Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Arriving Nicaragua...The adventure begins~~

The flight:

Somewhere over the Yucatan...magical!
A full day of travel is never fun when it involves early departures, lines, baggage, connections, etc.  Our day began at 3:30 a.m. with a wake-up call from a hotel near the Sacramento Airport.  Their shuttle left at 4 a.m. for our 6:05 departure, allowing us plenty of time to get checked in.  We got to our gate only to find out that a flight attendant had called in sick and we would not be able to depart until a replacement arrived.  We left at 7:30 for our Houston connection.

The good news is that we were able to upgrade to first class on all 4 legs of our flights to and from Managua, Nicaragua on United Airlines for $180 each.  We jumped at the chance, needless to say.  Our almost 5 hour lay-over in Houston was drastically reduced by the delayed departure and we were able to relax in the comfort of the United Club courtesy of our upgrade!    The free beverages, meals, snacks and spacious seating made up for the cost, believe me!  All other flights went as scheduled and we arrived in Managua at 6:45. There was a bit of a panic when Howard's bag was the last to arrive but our driver met us at the door with a sign and we hopped in for an hour's drive to our destination, Granada.

The accommodations:

As mentioned in a previous post, we have rented a one bedroom condo unit at Condos Hotel Xalteva for the month of October.  They offer full concierge service and Melissa, the operation's manager par excellence, when realizing we would be arriving late (and tired), offered to provide us with snacks and drinks to enjoy on arrival!  

Living area, dining, full service kitchen

Bedroom, full bath, closet and patio

Outside and pool area
View from our front door sitting area...

A celebration:

Howard had a milestone 80th birthday on October 2nd!  Through numerous emails before we arrived, Melissa arranged a grand celebration which included mariachis extraordinaire, Rafael and Rafael, a father and son duo.  They sang and strummed to Latino birthday numbers, Nicaraguan favorites, and even Frank Sinatra's, I did it my way.  The delicious hors d'oeuvres were prepared by Ana, who caters special events and meals, and is part of the staff here.  There was also a typical Nicaraguan cake of vanilla with a guava fruit filling and meringue frosting, hibiscus wine and Flor de Cana rum.  We partied in grand style!

Around town:

We had decided to spend our first week acclimating to the high heat and humidity and finding our comfort level in walking distances to see local sights around the city.  We soon learned that the Parque Central is the hub, the happening place, and an easy half mile or so walk from our condo.

Our street, Ulloa Obispo

Horse and carriage tours from Central Park


Nicaraguan flag portrays the land (white) between the two oceans (blue)

Catedral de Granada from the Parque Central

Many food kiosks line the park
Calle Calzada with the cathedral in background

Hamacas are sold

Brilliant colors pop from vendor stands

A carriage tour:

One day at the park we received a friendly tap on the back and was reminded by a nice young man that our backpack, which contained the camera and cell phone, was open!  And that is how we met Geovanny...yes, that's how he spells it.... one of about 30 carriage tour drivers lined up by the park vying for tourists' dollars.  This is a very competitive business and requires many language skills as well as a good grasp on Nicaraguan history, politics, and architecture.  Geovanny had all of these plus a great knowledge of American baseball! He was our guy and patiently waited until we were ready, greeting us at the park everyday and pointing out the best vendors for baseball shirts and Vigoron, the local street food.  

Howard and Geovanny discuss politics and baseball

Geovanny, our carriage driver

The old train station is now a vocational school
Municipal Cemetery, the oldest in Central America
La Polvora Fortress

Maria Auxiliadora Chapel

Iglesia de la Merced...We'll come back here

We had to return:

....To Iglesia de la Merced and climb the steep, narrow, spiraling stairway to the bell tower for what, we had heard was the best view of Granada, for which there is a $1 fee. The church is only a few blocks from our condo and we pass it everyday on our walks.  The original church on this site dated back to the 16th century and was damaged twice to the point of near destruction before being rebuilt in the 1860s. I imagine we'll do this many times before we leave at the end of the month, hoping to get a clearer picture of nearby Mombacho Volcano, usually shrouded in clouds.

Looking east toward Lake Nicaragua
And west...

Negotiating the narrow ledge

And stairway

The time has come for me to continue this another day as Blogger Nicaragua has become uncooperative, and yours truly is about to throw a tizzie fit!  However, I shall put on my walking shoes for a short trip to the corner restaurante for a drink, some dinner, followed by some SF Giants baseball in Spanish on ESPN....

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