To Market, to Market….

busescostarica.blogspot.comUnder normal circumstances we take the bus to San Jose….it’s a lot cheaper than taking the car and it doesn’t get lost, despite the best efforts of traffic policemen, accidents and roadworks to divert it from its destination…like the bomber, the Comtrasuli bus will always get through.

It’s a good service, in clean modern buses, although whatever the age of the bus there are always those signs of religious observance which strike the eye of an anglophone protestant….Jesus bearing a crown of thorns hovers over the entrance; you are informed that He is Lord; His mother is asked to pray for you and some buses even bear the information that one is travelling the same road as Jesus and if one does not return to base it is because one has followed Him.

Whether this has any relation to a new notice behind the driver’s cabin on all buses I am not at all sure.
This one asks passengers to observe the driver and, should he use a mobile ‘phone when at the wheel, they are to take a photograph and denounce him to the bus company.
Perhaps Comtrasuli are worried that the Almighty, omnipotent as He is, will use technology to summon the driver to His bosom and, more to the point, that he’ll take the bus with him.

Taking the car is an altogether trickier operation.
The diesel costs a lot more than a bus fare….which is about 85p per passenger….and The Men are driving and navigating.

Leo – navigator – is used to London driving where you are either quick or dead.
Danilo – driver – has no direction bump.
The combination makes for an interesting ride for the passenger – me.

The whole thing is further complicated by a collapse on the capital’s ring road which has turned the rush hour into the plural at both ends of the day and has led to roads unfit for major traffic being pressed into service.

First port of call is a major clinic, the Moreno Canas, where Leo has an appointment.
With shrieks of ‘Go, go go!’ from the navigator at the Sabana Park interchange The Men manage to get themselves onto Avenida 10 and we crawl past the concrete fortress of the Municipalidad – the town hall – its forecourt sporting a pink cow which was left behind when the Cow Parade hit town.
It also has fairy lights in a tree – perpetually Christmas for our worthy administrators.
Then past the Mercado Mayoreo – the city’s official wholesale fruit and veg market – though much better bargains are to be found up at the Mercado Borbon – where, The Men permitting, I intend to do some shopping later.
Past more traffic lights and we are alongside the cemetery – or cemeteries: first the Cementerio Obrero, the cemetery for the poorer classes – the workers

cemetery general sj

and then alongside it the Cementerio General, where the better off lie under a gallimaufry of urns, spires, domes and angels…but both places of rest are protected by razor wire and have police in attendance to deter theft, which is endemic in Costa Rica since the drugs trade began to regard the countries of Central America not just as being in transit for drugs on their way from Columbia to the U.S.A. but as new markets in their own right.

Turning right…and squeezing past a lorry which has come to a halt across the junction…we head for the clinic through a depressed area of the city…roadside garages, broken down pavements…and past the waterworks to the clinic entrance. Cars parked in every roadside bay and taxis double parked beside them.
Leo gathers his papers and heads for his appointment. Danilo and I head for the shops.

Swinging back right handed up between the cemetery and the waterworks – what a combination, I think – with the Numar factory behind us, souce of the palm oil cooking fat which fuels Costa Rica’s kitchens, we turn once more onto Avenida 10, squeeze past the lorry again and we’re off on the four lane downhill slalom past the Raul Blanco Cervantes geriatric hospital on the hunt for the shop which carries the best value for money house cleaning products that I know.
We have the car and we’re stocking up.
Well, we will be, when we get there.
We have to get to Avenida 6 and thanks to the one way system that means a left turn and then another…but how far to go before we turn?

At the garage – the bomba?
No, at least another block….yes, by the Castillana…
Are you sure?
No, but we can always go round again..
Yes, look, there’s the.Chinese tat shop. Go straight on another block and then left again.

Yes, we’re on the right road. There’s the dubious looking discotheque and the butcher advertising meat from a nearly virgin cow; but we’re stuck in traffic.
Avenida 6 serves as roadside terminal for a number of suburban buses; its high quota of bars means beer delivery vans litter the place and there’s always someone who just has to park right outside the barbers.
We approach the side street where the shop is situated…is it this corner?
No, we haven’t passed the booze shop yet.
Yes, here we are…that’s the Ropa Americana (new and second hand clothes shop) …turn left.
We’ve made it – and as we’re early there’s even parking right outside.

