The days are starting to blur, and I’m falling a bit behind – here it is Thursday and I’m just posting about Sunday – however, some of that will get caught up – I can already see, Monday and Wednesday were pretty much do-nothing days, for different reasons, so they’ll end up a combined food-only post.
Started out the day with a wander headed across town to the west side. Heading down Calle Central, the post office building. Oh, central street – San Jose is laid out, in a somewhat haphazard and skewed grid fashion. It starts from a central point – avenidas, or avenues, run east-west, and calles, or streets, run north south. The central point is the crossing of Avenida Central and Calle Central. Then the streets number outwards from there in all four directions – but in either odd or even counting, not 1-2-3-4, but, for example, the north-south streets to the east of the center point number 1-3-5-7, and the avenues north of the center do the same. Likewise, streets to the west go 2-4-6-8 and avenues to the south, the same. So when estimating walking distances, in one sector of town, you have to divide by two in terms of thinking about how many blocks to go. Oh, and virtually nothing has a street address (nor are there signs labeling most streets), but, rather things are addressed by “landmarks”, such as “on 7th street near to 15th avenue, the blue door 50 meters north of the old bank”. And businesses actually put addresses like that on their business cards. My hotel, the Radisson, has on their letterhead stationary that they’re “near 15th avenue, between Central street and 3rd street” – you just go to roughly there and look around.
Being used to Sundays in BA, where everything is closed and no one is on the streets, I was pleasantly surprised to see the streets crowded with people, starting early – and all these businesses were getting ready to open. By 10 or 11 am, virtually everything along this pedestrian mall (I think it was the extension of 3rd Avenue heading west), was open for business.
It took maybe 40 minutes to walk to the Museo de Arte Costariccense, which is primarily more contemporary local art. It stands in front of what amounts to San Jose’s central park, La Sabaná – interestingly, the park is relatively new, it was originally the city’s airport, and the museum was the terminal and control tower.
Just a couple of random pieces of art that caught my eye – there’s a large sculpture garden behind the museum, and numerous salons inside, each featuring a different artist – I gather there’s no permanent collection, and things change regularly. As it happened, one of the artists had a day free and was spending it in the gallery showing his art, so I got a chance to meet and chat with the charming Ricardo Ávila.
Upstairs, there’s a large room called the Golden Salon, which was apparently the VIP waiting room when it was an airport terminal – the walls are covered with a bas relief mural all around, picturing the history of Costa Rica from pre-colonial times through to 1940, when it was designed.
A wander through the park. It’s not the prettiest central park I’ve been in, but then, I have to admit, San Jose is not the prettiest city I’ve been in – other than some of the standout architecture I’ve already posted pictures of, most of the city is pretty drab and rundown. It also might be the smallest capital city I’ve been in – with only 280,000 or so inhabitants (though the metropolitan area boasts another 1.6 million or so).
The national futbol stadium, where, fascinatingly, while a soccer match was ongoing inside, and one can hear the sports commentary blasting full volume from it, outside, local teens are playing norteamericano football rather than soccer.
The cloudy weather was turning more dreary, and a bit of rain starting to fall, so I hopped a cab back across town and headed to the highly recommended Wong’s, for Sunday afternoon dim sum. I think they actually have dim sum every day, and I couldn’t remember whether Vivi had recommended Wong’s or Don Wang, both of which are near to each other, neither of which is in chinatown, both of which get great reviews, and both of which offer dim sum. So I picked one. And a happy camper I was – I knew it had been a long time since I’d been out for dim sum, I didn’t realize until just searching on the blog here that it’s actually been almost eight years! BA doesn’t have a dim sum restaurant, though there’s a spot in barrio chino I’ve not been to that apparently has some of the dishes, though you order from a menu rather than picking from a cart coming by, and it’s supposed to be quite expensive. Wong’s was a mix of the two – about 8-9 different offerings regularly circulating on the carts, but a list of almost two dozen more that you could order. Not surprisingly, I overdid it, but not only was it just delicious to have dim sum again, but this was some of the better that I’ve had – and those five “plates” plus a couple of iced teas ran me 8500 colones, or about $15. If I’d been in SJ for more time, I’d have tried out the other spot, Don Wang, just to get a different one under my now expanding belt.
With rain in full force by later in the evening, and having overdone the late lunch, I decided to stay in at the hotel, catch up on some reading and a little television. I have to admit, this may be the best club sandwich I’ve ever had – chicken, bacon, ham, egg, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and more. A good day. A good day.