On to the Capital of the Revolution

Our shuttle ride from San Juan Del Sur was a fascinating look at the changing terrain between the low, flat lands north of San Jorge and the highlands between Jinotepe and the western side of Managua. It felt like a forbidden land – remote windswept plateaus with far-reaching vistas of the steppes down to the Pacific Ocean.

After descending down to the farmlands south of Leon, our ride was uneventful except for the continuing high winds buffeting our Toyota minibus.

The Political and Intellectual hub of Nicaragua

Leon was a welcome sight and fortunately still in daylight when we arrived. The driver had a number of different stops to make in the maze of one way streets and ours was last. The Blue Hat Hostel was our first planned overnight stay.

The hostel owners were from El Salvador. Lovely people. Comfy bed, shared bathroom and a long-ish walk to the center of town. We walked to the nearest restaurant – The Imbir.

They offered Sri Lankan food along with some Polish dishes… Quite the combination! It was a welcome change from typical Nicaraguan fare.

Next morning, the hosts offered us the makings of pancakes and bananas. Every person was responsible for cooking his or her own breakfast in the shared kitchen. No problem! With great coffee it was a good start for our first day in Leon.

Three Wheelin’

We made the decision to take a room in a small hotel much closer to the downtown core and some the main historical sites we’d be visiting. The Hotel Nancite had a room available so we started the trek with our bags. “Why don’t we take one of the three-wheeled bike taxis?” Heather said. “Good Idea!” They were everywhere so we flagged one down and had a fun game with the driver/rider trying to locate the hotel. Using Google maps was not his forte and we had no idea about the one-way streets. Poor guy, he was huffing and puffing when we finally stopped.

Oh, I should mention, it was about 9:45 and it was already 30 deg. C.

Exploring Leon

John was our welcoming host at the Hotel Nancite. He kindly let us keep our bags in the storage room and we took off (on foot this time) to start the first leg of the City Walk of Revolutionary & Cultural Leon in the Lonely Planet book. There’s LOTS of history here – the tour stops at 25 different, fascinating places of interest. From a Museo Entomologico with all the bugs, big and small you’ve ever wanted to know about to the world class Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Guardian.

Here are the highlights of our initial walkabouts…

Incredible Cathedral

The Basilica de la Ascuncion – the largest cathedral in Central America can be seen from many locations within Leon. It’s big. It’s said that the construction took more than 100 years using “indigenous labourers”.

Today, it was still undergoing the facelift started a few years ago. One can still enter the cathedral and… take the roof tour. We did that and WOW, what a view.

We spoke to a lovely young tour guide, Brenda, and she got us up to speed on some interesting facts about the region. Leon has 16 churches and… Not far away… 11 volcanoes, 3 of which are still active!

The cathedral and the other churches we visited were incredible examples of historical architecture and of course, the devout nature of the residents of Leon.

Welcomed by Sandinistas

After lunch our next stop was the Museo Historico del la Revolucion.

Just walking into the still emotionally charged building was a chilling experience. You could literally feel the anger, pride, rage, and grief after many years. We paid the 100 Cordoba entry fee (each) and we were greeted in the lobby by Juan – a VERY passionate Sandinista veteran. He was friendly but the very first question he asked me, looking straight into my eyes was… “de qué nacionalidad es usted?” “Somos Canadienses.” I replied. He appeared relieved. “No Americano… bueno.” He came closer and spoke quietly, “Americanos son malos.” We got the message. It made us feel somewhat on edge because we have LOTS of good friends that are American. But, we understood where the comment came from.

For almost an hour, we listened intently to the story of how the Sandinista movement started and how they rose up and fought against the Somoza dictatorship. Neither of us have ever heard anyone talk about a subject the way Juan did. He was extremely animated – quite often drawing his index finger across his throat to signal ‘death’. His emotional and hot-blooded descriptions of executions, women or children dying and his amigos being slain were born from images he’ll clearly never forget. And yes, Juan fought and was injured in the war – he rolled up his pant leg and showed us his leg that he nearly lost.

