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Butterflies and razorwire

Aranjuez is not far from the city centre and our hotel is a real gift! An old set of houses knocked together in a rabbit warren of nooks and lounges, Hotel Aranjuez [] is cool in every sense. I always love travelling in the tropics because you get to see your house plants at the correct size and it leaves you feeling like borrowers! We only have to step out of our room and are immediately confronted with the largest bird’s nest fern I’ve ever encountered.

One of the difficulties I face on holiday is the question of breakfast. At home, my stomach doesn’t wake up until about 10.30 and only needs some porridge or yoghurt to keep me going until lunch. Each morning on holiday, I am confronted with the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (I added the all-you-can-eat because that’s what I hear when the word ‘buffet’ is uttered). The dilemma of keeping a waistline smaller than the coastline of Canada whilst also ‘getting my money’s worth’ is something I tend to contemplate over my fourth helping of whatever.

San Jose is a small and pretty ordinary town. We spent the first day at the National Museum which used to house the army until it was abolished in 1948. Yes, that’s right, Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world without an army and, despite the best efforts of the US to militarise the police force in the 1980s, remains so today. You enter the museum through the butterfly house and are immediately amazed by the display of enormous and beautiful creatures. We spent quite a long time in this part of the museum but were not disappointed with the rest of the display. The official quarters of the first and second commandantes were definitely worth a look.

As my title suggests, the other thing that struck me on our first day was the amount of razor-wire, especially placed around individual homes. Along with bars on the windows, it tells another story than the one of gentle, friendly people. It says that, despite the welfare state, the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, is still too large. It says that this inequality breeds fear in those with wealth and they erect barriers against the poor. And it poses big questions about which side of the razor-wire would I like to be on.

We ended our first (and only full) day at Cafe Mundo [] not far from our hotel. What another treat was in store - great food and wine, wonderful atmosphere, a magnet for the gays ….

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