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The weirdest first day of vacation

22 Oct
Memoji: hmmm, weird

“Yes, I’ll be working a bit on the project while I’m off because I really dig it!”

Me, massively underestimating “a bit”
In this write-up, I’m attempting the epistolary narrative style that I remember enjoying from Stephen Chbosky’s excellent novel “The perks of being a wallflower”

Dear diary, I slept in this morning \o/, got up and drank two or three cups of espresso while I lazily browsed social media and played a few games on my smartphone. I did yoga a bit before noon, showered, and got ready for the rest of my first day of vacation.

I ate a light lunch standing up in the kitchen as I was transplanting the ferns I collected last Sunday near the lake.

As I pondered which subject I was going to draw later in the day as part of Inktober, I also pondered the oddity of my Apple Watch not recongnising as “stood” the good chunk of the previous hour that I had spent, well… standing. I certainly had been “moving a little” on the account of transplanting ferns not being the kind of activity you can engage in by being immobile.

A quick time-check led me to my desk. I had just enough time to publish a press release.

Memoji: type, type, type

I drank more espresso, took the dog out for a walk and by then I had a pretty good idea what I was going to draw. I returned to my desk again for a one-hour meeting that lasted three hours /o\ That’s the first massive underestimation of how much time to block for that project (the W3C website redesign).

My brother showed up during my call (much earlier than I anticipated) and as he didn’t have his keys he tried to FaceTime me. I rejected the call, texted him that I was in a meeting, but he responded by texting me that he was outside. So I ran downstairs to let him in, ran back up and continued with my colleagues.

The doorbell rang not too long after. I apologised to my colleagues and ran downstairs and outside to pick up a delivery that I expected tomorrow. I dropped the unopened package on the dining table and as I headed back upstairs to my computer, I smiled at my brother. By then he was taking all the space on the sofa, which was fine because the cat doesn’t like the sofa that much.

My valiant colleagues and I had been at it for what seemed like days, and I was sheepishly aware that each of them had other fish to fry, and yet nobody else was better positioned than them/us to do what we needed to do. Time was passing and it was food o’clock in all of our time zones.

Memoji; Ooops!

We were done. Rather suddenly —It was the strangest thing! It seemed only moments before that we had gone through two thirds of the exercise and I was agonising (out of shame because I was getting way more of their time than was bargained for, and because my brother was waiting on me downstairs.) The completion of our task took us all by surprise! As I quickly thankologised profusely to them, one of my colleagues quipped that he was almost late for second breakfast, another enquired how many breakfasts there were and whether several lunches followed and how many, and the third colleague really looked like he wanted to put on more work! So my finger lunged for the Zoom button that ended the meeting for all.

It was 8 o’clock. I was thinking that working the equivalent of a half-day during my vacation wasn’t too bad from the point of view of my employer, and I wondered if I had missed the time before which I could still go back on how many days I was really taking.

Memoji: Heh!

My brother wanted me to try a particular wine that he likes very much. Opening my package made me happy: my favourite fragrance arrived in two versions: regular and “body mist.” My brother’s wine was very good, he’s right. We sipped it and ate guacamole and chips while the oven heated. I made a nice dinner that didn’t take long to prepare, and we both enjoyed it.

Soon enough we were on the sofa, me drinking espresso and him drinking tea; each talking to each other with interest, him about why some stuff changed at his workplace and me suggesting further areas of optimisation (he will at least explore one idea.) I stood up a few times and “moved a little”, as commanded by my smart watch. He doesn’t mind, he doesn’t think I’m weird.

I grabbed my art book, pencil and ink pen a bit before 11 o’clock. Today’s Inktober prompt is “sleep” and I was going to draw a newborn sleeping next to his daddy’s chest. My brother commented that the photo I used as reference was too detailed, and he may be right, but I had a good feeling about it and told him I was trying a minute or two before giving up. My feeling was indeed very good, and my brother was surprised when I was finished, because I finished earlier than he anticipated, and the drawing was pretty good.