In the end, we had heartfelt empathy for Juan and the Nicaraguan people who to some degree, still struggle finding the path to a non-corrupt democracy. Depending on who you talk to and where they live, support for current President Daniel Ortega can be 50-50.

Legends and Traditions

Our last stop of the day was south of the cathedral at the Museo de Leyendas y Tradiciones. (Musuem of Legends and Traditions). Across the street from the museum is the historic site of a bombed out church – maintained in it’s war-like setting.

The museum’s main building was a prison and it felt like it. After hearing Juan’s story, visiting a prison where torture and arduous incarceration took place added another dimension of human conflict to the city’s tour.

Inside the museum, there were various displays of exactly that – legends and traditions. One legend had to do with “La Gigantona”. It represents a Spanish woman for her height or upper class social status in colonial time. In addition she makes a mockery of Spanish women or the Spanish race.

Another was of “The Black Woman Camilla”. She was a native of the Atlantic Coast and she had moved to Leon. She was known for practicing Black Magic. With time she went mad and was hallucinating on the streets wearing the black dress she always wore as she was a widow. One of her goals was to kidnap children and sacrifice them. The iguana on her chest was a good luck charm to protect her on the streets…

We made a real effort to absorb all the stories and the images we were presented. After everything we had seen and heard today, it became sensory overload.

Let’s go have dinner, a glass of wine and try to de-program from the day.

OK… so on a lighter note… Leon definitely has a character that finds its way to your soul. The people here are very friendly and the children happy to smile and wave at us. And, after a couple of days here, we feel very proud to be Canadian.

Some final photos from the last couple of days…

Goodbye to Ome Tepetl (Two Mountains)

The morning we left Ometepe we had the good fortune to meet Ron and Debbie who, for over a decade have lived on the island. There are many stories of “expats” moving to other countries but none so well documented as in Debbie’s blog, “Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua”. If you missed it in our last blog, here’s the link:

https://wp.me/p1GBmZ-2L2

There are some incredible stories in there. In those few years, they’ve lived a lifetime that few could imagine. In spite of contracting tropical diseases, wrestling with boa constrictors, and dealing with the idiosyncrasies of Nicaraguan bureaucracy, they’ve persevered driven by their passion to help the people of Ometepe. Both professional educators, over the years they’ve contributed to the local school system in many ways and have seen the results of their work.

It turned out that we also have lots in common with these guys. They were keenly interested in our stories as well and our time with them went way too fast. One never knows, maybe we’ll see them again… We left the door open for that! Great to meet you both!

Rockin’ on the way to San Jorge

After saying goodbye to Ron and Debbie, we hung around the ferry’s waiting area for an hour or so and ended up with “the small boat” not the larger ferry. (Sorry, didn’t get a pic of our little boat)

It’s OK,” we simultaneously said to each other. “the lake is calm today.” Sure it was. As soon as the Little Ship That Could passed the spit off the west coast of the island, well… the fun began. There have always been the stories of how this crossing can be a rockin’ and rollin’ extravaganza. Today was the day and the high winds were the contributing factor. It started innocently and then I realized I had to hang on to the seat in order to stay put. And, when the boat rolled sideways, I wondered to myself, “was it going to stop?” What were you thinking.. of course it was! It actually became pretty hilarious when it was clear we weren’t going to be thrown in the water as long as we hung on.

One person that kept our minds off the boat capsizing was Johnathon, a super nice young guy who worked for an NGO from Canada. Well educated, he is involved in ALL SORTS of projects and is doing his best to help humanity and support his fellow Nicaraguans as they strive for a better life. Keep up the good work Johnathon!

By the time we arrived in San Jorge, we were happy to say goodbye to the crew. It was quite an arrival! There were deckhands throwing lines to the dock and shore men throwing their own lines back.

