Wednesday, 24 January 2018

San Jose, Costa Rica

So, the start of a long touring holiday in Costa Rica. And one starts in the capital, San Jose. But arrive too late to do anything but settle into my hotel

Which was the Hotel Aranjuez, which is a little outside the city centre, but walking distance of everything one might want to see. The USP of the place is that it is fashioned out of half a dozen 1930s houses. 

Rooms are basic but fine. Most remarkable part - note the swan "towel sculpture". These were to be a feature of my holiday. I am not sure of towel folding is an art form. 

 But it seemed to have been extended to the toilet rolls.

 Upsides of the place - well top billing goes to the buffet breakfasts - fine an wide selection of food and the dining room is open to a tropical garden. So there I was tucking into my breakfast watching a squirrel tucking into his.

And the hotel had a number of just nice sitting rooms to read in. And downside? Well one could do with the quite sitting rooms to catch up on sleep lost overnight in the incredibly noisy room. Normally one complains of noise from traffic. But here it was either staff or guests (there was an ice-machine nearby) both late at night and early morning, plus lots of banging noises from things that seemed loose in the wind (doors, roof?)

Anyway, out into the capital. A few colonial buildings.

 I pottered into Parque Nacional

 Most taken by a large group of modern resin sculptures. They were just fun.

This was a pizza restaurant

 Top museum by all accounts is the Jade Museum. Don't believe it. Clearly its the museum which has had money poured into it. First, its an absolute eyesore. Its meant to resemble a jade boulder. Well its a big grey lump ok. More what might expect from a 1970s sports centre.

 The other problem is that pre-Colombian jade in these parts just isn't very exciting. There are endless (well it felt like it) little items shaped and carved like this one below.

 Fortunately there is more than this, and indeed not limited to jade. For which one should be grateful. But frankly there is too much jade. One should just have had a museum dedicated to all pre-Columbian art and archaeology.

 Some of the ceramics were much more interesting and impressive.

 All modern technology was brought to bear to make the museum itself look arresting.

Stone grinding tables. For grinding corn upon.
 The top floor is devoted to displaying the less interesting ceramics, mostly not even labelled. Just stuff they have.

No, more interesting, and eclectic, is the National Museum, hosed in the old army HQ. A big thing is made of Cosa Rica having no army. It was abolished in 1948. But clearly that doesn't mean it has no security officers. They did after all fight off an invasion from Nicaragua in the 1950s without an army.

 I said it was eclectic. Inside it has a botanic and butterfly garden in a sort of courtyard come staircase.

They have a lot of the famous blue morpho butterflies, but they are a real trial to photograph because as soon as they settle they tend to close up their stunning blue wings, to show only their brown undersides.

They aso had a little section where they had gathered chrysalis to hatch - one just about out below.

 Inside there was a display relating to the building's army past.

 Then there is a section on it's pre- Columbian history with some quite decent artefacts.

 They seemed to have liked making huge stone balls.

 Of course, they were also renowned for their gold-work, mostly worn, like this.

 A 19th century interior - note the huge mirror.

 There was also a most interesting and well presented section on the history of Costa Rica, not just a bland procession of leaders and freedom fighters as you see in many developing countries, but a description of the country's various economic upheavals and dependencies on various industries, notably coffee growing.

Back out through the butterfly garden again, bu which time a bit late for any more sightseeing

But one thing to note, Christmas lasts a long time in Costa Rica. This was 3 January.

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