Sunday, November 1, 2015

San Jose Valley - The Good and the Ugly

We took a day to go into San Jose, our plan was to visit the Children's Museum and then go to the big market to let the kids get a souvenir.  The traffic heading into San Jose was absolutely awful.  We crawled along the highway forever.  Then just as we were coming up on our exit we got a flat tire.  Flat tires are never a welcomed event, but in Costa Rica the police hand out flyers warning tourists about getting flat tires.  They say it is a common practice for surly characters to give you a flat tire and then rob you while you are trying to fix it.  These thoughts amplified by a carload of hot sweaty tired kids only magnified the unpleasantness of the situation.  Luckily nobody mugged us, Aaron had our extra tire on in no time, and we were once again on our way.  This time through the narrow streets of San Jose.  
One of the crazy motorcyclists weaving through bad traffic.

The Children's museum is inside of the what was once a giant stone and brick prison. The structure is impressive and beautiful!  

We walked up through a torrential downpour to the museum.

The Museum was really fantastic!  Full of great displays and interactive
things.  The kids loved it.  We didn't have to take the time to read any signs
because they were all in Spanish.  

The had a house laid out on the ground and then a mirror to look up at to create these fun optical illusions. 

Many of the rooms still have bars at the doorway.
We closed this one for the picture.

After the museum we left to find the market.  Down a steep hill and up the other side we wound until we were in a very shady part of town.  It was very apparent that we were not in an area where we would feel comfortable parking our car or walking a small army of young children around, and that is where we found the market.  I was grateful there was no question about us getting out.  Our goal now was to find our way back to Alajuela and the sanctuary of our hotel.  Between one way streets and changing directions from our phones gps it just so happened that we stumbled past all of the things that the guidebook says is great to see in San Jose.  Inadvertently we saw the open square in the center of town, the national theatre building, and a few other buildings of notable architecture.  I was very glad to have this good fortune because now we had absolutely no reason to come back to San Jose.  Unlike the shiny clean pictures I had seen in the book the area was dirty, crowded with a ton of people, and simply not pleasant.  I wish we would have thought to take some pictures from our car, but the roads were packed, the motorcyclists a constant scare, people were everywhere and the roads themselves were a danger because we found there were holes big enough to swallow up our four remaining good tires at any moment.  San Jose was not necessarily a bad place, but it is very poorly organized and dirty.  We were blessed, we made it out and back safe and sound, we gave all the kids a good scrubbing and slept well.

Every morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast outside.  They had traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans with eggs as well as baguettes.  The kids cleaned them out of a least one huge loaf of French bread each morning. 

We did a taste tour for dinner the afternoon after we picked up our new van and dropped off our rental.  We drove around and tried to find new things to try.  Most were quite delicious, but this odd fruit with what looks like giant watermelon seeds in alien slime, we didn't much care for.  Max described the experience in his journal:  "We topped off our taste tour with a unidentified fruit.  It was bizarre!  Inside there is as bunch of seeds encased in a snot-like goo.  It tasted like an gooey orange with sand pellets in it.  Wanna try it !?!"
Max, aka Captain Justice, didn't feel it was right for Jonah to earn
any screen time without doing proper homework, not just
for coloring.  So he took matters into his own hands
and organized a math lesson. 

Adventures at La Paz Waterfall and Zoo

We drove up the mountain on Saturday to visit the La Paz waterfalls.  When we found out it was going to be over $200 to take our family in, I balked.  Perhaps it was my insisting we were not going to pay that much for the afternoon, or it was Aaron's great negotiating, but probably most likely them watching the kids make havoc of the gift shop, but they decided to let us in at the local price instead of the tourist price, about half of the original.  I was so glad because it was truly impressive and  most enjoyable experience.  
My favorite place at the Seattle Science Center is the butterfly house, but it was no comparison to this one.  Thousands of butterflies filled every inch of this tropical paradise.  They had rows and rows of chrysalises hatching new butterflies and the kids discovered if they rubbed a little of the fruit from one of the feeding areas on their hands it attracted more butterflies to them.  This worked for everyone except Jonah who did not want anything smeared on his hands.  He was very upset that he wasn't getting any butterfly friends.  Luckily Aaron found a dead butterfly, placed it on Jonah's arm and he was appeased with one that was was "sleeping."

This one stayed in Aaron's armpit for a
good 10 minutes.

Maggie's favorite exhibit was the cats, pumas, jaguars, and ocelots.
We got to stand in and then take a little ride in a traditional Costa Rican Ox cart.  Awesome!  in the picture below you can just barely see a man's arm with a stick.  They cut a groove in the yoke between the two ox and a driver with a long stick prods the oxen to follow him.  When we first came toward the ox I thought they were fake they stood so still.

This blog is also our memory book of our trip so when everybody gets the chance
to have a toucan on their arm, we post a lot of pictures of a toucan sitting on
someone's arm.  How often will that ever happen?  :)

After the animals we hiked down the path to four
different waterfalls.  Incredibly beautiful!

I liked having to stop for these cows to get moved down the road
on our way back.
Halloween photo op with a nice gentleman
at the hotel that my kids made friends with,
they called him, Abuelito.
The kids came up with their own costumes using
the resources available.  Maggie called herself Nature girl,
(very fitting).  Then with a few Halloween goodies given to us
by some super thoughtful friends before we left we celebrated
our own mini Halloween.