December 2010 San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua The 4 hour bus ride from Guanajuato to Mexico City went smoothly. I spent the night in Mexico City. The next morning, I caught a flight to Managua (through Costa Rica) on December 4 . From Managua, I took a shuttle to San Juan del Sur where we had rented a house, Villa Oro, for a month. The house was located three miles out of town. I was on my own for 10 days until family could join me. It was an easy walk to the main road where taxis were plentiful so I was able to get to town most days. I enjoyed exploring the small town and area. The house was peaceful and relaxing; everyday I had spectacular sunsets. There were many fruit trees on the property; the grapefruit were just about ready and Nolan, the gardener, picked some for me to try....delicious! I became attached to the neighbor's dog, Princesa, who came to visit me regularly.
There were many beautiful birds and howler monkeys around the house.
The town of San Juan Sur is no longer a sleepy fishing town, but still remains low key despite the many tourists, restaurants and surf shops in town. The bay is beautiful and so are the views. Cruise ships come into town every few weeks. I loved the seafood just off the boat near the port. I regularly bought fish (swordfish, tuna, mahi mahi), shrimp and lobster that was quite inexpensive and delicious.
Isabelle joined me on December 14 for her two week vacation. I met her at the airport in Managua; from there we caught the bus to Matagalpa. We transferred to a local bus to take us near Finca Esperanza Verde, an organic coffee farm, where we had hotel reservations. After we descended the bus, it was a 3 kilometer uphill walk to the farm. We walked rather quickly, as night as falling. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and enjoyed a nice meal and afterwards we listened (Isabelle danced) to a small group playing folk music. The next morning, we hiked the trails on the farm. There were orchids, sloths, exotic plants, various birds and coffee bushes. We enjoyed being in nature in this peaceful finca (but it was cold at night!).
After two days, we took the bus to Masaya (we were told shopping was good here, but it was better in Granada). We checked into our hotel in Granda, Hotel con Corazon. The hotel was perfect, nice rooms, pool and terrific breakfasts. After touring the town, we rented a boat to take us out to the Isletas. The isletas are a group of 365 small islands on Lake Nicaragua. They were formed when Volcan Mombacho blew most of its cone into the lake over 20,000 years ago, creating the archipelago. Most are covered with vegetation and rich with bird life. A lot of the isletas are occupied and have private homes while others have hotels and restaurants. There is also one called Monkey Island.
We met Pat in Lago Apoyo. Lago Apoyo is a beautiful crater lake, and we stayed in cute bungalows at San Simian Resort. Isabelle took a hike up to Catarina, a small pueblo which has beautiful views of the lake and surrounding areas. The water, warmed by volcanic fissures in the ground, was warm and very clean. We were very happy to have Pat join us finally for his two week vacation.
Next we headed to Ometepe Island, an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. The larger and active volcano is Volcan Concepcion and the other is Volcan Maderas. We stayed at Finca San Juan de Isla on the island, near Altagracia. The hotel was beautiful and secluded and adjacent to a plaintain farm. It was located by the lake with gorgeous views of Volcan Concepcion. In addition, there were plenty of wildlife on the property; namely birds, butterflies and monkeys. Isabelle hired a guide and climbed Volcan Concepcion, an active volcano. It was a very difficult, steep, rocky eight hour climb. She said it was the hardest climb she had ever done (she had climbed other volcanoes including Tajumulco, Central America's highest peak), and she was pretty sore the next day. When I told acquaintences she had made the climb, they were pretty surprised as it is known to be very strenuous. Several tourists had lost their lives previously climbing without a guide. Pat and I hiked to the San Ramon waterfall. There was not a lot of water this time of year; however, the hike was a lot of fun.
Isabelle took off on her own for Leon for a couple of days. Pat and I wanted to relax at the house in San Juan del Sur, but regretted not going when she returned with great stories about this lovely, historic colonial city.
We returned to the house. It was wonderful to relax, swim, watch beautiful sunsets and visit the town with Pat and Isabelle. For Christmas, we were joined by Craig and Ben, two of Isabelle's friends who were vacationing in Nicaragua. We had a great time together enjoying good food and interesting conversation.
We visited the beaches north of San Juan del Sur, Marsellas, Maderas and Majagual. We especially enjoyed Maderas and Majagual; they had long stretches of beautiful and almost deserted beach (December is the end of surfing season).
On another day, we visited Playa El Coco, a gorgeous wide beach south of San Juan del Sur. They have a great restaurant there, Puesta del Sol, and we had delicious ceviche and drinks. From there, we were able to walk to the overlook to see La Flor Reserve where turtles came to lay their eggs.
We had a holiday get together with the household staff and their families. We invited Agusto, the night security guard and his family: Anna, his wife, and two children, Marta and Fernando. Their cousins, Marie Jose, Dylan and Tatiana also came. The two gardeners attended, Jose and his son, wife and her mother, as well as Nolan and his wife, Juana, and their adorable baby, Ryan. Baseball is very popular in Nicaragua and Nolan is an avid fan; guess that's where the names "Nolan" and "Ryan" came from! We had a pinata filled with candy for the kids, which was a "hit"! We ate barbecued chicken, hot dogs, salad, rice, tortillas and ice cream. Anna helped prepare the meal with her special spices, and it was delicious. What fun we had that day!
Isabelle returned to Washington, D.C. to celebrate New Year's with her friends. We had so much fun together; we were sad to see her go. Bye Isabelle, see you soon!!
Pat and I took a trip to Rivas, a small town near San Juan del Sur. We enjoyed this busy little town with its lively market. It was here that William Walker from the U.S. stormed the city in 1855 and 1856 but was repelled. William Walker set himself up as President of Nicaragua in 1856 in Granada, but was kicked out by the Central America coalition a year later. As he fled, he set fire to Granada and burned most of the city. He was later executed by firing squad by the Honduran government.
Armand and his girlfriend, Madelene, joined us in San Juan del Sur. It was great to see them both again! We went for a hike at El Coco Beach and enjoyed relaxing at the house together. After a few days, they set off on their own to travel in Nicaragua and Honduras. Have a great time you two...we will miss you!!
Pat and I spent our last two days in Granada. We enjoyed this charming, colorful colonial city, with Volcan Mombacho looming over the city. On New Year's Eve, we had a delicious dinner at El Tercer Ojo. We found a band playing on the street. We were invited to dance with a Nicaraguan family. We partied with them until midnight when we watched the fireworks before returning to our beautiful colonial hotel, Hotel Patio del Malinche. A memorable beginning of 2011!
On New Year's Day, we visited Granada's colorful market.
We took a horse carriage ride through the city, and then returned to our hotel to relax by the pool.
We were sad to leave beautiful Nicaragua. We will especially miss the wonderful people we met and made friends with. Goodbye kids...we'll miss you!
Pat and I hugged each other goodbye at the airport; he headed back to work in Canada and I went back to Guanajuato, Mexico. Goodbye Nicaragua for now!
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