All the backpacks were quickly launched to the dock where the wide receivers caught them – hopefully. (Glad I didn’t bring that laptop) We all had a good laugh and I shook El Capitan’s hand. Too much fun!

Ronny the Cowboy

It was a short walk from the ferry to our refuge for the evening, the “Southern Nights Hotel”. The owner, Ronny Newberry met us in the driveway and immediately we could sense this guy had some stories to tell. A friendly, firm handshake was extended and we received a sincere welcome.

Ron is from the “Show Me” state of Missouri and all of a sudden it didn’t quite feel like we were in Nicaragua anymore. He showed us around his super clean hotel and beautifully managed gardens and we could just picture how much work this man must have done to arrive at this point.

He was a really interesting guy. I had never met anyone from Missouri and as we chatted we listened to a selection of each other’s life stories. Like many people who choose to move to another country to start a new life, Ron had given this chapter his best shot… and it showed.

Oh, and he was both a rodeo cowboy and a professional jockey in the US and Canada. (He was interested to hear about the Williams Lake Stampede in BC!)

Our stay at the Southern Nights was great. Ron’s daughter, Fawn and her husband Scott bent over backwards to make our visit enjoyable. Thanks guys!

The next morning, Ron got us a fair price with a local cab driver and after a great breakfast, (included) we were off to San Juan Del Sur on the Pacific Coast. The driver was also a dentist in Rivas… just in case.

We reach the Pacific

San Juan as the locals call it has a long history. “Discovered” by the Spanish in the early 1500’s it became an important port due to it’s sheltered bay. And, many years later it was a terminal for gold seekers during the North American gold rush of the 1800’s.

Now, it’s a major tourist destination for Nicaragua and a home to many expats who have built hundreds of homes in the area.

Our stay was with a lovely family in their home offering an Airbnb suite with a private bathroom. Called “Dayanna’s House” it’s named after the host’s cutie pie daughter. Miriam and her husband Enrique are warm and welcoming hosts and we loved our stay there.

During our stay in San Juan we got to hang out on the beach and we also did a ton of walking. The city has a bit of a reputation for being a ‘party town’ but during our stay, we noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Yes, there were lots of the shoeless, shirtless, free-spirited young Bohemians and plenty of mainstream young folks looking for a memorable ‘good time’… but everyone was pretty chilled. We only noticed a few guys that were strung out and unfortunately they were Nicaraguan.

Anyway, the location is stunning and if you visit, we highly recommend you take the walk up to the Mirador del Christo de las Misericordia statue – apparently the 2nd largest statue of Jesus in the world. The views are worth the walk – we saw the Guanacaste Peninsula, Costa Rica to the south!

Oh, and the food here is great. There is a Pali supermarket and tons of little tiendas downtown.

Finally, the sunsets are classic…

OK, so we’re off to Leon this afternoon. Yet another intriguing Nicaraguan city. We’ve been told by many travellers we’ll really enjoy the art museum here. Excellente!

Goodbye Ometepe

Our time on Ometepe is almost gone… anyone who visits here will soon be absorbed by the friendly, down to earth approach of the people and the raw natural beauty of the island. It IS a very special place.

Peaceful Balgue

We had a great time at the Urraca Loca hostel. For us, it was such a pleasant place to relax and just observe the everyday lives of those around us. Workers digging enormous volcanic rocks from the earth, vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, craftsmen working on buildings, mums and dads cycling the kids to school, farmers calling the pigs home, crews bringing in the cuadrado harvest, truckers hauling loads of bamboo, people raking their yards, bakers baking bread, ladies making tortillas in their shop, others minding their shops like farmacias and small corner variety tiendas, guys hanging around the car wash, kids walking home from school together and then… all those tourists like us – on their own adventure.

It was sad to say goodbye to Denis and Patricia, our hosts at Urraca Loca

Originally from Spain, they have progressively built up their impressive little hostel to the well run business we see today. Best wishes to them both as they continue to contribute to the local economy and the welfare of the local people.

