Granada Day 2

With limited time in Granada we had to choose our day’s options carefully. I had read cool things about the Laguna Apoyo, which is a giant lake that was created when a volcano collapsed on itself and the ground and rainwater fillled up the crater. The tour from Hostal Oasis left at 10 am so we went to a kiosk in el Parque Central for breakfast. I still can’t believe how cheap things are here, my breakfast of rice & beans, fried eggs, tortillas and salad cost about $2.40.

It was a pretty quick ride to the Laguna from central Granada, maybe 45 minutes tops. We were dropped off at the entrance to the sister hostel of the one we were staying at in town and were given a brief introduction of how things worked at the bar, for using the kayaks the hostel provided, etc.

20120524-084532.jpg

The description of Laguna Apoyo at the hostel and what I read o the Internet didn’t prepare use for the size and sight of the lake. Compared to the bustle of Granada the peace and tranquility of the lagoon was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of the city. There was a small platform not too far a swim from shore which I was determined to take a few running dives off of.

20120523-214936.jpg

The six hours spent at Laguna Apoyo went by very quickly, but long enough to get some good swimming in, kayak around for an hour and enjoy some frosty beverages. The water was crystal clear and just the right temperature for swimming.

20120524-084955.jpg

20120524-085023.jpg

20120524-085056.jpg

20120524-085139.jpg

20120524-085202.jpg

We had passed a cigar shop on the ride out that I had read about that who show you how cigars were made and let you roll one of your own. This sounded like a fabulous idea to Clark and I so after getting back to Granada we made a pit stop at the hostel and set off back out.

20120524-085305.jpg

Doña Elba’s cigars is located in the Xalteva neighborhood of Granada, about a ten minute walk from our hostel. This is somewhat of a tourist attraction but enough out of the way that accidental discovery by folks who aren’t actually seeking good cigars won’t end up there. There’s was an old picture of Arnold Schwarzenneger with the owners on the wall so the place is pretty legit. They let you see the process of how their cigars are rolled and then let you roll your own.

20120524-085408.jpg

20120524-085425.jpg

20120524-085443.jpg

20120524-085507.jpg

20120524-085524.jpg

20120524-085541.jpg

20120524-085610.jpg

Having experienced a dinner fail finding dinner the night before we decided to head back to the local market and procure some ingredients to make dinner at he hostel. On the walk bak we passed by La Iglesia De Merced. For $1 they let you climb the 70 steps to the top of the bell tower where you can get great views of the city.

20120524-085932.jpg

20120524-085950.jpg

20120524-090008.jpg

20120524-090033.jpg

20120524-090050.jpg

20120524-090118.jpg

Advertisements

The water is out but the wifi is on…….

Well, the water was only out for most of the day, luckily we spent the better part of the day exploring Granada’s streets. The Parque Central is the main square area of the Centro Turistico where we’re staying. The cathedral is located right at the park and from there the streets radiate out from the city center.

20120522-080612.jpg

There are tons of stalls set up selling souvenirs, tour guides vying for your business and a lot of horse drawn carriages in which you can bumpily tour the city. The carriage tour could have been romantic but the horses seemed in rough shape and the smell was pretty pungent that none of us were up for it.

20120522-080810.jpg

We wandered around a bit until finding a suitable place to eat breakfast before getting the day started. A typical breakfast consists of a juice, coffee, pinto gallo (rice and beans) and eggs and toast

20120522-080919.jpg

Having already wandered around the central area near the park the previous night and that morning, we took a different direction after breakfast and ended up at the municipal market which was a wandering maze of stalls selling everything from clothes and hardware to raw meat, vegetables, and everything in between. Think of it as a mix between a farmers’ market mixed with a swap meet and having the one stop shopping convenience of a Walmart. Laura just about lost her breakfast walking through the meat section, the smell was pretty atrocious and it was an unnerving thought that perhaps this is where the restaurants get their food from as well as the locals. Seeing someone waving flies off fish that’s sitting on a counter in 80° heat was interesting. I actually enjoyed the assault on my senses, the competing smells, the people, cars and motorbikes everywhere….the controlled chaos of it all was exactly what I look for in traveling to strange places.

20120522-081136.jpg

20120522-081158.jpg

20120522-081243.jpg

Our self guided tour took up a good portion of the afternoon and the heat and humidity started building up enough that a few old drinks of the adult variety and a dip in the pool at the hostel seemed like a great plan. Clark and I stopped in a small store near the hostel and picked up a small bottle of rum, a bottle of coke and two beers for about $5.50.

