We decided to try out the famous market in nearby Grecia, Costa Rica. Little did we know that it would take 3 buses to get there, and fetching groceries would become an all-day trip! Unfortunately, the bridge between Atenas and Grecia is currently closed due to dangerous conditions, and the 7 kilometer distance became much greater, since we had to go from Atenas to Alajuela, and from Alajuela to Grecia.
I must say, our bus-catching skills are supreme! Well, I suppose it had little to do with our skills, and more to do with fortune. We were very lucky, rather, in arriving at each stop with about 5 minutes to find the next bus, and there was always a friendly local available to lead the way.
Even though we only spent about 10 minutes in Alajuela (Costa Rica’s 2nd largest city), we saw enough to be shocked. Every home, shop, playground and neighborhood was trimmed with the highest security of barbwire, and often a lazy family pooch for added protection. I first thought I was looking at a prison, but no, the barbwire was everywhere! Here’s a pic of a little school… no one’s breaking into there!
Grecia, on the other hand, is a much smaller city, and therefore has less crime. We really enjoyed our afternoon there. We first stopped at the large feria, or farmer’s market, and made contact with a man named Gabriel, who runs a coffee farm here in Atenas called El Toledo. Looks like fun. My husband had exchanged a few emails with him to arrange a tour for us. Gabriel was so helpful, cheery, and funny. He cut up an orange to share with our son. He also played some peek-a-boo, to H’s delight. He and Husband C chatted about going on a mountain bike tour to the local Volcano and waterfall, as I stood jealously by. I want to go too, but I don’t think my legs could handle this mountainous terrain! Besides, the mountain bikes don’t come with infant seats. However, today Gabriel invited the kids and I to visit with his wife, while the men go for a bike, and then we all can meet up later at the waterfall. I’m satisfied.
After wandering around the huge market, we decided to find some Tico food for lunch. We stopped at El Griego Restaurant, and our patient Orlando helped us order a hamburguesa con pollo, and what came out to be a panini with a small side ensalada. (C had asked for a chicken sandwich with lettuce..) Oh well, it was perfectly delightful. We ordered a hot chocolate and a salchicha (hotdog) for H…and he drank the hot chocolate (of course) and shared my papas (fries).
After almuerzo (lunch), we did a little exploring and shopping in town. Grecia is a modern city that could exist in California, in my opinion. There are cafés, little shops, a mall, and a central park with benches and palm trees. We found some picture frames and a few kitchen accessories in one store, and my husband held both babies while I ducked into a tiny boutique to purchase a leopard-print pashmina to wear over my bathing suit. (Happy!)
We were drawn into a colorful restaurant called Café Deliciosa–the name won us over. We decided to try their house speical, “The Deliciosa,” which was like a chocolate frappuccino, except sweeter. H loved it…and Baby P eyeballed it the whole time! What a nice little spot to relax and watch the passersby. This lovely café is nestled in a row of shops just down the street from the central park.
Our last mini-adventure in Grecia was finding a crib for the baby. We had contacted a woman who lived up in the hills of Grecia who was selling a slightly-used pack & play. Our timing at the bus, again, was impeccable–it left 3 minutes after we found and boarded it. The only directions we had was that her home was called “Chalet Gringa,” and it was across from three pastel houses, sandwiched together. It was a little stressful going up and up on the bus, passing 4 chalet-style houses, but directed to wait by the bus driver. Finally, he motioned for us to get off the bus–but we didn’t see a chalet, or any pastel-colored houses! The bus driver insisted, pointing down the steps. As we reluctantly departed, we were greeted by a waving woman by a gate. Thank goodness, it was her! I still think it’s some kind of miracle that we found her and acquired a cuna for our baby girl! Oh, and the bus came back down and picked us up 10 minutes later, on it’s way back to downtown Grecia.
The only wait we had was at our transfer in Alajuela, as we had just missed the bus (but we certainly were grateful that we found the bus station before dark!). We only had to wait 40 minutes, but the wind had picked up, and I had to put pants on the baby, who I have mostly adorned in short-sleeved onsies for the past few weeks. Back in Atenas, we grabbed a few necessary groceries and took a taxi home. The 15 minute ride cost 4000 colones, about $8. (We usually pay $5, but that’s when we call our reliable cab drivers–Chino, Pilo, or Sidney).
As we settled our baby girl down into her crib for the night, we chatted about how easy the day had surprisingly gone. We hadn’t been stranded anywhere, we met our goals of meeting Gabriel and buying the pack & play, the kids were happy, clean, and fed. We also gleaned a further knowledge of the surrounding area of Atenas. And one more thing–while on the bus back from Grecia, a couple from Colorado offered us their 4 bedroom home just outside of Alajeula…for 6 months while they traveled…for FREE. This may or may not come to fruition, but it was certainly the highlight of our day, journeying from Atenas to Grecia and back in Costa Rica!
Here are some more pics from the day: