May 22nd, 2013

The Revamped Sleep Inn Lobby

Frequent guests of the Sleep Inn will have noticed an interesting change in the hotel lobby. Less frequent guests can see the results of the change on the Sleep Inn San José Downtown Facebook page.

The main change in the lobby has been the incorporation of slot machines into the original dining area, at the base of the stairs. These machines create a more multipurpose space, in an area that was once only occupied during the complementary breakfast buffet. Guests can still enjoy the fine buffet in this dining area, but they can enjoy a game or two as well.

The slot machines stand in the area once occupied by the Business Center. The computers, printer and fax machine of the Business Center have now migrated across the lobby and are closer to the front door. Guests still have unlimited internet access and all other amenities to meet their business needs.

The new location of the lobby store makes it more convenient for guests and other shoppers. Because the store is now connected to the check-in desk, it can remain open for business twenty-four hours a day. Guests who need a toothbrush, a Costa Rica t-shirt or a souvenir of their travels can now buy one anytime.

Artwork by Dennis Salas still hangs in the lobby. One of his landscapes, on the wall outside the store, depicts a view of trees on the nearby Paseo las Damas. His large-scale landscape photograph, of the Parque Morazán, hangs just underneath the staircase.

The Sleep Inn hopes its lobby changes will be more convenient and comfortable for guests. Check out pictures of the new Sleep Inn San José Downtown lobby, and let us know what you think.

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August 23rd, 2012

The Magnolia Restaurant is Fabulous

For those who haven’t yet eaten at the Magnolia Restaurant, it may really be time to start.

The Magnolia has always served delicious food, but because of its recent renovations, it has just received a fine award from the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT). The restaurant-rating branch of the ICT has given the restaurant four out of five forks, in recognition of its fine dining atmosphere and delicious food.

Magnolia chef Adrián Vera says that the Magnolia specializes in mediterranean food, with French and Italian accents. Diners can enjoy “anything from carpaccio to lobster, shrimp and corvina.” The staff is wonderful and happy to make suggestions about the restaurant’s many different menu items.

The Magnolia is centrally located, in the heart of downtown San José, with a safe parking lot. The restaurant is open all day, every day; it serves an executive menu from Monday through Friday, between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

On September 29, the Casino Club Colonial celebrates its 30th anniversary, and the Magnolia Restaurant will have a celebratory meal during the anniversary festivities.

But any meal is festive at the Magnolia!

Read more about the Magnolia Restaurant.

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May 1st, 2012

The Sleep Inn: A Meeting Room with a View

Business visitors to Costa Rica often choose hotels based solely on the availability of group meeting spaces. Businesspeople seek meeting spaces that accommodate large groups comfortably, are accessible to the hotel, and have modern electronic conveniences. They often want to find spaces where food is available or where catering is an option. They might also hope that these meeting spaces are pleasant–and that they might, perhaps, even have a view. But pleasantness and views are usually not an option in most hotel meeting rooms.

The Sleep Inn is proud to announce that its new meeting room, the Magnolia, meets every requirement of the ideal business meeting space. Located on the same property as the Sleep Inn Hotel, the Magnolia Meeting Room can accommodate large groups, depending on the arrangement of its chairs and tables. The room is completely wired for electronic and computer equipment, making it ideal for conferences and presentations. The extensive Magnolia Restaurant menu is available for all business meetings. Best of all, the Magnolia Meeting Room has a view. The room is located on the first floor of the hotel and has french doors that open onto the lovely garden areas of the Sleep Inn complex.

The Sleep Inn believes its meeting room provides the most basic of business-meeting requirements while simultaneously offering the kind of attractiveness not usually found in most hotel meeting spaces. Call the Sleep Inn to inquire about holding your own meeting in the Magnolia.

See photographs of the new meeting room on Sleep Inn San José Downtown Facebook page.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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March 8th, 2012

Even Arriving is Fun

Twenty or thirty years ago, Costa Rica was almost unknown as a tourist destination. All of that has changed, and about a million visitors flock to the country each year. Some people might think that these arriving hoardes would create chaos and unpleasantness at the airport. But as the Tico Times reports, Costa Rica’s main airport, Juan Santamaría, has been named the third best airport in Latin America for the second year in a row.

The airport has been completely remodeled, a project that finished in 2010. It is now sleek and very modern. Immigration lines, never very much fun for the arriving passenger, are almost pleasant at the Juan Santamaría airport, because arriving passengers gather in a light-filled space with lively murals. Departing passengers can do last-minute shopping at several well-stocked gift shops. And everyone can have a last-minute cup of Costa Rican coffee before boarding the airplane.

The Sleep Inn provides free shuttle service to and from the Juan Santamaría airport. The drivers are friendly and very professional, and the Sleep Inn van is speedy and very clean.

Who was Juan Santamaría?

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August 3rd, 2011

Making Her Rounds

It’s romería time again, and the streets from San José to Cartago have been filled with pious pilgrims making their way to the Basílica in Cartago. Most have made a promise to La Negrita, the patron saint of Costa Rica, and they walk in honor of that promise. Some have come from countries outside Costa Rica, and many have completed the last hundred meters of the journey on their knees.

