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San José, Costa Rica

February 5th, 2006

The other day I took a field trip with my compañeros to the capital San José to experience the big city. Although it was generally dirty and dangerous as most cities are, it certainly had some redeeming qualities.

Hands down, the best part about San José is its little mercados, or markets. The first market we visited was Mercado Central, and it was teeming with Tico farmers and bustling buyers. Everywhere you looked, you could find exotic little fruits and strange looking vegetables. A big hit with my group were these little citrus fruits called granadillas. They look like ovular orangish-green oranges on the outside, but are filled with grayish purple seed sacks. You eat the sacks and the seeds together which is a very messy, and therefore fun, affair.

The next market we visited was the Mercado Artesania, which has plenty of artesian trinkets and tidbits. There is plenty of jewellery, clothes, and statues made of exotic Costa Rican woods. I found a spectacular sari of a light linen-type material for under $5. Most of the prices at the market were reasonable, but if I overheard correctly I was getting a more reasonable price than many gringos since I was speaking in Spanish.

The last thing we did was tour the historic and beautiful National Theater of Costa Rica. Our guide gave the tour in both Spanish and English at the same time, which meant we got to hear the same bad rehearsed jokes twice. That aside, the trip was well worth taking since there is some simply breath-taking architecture and artwork inside the theater. The theater, which was officially inaugurated on October 21, 1897, features an elegant Italian Renaissance façade. It houses some fabulous sculptures and paintings, also done in the Renaissance style. So if you enjoy touring beautiful historic buildings, the National Theater of Costa Rica is worth checking out.