After a great week living in Escazú, we’ve relocated to a cute casita in Atenas. The weather and scenery are gorgeous around here which explains, at least partially, why it’s a popular place for folks from North America to spend their retirement years. Of course, we’re not retiring, but we’re definitely enjoying ourselves.
We’re lucky to be surrounded by fruit trees — mango, lemon, and lime — and have access to the rancho. It’s a large, covered outdoor area where Emily works and we grill dinner, and it’s a great space for enjoying a beer at the end of the day.
I’ve been spending a lot of the days while Emily is at work practicing (mostly guitar, this week), recording, taking care of cleaning/laundry, and cooking. We’ve also started a routine of running around the soccer field across the street with the dogs early in the morning before Emily starts work.
Our hosts, Pat and John Wegner, are really gracious and knowledgeable. Both of them have navigated the residency process and have loads of information about that and the Atenas area. I went with them to German’s Bar to a regular gathering of folks from the U.S. last week (some visitors, some residents) and had a great time. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a dance floor filled with sexagenarians shaking it to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Or perhaps been one of them.
While I have lots more of Atenas and the area to explore so far, here’s what I do know. The town is home to a great farmer’s co-op-owned supermarket, Supermercado Coopeatenas. There’s a killer farmer’s market every Friday, where I learned that you want to buy pineapples from the guy at the back of the market rather than the vendor at the front, since the guy in the back is always cheaper. The sports bar has free wifi, so you can post to your blog while sipping on a margarita. Pura vida.
I would say our main challenge is that basic interactions are still stressful due to the language barrier. I’m pretty drained after going to the farmer’s market, and both Emily and I have to get psyched up to approach the folks behind the meat counter so we can have a successful transaction. This has led to our feeling helpless and frustrated far too often, so we’ve resolved to (re)prioritize learning Spanish. Our studying had fallen by the wayside after arriving in Costa Rica since we no longer had built-in time during long drives to keep learning with Michel Thomas. Emily asked around and found a community space, Su Espacio, that does language lessons and set up classes for us starting next week! We’ll be taking classes for the next few weeks we’re in Atenas. Hopefully that will boost our confidence and lead to more positive social interactions.
Last weekend, we sort of buckled on sightseeing — it turns out that going to towns on a Sunday when everyone is at church is not the best way to get a feel for a place. We walked around Grecia and Sarchí, which have large numbers of car dealerships and furniture stores, respectively. They’re also great little towns and we may go back on a better day of the week sometime.
Today, we pulled it together and got ourselves up to Poás Volcano National Park in the nick of time to see the active main crater. The park ranger at the gate said we’d have a 50/50 chance since we arrived after 10 a.m., so we consider ourselves lucky. One nice feature about this park is that you drive basically up to the top of the volcano and it’s a relatively short walk up a nice paved path to the main crater — “great for active seniors,” says Lonely Planet. Also great for us.
After viewing the main crater, we took the trail up to check out the lake in the long-inactive crater, Botos. Unfortunately, the clouds had blown in by then and we could only see the edge. We continued along the trail through the cloud forest microclimate for a couple more kilometers. Upon reaching the main crater trail, we decided to go back up just to see if the view was still any good. Here is what we saw:
The early bird definitely gets the worm at this national park. After hiking back down, we drove out to Restaurante Colbert, an amazing French restaurant tucked into the hills in Vara Blanca. It was a bit of a detour from our route home, but it was well worth it. It’s very close to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, but we didn’t make it there on this visit since we were a little tired and the weather wasn’t great. We’ll just have to go back!