Day 10 (Monday), Granada, March 17

My first night at Hotel La Pergola is done. This room has no storage, so I have all the tables covered. I retrieved a chair from elsewhere so I could sit at the computer. One wall is a strong lavender, which is a positive. And it has hot water (Hotel del Malinche did in the afternoons…), and the Internet connection seems to be more reliable. At least it was Sunday evening. This evening, not so much, but apparently that’s the area, not just the hotel.

Stained glass lamp at the reception desk of Hotel La Pergola.

This is a glass blog…but I didn’t find much art glass in Granada. This was a stained glass lamp in the reception area of Hotel La Pergola.


Patio and pool at La Pergola.

Patio and pool at La Pergola. My room was no. 15, to the left. The breakfast area is at the end on the top right of the photo.


The first patio at La Pergola

The first patio at La Pergola


My room at La Pergola

The room was somewhat small, I guess because I had to bring a chair in from outside and there was no real place to put my suitcases. I saw little ants, etc. on the floor, so I didn’t want to put them there. The white thing at the center top of the photo was the air conditioning unit. I didn’t see any noisy window units like we have here.


Water jug in hotel

This water jug was at La Pergola, but El Patio del Malinche also had one. We filled our bottles frequently and were careful to drink only the bottled water. None of us had any problem.

Breakfast was a tad different from the previous hotel. The “bio” breakfast was the whole breakfast from the other hotel in a bowl, minus the toast. For an extra $4.50.

Breakfast at La Pergola

This was almost the same as the Hotel El Patio del Malinche — except in one small bowl.

The breakfast that’s included is a continental breakfast, with toast, margarine (!), jelly, coffee and juice. No seconds on coffee. The yogurt was somewhat runny. Ah, well. It’s still less expensive than the other hotel.

Then I was off to do some errands. I wanted to find a different hairclip. We looked Saturday, without success. Today, I went to the first market where we’d been with Javier on Friday. I found what I was looking for at the second stall — for a whole 5 cordobas (20 cents). I made a real point of walking on the side of the street where the shade was — and it was many degrees cooler.

Then I set off to find the third language school we’d looked at, Sol. Along the way I found some things I’d missed.

Iglesia La Merced

La Merced, a large church between the cathedral and Xalteva. This is a tourist attraction, because you can pay and climb up the tower, giving a great view of Granada. The face of the church is not in good condition. And, of course, the electrical wires are everywhere.


Colored glass in garage / entry door.

I’m not sure that the glass was stained glass, but it was colored. Notice the ramps, which are everywhere. This is a combination front door / garage. The vehicle drives over the curb and then up these ramps and is parked behind these doors,. It looks like this is also the front door, because of the steps between the ramps. I’d hate to face that every time I went home or left to go somewhere….


Family of four on a bike

A family outing — dad, mom and two children on one bike.


Man and woman in horse-drawn cart

A man and woman traveling in another means of local transportation. I guess taking groceries home would be a little easier than balancing it on the handlebars of a bike.


Cell phone advertising

I kept seeing “Movistar” (movie star????) on carriages and tents. It turns out the two big cell phone providers are Movistar and Claro. Movistar is blue, Claro red. We saw signs, carriages and little pop-ups around with these two names on them.

Annabelle and I looked for Sol language school Friday afternoon, without success. I almost didn’t find it this morning, either…the school has no sign that says “Sol”, just a listing of its offerings.

Sol language school

Sol language school, but how would you know?


Sign for Sol language school

This was the sign for Sol language school. I walked by this literally three times, maybe because at least twice I didn’t notice the sign (or maybe it wasn’t there?). Notice that nowhere do you see the name of the school.


Inside Sol language school

Inside Sol language school. The bright light to the left was a patio and kitchen area. The school itself seemed to be one room, dark but new, with the usual partitions.

Third, I went back to the Casa de los Tres Mundos to get a coffee painting, only to find the paintings were gone. So, I saved US $20. In the end I had a  latte at the Fitzcarraldo, the coffee shop attached to the Tres Mundos and read for a while.

Fitzcarraldo, the coffeehouse of the Casa de los Tres Mundos, Granada.

Fitzcarraldo, apparently named for the film by German director Werner Herzog, based on an historical Peruvian of the same name. The coffeehouse offers light refreshments and coffees.

Then back to the hotel. I decided I’d eat a late lunch at Kathy’s Waffle House again. On the way out of the hotel, I managed to trip over the uneven sidewalk and fall. A scraped elbow and fortunately not a huge bruise on my right thigh later, I had a nice lunch. Afterward, I went back to the gallery where I’d talked to the son of the owner about my glass. His brother-in-law was there today. I left a cactus sun catcher for the man. The brother-in-law got all excited about it.

On the way home I stopped at the Montebianco Gelateria for a pear ice cream. When I got back to the hotel, I had a message from the gallery. I grabbed my few things that I brought and went back. After several [hone conversations between the two, the brother-in-law picked seven pieces. The other words at the airport and will meet me tomorrow to get them and pay me. We’ll see if that really works. A gallery in Granada would be cool, especially if the folks running it like the pieces.

My room is by the pool. We seem to have a group of six or so college-age Americans who don’t worry too much about how much noise they make in the pool — or how late they’re there.

Back in the room, I started working with the photos for the last week. I’ll add many more in earlier posts.

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Day 9 (Sunday), Granada / Managua

Sniff. Our stay at the wonderful Hotel Patio del Malinche has come to an end. Here are some final photos of the nicely decorated hotel.

The orange-flowered Malinche tree on the patio, for which the hotel was named.

The orange-flowered Malinche tree on the patio, for which the hotel was named.


Decoration at Hotel El Patio del Malinche

Decoration at Hotel El Patio del Malinche


Banana tree near the pool of El Patio del Malinche.

Banana tree near the pool of El Patio del Malinche.

Balsa birds on the patio of the Hotel El Patio del Malinche.

Balsa birds on the patio of the Hotel El Patio del Malinche.

Leaves captured in the place mats at El Patio del Malinche.

Leaves captured in the place mats at El Patio del Malinche.

Art isn't just on the walls at El Patio del Malinche.