Loaded up, watches checked – yes, we have time to do the Mercado Borbon before returning to the clinic.

BN SJUp the street, another left turn and eyes peeled for the tower of the Banco Nacional to make our turn into the centre.
We crawl up to the junction with the main road through the city – the six lane Avenida 2, wait for the lights and then we’re across and into the street running past the coffee shop on one side and the Banco Central building on the other, with the bronzes of the ordinary people of Costa Rica in front of it.
banco central statues sj

Down Avenida 1 – an accident between a car and a bus, so a quick right turn up to Avenida 3 with all the tool shops in creation and then left again to return to Avenida 1 and the undercover parking lot.

mercado borbon sj Now, I like a bargain and I like the Mercado Borbon where you can buy retail at wholesale prices, but if you read the guide books it’s more a question of ‘here be dragons’ so you don’t find many foreigners doing the weekly shop there.
It is a noisy maze of alleys, steps, stalls and warehouses, but once you have your bearings all is well: I buy bacon on the bone to slice and freeze; kilos of tomatoes; Scotch Bonnet peppers; whopping prawns and then cheese for maturing at home.
I seek out cheap potatoes – only just over half the price of my local shops – and strings of onions.
We load the car and walk over to the better known Mercado Central to buy ten kilos of well fleshed bones for soup…a bargain at about 50p a kilo….and corvina to make ceviche.

Off to the clinic…down traffic clogged Avenida 1 and out onto Paseo Colon….looking for the towers of the tax offices to judge our turn up to Avenida 10.
Yes, there they are…turn left, up through the little park at Don Bosco and we’re back by the Muni….traffic lights, the lorry still not towed away and we’re back at the clinic where Leo is waiting by the chap selling fresh orange juice.
We’re off again, but this time following the road by the Numar factory at the back of the cemetery, to join the road home at Sabana.

How did the appointment go?

He said my optician must have good eyesight if she could see cataracts that small….I have to go back in two years’ time but he doesn’t think much will change.
Hoy….where are we going? This isn’t the right road!

No, but the police are up ahead and the traffic’s piling up….we’ll go back on the old road.

And so we do…crawling through the suburbs until we emerge into the countryside high above the Central Valley and head for home climbing up through the hills.

No joke, San Jose traffic…but then I came across this video which shows that things could be worse….pity the poor train drivers shown here!


46 thoughts on “To Market, to Market….”

    1. Yes, pretty phlegmatic, I thought.
      The Borbon is a good place for shopping and I certainly have my favourite stalls. The council have been cleaning up the street traders, which is a pity as I used to buy sweet peppers from one lady which were always super.

  1. I’m reliably informed that God eschews mobile phones for the more direct approach when summoning people (either a voice in the night or a lightning bolt from the blue). The devil, however, loves technology and may Tweet the unwary down to the netherworld when the mood takes him.

  2. God on the bus – how pragmatic to keep all options covered–ya never know 🙂

    What a drive! As I zip along back roads to get to Tours or Poitiers all I have to look out for is suicidally inclined animals and massive farm machinery. Such a change from the will and energy sapping A12/M25/M11 commute into London’s Docklands.

    1. They keep having plans to ease traffic congestion in San jose. The latest is to have a cross city tramline and ban buses from the centre.
      They would do better to have park and ride and halve the number of taxis while banning delivery lorries in the hours of daylight.
      But there wouldn’t be money in that for anyone…..

  3. An excellent narration, an excellent insight for those who still continue to moan about the daily dullness of taking the number 3 from deepest darkest Dulwich.

    As for the well fleshed bones for broth, I swear I nearly swooned dear lady!

    1. The other possibility is that the road will open up under you after heavy rains….which is what has happened on the ring road. They put in Bailey bridges and had to take them away again as the supports slid into the hole…
      i have it on good authority that a well fleshed bone can have a certain effect on a man….

      1. Intelligence, a well turned heel and the ability to make good hearty soup is all a gentleman requires from a lady in the 21st century.

