Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting Some Culture in San Jose

San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. It is the historical and cultural center of Costa Rica. Therefore, when I was thinking about what I wanted from this day trip on the bus I wasn’t exactly sure but I knew I wanted to see the cultural and historical side of Costa Rica that I frankly hadn’t seen much of yet. I had seen no real Costa Rican art or music; only three movies have ever been produced in Costa Rica and I had been fortunate enough to watch one of those in Spanish class; the architecture didn’t really stand out in places I had visited; the food was good but didn’t seem embedded with history and tradition or even tons of flavor. Although I had been living here for over two months, I wanted to make sure that in my last month, I had gotten a true taste of what Costa Rica is.


The Artesans’ Market


La Avenida Central

Fast forward a few hours and I was sitting in the classiest Pizza Hut I have ever visited, in San Jose. It was about the last place I had imagined myself; but, I cannot say that begrudged the cheese personal pan pizza that I ordered. Also, I was with five of my closest friends here and we were simply sticking to our theme for the day, “Everyone gets what they want.” Lliterally everyone got to pick something that they really wanted to do and we did it. My request was to “get some culture” by visiting the Teatro Nacional and getting warm beverages/dessert there. My friend Lauren’s was to go to Pizza Hut; thus, we ended up at Pizza Hut and not having eaten pizza in two months, I have to say that enjoyed the reliably good pizza(certainly not spectacular, I will have to wait for Mellow Mushroom for my favorite).One of my other friends, Sarah D., had a burning desire to go to Subway for her lunch (Sarah S. shared this wish too). It was interesting to see how a Costa Rican Subway varied from a United States Subway; it looked basically the same but there were more exciting options like a seafood sub or gallo pinto for breakfast. Tori wanted to get her second holes and cartilage pierced. By the time we found the least sketchy piercing place, everyone else had decided they wanted piercings too, except for me and Lauren (she was scared of getting an infectious disease while I just didn’t have a desire to get another piercing). Unfortunately, Tori had to have one of her holes pierced twice to get it in the right place, but eventually everyone was happy with their new piercings. Sarah S. wanted to go shopping and we did lots of that; she even ended up with a leopard print romper. We strolled down the Avenida Central which was a pedestrian street (we didn’t have to worry about crazy Tico drivers thankfully) and stopped at clothing stores, shoe stores, and markets. I only got some last souvenirs (a patch for my backpack) and gummies from a store called Bee Sweet. The British candy store had every kind of gummy you could imagine; I bought frog, dolphin, egg, pepper (it actually had a hint of spice), and a slice of pizza gummies. All were delicious but I especially enjoyed the dolphin and frog. Louisa is very chill and didn’t really have a burning desire, although she jokingly said that it was for us all to get our tongues pierced.


Correo Central- the old Post Office Building

For what my wish, we walked to the Plaza de Cultura and were amazed by the regal Teatro Nacional. It is considered the most historical building in San Jose; its construction was finished in 1897 and there are still performances held there regularly. It starkly stood out from the stores in the vicinity and the plaza full of people. I was so excited to be there. The theater is a symbol of wealth from the time when the “coffee oligarchy”informally ruled Costa Rica’s political and social spheres. Going inside, it was very ornate; there were frescoes on the ceiling with angels and clouds. Beautiful marble statues of famous composers like Beethoven lined the lobby. Rather than paying to enter, we explored the lobby and spent just as much on dessert and drinks in the fancy café instead.


Left: the entrance to lobby of the theater; right: the fresco on the ceiling in the café featuring the Costa Rican flag


Left: queque zanahoria (carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting and slivered almonds); right: agua dulce con especias (sugar cane tea with spices)


Left: the café; right: Tori and Lauren sampling each other’s desserts


Sarah D. and Sarah S., it seems like the three Sarah’s always sit beside each other

I ordered the carrot cake and agua dulce  with spices (sugar cane tea). The carrot cake was really good, it was slightly less sweet but more spiced than the American version (I had already found this out though so my expectations were adjusted) and more like a quick bread than a cake. It also didn’t have as much icing because it was baked like a bundt cake. But, regardless, it was still very delicious with the cream cheese frosting and large shreds of carrot and lots of raisins. I definitely would order it again (although they also had some caramel mousse and tiramisu that I had my eye on); I also sampled a friend’s apple pie which was surprisingly good and served warm with ice cream. The agua dulce was less sweet than the last time I tried it (and I opted for the version without milk) but tasted akin to spiced cider. It was a nice complement to the cake. I think it has become obvious why we joked that we ate every hour (we also went to a café before lunch but I just can’t eat/drink tea all the time).


Gummies: dolphin, frog, pizza, egg, and chile pepper

We got back to the Center by 8 at night and it was nice to make a relaxing dinner and just hang out. Overall, it was a great girls’ day in San Jose. I couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday; it is always nice to be independent and just explore.

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