And now for something completely different…

**Due to internet being down, and then being fixed, and then being dial-up slow… (welcome to Nicaragua), I’m behind in my storytelling. At least the power has (mostly) stayed on. But just to mix it up a little, yesterday the water went off in Granada…

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I really did mean to get back on the chicken bus and make my way like a local from San Juan del Sur to Granada. Really. But as I’m hauling my bags down the hill past the travel arranger, I think, heck, maybe I’ll just pop my head in and see…and before I could say a word, she turns to me and says, “The transport will be here in 15 minutes.” It’s a sign. Decision made. I part with $30. About 4 times more than I spent to get here, but I rationalize that it’s worth shaving hours off the minimum 2 hour journey. As a result, I arrive in Granada fresh, happy, and confidently knowing where I’m going since this is the second time I’ve been here.

Granada couldn’t be more different than SJDS. Granada’s colonial beauty and vibrancy is in direct counterpoint to down town SJDS’s grunge and laidback surfer/party atmosphere. I would venture to say it’s the most gorgeous and colourful city in Nicaragua.

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My hotel, Casa del Agua, is a beautiful colonial building just off the Park Central. I’ve been put in the balcony room — it’s huge and overlooks the interior pool. Usually reserved for couples and honeymooners, it has a lovely four poster, wrought iron, canopied bed, hot water (a pure luxury!) and truly more space than I could ever need.

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Last time I was in Granada, I couldn’t stop buying handbags. And so like last time, I have a mission. I take to the streets. Success! I’ve spotted 2, just have to decide which one will now make it’s new home in Canada. I have until Saturday morning to wrestle with the decision. The pressure…

The Park Central is constantly bustling with activity. Outdoor restaurants, people selling all manner of roadside food, fruit, hammocks, shoe shine guys, taxi touts, horse drawn carriage rides, pretty much everything you might need in pinch or a hurry. I sit down lon a bench that’s frankly seen better days (and missing some slats) with a quesillo to consider where to wander next. Setting me back about 50 cents, a quesillo is a tortilla filled with cheese, sour cream and onions, served in a plastic bag. It’s excellent.

Fortified with food, but realizing I’m sweating just sitting there eating it, I head back for a dip in the pool at Casa del Agua. Nothing like going for a swim in your living room.

Casa del Agua - there's a pool in the living room!

Casa del Agua – there’s a pool in the living room!

On Wednesday nights, all the expats and a lot of the travellers head over to the Calzada, a main street that closes in the evening and becomes a pedestrian street filled with cafes and street performers, for trivia night at O’Shea’s Irish Pub. Entry is C$10, which goes to a children’s literacy program. I team up with some people around me and we actually come in fourth! We lose the coveted third place on a tiebreaking question about World Cup soccer. Clearly not an area of my personal expertise, but I would have thought the Irish and the Scots around me would have shown better. Alas. And shame. Thank god it wasn’t a hockey question…

Thursday, February 14. Valentine’s Day

Now I wouldn’t have thought Valentine’s Day was a really big thing here. Apparently love knows no cultural or language barriers, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t get a table at El Zaguan last night. But I’m ahead of myself.

Yesterday was all about livin’ like a rock star. Spent the day at Hotel Spa Granada. For $40, I had a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage and all day access to the infinity pool. Pretty darn swish.

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Had one of the best massages of my life — by a blind massage therapist! This is not the first place I’ve seen that hires blind massage therapists — and considering people with disabilities don’t really have a lot of working options in a place like Nicaragua, it’s a pretty good profession to get into.

Since El Zaguan, a fancy restaurant in town, is fully booked for dinner, I wander over to another restaurant that looks of the same caliber. If I’m living like a rock star, I’m not eating street fritanga (bbq) tonight! I’m shown to a table in the courtyard. I order a glass of red wine and a filet mignon. When the steak arrives I absolutely can’t believe my eyes. It’s the biggest piece of filet mignon I have ever seen. I do some mental math and realize that it’s more than twice the size and less than half the price I’d pay in a restaurant in Canada. And it’s good. And comes with salad and potatoes and squash and empanada and rice. You know how rice is called a side dish? In Nicaragaua, it’s quite literally served in a dish. At the side.

The waiter clearly feels badly for me, eating alone on Valentine’s Day, because he looks at me and says with great sincerity, he would marry me if he could. Huh. Thanks. Um. I’ll keep that in mind. For now, how’s about just a glass of water? And the bill.

So full I can hardly breathe (because I can’t be the kind of person who leaves steak on her plate in a country where people live on less than $5 a day), and surrounded by couples cooing declarations of love at one another, I call it quits on my day of decadence.

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