We started with an up-close and personal look at how Costa Rica's delicious coffee is made at the roasting facility for Café Britt, the largest and most commercial (but also the most accessible from San José) coffee company in the country. We had a fun and interesting tour/skit with two perfectly bilingual guides whose banter and rapid switching from Spanish to English and back again kept us entertained and mildly informed. The best part, though, were the samples!
Fully caffeinated and buzzing from head to toe, we ventured into downtown San José for the first time...it is a hectic and somewhat unattractive sprawling city, which even on a Sunday afternoon was crawling with people and throbbing with energy. I'll admit to feeling a little intimidated, but was able to shake the nerves after a couple of hours. We had lunch in a 1930's Parisian-style café and headed for the Museo del Oro Precolombio, the Museum of Precolumbian Gold.
|A striking work from a temporary art exhibit|
In an underground bunker, a staggering collection of gold artifacts revealed the incredible metallurgy and decorative skills the native people had mastered. They perfected a technique for creating molds, mining and melting gold, and then casting figures of unbelievable detail that they used in many ways in their society. Even if the figures had been made today, they would have been amazing, but realizing that they were made before Columbus ever set foot in the Americas was even more astounding.
The day of our departure, we paid a last-minute visit to the Mercado Central. We got turned around several times while navigating the labyrinth of stalls and narrow corridors, but in doing so, got to explore the exotic assortment of fresh produce, meats, seafood, herbal health treatments, souvenirs, clothing, flowers, food stalls, leather goods, cookware, musical instruments, and just about anything else you can imagine. I was so fascinated that I worked up a hunger for a quick 10:30 a.m. pineapple sorbet before we hopped back into the car for the last time and headed for the airport.
Costa Rica was a beautiful, welcoming country with friendly people and an unobtrusive way of weaving visitors into the fabric of their culture. I hope I can work a little bit of the Costa Rican color into my Chicago tapestry...and if not, I hope I can get back to Costa Rica soon!