Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And The Beach Goes On..... San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Our shuttle arrived right on time Friday morning to take us to Granada for our weekend visit.  Determining the best method of transportation here is like any other Latin country with the options of local busses, shuttles, or private drivers.  Each country has their own nuances and pricing parameters so it's a must to study them before determining what's best for you.

Here the local busses are usually discarded American school busses and are truly "chicken" busses.  In the other countries we've been to, they are more like Greyhound tour busses and are very comfortable with under bus storage for luggage and large purchases rather than thrown on top of the bus.  So our decision to take a nice 12 person shuttle van for $12 per person one way was still cost effective for us but way more comfortable and it was door to door service!

We arrived an hour and a half later and caught up with Marti and Steve as they were walking home from their home that they're buying, which is in the final stages of construction.  A wonderful reunion! 

We spent the afternoon walking around town doing errands with them before getting ready for our evening out.  Met up the crew of expats at the Grill House, as usual, dinner at Margarita's for BBQ ribs (yumm!), and then to the Garden Café for a wonderful concert of melodic guitar playing and singing in the garden.  There were about 100 in attendance (sold out venue) and a grand time was had by all!!

Video of music:

A wonderful musician/song writer!

A very good picture of Marti, Steve, Me & Mike having a grand ol' time!

The wife of the young man and a beautiful voice, as well!

Dessert Time at Eskimo!


After a very quiet and restful night's sleep, we all just took our lazy time getting into gear Saturday morning. It's awesome when you are guests but your hosts are as laid back as you are. We were all very comfortable being under the same roof. 

Another day of lots of walking doing errands including us going to the grocery store to buy the smoked ham and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.  We also picked up a few things that we haven't been able to find in San Juan del Sur so we were pleased about that.

Mike had wanted to get a massage from the wonderful lady I had raved about because massages are quite expensive at $35-$40/hour in SJDS compared to $22/hour including pool time in Granada, so off Mike and I went to the pool.  Mike ended up with a 90 min for $30 with Teo and I got a fabulous facial for $10. And, don't forget the $5 per person fee for the pool gets waived when you get the treatment.  Spectacular deal!!!

Marti and Steve joined us for a drink pool side a bit later so they were there when Mike came out looking like he'd been drugged.  He was literally feeling like jelly!  He now agrees with me that Teo is one of the BEST ever!! 

Jennifer's house warming party was Saturday night and two other couples (Corey & Dona; and, Sandy & Charlotte) were meeting us at Steve and Marti's for drinks before walking over to Jen's place.  It was an opportunity to get all dressed up and have pictures taken in front of the Owen's Christmas trees.  In fact, they turned out so well, I do think I'm going to use one of them for my Christmas cards this year!  Thanks for taking them of us, Marti!


Think I'll be using this for our Christmas card this year! 

Steve, Marti & Licorice!
The group at the pre party.

I want one of these!! 
The house warming party was a huge success! And, Jen should be very proud of her accomplishment in creating a lovely home.  It was an honor to be invited to her party and so glad it worked out that we could come back to be there.

The courtyard between the front of the house and the back.
Open air kitchen.

Dance balcony including the Disco Ball!!  That's Jennifer is the print dress.

The sala (living room).

Oh, and look at what we encountered on our way walking home that evening.  You just never know what you'll encounter that is so out of the norm from home!  Love it!!

Wow!! Glad we were walking on the other side of the street!

No, it's NOT Mike!! LOL

Another good night's sleep and quiet morning on Sunday before we packed up our gear and headed out to do a bit of shopping on the square before making our way back to Margarita's for a bit of football and lunch while waiting for the shuttle time.

Our shuttle picked us up on the corner at 1:30pm to head south again to San Juan del Sur.  We arrived home in time for our "usual" cocktail time and sunset on the veranda where we caught up with everything that went on over the weekend.  Seems like we didn't miss a whole lot except for a very active and controlling child. Yippee!! Our timing to be away was perfect!

Sunday night's sunset.

Renda had made a lovely surprise birthday cake with strawberries and whipped cream for Kim, which was enjoyed by everyone!  This is what's so special about living in and amongst some wonderful people here at Park Avenue Villas (

Chad, Kim, and Pam, Kim's sister from MN.

