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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February 7th, 2011

Fall in Love With San José

Visitors to Costa Rica often fall in love with its beaches, volcanoes and tropical rain forests. But in their rush to the mountains and coasts, some visitors—and some locals, as well—fail to fully explore the capital itself, missing out on some of San José’s cultural attributes. The Costa Rican Ministry of Culture and Youth (Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud) wants to redirect attention to the city and to promote its finest features. To that end, the Ministry is sponsoring a months-long program called “Cultural Corridors: Fall in Love With Your City” (“Corredores Culturales: Enamórate de tu Ciudad”).

The Cultural Corridors program encourages tourists and Costa Ricans alike to spend their leisure time in downtown San José, enjoying its parks, art exhibits and cultural performances. The program began in February 2011 and will continue through July 2011. Activities begin at 11:00 AM on each Saturday of those months.

San José’s parks will act as the main “corridors” in the Ministry’s new plan, because they connect the city’s museums and theaters and act as outdoor exhibition and performance spaces. The Sleep Inn is conveniently located right near several of the parks that serve as the focal points of the program, and each of these parks will have a particular cultural focus. For example, the Park of Spain (Parque España), almost directly in front of the Sleep Inn, will be an exhibition space for the visual arts—painting, sculpture, engravings and art installations. The Park of Peace (Parque de la Paz), in front of the Escuela Metálica, will host urban sporting activities—dancing, circus acts, roller skating and BMX riding. The Morazán Park (Parque Morazán) will be the new music center, and musical groups will perform all genres in the kiosk that stands at the center of the park. Other cultural activities are planned for the areas immediately surrounding each of these parks—and surrounding the Sleep Inn.

The Cultural Corridors program has three goals. The first is to celebrate Costa Rica’s history—not just in terms of dates and events, but in terms of what it means to be a Costa Rican. The program aims to create a certain nostalgia for the Costa Rica of long ago—a quieter and more tranquil time. The program’s second cultural goal is to encourage both locals and visitors to establish—or reestablish—their relationships to the city’s parks and to reclaim these parks for rest and relaxation. The Ministry says that the fast pace of urban life has reduced the parks to mere walkways, as people hurry through them from one errand to another. The idea is to encourage people to spend some time in the parks, talking to one another and enjoying the urban oasis the parks create. The third cultural goal is to promote multiculturalism in the city, celebrating the artistic and historic contributions of Costa Rica’s various ethnic and cultural groups.

Founded forty years ago, the Ministry preserves and promotes cultural diversity in Costa Rica, encouraging all social and economic groups to participate in national cultural activities. The Sleep Inn is proud to find itself at the hub of the Ministry’s new and exciting cultural plans. Sleep Inn guests should remember to inquire about activities happening during their stay.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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October 15th, 2010

The Confusing Homonym

An interesting homonym puzzle has emerged during the Sleep Inn’s celebration of the revamping of Paseo de los Damas, the street that runs directly behind the hotel. This historic street has been known primarily as Avenida Tercera (Third Avenue), but city planners recently decided to revive its centuries-old name when they widened the street, restored its granite sidewalks and planted more overhanging trees.

The confusion stems from the fact that the word “dama” is a homonym. Spanish speakers are familiar with the noun “dama,” which means “lady.” A “Damas” sign usually hangs outside women’s bathrooms in Costa Rica, and ladies and gentlemen are formally called “damas y caballeros.” This type of “dama” is, of course, feminine, and the noun takes the feminine article “la” (”la dama”).

Many people have assumed that Paseo de los Damas refers to the gentlewomen who once strolled along the historic road. The street name seems to conjure images of parasol-twirling ladies tripping along the shady streets in their finery.

Oddly, though, the street name does not refer to women at all. The word “dama” is masculine, as its preceding article indicates (”el dama”). The dama is a flowering tree found all over Costa Rica, and this tree now lines the famous avenue. The street that many assume to have been named after its elegant female users was actually named in honor of the trees that dip overhead in the breeze.

Although the article before the noun indicates that those ladies are not the ones being remembered along the charming new street, the connotation of those elegant women of long ago is so pleasant that we at the Sleep Inn approve of the homonym confusion and the charming images it creates.

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September 15th, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Costa Rica celebrates its independence today. Enjoy this rendition of the Costa Rican national anthem, played by the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica.

Read more about Costa Rican independence day.

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September 14th, 2010

A Lovely Walk

The Sleep Inn Hotel has a new promotional video on YouTube. The street scenes in the video reveal the results of recent beautification efforts in the area around the hotel. The street behind the Sleep Inn, Avenida 3, was once known as the Paseo de los Damas, or the street of the dama trees. These trees still line the street, creating sun-dappled shadows on the sidewalks, which have been widened and refurbished with granite pavers. Intrepid guests of the Sleep Inn might enjoy a pleasant eastward walk along the Paseo de los Damas.

