Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week Three ... Life Settles In - Granada, Nicaragua

October 30 - November 5, 2013

The alarm went off at 6:30 am, as instructed, on Wednesday, October 30th. We had made arrangements through Tierra Tours to discover Leon, a city of 390,000 and a 2.5 hour drive from Grenada. Just being the 4 of us, Steve & Marti Owen and Mike & me, it was the equivalent of a private tour. Fabulous!!

Our driver, Roberto, helped us into the van and off we went at 8:30 am.  And, true to their word, 2.5 hours later we pulled up in front of the tour company's office in Leon.  Sure didn't seem like that long because the four of us talked all the way.  Meeting new friends and finding that you have so much in common and never at a loss for words, makes our journey even more rewarding.

Momotombo Volcano

Momotombito Volcanoe
A little traffic jam on the highway.

Our English speaking guide, Franklin "Frank", was terrific!  And, he brought along Dan, who was a guide in training.  So our merry group was off to see the sights with the first stop being in a small barrio of Leon called Sutiaba.  Here we learned that Sutiaba was actually established before Leon in 1610 by 7 families that fled here just before the impending eruption of the Momotombo volcano, which lies on the edge of Lake Managua.

We were shown a mural painted by local artists that depict the history of the area, the main square with the cathedral built in 1710, and the 600 year old tree where a warrior was hanged. 

The mural is painted on the outside of a school wall.



This 600+ year old tree fell in Hurricane Mitch in 2008.

From there we climbed up a rudimentary dirt and gravel road, reminding us of back home.  To Steve and Marti, we were really "off roading" it.  Just seems normal to us.  LOL

But once up on top, we found an old fort built in the 1800's but continually used through the last revolution in the 1980's including its prison. Horrible conditions!

One of the dungeons.  They would just keep pushing people in until they were standing shoulder to shoulder and then shove some more in. Sad conditions.

Names of some of the Freedom Fighters during the revolution.

Marti Owen & Me

There currently is a man who makes his home up there that is a revolutionary from that war.  He lives there with his "peligueys", a cross between a goat and a sheep. Had never heard of them before.  You look at them and you expect a goat sound to come out so when it sounds like a sheep's "baaaa", we were quite surprised!!  They're soooo cute and we're told the meat is very good.  Nope, not going there!

As this is one of the highest points in the area, the view that you get is INCREDIBLE!!  We saw 11 volcanoes on the mountain range - Chonco, San Cristobal, Casita, Telica, San Jacinto, Rota, Cerro Negro, El Hoyo, Pilas, Momotombo, and Momotombito! Mouth dropping gorgeous and our day was clear and bright to see them all!

Traversing the back road down, we saw an area that was actually only settled over the last 2 years.  They get  their small tracts of land, usually they then put up rudimentary shacks to live in until they can then build a small home out of brick.  Again, as we witnessed when we first visited Nicaragua back in April, they may not have much money but they have pride and dignity which shows in the way they maintain their property.

We were then dropped off for an hour to have lunch in town right off the main square. And, then it was time to walk around about a 4 block area seeing the square, the location where 4 students were murdered, helping cause the revolution, the Cathedral, another mural, and La Merced church.  Enjoy the pictures!!


Courtyard of restaurant.


The corner where 4 students were killed on July 23, 1959, which began the revolution.


Mural depicting the murders of the 4 students.


This Cathedral plans were shipped from Spain but they received the ones that we supposed to be shipped to Lima.  So Lima's Cathedral is smaller than the one here in Leon.  It was designated as a Unesco site two years ago and is under a painstaking restoration project.


We were able to climb up to the roof for some fantastic views and to see the restoration up close.

A great friendship! Mike, me, Marti & Steve.






Another mural depicting the history of Nicaragua.

La Merced Cathedral.




The oldest university in Central America.



While waiting for Roberto to come pick us up for our return ride back to Granada, we happened upon a high school parade.  Traffic was brought to a stop so there was nothing to do but enjoy it, which we did!!

Not finding Roberto anywhere after the parade was finished, we walked back to the tour office and waited there.  It wasn't long before he found us and off we went for our 2.5 hour ride home.  But, we didn't get far before we ran into the parade again and had to sit and wait for it to pass.  Was kind of fun to see the "green" dancers again!!

A long but wonderful day discovering and exploring!  We all agreed that we much prefer Granada over Leon.  Granada has more open wider green spaces, the streets also are wider, there aren't as many people, the sidewalks are in much better condition and wider, and the whole feel is a much more inviting vibe. 

We've gotten into the habit of going to the pool rather than hanging out at home due to the heat and the noise at our place.  We're glad that there is that option that makes our month much more enjoyable!  And on Thursday, Marti & Steve joined us for the first time. 

Thursday was also Halloween, so Steve & Marti came to our place for drinks first and then we set off into town to see what was going on.  We know we had made mention to them and many others about how loud it was at our place, but not until they came over and we literally couldn't talk to each other for about a half hour until the noise went away a bit, did they truly believe the level of the noise. 

Halloween isn't really a big deal here so we just sat at a restaurant on the Calzado and had dinner and drinks.  Called it a fairly early night.

Mike woke up with swollen eyes and a swollen and itchy ear Friday morning. What is it with all this little piddly stuff?? Getting so tired of it!  The rest of the day was much the same.  Went to the pool after our morning routine and lunch at home.  And, the evening expat get together at the Grill House. 

