In conjunction with our trip to the Museos del Banco Central, we spent the afternoon walking and eating our way through a small section of downtown San José.
The museo is adjacent to the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica, Costa Rica’s national theater. It is considered to be the most exquisite historical building in San José, having a very grandeur exterior, and interior to match, performances here were of the highest artistic quality. We only admired the theater from the outside; it was beautifully decorated for the Chinese New Year.
As recommended by a museo employee, we walked down a pedestrian only street to a restaurant not far called El Patio. Here we sprung for more familiar meals – fettuccine alfredo, soup/caesar salad, hamburger and fries… It was nice inside, obviously a hotel restaurant and obviously catering to gringos. We all enjoyed our food.
It was a strangely cold and windy day in the Central Valley; we expected it to feel warmer as we drove further down the mountain but we were surprised when we arrived. Surrounded by locals in trousers, button ups shirts and even some in jackets, we, in our t-shirts and shorts, looked even more out of place than normal. I, of course, was freezing the entire trip and we opted for a coffee break to warm up. I ordered a macchiato, not the Starbucks version, but a properly and deliciously made with espresso and foam.
With coffees in hand, we wandered the pedestrian-only street, gawking at the street vendors and the strange duality of the city. I wouldn’t call it a high-rise city, although they exist, but filled rather with intrusive, large, abandoned looking buildings. The air quality was the worst we’ve seen yet, even walking on roads off limits to cars. Trash, again, was everywhere and worse than outside the city. This is all to be expected, I suppose, but what was most unsettling was that in every direction, between the monstrous buildings, were still the ever present mountains, looming in the distance, obstructed by clouds and smog.
It was fun to see San José, be a tourist, but I don’t care to go back. When researching moving down here I was told, “you’ll either love or hate San José.” Such a true statement. While I wouldn’t say I hated the capital city, I certainly wouldn’t want to live there.