Art isn’t just on the walls at El Patio del Malinche. The keys are all carved from a chunk of wood.

Plant with black ceramic pot on the patio at El Patio del Malinche

Plant with black ceramic pot on the patio at El Patio del Malinche

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Singer sewing machines seemed to be popular as tables. El Patio had two on the patio.

Singer sewing machines seemed to be popular as tables. El Patio had two on the patio.

Annabelle and Kathy waiting for the van to Managua.

Annabelle and Kathy are ready to go on the next adventure, to Managua and a new hotel.

Alex of Tierra Tours, with driver Roberto, picked us up at 10, as planned. And we were off to Managua. We had a nice tour, with some history. It was quite warm, Tucson in the summer, but the van was air conditioned.

First stop was the new cathedral, Catedral de la Immaculada Concepción de Maria, designed by a Mexican architect. The building is quite unique — and open / cooler for the congregation. A mass was just beginning when we got there. When the Cardinal entered with the procession, the people in the congregation applauded. That’s the first time I experienced that kind of reception of the “priest” in a church.

The new cathedral in Managua

The new cathedral in Managua, a most unusual building conceived by a Mexican architect.

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Inside the cathedral in Managua

Inside the cathedral in Managua


The cardinal at the altar of the new cathedral during Mass.

The cardinal at the altar of the new cathedral during Mass.

Outside the church a group protested in support of Venezuela.

Protesters show support for Venezuela in front of the cathedral

Protesters show support for Venezuela in front of the cathedral

Next, we went to the highest point in Managua, a park overlooking a small lake. High point was a huge metal statue of Sandino plus a yellow tree. Yellow trees seem to be everywhere. This was on military property.

The yellow "peace" trea and the outline of Sandino, a previous leader of Nicaragua.

The yellow “peace” trea and the outline of Sandino, a previous leader of Nicaragua.

Fountain in small lake, from the hilltop of Managua

Fountain in small lake, from the hilltop of Managua

View of old cathedral and lake, from the overlook on the hill.

View of old cathedral and lake, from the overlook on the hill.


Then a park
Park in Managua near the Plaza de la Revolución

Park in Managua near the Plaza de la Revolución


In the park in front of the Plaza in Managua. This was a usual sight in the parks.

In the park in front of the Plaza in Managua. This was a usual sight in the parks.

and the Plaza de la Revolución, with the old cathedral (destroyed in an earthquake in the 1970s),

The old cathedral

The old cathedral, destroyed (if I understood correctly) in an earthquake.

the office of the current president,

Casa de los Pueblos, office of the President

Casa de los Pueblos, office of the President, Daniel Ortega.


Two Nicaraguan heroes, Dario Ruben and Sandino, in front of the Casa de los Pueblos.

Two Nicaraguan heroes, Dario Ruben and Sandino, in front of the Casa de los Pueblos.

and the Museo Nacional de Nicaragua, which we toured.

Palacio Nacional, home of the national museum, among other organizations.

Palacio Nacional, home of the national museum, among other organizations.

One room had a display of portraits of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in a variety of mediums by a variety of artists.
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Another portrait of Hugo Chavez.

Another portrait of Hugo Chavez.


Our last stop was the waterfront, a park where families can enjoy refreshments for the same cost as elsewhere (instead of at inflated prices).
At the harbor in Managua

At the harbor in Managua


The park along the harbor provides entertainment and food at normal prices, instead of inflated ones usually found at such places.

The park along the harbor provides entertainment and food at normal prices, instead of inflated ones usually found at such places.

At the end we dropped Annabelle and Kathy at the Hotel Los Robles. It looked like a nice place, but there was really nothing around it. So, I’m glad I planned to go back to Granada with the van.

The bad part is that I’m at a different hotel, one a half-block away, the Hotel La Pergola. It’s less expensive, but also simpler. The Internet connection appears to be much better. We’ll see.

I took myself on a little tour around Granada when I got back, to see if the art gallery (Efren Medina) was open today. It was half — I could see in, but the lights were off. I had a lime/coconut/pineapple smoothie at The Garden Cafe, waiting for Pizzaiol to open at 4, so I could have an early dinner.

I talked to the owner, since I was the only one in the restaurant. He’s obviously not Nicaraguan. Turns out he’s originally French, from an area near the Spanish border. His wife is Italian. They spent four years earlier in a beautiful area in Costa Rica, but it was an area that had few tourists. He finds it better in Granada. The upshot of that was, I got French practice instead of Spanish practice.

On the way back to the hotel, I found preparations underway for St. Patrick’s Day…

An Irish pub on La Calzada in Granada gets ready for St. Patrick's Day.

An Irish pub on La Calzada in Granada gets ready for St. Patrick’s Day.

At the end I came back to the hotel and have been working on the blog ever since.

Day 8 (Saturday), Granada, March 15

Saturday is Annabelle and Kathy’s last full day in Granada, so we wanted to make sure we’d seen everything.

A different family vehicle than we normally see.

We saw many families on a bicycle, but I usually was too slow to get a photo. One that sticks out was a motorcycle with dad in helmet and son, maybe 3, also in helmet.

This little three-wheeler was another means of transportation around Granada.

This little three-wheeler was another means of transportation around Granada.

We started at the Cathedral, which we hadn’t found open before. Along the way we found some women preparing fruit to sell.

Women prepare and sell fruit on the street in Granada

Women prepare and sell fruit on the street in Granada


The cathedral in on the Central Plaza, a huge yellow building.
Cathedral in Granada, a bright yellow building on the Central Plaza

Cathedral in Granada, a bright yellow building on the Central Plaza.


Chapel in the cathedral in Granada.

Chapel in the cathedral in Granada.


Close-up of painting in chapel of the cathedral in Granada.

Close-up of painting in chapel of the cathedral in Granada.


The main altar of the cathedral in Granada

The main altar of the cathedral in Granada. We found it open Saturday morning.


Close-up of the altar in the cathedral in Granada.

Close-up of the altar in the cathedral in Granada.


Stained glass windows in the cathedral in Granada.

Stained glass windows in the cathedral in Granada.


Jesus carries the cross in front of the altar of the cathedral in Granada.