Eventually, my brother left. It was 2 am. We had spent a lovely evening together. It had been a nice break from work but I was keen on finishing where I left off, out of duty because of the timeline that was agreed on.

The time tracker on my computer started logging a new day at 5 am. I was done right after 6. Whew! This was the second massive underestimation of how much time to block for that project. But now the people we work with can do their part and hopefully we will all meet the deadline in two days.

Memoji: Wheee!

As I stood at my window, sipping espresso and watching the sky going from really dark to some sort of hesitant but unmistakable glow, I observed that had I not missed the time before which I could go back on how much holiday I was really taking, it’s a whole day of vacation I could have written off.

Recette : Tournedos Rossini

25 Dec

Pour 4 personnes. Temps de préparation : 20 minutes.

Il vous faudra :

  • 4 beaux tournedos
  • 4 tranches de pain de mie
  • 20 g de beurre
  • 1 foie gras
  • du Porto (ou du madère)
  • 20 cl de crème liquide
  • du sel

les ingredients

Faire chauffer votre poêle et mettre le beurre.

Découper les tranches de pain de mie en cercle et les tremper dans le beurre fondu. Bien imprégner les tranches et retournez-les pour essuyer ce qui reste de beurre. Faire dorer chaque face. Disposer une tranche par assiette, sur un côté.

pain demi qui brunit dans la poele

Trancher le foie gras et réserver.

tranches de foie gras

Sur plaque chaude, saisir les tournedos. Deux minutes par face. Puis réduire un peu le feu et continuer de cuire deux ou trois minutes, selon l’épaisseur des tournedos. Essuyer les sucs au fur et à mesure en déplaçant la viande dans la poêle. Saler. Arrêter la plaque.

tournedos cru dans la poêletournedos en pleine cuisson

Déposer chaque tournedos sur le pain grillé. Disposer une tranche de foie gras. Le foie gras va commencer à fondre au contact de la viande chaude.

empilement de pain, tournedos et foie gras sur l'assiette

Rallumer la plaque, verser un bon fond de Porto (ou madère), porter à ébullition et mélanger les sucs. Réduire la plaque. Verser la crème liquide et mélanger.

Porto en ébullition dans la poêlecrème liquide mélangée au Porto dans la poêle

Quand la sauce commence à épaissir un peu, arrêter la plaque et verser sur chaque tranche de foie gras. Disposez votre accompagnement et servez. Bon appétit !

tada ! sauce recouvrant le tournedos Rossini

Vacationing tips and suggestions for Japan

7 Mar

Here are a few general tips and extensive recommendations in/around Tokyo, and outside of Tokyo, since I compiled the data for Anne (he asked nicely!).

There is not much about food and restaurants as it is far more subjective than sight-seeing. However, I’d say that it would be a mistake not to buy Melon Pan (a pastry, the size of a bread roll) daily at the very least ;)

What to see?

The recommendations below are partly supported by a set of 130 photos of our June 2013 Japan vacation. I think they’re outstanding ;) Regardless of their intrinsic quality, they will still give an idea of the places. I’ve used also photos that Vlad took during our trips there.

What to see and do in Tokyo

Shrines:

You’ll see shrines, big or small, everywhere and in cases, in the most unexpected places. Discreet, shrunken and squeezed between two tall buildings, standing proud and quiet surrounded by lots of space at the edge of which resumes the agitation of the city and city dwellers.

Step inside the gates when there are, look at the fountains, the statues, the ema (votive wooden plaques) and omikuji (prayer paper ribbons tied to trees, or strings), fire and incense, paper lanterns, etc. It’s a striking contrast compared to the modern and bustling city in which you’ll find shrines.
Dragon silhouette

Shibuya day and night:

There is a plethora of shops and restaurants, but in particular, there is the “scramble crossing” which is truly impressive.

