There are few worse feelings in the world than being in a foreign airport waiting for a transfer that never materializes, especially when the sky is actually falling, it seems, in a great Niagara of water, and you’re trying to stay dry under a miniscule canopy that you share with a hundred of your newest amigos. That’s the situation I find myself in at the San Jose’ airport in Costa Rica, where I learn two-dozen ways to say, “No, please”, “No”, and finally “Hell, no!” in Espagnol to the cabbies who attack me like starving leeches on a Coon Hound in the arrivals area.
So I’m standing there balancing my computer on a handrail while I try to make a Skype call using the WiFi signal stolen from some anonymous source (thanks, Christopher!) while also keeping an eye out for thieves and prostitutes. I get my agent on the phone and proceed to talk with the laptop folded over my head like a tent because that’s the only way I can hear over the thunder, horn honking, tourist babble, and jet turbines under full thrust. I explain politely that, although I appreciate the chance to field test my wet weather gear and my instincts for urban survival, I’d really rather enjoy a little down time at the hotel lounge, if that’s OK with her.
When I hang up and assess the situation more closely, I begin to transfer my wallet to my front pocket with one hand while maintaining a death grip on my luggage with the other. That’s why I’m relieved to see my Costa Rican Trails rep show up only thirty-five minutes later, and I’m not angry, since I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy all of the exotic beauty and sensual smells that an airport arrivals area can offer, and I provide him with a tip commensurate with my initial impression of his professionalism and reliability, which is to say nothing.
In the event, I am successfully transferred to the El Presidente Hotel, which is perfectly situated downtown on the pedestrian Central Boulevard. I waste no time in exploring the area, and find that there’s a lot to see here, from the Gold Museum to the National Theater.
I traverse the length of the boulevard before having dinner at the El Rodeo right across the street from my hotel. The service and atmosphere are better than the food, which is just so-so, but the location can’t be beat, and I enjoy watching the usual assortment of bizarre night creatures emerge from their lairs as the sun goes down on the city from a table directly overlooking the milieu.
Speaking of night creatures, I find more than a few at the El Rey Hotel. I make my way here because it is, so far as I know, the only place in the city where the casinos have actual gaming tables, as opposed to electronic machines that exchange your money and time for, well- nothing really. What I do not know is this place is also, essentially, a whorehouse, a point that is driven home when I am approached by four gorgeous women in under ten minutes soliciting me for sex, and, while I would like to think that is just due to my animal Bondesque magnetism, I’m pretty sure I’m wrong, because I do not think that Sir James ever had to fork over $100 for Octopussy’s undoubtedly superlative talents.
The El Rey does not offer free drinks as most casinos do, and since I’m in no mood to pay for either my booze or an incurable venereal disease, I beat a hasty retreat. Tomorrow, I begin a 21-day tour of Costa Rica, much of which I will do in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Stay tuned for further…adventures?