Jesus carries the cross in front of the altar of the cathedral in Granada.


Stained glass window in cathedral in Granada

Another stained glass window in the cathedral of Granada, high up and not in a place where I could shoot it more directly.


Stained glass window, washed-out color

A few stained glass windows in the cathedral in Granada were fine; a couple showed up to the eye, but were totally washed out in the camera.

Then we went through the Plazuela de los Leones. On the way to the Antiguo Convento San Francisco, we found a nice little art gallery, with works by various family members. Kathy and I got some coffee in packages with label art by the father. The son who was working at the gallery showed interest in my things, and we thought we’d arranged a time in late afternoon to go back with the few pieces I have with me. (Unfortunately, when we went back, the gallery was closed.) We were interested in the Convento, because Annabelle found in the garden the sculptures we’d seen transported a couple of days earlier. We got some great shots of Mombacho and the roof of the cathedral.

Antiguo Convento San Francisco

Antiguo Convento San Francisco. Note the many electrical wires.


Sculpture in the patio of the Antiguo Convento San Francisco

We saw this sculpture being delivered; Annabelle found it a couple of days later at the Antiguo Convento San Francisco. This is more or less behind the Casa de los Tres Mundos and across the side street from Kathy’s Waffle House.


The Antiguo Convento San Francisco offers a nice overlook of the volcano Mombacho and the cathedral in Granada.

The Antiguo Convento San Francisco offers a nice overlook of the volcano Mombacho and the cathedral in Granada.

We wandered around looking for Rocado, supposed to be the oldest house in Granada.

Sign for El Recodo on the building

Sign for El Recodo on the building


Annabelle and Kathy take photos of Recodo

Annabelle and Kathy take photos of Recodo, said to be the oldest building in Granada and quite an adventure to find.


A trough or planter in front of El Recodo.

A trough or planter in front of El Recodo.

In the end we wound up back at the Convento, or almost, at Kathy’s Pancake House. OK, we tried to find real Nicaraguan food, but it seems most everything is aimed at tourists. That said, my banana pancakes were about the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. Kathy enjoyed her French toast and Annabelle, her omelet. Coffee was free.

Kathy's Waffle House, Granada

Kathy’s Waffle House, no relation to our Kathy. A great omelette and some of the best pancakes ever.

After lunch, we stopped by the Garden Cafe, which turned out to be just a block away from Kathy’s. We bought some Nicaraguan chocolate, which required some effort, since we’re running low on change. We’ve paid pretty much everywhere with US dollars, though change is in Nicaraguan córdobas. I got a bunch of córdobas out of the ATM a few days ago. A dollar is roughly 25 córdobas. Note to self: if ever I travel this way again, I need to have lots of $10, $5 and $1 and not so many $20…

Then it was off to the market (“mercado”) in search of a CD by Nicaraguan singer Perrozompopo. We didn’t find it, but we did find several pirated CDs by various singers, so I got one and Kathy two. We also found Palí, the less expensive grocery. This is sort of like Sam’s Club or Costco — not fancy, some larger containers of items.

Vendors at the mercado in Granada

A couple of vendors outside a shop at the Mercado in Granada.


Saturday at the mercado

Saturday at the Mercado… The whole of Granada seemed to be there.


A local bus makes its way through the Mercado.

A local bus makes its way through the Mercado.


I was busy shooting photos while Annabelle and Kathy went on down the street. This was the outer part of the Mercado.

I was busy shooting photos while Annabelle and Kathy went on down the street. This was the outer part of the Mercado.

For dinner we went to Cafe Estrada, an upscale little place with a hotel that Kathy knew from a previous trip.

Estrada, a boutique hotel and nice restaurant

Estrada, a boutique hotel and nice restaurant

We took along the rest of Kathy’s birthday cake, which we still had a bunch of at the end.

This photo shows better the brilliant turquoise of Kathy's birthday cake. We'd each had a piece the evening before.

This photo shows better the brilliant turquoise of Kathy’s birthday cake. We’d each had a piece the evening before.


Kathy with her birthday cake.

Annabelle got a good shot of Kathy with her turquoise (!!!) birthday cake.

Back in the hotel, we offered the rest of the cake to the owners of the hotel, who were at the front desk. They referred us to the bartender, who has a daughter. And the owner offered us some of his house-made coffee liqueur, which he’d cooked a few days earlier: coffee, sugar and white rum. Yum.

Tomorrow it’s Managua. I’m going on the tour with Kathy and Annabelle. The tour company will drop them at the Hotel Los Robles in Managua and bring me back to Granada. As our hotel is fully booked tomorrow night, I’m going across the street to Hotel La Pergola. It looks nice, though not quite the same as Patio del Malinche. Ah, well.

Annabelle and Kathy then have a flight home before 7 a.m. Monday. My flight is Tuesday afternoon.

Day 7 (Friday / Happy Birthday, Kathy!), Granada, March 14

Another warm day. Kathy, who has a birthday today, was off with World Vision to visit her “godchild”. Annabelle and I had our last class.

Encouraged by our visit to the market yesterday, Annabelle and her instructor went to a museum. Javier and I continued our work on grammar, finally getting to the subjunctive. I’m trying to fill in gaps, with some success, I think. At the end, I asked if his wife wore earrings and produced a few pair I’d brought along. He picked one and was very excited to receive such a gift. For me, it’s one less thing to drag home. I brought some earrings for Annabelle to select from and pendants for Kathy, since they’d done most of the work for the trip. Kathy selected a tile I’d brought along, too, so she ended up with a pendant for a birthday gift.

Anyway, through her instructor, Annabelle organized a wonderful cake.

Kathy's cake

I messed up on the lighting, so the brilliant turquoise of the frosting on Kathy’s cake is kind of muddy.

We hid it in my room until dinner. Since Kathy was gone until mid-afternoon, Annabelle and I Went off to take care of Sunday’s transportation to and tour of Managua. Lunch at Panaderia Luna was disappointing. We each ordered a broccoli quiche — which turned out to be chicken with some broccoli leaves and carrot in it. I tried, but didn’t get too far with it. Then we split a very dry almond croissant. Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

A cart full of toys

A cart full of toys, near the cathedral in Granada


A very modern, very out-of-place tractor

A very modern, very out-of-place tractor, parked near the Central Plaza and the cathedral

We then set off to look at the cathedral, which was locked up tight, and to find the third language school we’d considered. Sol is two blocks west of the Xalteva church and 1/2 block south on Calle El Cementerio.