Back to the Land

Our next stop on Ometepe was just down the road from Balgue. so close in fact that we walked the 2 kilometers with our backpacks (mochilas) – partly to prove it could be done!

Our destination was the El Zopilote hostel – part of a permaculture farm. We had great hopes for our stay here but it wasn’t to be. We had reserved a special little shack called the Armadillo Hut. When we arrived at the front desk, they had no record of the reservation and had no response when we showed them our confirmation number etc. We don’t want to go into great detail but… we left the next morning after a crappy night in alternate accommodation. The ONLY upside to our stay was the breathtaking view from the balcony of the building we stayed in. Worth the effort for sure…

Movin on…

We were at the bus stop on the main road at 7:00AM. We were back in familiar territory with the smiling, happy locals. The bus arrived, full. But not really… there is always room for more. With our bags stored in the back, we squeezed in and got very, very good at squeezing in – more and more. The only glitch came when someone at the back of the bus wanted to get off. But, it wasn’t really a glitch. It was a demonstration of people working together for a common goal… to get where they’re going. Doing a slow Gandy Dance, we all moved in unison to allow the person to slip through the human squeeze box. Even the lovely young man at the front entrance was part of the magic. Yes, he took your money, but he also helped everyone and anyone who needed assistance on and off the bus. And there were kids on the bus too. I saw one lady sitting in a seat hold children between her knees until they arrived at their destination.

Small change of plans…

We were originally headed for Altagracia but the bus stopped at the main change location for buses to Moyagalpa (where the ferries arrive). We thought, what the heck, let’s check out Moyagalpa… stay a couple of days and get to know the community a bit.

New Friends

We’re really looking forward to meeting two more very special people on Saturday. Debbie and Ron. They are expats now living in Nicaragua and they’ve been doing some very wonderful things with the local community. Check out their blog :
Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

Back to the mainland today. Staying one night in San Jorge and then off to San Juan Del Sur on Sunday. The adventure continues!

Las Flores…

Before we move on down the road, we’ll share a good news story we learned about in Santo Domingo.

Good Neighbours

In 1993, two wonderful German folks Monika and Michael Hohn visited Ometepe for the first time. The Hohn’s were shocked at what they found. Their story is one of philanthropy – in a very big way. Over the next 15 years, they contributed $1,800,000.00 to various programs that brought healthcare and education to communities all over the island. General medicine, physiotherapy and gynecology were just some of the services that became available. Eyeglasses were distributed, wheelchairs made available, and kids went to school. Evidence of their work can be seen everywhere. The picture below shows the clinic in Santo Domingo.

Not Good Neighbours

Here’s another interesting photo from Santo Domingo. It lists all the people who defaulted on loans given to them via programs targeting development of the region. Morosos = defaulters.

Easy Riders

In between rain storms, we left Santo Domingo for our hostel in Balgue. A few days prior, we were kindly informed by our hosts that Sundays are not good days to be taking the bus on Ometepe. Only one bus a day runs to Balgue on Sundays and it’s late in the afternoon. Denis at the Urraca Loca Hostel offered to find us a ride. The best deal was taking a “moto” taxi. We jumped at the inexpensive estimate, not really knowing what a mototaxi was. We thought it might be one of those Tuk Tuk’s. That would be cool. Then we saw them… Two young guys showed up on their motorcycles with spare helmets. “Must be for us”, we said. You bet.

The ride to Balgue was great. There are many Grande Topes (speed bumps) to cross and we got used to the rodeo quickly. My bike was missing a footrest on the left side so to compensate I had a death grip on my rider’s trapezius. As we zoomed along, we noticed the change in the flora and fauna. Within 7 kilometers everything became far more lush and… populated con animales. Howler monkeys called down from the trees on the roadside and pigs ran in front of the moto. Lots of dogs too, all well behaved.

