Monday, April 06, 2009

Amigas y Volcan Irazu

My good friend Smita came from Atlanta this past weekend to visit, and we had such a wonderful time. We planned to just stay in San Jo since Neto and I had just gotten back from a week long trip to Nicaragua. She cooked me and my friends and Indian meal TO DIE FOR Friday night. Saturday, Maureen was leaving back to Boston and it was too sad. We planned a breakfast surprise for her at the Hotel Grano de Oro, a beautiful 20th century mansion with a courtyard restaurant. Smita, Neto and I discovered this hotel while on an apartment hunting trip before we moved here. It has such a beautiful courtyard with stained glass and lush plants, an oasis in the middle of the city. The rest of the day we sat by the pool for some much needed girl talk. In the evening we accompanied Ernesto to watch the final four basketball games .
It was great just to hang out with my old buddy, but we also wanted to do 'somethin different'. I mean she did come to another country to visit us, right? We decided to rent a car for the day and go to Volcan Irazu, which is only about an hour outside of San Jose. Neto and I havent been there so it was new for all three of us.
We were on the road by 830a, and on the way we passed through a town at the base of the volcano called Cartago. I had posted a picture of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles last year. But back then I didn't know the history, only that it is a big beautiful church.
Built in 1635, the church has undergone many restoration projects, the most recent was after the earthquake in 1910 resulted in near total destruction of the church. Many people make a pilgrimage to the city of Cartago annually, to visit the enormous church. Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles has a statue of the Black Madonna, known as La Negrita inside. La Negrita is a small statue of the Virgin Mary, and as the Costa Rican folklore goes, was found by an indigenous woman who repeatedly tried to take the statue home with her, but it kept reappearing in that same spot where she found it. Astounded by this "miracle," the people built the Basilica in the same spot. Twice the statue was stolen from the church, and again reappeared. These strange occurrences have led people to believe that it supposedly has great healing powers.
Every August 2nd, on the feast day of the Virgin of the Angels, hundreds of thousands of people walk the 22k from San Jose to Cartago to visit La Negrita... some on their knees. Can you imagine? People come to her with hopes of a miracle. Is that religious or superstitious?

We were so lucky with the weather. It was a crystal clear day, but that of course can change so quickly when you are climbing in altitude. 10 am is usually when the clouds roll in and we arrived at 945a. Just for us though, the clouds stayed on the outskirts of the volcano, so we had a great view. As I looked down....
I saw a crater of volcanic ash. "Did they say that was it?" (my dad said this about Old Faithful over 20 years ago on a family vacation to Yellowstone National family still quotes him when something is disappointing ) The history is a bit more exciting. Volcan Irazu is the largest and highest in Costa Rica. In 1723, the city of Cartago was destroyed by an eruption and there have been 15 major eruptions since then. The last being 1963, when a blanket of ash covered the whole central valley. Then in 1994 a cloud of sulfuric gas erupted, but has since been quiet. When I looked to the left and saw the real spectacle. The crater has this green lake that is so pretty. My picture captures the shade perfectly too.
It was so weird how the clouds were sitting in just the right spot, not coming near the crater, but creating a white fluff all around it.
We stopped at a the little volcano museum and I tried to get pictures of all the beautiful hummingbirds, this one was the most colorful. I don't know the species, but it is irredescent and has a turquoise belly.We wanted to eat somewhere typical. Smita wanted the traditional casado for lunch (married man's meal) which was fine with me because that is what I eat everyday (in the office). There are very few restauants in Costa Rica that do not serve this meal. At this altutude, there weren't too many to choose from, but as soon as we walking in the door, I knew it was the right place.
It was so cool, every wall was covered with business cards, messages, receipts from patrons. Even the window frames were covered. It went up to the ceiling and was creeping over that as well.
We drove through Cartago again on the way home and Lonely Planet talks in the book about some ruins in the square, so we stopped. This next picture, although the background is nice, was really taken by Smita to capture the lady on the moto. Oh. My. Tica!
About five block west of the basilica, in the central park, is Las Ruinas de la Parroquia. This church was built in 1575 as a shrine to St James, it was destroyed in 1841 and again 1910, both times by earthquakes. Despite their beauty, they are not real ruins but an unfinished building, never rebuilt after the earthquake in 1910.
It is a hangout point for the people of Cartago and there are beautiful gardens inside.A hangout for this hot guy with the Panama hat too.


  1. wow you take great pictures!

  2. how wonderful that you live there! my bf and i would like to move to belize or guatemala so bad, but we are finding it difficult to make it happen!

  3. i always thought it was called a casado because the beans, rice, and meat were "married" together on the plate? lol

    miss you lady! i continue to live the latin life vicariously through your blog...


I enjoy reading your comments. Thanks for stopping by Viva Cindy!


Related Posts with Thumbnails