Passport in hand, colones in my wallet and traveling with one wheeled suitcase and wearing the only pair of shoes traveling with me, I breezed through immigration and customs to see a throng of people holding signs, shouting names and "taxi!" I wove through the crowd toward one of the bright red taxis and used my rehearsed pronunciation of my hotel in the Aranjuez neighborhood of San Jose. I was quoted the expected $30 fare and off we went.
If you've heard stories about the driving in San Jose, believe them. Motorcycles dart between large vehicles; tour buses, shuttles, cars and trucks all go as fast as possible, shifting into lanes that might offer a slight advantage through the traffic. In my tourist mode, I watched the city pass by through the side window, not really paying attention to other vehicles until I was flopping around in the back seat when the driver swerved mightily to avoid getting hit by a truck. The driver and I were both OK, but I banged my upper arm on something that caused a 3-inch bruise that I wore throughout the trip. Yes, I buckled my seat belt before we resumed.
The Hotel Aranjuez is a collection of five houses built around 1930 joined by gardens and seating areas.
The Aranjuez neighborhood is near the center of San Jose, where I strolled through plazas, looked at architecture and enjoyed learning about the country's history, art and culture at the Museum of Jade.
That first afternoon, I walked around the neighborhood, found a delightfully colored restaurant, Cafe de los Deseos, and had delicious tacos and a mula con tequila. My limited Spanish allows me to order from the menu but then I don't usually understand follow-up questions such as "something to drink?" although my understanding improved a bit and I learned the verb "tomar" in addition to "beber" meaning "to drink". Many people, especially in hospitality/tourism industries, speak English, and even those who don't seemed patient with my toddler vocabulary and clunky syntax.
My intention for a nap after this tasty meal turned into sleeping through the night and ready to meet the next day.