After making a right turn on a rocky side road and a left turn on a track shared with horses and other motorcycles, we arrived at our home for the next 3 days – Hostal Urraca Loca.

Just as we expected, the hostal was the host’s house accompanied by little outbuildings for us touristas. It was just incredible to be sitting under cover watching the warm rains come and go surrounded by lush gardens and the small fincas (farms) nearby.

The Rain Comes

We spent part of the day walking the main road in Balgue. The skies were still stormy and at one point we ducked under cover at a roadside stand while the torrents passed by. Like the west coast of BC, it doesn’t get so green and lush without some rain!

Evening dinner time rolled around and led us to a favorite local eatery called Café Campestre. It’s notoriously slow when busy but we managed to sneak in before the crowds appeared. Being Sunday, it was a special evening when they fired up the wood BBQ and offered many luscious items from the grill.

We felt very fortunate to be in such “exotic” surroundings enjoying the freshest green salad and grilled meats from the region. Wow.

After a restful night in our private room with a deluxe mosquito net, we awoke to a fresh morning with sunshine making its way past the fast moving cloud cover.

We were spoiled with a very tasty breakfast served by our hostel hosts and then we decided to just enjoy the day soaking up the vibe from this little oasis in el bosque. It is a workday here too… which really feels like home… work is ongoing to build a new guesthouse and shower. Good to see.
Hasta Luego!

Ometepe – a volcano mecca

As a belated birthday present to Heather, we splurged and arranged for a taxi to take us from Laguna de Apoyo to San Jorge, the location of the ferry terminal to Ometepe Island. There were no buses running by the hotel so it was for convenience as well. At the advice of many sources including Lonely Planet, we booked the ride through our hotel at Laguna de Apoyo.

In the end, it was a fabulous look at the backroads around the Laguna and Mombacho, the nearby volcano. Our driver was taking the most direct route to the Pan American highway that would take us to Rivas and then to San Jorge.

We were really glad he didn’t double back through the town of Granada – he was choosing roads just like we would back home and as a result we saw the countryside near the town of Catarina – views we would have missed. And the cost? For the 85km ride we paid $36. Fair enough. Waaaay less than we’d pay back home.

The ferry to Ometepe has sailings throughout the day. And, you have your choice of, shall we say, travels options… mainly the size of the ship you’re wishing to cross the very choppy lake in.

After saying adios to our happy taxi driver, we were immediately met by a young man with a clipboard and lots of desire to help us sort out our next steps. His help really wasn’t needed but was appreciated and we shared our plans with him. He walked us to the window to buy the ferry tickets – 50 Cordobas each = $2.00 CDN for the 60 minute crossing. It happened to be on the “large” ferry which we treated as a good choice as the ‘seas’ were rough with the super high wind ripping across the lake.

We were famished after our morning taxi jaunt, so after tickets were stowed, our ferry port ‘guide’ happily directed us out of the ferry area, down the street a few steps and right into a lovely little restaurante. He handed us two menus and offered us a seat by the window with a fabulous view of Ometepe.

Now this may seem a little… different, but it’s the way things are done here… (BTW, there was never any charge for this fella’s help) As it turned out, the waiter at the restaurant was out in the street giving directions to two young backpackers… oh, and the lunch was fabulous. Grilled chicken, salad, rice and even french fries. With a drink it came to about $5.50 CDN.

On the ferry it was another wonderful well-organized chaotic scene. The ship was full, dozens of people on every deck, 5 ton trucks loaded with everything from mattresses to onions, a band CARRYING their amplifiers and instruments (no van for these guys), deckhands performing acrobatics to secure the load and the huge waves from the lake pounding the bow.

On the upper level, deckhands were handing out life vests while the touristas were struggling to figure out how to put them on. Just when we thought we were ready to depart, a whole new load of locals and touristas boarded the ship. Can we really hold all these people, trucks and freight? Maybe THAT’S what the life vests are for!