When Mike woke with his continued ailments Saturday, he made an appointment to go see the doctor that afternoon. Diagnosis for him...allergies in the eyes and a low grade throat infection causing the ears to swell and itch. $16 for doctor's visit and $18 for meds with an appointment for ear cleaning on Monday.

November 2 is Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos IS a big deal here, as in all of Latin America.  The first thing we noticed when walking over to Steve & Marti's place for drinks Saturday evening was a huge clown face in front of Kelly's Bar, one block from our home.  Looked like things were going to be rockin there for the night.  Oh boy, that meant we were certainly not going to get much sleep that night!!  And, we didn't...

After having drinks at the Owen's home on the river, we walked up to Hotel San Francisco, where Nancy Bergman, the owner, was having a Day of the Dead celebration.  A wonderful alter had been set up with pictures of those that have passed to honor them on this day.  Not having a printer, we couldn't contribute to this tradition but many who had been in our lives were thought of by Mike and me.


Just me.

Marti & me having a great time!

Mike was a bit under the weather but it didn't keep him from having a good time.

Steve had wanted to watch the FSU v. Miami college game Saturday evening, so after the party wound down, off we went to Margarita's to do so.  Several others who had been at the gathering had the same thought, so we had a nice group to hang out with.  But, the best part of the evening was discovering that Margarita's cooks up the best bbq ribs I've had since leaving the states!  OMG, to die for!!!  They might not have good wine but I'll get over that for ribs!!

Since Sunday is Mike's day for football and it's always more fun to watch with others, Steve and Mike had decided to go back to Margarita's.  Marti and I, on the other hand, decided it was time for a girl's day and we headed over to the pool and to get massages.  Since the pool fee is included in the $22/one hour massage, it's a bargain!

And, OMG it was the BEST massage of all time for me!  A combination relaxing massage, reflexology, and chiropractic adjustments and I was floating away feeling like a totally new person.  Definitely having a couple more before leaving this beautiful town!!

Marti, on the other hand, had a decent massage administered by a blind man.  That's a new one for me and her. 

After a bit by the pool and bar drinks, we headed down to see the guys.  By the time we got there, Steve had left to go home for a nap, so we all just hung out and watched the Seahawks v Tampa Bay game.  And, the Patriots on the other screen.

We were up early Monday morning due to the noise but would have been woken up anyway by "Gerald", our whistling night watchman.  He was looking for a payment for chasing away a few guys who were loitering in front of our place during the night and acting "suspicious".  Told him we would contact our management company.  As suspected, it's a shakedown to get money from the "newbies" for "protection".  We will be telling him this evening that the management company wants him to come by their office.  Let them be the bad guys, not us.

The noise outside our house on Monday was more than I could bear. I think I'm over tired and with computer issues, it's just sending me over the top. I just want to go out on our front sidewalk and scream at the top of my lungs!!!  The noise is driving me to go very mad and I'm a very cranky woman because I can't hear myself think.  Yesterday was 3 full weeks and we have a week and a half left.  Sure hope I don't slit my wrists by then!

Mike had his ear cleaning appointment Monday afternoon, which was a success and I stayed home with Calvin trying to get my computer bug worked out. After a 6 hour scan, only one "virus" was found and it turned out to be an old archived Java file. Go figure... So on Tuesday morning, Calvin was here trying to fix it before we met up with our guide for our Isletas Tour.

We haven't had rain now for a week, which means rainy season is definitely coming to an end.  That also means that it won't be as humid. So yesterday turned out to be an absolutely stunning beautiful day to spend the day outside on the water.

Luis met us all, Mike & me and Steve & Marti, to take his boat out through the Isletas (350 of them) for our own private picture taking event.  It was fantastic to have the boat all to ourselves and could direct Luis exactly where we wanted him to go for the best pictures.  The monkeys were definitely a highlight!! 

Our guide, Luis, holding the Banana flower pod.

Showing us the Banana flower after it opens. Gorgeous!!

Wash day.

Fresh fish caught for dinner!

And this is how they fish.

Beautiful skyline from the Lake.

The water was like glass!

Mombacho Volcano in the background.

Island home owned by the family who runs the newspaper.



Today was the first day that we both had our hair in pony tails.  So much easier and cooler.

We were then deposited on an island at the restaurant Punta Corre Viento for lunch.  We had really wanted to take a swim in their pool there but it didn't look so inviting and we certainly weren't going to swim in the Lake, which is where all of the locals go.  Sorry, just not our thing.  But we did see lots of swimmers and clothes washers and baths with teeth brushing going on. So the concept of having lunch and taking a leisure swim with the views of the islands beyond us was a beautiful vision, the reality was less so.  Nonetheless, we had a great time and a good lunch!

Our restaurant. Looks better from the water than it really is.

A beautiful flowering bush called a Disciplina and looks like beautiful brains.

Trust me...looks better than it is.

Sort of sums it all up! LOL

Show offs!

We all ended the day by going to the Granada Hotel at the end of the Calzado and swimming in their luxurious quiet beautiful pool with our own private waiter bringing us drinks pool side.  A truly great day, again!!  It was also a time to say "See Ya Later" to Steve, as he was heading out this morning early to go back to Nashville to see his ailing mom.  See you in San Juan del Sur, Steve, and have a nice chilly visit.

Thanks for putting up with all of the pictures but it truly does say more than I can in words.

I'd also like to invite you to view Steve & Marti Owen's website as he's a fantastic photographer !!

And, so the journey continues to unfold. Please stay tuned for more.....

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