Walkers can leave the hotel by way of the curving staircase and turn east once they are outside. Avenida 3 skirts the graceful trees and quiet shade of the Parque España. Then, the walk heads past the Centro Nacional de la Cultura (National Center for Culture), a gracious late-19th-century building that was once the Fábrica Nacional de Licores (National Liquor Factory). The center now has a museum and theater, and visitors can see interesting art exhibits and performances there. Farther east is the Estación del Atlántico, the Limón train station, where walkers can see an old narrow-gauge steam engine. After years of disuse, the train is now fully operational and will take riders to Heredia. The station itself is charming and provides a glimpse of the Costa Rica of long ago. The eastward walk finally leads to the old Aduana (Customs building), which has now been modernized and serves as the venue for art exhibits, theatrical events and dance performances. The renovated Aduana is an intriguing blend of classical and modern architecture.

The Sleep Inn is proud to be a part of this lovely section of San José.

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August 10th, 2010

Five Good Years

If the Sleep Inn seems in an unusually festive mood these days, part of the reason is that the hotel has just celebrated its fifth anniversary of operation.

When the Sleep Inn first opened, no new hotels had been built in the central San José area for over fourteen years. The Sleep Inn heralded a new period of optimism and excitement in the downtown area, and it has witnessed a resurgence of activity in its immediate surroundings.

Along with the general enlivening of the Sleep Inn’s surroundings, several other changes have taken place during the five years of the hotel’s existence. The Sleep Inn has won a highly coveted hotel award, the city has undertaken several beautification projects in the neighborhood, and changes are in store for some of the hotel’s public spaces.

Stay tuned for details about some of the various changes in the Sleep Inn and its neighborhood during these past five years.

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June 14th, 2010

Volcano Haiku

Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano has once again erupted into activity, spewing ash and lava and prompting the closure of the national park at its base. Here at the Sleep Inn blog, we have written about recent volcanic activity at the Poás Volcano and about the dramatic eruption of the Irazú Volcano in 1963. We would now like to share with you some volcano-themed haiku. As our regular readers might recall, we recently posted some haiku about Costa Rica, including one about volcanoes.

The first haiku alludes to a theory of UFO enthusiasts who argue that extra-terrestrials make their homes underneath the craters of volcanoes. According to the theory, volcanic eruptions are actually the revving engines of the spaceships that the extra-terrestrials keep docked in their volcanic garages.

A magmatic roar,
grinding of volcanic gears.
Eruption voyage.

The second haiku describes the experience of sitting in the hot springs at the base of Arenal while the volcano rumbles in the distance.

Steam over water,
warmth and danger coexist.
Intricate balance.

The final haiku describes a portion of the drive from the Monteverde Cloud Forest to Arenal. The journey winds through rolling green hills and ends along a rutted, unpaved portion of road through eerily robust vegetation.

The plants look phony,
covered in road dust and ash.
Strange-landscaped journey.

Let us know what you think of our volcano haiku. Or send us your own haiku.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing

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May 14th, 2010

Pasta de Guayaba

One of Latin America’s best culinary concoctions is pasta de guayaba, or guava paste. Made from the aromatic and seed-filled guava fruit, this paste is almost as good as candy and incredibly versatile. The Sleep Inn blogging team has a few recommendations for happy guava paste-eating as a great leisure-time activity.

On their own, guavas can be difficult to eat. Their flesh is peach-colored and sweet, but it surrounds a core of pulpy seeds that some people find unnerving. When most people eat guavas right off the tree, they either swallow the seeds whole or spit them out, often making for messy eating. Another drawback to the guava is its attractiveness to worms. Any fruit that lands on the ground almost immediately becomes a home for worms, making tree-climbing a near-requirement for the enjoyment of the fresh fruit.

Guava paste solves all of these problems. Made by cooking the guava flesh with some sugar, the paste has no seeds and, of course, no worms. It’s also conveniently available in every grocery store. In Costa Rica, the paste often comes in flat rectangular “bars,” perfect for slicing and eating plain. However, several interesting combinations can enliven the basic guava paste.

Some people layer squares of guava paste and cheese, spearing both with a toothpick. Queso fresco, the mild Costa Rican cheese, is an ideal cheese accompaniment to guava paste. The layered mouthful is a charming combination of sweetness and mild creaminess, and it makes a perfect hors d’oeuvre.

Other people enliven their guava paste-cheese combination with a cocktail onion. The addition of the onion provides a tangy and crunchy counterpart to the fruit and cheese.

Guava paste is so mild and sweet that it also pairs nicely with very spicy flavors. Some people like to eat it with jalapeño, a tingling treat for lovers of the classic sweet/spicy flavor combination.

