Archive for December, 2009

WTF? Tourism Mis-Descriptions

December 29, 2009

I was at an airstrip the other day and found a series of brochures produced by Nature Air, one of of Costa Rica’s two domestic airlines. After reading the care they gave to their advertising copy, I was a bit skeptical about boarding one of their puddle jumpers. Here’s what they have to say about:

1. Quepos. Quepos is a sleepy town, built in the thirties as a banana port. The town features colonial architecture and a great fish restaurants along a quiet seaside plaza.

The area is most famous for its fabulous sport fishing, white sandy beaches, and beautiful mountains outcroppings jutting into crystal clear waters of Manuel Antonio National Park.

The Park is a little gem of greenery with emerald coves and a tree lined shoulder reaching an island of serenity. It is home to White Face and Spider Monkeys, Sloth’s, Toucans and Iguanas.

Some of the best positioned hotels in Costa Rica are on the high outcropping of land offering panoramic views of ocean The subset dining is at it’s best in Quepos.

I have detected some errors. To wit: “…built in the thirties… features colonial architecture…” This is false by definition. There is nothing in town older than 70 years, at which time Costa Rica had already been an independent republic for 100 years. Also, there is no seaside plaza. I do agree that the subset dining is superb, however.

Here are some excerpts from their description of San Jose.

2. San Jose is best known for its theatre, performing arts and galleries. It is home to Teatro Nacional, Pre-Columbian Museum, Gold Museum , Jade Museum , Museum of Mational History , and Children’s Art Museum. Teatro Nacional is an exact replica of the opera house in Vienna, Austria and home to Costa Rica’s National Orchestra, Opera and a rich program of performances.

The city has a lively night life, clubs and an array of excellent cuisines to choose from. Dining choices go from Costa Rican tipico whole red snapper, Italian fresh pasta, French Brasserie, Peruvian cervices and Japanese sushi to Argentine beef houses.

I would like to point out one thing: Peruvian cervices. Now, I know that Peru is famous for its ceviche. But cervices is the plural of cervix. Cervices? Are those served on a bed of medical waste? And a nice glass of amniotic fluid?


Snapshots of Barrio Amón

December 21, 2009

Most of Costa Rica is on vacation until January 5th. The days leading up to this moment have been characteristic of every December in Tiquicia in that the streets become a throbbing throng of money-maddened shopping zealots, junkies yearning to quench their thirst for pirated copies of Shrek, hard-candy gift sets, rubber pants, whatever is around.

Costa Rican law requires that all salaried employeed be paid an aguinaldo, which is an extra full month’s salary. Flush with cash, Ticos gas up their cars and take to the streets, smashing into each other seemingly without care and clogging the streets to the point that I expand my walking district to a 5km radius as that distance is easier covered on foot than by car.

Rush hour begins.

Nearby, I spied these buildings.

Rooms by the hour

For some reason this picture got turned sideways, and I don’t care enough to fix it. This place rents rooms  by the hour, in case you get the itch while stuck in traffic. Additionally, this region becomes a prime place to pick up transvestites at night. Many of these trannies are better looking than most women, just with a little surprise for the uninitiated.

This place is also on my route home. I don’t know what it is, but it looks like it was probably pretty nifty at one point.

A little urban decay.

These neighborhoods are some of the more interesting ones in the city, the only places where any concentration of old buildings have been left standing. But municipal building codes and a culture of tearing down signs of the past will likely force these neighborhoods little by little into the boxy, uncreative modernity that many Ticos seem to favor. It’s too bad, since the local tourism board frequently wonders how to draw more visitors interested in Costa Rica’s culture to the country, to complement the healthy number of nature-loving arrivals. With a few tweaks to the Historic Preservation code and vision by city leaders, San Jose could still halt the destruction of its past and preserve (and indeed improve) the cultural face of the capital. But for those of us who have lived here long enough, we know that that’s likely to be little more than wishful thinking.

Old and new on the edge of downtown

Images: Thursday’s Commute

December 17, 2009

There are a number of interesting things that I would like to point out in this first photo.

Cruce, Santo Domingo de Heredia por la Basílica.

First, the squat, adobe house at the center of the frame is a traditional Costa Rican dwelling that has mostly disappeared from the national urban landscape. There is little culture of preserving the past here, so when a building like this one begins to deteriorate, it is usually razed for something deemed “modern.” (see this pic for my favorite modern house)

Further in the background you’ll see the belltower of the Basilica, one of many Catholic monuments to tithing erected around the country. In traditional Spanish design, the church sits on the east side of a plaza.

In the side mirror, you{ll see a person wearing a yellow shirt walking the line of cars backed up at the stoplight. These are recovering drug addicts who ask for donations, sell pencils or stickers or pamphlets at intersections all around the country. They have to meet a daily quota, then they receive as a salary a small percentage of everything else they collect. It’s not a nice job weaving in and out of incredibly dangerous traffic, where motorcycles do not have to respect the laws and can drive wherever they can. But they’re out of the streets, at least for now.

Here, we have a glimpe into downtown San Jose.

Entrada a San José, por La República

Here we can see the explosion of poor architecture that is downtown San Jose. Most people, when they decide to build, do not consult an architect in order to best use space, maximize air flow or otherwise try to transmit an idea or feeling through their construction. Instead, they hire an engineer to make sure the thing doesn’t fall down. As such, many buildings throughout the country are little more than reinforced rectangles.

Images from a Commute

December 16, 2009

I’d like to start sharing with you some of the things I see every day when I drive from the mountains into San Jose.

The architectural abortion in the background here is the Ministry of Environment, Energy and, inexplicably, Telecomunications. The inside of this building reflect the care and attention to detail given to the outside: cramped, poorly lit and ventilated, filled with bureaucrats.

MINAET, San Jose, Costa Rica

A few kilometers later, the sun was going down as I hit some thick traffic.

Drive time.

That’s all I have for today.