Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fabulous Walkability in Grecia, Costa Rica !!

Our trip to Grecia from San Luis went fairly smoothly!  Coryn, our property manager in San Luis, came to do her walk-through of our unit at 8:30am Wednesday morning then took us over to Tilaran to catch our bus.  It was a yucky wet morning in San Luis but by the time we got to Tilaran the clouds had parted and we had some sunshine albeit a bit chilly.

Our bus was waiting at the terminal when we arrived, so after buying our tickets for $16 total for the both of us, we loaded up our luggage and boarded for our 4 1/2 hr. trip south.  The bus was supposed to stop in Alajuela (close to the airport) but due to time constrictions, the bus driver made the arbitrary decision to take some people directly to the airport instead.  So we had to ride the bus all the way into San Jose to make the switch.

Since we had not been into the city yet, we took this as an opportunity to see some of the surrounding areas.  Yup, a big sprawling city!!  The bus driver made sure we were taken care of since we arrived at the wrong bus terminal to catch the bus to Grecia.  We loaded all of our luggage into a cab and off we went.  Along the way, we made the decision to just take the cab all the way to Grecia so we didn't have to deal with the luggage again.

This was a great opportunity for Mike to use his Spanish and for my ear and brain to get back into Spanish mode since we hadn't used it much over the last month.  It was a nice drive about 45 minutes NW from San Jose and we actually retraced a good bit of our bus ride back toward the airport.  But, what was really nice was being deposited at the doorstep of our new home!!  Since there are no addresses in Costa Rica (just like Panama), our driver found it with my giving him directions based on the map that our landlord had sent to me.

We met the lady, Virginia, who lives across the street and actually takes care of the money side of the rental.  She speaks excellent English since she lived in the US for 45 years and was a Nanny.  And then Hernan, who also lives across the street next to Virginia, who does the maintenance of the home.  Both were extremely pleasant and Mike, again, got to use his Spanish. 

This home is on a typical Tico residential dead end street with homes on zero lot lines but ours had a nice front yard behind a gated access.  All of our neighbors are Costa Rican and we love it!! And, the huge banana trees with gorgeous fruit are right in our front yard!


This is the view of the cemetery and mountains from our balcony on the 2nd story of our home.

Once deposited in the home, Mike and I decided not to unpack but to walk into town to explore and do some grocery shopping.  The one thing that made us decide on this home was the walkability into town and easy access to everything.  Grecia is a town of 16,000 but it feels larger and it's been voted the Cleanest City in Central America!!  And, it lives up to its reputation!  The sidewalks are in very good repair and the streets are wide. All of the shopping, and there's allot of it, is centralized around the beautiful town square with park and the famous Metal Red Catholic Church.






We wandered and wandered.  Our first purchase was an internet router because the house only had hard wire and with all of our tablets and smartphones, we certainly needed one.  A Dlink was purchased at a cost of $40.  We had paid $50 for our last one in the states.  Lots of "sodas" and smaller quick restaurants, butcher shops, fruit stands, and even a Pike Street Market type of market inside the bus terminal building.  Our second purchase was a pot with lid, 2 wine glasses, pot holder, and a hand towel since those items were not provided in our home and are absolutely necessary for us!

We finally stumbled upon a small optical shop across from the square and went in to see what I might do for new prescription sunglasses.  Alas, they had only one pair of frames that I liked so I went ahead and ordered them.  The total cost for bifocal lenses and Tommy Hilfiger frames (purple/lavender stripped) was only $116 !!! That's quite a difference from the $170 for the ones I lost that were done at Walmart in the states.  Can't wait for them to arrive next Thursday!!

Since it was getting late, we asked if they knew of any restaurant/bar that served wine & beer.  They told us a place called Rancho down and over a few blocks, so off we went while still daylight after buying just a few groceries to get us through the evening and next morning.   We found the restaurant and were quite pleased with its quaintness and atmosphere.  At the time there was only another table of 4 young gringos eating.  I was delighted with the Vino Tinto even though I wanted white/blanco.  Finding that many restaurants don't serve white only red so I've had to get over my white in summer weather and red in cooler weather. A delicious meal and a leisure pace was enjoyed!!