It consists of three huge zebra crossings where masses of people, just like opponents in battle march against each other, then mingle mid-road and avoid each other until they reach the opposite sidewalk and eventually yield to traffic.
Crowded Shibuya Crossing

Kabukicho and Ginza:

At dusk and night because of the emblematic vertical neon lights. This is Kabukicho:
Kabukichō

Shinjuku:

If you can afford such a hotel (we found good deals, twice, using booking.com), I highly recommend a short stay (or long, if you have the budget, you’ll want to stay there forever) at the Park Hyatt.

It spans the top of three towers with the eye of Sauron:
Shinjuku Park Tower

You could see these views:
From the 47th floor, at night

Akihabara:

The district to go to, of course, to fulfill your cravings of hi-tech gadget purchases.

Odaiba island:

Take the Yurikamome monorail from Shimbashi (find a spot near the front of the train, never mind if you have to stand, the journey is worth it. You’ll travel trough sky scrapers, next to a three-mast ship, you’ll loop in the Rainbow Bridge after seeing it coming close, you’ll see the big ferris wheel of Odaiba).

There’s a giant Gundam statue near the second Odaiba train stop; it’s quite a landmark (a 18-meter tall robot) with its big feet squarely planted in the ground.
Gundam!

Another landmark is the Statue of Liberty. It’s pretty anytime but perhaps it’s prettier at dusk, or at night, because it’s lit in colours of gold, or greenish, against the Tokyo skyline beyond a water expense. The Rainbow Bridge is lit as well and adds some beauty in the background of the statue.
Statue of Liberty & Tokyo skyline

Another highlight from the Odaiba area is the Miraikan museum of emerging science and innovation. Admission fee of JPY 620 If you do three things while there, let it be contemplating the Tsunagari project (LED-equipped gigantic globe dangling from the ceiling), the Asimo exhibit/demo (a Honda 10 to 15 year-old robot that walks, runs, dances and sings) and the Androids.

Tsukiji Market:

Vlad said they plan to move the gigantic fish market somewhere else –it’s currently near-ish Ginza and they made space farther away for it, I don’t know when the move occurs.

Tsukiji Market is quite something! The most hard-core will show up at 4am and hope to be added to the list of the lucky few that can accompany the workers during the tuna auction. Otherwise, until 2pm you’ll see the exterior market areas teeming with humans; most selling fish and fish-stuff, others buying it, and yet others transporting Styrofoam crates on mopeds and other vehicles.

The noise, the smell, the cramped space all make for a memorable experience. No smoking, no luggage, no hindering allowed. You will probably be shoved and pushed, but it’s part of the experience.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vv06/9989049393/in/set-72157634447627371

For a break, you can try to get a seat at Yonemoto Coffee. A very small and very authentic coffee shop that serves excellent coffee and plays old jazz music. It looks like it is preserved in an era in the past. Even the owner looks like time has passed and not taken him in its journey forward.
Great ambiance in the morning at the Yonemoto Coffee

Roppongi hills:

Maybe, to get a sense of the skyscrapers and where the white-collar workers go. There’s a giant spider, Maman by Louise Bourgeois, at the foot of the Mori Tower. It’s one of the five or so permanent locations for the impressive and creepy sculpture:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maman_%28sculpture%29#Permanent_locations
Maman & Mori Tower

Observatory decks:

Here are some of the buildings on top of which you can see Tokyo and the Tokyo cityspace crawling as far as the eye can see:

45th floor of The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building:

It’s free. You can look down on the Shinjuku Park Hyatt (the top of the three “eye of Sauron” joint-buildings is occupied by the hotel where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson filmed “Lost in Translation”):
Shinjuku Park Tower

Bunkyo Civic Center:

There’s a free observation deck on the 25th floor open 9am-8:30pm daily. We spotted Mount Fuji as the sun was sinking, a reminder that however big Tokyo is, there is this mountain looming, yet dwarfed at the left of the Shinjuku area Tokyo Metropolitan Governement Building (twin towers that are fairly recognisable).
http://www.whereintokyo.com/venues/25352.html

Mori Tower:

Miku Café, 52nd floor. Free admission. You’ll get such views as:
Tokyo cityscape from the Mori Tower
Tokyo panorama from the Mori Tower observation deck

Tokyo Tower:

9am-10pm. There’s an admission fee. You can purchase a ticket (JPY 900) to reach the main observatory (150 m) or walk the stairs (we didn’t, they advertised it was a 13-minute climb and we weren’t up to it), and then purchase another ticket (JPY 700) to reach the Special Observatory (250 m). We didn’t spot Mount Fuji this time, as it remained enshrouded in clouds from the late afternoon till dark, but it’s visible if you’re lucky.

