Granada Travel Blog› entry 4 of 16 › view all entries
November 1st, 2008 – by: lrecht
Well somehow Robb and Cindy managed to sleep through all of the street noise and the howling dogs (not as bad as in Thimphu, Bhutan but noisy nevertheless). On top of that, Cindy and Cathy both froze (Cindy snuck our A.C back up to mid 70’s but Robb snuck his down to 68). All things considered, it appears that Robb is the ultimate winner last night (no noise, no heat), Cindy and Larry in the middle (noise for Larry, cold for Cindy) and poor Cathy pulls in last with the worst of both (noisy mutts and chills). Ah well, the life of a mom with three daughters isn’t easy. The ladies suggested that, since both Robb and I like cold rooms, we bunk together. Luckily I had previous knowledge of Robb’s predilection for snoring and passed…
Breakfast is included at Hotel Dario and ended up being a really good Comida Tipica with Huevos Revuelotos (scrambled eggs), Maduros (sweet fried plantains), Gallo Pinto (rice and beans - the national dish of Nicaragua) and Tocina (bacon) as well as fresh brewed Nicaraguan coffee, juice and a big fruit plate.
So Granada is evidently the oldest colonial city in “The New World” having been founded in 1524 by Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba, a Spanish conquistadore who founded both cities of Granada and Leon to the north and is known as the “founder” of Nicaragua (something I would guess the original locals would argue with…). It is a cool, old Spanish style city with lots of colonial buildings, cobble-stone lined streets like the Calle La Calzada that our hotel is located on and lots to do. It actually has a really interesting history including an invasion by an American crazy guy named William Walker and a bunch of lunatic confederates back in the mid-1800’s. You can read more about that on Wikipedia at Wikipedia Granada or there is a good write-up in Lonely Planet’s Nicaragua book and on their website at Lonely Planet Granada Overview
After breakfast we walked thru the main Square of Granada which was already starting to bustle with vendors, kids playing soccer and people mulling around.
We stopped at one of the old colonial churches which are scattered all over Granada, this one called Iglesa de la Merced which was really pretty and surrounded by some other cool, old buildings. Services were going on so we didn’t want to barge in but may come back later to watch the sunset from the tower. As you can see by the picture of the girl in the pink top, the Nica girls get dolled up for church :-)
Luck was with us today and we suddenly stumbled on the Mambacho Cigar Company and a young kid who didn’t speak much English told us we could come in and get a tour if we wanted. Mambacho is one of the local, active volcanoes in Granada. Robb and I were immediately enticed and so we all stepped into a large room with huge pictures of what ended up being Silvio the proprietor’s parents as well as a big shot of Arnold “The Govenator” Schwartzenegger smoking one of Silvio’s cigars with him and his brothers.
After we finished rolling our cigars, Silvio the proprietor came out and introduced himself (and his colorful parrot). He is Nicaraguan but lived in the US for many years and originally ran the cigar factory with several of his brothers. Unfortunately, they were living the high life on expense accounts and he finally wrestled control of the company and is now running it on his own.
After sitting us down in the foyer and lighting our cigars as well as offering us some of his “Nicaraguan Ice Wine” (note that this was not quite as tasty as the German, Canadian or Italian varietals ;-) he took off to hit the campaign trail. Wonder if he will pass out cigars to garner more votes? He did have an interesting perspective on the up-coming American presidential election, feeling that if Obama is elected, all the US enemies will “poke at him” until he proves he has cojones the size of McCain’s or other more hawkish politicos…The cigars were actually really good and even Cathy and Cindy partook.
After finishing our cigars (nothing like smoking a cigar right after breakfast and drinking wine before lunch…) we headed up the very hot and sunny streets to the Cemetery for the Day of the Dead celebration. There were lots of people (and of course food, drink and flower vendors) roaming all over the cemetery. We walked all through the grounds where there are lots and lots of crypts and monuments, some of them simple and some ornate. The locals were all out paying their respects, cleaning the tombstones, repainting the crypts and placing flowers on them. Mostly they appeared to be family tombs with multiple spaces for internment, some still open waiting for the next aged or unlucky family member to join them. Cathy commented to Robb that this could be an excellent hiding place for their precious metals currently housed at Milt and Diana’s or in innocuous boxes labeled “Machine Parts” up in one of those states that starts with W…
Walking back to our end of town, I had the pleasure (or rather lack of pleasure) of interacting with one of Granada’s less hospitable people who, was obviously a drunk and mean.
Once we made it back to town, we decided it would be a good idea to get some Cordobas instead of paying for everything with dollars and finally found the bank and an ATM.
