SARCHI AND SAN JOSE
April 5: Xandari Plantation
at 6 a.m., bags turned over to the cart driver as we started the walk out at
7:15. It was a bit easier than walking in around noon as we did three
waited for the planes under the trees by a little general store drinking
cold Fantas and making small talk. All of us realize that we are
coming to the end of a fantastic trip and none of us want to think about it.
It will be difficult to say good-by to each other.
flight was smooth till we reached the mountains around San Jose. Due
to the wind currents and the mountains we had another roller coaster ride
right to the landing. The pilot managed to put us down pretty smoothly
and there was reliable Luis waiting for us with our excess luggage in the
back of the bus.
you noticed that I have not mentioned shopping even once? That's
because we were far too busy doing other more important things and because
we were not really a shopping group. But we did need to get some
presents to take back to friends and relatives. So the time was now.
Luis headed the bus to Sarchi, one of the towns where handicrafts are for
Sarchi workroom where Costa Rica's famous painted wooden carts are crafted.
(Click for larger version.)
is such an artisan center that even the trash cans and bus stops are
decorated with colorful paintings. The most famous product is the
painted oxcart but we managed to resist buying one. Charlie took us to
a local restaurant which was part of a shopping complex. We ordered
our meals and then went away for an hour to shop while the food was being
prepared (good plan, yes!). After lunch, we took about 30 minutes more
for those who needed it and then we headed back toward San Jose stopping in
the suburb of Alajuela for our last two nights in Costa Rica.
was the home of Juan Santamaria, the country's national hero and for whom
the airport is named (more on Juan later). Alajuela was also the home
of Xandari Plantation, our final destination and what a destination it was!
We had truly fallen into the lap of luxury! One of the group
referred to it as 180 degrees from Corcovado. They were completely
different, that's a fact! The hotel is located on a coffee plantation
and belongs to an American couple. He is an architect and she is a
graphic artist. They split their time between Xandari and California.
Each villa is slightly different although each has a large bedroom, a
sitting area, a small food preparation corner, a wonderfully spacious
bathroom with large walk-in shower and a delightful veranda complete with palapa.
The villas are strung out on a hilltop on either side of the reception and
dining room. The view is toward the central valley which is surrounded
by mountains. Watching the sun set and the lights of the city come up
we had been living in each other's “back pockets” for almost two weeks,
I suggested that each couple have dinner on their own. No one
disagreed. The meal was quite different to the ones we'd been having
but as far as I'm concerned the high point of dinner was dessert - tiramisu
for me, chocolate fondant with raspberry sauce for Jim.
April 6: The central valley was so beautiful at night that we left our
curtains open. Awaking early, I slipped on my robe and, so as not to
wake Jim, quietly made my way to the veranda to watch the sun rise and
listen to the birds serenading. I'm feeling very nostalgic and it is
going to be very hard to leave tomorrow.
went to breakfast at 7 - a nice buffet. Charlie and Luis were to
arrive at 8:30 to begin our city tour, but they were there by 7:30 so we had
them pull up chairs and join us and Mary and Jack.
8:45 we were on our way into San Jose. Luis carefully maneuvered that
huge bus through the morning traffic taking us right down town to the
National Theater which is a source of pride for Ticos. Inaugurated in
1897, the building was paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on
every bag of coffee exported. The reason? A famous European
opera star who was appearing in Guatemala had refused to perform in Costa
Rica for lack of an adequate theater.
for a better view of the grand salon of the National Theater.
honor in this case resulted in a work of art. The theater is built in
the European manner with lots of marble, gold leaf and trompe d'oeil.
The marble had to be imported from Italy but all the beautiful exotic wood
in the building was local. There are murals on the ceilings and a
smoking room which was used by gentlemen during intermissions. Charlie
told us about his grandfather, a musician, who had come from Spain. He
played many times at the National Theater as well as for silent movies when
they came into vogue. He also was an impresario and brought other
musical groups to the theater. His financial demise came when he
agreed to fund an opera which would star a local tenor who had made good
internationally. Unfortunately, high living and loose women had taken
their toll on the tenor who could not perform on opening night. He had
lost his voice in the process which meant that Charlie's grandfather lost
the major portion of the Gold Museum was closed, what we saw was very
impressive. The Jade Museum was definitely closed so we made our way
to the National Museum which was a real treat! Housed in a
nineteenth-century building converted from a military fortress after the
army was abolished in 1948, the museum is small but rich.
huge stone balls, and even larger ones, were found throughout Costa Rica.
Their source remains a mystery. Click for larger version.
exhibit on the modern history of Costa Rica joins pre-Columbian art, natural
history and religious art. Even though the indigenous people of Costa
Rica have not been studied in depth, they produced some excellent art work
in the form of flying panel metates along with pottery, gold and
wooden artifacts. Even the medal for the Nobel Peace Prize won by
their president in 1978 is displayed.
for a larger version of this
the National Museum we headed for lunch. I was sitting in the single
seat on the right side of the bus right where the door was. As we
rounded the corner of the next street, Luis slowed down and opened the bus
door. Very strange, I thought, why is Luis opening the door? The
very next moment a young man hopped on board, turned to me and said, “Ruth
Marie?” Just about blew me away! It was none other than Marco
Madrigal who had been my correspondent for the past 18 months while this
trip was being planned. Tall, slim and personable, he jumped right
into a conversation asking how the trip had been, if it had met our
expectations, were we pleased with our accommodations at Xandari, etc.
He was just as nice in person as he had been during our exchange of e-mail.
As we got off the bus at the restaurant, I introduced him to each couple so
he finally had faces to put with the names on his list.