What to do and see in Tokyo [continued]

Yoyogi Park, pond, Meiji Shrine:

Meiji Shrine is where the souls of the Meiji Emperor and Empress are enshrined. It is also where they celebrate traditional weddings which processions you can witness. The Jingu Naien Iris Garden (there is a small admission fee, I forgot how much) might be worth of visit if the flowers are in bloom.
The bride and groom II
Meiji Jingu Naien Iris Garden

Harajuku, and Takeshita street:

These are natural next steps after Yoyogi Park. At the Harajuku exit of Yoyogi park, there’s an emblematic bridge where teens dressing according to Harajuku fashion (rock, punk, gothic, lolita) gather and hang out on Sundays.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3006.html

Takeshita Dori is a small cramped street full to the brim with fashion shops and crepes take-away outlets. This:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vv06/9372003097/in/set-72157634447627371

Tokyo Imperial Palace Park:

Tokyo Imperial Palace  & reflection

What to see and do near-ish Tokyo

Enoshima:

45 minutes away from Tokyo center by train. It’s an island near Tsujido and Kamakura. It was described to me as the Mont Saint-Michel of Japan. It’s beautiful. If you’re lucky with the weather you can see Mount Fuji bigger and more impressive than anything you’re prepared for.

Kamakura:

If you’re at Enoshima, go next to Kamakura. There’s a giant Buddha that everybody goes to see. I went to Kamakura last month, at last (5th time in Japan), but we didn’t go see the Buddha. We went to a sanctuary instead, specialised in money laundering. Well, sort of.
http://asia.amateurtraveler.com/money-laundering-at-zeniarai-benten-shrine-kamakura-japan-daily-photo/

What to see and do outside of Tokyo

Kyoto:

We stayed there several days in June 2013 and loved it. We found that many people wore the traditional outfit. Far more than in Tokyo, I mean.

Gion:

Go to Gion, in the city center. You’ll see geikos and maikos.
Geiko & maiko

Yasaka shrine and pagoda:

Go to Yasaka shrine not far from Gion, it is astounding. There is a pavilion decorated with hundreds of paper lanterns. It’s a wonder at night.
Yasaka Jinja dance stage

Nishiki Market:

Visit the Nishiki (covered) market not far from the city center.

Then, further away from Kyoto city center:

Inari Fushimi Taisha:

You need to walk some amount of time through the path of the thousands torii at Inari Fushimi Taisha. The path goes up the mountain for a long while (spans 4 kilometers and takes approximately 2 hours to walk up, dixit wikipedia). We were there under pouring rain and stayed as long as we had the heart for.
The path of thousands of Torii

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion:

You also need to see Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3908.html
Kinkaku, the Golden Pavilion

Other Kyoto highlights include:

  • The Nanzen-ji and the Philosopher’s path, as well as the nearby Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion).
  • Arashiyama in the western suburbs of Kyoto (you need to take a train) for its bamboo grove, and famous bridge.

The Kyoto tower, close to the train station, wasn’t particularly exciting. Done with Kyoto!

Miyajima for Itsukushima island:

A famous and beautiful landmark is the floating torii.

There’s a ropeway to reach Mount Misen and if you’re lucky with the weather it’s breath-taking (we have rain and heavy clouds, sadly, but that was February).

We had not idea, but the island is full of deers! We later went to Nara, with a goal to see the deers (which we did, of course), but we had had a preview of the white-tailed deer already.