Chad, Kim, Renda, with Ralph trying to stage a picture.

Louis joined us for the Sunday night football game between the Patriots and Denver at Dorado's.  It was so enjoyable watching the two guys bantering back and forth.  Louis was routing for Denver, who romped the Patriots the first half, only to have Mike a very happy camper and giving it back to Louis when the Patriots came alive in the second half to tie it up and ultimately, winning in overtime.  A great game and fun evening!

Monday morning was the first time we saw a small luxury cruise ship in port.  What a contrast in amongst all the smaller boats.  It even brought along its own ski dos for the passengers and they were having a grand time out in the bay.  At 10am, Renda was teaching water aerobics at Pelican Eyes, a resort on the hill, so Mike and I rode along with her and Ralph way up the hill to the middle pool.  Only one other person, Buzz, showed up so it was a nice intimate class with stunning views of the bay! 

On our walk back to town, we stopped at a small hole in the wall where Mike ordered a case of beer (Victoria Frost, which Mike likes best) for only 428 Cordoba's or $17, which is only $.71 a bottle AND, when you turn in the case, you get 100 cords back so it's really like $13 or $.54 a bottle.  Now that's cheap!!

Monday evening over drinks on the veranda, we went over the Thanksgiving feast menu. This is my favorite meal of the year and with everyone chipping in and making wonderful food, I know it will be a wonderful event!  And, we reviewed the other events planned for the week, which indicates all evenings are filled with some fun times making for a busy, busy week!

Monday night's sunset.

Lots of flashback lighting up the sky.

Mike and I met up with a new friend, Heather, at Big Wave Dave's later Monday evening.  Heather was a good friend of our friends, Joan and Vic, in Salinas, Ecuador.  Heather had lived there for awhile but was now here.  It was great fun getting to know her!  The world is truly getting smaller and smaller as we make this journey.  Six degrees of separation seems to be getting less and less.

Our new friend, Heather!
This is part of the mural painted on the wall in Big Wave Dave's.  The couple dancing is Renda & Ralph Hewitt, our landlord's/friends/owners of Park Avenue Villas, along with other local expats that live in the area.

And, a few more surly expat dudes! LOL

We did a bit of grocery shopping on Tuesday but, in general, just another laid back day.  I was trying to stay calm before the main event last night of getting my Hummingbird tattoo.  It's been since 2005 when I got my rose tattooed on my ankle at a Blues concert in Winthrop, WA.  That one didn't hurt except for when it got really close to my ankle bone.

I shouldn't have worried in the slightest!!  All went better than expected and I came away with a gorgeous tattoo!! Simply love it!! 

I came prepared with my music and earphones so I could just zone out.  Guy Mark is a delightful young man from Egypt and along with his Argentinian girlfriend, they put me at ease right away.  Because Guy is such a great artist, I truly relied on his judgment as the expert.  He took my "sample" Hummingbird and drew a simplified but still flowing and elegant bird in black and white.  He said because I tan so darkly on my back and shoulders that he didn't recommend color as it would fade and I would ultimately not be happy.  So I trusted and had faith.

Once I approved of the drawing, he placed a stencil on my back and should, which I also had to approve.  Mike and I were both pleased with his placement and size.  He said he was going to be using black and grey to give it dimension, for me to just breath and relax, and to follow his direction when he wanted me to change position.

From the very beginning I could tell that this was NOT going to be a difficult process for me.  It just plain didn't hurt at all!!  It felt more like a constant buzzing irritation on my skin with the worst being a sensation of both cold and hot at the same time.  He had me change position 3 times each trying to stretch the skin out as tightly as possible.  It's a good thing I've been doing water aerobics, Renda!!

During the last 15 minutes, I fell dead asleep and he had to shake me several times to wake up. Now, that's being comfortable and zoning out!  Chad, Kim, and Pam had even come by and I had no idea Chad came into the small studio.  Guy said I was a very good client!  He was quite surprised that I never flinched, moaned, or groaned. And, he couldn't believe I fell asleep!  His girlfriend was amazed also.  She told me she had cried all the way through hers.  I guess after having a very hard labor for over 20 hours trying to give birth helps with the threshold of pain.

