We arrived in San Jose late afternoon; it was pouring rain. As we cleared immigration, I experienced a bit of trepidation at whether there would be someone outside the airport to meet us and take us to our hotel. This is after all a foreign country, and my anxiety was brought by a bad experience from a Cancun trip where the guy who was supposed to meet us did not show up at all and we had to arrange for our 30-minute ride to the hotel by ourselves. We had been reimbursed by the hotel later on, but the grief that brought us was traumatic. However, the setting was the same, late afternoon arrival and pouring rain – déjà vu.
But not this time. The minute we stepped out of the airport to the open gates, we immediately saw a guy holding a cardboard with the name of our travel group/agency. We approached him and he checked us off his list and handed us folders for our itinerary. That was the “aha moment” when I knew this was going to be a good trip.
The 20-minute ride from the airport to the hotel offered very little sightseeing moments. It was pouring you see and the windows of the van were all fogged up. Plus we hit rush hour traffic when the workers were on the way home from work.
We were dropped off at Crowne Plaza, which also houses the convention center and a casino, both can be accessed through the lobby.
The lobby alone was telling me that this would be beyond my price range – given my pecuniary difficulties. The friendly reception lady made our check in very smooth and painless. We rode up the elevators to our 3rd floor room – very elegant, a junior suite. Plenty of room for a one-night stay.
It had gotten dark by the time we have freshened up and ready to eat. Off the reception area is a full service restaurant and there is also a separate lounge bar near the casino entrance. We don’t want those choices. We were told there is a grocery store across the hotel. We just have to cross the busy street, and boy was it busy. And the drizzling continued.
Ice cream flavors. Prices in colones. Exchange rate at that time was $1 = 500 colones. I could never get used to using many zeroes.
We ordered one blended coffee - much like the mocha freeze they offer at Costco. When asked if I wanted some cream with it, I said okay. And so she poured powdered milk in my coffee :) Not bad though, a bit funky.
(tamale on right, rice combo with chicken dish on left)
My first taste of Costa Rican food reminded me of how much it tastes like Filipino food. The chicken dish that I had with my rice tasted like afritada – same tomato based sauce with minor differences in spice combination. That was a very illuminating detail that pleased me. I knew I wouldn’t have trouble with food – not that I have any by the way. Still, the taste of the food gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity.
Another bit of information that I really appreciated. The vendors disclose whether the food was freshly cooked or made earlier in the day. The coffee above was blended earlier in the day and I was asked if that was okay, because it wasn't fresh :) The same thing with the chicken dish. I thought that bit of honesty was a pleasant puff of fresh air.
With the long day at the MIA behind us and another long day of travel ahead of us, we called it a night and slept peacefully anticipating the start of our Costa Rican adventure with unabashed excitement.