We stayed at Kurayada Hiroha, the most enchanting ryokan, but quite pricey (check the rate via booking.com). My favourite hotel of our February trip! Rooftop hot tub (one for men, one for women, separated by a fence) next to indoor hot tubs (same, separated ones for men and women) were excellent.

Kobe:

Kobe appears to be a narrow flat expanse of city bound by the sea on one side, and a steep mountain on the other. We had such bad weather, and stayed just one night and one morning, that we only got a sense of the mountain side of things by seeing advertisements in the subway. They advertised a ropeway from which it looked like the view on the city was lovely. I don’t know if you’ve been to Hong Kong, but the view reminded me a little of what you see from Victoria Peek.

What we went to Kobe for was two-fold: eating some of the world-renowned Kobe beef (it was delicious. I had no idea beef could melt on the tongue), and a few illuminated landmarks at the harbour (port tower, a ferris wheel, the oriental hotel shaped like a cruiser ship, the roof of the Kobe Maritime Museum shaped like a meshed sailing ship) which were beautiful at night. I’d say that it’s a photographer’s type of visit; beyond the photographs to be gotten, the area was deserted in the evening and it was quite a walk to reach it, and not so much an interesting one.

There is a Chinatown in Kobe, which looks pretty but little, and the district of Sannomiya appeared to us to be the heart of the town. You need to take the subway from the Kobe traing station to Sannomiya anyway. The night life in Sannomiya was lively. Loads of restaurants.

I read that there is an onsen resort nearby Kobe, but we had no idea, so I’ll leave it to you to investigate. Onsen is the term for hot springs as well as hot tubs. They can be indoors, or outdoors (roten-buro). Some allow mixed bathing, but from my experience, it isn’t common. And still, from experience, it appears that none allow tattoos to be visible.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onsen

Shiga Kogen ski resort / Jigokudani Monkey Park:

Speaking of onsen, one of the highlights of our February stay, because of the winter/snow, was seeing the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park, bathing in a roten-buro:

We took the train to Nagano and from there took another that got us close to the Shiga Kogen skiing domain. A combination of taxi and walking got us to that monkey park (small admission fee). I’m not sure how it looks in May and if it’s worth the hassle of transportation. It takes about 1.5 hours between Tokyo and Nagano and then another hour or so to reach Yudanaka.

We went to other places in February –Hiroshima, Nara, Himeji– and although each place was fine, they didn’t make it to my highlight list.

General tips

Sim cards for visitors:

I used the provider b-mobile twice already (June 2013, February 2015), and will use them again.
http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/product.html

Money:

ATMs are found in convenience stores (and there are millions of them in Japan –7eleven, Lawson), BUT, oftentimes foreign bank credit cards are not accepted.

ATMS that will accept foreign bank credit cards are found in Post Offices and there is a saying that wherever you are in a reasonably-sized city, there is a post office within 500 meters of where you’re standing. However, Post Offices business hours are 9am – 5 pm.

Always carry cash with you. Some stores and restaurants accept credit cards, but they hardly ever post a sticker on their door advertising that they do. In fact, I have not seen such stickers there. Some hotels even will ask you to pay cash, but that is a minority. Do not presume that you will be able to pay with a credit card.

You’ll need coins for train station lockers and some vending machines. You’ll need bills for vending machines, train tickets and pretty much anything.

Train station coin lockers:

Small: 35 x 43 x 57 cm (prices vary, around JPY 300)
Medium: 57 x 43 x 57 cm (around JPY 500)
Large: 117 x 43 x 57 cm (around JPY 700)
Some stations only have S+M. Most stations have as many S+M and less L.

Japan Rail Pass:

http://www.jrpasses.com/en/price-japan-rail-pass/jr-national-pass.htm

This is a must get if you’re going to travel places outside of Tokyo. The bullet trains you can get on with the JR pass are probably as fast as those you can not get on, and just as comfortable and reliable. Each train in Japan, including subway and local trains run like clockwork. Quite a change, when you’re from France and used to the lousy service of the SNCF (French Railways)!

