Although December 22nd is one of the busiest travel days of the year, there are delightful perks.

Our flight to Houston included free adult beverages with coupons the airline so thoughtfully included with our boarding pass. Since someone else was driving (I mean flying) our metal bird of transportation, my choice was Bailey’s Irish Crème on ice. Yummo!

However, the landing in Houston felt like a drop into an unending abyss. Why? It seems a little Bailey’s goes a long way when consumed at 30,000 feet above good old terra firma. Did I mention I’m a lightweight when it comes to adult libations? Hubby claims I can take one whiff and be a happy camper. Methinks he exaggerates a bit, but only a bit.

One of the “joys” of airline travel is the high probability the gate you land at is in a universe far, far away from the gate you need for the next leg of your journey. So, we landed at Gate 40 and had quite a trek, weaving in and out of clusters of people, before we arrived at Gate 2. By the time we reached our gate, my Bailey’s buzz had worn off. On the upside, I plan to enjoy another classy, plastic airline cup of Bailey’s on the next leg of our journey. Maybe I will have two. Or I should say “dos.”

We touched down in San Jose around nine in the evening and went in search of the hotel shuttle we requested. Surprise, surprise! No shuttle! An enterprising cab driver noticed the smoke coming out of my ears as I paced outside the airport and offered his assistance. He even called the hotel for us. It seems the hotel dropped the ball. The cab driver offered to take us to our hotel for a fee, of course.

As we raced off into the night across San Jose, we discovered folks in Costa Rica take their Christmas decorations seriously. Beautiful light displays flew past our vehicle, leaving us awestruck and speechless. And then we reached the unsavory part of town.

Every large city has an underbelly, and San Jose was no exception. Graffiti covered walls replaced the Christmas lights we passed a few miles back. The streets were narrower and darker as well.

Suddenly, my fertile imagination kicked into high gear. What if our driver was not a sanctioned cab driver? What if he was kidnapping us? Would the next day’s headlines lament the grisly demise of a couple of travelers? But when we arrived at our boutique hotel, I was in full-blown panic mode.

To say the place was loud is an understatement. Dirty streets and garish lights did not shout “nice place to stay.” The place reeked nasty to this germaphobe. A girl at the door asked if I was Elizabeth. When I said yes, she said we had to pay her first and then go to another hotel. Oh, bullshitski and No! Our driver went inside and talked to the owner. Finally, they explained there was a party going on and we could stay at a quieter hotel they also owned. And, no. We did not pay them a dime before leaving.

After a white-knuckled drive on winding, narrow streets and around police wagons, we arrived at our destination. The neighborhood was quiet, and we were tired. I glanced around and noticed all the houses had tall iron fences topped with razorwire. Not the stuff of sweet slumbers.

Following a restless night, we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and explored our boutique hotel, after several cups of amazing Costa Rican coffee. The place turned out to be artsy and charming. Due to the hotel’s location, it was probably more suited to the backpacking travelers we encountered there than us. (Travel tip: Beware of believing great hotel reviews online.)

Since our driver knew of our concern about making our connecting flight, he arrived thirty minutes earlier than promised. He was kind, helpful, and not a kidnapper. Thank goodness for that because being kidnapped was not on our travel itinerary.

(Next week, part 3 of our trip)




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