Monday, March 30, 2009

Nicaragua: San Juan del Sur

I have to take credit. When Maureen said she was looking to go to Guatemala for some intense Spanish, I suggested San Juan del Sur en Nicaragua. I had heard good things. It is on the beach, and you can get there on a bus for less then $15. She did some research and found a great school called Spanish Ya.
I loved that idea because then we could go visit her. I have never been to Nicaragua, and after a one week tour, I have to say I am in love. Go get a cup of coffee, sit back and relax, because I have a lot to tell you. Actually this trip will be broken into 3 posts, as I visited 3 different places in Nicaragua. I will not post all of the 800 photos I took in my one week trip, but I will post a link so if you are so inclined to check them out you can.
Maureen was there for two weeks of Spanish and we met here at the end. We followed her instructions and boarded a Transportes Deldu bus to the border (Peñas Blancas) at 730am. It took 5 hours and when we reached the border we had to pass through "immigrations" which included showing our passports, paying $2 and walking through this gate.
Since there were 4 of us (me, Neto, Kate and Lauren) we split a cab from there for $20 and arrived in 30 minutes to San Juan del Sur. We checked into Hotel Nina which I found in the Lonely Planet guidebook. $15 per room. We got the two upstairs rooms which shared a bathroom and a terrace. Besides the roof sounding like it was ready to blow off from the wind, the squeaky sign all night, and the surly owner Nina, I would say its a great place to stay. Clean, good location, and cheap! No hot water, but trust me, you don't need hot water when it is 100 degrees out.
I was so happy with this town. First, parrots were everywhere! These two babies were on the sidewalk outside a shop and when you pass them they say "hola y buenos dias"
I had no idea there would be cobblestone streets and bright colors on every building, I wanted to take pictures of everything...and I did. (hence the 800 pics)

We walked to the beach and sat down at Costa Azul, an open air restaurant, and ordered fish. Delicious fish! I had a grilled fish and Neto went for the whole fried fish.
We were serenaded by two men singing rancheras. It was a treat, they had such beautiful voices
We had made plans to meet Maureen for happy hour, so at 430 sharp we made the steep climb to the lush hotel Piedras y Olas where she was lounging in the sun waiting for us. It was a sweet reunion, she was happy to see everyone. I had missed my morning walking/running partner.
we enjoyed the 2x1 drink specials and a spectacular view.
There are many cute places to eat in SJDS. One of Maureen's friends from her Spanish school lead us to Asadas Juanitas, which turns out to be right across the street from Hotel Nina, where we are staying.
There you can order a huge plate of typical food, beans, rice, platanos and this delicious grilled chicken for $4. It is so big that Ernesto and I shared a plate. The grill is set up on the street, and Neto tried to get the grill masters recipe, but he says it is his mothers recipe and it is a secret.
The next morning Maureen suggested Gato Negro for breakfast and I was so glad. It is a book store/coffee house/restaurant and I could spend hours there. All of the creativity they used to decorate was an inspiration. Even the menus were handmade.

Maureen wanted us to meet the family she stayed with for the previous 2 weeks and collect her bags to stay with us at Hotel Nina. It was cool to get a glimpse inside of the typical Nica home
but even more interesting to meet the little girl that Maureen had be-friended there.
Maria is adorable, 10 years old and was "gifted" to this family by her mother. Her brother was "gifted" to another family. Maria is basically their little slave. She is not treated badly, but she is still 'the help' ten years old! She has a separate bathroom [out-house] than the family. I couldn't believe it. I guess this is fairly common either for mothers who can't afford the child, or just do not want the responsibility. Makes me wonder what the adoption procedures are in Nicaragua. The son in the family was getting married that day, so right in front of the bathrooms (yes, outside), there were a couple ladies preparing the feast over an open flame.
The rest of the day we spent a cool little place on the beach called
It had a nice woven chairs in the sand and cold, cold Toñas and Victorias (the local Nica cervezas)
From those chairs you see the Cara India (Indian face) on the edge of the cliff. Do you see it? Here, I zoomed do you see it?
On the north side of the beach, on top of a mountain there is a huge Christ statue being built. Body is complete and head is to be finished by Easter.
Maureen informed us that its a one hour hike to the statue if you wind through the beautiful houses that overlook the beach. At about 4p we started walking the steep road, and were amazed at the beautiful views of the bays.
We came across a beautiful home for rent (hmmm)
Neto was the first one to notice the monkey on a leash in the driveway. As we walked closer, he got so excited and was swinging between two trees doing tricks. The caretaker walked out and introduced us to Panchito. He was such a character. He wanted to hold all of our hands, sit on our laps and bite our shoes. He was so cute and his hands felt human. It freaked me out a bit at first.
We enjoyed another $4 meal at Asados Juanita then "Bam! We hit the city baby, dead on! For a little drinks, a little nightlife" -Weird Science. We picked Coquitos, a great outdoor bar where a live Nica band was playing some really catchy music.
We hung out until about midnight. We were leaving for Ometepe Island early the next morning (Sunday).
To be continued.......

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