‘Tis true, I’m back again, staying at the usual Hotel Presidente but in a larger nicer room. I don’t know quite how this happened because I booked on line as usual and the only choice was the Junior Suite…either that or the Holiday Inn or the Del Rey, both of which I have seen.
The El Presidente
The Del Rey
The Del Rey seems seedier than usual or perhaps that was how it has always been in the light of day. The girls were lackluster, the bars less crowded and the casino action was more subdued. Maybe it was the relentless rain, just another Monday or the ‘scales have fallen from mine eyes’…John E, one of the three owners and the most ‘hands on´of all of them has been on an extended vacation since April. He decided that the ship he has been lusting for in Holland was worth going to see, if not to sail it and perhaps buy it. For some 7 million USD, or godonlyknows how many Euros now, it needs a crew of at least five. That was one of the reasons they were considering selling the Del Rey last year but that’s another story.
I arrived in the afternoon,in a driving nightmare:the rains were falling here as they do in Antigua, vast sheets of water dropping out of the dark grey skies. I flew Mexicana, which I haven’t done in years, ever since a twisting and diving departure from Havana on the fringes of a hurricane. i’ve been told that there is a 15 degree limit to how much roll or side to side motion commercial airline pilots are allowed. For the record, I can state that Mexicana pilots when presented with an opportunity to become vaqueros gladly do so. We touched down in a blinding rainstorm, bounced a few times and then the plane began to fishtail as the brakes were applied: three or four yawing motions from left to right later, the pilotos had stabilized their landing,just in time to avoid the end of the notoriously short runway in San Jose, San Juan de Santa Maria. Feet braced, seatbelts straining,a collective sigh of relief from the rear of the plane was heard, where I was seated. With Mexicana, Cubana and TACA(TakeAnotherChance Airline)I recommend the rear of the plane, since very few air accidents are tail-first.
Later, post-checkin at the El Presidente, I had time for a nap, shower,change of clothes and a dip into the ‘shark tank’ at the Del Rey, otherwise known as the Blue Marlin and casino. I have a favorite seat at the roulette table, back against a stone pillar that gives me a view of both entrances, easy access to my favorite combination of numbers and I don’t have to worry about borracho gringos spilling their beer on my right. There is also a good view of the five card tables to the right,where one can flirt visually with some of the players. This occasionally leads to misunderstandings when they come over to seal the deal but a word to the wise should be sufficient. Don’t write checks with your mouth that your body can’t cash, so to speak.
Tuesday in the Trenches:
Rain, rain and more rain, punctuated by rain, with brief periods of showers followed by downpours. One thing about being downtown in San Jose, walking is easy, especially since they closed off Avenida Central to cars. Four blocks north is the Mercado del Artesanias where you can buy anything and all with the words ‘Costa Rica’ printed, I guess to remind you of where you’ve been: I have this mental picture of a couple sitting around in their house somewhere, wearing T-shirts that have ‘Costa Rica’ emblazoned, drinking coffee or doing shots of whatever out of mugs or shooters, resting on coasters that say Costa Rica, with their car keys on the CR keychain, waiting for their friends to come over and be impressed. I went to see Manolo of the molas:
Manolo, for many years has been going to Panama to visit and trade with the Kunas, who live on a series of small scattered islands off the coast of Panama. Their ‘mola’s were originally meant as wedding shirts for the women and hours of labor go into each one: reverse stitching, unusual patterns and vibrant colors are the norm, somewhat like the colors seen with Huichol carvings from northern Mexico, peyote-inspired as it were.
Manolo of the molas
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