And then we heard it… sounded like a very slow police car siren from a 1950’s movie. Wwwwaaaaaaahhhhhhh….. And we set sail. Instantly the wind speed increased and anyone with a hat pulled it on tight. Heather struck up a conversation with one of the passengers and discovered that most of the top deck crew were from Holland on an adventure tour to Nicargaua, Honduras and Guatemala.

I met a fellow from Canada. He was living on Ometepe for an undetermined amount of time and had some things figured out – like his $15/night hotel room complete with swimming pool and fast wifi. Right on Charlie!

The boat ride to Ometepe was pleasant and uneventful. Back on land, we had arranged to be part of a collectivo shuttle from Moyagalpa. Our destination was Altagracia – a little town that doubles as a commercial hub for the island. Everyone jumped in to the van and off we went. The driver took the southwestern route around Volcan Concepcion and dropped people off along the way.

We were somewhere in the middle of the group and by 5:00 we had arrived at the Hotel Central in Altagracia.

The little hotel was impeccably clean and the staff super friendly. We were shown to our very own circular brick ‘cabin’. Private bathroom, good wifi, breakfast included – all for $26/night. Excellent!

We took the rest of the afternoon to stretch our legs and see the town a bit. As we’re now accustomed to seeing, families were out together, lots of kids playing in the park and motorcycles (the obvious main transportation here) putting up and down the main street.

Since then, we’ve moved on to the little hamlet of Santo Domingo right on the shores of Lake Nicaragua (or…Lake Cocibolca).

This spot is on the east side of the narrow part of the island. From here you can see both volcanos. Concepcion to the north and Madera to the south. They are both impressive but Concepcion is the most active.

Since 1883, Concepción has erupted at least 25 times; its last eruption was on 9 March 2010. Concepción’s eruptions are characterized by frequent, moderate-sized explosions. Active fumaroles are present just north of Concepción’s summit crater. – Wikipedia.

It’s pretty cool to be at the base of such an incredibly large earthly wonder. It’s also quite astounding to be in an area with such an active range of volanos. While at Laguna de Apoyo we took a trip to Volcan Masaya and were ‘blown away’ by its beauty. It’s not as active as Concepcion but to stare into the bubbling crater was incredible.

We have another week on Ometepe. During that time we’re going to be true to our roots and get back to the land in places like La Urraca Loca Hostel and El Zopilote Permaculture Farm… hangin’ out with the forest creatures…

Adios Granada, ola Laguna de Apoyo

“Time marches on and waits for no one.” Heather’s Dad Bruce was a very genuine fellow and would discreetly share this type of wisdom with us. We all lived together at Hillridge – the family homestead on the Fraser River north of Quesnel, BC. In 1974 as two young “back-to-the-land-ers” we moved north to Quesnel with Bruce and Heather’s Mum Sheila, and we looked up to Bruce to ration his life’s insight with us. Thanks Bruce…..

Yes, the past month has gone by very quickly, indeed.

Some photos from our stay in Granada:

The experience at the language school, Spanish Dale was both rewarding and exhausting. Starting every day at 8:00 AM, we’d typically start the day’s lesson with a conversation around the table with our instructor, Arleen. All sorts of topics were covered in the 15 days we were with her. Weather, characteristics of food in Nicaragua and in Canada, living in British Columbia, living in Nicaragua, how we live with bears and she lives with scorpions, religion, politics, etc.. oh, and the major differences between the English and Spanish languages. During the ‘conversations’ if we didn’t know or understand a word, we’d stop, Arleen would write it out and we’d record it for future use… X 1000.

After the morning discussion, we’d start into structured lesson plans covering the basics of every necessary combination of verbs – regular/irregular – even the ones that end in irse-erse or arse, feminine/masculine nouns, adjectives, idioms, prepositions and all the exceptions to the primary rules. In the first week we made major progress with common introductions and questions. By the third week it settled into a fairly intense info storm. As the linguistic wave crashed over us we felt a little overwhelmed but willing to push on through this chunky bit. It paid off. Without being totally aware, our brains WERE storing some of the hundreds of words and structural rules we were taught. So, now it’s up to us to continue to practice with the tools we’ve been given. We ARE conversing and we ARE understanding. Wow.