A Cartago resident and friend of the Sleep Inn told her own firsthand account of the pilgrimage and the important day after. She reported that she had spent the night of August 1 in San José, just so she could make it to work on time on August 2. She said that the thousands of devout pilgrims flowing into the city on August 2, the Virgin’s day, made the streets impassable for outgoing Cartago citizens but that the spiritual energy was palpable in the city. Most of the pilgrims, she said, arrived in time to attend the 9:00 AM mass in the park, where the Virgin, clothed in her festive garments, was presented to her followers.

But the festivities do not end on August 2, because the following day marks the start of another important time for worshipers of La Negrita. On August 3, Costa Ricans celebrate “La Pasada,” when the clothed Virgin is transported from the Basílica in Cartago to that city’s cathedral, where she will remain for a month. Our friend tells us that this journey mirrors the Virgin’s long-ago journey from San José to Cartago, when the country’s capital made the same shift. After her month at the cathedral, La Negrita returns again to the Basílica to await the next influx of pilgrims on August 2.

Costa Ricans describe La Pasada as a moment of incredible spiritual feeling. The streets of Cartago are carpeted in blossoms of yellow and white, the colors of the Virgin, and the clothed statue passes in front of her adoring masses. Schoolchildren are given the day off, and store owners decorate their windows in the Virgin’s yellow and white. A glow of spirituality infuses the city and those who witness the procession, whether or not they consider themselves devout followers of La Negrita.

This last August 2, 2011, an estimated two million pilgrims completed the romería to Cartago. This year marks the 375th anniversary of the Virgin’s first apparition.

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June 10th, 2011

Everyone’s Favorite Aunt

About thirty or forty years ago, all Costa Rican children read the same books in public elementary schools. They learned to read with Paco y Lola, and progressed to Costa Rican authors like Carlos Luis Fallas. And for storytime, they turned to the classic tales of Tía Panchita, the aunt of Carmen Lyra, one of Costa Rica’s most prolific authors.

Carmen Lyra describes her aunt as a short, small woman with two long braids and eyes that seemed to smile. When Carmen Lyra was small, her relatives told her educational stories with ponderous morals about good behavior and hard work. But her Tía Panchita told her stories about elves, witches, ghosts and other marvels. Carmen Lyra says that these were the stories that most influenced her literary career.

Born María Isabel Carvajal in 1888, Carmen Lyra is an important figure in Costa Rican literary circles. She wrote political essays, scholarly articles, a novel, and several other academic works, but she is best known for Cuentos de Mi Tía Panchita, the redacted stories that she once heard from her aunt.

Although Carmen Lyra first heard these fantastic stories as a child, many of them had been a part of Costa Rican oral history long before Tía Panchita’s time. Some say that the stories came from Europe and were disseminated in Costa Rica by the Spaniards who settled here. Carmen Lyra tells the stories in the popular slang of her time, providing an interesting linguistic study.

Some of Tía Panchita’s most popular stories feature the wily Tío Conejo, a rabbit whose constant victim is the foolish Tío Coyote. Other stories feature the well-known simpleton who somehow manages to marry a princess, terrible mothers-in-law and magical creatures. All are colorful and entertaining, and all provide a glimpse into the common lives of the Costa Ricans who told these stories to one another.

The first edition was published in 1920, and the book continues in publication today. For interested readers, Cuentos de Mi Tía Panchita is available on Amazon.

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May 27th, 2011

A “Little” Country

Visitors to Costa Rica often wonder why the Costa Ricans are called “Ticos.” The name “Tico” comes from a charming peculiarity of Costa Rican speech–the frequent use of the diminutive. “Tico” is a word ending that suggests “littleness.”

Several suffixes indicate smallness when attached to the end of a Spanish word. These suffixes include “-ita,” “-ito.” For example, a dog (”perro”) that it small might be called a “perrito.” Or a girl (”niña) who is small might be called a “niñita.”

But Costa Ricans often take this notion of smallness one step further, doubling the suffix. When this doubling happens, a “t” often appears before the final suffix, rendering it “-tico,” the famous nickname for a Costa Rican. Interestingly, this phenomenon happens with the word “chico,” one of whose meanings is “small.” In the diminutive, the word is “chiquito.” To indicate something really small, someone might use the word “chiquitico,” with the “-tico” suffix.

“Poco” is the word for “a bit,” so “a little bit of water” would be “un poco de agua.” A Costa Rican would typically use “poco” in a diminutive form–”poquito”–”a little bit.” But most Costa Ricans would further miniaturize the concept to “poquitito” or “poquitico.” Thus, a Costa Rican who wants a drink would commonly ask for “un poquitico de agua,” using the “-tico” ending.

Costa Ricans all generally have very cheerful dispositions, and their use of the diminutive illustrates this national tendency to be cheerful and pleasant. Something small is generally considered something inoffensive or even attractive, and the smaller the better.