Anyway, I LOVE IT!!  So Mike and I went out to catch up with Chad, Kim, and Pam at Republika, where they were having Trivia night.  The place was packed and when seeing my cellophane covered back, I got many compliments on the new tat.  A successful, fun night!!  Mike loves it too, which is very important to me.  Even though he has no desire to have a tattoo, he never tried to talk me out of getting another one.

Freckled back & shoulder BEFORE.


Stencil close up.

Position 1

Position 2

Cellophane with masking tape for 2 hours AFTER.
What it looked like this morning. No soreness or swelling!! PERFECT!
Today we woke to no power, so Mike and I took a nice walk on the beach before it got hot. Of course, I had to wear a top that kept my new tat under cover.  But it's a glorious day, the power is back on after 5 hours off, I'm working on the blog, and my eggs are all cooked.  So I'll be making my deviled eggs in preparation for tomorrow's Thanksgiving Feast.
An expat dog walker with 6.

Don't know if it was coming out or going in.

A view of the north end of the bay and hill looking back from the south end.
I get to get dressed up tonight and show off my art. We're headed up the hill to Pelican Eyes with a group for a wonderful elegant dinner by the pool with some Nicaraguan dancers performing for us.  It should be fun!
Mike and I want to send our Thanksgiving good wishes to all of our US family and friends!  May your day of thanks be as wonderful as ours.  But we extend our good wishes to everyone no matter where you are.
So we keep adding more and more wonderful memories to this journey of ours with the knowledge that more will keep coming.  So, please, continue to follow along....

Thursday, November 21, 2013

LIFE'S A BEACH !!!!! San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

True to his word, tucker was there to pick up our luggage at 10am last Friday morning. Still needing to do some packing, tucker went home and Mike and I walked into town to drop off keys, do a little shopping, and have breakfast at the Garden cafe.

I had stopped into Ole the day before and spotted a short dress that I really liked so I tried it on and it fit like a glove. Can't wait to wear it!

And, Marti had been told us about this lady who had bags full of brand name clothing like Columbia camp shirts, etc. So off we went to find her on the square.  She wasn't there but everyone was so helpful in letting us know that her "stuff" was being "minded" by the lady running the souvenir shop.  Success!!!  Mike found 2 terrific shirts for $18/ea, when in the states they would be at least $45+.

A short cab ride over to Tucker's place and we were off to San Juan del Sur.  Mike was driving the Subaru and I the passenger.  Keep in mind that this is the first time he's driven since leaving the states in early July and it's a Latin American country! Of course, he did great without any near misses but it did get dicey when the rain came down in torrents and Tucker was still passing horse carts, bicycles, slow moving vehicles, people running across the highway, and 3 wheel taxis.  But, alas, we got here safely!

That's Tucker up ahead in his jeep and you can see the windmill farm to the left. Have just been informed that by 2017, Nicaragua plans on being completely self power through windmills & geothermal.  We like those plans!

We made a short stop at Tucker's new place to unload his stuff and a tour of the beautiful development of what I call "hobbit houses" with community pool and we were loaded back in the Subaru for Tucker to take us to our new home down by the beach in town.

Tucker, Mike, & Brian enjoying a cold one.

A short 5 min drive down the road and we were quickly at our place, unloaded and unpacked in our new "home" for the next month.  Park Avenue Villas ( is in a great location just on the northern edge of town and back a block off the beach on a quiet - did I say QUIET - dead end street.  After our horrific experience with our rental in Granada, we were soooo looking forward to peace and quiet and getting our first full night's sleep in a month!!

Front Entry and one side of PAV.

The view from the side. The big window is our bedroom.

Entry walk.

Center Pool where we do water aerobics 2-3 times a week.

Our first evening here, we gathered with a few expats at the local watering hole on the beach, Dorado's, got to know each other, had drinks and watched the sunset.  I was in absolute heaven!!

Gord & Elisha McKay, Kara, Glenn, & Mike at Dorado's right on the beach for sunset drinks.

Life truly doesn't get any better than this!!

Those greeting us upon our arrival have now become our friends, Renda, Ralph, Chad, and Kim. There is another couple from Halifax, Canada that are here for 5 months through the winter, Louis and Mandy, that have quickly become friends, as well. Kim and Chad just moved here 3 weeks ago and are working and living here with Renda and Ralph.  We all are enjoying each other's company and a community atmosphere has taken hold. 

