve visited, but by listening to friendly locals I think we sought out and got a taste of some of the best the city has to offer. That’s one of the best things about staying in hostels: the people you meet there, be they proprietors or patrons, always have something worthwhile to tell you if you know what to ask.
As well as some of the local spots, we checked out a couple of the better-known highlights of San José. First was the Teatro Nacional, where we paid for the guided tour and then waited around for the English-language tour to begin. We began to worry that they’d forgotten about us, and when we asked, the co-ordinator said he thought we’d wanted the Spanish-language tour. I glanced at Grant, whose milk-bottle skin at this point wasn’t much paler than my own. Did we look like we wanted the Spanish-language tour? Anyway, he asked a tour guide from a different company if we could tag along on his group, so we did. It was very informative: so informative, in fact, that I’ve been able to compile a list of “Did You Know?”s about the national theatre of Costa Rica. I know, you people are lucky.
1. Did you know that, like all of San José’s best architecture, the Teatro Nacional was designed by Europeans?
2. Did you know that the artist commissioned to paint the ceiling did so from outside of Costa Rica and, since he had never been, he painted the Costa Rican woman tall, pale and carrying parasols like Italians; and the bananas upside down?
3. Did you know that there used to be two different entrances to the national theatre, one above and one below, which the colonisers insisted on so they wouldn’t have to mingle with the natives?
4. Did you know that the theatre is a non-profit enterprise which caps prices on all its performances, allowing Costa Ricans to catch a Pavarotti concert several years ago for only $20?
The other major landmark that we visited was the National Theatre. It is a large castle-like structure which is painted a garish yellow on the front but looks pretty cool from the side and back. From the ramparts of this once-military stronghold, ex-president José Figueres Ferrer abolished the Costa Rican army in 1949. He was from San Ramón, you know, which is kind of the Ohio of Costa Rica in that regard.
Ohio produced a whole bunch of American presidents. In case you didn’t know.
Anyways, Grant and I weren’t really in the mood for wandering around the museum; we didn’t feel like we could miss it, and tickets were pretty cheap so we went in and wandered around a bit, but we didn’t spend much time there except in the butterfly garden, which was pretty cool. After the museum, we headed to a juice bar to sit and write the postcards we’d just bought from the craft market, summarising the first stage of our journey before we travelled on the next day to La Fortuna. That evening, I had a special surprise prepared for Grant – a let’s-stay-up-until-the-wee-small-hours-and-then-get-up-at-6-and-travel-for-3-hours sort of surprise.
I’d been told to turn up by 8:45, but there was food served at this place, so we decided to go early, get good seats and eat something before the event began. As it turned out, this was unnecessary as nobody showed up until at least 9pm anyway. For ages, we were the only people there, and we were beginning to get nervous that it would suck, although at 8:45 our lovely waiter said that as nobody had shown up at the specified time, we could move from our assigned table and take our choice of seat. Which was nice. Anyway, people started pouring in around 9, and at 10 the music actually began, nearly three hours after we had arrived. That’s right, that was your final clue before I reveal the nature of the surprise: I had booked us in for a latino jazz ensemble at the Jazz Café in San Pedro. It was an excellent evening: while we definitely would have showed up at least an hour later if we’d known how it worked, the food, drinks and music were all exquisite and we had a brilliant evening, and Grant ended up buying a copy of the band’s album, ‘Donde Te Espera Mi Nombre’, for $10. The lady accidentally handed him two instead of one, so I got one for free! Hooray!
That’s it. We left San José early the next morning, and you’ll find out what we did in La Fortuna shortly. : )
Til next time,