Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Costa Rica pt. 1: do you know the way to San Jose?

The first installment of my Costa Rica adventures. Just a warning: all of these will be picture heavy, and I'm not going to bother resizing them because I brought back a nasty souvenir in the form of a wicked cold and I don't feel like it. Also, some of them will have captions if you mouse over them. All entries transcribed from my trip journal, with additional commentary when warranted.

January 24th, 2009

I'm writing this while sprawled out on my bed at the Barcelo Palacio hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. It's weird to think that less than 24 hours ago, I was eating pizza with G, and now I'm in a completely different country! Airplanes are, like, cool and shit.

Anyway, after our pizza feast (and a truncated viewing of The Mummy 3, which took about fifty minutes to watch because we fast forwarded through most of it), G and I left for LAX around 9PM. When he dropped me off at the curb, I had a really hard time saying goodbye; it was hard to believe I wouldn't be seeing him again for almost two weeks. But, as Daddy-O always says, absence makes the wand grow harder, and all that time will make our reunion all the sweeter. Still, I know I'm going to miss the hell out of him. I hope I have a monkey or sloth sighting soon to take my mind off it.

After the difficulty I had trying to log onto their site, I was a bit apprehensive about Taca, but the check-in process was surprisingly smooth and the security line was very short. I got to the terminal with plenty of time to spare, and I whipped through the majority of my book before it was time to board at 1:15AM. As soon the plane took off, I popped two Simply Sleep and reclined in my seat to catch some z's. It wasn't a particularly restful sleep, but it was better than nothing. I woke up about four hours later with drool coating my chin, and after an embarrassed swipe of my sleeve, I accepted the French toast breakfast that the flight attendant handed me. It was surprisingly good.

Practically the first thing I saw when I got off the plane was a cardboard cutout of a little girl that had a sign attached to it warning tourists against engaging in sexual conduct with minors. The kid looked so sad that I wanted to adopt her. I wonder if she knew what she was posing for, or if her parents lied and said she was doing an ad for Kleenex.

After collecting my bag off the conveyor belt, I walked out towards the exit and saw a man standing there with my name written on cardboard. Just like the movies! He introduced himself and took me to his shuttle, which whisked me off towards my hotel. During the half-hour ride, I gazed out the window at the passing scenery.

When we got to the hotel, Jose, the tour director, was there to greet me. He gave me a packet of information and then said, "You must be tired after your flight. Usually you can't check in until 3PM [it was about 10AM at this point], but I've made special arrangements." He handed me a keycard, and it was all I could do to keep from dropping to one knee and kissing his ring like he was the Godfather. I thanked him and headed up to my room.

Hmmm...nice, very nice indeed! A small couch...sitting area...flat screen TV...huge bed.

But first, I needed to tend to two pressing matters: taking a whiz and checking out the toiletries selection, in that order. I was thrilled to discover, in addition to the usual lotion, shampoo, and conditioner, a bottle of mouthwash, a razor, shaving cream, and a sealed dental kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss pick. Excellent! High marks for the Barcelo.

Toiletries carefully stowed in my travel kit, I clambered into bed and slept like the dead for several hours. When I got up, I went downstairs to explore. They had a casino (and a sign boasting that they had a whopping 14 slot machines), internet lounge, two restaurants, two gift shops, and a beautiful pool.

Oddly enough, the hotel was in a residential area, and it didn't look like anything good was within walking distance. I wandered down the road for a bit, but the sidewalk disappeared right in front of a hairpin curve and I didn't feel brave enough to go further. I decided to ask the desk clerk if I should bother taking a cab into the heart of the city.

Oh dear Christ, the desk clerk! His name, according to his badge, was Jesus, and I sure as hell wanted to worship him. "Buenas dias!" I chirped. "Can you recommend anything interesting in San Jose?"

He blinked and said, "Uh, minute please." He went in a back room and returned with a model gorgeous female named, deliciously enough, Maria. I repeated my question, and she said, "You are by yourself?"


"Oh, then I would not recommend." I must have looked startled, because she added helpfully, "Not so safe for ladies. Probably not violate, but maybe mug."

Never mind then!

I bought an internet card and went online for a half-hour, and then I went back to my room and flipped channels until the restaurant opened up. I flashed my nifty tour pass and headed straight to the buffet. The theme for the night was Italian, and ever mindful of the onion menace, I stuck to plain buttered noodles, a roll, a small piece of steak, and an unusually good Coke. Afterwards, I got a scoop of sweet cream and fig ice cream that pretty much made me come in my pants.

At 8PM, there was a welcome meeting for the tour group. Jose reintroduced himself, gave us some information on the trip, and told us that, regretfully, we won't be going to the Poas volcano tomorrow because the recent earthquake basically destroyed the town and the roads are impassable. I was really disappointed, and judging from the "awwwwww!"s arising from our group, I wasn't the only one. But it was a safety issue, and besides, talk about a White Man's Problem. "Waaah, waaah, so your village got destroyed and your loved ones died. But I came all the way from California to see a volcaaaaaaaaaaaaaaano! What about MY needs?"

Next it was time for everyone to stand up and introduce themselves. There's a teenage girl traveling with her dad, a bunch of elderly friends from Scranton, two Canadians, a married couple from Poland, and a woman who received this trip as a college graduation present from her parents, who are also traveling with her. (I took an instant dislike to her because she's thin and pretty.) There's only one other person traveling by herself. I'd say there are about forty people in all.

Okay, I'm going to shower and then go to bed. Thanks to the aborted volcano trip, we're sticking to San Jose tomorrow, so I get to sleep in a little. Tomorrow will probably be the last day I don't have to get up before 7AM, though!