Along the way, we found this truck, a bit far from home.

A misplaced truck? Jessup, Maryland, is far away.

I almost forgot where I was….This was in Granada.

Xalteva is a hike, and it was quite warm. We went on past and didn’t find the street. Ahead we saw a walled area that we thought could be a cemetery. Turned out it was the fort we’d wondered where was, but not the cemetery.

Sign at the entrance of the fort in Granada

Sign at the entrance of the fort in Granada, built in 1748.


Outside the gates of the Fortaleza

Outside the gates of the Fortaleza


Lookout post at the Fortaleza

Lookout post at the Fortaleza


Another shot of the Fortaleza

Another shot of the Fortaleza

Inside the fort

The gate was closed, but I managed to shoot this photo of the fort anyway.

On the way back, we found the street, marked so you could see it from one direction and not the other. We walked the whole block and saw only closed doors and no sign for a school. It didn’t appear to be the greatest of neighborhoods.

I suggested we look in the Xalteva Church. I’d seen that it was open before. Now we knew why: a funeral was taking place. We saw the wagon with two bored-looking horses out front.

Horses and funeral wagon wait outside Iglesia Xalteva.

Horses and funeral wagon wait outside Iglesia Xalteva.

Kathy was home when we got back at 3. She filled me in on her trip, and I went back to fiddle with the computer. A woman down the hall started talking to me and showed me where the router on the second floor, where our rooms are, is. We chatted for a few minutes — she was Danish, on a tour and going on to Costa Rica. She and her husband were then flying off to visit her sister an hour out of Orlando. A little prodding brought “Cocoa Beach”, which is what I figured. It’s where the Kennedy Space Flight Center is, where the Space Shuttle was launched from.

At 5:15 we met for our daily happy hour. We had dinner back at El Zaguán, where we were the first evening. Our guide books confirmed what we’d found by accident: it’s one of the best restaurants in town. We took the cake along, and Annabelle explained the deal to the waiter, who was happy to take the cake.

Dinner for me was “Pumpkin soup”, something green with mint leaves on it that tasted good but not like the pumpkin I know, and again the eggplant parmesan (berenjena con parmesan) appetizer. My two companions had a steak and were also quite happy. The restaurant specializes in grilled meats.

The waiter brought the cake with the candle Annabelle had brought along and sang Happy Birthday to her, with a little help from us. As they were leaving, a British couple sitting nearby stopped and wished Kathy a happy birthday, too — they were on a tour and it was that woman’s birthday, as well.

Day 6 (Thursday), Granada/Masaya, March 13

Our excitement for today was visiting TWO markets. The first was during the last hour of class. My instructor, Javier, asked me yesterday if I wanted to take a walk around town to work on vocabulary. I jumped at the idea to be able to point and ask, “What’s that in Spanish?” (in Spanish, of course), so I could find out useful words like “curb”. Both Annabelle and Kathy and their instructors ended up joining us.

Piñatas, not just in Mexico.

Piñatas aren’t just in Mexico. The Nicaraguan markets have them in all sizes and shapes. They come with matching decorated sticks for breaking.

One surprise: Piñatas come in all sizes and shapes. We were under the impression that they were only Mexican. Goes to show… In Nicaragua, the sticks used to break the piñatas are also decorated with crepe paper to match the piñata.

I thought we’d done a pretty good job of exploring our area. Not so. Javier took us a block to the left of our street — and to another world again. As we walked by, he pointed in the general direction of where he lives. Then we found a huge market, with all kinds of clothes, shoes, purses, fruits, dead animals (i.e., chickens) and just stuff. It was pretty overwhelming. We got back to school just in time for him to leave to go to the classes he’s taking to learn computers.

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On the way back from school we saw why we were happy NOT to drive in Granada.

A long bus turns onto a narrow street in Granada.

On the way home from school, we watched as this very long bus tried to turn onto a rather narrow street.

Bus successfully turns into narrow street.

One the way back to the hotel from school, we watched as a too-long bus tried to turn into the street. As you see, it was succesful.

Driving in Granada

As we were going to lunch, I finally got a shot of driving in Granada.

For lunch we tried an Irish pub-type place. Great menu: grilled cheese and tomato sandwich on whole wheat with French fries– my usual comfort food. Kathy joined me; Annabelle tried the chicken enchilada, which was huge. The whole menu was not Nicaraguan. In fact, we’ve had trouble finding “Nicaraguan” food, which I define as black beans and rice and fried plantains. We have found a lot of what I would consider “Mexican”: quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos…

Granada has some great logos on signs, and Kelly's Bar is one of them. Like the name, the food was not very Nicaraguan.

Granada has some great logos on signs, and Kelly’s Bar is one of them. Like the name of the place, the food was not very Nicaraguan.

After lunch we stopped by a couple of hotels to see if we could find a place for me for Sunday and Monday nights. I decided to stay in Granada, where I knew the area, rather than joining Kathy and Annabelle in Managua and finding something to do for a day. Hotel La Pergola, a half block from our current hotel, has a room.

Hotel La Pergola

Hotel La Pergola, between Hotel El Patio del Malinche and the school and my second hotel. Annabelle and Kathy are in the right foreground.

For this afternoon we signed up for a trip to Masaya, the artsy town halfway between Granada and Managua. As it turned out, the whole school signed up. The van, which was designed for 10 plus driver, had 13 or 14 packed in…including some instructors.

The van to Masaya

At least 14 people crammed into the van for the trip to the two markets in Masaya as well as the Verbenas, folk music and dancing.

We started at the regular market in Masaya, where Kathy was finally able to replace her glasses’ case. Due to a miscommunication the three of us and one instructor were back at the van in the allotted 20 minutes. No one else was, except the driver. About an hour later, the others showed up, and we went to watch hammocks being made. I’m not sure why — Tio Antonio’s in Granada shows much more. Then it was off to a parking lot by a lake overlooking the volcano Masaya, complete with smoke rising.

