The hunt is on. After weeks of emails and phone calls with advertisers on craigslist, remax, godutchreality, and more, we booked a weekend at B&B Grecia. What a jam-packed two days! We spent Saturday getting picked up every few hours by another homeowner or realtor, eager to zip us off to their casa in the hills. Apparently it is very easy to buy down here, but not so easy to sell or rent. Lucky for us, we have plenty of homes to visit. Not so lucky for us, many of those homes are no bueno. Some are too small, have no view, or aren’t safe for children. We need three bedrooms, since my husband works from home, and two bedrooms is the norm down here for rentals, it appears. With the mountainous views enwrapping the city of Grecia, it would be heart-breaking to live in a home without a grand vista. Unfortunately, we found several houses with three bedrooms and a glorious outlook, that also had extremely dangerous drop-offs a few feet from the front door (think ravine, raging river or cliff).
Let me tell you a little about why we are house-hunting in Grecia. The town is bigger than Atenas, so it has more to offer. More shops, more restaurants, more everything. To put it into perspective, we actually had a list of things to buy while in Grecia, that we couldn’t find in Atenas. This list included a sippy-cup, baby mat, a french press (ours broke), fridge magnets, and shelving materials. Life with little ones would be more simple if we could just make a run downtown to get whatever small item, as the need arises. Also, the hills of Grecia are maravilloso. It is a tad cooler than Santa Eulalia (our current residence), and the views make your heart skip a beat. Another huge reason for our switch from Atenas to Grecia is the feria! While Atenas offers a small farmers market on Friday morning, Grecia has a market three times the size, and is held on both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. In addition, we’ve noticed that the market in Atenas is filled with venders, while Grecia has real farmers selling to the average public. We’d rather support these real farmers.
One thing I’d like to say as a word of warning to fellow gringos who are house-hunting in Costa Rica: do NOT let the taxi drivers show you houses they know of for rent. On our way back to town at 10:45am (with an 11am check out time), our driver rattled off in speedy Spanish about a few muy grande, muy bonito, muy barato (cheap) casas he knew of. One had mucho espacioso, and was only a minute up the road… could he show it to us very quickly? When I said “Si, nosotros tenemos dos minutos para mirar” (“Yes, we have two minutes to look”), I was making a big mistake. After picking up a lady off the side of the road (a realestate agent?), he darted off onto a back road for ten minutes. Main roads are like back roads here, so actual back roads are like… loosely graveled, massively bumpy, curvy driveways. I didn’t think the old taxi car would make it. It was bottoming out, bouncing every split-second, and quivering. We were moving at a slow pace, but it felt rougher than any roller coaster I’ve been on. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the house with mucho espacioso. It was like walking inside a maze or beehive. Tight corners, tiny bedrooms and bathrooms hidden here and there, and very dark. Seeing that we were now late, I asked to go back to the hotel. He took us to another house. This one turned out to not even be for rent anymore. I asked to go back to the hotel again. He brought us to a third house–well, he tried to–he couldn’t quite find it. At this point, I was about to cry. The poor baby was crying–screaming actually, and I considered not quieting her down. Maybe he would let us out if she really let it out? We finally were freed from the taxi a block away from our hotel (I practically jumped out). The charge? 11,000 colones. That’s about $22, and that’s about a ripoff. Lesson learned and lesson shared.
Even though we aren’t going to rent any of the houses that one realestate agent showed us, I’d like to share his information, since he is an excellent resource. Chris Schoo generously picked us up and drove us to three worthy places to consider. He is originally from Holland, and has lived in Costa Rica for seven years, adding Spanish as his fifth language. He has fifty rentals and homes for sale at his fingertips at any given time, as well as the knowledge of owner sales on appliances and so on. The man’s got connections.
After a dizzying several trips up and down the neighborhoods of San Roque, San Isidro, y El Cajon, we finally found a house we may call home. It actually met all of our requirements (shocking!) and even had appliances. It’s in the barrio of El Cajon, about fifteen minutes by taxi from Grecia central. It’s a spacious, windowy, fresh three bedroom, three bathroom house on a private, family-owned street. The yard even has a toddler-sized stream running through it…ahem, well, it will once the rainy season hits. The view is awesome–literally awesome (pictured above–wow, right?). It also has a little doggy door for my little pooch who is waiting to be flown from the States. Let me not forget to mention, the family who owns it has a large farm down the road, and we can have any of the various fruits grown there for free! Sounds perfect, right? If all goes well, it will be our new place for the next six months.
We were more than satisfied with our stay at B&B Grecia, by the way. We were met by a Costa Rican woman named Grettel, who lives and works there. She was very sweet and welcoming, and made sure to give us help in our house search. She even offered to call some numbers for us, since people always add a few hundred to the rent when they hear an english speaker on the phone (ugh).
We stayed in the “Family Room,” which was comfortable for the four of us. Although we hauled our pack & play along for the weekend, we had no need to set it up. My happy six month old and I slept in one large bed, while my husband and our toddler slept in the other (romantic, I know). Their bed also doubled as a trampoline. I am surprised that I didn’t get into any mischief that night, since I have a habit of talking and walking in my sleep when I’m in a new place. I fortunately stayed put…I think. Even though we were on the street in the center of Grecia (a block and a half from the park), it was fairly quiet from 10pm-6am.
When in Grecia central, we ate at Mundo Pizza, Cafe Delicias, and at a fast-food taco place facing the park that started with a “T”–all within a block or two from the park. We like the first two, but I wouldn’t especially recommend the last. It will take me more time to develop a taste for super tacos. At the “central park,” our son got to socialize a bit with some other kids around his age. This is a popular place for the local moms to bring their chicillos. I heard one sweet three year old girl yelling to our son, “Venga, conmigo!” (“Come here, come with me!”) I’m sure he’ll pick up the language even faster with little Tico friends.
We spent our between hours at the B&B. My husband and son got a lot of use out of a set of dominos that served as a door stop. I will have to buy H a set, because he absolutely loved setting them up carefully, while counting in his tiny voice, “Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro, Cinco, Seis, Ocho, QUATRO!” Actually, our little guy tried to commit his first theft at this place. While we were waiting for our taxi driver Chino to arrive and take us back to Atenas, I caught the rascal out of the corner of my eye, cautiously and ever-so-quietly dropping dominos one-by-one into our back pack. =) Anyways, the B&B had a great breakfast, wireless internet, and good coffee. We’ll visit it again if we ever have need of a short stay downtown.
If all goes well, we will return to Grecia to live by April.
On to a new city and a new page in Costa Rica!