Traveling in Costa Rica during the Easter Holy Week, you can expect some things with certainty: You will have the pleasure of seeing many crosses decorated with purple shawls and flowers in front yards, you will likely cross paths with a religious procession at some point in your journey, and you will have a hard time finding anywhere to buy food over Easter weekend.
When we embarked on a long day’s drive on winding mountain roads on Good Friday, I had underestimated just how long or far we would drive before finding our next meal. Fresh out of snacks and getting low on water, we discovered that even the mini market at a self-service gas station was closed for the holiday. The fabled city of Zarcero was a ghost town dotted with occasional colorful souls drifting between the church and family gatherings.
Every kind of shop imaginable was shuttered on each block we circled in the town.
When I saw a temporary stand doing business at the edge of the church square, I nearly drove onto the sidewalk in anticipation. The assortment of large root vegetables, however, held little appeal for the kids and seriously raised my mother’s eyebrows. We were hungry and growing hopeless, and nowhere near our destination.
“Ting! Ting!” Enter the ice cream man.
That’s when we learned that, while it is against city ordinances to run shops or restaurants on Good Friday in Costa Rica, it is perfectly acceptable to sell ice cream and popsicles in the church square. Eating ice cream for lunch on Good Friday, we reasoned, could therefore be no sin.
Good Friday, indeed. It will always have special meaning–and I suspect, ritual–for our family.
As it happened, fewer than 5 miles south on the highway, and beyond the city limits, we found a fantastic hillside restaurant turning a tidy profit by serving the Ticos traveling over the holiday weekend. Remember this if you find yourself on the road to Zarcero Easter weekend.
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