Change

Change is all around us. Most of it we can't control. Some we can. I have had a lot of both in my life lately and I'm learning to embrace it. As my life is taking a new direction I decided it was time to take the blog down a new path as well. I will be posting a travel journal of sorts to document our simple journeys and I would love to share it with you. Welcome!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nicaraguan Cuisine

Early on in preparation for the trip my girls told me to be sure and take pictures of everything we ate, which I promised to do.  Had I not told our traveling companions about this request, they might have thought I had some sort of odd blessing or eating ritual!  Every plate that was set in front of me was photographed before I took a bite.  And sometimes I would grab a shot of other plates at the table if they were different from mine.

It was an important part of the trip and part of the culture that would have been long forgotten had I not digitally captured it.

 I hope you enjoy reading about some of our Nicaraguan breakfasts.

This meal was  mentioned in an earlier post, but since this one is devoted to food I will elaborate on it.
We were fresh in Nicaragua and our first adventure of the day was going to be breakfast which we wanted to be a common local meal.  This is what Paula recommended:


First morning in Nicaragua. Hotel Mozonte, Managua.

Scrambled eggs, toast, gallo pinto, cheese, jelly and coffee.

Gallo Pinto - a traditional and typical dish of fried rice (sometimes with onion and pepper) and red beans that are mixed and fried all together. It was usually presented molded on the plate like you see above.

It was our experience that Nicaraguan toast, at least the hotel variety, has a very quick trip through the toaster. I can't say exactly what kind of jelly we were served, but I can tell you it wasn't Bama apple jelly or Welch's grape jam!


Mornings two and three Bobby and I were flying solo (or would that be duo?) at Poneloya beach. The highlights of these simple continental breakfasts were the indescribably delicious fresh fruit juice and the tropical jelly with seed and pulp bits. That, and the beautiful Pacific surf just a few yards away.
The remains of a beach breakfast.

We enjoyed some delicious breakfasts at the Euro Cafe in Granada. I will be sharing more about the cafe when we get to Granada in this travelogue, but for how here is a look at some yummy morning goodness.
Yes, the bananas were that yellow and the pineapple was that white.  And it was the best fruit I ever had! 

Fresh fruit bowl  of bananas, pineapple and papaya
with some delicious Nicaraguan coffee.

Huevos rancheros the Euro Cafe way:
 ham, boiled egg slices and cheese on a bagel.

Jumbo chocolate chip muffin, fresh fruit with
 cafe-made granola and yogurt, and an iced latte.


Other breakfasts were usually at the house in Granada consisted of pastries purchased downtown or something simple we had on-hand.  So I guess I didn't photograph everything we ate.  I also missed the fun little breakfast we had at the Managua airport the day we left--an assortment of rolls and pastries.

More food to come!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leon, Nicaragua

The traffic getting out of Managua was crazy. Traveling the same streets were cars, taxis, panel trucks, buses, plus motorcycles, bicycles, 3-wheel transports, and little horse drawn carts.  Add to that people everywhere.

Some pictures taken from our moving car:







 At the stoplights young kids/teenagers and even adults came up to the car selling things--frozen water in baggies, peeled coconut, cashews, car floor mats, windshield wiper blades, among other things.

Coconuts


The woman's family working behind her in the street median.

Peeling coconuts with machetes


 At the first stoplight we came to after leaving the hotel, an adorable boy, probably 13, approached the car, poured water from a coke bottle and started using a squeegy on the windshield.  He washed the passenger side first and then driver's side.  Alonso lowered the window and gave him some coins.  I took his picture and he grinned at me until we drove away.





It took us about 2 hours to get to Leon from Managua.  The road was good, wider than an FM, but not as wide as a state highway with shoulders.  What made it seem so narrow was because of all the carts, bicycles and people, horses, and cows on a tiny little shoulder, the cars drive very close to the center line. 

Alonso was a good driver, thank goodness. There was a lot of swerving in and out and squeezing in and out of tight spots.  And a lot of tapping the car horn. (In Nicaragua, a car honk is not an angry blare, but more of a 'beep-beep-coming through".) When we passed other vehicles, he pulled out and went for it, sometimes passing one or two, or if need be, none, but putting on the brakes getting back in our lane out of the way of oncoming traffic.  Making it even more exciting was Paula, covering her eyes and exclaiming "Brother!" in Spanish.

We visited Paula's family home in the barrio in Leon.  It is a typical Nicaraguan house in the city.  Brightly painted concrete walls, tile floors, simply furnished and no air conditioning.  This was my introduction to the gorgeous mahogony rocking chairs that are such a part of Nicaraguan culture.  We would see them for the rest of the trip on every porch or in the living rooms of houses we walked by, no matter how poor the household.

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We took a drive through downtown Leon and toured the Cathedral of Leon, also known as Real e Insigne Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua.   It was huge, beautiful.








The construction of the Basilica de la Asuncion began in 1747 but it took 113 years to complete the building of this large cathedral. It has withstood earthquakes probably because of its massive size and the design by architects from Guatemala. Its front entrances are guarded by statues of lions, legend say, that come alive at night. Leon’s central cathedral is located at what is called the Central Park where the people of Leon, sit and enjoy themselves with their families and friends, market vendors sell their wares and listen to music.  source






 I was noticing lots of kids out on the streets up in the morning and when I asked about that Paula told me how the schools work.  Because there are so many children, they divide the school day in Nicaragua.  Some go until noon, the rest go in the afternoons until about 4:30.  We just happened to be out and about when both sessions let out.  Dozens of children in uniforms came pouring out of alleys or non-descript buildings are schools.   Later we saw larger brightly painted schools in the country and on the edges of the cities.


