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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day One

Day numero uno in Costa Rica. Like most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it just might be. Our little apart-hotel doesn’t quite measure up to our expectations. But to use another trite expression: there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is the day dawned (well, at 9 a.m. for us) beautiful and sunny with a magnificent tropical breeze that had Layne singing its praises. The bed was comfortable enough even if the pillows weren't. The Internet is blazing fast and the television has dozens of English-speaking channels. The place is quite clean and the patio and balcony are charming. Still, we were disappointed in the kitchen, which is pretty minimal (but then, I don’t plan to cook much) and the bathroom has a questionable shower system. But if we wanted a typical Tico experience, then we’ve come to the right place!! And the price is right.
Our trip down went very smoothly, despite a delayed flight from LAX to Phoenix that had us running down the concourse to make our connection. But fortunately, they held the plane for us and some 8 other passengers. At LAX, we had a scary beginning as the US Airways ticket agent insisted that because we were scheduled to return to the USA on our 90th day that we would need a visa, only available from the Costa Rican embassy! The rule is that tourists can stay a maximum of 90 days so we felt we were fine and indeed, after checking with a supervisor, the agent noted our record as validated and we were on our way. For the next trip, we may plan to return on day 89 just to avoid such drama. Once in Costa Rica, our passage through immigration and customs was muy pronto (very fast). Apparently, that’s one advantage of coming in at night as on previous trips, it was a slow and confusing process.
Now we have been out for a walk with a two-fold mission: get our passports copied and get a bite to eat since we arose too late for breakfast at the Roma, our apart-hotel.
Talk about being in a foreign country! Oh yeah, it certainly is that. The map the hotel agent provided was, as she had cautioned, not very accurate so after a wrong turn or two and negotiating the utterly hazardous sidewalks, we finally found a place to eat, although not the one she had suggested. Thank goodness for my minimal Spanish; we managed to communicate our wishes to the friendly clerks and wait-staff.
As we retraced our steps, we saw where we should have turned earlier and continued on down that street toward the busy University area where numerous familiar names appeared: Papa John’s Pizza, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, etc. (Watch for the inevitable fattening up of the Costa Rican population.) There was a major bus and taxi stop there in front of the University, so after wandering farther down the hill, we returned to the taxi stand and with my broken Spanish asked the driver if he knew where Apart-hotel Roma was. With his affirmative answer, we were quickly back at our hotel, the taxi climbing the steep hill to our temporary home far quicker than we could have. And the tab was less than $1.
Our neighborhood here is a truly typical Tico one: many corrugated red roofs, houses connected to each other, San Francisco-style, fast and noisy traffic, especially buses and motorbikes (what? No muffler laws?), occasional honking horns and barking dogs, metal bars on windows and lots of kids and adults walking around. We have a small market on the other corner and a meat market across the street. Much to my surprise and perhaps due to my taking two Excedrin P.M. instead of my normal one, the traffic noise didn’t bother my sleep last night. It seemed to die down considerably after about 10 p.m. and although it started up early again this morning, I managed to sleep in until close to 9 a.m., of course, that’s only 7 a.m. for us on West Coast time.
Stay tuned for more of our adventures. I’m still trying to figure out a name for a blog, to avoid having to send my notes to huge email lists, but so far, I’m uninspired.

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