Not really Day 2 since we arrived at 2:00 p.m. yesterday but close enough. We will spend 14 days in Costa Rica and I am going to treasure each one of them.
San Jose is an "Americanized" city in many respects. It is full of the fast food restaurants you would see across Canada or the U.S. - McDonalds, KFC, Wendy's, Pizza Hut... Scotiabank is a predominant bank in the downtown core and popular brands can be found here as well. While in many ways this comforted me on our first day here, it also takes away from the charm of being in a "foreign" country. The hotel we are staying at could be a hotel found in any of Canada's major cities.
So, what makes this city different from what we are used to in Ottawa. Here are a few of them:
- watch your step on the sidewalks - there are many pits, dips, holes, high curbs, broken curbs, manholes with no cover - this is not good for me given my tendency to trip and fall on vacation - my eyes are peeled
- safety is obviously a concern here - there are many properties lined with rolled barbed wire (kinda like what you would see lining a prison yard) to keep their commodoties protected
- when the shops close up for te night, they roll down heavy metal barriers to keep thieves out
- the police (or policias) are visible with guard posts (a bit like a lifeguard post) in several spots along the pedestrian mall (Avenida Central)
- the cross-walks (if you can call them that) are an interesting experience - I think some of the cabbies take pride is seeing how many pedestrians they can race down, especially the tourists
- horns are well used by the drivers here - much like New York in that respect
- there is obviously a language difference here but rather than hearing a mix of English and French as we are accustomed to in Ottawa - here it is Spanish and English. Thankfully, many in the service industry speak English comfortably
- unlike Ottawa with its clean streets and sidewalks, there is litter scattered everywhere on the streets and sidewalks of San Jose
- the exhaust fumes are nauseating - I don't think there are any emissions controls here
- noise is deafening here - vendors selling their wares, horns honking, and just the general hum of so many people
A few photos of Avenida Central and area - these aren't great photos but hopefully they give you an idea of the city:
Some San Jose facts:
- located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica between volcanic mountain ranges
- capital of Costa Rica with a population of 288,054 in the city proper - the metropolitan area has a population of 2.2 million
- founded in 1783
- San Jose is considered one of Latin America's safest cities
- Costa Rica is an educated country with one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America
We visited a few more areas in San Jose today as well - the National Museum, National Park and some other architecturally notable buildings. I will cover those visits in a separate post.