We were excited to get out of the city (San Jose) and see some of the "real" Costa Rica. For the next two days, the relocation tour agenda is to take a daily bus trip to various parts of the Central Valley to see what they are like. This is to help us, and others on the tour, to "hone in" on areas where we think we might want to relocate.
The first day we would be touring areas that are surrounding San Jose. The bus left at 7:30am with 17 of us attendees and the tour leader. Just a short distance from our hotel we passed the new soccer (futbol) stadium. The staff at the hotel had told us about the 2 year old stadium in the park. I expected a modest little "neighborhood" stadium with some basic sports lighting. When I saw the stadium, I was really surprised. It looks like an Olympic venue. It's quite impressive!
We drove around some neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city and our tour leader pointed out different points of interest (shopping, medical facilities, etc.). One of our early stops was at one of the bastions of United States capitalism: Walmart. [Note: I say "United States" rather than "American". It was pointed out to us in the seminar that Costa Ricans are also "Americans" - Central Americans. Some locals think it's arrogant for us "North Americans" to think we are the only Americans.] We had about 45 minutes to wander around this very large Walmart, to check out prices and availability of products, then compare to "back home" (wherever that might be). The store had sampling stations set up around the store, like you would find at Costco. I got a kick out of one sampling station that was giving out samples of Old Milwaukee beer (I passed on that...).
We drove through a couple more neighborhoods and stopped to wander around a farmers' market - called a feria. These are held in many neighborhoods, usually on Friday or Saturday. The one we saw was a large one, with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread, flowers, drinks, food, and you-name-it. While we were there, Tina needed to use the bathroom. She was directed to a nearby building, where the "facilities" were located. When we got there, a gentleman at the doorway was coordinating the customers and handing out carefully measured lengths of toilet paper. Being the world traveler I am, I knew this kind of first-class service didn't come without a price tag. I stepped up and paid the proprietor. That was 40 cents well spent. Here are some pictures from the farmers' market (click on the pictures if the slide show doesn't advance automatically):
One aspect of the tour is supposed to be that we get to go into homes in different neighborhoods, to get an idea of the cost and style of housing in various areas. However, on this day, we only went inside one home. It was in an area called Heredia and the house was owned by a North American from Florida. It was for sale, so he met us at the house and walked us through it. It was in a pretty nice neighborhood and he had renovated it to make it more "U.S.-style." The houses in this neighborhood are built right next to each other - a common situation in the cities. It was raining off and on during this part of the tour (an almost daily occurrence (for at least part of the day), since this is the "green" season (don't call it the "rainy" season). Here are a couple of pics:
It was a disappointing day for us because we really weren't interested in living in, or close to, the city. We were anxious to get out into the countryside. It was also an exhausting day - from 7:30am to about 6:00pm. The bus ride was quite bumpy and the rough streets didn't help. Unfortunately, Tina and I had seats directly over the back wheel well and we felt pretty beat up by the end of the day.
We were looking forward to Sunday, when the bus tour would take us out of the "urban" areas and out into the Central Valley towns.