This railway timetable and route search, although not great-looking, was highly useful. There is an app for smartphones but it requires access to data (nothing offline), and works with JR main lines, local trains and subways:
http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

Transportation within Tokyo:

Get a Suica card (or Pasmo) and recharge it anywhere. One card per person. I have no idea about babies (my son is 7yo and we had to get him a card as well; he paid child fare). There’s a JPY 500 deposit to get the card, and some fee that they might retain (smallish) when you return the card.

The advantage is double: you can recharge is everywhere and you will save loads of time by not having to purchase a train/subway/bus ticket. Suica works in all the train/subway of the great Tokyo area. You can even use it as a payment means at some convenience stores.

More general tip:

There is a @JapanCheapo twitter account and website japancheapo.com that a couple of my colleagues in Japan have referred to and that appear useful.

Last day in Costa Rica

13 May

Saturday 5 May, 2012. We’re touring one last time in Alajuela, and leaving Costa Rica in the afternoon. We’ll be home Sunday evening.

We were drawn to the square near our hotel, that faces the Alajuela Cathedral.

Alajuela Cathedral

Alajuela Cathedral

We spotted a man who looked typical under his bright white hat.

Man wearing a hat

Man wearing a hat

And we crossed the square and there was a little girl with a pink polo shirt and her abuelo who were busy feeding pigeons. Hundreds of pigeons. People were gathering around them and watching. She was so happy and he was so proud. The grand-father poured a few crumbs on the little girl’s head and soon both of them were assailed by birds.

Little girl and her abuelo feeding pigeons

Little girl and her abuelo feeding pigeons

Attracted by the commotion, squirrels crept down a tree nearby. I didn’t think so many squirrels could populate a single tree. They wanted their fair share, of course. And children and adults were happy to deliver.

Feeding a squirrel

Feeding a squirrel

Vlad was close to one, extended his hand and the squirrel sniffed the empty hand before trying someone else.

Squirrel sniffing Vlad's hand

Squirrel sniffing Vlad’s hand

Each squirrel would snatch the food and hop back on the tree trunk and climb someplace to eat, wary of other hungry squirrels.

Squirrel feeding

Squirrel feeding

Back to the little girl with the pink polo shirt. She decided the pigeons were more rewarding and got back to them. This is her, holding a plastic bag full or crumbs, proudly leading hundreds of pigeons. Such a happy face.

Proud little girl leading hundreds of pigeons

Proud little girl leading hundreds of pigeons

But we wanted to explore Alajuela again, since it had been raining the day before and there was sun on that fine morning. We walked for two hours and a half, not very fast, and spotted six churches and four soccer fields. And we explored only a fraction of the city!

Soccer game

Soccer game

We followed a man who was pushing his cart on the road. We had seen several of them already. He seemed to sell drinks and snacks. What we had also seen in other places through the country, are people at street lights selling bagged fruit or vegetables that they hold in both hands, and even shrimps in a bucket.

Man and cart

Man and cart

Another thing that striked me compared to where we live, was how prettier their advertising posters and paintings are. Except in San José and Cartago, cities have modest posters and advertising paintings that appeal to me far more than the industrial, gigantic printed ones. Here’s the advertisement, painted on corrugated iron, for a car wash and parking, and much more, it appears.

Hand painted advertisement on corrugated iron

Hand painted advertisement on corrugated iron

We got back to our hotel, via a part of town that was more spacious and nearly deserted. Maybe it was that people were eating lunch. I had the feeling we had the streets all to ourselves. Here is a bright blue minivan parked in front of a house where people sold pineapple, 3 for 1000 colones ($2).

Mini van parked in front of pineapple store

Mini van parked in front of pineapple store

And here is the outside of the fruteria Las Delicias.

Fruteria Las Delicias

Fruteria Las Delicias

Soon after, we checked out and hopped in a taxi. The fare was supposed to be around $6, but when I asked the driver, at the airport, what he said in Spanish sounded like 13,000.00 colones. I realized, but too late, that he had probably said 3,000. Ahem… I gave him 11,000.00 and was looking for more when he gestured it was enough. Then he seemed to be looking in his wallet either for change or for a receipt, and we were getting our backpacks. Since he wasn’t handing us anything we said good bye and left. He followed us with his eyes. This is when I realized he had let us give him nearly twice what he wanted. Oh well. He had been a decent and friendly driver.

