Monday, October 28, 2013

Granada, Nicaragua !! Tuesday, October 15 - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In order to get here as inexpensively as possible, Mike and I flew from Lima, Peru to Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Spirit Airline for only $265 each, then spent 2 nights in Ft. Lauderdale where we did some mailing to family and received mail at the hotel before boarding a flight on Tuesday, October 15 for a 2.5 hour direct flight to Managua, Nicaragua for only $93 each. A great way to stretch the travel budget if you can travel light on the luggage!

Upon arriving, we passed through customs with no glitches, as usual, bags in hand, we were out and immediately saw our driver with my name on a card. Julio was terrific and quickly had us loaded into the car and off we went toward Granada. We never did go through the center of Managua, so can't tell anyone about it!

The front of the Managua airport.
Turns out, Julio speaks very good English having actually grown up in the states. He now lives here with his wife and 2 children but dreams of sending his children back for higher education and job opportunities. 

Once we got half way to Granada, allot of it was familiar from our last trip there in April. But before he took us to our home, he was nice enough to offer to stop at the grocery store, LaUnion, so we could do some quick shopping. It's always painful learning a new store and not knowing what they carry or where things are, but most of all not knowing where is the best place to buy things. Julio was terrific in helping us sort it all out.

A city roundabout with statue.

A short ride, nothing is very far here, and we were quickly ushered into our new home, Casa Serenita. It's a historical old colonial home only 2 blocks from the main plaza. It has 14' ceilings, 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, kitchen, dining room, TV room, small courtyard, and a HUGE living room!  We loved it on site and it was better in person than on the website. But every place has it's quirks, as I will explain in a bit. But the best part is that this place finally has plenty of storage and room to really unpack. For the first time in a long time, things made sense with where they were!! So refreshing!

Our living room.

Our family/TV room.

Kitchen with open wall to courtyard on right. Doorway to master bedroom/bath on left.

The courtyard with door to 2nd bedroom and bath/laundry.

Master Bedroom.

Master Bathroom.
Dining room with entry to courtyard.

Small courtyard.

Guest bedroom.

Living room & front door.
House from street. The gray & white defines the house.

House & street view. 

So once unpacked, groceries put away, and connected to the wifi, we were ready for a drink and something to eat. We decided not to cook our first night here, so off we went to discover what was around us. Ha! We certainly didn't get very far!!  Only one block up is Kelly's Bar & restaurant and it looked quite inviting, so in we went. 

Two glasses of white wine (vino blanco), 2 Tona beers, cheese burger, and quesadillas for a total of $23 and we were feeling much better!  Not a bad place to have so close to home. Thing is EVERYTHING is close to home and that's very dangerous! Lol

After an evening getting used to (haha!) the busy street corner we're on, off to bed we went hoping that the mattress was somewhat comfortable. We slept maybe 4 hours when the noise on the street started again. 

Being in a colonial city means that your homes are literally on the sidewalk and street. No yard, no setback, nothing. It also means that your home is built out of concrete block with no glass windows. Your windows are decorative block with large openings and decorative railings over them for security. Which also means that the noise comes straight into the home and bounces around and echoes EVERYWHERE!  To the point of not being able to hear yourself think!! This is a major intersection and a school right across the street. Busy is being polite. 

Anyway, we stuck it out in bed until 6:30am but then got up and started our usual morning routine of exercises, catching up with friends and Facebook, reading the news on line, and having my morning coffee. I must say, having my first cup of good brewed coffee was wonderful !

It was now time to go explore!  We found the main plaza and the main entertainment street of Calzado only 2 blocks away. We walked down one side and up the other. Found where we could book our shuttle to our next location very inexpensively and where we could get a 90 minute massage for $25 each!  Actually, $15/hour for a massage is fairly common here. That's great as long as it's a decent massage!

Street view look up to the main square from our front door.

 The beginning of the Calzado with all of the restaurants, bars, & shops are located 2 blocks from our home.

A typical street in the Colonial District.

The Imagine Bar.

The National Cathedral on the main square.

A courtyard inside a shopping area.

The old fashioned way for delivery.

Side view of Guadalupe cathedral.

Front view of Guadalupe cathedral.

Lobby of Hotel Granada.
We also scoped out the cost of using the pool at Hotel Granada at the end of Calzado for only $7/day. There was still another hotel pool that we wanted to compare before deciding where to go. Having access to a pool is very important to us. Being in a warm climate that we want still means being able to cool off and bring the body temperature down but also the soothing things a pool brings. 

We then walked up to the main plaza and enjoyed the sights and sounds of all that was going on before heading to the bank, then down to the Mercado for vegetables. This Mercado was unlike any of the others we've been to. This must be the way they all were many years ago. A veritable maze of small little open air shops all crushed together to create an eerie, way too tight, suffocating feeling!  It was very disorienting and claustrophobic for me!  But we had some success in getting things we were still looking for at decent prices. 

The beginning of the park along Lake Nicaragua.

View looking west from Calzado to the main square.

Part of the main square. 

 Walking inside a narrow corridor of the Mercado.
Lots of crowded stalls.

One of the roads from the Mercado.
On the way down to the Mercado, we had stopped at several places on he street to try and get cell service but kept finding that they didn't have a small chip for my iPhone. We were finally told to go the main Claro store up on the plaza, so off we went only to find out that they didn't carry them either. Pretty frustrating.