Of course, guava paste can substitute for jam or jelly in any kind of sandwich or bread combination. Some cooks also use it as a glaze for ham or pork, and others use it in the place of jam in baked fruit desserts.

We recommend guava paste in all its forms, and we welcome blog readers to write and let us know about their own guava paste concoctions.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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April 2nd, 2010

An Olfactory Tour of Costa Rica

A trip to Costa Rica can be a sensory adventure. Visitors to the country describe its glorious sights–its beaches, volcanoes and tropical forests–and its delicious flavors–gallo pinto, fresh tortillas and exotic fruits. Northerners rave about Costa Rica’s balmy tropical climate–the warmth of its oceans, its pleasant tropical breezes and its near-constant sunshine. And others are thrilled to hear Spanish spoken all around them, when they aren’t listening to the thunder of a tropical rainstorm or to exotic birdcalls on a walk through the jungle. However, few tourists ever really describe the wondrous smells they encounter on a trip to Costa Rica. But we believe that the scent of a Costa Rican trip is something to savor.

During the rainy season, visitors to Costa Rica can experience the complex smell of a tropical rainstorm. At the beach, the rain carries with it the green, vegetal smell of tropical undergrowth; the scent of clean, wet sand and the salty undercurrent of the storm-tossed sea. In San José, the rain has the distinctly urban smell of wet paving stones and the steamy scent wafting from outdoor food stalls, but it still has within it a baseline of the tropical Costa Rican wilderness–a smell of dark soil and wet leaves.

The beaches of Costa Rica have their own smells. The harsh, raw smell of the inside of a green coconut, or “pipa,” mixes with the briny scent of the sea and a pleasant underlying smell of sea life. All give an outdoor meal of ceviche and a fruit drink, or “fresco,” a layer of flavor they don’t have anywhere else in the country.

The volcanoes of Costa Rica have a distinctive ashy, sulfuric smell that reminds visitors of the geological tumult before them. Poás has the smell of rich, black earth, damp under the thick vegetation that grows right near the volcano’s sulfur-filled crater. Irazú, the volcano that looks most like a lunar landscape, has a dry, burnt smell that blows in cool, damp gusts across the black fields of ash. Arenal smells of fresh eruptions and the steamy warmth of the hot springs at its base.

As much as Costa Rica is a pleasure for the eyes, ears and taste buds, it is a marvelous destination for the intrepid visitor with a scent for adventure.

Read more about cas, the best tropical fruit drink in Costa Rica.

Read more about visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season.

Read more about Costa Rica’s volcanoes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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February 15th, 2010

Paco y Lola

With the February 2010 election of Laura Chinchilla as Costa Rica’s first woman president, Costa Ricans have naturally
begun to consider the changing role of women in Costa Rican politics and in Costa Rican society. Just as women’s roles have changed and expanded all over the world, the role of the Costa Rican woman has shifted with the times. Nowhere is this change more evident than in the well-known primer, Paco y Lola, which almost every Costa Rican child used to learn to read.

Just like Dick and Jane, Paco y Lola, first written and edited in 1958 by Emma Gamboa and Ondina Peraza, focuses on the daily activities of a nuclear family, teaching children how to read the names of objects and activities they might encounter on an ordinary day. Paco y Lola reflects the social attitudes of its time. In one section of the book, the father reads (”Papá lee.”), while the mother toils away in the kitchen, kneading a mound of “masa” to make tortillas (”Mamá amasa la masa.”). Paco and Lola each take part in fairly typical gender-prescribed activities, and the book reflects the typical values–and 1950s furnishings–of the mid-century Costa Rican family and home.

Despite what many have described as sexism–or outright “machismo”–in the first edition of Paco y Lola, the book functions very well as a Spanish reading primer. Its authors have a clear appreciation for the joys of pronunciation and language and a great sense of alliteration and word play. The authors make reading both entertaining and fairly effortless for their young readers.

Spanish vowel pronunciation has less variation than vowel pronunciation in English, and the authors make the most of repetition in teaching readers how to recognize and pronounce vowels. (In “Mamá amasa la masa,” for example, readers get a good sense of the short Spanish “a” and the opportunity to pronounce it in accented and unaccented syllables.) Once young readers have mastered the vowel sounds, they can take on any number of longer and more complex word and sentence constructions. The book rewards the persistent with a great deal of vocabulary and interesting lessons about Costa Rican activities and animals. Paco y Lola also provides painless lessons in the use of the accent mark, or “tilde,” whose rules students will later memorize in school.

Post-1958 editions of Paco y Lola have strived to eliminate the gender inequalities of the first edition, and readers of the newer version can now see a truer reflection of Costa Rica’s increasing gender equality. In either its original or its updated form, however, Paco y Lola is an entertaining and effective Spanish language-learning tool.

Order a copy of Paco y Lola.

Learn more about verbs in Spanish.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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