10 April 2013

Spring Travel: Granada, Nicaragua

I like places with a little grit. I want to feel a little uncomfortable, I want to ask myself a time or two if maybe we should have gone somewhere else, I want to know I am no longer at home. And if I have moments of feeling ungrateful and even a bit ashamed of my gluttony back at home; it is even better.

I like travel which changes me, that gives me a more global perspective. Last year Cameron and I planned a two week Central American adventure with a bookend Florida getaway. We have already been in Belize, Guatemala, and Costa Rica and wanted to check a couple more Central American countries off our list. Our trip went a little something like this:

  • We flew from Seattle to Miami, we stayed in South Beach for a couple days 
  • Flew from Miami to Managua, Nicaragua 
  • Drove from Managua to Granada, we stayed in Granada for several days
  • Drove from Granada to Leon, we stayed there for a couple days
  • Drove from Leon back to Managua 
  • Took one VERY long and adventurous bus ride from Managua, Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica 
  • Flew from San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama, (at this point we were exhausted and I did I mention I was seven weeks pregnant!)
  • Flew from Panama City, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Flew from San Jose, Costa Rica to Miami
  • Drove from Miami down to Key West, we stayed there two nights 
  • Drove from Key West to Delray Beach, stayed there one night here.
  • Drove from Delray Beach to Miami
  • Flew from Miami to Seattle 
Whew! Just typing this up made me tired.

One of the most surprising realizations is just how many people in the world do not travel around in cars. In the United States (unless you live in a major city) it is not often thought of as a luxury, but rather a necessity to own a car.
Several people have asked why we keep going back to Central America for vacations. The answer is simple; we can count on warm weather and it is one of the places in the world where the American dollar can go far. We can stay in four and five star hotels while keeping our budget under $100/night. In Granada, I was torn between where I wanted to stay, so half the time we stayed at one hotel and half the time we stayed at another. Kind of silly I know, but I figured since we went all that way we might as well enjoy the best of both. The first hotel we stayed at was Hotel Dario, it had an excellent location, was charming as could be and since we were one of a handful of people staying there we had the place virtually to ourselves.
Two children playing outside the Cathedral of Granada
A cross in front of The Cathedral of Granada.

Some of my favorite photos from our trip were not the kind which would appear in any tourist brochure, but those which really captured the day to day living in Granada. We witnessed a lot of stoop and doorway sitting, which made me yearn for a simpler life filled with more moments like this back at home.

I read an excellent way to get your bearings of Granada was to take a horse drawn carriage ride through town. The first thing we did after we dropped off our bags at the hotel was select a horse and carriage. We ended up with a friendly man, Giovanni. I will never forget Giovanni, he was a little reluctant to tell us his name because he was a Nicaraguan with an Italian name. He shyly noted he received his name simply because his mother liked it. Giovanni had a deep love for American things, in particular baseball. He wore a different baseball team's cap everyday we saw him. Establishing a relationship with a local first thing; proved to be the most helpful thing we could have done. When we needed a driver or had a question, we knew we could find him and his carriage in the town's square. Giovanni was our go to man.

Growing up my mother was a big fan of air drying our clothes, it made me happy to see lines of fresh clothing blowing in the fresh air.
When I travel, I never want to make strangers feel uncomfortable by snapping their photograph, but as we went around in our carriage I wanted to capture it all.
I loved the bright colors, the crumbling paint, the big wooden doors. This could be many places in Latin America.

We went up the bell tower of La Merced church. For just a couple dollars we were afforded the best views of the city, we timed it just right as the sun was just beginning to set. This bird's eye view allowed us to see how each home had an inner courtyard with a small garden inside.

Everyone knows everyone in Granada, so Giovanni was able to chat with a friend while he waited for us up in the bell tower.

Over dinner that evening, we discussed the kindness of strangers, how small the world really is and how fortunate we are to be able to travel around it. Giovanni's (much like other people we have met) biggest desire is to come to the United States and visit places like New York or Los Angeles, we think he ought to add Seattle to his list.

Remember, enter to win the Rachel Austin print giveaway.

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