More San José jewels found on a north side hike

Not long ago I wrote how lucky Costa Rica was because it was protected from the ravages of nature, the Central Valley being the most blest. Since then we have been clobbered by rains and winds and then Tropical Storm Tomas. There are many people who have lost family members and their homes and desperately need help. Pride in anything, it seems, comes before the fall. I will be more careful in my boasting in the future. Making matters worse is the unseasonable drop in the temperatures. Very few buildings have heat.

So perhaps it is a good time to consider joining the throngs of people in San José and hope the combined energy will keep us all warm (at least those of us who are lucky enough to get downtown.)

Restaurants open and close with regularity in San José, but there are some that have been around for a long time – and with good reason: They have what restaurants should have: good food, good service and pleasant ambiances at reasonable prices. One that most people know about and have enjoyed for years is Tin Jo on Calle 11. Tin Jo serves dishes from just about every Asian cuisine and has maintained its quality for over 20 years.

Another, perhaps less well-known, is Café Mundo on the corner of Avenida 9, right on the edges of barrios Otoya and Amón. Café Mundo serves a continental cuisine with an emphasis on Italian dishes. The food is usually excellent, and the wine generous. It has the added charm of outdoor dining on a patio about eight feet above the street.

Upon leaving Barrio Amón, walk downhill from Café Mundo to Calle 5 and turn left. Go uphill to Avenida 7 and right behind the Holiday Inn is an art gallery that specializes in Costa Rican art. (And I have forgotten its name! But go in.) Then turn onto Calle 5, which runs alongside the hotel. On the right hand side is an open door front into Mora Books. I suggest you go there after lunch because it is a mess of books stacked every which way, in shelves on the floor, on the counter. It is not a very appetizing place, but you can find some reading treasures there. They also will give you credit for your own once-read books.

If you are looking for a clean, well-lit place with new
books, try Seventh Street Book Store. Walk through Parque Morazán, exit through the middle gate which will put you on Calle 7. Go straight ahead, cross at the light and go down about three stores on the left side and there is 7th Street Bookstore. All is orderly and clean.

If you continue down Calle 7 you will come to Avenue Central, a pedestrian boulevard. Join the crowd and enjoy the window shopping. If you walk west on the avenue towards the clock in the intersection, you will come to the Plaza de la Cultura where, if it is a holiday or just a nice day, there will be clowns twisting balloons for the children chasing pigeons and perhaps some Peruvian musicians playing their upbeat music, or maybe a mime. If you go into Pops Ice Cream on the corner, you can exit (for a fee) holding one of their very rich ice cream cones then enjoy the festivities with something in common with the rest of the onlookers. Although I can do without the pigeons, watching the children is great fun.

At this point you may discover that you are tired and would like to spend the night in San José so you can do more exploring tomorrow. The last time my son visited me he said he was not going to ride the bus with me anymore. His legs are too long and he would like to spend more time in San José. We went to look at the rooms in Casa Alfi. If you go past the Teatro Nacional and cross the street, going south you are on Calle 3. Casa Alfi is on Calle 3 between avenidas 4 and 6. We both liked the rooms and the prices: $30 for a single and $40 for a double for bed and breakfast. The phone is (506) 2221-2102. There is not a more ideal location in the heart of the city. And you will be doubly in luck if there happens to be a performance at the national theater that evening and tickets are available.

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