Do You Know the Way to San José? 14

The Real San Josê

Michael Miller and Carole Jean

And once you get there, do you know your way around? San José, Costa Rica, that is. I have been getting lost in San José since 1989; at least that was the case until I found Michael Miller’s guide titled “The Real San José”. At last, I can make some sense of the crazy streets, convoluted addresses, and hidden restaurants known only to the locals.

I have lived in Atenas, Costa Rica for three years, but have been a regular visitor to this amazing country since 1989. My family lives in Nosara, Guanacaste located on the Nicoya peninsula and have been there full time since 2008. Before the Liberia airport was built, we flew into San José, of course. Like many visitors, our attitude was to get out of the city pronto and head for the beach. It wasn’t until my move to Atenas, a forty-five minute drive to San José, that I began to see a different side to the story.

I take the bus to the city. For two bucks, I can avoid that stomach-clenching, white knuckle wild ride I give myself when I drive. Most of the time even if I know where I want to go, I can’t get there from here in a car due to the one-way streets, pedestrian-only sections of the city, and construction projects.

In the olden days, the early 1990s, when Mom and I would come to the city for shopping or dentist appointments, there were less cars, and less street signs, and I did a reasonable job of getting to our favorite hotel, The Dunn Inn in Barrio Amón. Our landmark was the National Theater and the Holiday Inn. Leaving the city to go home was far more difficult. It should take about ten minutes to drive from the hotel to the highway home. It was not uncommon for us to drive around and around for two hours before stumbling upon the Autopista (highway). Mom would say, “Pull over and ask somebody!”

I can still hear her, “Disculpe!” (Excuse me!) in a commanding tone. The person she shouted at would stop immediately and wait for her to speak. She would then lean back in her seat and point to me. As they rattled off directions and I smiled and nodded as they told me how many meters and where to turn with descriptions such as turn left where the old white church used to be, I would thank them and pull back into traffic.

Mom would start laughing, “Do you know where to go?”

“No!” And we would laugh so hard I couldn’t see to drive.

My favorite helpful suggestion from Mom was, “O.K. You see that building over there? It says Banco Nacional, but it’s really the Holiday Inn!” She really did say that. There’s a certain determined look Mom gets at times and it’s the look that says “Don’t argue with me!” Besides, even if it was the Holiday Inn, I still wouldn’t  know how to find Paseo Colón.

Now that I have Michael Miller’s guidebook, all I have to do is look at the pull-out map and get my bearings. As long as I don’t get stuck in the dreaded Zona Roja. The good news is now I know where it is! The Red Zone, that is – and the book with the map attached, too. You see, I’ve had maps before, but I folded them up and tucked them into a special place, never to be seen again … well, until I found it wadded up in a corner of my purse along with the 6-month old never-used tissue.

I love that the whole book fits into my purse. Plus, the print is large enough that, if I can’t find my reading glasses, and there’s a real good chance I can’t, I can still read the large print!

Map of Downtown San Jose

Miller’s Pull-out Map

I love this book. I won’t leave home without it and neither should you when you are on your way to San José.

In fact, I like it so much, I think I’ll get a copy for Mom for Christmas. I know I can buy one at the Hemingway Inn, a quaint historic hotel also in Barrio Amón on Avenida 9 and Calle 9 – easy to remember 9th and 9th, kitty-corner from the elegant Hotel Don Carlos which houses fabulous Costa Rican art and a fun café! Oh yeah, Hotel Don Carlos is also on 9th and 9th! How do I know this? I read it in the book.

At 6,000 colones, this guide is a steal. For you electronic-only folks, you can have it on your Kindle.

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¡Pura Vida!

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