This is a city scene from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, right in front of the entrance to the Central Market. The crowd are a real mix of locals and tourists, as were the visitors inside the Market. San Jose feels like any other modern city in Latin America but as you enter the Mercado Central you are taken back in time.
Inside I was transported back to the souks of Cairo. There was a smell of spices and produce yet it was very clean. Grocers, clothes shops, spice stalls, florists fish sellers and butchers. What a sensory treat! Tourist shops sold handicrafts but most of the stalls were for locals getting their daily shopping. As a child, I went shopping with Nana to similar stores where the local produce was in crates with handwritten price tickets. I loved visiting the farmer’s stall just outside Rutherglen but was less keen on the chickens with all their feathers on. Nana plucked the feathers in the bath and re-stuffed our old pillows. That’s sustainability, old style.
Is there anything more joyful than a brightly painted mural? This one had a volcano, waterfall, parrots and toucans – perfectly illustrating the essence of Costa Rica.
This store is 10 years older than me…wow! The sign says that it has been selling bulk products since 1950. Notice that the customer and the assistant are both wearing masks.
A tourist shop to lure us in. We briefly looked around a couple of them but they were tight (for people with big cameras and rucksacks). In any case, I have already Swedish Death Cleaned the house and there is no room for any more trinkets. We brought back delicious creamy fudge stuffed with glace fruits.
This is my favorite scene in the market. A beautiful statue of Jesus right next to the butcher’s shop. I thoroughly approve of faith being part of one’s daily life. As much as I love beautifully decorated churches, they keep faith in a separate place. Costa Ricans have many public works of art which I will display in a future post (and a cathedral because I can’t resist).
The visit to the market made me giddy with happiness. It brought back memories, gave me new ones to reflect on and gave a genuine feel for San Jose’s inhabitants.
When planning our recent trip to Costa Rica, I thought about booking a tour to coffee plantations or volcanoes. Gasping at the prices of American based companies, I decided it would probably be less expensive to book in San Jose, the capital. At our hotel they told us about a local company who would be able to take us on a small tour to Poás volcano and see coffee plantations on route. Perfect! The tour was leaving at 7.30 am sharp. A small van was taking ourselves and two husbands, staying at our hotel, to join up with our respective tours. When we arrived at the next destination, I inwardly chuckled that the tour guide assumed that the fit young men were going up volcanos and we were going to a spa (to ease our old bones). Luckily, one of the husbands was fluent in Spanish. I can’t think of anything more boring than going to a spa…
We ascended onto the ‘volcano’ bus and greeted out fellow passengers. There was only 4 seats left on our Sprinter so we sat in the back row like naughty students. After 45 minutes we stopped on the side of a busy interstate and were joined by our final two guests, lovely ladies from North Carolina. The passengers were quite eclectic. The couple in front of us were French and Italian. The French lady kept twittering about l’oiseaux, so I guess she was a birder. The couple next to us were from Minnesota, although the husband was originally from New Zealand. I was curious about moving from New Zealand to Minnesota but I guess love is powerful.
One of the North Carolina ladies announced to the whole bus that she had moved from New York to North Carolina after her divorce and it was ‘the best thing she had ever done’. We seemed a chattier group than usual but perhaps this is normal in this post pandemic world? One Canadian man was talking about American politics but survived the trip intact… Teddy was trying to curl himself into a ball in his window seat. He is so used to just being around me and wolves that he was struggling to cope with all this sociality.
Then we spotted the first coffee sign for a plantation. Inevitably it was Starbucks. I think they start off with good coffee but then ruin it with burned milk (just my opinion). We stopped at the next plantation and there was a little visitor center and café. The coffee was nice but the view even better. When we arrived there was a very old man posing with his water buffalo. He berated me for giving him Costa Rica currency – he wanted dollars. How did he know I was American? He would have been less happy if I offered him Icelandic Krona.
The roads were narrow and interesting. Thankfully I was too excited about a volcano to have a panic attack. There were very deep ditches at the sides of roads to deal with tropical rainfall. Generally, the roads were in good condition. It was a very steep, winding drive up to Poás volcano but finally we arrived. Our tour guide said, “Vamanos!”, and we strode up the road to the summit with varying degrees of ability. I have been to Denver on various trips but this was the first time I noticed I had trouble breathing at high altitude. Perhaps the steep hill contributed.
At the summit, the tour guide said that the rest of the passengers were going on to visit waterfalls. Would we like to pay extra and join them? I was keen but Teddy was over the tourists. On the way back we stopped at a winery to meet up with our car to take us back to San Jose. The guide explained to the bus group that we were leaving so we left with Au Revoir, Ciao and Goodbye Y’alls. Our car wasn’t there so the guide suggested that the rest of the group wine taste since we were waiting. It was quite delicious for tropical wine – sweet and red.
While we were waiting, I had a long chat with the driver who only spoke Spanish. He must have enunciated very well because I understood everything and was able to respond. His son is a student in Indiana and they have to travel through Houston to visit. The slightly hassled tour guide interrupted us to say that our driver was at another location closer to San Jose. So…we had to get on the bus, listen to all the jokes (did you have a nice time in San Jose?) and then say goodbye all over again, about 20 minutes later. Another couple were waiting to take our places and go to the waterfalls. As someone who has worked in public and private transportation for years, I was terribly impressed by their efficiency (apart from one little blip). I hope the new couple that joined the group enjoyed a wee chat…
Our new driver was content to put the radio on and drive swiftly back to San Jose. That allowed my wolfman to chill out and enjoy the scenery. It made us both realize that we prefer being travelers than tourists. We rarely saw tourists near our hotel or in San Jose but it didn’t take away from a fantastic trip.
