Legendary singer Dionne Warwick once posed the question, “Do you know the way to San Jose?” Of course, the song was referencing San Jose, California, but this got us thinking. We have been living in Costa Rica for over a year, but we’ve never really been to San Jose, the capital. Sure, we’ve rolled through it on our way to the Caribbean beaches of Limon, but we had never stopped to check it out. I must confess, part of the reason is because is it a major metropolitan city and like most cities of this size, they tend to be noisy, smell horrible, and have trash everywhere.
A friend of ours, jazz singer Bertilla Baker, was performing at a restaurant downtown, so we (along with some other expats) decided to catch her show. Since it didn’t make sense to drive back home through the mountains at night, we decided to stay in town. Wow, were we pleasantly surprised!
We stayed in this quaint neighborhood called Barrio Amon, located in the center of all the action. The neighborhood was founded in 1890 by the coffee-grower businessman Amón Fasileau-Duplantier. This old residential neighborhood is comprised of historical houses boasting the tropical neo-Victorian architecture. Many of these historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and shops, making it a nice place to stroll through history.
Saturday, we met up with a local tour guide to do a walking tour around the historic district. OMG… all this time we thought San Jose was flat. Boy, were we wrong! What a workout. We visited the National Park where we learned about the history of the last civil war that later caused the abolishment of the military in 1948. We visited the National Museum where we saw many pre-Colombian exhibits.
Hands down our favorite place was the organic farmers’ market where we had a chance to taste some amazing food. Specifically, arepas, the Colombian street food made from corn maize and filled with a variety of toppings like beans, salsa, guacamole, meat, etc. The flavor of this hardy snack has us even more excited about our next trip, which will be to Cartagena, Colombia.
All in all, San Jose was a pleasant surprise. We will definitely return to uncover more of its history and discover more amazing food.