As I walked the streets in and around downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, I was amazed at both the diversity and similarities of the various entryways and portals in the town. What is a common theme is that almost all of the homes feature an outer wall or gate almost directly along the sidewalk. That's often followed by a small courtyard, parking space or patio and then you get to the home. I love it.
It seems to be a fine way of making peace with living in a crowded city. As I've already mentioned, this set-up seems very European as I've seen similar structures in the big cities of Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. All densely populated places but examples of where design makes that impact less.
Some of the doors that caught my eye were inside ones, portals that led to a patio or kitchen. The simplicity of their purpose didn't make them less striking. Others were the main door or gateway facing the street. What a way to announce your home to the world.
OK. It's not all doors and windows. Many of the outer walls are decorated with intricate masonry, detailed textures or, in the case of my favorite wall, these painted tiles. I'll do my best to find out more about this place and update this but for now, just look at the beauty and try to imagine the tale they're trying to tell.
Before my visit to Costa Rica, I looked at some of the guidebooks and websites to get an idea of the highlights. Yes, of course, the beaches and jungles are always winners but in my life, I've never had a traditional vacation where I sit and sip cocktails or tour museums. Nothing wrong with those pastimes but it's a truism that for me, there is no better way to see and feel a pace than by walking. Get away from the well-traveled paths, keep the guidebook in your pack, and get your feet on the street.
As is often the case, I see the differences in how things are done here versus back home but I see the similarities, too. Folks all around the world just want to work, support their families, live in a nice home, play the way they want to play, and live the way they want to live. Here, they just happen to live with awesome doorways, windows, textures and living spaces.
A safety disclaimer - As for following the paths less traveled, I'm also a tall and stout fella that still walks like a soldier. That certainly helps me make the choice to walk off the beaten path. Don't be dumb. Make good and safe chices.