And before 5 p.m., we left Costa Rica, relaxed although tired, and our heads full of extraordinary memories. We had wanted to visit that country for years and we were not disappointed at all. Vlad did a wonderful job organising the trip, choosing the route, selecting places and lodges. It was such a great vacation.

Bye bye Costa Rica, view from plane

Bye bye Costa Rica, view from plane

Costa Rica: Puerto Jiménez to Alajuela

12 May

Friday 4 May, 2012. We’re leaving Lapa Rios lodge in the beautiful and preserved Osa Peninsula. José, who drove us there four days ago, drove us back, as well as two other people from the lodge who needed to be in Puerto Jiménez. José spotted a caiman on the way; we had told them how foolish we had felt the day before, standing only meters away from one and joking we had yet to see a caiman.

We were in Puerto Jiménez at 11 a.m. and had over an hour to spare till we needed to board our flight. It is a small city by the golfo dulce (because the ocean water is “sweetened” by much river water). We walked in streets, few of which were in asphalt concrete, circled towards the waterfront and back to the airfield.

Puerto Jiménez road

Puerto Jiménez road


Puerto Jiménez house? cabin?

Puerto Jiménez house? cabin?


Puerto Jiménez waterfront

Puerto Jiménez waterfront

The plane was even smaller than the small one we took four days prior, however, the flight was devoid of any air pocket and I enjoyed it even more. We flew to Golfito where a few passengers got off and a few others boarded, and then we took off for San José. It was all so very lovely from above.

Our plane in Puerto Jiménez airfield

Our plane in Puerto Jiménez airfield


Pilots preparing to take off from Golfito

Pilots preparing to take off from Golfito


Instruments and gauges in the plane

Instruments and gauges in the plane


Near Golfito from the plane

Near Golfito from the plane


Flying over San José

Flying over San José

We were going to spend a night, the last one, in Alajuela, which is the closest city next to the San José airport. It was raining but not a lot and we spent our time improvising a tour, taking pictures of what we found beautiful (and I took a lot of pictures).

Alajuela canon, statue of Juan Santamaría (the national hero), flags

Alajuela canon, statue of Juan Santamaría (the national hero), flags


Alajuela traffic lights, traffic, colours

Alajuela traffic lights, traffic, colours


Alajuela. Man on a bicyle. Catchy colours.

Alajuela. Man on a bicyle. Catchy colours.


Alajuela. Three men having a snack and watching television.

Alajuela. Three men having a snack and watching television.


 Square at dusk.

Square at dusk.


Alajuela. Sunset.

Alajuela. Sunset.

After sunset, we found ourselves near the Alajuela Cathedral and went inside. It was very pretty. Vivid colours, some parts painted as fake marble, a narrow but long vaulted ceiling with several biblical scenes painted in bright colours, rows of white neon lights. We were intrigued that there was a band inside, tuning their instruments and rehearsing. And there was a steady flow of people, all dressed up, who were coming in. Was it going to be mass or was there going to be a wedding, we wondered. After more than an hour, mass hadn’t started, more people kept coming in, and the band had rehearsed tunes and songs a couple of times. We felt sort of out of place, not dressed up and while we were respectful of the place and people, it had been mostly curiosity that made us stay. So we left. We found a bar and had a drink (Imperial bier for Vlad, tequila sunrise for me). We walked by the cathedral again an hour or so afterwards and mass was taking place. The big cathedral was filled up. I don’t know if they were celebrating something particular of this is their regular Friday mass, but I was impressed. I suspect the former, as there was a crew filming, a master of ceremony with a microphone, one cleric dressed in golden-coloured clothes and a dozen others dressed in white.

Mass in Alajuela Cathedral

Mass in Alajuela Cathedral

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