After a quick afternoon in Leon, we traveled on to the beach at Poneloya were we would spend 2 glorious days.



Monday, March 12, 2012

First night in Nicaragua

I really noticed the steamy heat about the time we were in the lobby of Hotel Mozonte getting checked in.  In and out of the cab and the ride over was quick and busy.  Now we were standing still, inside, and it was hot. Not oppressively so, just thick sultry air.  And no air conditioning.  The front door and windows were open to the night.  The main hall opened to the back patio and the pool.  The dark humid world outside was seeping into the hotel. A ceiling fan stirred a gentle breeze. The lobby was dimly light and had a spicy-sweet exotic smell.



During the check-in process, it was our intention to find out about our missing shuttle.  Before we got to that however, Paula noticed something else was missing--one of her bags.  In the meantime, one of her nephews had arrived at the hotel.  He had been at the airport to meet us and didn't make connections.  While the rest of us got room keys, Paula and her nephew went back to the airport to look for her luggage.

Bobby and I had Room 1, directly across from the front desk. When we opened the door we were met with more of the same hot air from the lobby.  In Nicaragua, electricity is a valuable commodity that is not wasted or taken for granted.  In America we are used to entering pre-cooled hotel rooms where all we need to do is adjust the temperature to taste--often times for me that means a few degrees warmer.  Along the same lines, lighting in Nicaragua is minimum and dim. (We will continue to see this trend throughout the trip. AC is almost always available for the travelers, but Nicaraguans don't use it.)   The room was spacious, sparsely furnished and very clean.  The desk clerk got the air conditioning going and the room was cooled quickly.








Paula returned without the missing luggage.  We were all tired and ready for sleep.  I sent a very quick email to the family back home letting them know we had arrived and then we crashed sometime well past midnight.

The next morning we stepped out of our cool dark cocoon into the warm bright sunlit day.  The sun seemed brighter, the sky clearer, the heat crisper.   We enjoyed a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast on the patio overlooking the pool.

Scrambled eggs, beans and rice, toast.  No salsa or tortillas in sight.




When we got around to venturing out front and to the street we made the discovery to my #2 observation from the night before, that of the hotel looking completely different from what I was expecting from the online pictures.  First, we had approached from the opposite direction of the Internet picture and second, the front area was full of parked vehicles, blocking the view of the columns and the veranda. Not to mention it was the end of a long traveling day and a hairy cab ride through the city!



A second trip back to the airport yielded up the missing luggage, much to our relief.  We had simply not pulled it off the carousel with the rest.  Is it any wonder we missed it?  Here are all the bags (finally) stowed in the rental car.

Bobby and Alonso, Paula's brother and
our wonderful driver.

Shortly after this picture we loaded up,left Managua and the lovely Hotel Mozonte behind and headed to Leon and Poneloya where more adventures were waiting!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nicaragua Nostalgia

Our first hours in Managua, Nicaragua

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We were scheduled to land in Managua at 9:20 p.m., but an hour delay in taking off in Houston because of thunderstorms, and then time lost circumventing said storms made our arrival about 10:45. Obviously the last flight in that night, the airport was deserted.  We quickly made our way through customs then stepped outside for our first breath of the tropical night air.

When I reserved the hotel, I also made arrangements for their shuttle to pick us up at the airport.  Numerous people were standing along the sidewalk with signs in their hands to help in claiming their fares, but as we scanned them our name did not appear.  With luggage in tow, we continued on to the line of cabs and vans waiting at the curb searching for our hotel's name.  It was a mildly chaotic scene:  late night, deserted airport in a foreign country, Spanish banter flying, people meeting up, then dispersing.  Eager cabbies vied for our business, but we explained we were expecting a hotel shuttle.


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International arrivals -daytime  


When it became apparent our shuttle was a no-show, we enlisted a couple of cabbies to get us to the hotel.  (We were traveling with dear friends, a mother-daughter duo, the mother a native Nicaraguan.)  Now, the hotel shuttle was a package deal at $15 for the four of us, but late at night with the choices growing slimmer, $20 a cab was now the going rate.  We decided to split up with a Spanish speaker in each cab--I got Paula, the mother and the most fluent.

Imagine nighttime with a line of cabs and vans.
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Bobby and Marina were in the lead cab.  The doors slammed and they sped away into the Nicaraguan night,  We soon lost sight of them.  We are darting through darkened Managua streets, me straining to see the silhouetted sights, a Spanish radio station playing softly, with the cabby lightly tapping the car horn at the major intersections and driving through, not matter what color the traffic light happened to be.  I was later grateful that my initiation into Nicaraguan driving etiquette came on semi-deserted streets of the night.

In only a few minutes our cab pulled up in front of the hotel. I immediately noticed 2 things:  #1. The cab containing my husband was nowhere in sight and #2. The hotel looked nothing like what I had seen online.
Before I had time to panic, Bobby's cab came spinning around the corner--we supposed his cabby 'earning' his fare with a fancier route.  Observation #2 would answered in the daylight.



....to be continued.....

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