The volcano Masaya

The volcano Masaya, a little smoke is visible at the top left.


Masaya ice cream man

At the stadium by the overlook for the volcano Masaya, we all enjoyed an ice cream bar. Unfortunately, they weren’t too frozen.

We spent a good 30 to 40 minutes here, with a quick, verging-on-melting ice cream bar. The good thing about all this was chatting with other students and hearing their plans: five Canadians, a Norwegian and the three of us.

Then we loaded back in the van and headed for the artisan market, which is what I’d been wanting to see. By the time we got there, it was dusk and many stalls were closed. I did buy a cloth purse that I hadn’t looked for. Kathy got a mug and both Kathy and Annabelle got cool t-shirts for the outrageous price of $4.00 each.

A typical wood picture, in the market.

A typical wood picture, in the market.

Logo on smoothie stand in Masaya.

Logo on smoothie stand near the plaza in Masaya.

Four brothers perform during the Verbenas

Four brothers perform traditional music during the Verbenas in Masaya. The performances take place every Thursday evening and maintain the folk traditions of Nicaragua.

The final event was the Verbenas, folk dancing and music at the market. We understood these began anywhere from 5 to 7. In actuality, it was more like 8. We thought we were leaving at 9; it was closer to 9:45. Our hotel closed at 10… What we got for at least an hour was canned music. This was followed by some brothers playing guitar, a sort of xylophone, drums and another instrument. They might have played well — it was difficult to tell, because the speakers were turned up to full blast. The dancers, from some group that’s 24 years old, were interesting. Nice costumes. But after a few, I was ready to leave. And the dancers alternated with the brothers a few times. I finally asked the guy from the school who was still with us (the instructors who were with us mostly lived in Masaya and disappeared in the course of the evening) when we were leaving, because our hotel would be closed.

We got back to the hotel around 10:30, and the doors were closed. I knocked a few times, and the night watchman came. It was OK, because another guest was trying to figure out how to get in, too.

Day 5 (Wednesday), Granada, March 12

It’s hot! That’s all I can say. This is Tucson in mid-summer, or so it seems. And I’m far behind with photos…

Here are some more photos of the decorations in the hotel:

A boat that's been turned into a plant stand in the lobby of the Hotel Patio del Malinche, Granada.

A boat that’s been turned into a plant stand in the lobby of the Hotel Patio del Malinche, Granada.


Locally made crafts are displayed for sale in the hotel.

Locally made crafts are displayed for sale in the hotel.


This boat was turned into a book shelf in the hotel.

This boat was turned into a book shelf in the hotel.


In Hotel Patio del Malinche, the owners have several interesting tables and decorations.

In Hotel Patio del Malinche, the owners have several interesting tables and decorations.

After class today we walked down to Lake Cocibalco / Lake Nicaragua. We’d heard it was a terrible area. Getting there, we saw some tiny dwellings with dirt floors as well as some rather nice places.

Building at the Granada harbor. It seemed to be the terminal for a boat that didn't run on Wednesdays.

Building at the Granada harbor. It seemed to be the terminal for a boat that didn’t run on Wednesdays.


Statue of Córdoba at Lake Cocibalco, also called Lake Nicaragua.

Statue of Córdoba at Lake Cocibalco, also called Lake Nicaragua.


At the harbor, we wandered around, taking photos of some statues. A man in a uniform called to me and said he was a guard and that we should be careful with our cameras and purses, because thieves were in the area. Disquieting, but we saw no one suspicious.
Painted wall we found on the way back from the lake.

Walking back from the lake in Granada, we found an art school.
[caption id="attachment_758" align="alignnone" width="300"]Statue / fountain in front of the Escuela de las Bellas Artes in Granada. Statue / fountain in front of the Escuela de las Bellas Artes in Granada.


On a wall at the Escuela de las Bellas Artes

On a wall at the Escuela de las Bellas Artes


This cool painted wall was across the side street from the school.[/caption]
Iglesia Guadalupe, near the lake

We walked by this church, Iglesia Guadalupe, on our way back from Lake Cocibalco. The street turned into La Calzada, the pedestrian street.


La Calzada between the lake and the pedestrian area. The cathedral in in the background.

La Calzada between the lake and the pedestrian area. The cathedral in in the background.


Wooden sign for Mombacho cigars of Nicaragua.

Wooden sign for Mombacho cigars of Nicaragua. Coffee and cigars are important exports. Many buildings had interesting metal or tile signs. This one happened to be wood.


We’d read that you need to be careful if you buy property here, because there’s a certain amount of fraud. Apparently, one home owner was subject to quite a bit, judging from the signs on the property.
A "not for sale" sign on a house near Lake Cocibalco

Apparently, the owners of one house on the way back from the lake had had some problems with third parties “selling” their house. Several signs of this nature were posted on their property.


This sign repeated the "not for sale" message in Spanish.

This sign repeated the “not for sale” message in Spanish.


Apparently, the owners of the property were able to identify the third parties who tried to sell their house. They posted photos and information on the wall of the house.

Apparently, the owners of the property were able to identify the third parties who tried to sell their house. They posted photos and information on the wall of the house.

On the way back, we walked down La Calzada, which becomes the pedestrian street with all the restaurants. In the area we walked along, we found the Euro Café for lunch. That was on our “must-try” list, so it just happened that we found it.
We finished our walk on back, with a stop at Tierra Tours to see about a tour of Managua on Sunday and delivery to the hotel Los Robles there. Kathy and Annabelle fly home Monday morning before 7 a.m. My return is Tuesday.

By chance I saw some stained glass windows in a restaurant next door.

One of four stained glass windows in the Restaurant El Tranvia.

One of four stained glass windows in the Restaurant El Tranvia. It was also where you picked up your Avis car rental.


We had our daily “happy hour” in the hotel bar.
Annabelle and Kathy enjoy a drink after a hard day of sightseeing in Granada.

Annabelle and Kathy enjoy a drink after a hard day of sightseeing in Granada. The hotel had no munchies, so we broke down and bought a can of Pringles sour cream and onion chips at the mini-mercado.

