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15 April 2013

San José: The Way to San José

When you fly to Costa Rica from Europe, the length of the flights and the time difference mean you pretty much have to stay one night in the capital, San José, although even Lonely Planet couldn't muster up much enthusiasm for the place.


We were staying in the eastern part of the city centre, just south of Avenida Segunda, one of the main east–west drags. Our hotel, Fleur De Lys (pictured in the photo below), was in a lovely, sprawling, pink colonial mansion, compete with polished wooden floors and local art on the walls, and just a few blocks east of the Teatro Nacional. The (included) buffet breakfast consisted of tropical fruits, a range of breads, the ubiquitous rice and beans and, of course, coffee. Enough to set us up for a hot day in the city.


After buying our bus tickets to our next stop, we explored the downtown area, such as it was. Parque Central didn't exactly live up to its Manhattan namesake; it is more of a bland, fast-food-joint-lined plaza, with a central bandstand where the locals congregate. It's a good place to people watch. After admiring the grand Teatro Nacional, we went on to the Museo Nacional, an interesting if odd place, housed in a former fort. After entering through a huge butterfly garden, where we tried in vain to photograph the elusive blue morpho butterfly, we went on through the museum, which outlined some of the country's history and natural history. There were also a couple of nice temporary exhibits, including one on wildlife photography, which wetted our appetite for the rest of our trip. The area around the museum was the nicest central area to explore, with its leafy parks and colourful murals.





We ate lunch at Huarache's, a Mexican restaurant recommended by our guide that was a,little off the beaten track. The food was delicious, if very filling, especially given the heat. We cooled off with a couple of naturales (puréed fruit with water), and then had another wander, followed by a Cafe Britt coffee at Alma De Café, inside the Teatro Nacional. The coffee, made in a French press, was strong and very tasty; Café Britt is one of the most famous roasters in the country.


When dinner time rolled around, we were still full from lunch, but managed to share a salad and some rice pudding at Nuestra Tierra, a touristy restaurant near our hotel, which serves traditional Costa Rican fare. The ambiance is nice, but the food is pretty pricey for what it is. After a cocktail on the patio of our hotel, we were ready to retire before our bus ride early in the morning.

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