This is St, Mary’s old church, or die alt Kirchee in Fredericksburg, Texas. Below is a closeup of the marker. We still use the work Kirk in Scotland to refer to Protestant churches, usually Church of Scotland. I knew a Scottish lady here in Texas who hunted fruitlessly for a church that resembled anything like churches in Scotland. Everything was either too Mega, think Joel Olsteen, or Happy Clappy as we refer to evangelists in Scotland. I suggested she try the Catholic Church as they are pretty similar all over the world. Her look of dismay could have turned me to stone…😈
Just across the road from these lovely churches is a dark, imposing building…
Doesn’t that look scary??? It is right across from both the courts and Catholic Cathedral just to enhance what poor life choices you made, back in the day. They don’t play around with Crime and Punishment in Texas.
I try to be a good citizen and I lit a candle in the church for my recently departed uncle. Then Teddy and I raised a glass of wine for him and he would have thoroughly approved. To add more brownie points for my ‘trying to get to Heaven’ profile, I intervened with a tourist situation in the fudge store. I saw a family of white Latin Americans, maybe Argentinean, speaking softly, in Spanish, while looking at the wonderful, delicioso fudge. The girl behind the counter couldn’t hear that they were speaking another language and she said, rather loudly, “Do y’alls want chocolate coated fudge?” They looked at her, perplexed, and I asked if I could help them. “Mi espanol es malo, voy a tratar!” They smiled and said they were just looking. I passed on the translation to the girl behind the counter who looked with astonishment at the German looking lady (me) who spoke Spanish. It is a small, strange world.
BTW, according to family records my Dellinger relative came to North Carolina from Oberacker in Bavaria. No wonder I like living in a forest…🌲🌲🌲
Duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn…
These are a few of the residents at the shark aquarium at Mandalay Bay Hotel. I love sharks! Teddy ate local basking shark with Vietnamese sauce at our wedding lunch in Wales. Before I set off for the Grand Canyon, I had an afternoon to visit this aquarium. It was good, not the best I have been to, but gave some respite to the chaos of Vegas.
Lion Fish – Rawrrrr!
I had my new camera with me and I am so impatient that I didn’t read the instructions. It took me a while to figure out how to turn the flash off. Once I did, the photographs were great quality through glass. Wouldn’t this lioness’ costume inspire a lovely dress?
These rays had the most beautiful outfits on. The black one looked like velvet.
Catfish are my favorite type of fish, probably because of their whiskers. They taste quite nice too, especially blackened.
Starfish just make me feel happy – they look like little hands waving at you. I loved the delicate brocade on her seams.
Rays in flight
Until this moment, I have never seen rays flapping their fins. So graceful and elegant.
A perfect predator
The last photograph of jelly fish is my favorite – it looks like some alien world. Beautifully different and somehow alluring.
My long hot walk along the Strip to get to the Mandalay Bay Hotel was worth it just to see these wonderful creatures and I didn’t gamble a cent.
It wouldn’t be a travel blog from Kerry without a church – ‘Nana, I hope you are proud of me!’ The church was celebrating mass when we took this shot but were able to go into the side chapel at anytime to pray. One of the local street vendors showed us where to go. I said my usual prayers but there were no candles to light. My favorite part of this shot was the parking stances with the crosses on them. Who would DARE park there?? I can see the lightning bolt now…
The church was not far from the beach and I loved this shot of the vendors on the beach. Those skewers looked really tasty.
This was a typical view of the streets of Zona Romantica – wealthy tourists in a real town. You could see that local people really benefited from the tourist money and many traveled down in local buses from the hills to come to work.
Autoshop and Taco Stand
I love everything about this shot, close to the river. There is your local family car autoshop and next door a taco stand that has rainbow flags to indicate it is gay friendly. What a fantastic place!
I considered writing about the beautiful aspects of Charleston, South Carolina but thought I would reveal its darker side first. This innocuous building might lead you to think that they sold anything other than humans. Charleston was somewhat of a hub for slave auctions which used to be on street corners. Despite owning slaves the residents didn’t want to see children and elderly people in shackles, so the auctions went indoors. This was one of 40 slave marts in historic Charleston at the height of slavery. When I paid for my ticket, I asked one of the docents if Native Americans were also enslaved. Apparently they were, but they were too good at running away. When they discovered the soil was great for growing rice, they really wanted slaves who were farmers.
It was a very moving exhibit, as you can imagine, and appalling to read about humans traded like cattle. I was not surprised but some visitors were deeply moved and the whole museum had a reverential feel, as well it should. Charleston was and still is a very wealthy city, reflected in the buildings and residents but I think it is important to remember why that is. No-one is without blame – some northern states had a horrible history of indentured workers including children and they may as well have been slaves. My own husband was born to an indentured servant at a farm in Scotland in 1958. It was well known that some farmers felt it was their right to have sex with the women. Teddy was the third sibling born to this 33 year old woman and given up for adoption. Glasgow, the city where I grew up, became rich on the back of shipping and tobacco from the Americas. It is no coincidence that many African American people have Scottish names.
Before I left, I spoke to the docents at the desk. I admired their museum and said we have not learned from our mistakes since the port of Houston is the hub of human smuggling into North America. They both looked at me blankly and I sensed that they felt I was taking something away from their story, which I was not. The ethnicity of today’s slaves may have changed and it is illegal but some of their stories are even more horrific than those in the museum. One of my friends, living a couple of miles from me, couldn’t get into her own street one day because of police vehicles. Her south-east Asian neighbor was trafficking young girls into prostitution but was living a regular middle-class life in an affluent area.
The next post will reveal a sunny and optimistic modern Charleston.