Granada Nicaragua - billibilli

Say that three times fast!

In 1524 Granada was one of the first cities founded by Europeans in the new world, and remained one of the most important hubs until the Panama canal was completed in 1914. Until the Panama canal, Granada marked the shortest route between the seas. During the gold rush to California, the quickest way to get from New York to the West coast was a steamship to Nicaragua, a smaller steamer up the Rio San Juan and across the massive Lago Nicaragua to Granada, and from there it's a very short overland trip to the Pacific ocean.

Kalee and Daniel's first day in Nicaragua we rode the bus to Granada. We took in the bright colors and spanish architecture of the city center and ate lunch in the Parque Central. It was our first opportunity to try Vigoron, probably Nicragua's most popular street food.

Vigoron is boiled yuca and cabbage salad with a pork rind. In my book, anything topped with a pork rind had to have been created by someone who appreciates good food. Yuca is a starchy root vegetable that's kind of like a flaky potato. It's excellent fried, like extra crunchy, flaky french fries. Boiled, it's basically a flavorless mush. The cabbage slaw on top is a salty, vinegary contrast to the bland yuca, and ours was served with a spoonful of pickled salsa for a burst of flavor.

After lunch the four of us walked down to Lago Nicaragua for a swim but ended up taking a boat tour into Las Isletas, a chain of supposedly 365 islands that stretch way out into the lake in the shadow of Volcan Mombacho, a giant volcano that towers over Granada. Many of the tiny islands have large mansions, plush resorts, or restaurants on them. We stopped at one restaurant for second lunch and ate a big ugly fish -with teeth- called a Guapote.

Afterwards our tour boat wouldn't start but we were rescued by a local American named Joe. He took us back to his beautiful home in the islands that he and his wife built. Joe wants to rent out his house as a vacation home so we arranged to stay there while he's gone so we can take photos and get it listed online.

Joe took us back into town where we were staying at Oasis Hostel. Oasis is probably the best deal in Granada, with a beautiful interior full of hammocks and a clean refreshing swimming pool. The all you can eat breakfast isn't amazing, but who doesn't like pancakes and bananas? We cooled off in the pool before retiring for the night from a very long and eventful day.

Saturday we spent at the Laguna de Apoyo, which is a massive lake in the caldera (the belly button) of a huge volcano. To get to the lake you have to drive way down into the crater, and the water is warm and clear. We kayaked around, swam, and ate fruit before riding back to Granada. Kenna and I walked out to the plaza and ate dollar hamburgers, and then we walked around and found Daniel and Kaylee surrounded by a crowd of assailants including a mariachi band, a kid folding palm fronds into flowers and grasshoppers, another kid selling hammocks, and a few beggars.

Sunday morning we walked past the market to the brand new Church of Jesus Christ building. It happened to be district conference, so we met the Managua South Mission President, the local members, and a whole bunch of missionaries. We made friends with a nice family who live just down the street, and they invited us to come over that evening.

It was Daniel's birthday, so we ate a steak dinner and bought a birthday cake before returning to visit the family. The father works at a hotel on the night shift, and the mother runs a medical lab and in her spare time makes pinatas. It's nice to make friends here, and we'll definitely see them again when we get back to Granada.

Tomorrow we're on our way to Ometepe, the volcano island in the middle of Lago Nicaragua.

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