|Eroca, Marcial, Seidy and Layne|
Here it is almost time for another Sunday outing for the Santa Eulalia gang and I have yet to share last weekend's day trip with you. Compared to some of our strenuous excursions, this one was more a sightseeing trip than a hike. As unofficial leader of our hiking club (or as he likes to call it, "a drinking club with a hiking problem"), Marcial thought a bus trip up to Palmares to explore downtown might be fun. With an eye to the early Sunday bus schedule, we got our exercise by hurriedly huffing up the long hill to the Palmares intersection, or cruce, where we just made the 7:15 a.m. bus. The thirty-minute trip took us up and over the Aquacate mountain range that separates Atenas from Palmares and curved through some charming barrios, twisting along hillsides of coffee and sugarcane plantations and verdant tropical jungle. Topping the ridge we looked out over the picturesque valley of Palmares, a town that boasts perhaps the biggest two-week fiesta grande in the country. Beginning in mid-January each year, the small town is transformed into party-central with a big tope or horse parade, rodeos, dancing, concerts and fireworks. Cabelleros and their finest mounts come from all over Costa Rica to ride through the streets showing off their fancy gaits and colorful costumes.
Toros a la Tica, the Costa Rican-style of bullfighting, is one of the highlights. Unlike the Spanish tradition, these bullfights involve hundreds of Ticos who become bullfighters-for-a-day, jumping into the ring to taunt the bull but not to kill him. All it takes is a lot of nerve and a willingness to test fate by joining the rather comical event.
Our day in Palmares was less exciting than a bullfight but fun nevertheless as we wandered through the Parque Central where large iguanas lounge in the trees and reddish-brown squirrels vie with pigeons for treats left by local citizens. Like most Latin countries, the park is adjacent to the Catholic Church, which was just ending Sunday morning mass when we arrived.
|The capricious fountain|
|Eroca, the juggling gringa|
As the church emptied out, we were amused to watch one hapless gentleman stroll across the plaza and get showered by the fountain as it turned on in a seemingly random schedule. In another entertaining moment, Eroca showed off her juggling skills to the surprise of a Tico juggler who was suitably impressed by the bold gringa.
|A squirrel enjoys a snack|
|Lazy iguana taking the sun|
The church itself made an imposing photogenic subject for Eroca, Seidy and me. Seidy is a budding photographer taking photo lessons from Stephen, who taught photography back in the US. Although Stephen and Bonnie were not with us on this outing, having gone up to Monteverde for the weekend, Seidy was dutifully working the camera in anticipation of her Monday class.
|Seidy doing her "homework"|
|Eroca tries to capture stained glass|
|Inside the grand church|
According to Marcial, each stone of the large building had been hand-hewn and lovingly installed to construct the church. Inside we photographers gazed at the vivid stained glass windows and tried to capture the dramatic colors in our cameras.
From there we ambled over to the Central Market for a coffee and some tamales, then headed out for a short exploration of the local community, enjoying beautiful flowers, lovely homes and the activities on the soccer field along the way.
|One of many nice homes|
|Plantain in a front yard|
|Community soccer field is always busy|
But we soon had to mosey back to the bus stop for our return trip to Atenas and the afternoon potluck by the pool at Bonnie and Stephen's who had by then returned from their weekend trip.
Just another wonderful day in the life of pensionados, enjoying Pura Vida in Costa Rica!