Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Costa Rica: An Act in Three Parts
As a traveler the process of passing judgment on a country's merits can be a hard task, especially when the time available to compile the case for and against is as measly as one week. For this year's trip to Costa Rica, the flimsy evidence would be based on short excursions to Tortuguero, Monteverde, and Arenal, as well as a quick stay in the capital of San Jose.
My first day was spent in Costa Rica's largest city, San Jose, where the main airport and an entire quarter of the nation's population is located. I wandered the streets of downtown San Jose encountering a variety of interesting products like Bimbo bread and Darky chocolates, although I sadly missed my opportunity to purchase a Darky (yes I am going to hell).
I was able to sample some of the other culinary offerings, however, and I greatly enjoyed my first tastes of the local versions of ceviche and beef churrascos. Also, patacones, fried plantains served with black bean dip or guacamole, are an excellent side dish.
I had been forewarned by several people that Costa Rican cuisine was somewhat bland, but I found that was true only of the food offered in some of our hotels, the local establishments put out some tasty products, although I will admit diversity is somewhat limited. Costa Rica will never be confused with Paris, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy some very good meals there.
The beer was also quite tasty after the insult to the art of brewing that I was presented with during my trip to Spain last year. The Spanish should stick to wine and leave beer to the professionals in England, Belgium, Germany, Czech, etc. The Costa Rican strengths were Pilsen and Imperial (pretty much the official national beer) both of which proved to have a very crisp flavor, not too sweet and too bitter with an easy finish.
San Jose, although the central organ of commerce there, is not the heart of Costa Rica, it is a dirty, crowded place and I don't recommend spending more than a day there. Thankfully, the capital is not indicative of the country as a whole - as I would discover on my subsequent journey.
Next: an excursion to Tortuguero