Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alajuela Day Trip

On the spur of the moment, we decided to go to Alajuela for the day!  We woke to cloudy skies, but by the time we were on the other side of San José, the blue was fighting its way through! 

We got to our old stomping grounds in Alajuela, and walked to Norman's restaurant, "Jalapeño's," in time for a late lunch and a nice chat.  Then we wandered down the street, looking for the place where Rick had some shoes made a few years ago - unfortunately, it was no longer in business.  We are still trying to wean ourselves off "needing" things from the states, and so my latest mission is to find a way to either repair my shoes or have some made.  We had given up on that idea for this trip, and were walking towards a park, when we spied another shoemaker!  We walked in, talked a bit about what I wanted, agreed on a price (c38,000), and left one of my shoes there for him to use as a pattern.  No, I didn't limp around the rest of the day with just one shoe - I had brought my old pair along :-).

We made it to our park, and then went on to visit a couple other friends - because it was a last-minute decision to come, we didn't call ahead.  But no one seemed to mind :-).

As we were walking around, at first we were sooo relieved that it was warmer and sunnier than at our house, but we *very* quickly warmed up, and remembered that that was the main reason we had decided Alajuela wasn't for us - the tiniest bit too warm.  Funny how picky you can get...

Oh, but we thoroughly enjoyed the bright sky, the brisk breeze, the blooming trees, and the soooo very friendly folks of Alajuela.  It had definitely been too long since our last visit!

Scenes From a Bus

  • A Profusion of flowering trees and shrubs
  • Grandmothers pushing strollers
  • Kind Strangers offering fruit to toddlers (after subtly checking with the mother)
  • A Happy Toddler with fruit juice running down his chin
  • Mothers laughing with their children
  • Sunny skies with flitting clouds
  • Young adults sitting and talking in the shade of a bus stop
  • People jumping up to offer their seat to those who need it more

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Santa Ana's Calle Vieja

It's funny how you hear terms over and over again, and never find out exactly what they mean until some occasion comes along to force you into finding out.  Santa Ana's Calle Vieja was one for me, until last night :-).

Calle Vieja means "old road" - there are *tons* of roads in Costa Rica that use this name!  Any time a new route is built (like a highway between San José and Santa Ana), the old road becomes Calle Vieja (natch).  Well of course it is still used (and the traffic is horrendous)!  I found out which road is called Calle Vieja because a restaurant we wanted to go to was off it, and listed it as part of its directions.  Then I had to plot a route to get there (in plenty of time for our reservations).  Thankfully, I love a challenge...

Our timetable:
5:15 leave our house in San Pedro
5:25 Barrio Escalante bus picks us up.  Note that this is rush hour traffic - standing room only on the bus, and it takes half again as long as normal to get into town.
5:45 Downtown San José, Barrio Escalante bus terminal.  We decide to walk to the next bus stop instead of taking the Sabana Cementerio bus.  It turns out to be 8 blocks, through a not-so-nice neighborhood, but do-able.
6:00 get on the bus for Santa Ana at the Coca Cola terminal.  Fortunately, it is exactly the bus we need, and the driver seemed sincere when he said he would tell us when we got to the Paco stop in Escazú/Santa Ana :-). 
6:10 bus leaves station (still rush hour)
6:30 finally out of town, and we take the exit to Escazú.  We go past EPA, and turn right onto THE CALLE VIEJA!  I can easily see several landmarks, and so we're ready to ring for our stop when the driver looks at us and says "Paco" - it's truly wonderful when the bus drivers look out for you (this is not the first time a driver has done something special for me or for other riders, but they don't always remember what help you needed).
6:45 exit at Multicentro Paco.  We have now experienced the trip to The Calle Vieja Santa Ana, in rush hour!  As you can see, it takes a very long time, especially compared to the same trip in mid-day :-).

Our return, much later:
9:37 PM - bus to San José picks us up at the Multicentro Paco, on The Calle Vieja Santa Ana
9:50 leave bus in San José at Yamuni, just past La Sabana park
10:03 Sabana Cementerio bus picks us up for the ride across town (BTW, this bus stops running at 10:30 PM)
10:15 leave SC bus at the San Pedro bus terminal (notice that it only took 12 minutes to get across town?)
10:30 San Pedro bus leaves terminal.  I think this is the first time I have taken this bus so late at night - most of the time, I catch it in the middle of the day, and the buses leave every couple of minutes.
10:47 Home!

By far, the longest time factor in rush hour is the traffic.  Late at night, it is the wait between infrequent buses.  The same trip in the middle of the day would be shorter by about half an hour.

Cream of Carrot Soup

Here's what happened when I forgot that I had just bought carrots, and then bought more...

Cream of Carrot Soup
3/4 kilo carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 hands full of celery leaves
3 cups water
3 cubes chicken bouillon
4 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp chipotle*
1/2 tsp powdered ginger

Microwave all above ingredients in a large covered bowl for 25 minutes, or until carrots are cooked.
Blend until smooth.

In a lidded jar, shake to mix:
1/2 cup milk
5 Tbs powdered milk

Slowly blend with other ingredients.  Makes about 7 cups.  Serve hot, with plenty of good bread and butter.

* I started with more than this, and it was a bit too hot.

This basic recipe works for a lot of vegetables - modify the seasonings as you like to go with whatever veggie you are using.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sleeping Like Logs

Ahhhh - a whole week of sleeping like logs!  Last Monday, our much-anticipated STUFF arrived!  The premier piece, and the reason for shipping at all, was our well-loved mattress - uncrated and set up within an hour of arrival :-).
 Supporting cast members in our sleep saga include boxes of books, bins of weights (unbelievably difficult to find here), and a portable dishwasher!  So, after a nice dinner, we don't have to worry about doing the dishes, we can settle in with a nice book, then sleep like the dead, awaken refreshed, and spend the day lifting weights (and dirtying more dishes, of course)!  

PS - I can see Dad cringing now - yes, we had to leave the feet on, since that is how it was delivered (It was brought in last, so there was no chance to read the uncrating instructions before the movers left).  Everything worked out just fine though :-)