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May 14th, 2011

What are those things?

Sleep Inn guests might encounter some unusual fruits as they walk around San José. A few vendors near the hotel sell jocotes, manzanas de agua, and nísperos, tropical delicacies that a foreigner might not recognize. For the intrepid fruit-eater, here is an introduction to each.

A jocote looks like a smooth-skinned, miniature potato. It can vary in color from green to red, and it has a large seed. Jocotes grow on trees. The fruit is dryish, rather than juicy, and the eater mostly gnaws at its flesh. In Central America, people often salt their jocotes as they eat them. For some, jocotes are eaten more as a pastime than for their delicious flavor.

A manzana de agua–or “water apple,”–looks like a pale and slightly elongated apple or, perhaps, like a pale red pear. This fruit grows on trees as well. True to its name, the manzana de agua mostly tastes watery, although its flesh does have a slight sweetness. The fruit is so aromatic that some people describe its flavor as more of a perfumed fragrance than an actual taste.

The níspero is a fragrant yellow fruit that is small, like a grape, and slightly fuzzy. It, too, grows on trees and has a few shiny, brown seeds. The flesh of the níspero is sweet and fragrant, once again seeming almost like an aroma, as well as a flavor. In other countries, nísperos are known as “loquats.”

Of the three, we tend to recommend nísperos, as their flavor coyly suggests the tropics.

Read more about unusual Costa Rican fruits and an interesting Costa Rican vegetable.

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May 1st, 2011

Horchata

Besides cás, one of the best non-alcoholic drinks in Costa Rica is horchata. Visitors to the country might not see it on every menu, but we recommend that they order it when they do. Powdered horchata mix is also available at grocery stores or other food stores in downtown San José.

A popular drink in Latin America, where its main ingredients are plentiful, horchata is often available at Mexican restaurants, even in the United States. Latin Americans love it.

Horchata can be made from various seeds and grains–barley, sesame seeds or almonds, among others–but Costa Ricans make it from ground rice. Using a blender or food processor, horchata-makers grind uncooked rice with a bit of water to make a sort of a paste. They let this paste stand for a few hours or overnight. Once the rice has fully flavored the water, it is strained from the liquid. Horchata-makers stir milk into the rice-water, and the resulting cloudy white mixture is sweetened with sugar and seasoned with cinnamon or vanilla.

Horchata is served cold, in a tall glass with a straw and ice. Its reassuring hint of rice adds a pleasant depth and richness to the drink.

Some Costa Rican cooks use the strained rice to make arroz con leche, another Costa Rican rice-and-milk concoction.

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March 8th, 2011

The Sleep Inn Triumphs Again

In February 2011, the Sleep Inn San José Downtown was named International Hotel 2010 for the region of Central America and the Caribbean. Although the Sleep Inn has received numerous awards for its quality of service and overall aesthetic appearance, this is the first time the hotel has been named International Hotel, an award given by Choice Hotels International, the Sleep Inn’s parent brand. This regional honor now qualifies the Sleep Inn for a still more prestigious continental award, to be determined by a vote at the Choice Hotels meeting in Boston in May 2011.

In addition to this great honor, the Sleep Inn San José Downtown won the Quality Assurance Review (QAR 2010), an award also presented by Choice Hotels International. To win the yearly Quality Assurance Review, the Sleep Inn competes against twelve other Choice Hotels in Central America and the Caribbean. Twice a year, Choice Hotels sends an inspector to each of the competing hotels. This inspector evaluates the cleanliness of the hotel, the efficiency of its various operations, the condition of the rooms and building and the hotel’s compliance with franchise requirements. After his second 2010 visit to the Sleep Inn, hotel inspector Nicolás González said that “in terms of cleanliness and maintenance and improvements, [the Sleep Inn and its staff] are simply excellent and significantly surpass the standards Choice has established for the region.”

The Sleep Inn San José Downtown has won the Quality Assurance Review four times in the past five years–in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. Guests are welcome to examine the award plaques, which hang in the hotel lobby on the wall next to the reception desk.

In 2010, the Sleep Inn also received a Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (Certificado de Sostenibilidad Turística), which indicates the hotel’s interest in the environment and in promoting “green” tourism. The hotel was given a designation of three leaves out of a possible five. Throughout its years of operation, the hotel has embraced environmentally friendly practices—saving water, recycling and conserving electricity—and it has encouraged its guests to do so as well. Horlando Salas, the hotel Manager expects that the hotel will receive a five-star rating this year.

The Sleep Inn is very proud of its wonderful employees, whose hard work and dedication have helped the hotel achieve its award-winning status. In addition to the faithful work of its employees, Horlando Salas notes that the success of the hotel depends on the added values he and his staff bring to the hotel. He says that the Sleep Inn offers services beyond those required by the franchise—free guest parking and free airport transportation, for example. The hotel’s Executive Housekeeper, Jendry Porras, and its Maintenance Manager, Christian Fallas, keep the hotel and its grounds in prize-worthy condition.

Read more about Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism.

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