The weekend after Panama, Audrey, Hannah, and I wanted to stay close to Heredia. A long bus ride anywhere did not sound appealing. After doing some research on great day trips to do from San Jose, Hannah and I concocted a plan to city-hop to three nearby cities: Alajuela, Sarchi, and Grecia.
On Saturday morning, Audrey, Hannah, and I met at the train station. From there, we road the train for 30 minutes until reaching the end of the line in Alajuela. Upon arrival, the three of us explored the quaint city.
Collectively, we decided to cut our exploring short as we needed to find the bus that would take us to Sarchi because the bus ride to the artisanal town was around an hour.
After asking several different individuals for directions and hearing the words “only 100 meters more,” Audrey, Hannah, and I found the bus that would take us to Sarchi. Upon boarding, we were greeted with an interesting seating arrangement. On the left-hand side of the bus were two seats next to one another (normal) and on the right-hand side of the bus were three seats next to one another. Our little trio squeezed into a row together for our 1 hour bus ride. Funnily enough, Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” came on the radio, so we all sang along while smashed together like sardines.
When the bus stopped in Sarchi, we disembarked and headed towards the park with the large carreta.
Back in the day, carretas were used by boyeros (individuals who guide the carretas and oxen) in the Central Valley to transport coffee grains to the province of Puntarenas. The trip would take anywhere from 10-15 days. Originally, the carretas were painted with specific colors and patterns depending on the province of origin. However, artists eventually began to paint and design the carretas however they wished, which led to contests of “who has the best painted carreta.” Nowadays, the carreta and boyero is a dying art. Both are remembered during celebrations and are considered a part of Costa Rica’s history and culture.
After taking pictures with the giant carreta, we began to explore Sarchi. I had hoped there would be a lot of artisanal stores, however, there were not a whole lot in the quaint town. Surprisingly, handmade wood furniture seemed to be the hot item to purchase in Sarchi. However, the three of stumbled upon a huge souvenir shop that had classic Costa Rican souvenirs most of which were handmade and reasonably priced. I had been holding out on purchasing things from Costa Rica because I like to shop local whenever possible. At this particular store, I ended up purchasing a mini carreta and a hand-painted bookmark both of which I plan on using as Christmas ornaments.
Once the three of us wrapped up shopping, we headed back towards the carreta to see if there were anymore stores to check out. The sun had come out, which made this mint green church really stand out.
None of us saw any notable stores, so we decided to walk down the road to find a bus stop for Grecia. Along the way, the three of us stopped into another souvenir shop. Neither of us found anything we needed so we continued walking along the road. Eventually, one of us asked a family at a fruit stand where the bus stop was for Grecia. Funnily enough, the “bus stop” was the driveway of a furniture store. As Audrey, Hannah, and I stood waiting for the bus to come by, the owner came out and conversed with us in Spanish for a while.
When the bus rolled up, we once again crammed into a row of three seats again for the 30-minute drive to Grecia.
Once the bus dropped us off, we went ahead and explored. My favorite part was the park in the center of town with a beautiful sign, fountain, and church.
Unfortunately, the Grecia was like any other city with commercialized stores, lots of traffic, and chain restaurants. The sun happened to be out in full force, so Audrey, Hannah, and I stopped into Pops, a Costa Rican ice cream chain. Then, we headed across the street back to the cute park.
Unbeknownst to me, Audrey and Hannah wanted to take a group selfie. After licking my ice cream cone, Audrey and Hannah were both laughing super hard as I had been completely oblivious to the photo. Hence, we have this lovely photo of me stuffing my face. I promise you there is a whole sequence of me going in for the lick, but I shall spare you the photos.
Once everyone finished eating their ice cream, we headed back to the bus stop to get on the bus for Alajuela. Then, once in Alajuela, the three of us went in search of the Heredia bus stop to head back home.
When I got to my house around 6:00 pm, I noticed a colorful disco-type light spinning around on the porch. I wondered if there was a party going on, but soon found out the whole house was decked out in Christmas decorations.
A fun-filled day of city-hopping!
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