Costa Rica? I thought you said 'Costco'! travel blog

Sure, we're still smiling in this photo. We haven't left Edmonton yet....

Pearson Airport in Toronto at 5:50 a.m.

Bleary eyed, they make their way to the international departure lounge

Bleary eyed, Eminem moon walks his way backward on the moving sidewalk...

First sighting of nature - freakishly large penguin.

Preparing for nap time on the plane to San Jose.

Lots of choices today

We chose this one

Purchased at duty free. Fits in overhead bin with no problem.

... and she's out....

Mikey and Neo. We had to declare him as excess baggage upon...

The mountains surrounding San Jose

Small plane. No room for pretzels.

We arrive to find a civilized nation. Beer!

Sign language

Mr. & Mrs. Canchola

Our pool at the Wyndham Herradura Hotel in San Jose

Haui & Eminem just chillin' in CR

Our rental vehicle from Mapache Rent a Wagon

Musical interlude in Costa Rica

The regulars can't keep away from The Hard Rock Cafe


Eminem and his backup band (Jose & Manuel - seriously - that's...

Crossing the Pan American Highway to get to the Plaza Real Cariari

Looking for the "Mega Super" market: "Ahorro todos los dias!"

What we bought at the Mega Super

It's been a long day..... Buenos Noches....

Sleep? What an interesting concept....

Buenos Noches, Senors y Senoras! We have arrived in Costa Rica in good spirits and totally sleep deprived. A quick questionnaire on sleep:

Q. Sleep is (choose one):

a. Over-rated. You'll sleep when you're dead.

b. Contra-indicated on red eye flights from Edmonton to Toronto.

c. Most "fun" when seated next to a howling 1 year old named Neo (seriously - that's his name - like in The

Matrix!) squirming in his mommy's arms for the 5 hours flight from Toronto to San Jose (Only Mikey gets to

choose this one)

d. All of the above.

e. I have no idea. I haven't slept for the past 36 hours. Ask me later.

I bought a bottle of bourbon at the duty free store in the Toronto airport. I've never, ever bought liquor at Duty Free before. Call it premonition, but something tells me I'm gonna need it over the next 2 weeks.

It's green here in Costa Rica. And humid. And busy. Well, in San Jose, anyway. Specifically, at the airport. We had no problem with the hour long line up snaking through Customs & Immigration or with the further 15 minute wait for our luggage. We're on holiday. We've got nothing but time. But seriously - how long does it take to get luggage off the plane and onto the conveyor belt?

It gave us a chance to observe..... mostly other tourists. But once we stepped out of the airport the heat and humidity hit as did the waves of people. Yep, it's busy. And so it's pretty nice to see a friendly person holding up a sign above the throngs with your name on it. Well, with Mikey's name on it, anyway. We are officially "Mike's Friends", or, as the sign put it: "Canchola Michael".

Except that "Canchola", as it turns out, is not actually the Spanish word for 'friends' at all (that's Amigos, but you already knew that one). Instead, "Canchola" is a Spanish name. I fear that Mr. & Mrs. Canchola Michael are still waiting to be picked up by Mapache Rent a Car at the airport.

The official motto of Mapache Rent a Car here in San Jose (and I am not making this up): "We are 100% compromised with the conservation of the environment and sustainable tourism".

My hope is that one day they'll be 100% committed to those things, too. Until, then, compromise will have to do.

Our Hyundai Tucson rental vehicle has more insurance coverage than any vehicle ever built (or rented by Mapache, I'm certain). My guess is that the employees of Mapache are now taking the rest of the month off, secure in the knowledge that the premium they are charging Michael & the Canchola family for "bumper to bumper" coverage over the next two weeks has put them over the top for their annual budget. Bonuses for everybody!!

And, speaking of bonuses for everybody: It turns out that today is the day that the annual bonuses are distributed by employers (in advance of the run up to Christmas) here in Costa Rica. As such, the banks are jam packed with everyone cashing their annual bonus cheque.

We know this for certain, as Eminem and I met half of San Jose lined up with us at Banco Nacional di Costa Rica (BNCR) this afternoon while changing some money. BNCR... their motto: "Your money is safe with us and if we make you wait in line long enough, you'll probably forget we even have it".

And, speaking of money: The official monetary unit of Costa Rica is the colon.

Coins, I believe, are called either semi-colons or intestines. Not certain yet which. Our first monkey sighting in Costa Rica was on the back of the 5,000 colon bill.

For $100 CDN you get 35,000 colons. A pretty good return on your investment it seems to me. This means that each colon is worth.... wait, let me do the math.... Actually, each one is totally worthless. You need to amass, like, 87 of them before you get a quarter. Or something like that. I will just hold out stacks of them and allow people to take as many as they think will suffice for whatever I'm buying. This has worked well in previous situations.

Air Canada, following it's normal motto ("We're not happy until you're not happy") had no food on it's flight from Toronto to San Jose. Not even a package filled to the brim with 4 mini-pretzel sticks. And so, by the time we checked into the Wyndham Herradura hotel in the San Jose suburb of Cuidad Cariari for our one and only night in (or near) the capital city, we were hungry.

Of course, we all wanted to get our first taste of authentic local cuisine and so we were delighted to find that across the parking lot from our hotel was the Hard Rock Cafe San Jose.

Here is the authentic local stuff that gets piled on your "Local Hero Burger" at the Hard Rock Cafe San Jose:

1. Queso Turrialba

2. Agua Dulce sweet onions

3. Plantain slices

.... and a side of piping hot slivers of fried yucca chips served with a hot mayo sauce.

The interesting ingredient is the Queso Turrialba. This is a fresh creamy cheese from the Santa Cruz district (province? state?) about 40 miles from San Jose, in which is located Turrialba Volcano. Volcan Turrialba, as it is known in these parts, last erupted.... well, last October, as it turns out. And has had increased volcanic activity since then. The cheese, as it turns out, has a slightly smoky flavour. Go figure.

Tomorrow we are headed north, to Volcan Arenal. Can't wait to try the cheese.

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