20120522-081425.jpg

20120522-081444.jpg

20120522-081504.jpg

Now the hardest part about winging it starts..it’s our second full day, where do we go next!? We’ve got several options so Nica is our oyster right now…as soon as we can get Laura out of bed. Below are a few more photos from our day in Granada.

20120522-084521.jpg

20120522-084643.jpg

20120522-084703.jpg

20120522-084730.jpg

20120522-084753.jpg

20120522-084832.jpg

Cerveza….Nica style

Clark and I (and Laura) are, well…..beer snobs. We like tasty beers that are high in alcohol content as a pleasant consequence of their brewing process. Nicaragua does not have these kinds of beers. What they do have are a couple major brands and some variations thereof. So for the rest of you here’s our take on the following four beers:

20120521-215853.jpg

First up, Brahva:
Laura “That’s disgusting…it’s bad…it smells bad and sour. It’s acidic, under carbonated and looks like piss. If you’re going to make a bad beer at least carbonate it”

Clark: “Sour on the nose, and it tastes like sour corn.”

I must note that he then made a terrible face and shook his head in a way that meant he’s not finishing what we have

Frank “Anything that comes after this has to be better. The lack of taste is only made worse by the time that you get the taste that exists….ugh”

Next Victoria:
Laura is still making a face from the Bravha and has decided to get in the pool.

Clark: “Better colder. Better than the Bravha. There’s nothing offensive about it, the warmer it gets the worse it gets. ”

Frank: “Better out of the bottle, their slogan is Excellence In Quality Since 1926…..they probably need another 86 years to work on it”

So next is our go to so far, Toña:
Clark: “It’s the better of them, plenty of carbonation. Also better cold”

Frank: “The heat here warms the beer up quickly, not great for weak tasting beers to begin with. Out of the bottle is the way to go, drink quickly”

Last up is not a Nicaraguan beer, it’s a Guatemalan one called Gallo:
Clark: “Almost no aroma, not much of a taste to it”

Frank: “Holy shit, it’s almost clear. Nothing special. Almost like a weird pepper after taste.

So after not much deliberation, the Toña is the clear winner so long as its cold and preferably served out of a bottle.

Toña time!

Alarm goes off at 6:45 am RVA time, 2 hour drive to DC to park the car near Dulles where we met our friend Christie to drive us to Reagan National where we were flying out of. Not the most convenient of ways the start a trip but when you get a good deal sometimes you to need to sacrifice.

The trip over was pretty uneventful in itself, in fact things went a little too smoothly easing in country. We breezed through customs and our driver that we arranged for was waiting for us right outside of the door to exit the terminal. The first thing I noticed upon getting outside was the humidity and a smell that Clark described as “not the most effervescent”… But really it smelled pretty bad, like we were the villains in Back to the Future and somehow landed directly into a pile of manure.

20120520-234237.jpg

The ride to our first stop of the trip was a lot quicker than expected….maybe because our driver was taking the speed limit as a suggestion. We got to Granada and got dropped off at the hostel, checked in to our room (2 double beds, private bathroom..$11.25 per person) and got directly into a hammock with a nice cold Toña. This place looks pretty nice, has free wifi, a swimming pool, an honor system more or less for buying beer and cheap food served in house.

20120520-234336.jpg

Normally I’d be all about wandering around the area right away but getting lost around here doesn’t seem wise on the first night. I’d heard that Managua was really sketchy, Granada less so but we heard it’s a take a taxi if going out at night kind of place, that remains the be seen but the first night we won’t test it. So our first night is going to be spent in the hostel having beers and relaxing……..so I should probably get off the Internet.

20120520-235048.jpg
Lam and Harms – there’s beer in that tea cup

20120520-235158.jpg
Clark & Laura

Vamos Pronto!

If there is one thing that is consistent with this blog it’s the inconsistency of my updates. Hopefully that is going to change with the upcoming trip to Nicaragua. I’ve decided to get slightly flashpacker on this trip and bring along my new iPad to keep up with the blog. This could end up being a terrible idea and I have horrible visions of a torrential downpour soaking it. I’m the guy who went snorkeling in Belize for an hour an a half with my camera in my pocket so already odds are not good for my electronics.

It still hasn’t quite soaked in that the four of us will be leaving in four days. Despite my previous post about not planning I’ve already gone into planning mode…..sort of….just in case.

Only the hotel and transport for the first few nights have been taken care of so there is definitely an element of the unknown once we head for Isla de Ometepe. I’ve read that the transportation here is semi reliable at best and the schedules are open to interpretation. There could be lots of walks in our future, unforeseen unexpected long hot walks. Luckily everyone going is up for adventure.

I’ll be posting stories and photos just about every day so long as there is wifi access and power, which could be intermittent at best, so please keep checking back, commenting and enjoying the trip along with us!