        Anything else it would seem, is available from something known simply as an app.

          1. Historia docet respicientes semper promovere. Ita ut nostri et vultus labatur nostro pectore fulgebit.

            Excellent breeding amongst males lies solely within Argentinian cattle markets these days dear lady. It says so in the Daily Mail apparently.

          2. Aye, Chef, sed tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis, more’s the pity, so sometimes that glow of memory sinks…

            The Daily Mail’s speciality being the ability to go a posse ad esse in one bound leaves me with some doubt as to the veracity of the report…

  4. If God is on the bus then he will not need his mobile, I am sure all will be whispered in his ear 🙂 Glad to hear your eyes are doing well and you have another two years before the next check up, that sounds pretty hopeful.

    When we lived in the UK I discovered it was easier to go shopping, or to market on the bus than in the car. I always got frustrated with the traffic and then ended up parking miles away and having to carry everything in various ways to get it all back to the car!

    Keep well the two of you, Diane

    1. We had to use the car in France…no bus…so it is quite a relief to do the normal San Jose shopping by bus. If the bags are getting too bulky I can drop them at the bus station and go back for another lot. Cross city transport is good too, so I can do a number of locations in one trip.

  5. It appears to be another day in New York City. Or London or Paris. Except it’s questionable which side of the road is used.

  6. Laughed, laughed and laughed. I would LOVE to experience Borbon Market. I’ve wandered through the Central, but felt it was so like Heredia’s that I wasn’t so impressed with it… although now that I think about it the borso’s – purses/backpacks/luggage shop was amazing and huge. Thanks for your wonderful wake-up this morning!! Love your writing!!

    1. As I say, I normally use the bus, but the clinic appointment was an opportunity to stock up at the household goods shop.
      Americans tend to complain about the driving…but I don’t find that too bad after France – people will let you in at junctions when there is congestion. What is bad is the lack of control on parking and deliveries in San Jose, though I can see why a small shopkeeper wpuld blench at having to be there overnight or in the early hours to take in deliveries….and San jose is full of small shops.

  7. Oy. We’ve been putting off coming to the capital for this very reason… but now we must. My husband’s iPad 2 seems to have had a mental breakdown and either needs a lobotomy or regulating meds. Not sure… but definitely not looking forward to the traffic.

  8. Helen’s big adventure.
    We hardly even go to gentle little Shrewsbury, although the drive is easy and takes no more than an hour.

    When I read about the quantities of food you buy I always see a multitude of people sitting round your table consuming it. Are you preparing for Armageddon?

    PS: I too feel that we are entitled to the easy life at our age; like you we feel we deserve it and have earned it. In fact, I’m downright smug, when I’m honest.

    1. Yes, I don’t feel guilty about having a reasonably easy life…but I do feel sad that successive governments have reduced the prospects of younger people so drastically.

      The quantities depend on the circumstances…kilos of bones, yes, for soup and stock and then for the dogs, so there’s always ‘the makings’ in the freezer for when we don’t feel like full meals.
      Potatoes when cheap – they keep.
      Tomatoes to make sauces and purees – they go up as Christmas gets nearer.
      Bacon – this chap has really good stuff and I’ve run out of mine, so cut and frozen in portions for use.
      2 kilo rounds of fresh cheese to drain then paint daily with banana wine or guaro to mature them into something resembling European cheese – there’s a cycle to keep up.
      Prawns and peppers – in small quantities as required; fish likewise as we keep our own tilapia for normal use but it doesn’t make a good ceviche.

      We can have multitudes….it’s a bit like rural France where you get to know one person and then find you know the whole family….but I do put stuff down in case Leo should be ill again and I can’t get out so often.

      I would bottle more…but the price of Kilner jars gives a Scottish heart palpitations!

  9. I’m not sure that ANY of it looks and sounds very relaxing, and in a way it might be a little more restful to be a train driver, since at least everything else will come off worst.

    I like the idea of the notice that hedges its bets about the possibility of not finishing the trip alive. In Malta the buses used to have notices pointing out that God was watching you. I was never sure what they thought He would see on the bus.

