A number of friends, as well as our son and his wife, traveled to Costa Rica, all giving very favorable reports. We decided to take a Road Scholar tour “A Taste of Costa Rica” in January.
Our early morning plane out of Albany was a little twin engine jet, but it only took about half an hour’s flying time to get to Newark, where we boarded a much bigger jet for Costa Rica. Although this was an international flight, United Airlines provided no meal, and all we could get on board were some costly and meager snacks. Lesson: bring food if you fly United. However, all else went well until we arrived at the immigration area in San José a little after 2 PM. The lines were long, extending into a corridor on the opposite side of the main waiting area.
After about an hour of waiting, with slow progress as people passed us on the way to the end of the queue, some people on arriving could not believe that they were not near the end, and simply inserted themselves into it (though a little behind us)! There was little evidence of security or crowd control, and no evidence of any concern for the welfare of the travelers – no water, no rest rooms. We began to think, well, this is the last time I am coming to this country! Once we got to the snake line, we encountered some people over and over again, and were treated to comments such as – “I have never seen it like this before!” or “It is almost always like this!” or “I will sell you my place in line for $100!” or “By the time you get through, your baggage will be back in Newark!” It took three hours before we got our passports stamped. Thankfully, Sharon was able to call the Road Scholar people about the delay, which of course they knew about already. We were reassured that once we escaped, all would be well. It took about half an hour more to locate our bags, which were left on the floor near one of the carousels. Fortunately it did not take long to get past the baggage inspectors, and we were met promptly by a Road Scholar guide, who delivered us to the Balmoral Hotel in San José. We met our main guide William (his actual name, more on that later). He told us there would be a meeting of the tour group at 7 followed by dinner. Not having had anything but a snack to eat since breakfast, Sharon asked, why can’t we eat first? At which point, one of the other members of the tour asked, in a winning way, “Are you a whiner?” We all laughed at this. We were directed to a comfortable, quiet room. After a short time to freshen up, there was an introductory meeting with other members of the tour, and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, ordering from a diverse international menu, with wine and dessert included. So by the end of the evening we had more or less gotten over the airport debacle. We were ready to enjoy Costa Rica. First great thing for a January day: such a contrast with weather at home- the restaurant was open to the street! Lesson: the road to Paradise is difficult.