We have truly settled in nicely and are enjoying our lazy laid back days.  We're back to our "normal" routine of enjoying being at home, doing our morning routine except that now I have my coffee on the veranda with the ocean view, walking on the beach, taking a dip in the pool in our complex, walking through town for groceries and to explore, but most of all gathering each evening to visit with our neighbors to catch up on our days, compare travel stories, talk about our expat experiences, and have a few drinks while watching the sunset.  Life just doesn't get much better than this!!

Chad, Kim, Mandy, Louis, Ralph, Renda, Mike, & Nate.

Saturdays there's a small "farmer's market" in Dave's restaurant in town so that's where we started our grocery shopping.  A bit more expensive but always good to support those expats peddling their wares.  For me the best is the smoked ham by Mark.  OMG, real home cooked smoked ham!! Awesome!

Yes, you're seeing correctly, a monkey. Actually, Mike didn't get a picture of the lady who owns them (there are 2). She's actually a sight to be seen, as well. A bit eccentric.

This is a 26 meter statute of Jesus and is the 2nd largest in the world just behind Brazil's.


As you can see, the bay is actually quite small.

The Main Square that is all blocked off on the weekends so the kids can play in the streets.

These are dancers on the beach.

Mike is still trying to figure out the best place to watch football.  Sunday he was at Dorado's, Monday night at Iguana's.  I think after dinner tonight we're going to go see what's up a the Bario Café.

Water aerobics are led in our pool by our host, Renda with many of us in attendance, a couple of times a week.  Even the guys are doing it and Mike even had some sore parts the next day. 

Tuesday saw the departure of a couple we had just met, Nate and Denise.  They were here on a week's vacation but had to get back to work in Long Beach.  Soooo, Mike and I took the opportunity to move into their apartment on the upper terrace.  The biggest reason was to get closer to the sunset cocktail veranda!  Actually, that was part of the reason but the internet is better up here closer to the router so that was the main reason. LOL  We also now have an ocean bay view from our dining table where I'm sitting now.  Happy Campers!!

Kim's sister and family are arriving this weekend and we will all celebrate Thanksgiving on the veranda next week overlooking the beautiful ocean bay.  After our fabulous Thanksgiving last year with a group of expats at Susan and Kerry Frank's place in Boquete, Panama, we were wondering how we would be spending the holiday this year especially after only arriving.  But this is how life as a traveling expat unfolds....friendship are quickly formed and you get folded into the lives of others.  Expats have such an open warm inviting personality and are always willing to share with those that are embarking on the same journey.

We have really been staying close to home but did meet up with Tucker one evening for a really good chicken and mashed potato meal and then ice cream at Eskimo's on the beach.  For 2 1/4 chicken meals that included rice, mashed potato's, and salad and Mike had his beer and I had my wine the total cost was a whopping $13!! And, the ice cream with 2 scoops in a cup for each of us was $2 total!

Watching the sunset with a huge rain storm out at sea. Awesome to watch!

After a wonderful exploratory walk along the beach and to the other side of the river yesterday afternoon, Mike and I made the decision that we were, for the very first time, going to look at some annual rental properties to get an idea if reality and our wish list are close together.  So next week, we hope to be able to see a few places.

Tonight we had a community BBQ so Mandy, Louis, Mike and I went into town and bought a huge slab of filet mignon to share with Kim and Chad.  My, oh my, was it ever good!! Nothing like BBQ grilled tender, very tender meat!!  Add mashed potato's and a cucumber/tomato balsamic salad and it's a real winner!

Tomorrow morning we will actually be traveling back to Granada via shuttle, as we've been invited to a house warming party.  Steve Owen returned from the states on Tuesday, so we will be staying with him and Mardi in their guest room.  This will also let us get together for the Friday expat gathering and attend a concert at The Garden Café. So looking forward to it!

So our first week was a success and we are thoroughly enjoying our location and surroundings.  I caught a cold but it seems to be passing pretty quickly this time and hasn't kept me from enjoying life.  Oh, and I've got a surprise for next week.  So stay tuned as our journey continues.....