We found the Caldwell Banker office right off of the park and met Guy the Surfer and Real Estate agent originally from Zimbabwe then the US and now living in Nicaragua with a El Salvadorian fiancée. He is a really interesting guy who ended up falling in love with surfing and followed the waves down here.
We hopped in Guy’s car and drove down to the “marina” to catch a panga out to see the islands. Guy had explained that there are really two sides of the lake in terms of the isletas, the first side was a bit less remote and has electricity available whereas the other side is a bit more remote with no access to the grid so you have to use solar, wind or generators.
Well apparently it has rained a lot since the last time Guy was at this island. As we pulled up, we saw the ramshackle building (worthy of immediate demolition) as well as the overflowing pool.
I am sure that Guy could see the look on everyone’s faces but luckily, he knew of a nicer island across the way that had a nice house on it and is currently for sale. We hopped in the panga and motored to a much nicer, bigger island that actually had some elevation to it as well as being beautifully landscaped with lush gardens and tropical plants.
We ended up sitting at a small bar/restaurant on Calle la Calzada where we shared Tona’s with Guy and talked about Nicaragua. Tomorrow we are going to visit the other side of the Lake to see the more remote sites before heading off to Lake Ometepe.
After dinner, we went back to Hotel Dario and Robb, Cathy and I went swimming in the nice little hotel pool which was really refreshing after a hot day of wandering all over Granada.
Saturday November 1st
So we headed off to O’Hare Airport in plenty of time with Cathy and Cindy’s dad Milt at the helm and checked in without any complications. Since we used Frequent Flyer points for the flights, our route was somewhat circuitous involving two puddle-jumper flights, first from Chicago to Memphis and then Memphis to Miami followed by the flight to Managua. The Embraer planes are small and none to comfy but compared to the sixteen hour Delhi to Chicago flight last year, no big deal.
We landed in Memphis and decided to get into the Central American swing of things by having Bloody Mary’s and Beers at the Memphis airport.
Immigration in Managua was a breeze and as soon as we exited the airport, a nice old guy with a sign with Cindy’s name on it found us and whisked us off to Granada. Whisked might be a bit of a euphemism as he was quite the cautious driver. The road from Managua to Granada is pretty good and, even though it was early evening, we could see lush vegetation and a nice moon over the lake.
Anyway, the drive from the airport at Managua to Granada is only about 45 minutes, the last part of which we actually got to see a bit of pretty, colonial Granada.
We meandered down the street and pulled up to the Hotel Dario which is a beautiful, up-scale hotel with high-ceilinged rooms with A.C. and paddle fans, a really nice wooden balcony overlooking a garden/fountain area and small balconies over the street with great views of everything including the Granada Cathedral. It is one of the pricier places in Granada at about $90/night but since this is a short vacation relative to our jaunts over that last few years, it doesn’t really matter for a few nights. Good call Yolanda! (but just to be clear, get me on sabbatical again and we are back to our $25-40/night budget!)
It ends up that pretty much everywhere in Nicaragua, you can pay in Cordobas (the national currency) or dollars which was good since we stupidly forgot to change any money at the airport.
We did wander up to Parque Central, the main square in Granada where we cautiously walked around the somewhat dark and deserted park.
Monday, November 03
After another tasty breakfast at Hotel Dario where Robb made best friends with another Nicaraguan bird (this one not quite as extravagant as Silvio’s colorful parrot at the cigar factory yesterday), we walked over to Coldwell Banker to meet Guy and head out to the more remote side of the isletas where the islands are all “off the grid” and need wind or solar power. Guy had told us that this side of the lake had better views of Mombacho and was just a few minutes further away.
Robb promptly decided that we should go into the local store at the Marina for supplies (Tona beers and sunscreen) before heading out so that we didn’t get dehydrated. This was an excellent idea (although the store ended up not having sunscreen which is weird for a marina store that did have hair color and condoms…whatever). We hopped in the boat that Guy arranged and headed out on the much prettier side of the lake.
We ended up motoring around the lake on a gorgeous, sunny day stopping at one fairly large, raw isleta that Robb and Cathy actually liked and had some potential.
Just in case anyone is interested in real-estate in Granada, Guy was… a great guy and we really enjoyed the time we spent with him and his knowledge of the area.
After the boat trip, Guy took us to the new supermarket in Granada where we picked up some road supplies as well as all investing in what he called the Nicaraguan Wonder Drug for colds Tabcin. Cindy panicked when she couldn’t find her cordobas but eventually found them hidden somewhere in her wallet and we left with our munchies, juice and Flor de Cana Rum for the roadtrip to Ometepe Island. Guy dropped us off at Hotel Dario and our original taxi guy who drove us from Managua to Granada a couple days ago was smiling and waiting for us ready to shuttle us off on the hour and a half drive to San Jorge where you catch the ferry to Ometepe Island.
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