Then we toddled off to dinner down the street at El Camello. Besides a cool sign, the place is always jumping, which should be the sign of good food.

The logo for the El Camello restaurant is great.

The logo for the El Camello restaurant is great. Unfortunately, the food not so much…

It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant that seemed to have an American owner/chef. Exceptionally, I ordered an appetizer, “Camel Toes”, mashed yucca stuffed with vegetarian curry and fried, served with tatziki. I had four huge pieces, really shaped like camel’s feet (or what I think they might look like) — interesting, but not something I can’t live without. I didn’t need the falafel in pita sandwich I’d also ordered. Kathy and Annabelle had flounder, I think it was. The restaurant ran out of bottled water, but the owner offered us ice and tap water, two things our guide books advised against strongly. The guy said he’d lived in Nicaragua for 10 years and everyone drinks the water, no big deal. We declined his offer. For having such a cool sign, the restaurant was rather disappointing in the food and the long wait.

More to come

Day 4 (Tuesday), Granada, March 11

Please note: I thought the problems connecting to the Internet were solved; they’re not. Maybe it’s a setting in my computer, maybe it’s an incompatibility with the router in the hotel, though the owner says they use Windows 7, too — no problem. At any rate, it’s very frustrating.

Muesli breakfast

Muesli breakfast at Hotel Patio del Malinche, with yogurt, fruits, toast, coffee and juice

Tuesday was the usual — breakfast at 7 a.m., school from 8 till noon. In the afternoon, we went off to find the Café de las Sonrisas that Annabelle had read about. This time, we didn’t stop at the Central Plaza but kept on walking. This is NOT the tourist area. We did find some “art” places as well as the little café. What makes it special, aside from its very Nicaraguan menu, is that the people there are all deaf-mutes. The wall was lined with drawings of the various signs.

Sign language on the wall at Café de las Sonrisas in Granada. The employees are deaf.

Sign language on the wall at Café de las Sonrisas in Granada. The employees are deaf.


Kathy and Annabelle wait for their Nicaraguan specialty at the Café de las Sonrisas.

Kathy and Annabelle wait for their Nicaraguan specialty at the Café de las Sonrisas.


The wall of Café de las Sonrisas is lined with sign language examples.

The wall of Café de las Sonrisas is lined with sign language examples. The staff are all deaf-mutes.


Mosaic of small rocks at the entrance of Café de las Sonrisas.

Mosaic of small rocks at the entrance of Café de las Sonrisas.

Sharing its space was Tio Antonios Hamacas, Uncle Tony’s Hammocks. Annabelle thought she’d read where the people there were blind. That wasn’t my impression, at least not for all, but it was interesting.

Tio Antonios Hammacas, a workshop where you can watch colorful hammocks made.

Tio Antonios Hammacas, a workshop where you can watch colorful hammocks made.

Then we wandered farther from “home” and found another church along with Xalteva, one of the schools we had looked at (via Internet) for classes. It made a very good impression — a man greeted us at the door, invited us to look around and explained their program a little. Almost all were small groups (2-3), as opposed to all being one-on-one, as at Nicaragua Mia.

Iglesia Xalteva

Iglesia Xalteva, a church near one of the Spanish schools we looked into. It was across the street from a little park.

Our real goal for the afternoon was the Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation, a cultural center.

Ceramic leaves form the donor tree at the Casa de los Tres Mundos,

Ceramic leaves form the donor tree at the Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation, which offers art and music classes and performances and many other cultural activities. It has a print shop plus painting classes for all ages.

Mosaic of Dietmar Schönherr at street level.

The mosaic of Dietmar Schönherr at street level. It appears to be just shade of gray.


Photo from above of the mosaic of Dieter Schönherr

Photo from above of the mosaic honoring Dieter Schönherr, who apparently set up the Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation. From below it looks like a bunch of tiles. From the second floor of the building, the camera sees the face.

On the way back we checked out some other places on La Calzada, the pedestrian street. After our usual preliminary Happy Hour at the hotel, we wound up at Pizzaiol for dinner. As its name suggests, most of the menu is pizzas: about 16 inches in diameter, very thin crust, made in a pizza oven. I had the margherita, which here was tomato sauce, basil and sliced black olives. Instead of peppers, we had oil with chili dissolved in it, which was the way I’d seen it in Switzerland. Very spicy but good.

Day 3 (Monday), Granada, March 10

After an early breakfast of muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, toast, juice and coffee, we set off to Nicaragua Mia language school, where we’ll spend a lot of time this week.

Muesli breakfast

Muesli breakfast at Hotel Patio del Malinche, with yogurt, fruits, toast, coffee and juice

The school is just down the street from the hotel, El Patio del Malinche. More about that before we leave Granada. For a start, it’s an artistic haven, quiet, friendly, super-clean, air conditioned. The biggest downside is that Internet connectivity is not reliable. But, some other guests (Spanish-speaking) said, “It’s Nicaragua. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes not.”

Anyway, Kathy, Annabelle and I met on a language tour organized by Road Scholar in Costa Rica. Nicaragua Mia is NOT like any school we went to in Costa Rica.

Nicaragua Mia Spanish School

Nicaragua Mia Spanish School


Kathy and Diane at school

Kathy and I on the way to school, photo thanks to Annabelle.


Inside of Nicaragua Mia on a Saturday

Inside of Nicaragua Mia on a Saturday — it looks much brighter than it was.

I counted about eight students today during our “dinámico”, when we introduced ourselves. We had four Canadians, the three of us US, and a Norwegian. All the classes are one on one. Classrooms are cubicles, three on each side of the main room/building, and three upstairs in the building behind.

Classes in the Nicaragua Mia Spanish School

One-on-one instruction took place in small “cubicles” in the Nicaragua Mia Spanish School. This is the main room.


Because I complained, I saw both buildings — and my instructor Javier and I ended up in a large closet opposite the restroom. At least, we don’t have several conversations going on around us at the same time.

Class runs 8 to noon, with a break around 10. The school seems to have coffee and sugar, no cream, and water. Afternoons include activities for an additional cost.