Aventura Nueva Viene!

It seems like forever since the last trip abroad even though it’s been barely a year. Truth be told I get itchy feet almost immediately when arriving back home, the hyper-reality of short term jaunts abroad does give you a bit of a high. The last trip taken was to Panama and Colombia, both fantastic places to visit, both of which I’d return to. Almost everyone we met expressed shock that we hadn’t gone or weren’t going to Bocas Del Toro so I feel I have to put it on the list, and due to a super bad heat rash that kept me inside during the daytime for almost the entire visit to Cartagena I’m definitely going back there.

This year we’re going to Nicaragua. I didn’t really know very much about Nica until researching for our trip, I was a kid during the Iran Contra business and back then I was as interested in politics and foreign policy as I am now in the goings on of the Jersey Shore crew. Needless to say the 80’s are over and from all accounts Nicaragua is a budget friendly (and mostly safe) place to visit and I’m looking forward to the adventure. The reactions I get when telling people we’re going to Nicaragua range from “Oh yeah, my ex cousin’s brother went there and loved it” to the “Aren’t you guys afraid of getting kidnapped or something”.  I live in Richmond, VA which just 7 years ago was listed at the 5th most dangerous city in the US and the 12th most dangerous metropolitan area. Nicaragua has changed since the revolution and democracy in the 90’s and while it still may not be Disneyland suffice it to say I still occasionally hear gunshots and people get robbed in my neighborhood and I don’t even live in the “bad” section so… it can be sketchy anywhere and I’m looking forward to visiting Nicaragua to see what the truth on the ground is.

This will be the first trip to a third world country and the first where I haven’t tried to plan out every last detail. This trip could go really well or the loose planning method may not turn out to be such a hot idea, but as with any travel you never know until you go! I’ve only got the transport from the airport and our first three nights lodging booked. Due to the tight time restrictions we’re limited to 2-3 destinations. Currently selected are the Spanish colonial city of Granada, the Isla de Ometepe and the river town of El Castillo.  I imagine Granada will be a bit like Cartagena, Colombia architecturally however with that slightly rundown charm Central/South American cities have. I’m mostly excited about Isla De Ometepe however the river trip up to El Castillo looks really cool and it’s a decidedly less touristy place to soak up the real flavor of rural Nicaragua.

So what is there to do in Nicaragua? The city of Granada boasts some of the best preserved Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas, so I expect there will be quite a lot of wandering around the city, eating from street vendors and soaking in the sights.  With six main churches and the fort of La Polvora I expect to fill a couple days quite nicely. On Isla de Ometepe there’s hikes up the active volcano, kayaking, renting motorbikes or bicycles to explore the island with and taking time in to just relax at one of the hostel/bars on the lake. As for El Castillo, it looks like an extremely low key destination, probably the place to wind down the trip and take stock of life, the universe and everything. Getting there will definitely be most of the adventure so whether it’s by ferry, chicken bus, river boat, puddle jumper or combination of all you can be sure I’ll be writing about it.

Vamos!

Love Affair – Day 21 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling. 

Everyone has heard of hostel hook ups, it’s part of the fun of traveling when you’re single. There’s no sense of anything other than the present, there’s no expectations or chances to get to know someone quite well enough for them to really get on your nerves in only the way someone you really know can. It’s icing on the travel cake to be wandering around a city foreign to the both of you feeling that “new love” feeling, even though it’s fleeting and in many cases doesn’t last more than a few days or couple weeks at most.

I don’t think I’ll talk about any of that. Instead I’ll talk about the “special someone” who, being in her own relationship with someone she met traveling, said a few simple lines that always stuck with me regarding traveling.

It was my friend Jessica’s and my last night in London on our two week trip to England and Ireland. She had a crush on an Irish guy at the hostel and was spending quite a lot of time on the couch being smitten and I was somewhat left to my own devices in the common area. At some point I started a conversation with a girl who just happened to be from the same state we were. The usual “how long have you been traveling, what has your favorite place” type of travel questions were traded and after telling her that it was our last night, I asked when she was leaving and she said “well……my flight was yesterday but I decided not to get on it. I’ve got this Scottish boyfriend here and I’m going to see how that works out.”  To me that was amazing, I had never thought before that you even had the option of not getting back on the flight you were booked on. Now I know better of course but at the time that option blew me away and every trip I wonder…what if I didn’t get on the plane back? It’s nice to know that someday that could happen and it comforts me to think of that. She probably doesn’t even know the effect that simple statement made and doesn’t remember me I’m sure, but she’s more of a special someone to me than the Danish girl I spent two days with wandering around London.