    1. My Scottish grandmother was firm in her assertion that God was watching us…which gave rise to great apprehension in us children….

      And you’re right about the train coming off best….you wouldn’t believe the number of people run down while jogging on the tracks listening to music on their whatever it Ispod.

      But I do like San Jose…though not, probably, for the same reasons as Monocle magazine run by Tyler Brule….

  10. I am exhausted and have great admiration for your stamina in undertaking such trips. As for that train….amazing. A little different form when I use dto have to time leaving the house for work to the second, in order to miss sitting at the side of the train tracks waiting for the freight train to wind its way through Sheboygan, Wisconsin….taking about 25 minutes to do so. Personally, I think trains… the bigger vehicle need to have priority !
    I also love the shopping list and admire the cycle of cheese preparation along with the fleshy bones.

  11. Exhausting? You and your 10 kilometre walk!
    Those freight trains in the U.S. were – still are? – tremendous. Makes you think what we threw away in the U.K. when road transport was allowed to tae over.
    I want to take the train out to Cartago, just for the fun of the train ride as well as to go to the market there where they have even cheaper spuds!

  12. That was fun! A knackering whistle-stop tour. 😀

    Given the creativity displayed in the cemeteries I couldn’t help but wonder if the human bronzes were a more forward thinking way of saving cemetery space and, at the same time, creating uplifting works of public art. Keep an eye out the next time you’re in town…see if they multiply 😯

    1. Oddly enough what I forgot to mention was the remnants of yet another of the Muni’s cultural efforts….on the edge of the Mercado Mayoreo was a sort of council workshop area populated by foil covered Atlas figures three times human size.
      Removed from their plinths and no longer carrying the world on their shoulders the group resembled an loo full of constipated giants.

      I must take the camera….

  13. The Men will appreciate a Back Seat Driver while negotiating the traffic I guess! 🙂
    What a lovely tour of the place that is. I love the two cemeteries, nice to know you know your place even when dead!

    1. Or someone knows your place for you…..or thinks they do…

      I’m a first class back seat driver. Reply if asked shut up if not. It’s like being behind Laurel and Hardy ‘You do your work and I will do mine…’

  14. Phew. I was on that journey with you and felt extreme anxiety! I am a terrible passenger, particularly with a man driving, and always have my foot on my imaginery brake.

  15. The train driver’s video definitely backs up your version of travel in your area! Goodness…and no bad language either! The market sounds really excellent and love that phrase ‘well-fleshed bones’ …(what was all the Latin about??)

    1. Phlegmatic lot the local train drivers…but it wouldn’t do to have nerves, would it!

      The phrase sprung from the unconscious…you can buy marrow bones, you can buy scrawny bones or well fleshed bones in which case the marrow bones are thrown in free for bulk orders.

      The Latin?
      Well, The Chef – whose blog is worth a visit or six – is an immensely cultured gentleman and it is a delight to coax/goad/encourage him to make me pick up my game where it comes to ‘the infernal literature’…
      Just another of the delights encountered by happenchance in the blogging world.

  16. I nearly got car-sick as i went round all the corners with you there, Helen. 🙂 A wonderfully vivid description which makes my sorties to Tesco to stock up seem mindnumbingly dull. Like you I love to have plenty of stores in reserve especially as winter comes on, so that we’re OK come snow or ill-health.

    Very glad to hear that cataract surgery is still a long way in the future for you.

    1. It is a bit of a magical mystery tour getting to the shops I want to visit thanks to the one way system and although the streets are now signed I still find it easier to navigate by looking for tall buildings!
      I hope it gave in some way a picture of San Jose off the tourist trail.

  17. I only take public transit and have done so ever since I was a child, as my parents didn’t have a car, so I am used to it. As an adult I never bothered to get my driver’s license…money has always been tight and quite frankly I would rather take the bus and let the bus drivers do the driving…there are some weird drivers who just don’t respect the rules of the road. As well, I enjoy taking the bus because I can take in the sites and enjoy the ride. Great photos, Helen, thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I use and have used public transport when at all possible…and after the public transport desert that was rural France it is lovely just to be able to let the bus driver take the strain!

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