Costa Rica: N P & T F

Day 2 - Friday, December 14, 2012 - Welcome Brief; Depart San José; Visit Coffee Plantation; Zarcero Park; Overland to San Carlos

We woke up at 5:30 and quickly showered and got our bags ready as today was a travel day and our luggage had to be out at 6:30. At breakfast, we met several more of our OAT companions and then formally introduced ourselves at the welcome gathering at 7:30.

Eddie gave us many helpful travel hints for our next 11 days together. At 8:45 we left the hotel and boarded our 18 passenger van. Samy, our driver, and Eddie our Tour Director had already loaded the bags on the roof of the van.

While Samy drove out of the city, Eddie faced the back of the bus and continued to present us with more information about the neighborhoods we were passing through.

The first stop of the morning was a tour of the Teatro Nacional. This magnificent building of culture and art was built by the coffee barons in 1891. The building was used for opera, theatrical performances, and social gatherings for the Costa Rican rich and famous.

Workers from Europe and artists from all over the world were charged with building a jewel that would rival the theaters of Europe. We were able to take photos of this UNESCO site that had been renovated after a recent earthquake.

We left the theater at 10:30 and as Samy drove out of town, Eddie gave us more stats about the city and the country of Costa Rica. Proud of their native land, “Ticos” have much to brag about in education, agriculture, and health care.

Driving northwest from San Jose into the Central Valley, we immediately saw signs advertising the Coffee Trail. Much like our Napa Wine Tours, “coffee” is king in this country and coffee tasting tours are available in many plantations.

We stopped to visit the Doka Plantation and processing plant owned by three generations of the Vargas Family. A Costa Rican National Heritage Site, this tour served a wonderful typical buffet lunch, and then our guide Dayana took us on a complete tour of the facility.

The dark red coffee beans (cherries) were just being harvested, but we watched a video of the whole growth cycle of coffee from blossoms to roasted beans. Costa Rican coffee is especially valued as a flavorful coffee that is high in caffeine.

The rich volcanic soil, the altitude, and the fruit trees shading the coffee bushes make for some of the best Arabica coffee in the world. The majority of their raw beans are bought by top name coffee companies in the USA. These companies roast the beans giving each brand a unique flavor.

At 2:00 we thanked our guide and started north to Sarchi, famous for production of ox carts, still used by farmers on the steep coffee slopes of this area. A huge colorful ox cart in the town square made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest and most colorful!

We left the land of coffee plantations and then drove into the lower lands where sugar cane is the cash crop. As we climbed higher again, we were in more mountainous landscape known for grazing of dairy cattle.

Milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are products exported from this area. Eddie told us a story of two single moms who supported themselves and their families by making sour cream cookies. When we came to their shop Samy jumped out and came back with two large bags of cookies for us to sample. They were excellent indeed!

From there, we stopped in Zarcero, to be amazed at the famous topiary gardens. Sculptured and clipped from cypress trees, this city park is a maze of arbors, animal shaped trees, and massive walls of groomed hedges. The artist, Evangelista Blanco Brenes has been working for 47 years shaping these trees for the enjoyment of others.

Termales Del Bosque, Hotel & Spa was our destination for the next three days. Near Aguas Zarcas in the Alajuela Valley, we came into the grounds in a tropical downpour. We checked in and at 6:50 we met Eddie for information about our day tomorrow.

After dinner we came back to our room and began to write and sort our photos from the day. This was a long day but we are really getting our money’s worth with these 14 and 16 hour adventures each day!

Accommodations: Termales del Bosque --- Meal: B, L, & D

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OAT's Costa Rica: National Parks & Tropical Forests

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Empanadas and Coffee, Sonia, Jasmine & Daniella Rosales with Eddie Recio, Sonafluca, Costa Rica

Empanadas and Coffee, Sonia, Jasmine & Daniella Rosales with Eddie Recio, Sonafluca, Costa Rica (2:05)

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Teatro Nacional

Teatro Nacional

Ripe Coffee Cherries

Ripe Coffee Cherries

Sarchi Ox Cart

Sarchi Ox Cart

Zarcero Topiary Gardens

Zarcero Topiary Gardens

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