The three weeks did something else for us. They allowed us to become good friends with our homestay family in Granada. The head of the household was a warm and welcoming woman, Rosita. Maria, Rosita’s daughter and their housekeeper Esperanza made us feel like part of the family. Their place was very close to the Parque Central and the incredible Calle Commercio. We had the keys to the main gate at the front entrance so we could come and go as we pleased. However, with the day’s schooling wearing us down, we were typically in bed no later than 9:00 PM! Leaving the family was sad… hugs were exchanged and a few tears shed. Rosita’s final words asked us to not to forget “Mi casa es tu casa”. Anytime we’re in Granada…

Today, we’re enjoying the tropical luxury of Laguna de Apoyo 18km outside of Granada. It’s a remarkable place. The 175m deep lake occupies the caldera of an extinct volcano. The bottom of the lake is reportedly the lowest point in Central America. We’re staying at the Hostel Paraiso perched on the edge of the laguna. Wonderful.

Nicaragua is a magnet for world travelers. Apart from many, many Canadians we’ve met, we’ve had the good fortune to chat with folks from Germany, Holland, Norway, France and the USA. I’m sure we’ll meet more trekkers from other parts of the globe as we noodle our way around the country.

Next stop? The island of Ometepe – “an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua. Its name derives from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), meaning “two mountains”. – Wikipedia … Sure to be an adventure.

Commercial Drive

In Vancouver BC there is a fascinating street called Commercial Drive. Home to many ethnic stores, restaurants and pubs, it’s a hub of activity. In Granada, there is Calle El Comercio. The two things these thoroughfares have in common are: business – lots of it and, people – lots of them.

In Grenada there is a certain energy – an ardor and visible passion to just jump in and be one of the hundreds of vendors – however big or small.

Yes, this passion is driven by a need to survive in this poor country, but the point is, they’re doing it. Unless they’re very poor, they’re not looking for a handout.

On Calle El Comercio, the huge selection of products and services is staggering.

The vendors are located on the street, in stores off the street, in alleys lined with stalls and in the main market building the Mercado Municipal.

This building was built in the 1890’s, constructed in the “Neo-classical style”. It’s one of the historical landmarks in Grenada.

What can I buy?

It would take quite a while to stop at every stand or kiosk to recognize everything for sale. Some are obvious – a small bench, a tarp for a roof, bicycle wheels and tires hanging up and all kinds of bike parts dangling from the rafters give it away. Fair enough.

Down the back of the main Mercado building, we came across the long and narrow room that was the butcher’s area. As we entered, we saw a pile of deep fried something and when we looked closer, it was the pork rind (skin) that is part of the typical Nica dish Vigaron. Cool. As we continued on, there were all kinds of animal parts hanging up and down on the counters there were piles of meat of all kinds including yummy organ delicacies.

Back at home in the typical supermarket, the chicken is cradled in Styrofoam and wrapped up within an inch of its life – which as we know involves a fair bit of processing and industrialized care. Open and available for your selection, here the chicken selection was hygenic and convenient. And, there is a good chance this chicken was raised in a very different environment than we’re used to. They certainly taste that way!

Other vendors could fix your shoes, give you a haircut, fix your watch, shine your shoes, top up your cellphone plan, cook your lunch or dinner and even perform a mani-pedi.

As far as other tangible products go, the list is almost endless. From the freshest fruits and vegetables to cellphone cases – it’s all here.

We realized as we walked through the market and along the street what we were witnessing was the true Nicaragua. People buying and selling all the essential things for their daily lives. As long as people live in Granada, Calle El Comercio will be the place to shop and meet your friends!