Annabelle and her instructor

A little blurry, Annabelle and her instructor Johanna at work.

Kathy and her instructor

Kathy and Flavia read to each other, helping Kathy with pronunciation and comprehension.

Break at Nicaragua Mia.

Each day we had a break from 10 to 10:20 a.m. Students chat or read in the center of the classroom.


Not your US sidewalks -- these were uneven, varied from building to building and had no handrails to prevent your falling off.

Not your US sidewalks — these were uneven, varied from building to building and had no handrails to prevent your falling off.


Sidewalk near the hotel,

Sidewalk near the hotel, El Patio del Malinche. Note the step and unevenness.


We lunched today on the patio at The Garden Cafe in Granada.

We lunched today on the patio at The Garden Cafe in Granada.

After lunch we wandered around the Central Plaza area some more.

Horse-drawn cart in Granada, an alternative transportation method.

Horse-drawn cart in Granada, an alternative transportation method.


Fancy white grillwork plus paint on a laundry in Granada.

Fancy white grillwork plus paint on a laundry in Granada.


A tangle of overhead wires, Granada

A tangle of overhead wires, Granada


Sometimes "Stop" signs are flat, sometimes not... I found this one near the hotel.

Sometimes “Stop” signs are flat, sometimes not… I found this one near the hotel.


Kathy and Diane with feet in the pool.

Kathy and I cool off with our feet in the pool. Annabelle takes photos.


Dinner was down the street at La Claraboya. We’d been there Saturday evening, but opted to eat at El Zaguan.
Sign for La Claraboya, with stained glass piece

La Claraboya sign, one of the few examples of glass (besides regular windows) that I’ve seen so far.


I had spinach fettucine, which was excellent by itself, though it had tomato sauce served on the side. Annabelle and Kathy tried the corvina (translated as “sea bass”), and enjoyed it a lot. This was the same as what they had ordered at El Zaguán. They judged the fish better at El Zaguán (but just), but the veggies served with it much better. The coconut flan was definitely not as good as that of El Zaguán. Service was absolutely speedy and friendly, compared to all other restaurants we’ve eaten at so far. The real shame: the restaurant was nearly empty. Grade: 4.5 of 5 stars.

Day 2 (Sunday), Granada / Mombacho, March 9

We thought breakfast was going to be an all-morning affair — a cycling group of about 20 got to the hotel patio, where breakfast is served, ahead of us. Breakfast was huge. Annabelle and Kathy ordered eggs, which came with toast, funky warm bean puree, little wiener-looking sausage, fruit juice and coffee. I, being a veggie who doesn’t like eggs and liking Swiss stuff, opted for the muesli breakfast. This was muesli with raisins, yogurt, toast (as in Italian bread, perhaps — not what we get at home) and a huge “small” fruit salad. Besides watermelon, cantelope, mandarin, papaya there was a little, sour green thing that was mostly seed called a jocote and some purplish fruit, sapote, that I had never seen before but was really good.

After breakfast, we took a quick walk down to the Central Park, where we found the cathedral and several fancy-looking hotels and government buildings.

An official building near the Central Plaza in Granada

An official building near the Central Plaza in Granada

A kiosk/bar in the Central Plaza in Granada, just opening at 9 on a Sunday morning.

A kiosk/bar in the Central Plaza in Granada, just opening at 9 on a Sunday morning. It seemed to me to be China/Japan meets Art Deco.

Bright, bright, bright. Brightly painted chairs and tables in the Central Plaza (Parque Colón).

Bright, bright, bright. Brightly painted chairs and tables in the Central Plaza (Parque Colón).

Then it was back to the hotel, where our Tierra Tour team arrived early. Our guide was Wilbert, a young man from Masaya, a town between Managua and Granada known for its artists and artisans. He gave up painting to become a tour guide, so he could take care of his three daughters (Roberta 7, Emily 2, Diane 9 months). Javier was our capable driver.

The van was a lot more basic than most tours I’ve been on. We loaded in from the back, with no stairs, just a very high step and some help from Javier and Wilbert. Seats were benches along the sides. The two in the front had seat belts, but these were quickly removed as soon as we left the main road and turned onto the road to Mombacho.

First stop was the coffee plantation Cafe Las Flores, where Wilbert explained that the coffee is all organic and the best in Nicaragua. He also showed us an almond tree and how the Nicaraguans eat almonds: inside the first green shell is a red layer. This they eat. Then they crack through the shell we know and get to the nut.

An almond tree, almost horizontal instead of vertical, on the coffee plantation Las Flores.

An almond tree, almost horizontal instead of vertical, on the coffee plantation Las Flores.


What an almond looks like that's just off the tree (Mombacho trip)

What an almond looks like that’s just off the tree (Mombacho trip)


A cosmos growing at the coffee plantation on the way up Mombacho...it's just a pretty flower.

A cosmos growing at the coffee plantation on the way up Mombacho…it’s just a pretty flower.


From a lookout point, we got a view in the distance of Masaya, another volcano.
From a lookout point at the Cafe Las Flores plantation at 700 meters, you can see another volcano, Masaya, slightly in the distance.

From a lookout point at the Cafe Las Flores plantation at 700 meters, you can see another volcano, Masaya, slightly in the distance.

From the plantation, at 700 m, our van and we climbed via a narrow, winding road, a sort of cobblestone, often at what appeared to be a 45-degree angle, to one of the four craters we were going to walk around at the top of Mombacho. Elevation: 1,150 meters, time: about 1 1/2 hours. I have to admit, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic, but Kathy and Annabelle were. It turned out to be a super trip.

Sign at the top of the volcano Mombacho near the Visitors Center

Sign at the top of the volcano Mombacho near the Visitors Center


Mato palo, killing tree. The parasitic tree grows on another tree until it kills its host. In the cloud forest of Mombacho.

Mato palo, killing tree. The parasitic tree grows on another tree until it kills its host. In the cloud forest of Mombacho.


Forest path on Mombacho, cut from trees felled to create the path.

Forest path on Mombacho, cut from trees felled to create the path.


