The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Costa Rica has a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle, weather, and travel. In addition to that, its capital, San Jose, is a modern metropolis with everything you could want in a big city.  However, it’s possible to enjoy this city to its fullest without breaking the bank.

Yoga en el Parque

Inhaling and exhaling, clearing my mind of worries from the week and relaxing my body from the stress of life, I

Hula hooping in the park.

began my Saturday yoga in Parque Espana.  Elongating tightened muscles and then allowing my body to melt into the mat, the bricked plaza, the earth.  A light wind blew through the palm trees, swept through the towering stalks of bamboo as I curled into the pose of a child. The breeze built stronger in an attempt to weaken my warrior pose.  As I lay in the pose of a corpse, I quieted into a meditation, and prepared for the day that lay ahead.

Parque Morazan: Part 1

Still maintaining the calm pulse of meditation, my boyfriend Silvio and I, discovered a hula hoop fiesta, a few blocks over, in Parque Morazon.  Salsa music rang out, and people gathered in sport.  I grabbed a hoop, my spirit shifting from tranquil to energized, and began rounding my hips inside the loop.  Each attempt at control failed.  I swung the hoop around my waist with vigor and intent, but it quickly fell to the ground.  The guide told me my moves were too sexy. Instead of swinging in sultry circles, I was to push forward and backward.  The only continuity I could summon was my sexy and I stepped out of the loop that seemed content to lie on the ground.

I looked at my surroundings.  There was an elderly man successfully hooping one around his midriff, twirling another on his arm, a third around his neck as he danced the salsa.  Kids giggled and played, reminding me of my hooping days from childhood, winning timed contests on the playground during recess.  And then I saw the loveliest young woman, apart from the crowd, perfectly in sync to the music, hula hooping alone on a beautiful morning in San Jose.

Feria Verde de Aranjuez

Still swirling around, back and forth, trying to find the rhythm, we arrived at a Saturday exclusive, Feria Verde.  The open-air market was filled with stands selling fruits and vegetables: round, rutted melons; clusters of green and black mottled plantain; small boxes of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries; the firm, crinkled skin of onions; and rough, variegated carrots.  There were samples of briny olive tapenade, hummus with an extra squeeze of tart lemon, pesto, a deep green blend of creamy pine nuts, pungent garlic, and peppery basil all soaked in a liquid made from the first press of a harvest of olives.  There were crackers topped with cheeses: soft, semi-hard, and hard.  There were handfuls of granola sweetened with a hint of honey, trail mix with an extra dash of salt.  There were breads made of rich, warm cinnamon and ginger, some with dried grapes.

There was also pottery: mugs, vases, and bowls.  There was jewelry made of glass and metals and moonstone and jade and objects that would never have occurred to me for use as ornamentation.  The webs and tassels of dream catchers swayed in the breeze.  The heat and plethora of snacks drove me to forego my free day, and I purchased a coconut, also known as a pipa, drawing the mildly sweet water through a bamboo straw.

Avenida Central

Still satisfied from the refreshing indulgence of the pipa, we marched back downtown to Avenida Central, a street free of car traffic, and full of foot traffic.  We walked past the Plaza Cultural and the Teatro Nacional with its

Parque Central pavilion.

impressive nineteenth century neo-classical architecture, while heading to Parque Central.  At the epicenter of the park is a bandstand with six gently curved ecru pillars serving as support.  The concrete steps were trimmed on either side by short stone walls.  This path led to the interior, painted a bright yellow.  It was in this park, bandstand in the background, on a bench next to a statue of a man sweeping trash, that Silvio and I unpacked our homemade lunch.  We watched people sell socks and DVD’s. We saw pigeons going about their pigeon days, and just as we finished our sandwiches and chips, we were lured to the edge of the park by the sound of music.

A crowd had amassed around a duo playing haunting chords.  One man sat cross-legged, wearing harem pants, a long-sleeved paisley shirt and a short, burgundy turban.  Spreading about four feet from his mouth along the length of the pavement was a bamboo horn, a didgeridoo.  He was accompanied by a barefoot, dreadlocked saxophone player.  The reverberating, hollow song from the bamboo and the soothing notes from the sax sent me back to my morning of meditation.

Iglesia de La Merced

Still silently humming the tones of the musicians, we entered La Iglesia de La Merced.  The Neo-Gothic building

The church steeple.

naturally draws the eye vertical to every detail from the pinnacles, to the triangular decorations on the doors that point into the heavens.  There were also understated stained glass windows.  The interior was a deep, custard yellow.  Columns, both thick and thin, were adorned with diamond patterned paintings and statues of angels.  An elaborate altar, twinkling chandeliers, and flying buttresses all gave it strength and grandeur.  People walked around and took pictures, observed and whispered.  People rested.  As we left, Silvio knelt on one knee, genuflected, and kissed his closed hand in “Amen.”

Parque La Sabana

Still filled with awe by the steady flow of his faith, I occupied a spot next to him on a grassy hill near the lake at the Parque La Sabana.  The long walks were tiring and this was the perfect place to rejuvenate.  There were sculptures, whimsical, abstract, and realistic all at the same time.  There were paddle boats, inquisitive ducks, and a man throwing an empty two liter coke bottle into the lake for his dog to retrieve.  There were people napping, and jogging, and reading.  There were kids playing futbol, a mother teaching her little one to ride a bike, teenagers skateboarding and rollerblading, Silvio and I  looking on and enjoying our leisure.

Cementerio General de San Jose

Still renewed from the break in our busy day, we arrived at the Cementerio General de San Jose.  An immense stretch of mausoleums, graced with white crosses, grand angels, and delicately scrolled etchings spread out before

us.  In the distance, the foothills rose protectively, the entirety tented by an overcast sky.  We walked the narrow paths, reading epitaphs and admiring the embellishments.  A guard held his hand out to show us a staircase that led to a tunnel of tombs.  These small graves were stacked on top of each other with inscriptions in a more subdued font; the crypts of the less fortunate, a final resting place for the poor.  As we left, the dark clouds parted a bit, just enough to let a few rays of sun stream through.

Chinatown

Still overwhelmed by serenity and piety, we landed in Chinatown. The entrance to Barrio Chino was decorated in a typical manner, a red and grey arch welcoming our arrival in both Spanish and Khanji.  I saw a Ramen restaurant on my left and almost immediately, Plaza de los Artes on my right.  A sculpture made of red circles offered a playground for several children and a woman seated on one of the benches breastfed her infant.  I sat on a bench as well, next to a sculpture of John Lennon and explained to him that we had made it as far as we could imagine.

Exhausted, stomachs biting with hunger, and feet begging for a stay of execution, we ended our day.  I spent 600 colones that Saturday, but acquired a tremendous amount of respect for a city that is largely dismissed, and can be had for the price of a coconut.

For more information on San Jose or Costa Rica tourism, contact us!

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By Elizabeth Dickinson

Photos by Silvio Jose Aragon (not including cover photo)

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

San Jose, Costa Rica

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