The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
December 3 - Escazu

I was reminded again why I really hate red-eye flights. We left Seattle at 10pm last night, into Detroit just before 5am, connect to Atlanta then to San Jose, arriving at 1 in the afternoon ... beat! Fortunately our routing back is a bit more direct, but I guess that odd routings are the price you pay for award tickets.

Yesterday was more about getting settled and getting caught up on sleep. Today I started my adventure in offshore dentistry. It started off as a way to save some money on replacing the molar I lost last summer. My dentist in Gig Harbor wanted $3500 to put something in the gap and I could get it done here for a third of that. Then, as these things tend to do, it escalated.

As long as I was in the chair and the costs were so reasonable, why not crown a few worn-down front teeth? I could get all that done for what my guy wanted just for a bridge ... but even that got out of hand. I had a few crowns in the front that were still in good shape and I was just going to fill in to match those. But then we realized that those crowns were made to match the color of my existing teeth at the time. If I replaced them, I could end up with a much whiter smile. If you're going to do it, do it right. Right?

And so began the first of two days in a dentist's chair. Costa Rica is one of the principle centers for medical tourism of all sorts. (I decided to pass on the cosmetic surgery this time around!) For the most part, the doctors are all trained in the US and use US equipment and supplies. Some of the hospitals are even accredited to US standards. As the cost of medical care at home spirals out of sight, I suspect you will see more and more people opt for a "vacation" while they get nipped, tucked, repaired or otherwise enhanced.

Needless to say, my focus has not been on sightseeing today, although we are in the outskirts of San Jose, the capital and major city so there isn't a lot of sightseeing to be done around here. Give us a few more days and we will be in more of a picture-taking mode.

We are staying at the Apartment Hotel Maria Alexandra. It is nothing fancy, but we have a living room, small kitchen, a separate bedroom ... and wireless Internet! What a civilized idea! The complex has a pool and two restaurants and is just a block off the main drag through town.

Originally we were going to pick up a car at the airport but when they informed me that there was mandatory insurance in addition to the rental rate -- a surprise that tripled the cost of the wheels -- I decided that we could make due with cabs while we were in the city and pick up the car tomorrow for our jaunt into the countryside. After seeing what the traffic looks like around here, I suspect that was a good move.

The dentist took a break for lunch, so I came back to the apartment to get Margene. We walked up the street to a shopping plaza and had a typical Costa Rican lunch on the patio -- grilled chicken, rice, beans, plantain and a small salad -- for about four bucks each. It was the closest thing we have found to a bargain. So far at least, prices don't seem to be a whole lot different from what we are used to in the US. We are still trying to wrap our brains around the relative values of US dollars and Costa Rican colones, though.

For dinner we went to a little Italian restaurant in the neighborhood for an early pizza. A bit of misunderstanding in the translation also found us with an order of spaghetti that is now sitting in the refrigerator. I suspect it will be better tomorrow anyway.

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