But, Mike insisted that we try Movistar, whose the other carrier that has been in other countries too but usually doesn't have the best coverage, so we've been told. So we went across the street and, sure enough, they had the small chip!  So for the cheapest cost yet in all of Latin America, I got a SIM card and minutes for only $5!  Mike bought a cheap throw away Nicaraguan $20 phone to replace his iPhone and a $5 SIM card. 

Back home to cool off under our ceiling fans, as we have no air conditioning, working on the blog, and cooking dinner before trying to get a better night's sleep. Ha, NOT!

Thursday was spent at home until Maria came, as Mike had a touch of tummy something. Not all that unusual when you travel the way we do changing locations this often. It was also interesting because it's the first time we've had a cleaning lady included in our rent. Maria will be coming 3 times a week!  With an open air home you get a whole lot more dust and stuff swirled around inside and with all tile floors, keeping those mopped, is a full time job!

So off we went to get massages at Coco Berry, the spa that we found on Calzado the day before where you could get a 90 min. massage for $25.  No problem to be a walk in at this time of year.  Mike and I were given the husband/wife treatment in the same room.  Mike loved his massage but mine wasn't relaxing at all and I wouldn't go back.

Inside lobby of Coco Berry Spa.
That evening we ventured out to find Thursday night football since Seattle was playing. We found it at Margarita Bar. Not exactly the place to buy decent wine but it was ok for watching Seattle win!  Mike is finding that going out to have a beer is about as cheap as buying it at the grocery store. Kinda nice!  And, my wine has been between $2.50 - $3.60 a glass but about $7-8 in the store, and it's usually decent wine. Liking these prices allot!  

By Friday, I had a touch of tummy issue and couple that with the lack of sleep, we were getting a bit cranky!  Also, we were staying close to home and not venturing out much. Not a totally bad thing as I needed to catch up on the blog and we had just had 5 weeks of non stop going. But not feeling well really sucks no matter where you are.

But, Friday evening is the expat get together at the Grill House, and I was NOT going to miss it. I was also finally going to be able to meet Steve and Marti Owen, Facebook friends that I've been in touch with for quite sometime. It was a fun get together and we met some great people. We were then invited to dinner and ate at a Mediterranean place, el Camello, the Camel. Good food, good times!

The Grill House courtyard.

Meeting Marti for the first time and the rest of the expat crew.

The full harvest moon!

By Saturday morning when we again did not get a full night's sleep, we decided to drop in our property manager's office to see if we could possibly move into something in a quieter neighborhood.  Elizabeth didn't hesitate to try. So off we walked 4 blocks down toward the lake and visited a much smaller 2 bedroom house.  Unfortunately, we decided it wasn't going to work - it was more expensive, had a very small kitchen and not well stocked, we would have had to pay extra for internet, and there were no real closets or places in the bathrooms for our "stuff".  Actually, there was almost no storage at all in this home. The only other homes she had were way above our price range and we weren't willing to do that.

We spent the rest of Saturday trying to rest and I worked on the blog.  It did turn out to be a productive day after all since I had much to catch up on.

Sunday we actually woke after having a fairly good night's rest.  Amazing!  So with extra spunk, I worked some more on the blog and decided to take the plunge and "upgrade" from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.  That turned out to be a disaster with my computer loosing much of its functionality.  Arggggg!!!!  So I spent the rest of Sunday trying to fix it while Mike went up to Margarita's to watch Sunday football with several expats.  He had a much better day than me!!  LOL

I continued to spend most of Monday trying to fix the computer but still couldn't get my Outlook email or IE 11 to work no matter what I did.  Oh, and the "upgrade" had wiped out all of my Restore points to I couldn't even undo what I did!!  A truly frustrating day!!  At least I had my iPad and iPhone to fall back on. 

The silver lining in all of this was that I was forced to learn new tricks on my iPad and I learned a whole lot about Windows 8 that I didn't know and, once I could get it fixed, I was going to like better than using the desktop version.  Mike also learned how to connect with his Nikon to the wifi on our iPads so we could download all of the pictures I needed to do the blog on the iPad.  So see, it really wasn't a total waste of time.  But, it was truly learning the hard way!!

By Tuesday afternoon, I was so totally over trying to fix it myself so I reached out via my Expat Group in Facebook and found a couple of names to contact for help.  Once I knew where I was going to take it, we decided it was time to really take a break.  So off to the pool at Granada Hotel & Spa!!

This is a different hotel with a spa that allows you to use the pool on a daily basis for only $5/ea and if you get a spa treatment of $10 or more, the pool price is waived.  Unfortunately, when we got there the spa was fully booked for their $10 facial so we just paid for the pool.  What a great way to spend a leisurely relaxing afternoon in the sun!!  There's an inexpensive restaurant & bar on the premises so I ordered a $2.75 Bloody Mary the moment we got there!!  Our whole tab for the day with 2 drinks each and lunch was $17!!  Oh, and the pool is delightful along with the resident ducks.  LOL  We later found out that the hotel was previously the home of one the Nicaraguan Presidents.

The hotel is owned by a CA artist and the furniture is all art that is very comfortable!

The "original" walls.

An infinity edge to the pool.

The wire ants walking along the wall.

Another view of the pool.

It was a great day and we certainly will be back!!  A nice option to have when you don't have your own pool or beach to go to.

Our journey continues to unfold so stay tuned ....


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