By Alex e. Khajavi, CEO & Founder, Nature Air
Start inside the Teatro Nacional in the center of San Jose, and stand witness to the grandeur of the era of the coffee barons. Wander outside to the plaza and hear the hawkers and the pigeons, families, kids with balloons; smell the simple greatness of walk-away foods.
Stroll on past statues of workers with their hands extended in front of the Central Bank, waiting to be paid for the lands of their fathers, now turned national parks. Cross in front of the Grand Old post office and political deal makers outside the Union Club and continue toward the Mercado Central through its busy, tight alleyways filled with the smell of spices from faraway places. Surrounded by exotic veggies and fruits rarely seen outside of tropical markets, sit at a food stall and order caldo de pollo or a plate of gallo pinto. Fill your mouth with the flavors of a Costa Rican grandma’s cooking. Two bites to go, and it’s time to keep walking.
Step out of your culinary spell to shop for iconic Costa Rican goods, bags, shoes, toys – then turn and head for Parque Morazán to see the Casa Amarilla, the State Department and the iconic metal school, a costly construction imported from Belgium under influence of the Steel Revolution in the 1890s.
Walk through Parque España and step inside the old state brewery, now a museum and cultural center. Pass by the old Atlantic Railroad Station. Now in ruins, it was once a grand route to Limon that facilitated the growth of the banana industry. The underground vibrations of a movement in art, music and theater are tangible in this neighborhood – it’s young, it’s hip, it’s happening.
Finally, find a coffee house to rest your feet and reminisce on the faces, the smells, the voices, and trees in floral dresses. For what reason, if not for these moments, do we travel?
Letter originally published in Nature Air’s Landings magazine Vol. IX No. 4