A rough night's sleep with all the new sounds of the neighborhood.  Since we didn't see any wandering neighborhood dogs (actually we haven't seen many at all anywhere like all over Panama and up in San Luis), we thought the dog barking issue was gone. HaHa!!!  Our neighbor behind us has 2 barking dogs and they left them outside for quite awhile then to our surprise there were 2 roosters, one with a very "sick" sound starting crowing in the middle of the night.  Finally, about 5am, we were able to get to sleep and slept in late.

We took our time getting ourselves together and having a late breakfast. But then we hit the pavement to do some more exploring.  Our first mission though was to get to the post office so we could mail Mike's sister's Birthday present that we purchased in Panama.  After waiting in line for almost an hour, Mike finally got to the front of the line and it was a very quick transaction at a cost of only $3.50 to mail to Chicago.  Now let's see how long it takes for it to arrive, if it does!

We walked up one street and down another and decided to stop for a quick lunch at a "soda".  Another nice meal, I had chicken lasagna and Mike had Arroz con Camarones (rice with shrimp). Good quick, pleasant service at very reasonable prices. It was then time to head to the grocery store to do our major shopping and then to lug it home.

Since we had had a late lunch we just snacked, read our books and went to bed early.  We did sleep better but had to set the alarm because we had dentist appointments at 9:30am and didn't quite know where we were going. We left home at 8:45am and walked up the 2 blocks to the main road and caught a cab another 2 blocks up in front of the hospital.  After going down a steep hill from the center of town, we found ourselves quickly deposited in front of the dentist's office thanks to Mike's good eye.  At 9:00am we were there and could have easily walked it!  It truly did look farther on the map.

So we walked up the street a bit and had a pastry at the Panaderia. OMG, their pastries are luscious!!  The only issue was now we didn't have "clean" teeth!! A good rinse in the bathroom remedied that pretty much. 

Upon arriving at the dentist's office, we saw this very, very young looking man. Yup, he's the dentist, Dr. Emilio Balanos Fernandez.  I found him on line quite awhile ago when deciding to do some dental work here, as this is a "go to" destination for dental and medical procedures.  I had been given a quote of $36/cleaning and $396 for the replacement of my upper partial.  This is compared to $90/cleaning and $1,800 for a new partial in the states.  What we're saving every month on insurance more than covers the cost here.

The cleaning was done by the dentist himself and I was very pleased!  The polishing taste was even PiƱa Colada!! I found out that he's been practicing for 3 years and had done a residency in NY City for a year, which is where he learned most of his English. His English was part of why I chose him to begin with.  He then took my impressions for the first phase of getting my new partial.  He was thorough in explanation of choices of materials and procedures and he took his time. 

It was then Mike's turn.  Mike also wanted to discuss the possibility of repairing the discoloration of his 2 front teeth.  It turns out that his crown needs to be replaced and he is going to have the other tooth veneered with a new composite called Zirconia.  Rather than porcelain this product allows the dentists to vary the coloring of the tooth just like a "normal" tooth so you don't have that all white mouth!  In addition, he is going to have a few chips filled and his teeth whitened.  All for about $1,000.  Again, with what we're saving on our insurance, all what we're having done is more than paid for.

By the time we finished it was almost noon, so we walked up to the small Grecia Mall to look around.  Again, lots of clothing and shoe shops AND a movie theater!!  I also looked around in a large optical chain store, Optical Vision, to see if what I had ordered was the right thing to do or did I blow it. Well, after looking around at the more than 5 times larger inventory, I found NOTHING I liked better than what I had purchased elsewhere in town.  And, the prices of the frames were 1.5x or more of what I had paid.  YEAH!!  I made the right decision!!

