Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alajuela, City of Mangos, and the Pigeon Whisperer?

Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica after San Jose, the capital and remains a principal trade center for cattle, sugar and coffee. With a population of over 50,000 it is also the capital of Alajuela Province.  The Juan Santamaria International Airport is located in the southern part of Alajuela making it convenient to the central valley, volcanoes and beaches. Alajuela has a moderate, subtropical climate, and is only slightly warmer than San Jose.  The city hosts its largest festival on April 11 called Juan Santamaria Day, in honor of the young drummer boy who sacrificed his life in the battle of Hacienda Santa Rosa against William Walker in 1856 to preserve the independence of the country.
Alajuela is the best place for us to shop. There is a Price smart offering great bulk items and some Americanized conveniences you just can’t find in the smaller towns, like Atenas. You can even get a variety of expensive fast food, like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The city is bustling with shops, museums, workers and industry. It was never my favorite place to go, simply because the central park can get stinky and sticky, in my opinion, in mango season.  It has been dubbed The City of Mangos because the park is full of giant mango trees which offer great shade to all the folks crowding the park benches, but this great shade comes with a few bumps on the head if a falling fruit lands on you. I personally was hit with a falling mango and so was our truck, leaving me with slight displeasure. In April, we were lucky enough to have some business in Alajuela and, to my surprise; the park was not so sticky. There were no mangos falling on people’s heads and the smell of fermented fruit didn't fill the air. Instead, the park was filled with pigeons and children and the occasional vendor selling face painting, pictures with a small horse as well as our favorite, granizados. 
While Matt went with our attorney to take care of the business, the kids and I hung out in the park for about an hour and had a blast, spending a well worth $20 US. We noticed the locals bringing their children dressed in their “Sunday Best” to snap photos of them with the birds. Several of the elderly had bags of seed and rice for the kids to throw and feed the pigeons. Max was incredible with his patience, catching several pigeons with his hands, ever so gently. He even handed one off to a little girl he was playing with. 
There were even some squirrels in on the action and Max was brave enough to hand feed one a piece of bread. I now have a different view of Alajuela and next time we make a trip to the busy city, I will insist we stop at the park. The fountains were flowing and the breeze was nice, so I highly recommend it for a stroll. Here is a short video of the kids having fun in the park with the pigeons:

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