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Intro to San Jose, Costa Rica

Golden Room
The old international airport of Costa Rica is now the new home of the Museum of Costa Rican Art. The Golden Room used to be the diplomatic lounge. Murals of the history of Costa Rica from pre-Columbian period to the 1940s adorn the walls. Luis Féron Parizot, a French artist, carved the bas reliefs in stucco and painted them in bronze.

A section of the murals in the Golden Room shows Christopher Columbus among the indigenous  people of Costa Rica.

Que Clavo! Luis Tenorio Rosales, 2010, acrylic on canvas
One of the most evocative works of art at the museum is this painting of the crucifixion. 

Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica
This elegant theater in the Neo-Classical style was built courtesy of the tax levied on coffee. Thanks to the farmers who toiled in the fields this venue for the performance arts was completed in 1897. 

The Flutist, Jorge Jimenez de Heredia
In front of the National Theater is this beautiful marble statue of a flutist which was originally created for the Bank of San Jose. It was donated to the theater in 1996 as the statue was deemed inappropriate for display at the Bank. Jimenez de Heredia (Deredia) is the only Costa Rican artist whose work is displayed in the Vatican.
Los Heroés de la Miseria, 1909
Miseria is the most celebrated work by Juan Ramon Bonilla. It earned an award in the Biennale in Europe in 1907.  Bonilla donated Miseria to the state upon his return to Costa Rica only to be met with controversy after the founder of the National Academy of Fine Arts attacked his sculpture for its representation of poverty which was at odds with the interests of the bourgeois elite of the era. Disgusted with the local mindset and the method of instruction at the Academy, Bonilla went back to Europe. Miseria is made from Carrara marble.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Merced
The Church of Our Lady of Mercy is in the commercial heart of San Jose on busy Calle 12 which leads to the Central Market. It is characterized by its Neo-Gothic architecture which is particularly evident in its singular bell tower.

La Casona Tipica
For our lunch, we had a choice of fish, chicken or lengua (tongue). The platter included salad, gallo pinto (rice and beans) and my favorite fried and sweetened platanos. Lunch was included with our half day tour of San Jose. Coffee was not.

From the country that produces one of the best coffee beans in the world, this is how coffee is filtered in Costa Rica. No fancy machine. Just ingenuity.

Busy commercial center in San Jose. People were out and about shopping for Christmas presents despite the pandemic.

Sorbetera Lolo Mora
This is the oldest ice cream shop in San Jose. It’s been around since 1901. They serve one flavor which is a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s located deep inside the Central Market.

The Central Market is also home to a number of popular "sodas" which are simple restaurants serving local cuisine. You can order from a menu or opt for the buffet. Prices are lower than a regular restaurant. Sodas are packed on weekends and you'll most probably be rubbing elbows with other guests. 

Also in the Central Market is a souvenir shop where you can buy among other things, the Costa Rican coffee filter. 

Floral arrangements with Santa Lucia wildflowers (Ageratum) are part of the traditional Tico new year celebrations. These pale blue and lavender flowers will bring prosperity to the receiver. You can’t give it to yourself and expect to be prosperous! 😂

Metropolitan Cathedral
Costa Rica has its share of dazzling cathedrals built in an array of architectural styles. The Metropolitan Cathedral is in the Neo-classical style and was built in 1871 and reinforced twice following earthquakes that threatened its structural integrity.

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
This is one of the most interesting displays of pre-Columbian gold and other historical objects inside a vault in a subterranean museum under the Plaza de La Cultura.  More about the Gold Museum here:

San Jose offers many attractions which I’m looking forward to see on my next visit. These include the immense La Sabana Park, the National Museum of Art housed in a yellow palace, flea markets, pretty hillside houses, street art and the Jade Museum. 

Where to stay:
Holiday Inn Escazu
I opted to stay in Escazu because there are many dining and shopping options in the area. Right in front of the hotel is a row of restaurants and the Multiplaza Mall is a 10-minute walk away. It has a food court and several restaurants as well as ATM machines.

Where to eat:
Porto 8
Tempo Plaza in front of Holiday Inn Escazu
Seafood/Italian. Outdoor seating available.

P.F. Chang’s
Avenida Escazu off of Prospero Fernandez Freeway
Asian cuisine
Strict sanitation for entering the restaurant. Caters to both take out and dine in.
This area where P.F. Chang’s is located is also home to several restaurants in an outdoor setting.

Sightseetseeing tour:

Where to get your Covid-19 test:
There’s a laboratory next door to the airport that provides covid-19 testing and returns the result to your email address or phone number in less than an hour. A free shuttle bus from the airport goes to the lab every few minutes.


Images by TravelswithCharie


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