The lively city of Heredia, capital of the important coffee province of the same name, contains a couple of the country's best-preserved colonial structures, along with a contrasting, youthful buzz provided by the National University (UNA) and century-old colegios (high schools) scattered around the town. Heredia is nicknamed the City of Flowers (La Ciudad de Flores, in Spanish), which refers less to the flowers that decorate the city than to a leading founding family named Flores. Flores also refers to beautiful women, for which Heredia is known. (On the topic of names, remember that "h" is always silent in Spanish; pronounce the small city’s name air-AY-dee-ah.) Founded in 1706, the city bears witness to how difficult preservation can be in an earthquake-prone country; most of its colonial structures have been destroyed by tremors and the tropical climate, not to mention modernization. Still, the city and neighboring towns retain a certain historic flavor, with old adobe buildings scattered amid the concrete structures. Nearby Barva is also notable for its colonial central square and venerable adobe structures. From Heredia, scenic mountain roads climb northeast, passing through the pleasant, high-altitude coffee towns of San Rafael and San Isidro, each anchored by a notable, tico-style Gothic church and a pleasant central park.
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