Life on Avenida Central
Our friends, Kevin and Xuan, picked us up from our Airbnb and brought us near our hotel. Our first stop- FOOD. We went to a restaurant called Marcelino and quickly became acquainted with the waiter Adolfo and the bartender Carlos. Half of our group was already there for the second time that day and were waiting for us. The service team knew from experience, we were here to do business. It was happy hour drinks, buy one get one, and we did. About 3 times each.
And if we weren’t having a Pisco Sour or some other refreshing cocktail, we were having shots of chiliguaro.
Chiliguaro, we would learn, originated a few bars down at Zi Lounge. It is essentially Casique Guaro, mandarin lime, tomato juice, and Costa Rican tabasco, Lizano, with a salted rim. We joked that it never counted as a real day unless we had our shot. I say we joked, but we killed a bottle of Casique when we decided we should make our own pregame shots at home.
When our first shot was too spicy, we demanded a re-do! The week we arrived just so happened to coincide with Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
As we sat eating dinner and sipping on cocktails, we noticed a wave of parents and children walking down the entire width of the street, smiling and waving flags.
Police sirens were going off and everybody was celebrating.
And Adolfo brought us another round of shots. “For our Independence Day, salud.”
Here are some photos of the parade that took place the next day.
This whole giving free rounds of shots thing would become a regular occurrence to places we frequented. And places we didn’t. Did I mention before how friendly and hospitable the people are here? And the food…
After dinner, we went to a 24hr liquor store to grab some goods and finally headed to our place. Staying at The Pacifico was perfect. We had a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo with a full kitchen and air conditioning. We would wake up in the mornings (and by we, I mean everyone but me because I can’t get up before 9 to save my life) and go to the Panaderia Tico’s Bakery to grab some pastries filled with fruits or meaty goodness. Or the boys would make us breakfast with eggs and bacon.
There was a pool at the place we stayed.
And their beach club down the road. Fifty bucks for the week got you access to their private pool, cabanas, poolside service and the works.
Sit through a couple hours of a timeshare pitch while they feed you breakfast and you can wave the fee. We opted to just pay the fee but not before we asked how good breakfast was. I added in some photos of the pool and the beach as well as a group photo watching a sunset.
After it got dark, we would regroup at the condo. There were so many different places to go and things to do. We had to choose between the casino, more restaurants and dive bars that lined Avenida Central. The stretch of Avenida Central was so small that after a while, locals would wave to us because they recognized our rental.
Andres and Adolfo weren’t the only friends we made during our stay in Costa Rica. A couple of nights, Nolan and I would head out after dinner to explore the nightlife and maybe grab some drinks. We ran into Adolfo (and by run in, I mean we had to walk past his restaurant to go through the rest of the street and he just happened to be looking down the street when we were looking up to see if he was working) who suggested we meet him and Carlos at a bar on the next block. Imperial, Costa Rica’s national beer, was only $1.70! A bartender greeted us and gave us a free round of coconut and rum shots just because. After waiting about 30 minutes, Adolfo came in to tell us he had a few more numbers to crunch and waved Hello to the bar staff. Now, there were even more free coconut and rum shots. Eventually, the four of us sat together for some beer and later lead to another bar across the street. I don’t remember the name, but they sold souvenirs, Cuban cigars, and had a bar set up in the back. They didn’t have any lime for chiliguaro shots. So Carlos smiled, ran away for 5 minutes and came back with limes, got behind the bar and made us those shots. The coolest part was the bartenders, 16 and 18 year old boys. Super sweet and very happy to be having Americans sitting at the bar so they could practice speaking English.
-“Why do you want to take a picture of us?”
-“Because you guys are cool.”
-“WOW. You think we’re cool?”
-“Yea, you’re cool as shit!”
Their genuine response was so endearing. “YOU….. think WE’RE cool?” We’re so used to kids these days thinking their shit don’t stink. I shudder at the thought of their repulsive self entitlement. THIS melted our ice cold chestbox. It made us love them. Once the photo was taken, they wanted to see but couldn’t quite comprehend that it was a film camera. They were shown the back of the camera with just an eyehole and they just looked lost. That wasn’t as endearing as much as it made us feel old. I’m sure they know what film cameras are, right? There had to be some lost in translation thing going on, right?! Either way, it actually was pretty amusing to see the look on their faces when they were shown a roll of film. We tried to come back to hang out and say goodbye but sadly, we never did.
The next night, we ended up at Zi Lounge. Zi Lounge is noted to be the place that came up with the chiliguaro! And it was damn good! $1 a shot. The thing about Zi Lounge was the atmosphere. It wasn’t a typical local hangout like the other places we frequented. It was more for tourist season. A stage, lights, loud music, DJ, a huge bar area and dance floor. A place for “gringos” as Adolfo would say, and he was right. Behind us, there was a group of frat boys with their hats worn backwards with chicken wings and a pizza. I’m not hatin, I’m just sayin. The staff was nice, everyone was nice! We just weren’t used to sitting at a bar with more than 10 seats, dimly lit and with a nice dewy glow on our faces, shooting the shit with everyone else that had a better tan than us.
Two chiliguaro shots, please! Down the hatch they go. Our neighbor commented “those are trouble.” And a friendship began. A merchant marine from Alaska that goes by the name “Chief.” At one point, he said his real name but we can’t remember. There is no other name to identify with once you tell us you’re Chief.
Chief was riding his bike through town and staying at a local hotel just off Avenida Central. Thirty bucks and no air conditioning. We could relate, although his stay didn’t sound quite as pleasant as ours at Andres. He was looking for a place to retire. He had already been to other countries in Central America and next was Fiji, if I recall correctly. Then Thailand and other southeastern Asian countries. He was probably filthy rich but he didn’t act like it. He was cool as hell. Every once in a while, he would swiftly break conversation and order us a round of chiliguaro and continue talking to us. Nolan snapped a few photos of him as well and I took some photos of Nolan taking the photos.
After we were done with Zi Lounge, we walked Chief down to see the teenage bartenders but they were closed. So we took our heartbreak to that bar with the $1.70 Imperials and drank away. Eventually, I told Nolan I was getting tired. I actually was, with all the hiking we had done earlier. Chief made a quip, “Uh-Oh. ‘I’m tired’ is code for ‘I want to go home.’ You better learn that now.” Chief had been married before and was getting married again. He had his share of tips and advice and he was happy to give it. I assure him, I actually was tired. I don’t speak in code. There was never worry about how I’m feeling. If I’m fed, I’m happy. Chief understood the struggles of an Asian girl’s stomach. His fiance was Thai. As the beers were popped, Chief got a little more giggly and soon it was time to part ways. My last memory of Chief is of him wearing his dark tank top with his glasses on his head, smiling and happily walking away from us down the dimly lit offshoot of the street, heading towards his hotel and waving goodbye. “Bye, Chief!!!”
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