- J Scott Lane
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
This is an excerpt of a travel diary - very interesting trip. Much more is available on the people I got to know; small, ring-tailed animals; and culture.
Day 1 - Costa Rica Needs Street Signs
Driving to San Jose - easy. Driving in San Jose - hard. Very hard. Forty-five minutes after starting which included a stop at some kind of cultural museum where three non-English speaking adults attempted to call and get me directions to the hotel, I found the hotel. San Jose, and, as I would later discover, the rest of Costa Rica, does not believe so much in street signs. Occasionally, an alert observer would see an Avenida (north-south) and, less frequently, a Calle (east-west) white-on-green sign posted on the comer of a building. Keeping away from taxis, road gutters that threatened to test my Nissan rental car's insurance coverage, and people casually walking in the street distracted one from noticing these small clues.
It is this lack of location-finding infrastructure that probably caused my mailed reservation form to never reach the hotel. The clerk helpfully called a couple of other places and, after a mere 15 more minutes of careful driving, I located the Hotel Rincon de San Jose. After checking in with the helpful, friendly Tica behind the desk it took me 30 more minutes to locate the parking lot (Parque Otaya - I will never forget it) that was located around the block and clearly marked on the map that she gave to me before exiting the hotel.
To emphasize my next point, I want to make clear that this parking lot couldn't have been more than 100 meters from the hotel, and it still took me thirty minutes to find it. To further emphasize said point, at one time I was so desperate I stopped at another parking garage and "spoke" to two gentlemen to ask them if they knew where the elusive Parque Otaya was located. After much pointing to the map and bad Spanglish on everyone's part, it was decided that one of them would get into the car with me and personally direct me to the exact spot. It quickly became apparent that this fellow also didn't know where the parking lot was located, because after calling out instructions about lefts, rights, and go-nows, we stopped and he instructed me to wait with the engine running. He proceeded to then get out and ask still another parking lot attendant where this lot was located. Half of San Jose is employed as parking lot attendants.
My persistent guide got back into the car and we took off again, fully energized and filled with undeserved bravado, like a football player that just scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter with his team down by 40 points. When we finally found Parque Otoya I'm not sure which of us was the more ecstatic. He climbed out of the Nissan and walked off into the gathering night without accepting any payment for his efforts or even a ride back to his parking lot. His walk was probably a lot faster than the amount of time it would have taken us to drive there, and I would likely have gotten lost on the return.