November 27th, 2014 – by: Jollyjetsetter
Castle-like building in central Alajuela (Alajuela; Costa Rica)
.....And then some! The Costa Rica capital city was the first and last port of call on the entire trip, and to prove that urban areas can appeal in varying sizes and lengths of stay, the cities of both San Jose and neighbouring Alajuela were sampled as an integral part of the stay in Costa Rica. First up was Alajuela, and a short hop from the country's main international airport. An overnight stay at a local hotel led into a short walk into town, and upon arrival in central Alajuela, the usual trappings you would associate with Costa Rican culture are all there in evidence. The city's main square is easily likely to be the most happening area, at least if this short visit was anything to go by, and the main cathedral is, in turn, the city's most photographed building.
Indicative wall mural in the Costa Rican capital (San Jose; Costa Rica)
A brief scout around town revealed that the US fast food culture has made its mark in Costa Rica, yet in this instance, the local shopping options are mostly of a local and homegrown variety, save for the existance of the Mall Internacional, located a couple of kilometres out of town. Returning to the region after a lap of honour meant confronting the multiple charms of the Costa Rican capital city, San Jose, and trying to prove whether the comparatively lukewarm press which the city gets in most major guide books is justifiable or misleading. On the strength of this traveller's visit, I would say marginally more misleading than justifiable, more so if, like myself, you prefer to judge cities on their own merits, rather than from a compare and contrast angle according to the ways in which your previous experience might have shaped your perceptions.
Gold on display at a city museum (San Jose; Costa Rica)
San Jose's most convenient factor for general orientation is the fact that the city's most centrally-located street runs basically from east to west (or vice versa!) and contains the majority of the reference points which a tourist may choose to work into their itinerary. For my money, the Gold Museum is the city's finest showcase of items of worth, all conveniently on display in one compact area, and shares an admission price with the museum of numesmatism and currency, as well as some artistic works on display, and the temporary exhibitions which are on at the time of your visit. For more evidence of artistic splendour, look no further than the interior and exterior of the National Theatre, allegedly built as a lure to attract Alba Parietti to perform there, due to her original snubbing of the city as one which lacked an attractive venue.
One of the capital's most attractive churches (San Jose; Costa Rica)
Ironically, she never did return to perform there, but the legacy which remained is an impressive one, and has clearly added to the city's overall charm. Shopping malls are dotted here and there, as well as there being a central pedestrianized street dedicated to the retail culture which leads up to the city's long-established Central Market, a must if souvenir shopping is what you crave. This was Costa Rica, the land of coffee, eco tourism, surfing beaches, greenery, varied species of animals, birds and insects, and an overall vibe which did nothing at all to add to whatever existing perception you might have that Central America is full of dangers and hazards. Whether it is as safe a haven as you would expect is down to your own perception, but for certain, the nation is a safe enough bet when it comes to providing the kind of holiday experience which you'd be somewhat deluded to dismiss as unfulfilling.