Bench on top of Mombacho

Bench on top of Mombacho

Wilbert, a trained tour guide, explained all the flora and some of the fauna to us. Unfortunately, we only saw the leaves that the monkeys had left behind, no monkeys. He showed us “dead trees”, parasitic trees that grow on larger trees and eventually kill them; pepper trees, whose leaves are natural mosquito repellents; pretty lavender orchids with white or yellow inside; lots and lots of small orange orchids; steam holes (fumaroles); and begonias, some of which have a lemony-flavored leaf that’s edible (and we sampled).

Pepper plant, a natural mosquito repellent, grows on Mombacho.

Pepper plant, a natural mosquito repellent, grows on Mombacho.


Little orange orchids decorated a small meadow on Mombacho.

Little orange orchids decorated a small meadow on Mombacho.


Our guide, Wilbert, shows us the yellow interior of a purple orchid on Mombacho.

Our guide, Wilbert, shows us the yellow interior of a purple orchid on Mombacho. He said the orchids are white, yellow or pink inside.


"Tunnel" on Mombacho, with some tired visitors...

“Tunnel” on Mombacho, with some tired visitors…

We were probably gone more than the hour and a half. Underway we met several larger groups as well as some twos and threes — it seemed to be a popular place for a Sunday afternoon outing.

When we got back, Annabelle and Kathy enjoyed a chicken, rice and salad meal. I got most of their plantain “chips” (cut lengthwise), since the choice in the little restaurant was chicken or beef, and I’m a veggie. They were really good, though.

Back in Granada, we wandered around the Central Park some more and looked over the restaurants. After the wonderful dinner at Zaguan the night before, we decided to go Nicaraguan and went to Comidas tipicas y mas… Kathy and Annabelle tried the Nicaraguan version of a tamale, a spicy corn meal around meat and wrapped / steamed in a banana leaf. I had a veggie plate of gallo pinto (a national dish of black beans mixed with rice), a salad, fried cheese (I couldn’t cut it) and a corn tortilla that was obviously homemade and didn’t resemble any of the Rainbo variety generally found in the US groceries. If I were rating this place, I’d give it one star for being there.

Because the restaurant had no desserts and we wanted a little something sweet afterwards, we wandered around Calle La Calzada, where many restaurants are and where we had dinner. Eventually, we settled on lime crepes at Nectar. We sat outside, more or less bearable after dark. Service in restaurants tends to be European-plus…no one is ever in a hurry.

Our classes at Nicaragua Mia language school begin at 8 in the morning.

Day 1 – Granada, Nicaragua

Kathy and I were up at some ungodly hour, like just after 4 a.m., to catch the 6 a.m. shuttle, to be sure we got our 9 a.m. flight to Managua, Nicaragua. We sped through all the formalities — somehow I managed to end up with a business class ticket down, which included pre-check through TSA and faster boarding. We met up with Annabelle, who’d come in on a red-eye, at the gate.
My part of the flight was fine — extra room so the woman by the window, who was pregnant and said she would be making many visits to the restroom, could squeeze by without my getting up each time.
Houston was really cold when we left. Managua, on the other hand, was quite warm (and humid) when we arrived. The runway seemed to be in the middle of a pasture, and the pilot tromped on the brakes really hard as he landed the plane. We had a lot of students from a variety of religious groups with us — the dark green t-shirts, the burgundy t-shirts and the blue t-shirts.
Going through passport control, we managed to find the absolute slowest line, but we eventually got through. Luggage came through fairly quickly after that, and we found the driver of our Toyota Yaris quickly. He said he’d been waiting for two hours, although we arrived pretty much on time about 12:30 p.m.
The drive to Granada took the better part of an hour, through narrow streets. I won’t comment about the poverty in our Tucson trailer parks any more. Because we were moving right along, I couldn’t take photos until we got to Granada and walked around a little.

Mosaic sign for the Hotel Patio del Malinche, our home for the week.

Our home away from home for the next several days, Hotel Patio del Malinche. It’s conveniently down the street from our language school. The sign is a cool mosaic. The hotel is loaded with tasteful artistic touches.

Courtyard of hotel, Granada

The first inner courtyard at Hotel Patio del Malinche. Looking in the doors of other hotels, this seems to be the usual style.

Upstairs walkway at El Patio del Malinche.

Upstairs walkway at El Patio del Malinche. Our rooms, 11 and 12, were at the top of the stairs.

My room

My room, which was quite nice, at El Patio del Malinche. Annabelle and Kathy had a room about the same size, but with two beds in it.

Leaves on the wall in my room, up close.

Here are the leaves up closer.

The shower in my bathroom.

The shower in my bathroom. US hotel rooms should be so clean and tastefully put together.

Pool from above.

We left — unfortunately — our swimsuits at home. The pool wasn’t large, but nice to stick our feet in to cool off. This is from our upstairs hallway.

We checked in and then walked down the street to Nicaragua Mia, the language school we’re going to be attending. Hmm.

Jungle of wires

Jungle of wires on building near our hotel.

The buildings around our hotel tend to be brightly painted.

The buildings around our hotel tend to be brightly painted.

blog  Sidewalk near hotel - Granada - 3-8-14
We walked around in the pedestrian zone a little, to see what was there. One shop had some very cool bookshelves.
blog  Metal bookcase in shop in Granada 3-8-14

Wood bookshelf in store, Granada

Wood bookshelf in a store in the pedestrian zone of Granada.


Ranch House Restaurant

Ranch House Restaurant, a brightly colored building in the pedestrian zone, Granada


Brightly colored building on the square in Granada

Tierra Tours, in the pedestrian zone of Granada. Tomorrow we’ll take one of their tours to the volcano Mombacho.


Mombacho from the hotel.

The volcano Mombacho, from our hotel. This is our Day 2 visit.

We made the rounds of the restaurants and ended at El Zaguán. Annabelle and Kathy enjoyed the “corvina”, which we later saw translated as “sea bass” and I had an appetizer of eggplant parmesan, which was super. It turns out this is one of the best restaurants in Granada.

I do have an Internet connection in Hotel Patio del Malinche, where we’re staying, but it’s slow and I get a lot of error messages, even though my computer tells me I’m hooked up and have an excellent signal.

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