Day 1 – My husband John and I, grateful to leave two feet of snow behind in Michigan, sip thick, dark Costa Rican coffee with our good friends, Susan and John Campbell from Scotland at Hotel Le Bergerac in San Jose. The outside enclosed patio surrounds us with lush foliage, hibiscus, orchids, and azaleas as we feast on fresh tropical fruit juice, omelets, crescent rolls, and gallo pinto, a Costa Rican dish of rice and beans.

At Mercado Central in downtown San Jose, vendors sell handmade crafts, clothing and artwork. Carved masks, pottery, and framed painted feathers depicting toucans were offered as we strolled the tent lined block of stalls. The streets are filled with ticos (locals) and tourists, all sidestepping the busy traffic backing up at intersections. We exchange dollars for the local currency, and feel like millionaires as we handle thousands of colons; roughly 500 colons equal 1 dollar. 1000 colons or two dollars, will buy a cervecas, a fair price for a bottle of local Imperial beer.

We are awestruck by the National Theatre, one of the most impressive buildings in the city. Built in 1897 the interior is decorated with Italian marble, mahogany furniture, crystal chandeliers, statues, and gold-leaf murals. The majestic artwork includes Costa Rica's most famous painting, Una Alegoria depicting the coffee harvest. The painting is reproduced on the 5,000 colon bank note. Our cute, dark eyed guide, Alexandrea, herself an aspiring actress, entertains us with a ghost story of an opera singer who committed suicide on the stage. "All real theatres," she tells us, "must be haunted by a ghost!"

Evening finds us in the darkly lit, smoke filled atmosphere of The Jazz Café, where the grilled fish is excellent, served with rice and beans of course! We sip Imperial beer and wait for the band to begin. The live music is sultry and captivating, accompanying two authentically costumed women who enchant us with flamenco dancing