After going into the Super Maxi Pali grocery/merchandise store, similar to a small WalMart, we decided to walk back home even though it was up a huge hill.  Actually, I wanted to take a bus or taxi but gave in when neither materialized quickly.  Good thing we did because we came upon the Feria location!!

So in we went even though we had done all of our shopping necessary for the week.  OMG!!  Won't do that again! The market is huge and mind boggling with all the fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, cheeses, nuts, flowers, clothing, and various flea market stands!!  The smells and sights we were overwhelming!  I even got talked into trying a fruit by the name of "Guaynavana". This is a slimy white juicy fruit that tastes like a mixture of tangerine and kiwi. Mike bought some but I just can't get my mind past the texture and consistency of it. The Feria is every Friday and Saturday so we'll still have a chance to do our shopping there.






Up, up, up, up we walked to the center of town and headed home. I was bushed!!  Needed to catch my breath and recuperate, cook dinner and then we were headed out for an evening of live music at the local Bar/Restaurant "BRO" just across the street from the square. 

What we noticed walking up there in the dark was how alive the City is!!  As we were passing the bus terminal, we heard drumming and decided to see what was going on. There on the platform were 6 or 7 drummers just making the most beautiful sound!! And just below them in the parking lot were people doing a line dance to the music.  Loved it!! Hope you enjoy the video so you can get a glimpse of what we experienced!! https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6774215

We arrived at BOR around 8pm with no music playing.  The bar/restaurant is quite nice and the atmosphere good.  We found out that the music wouldn't start until 9:30pm so we sat and drank our wine and beer while watching the locals since, again, we were the only gringos there.  The crowd did pick up by 9:30 and the music was played by a young man and his guitar singing Latin Pop.  Enjoyed it and headed home by midnight.

Yesterday was spent with more exploring.  We found a video shop that rents DVD's of movies that are still in the theater and not even out on DVD yet in the states.  So since we had missed Skyfall when it opened while we were in Aruba, we got that one and Les Miserables.  Oz is playing at the theater and we're going to see it on Monday.

We also went seeking the community swimming pool where you can pay $3 for the day.  Fortunately, the weather here is more conducive to swimming than Lake Arenal region.  Along the way in our walking, we found another quaint local bar called LaOficina and had a drink there on our way back home.  We also found a true Spa and booked massages and a facial for me on Tuesday.  Yippee!! Can't wait!!

The swimming/activity park was just closing when we got there but we were able to truly see some of the countryside from up on the north hill and the end of town.  This is an agriculture center of coffee and sugar cane plantations plus fruits and vegetables and from up there you can see for miles all of the farms and Poas Volcano.  Beautiful!!






On our way back down the hill we did stop and have a drink at LaOficina along with the locals and then stopped at the Saprissa bar across from the church.  This place is very quaint and has been referred to as the "Cheers" bar.  I can certainly see why!! Wonderful cozy, local atmosphere with friendly bar tenders.  We finally met a Gringo!!  His name is Dana and he hales from Olympia, WA. Even though he spoke with us, he kept reminding us that he doesn't like mingling with other Gringos and knows nothing of where they go or if they get together.  Okey dokey, then!! LOL



What we also truly took notice of when walking in the city at night is the vibrancy and vitality of this town!! Everywhere you look there are families and people enjoying themselves and the park is FULL of people just visiting with each other! Love it!!



Back home we cooked another yummy spaghetti dinner and settled in to watch Skyfall.  Yup, it's all good!!  Looking forward to more exploring as the days unfold here and venturing out further into the hillsides.

Had a few wonderful Skype conversations with good friends yesterday and today.  Did some planning of our trip back to the states to coordinate everywhere we need to be and when.  Think we're going to head back down to Carlsbad, CA to visit family after Azi's high school graduation in Modesto, CA and then stop in Chicago on our way back east to CT.  Looks like Ecuador about July 6th. 

Brunch time, so got to go!!  Have a great day everyone!!
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