Parking is no problemo in Granada


Swimming in a volcano

imageBy Vicki Barnes

When someone asks if you want to go swimming in the crater of a volcano, you’ll probably think they’ve lost their mind.

If the volcano is Apayo, a half an hour car ride from Granada, Nicaragua, you should immediately take them up on their offer. This volcano is practically extinct.

The last time it erupted was well before the current age, though there is still an active fumarole (an opening in the earth that emits steam and gas) on the western side of the crater, which means it is only sleeping – sleeping very deeply. Continue reading

Final farewell on a crowded highway

This funeral procession passed in front of our hostel on the Pan American Highway. The horse-drawn carriage is the typical way to bring the deceased to his final resting place. Those who can afford the much more expensive trip, can make their final trip in an automobile.
Behind the carriage, the mourners walked slowly just before sunset, while rush hour traffic zipped by, ignoring the procession on their way home for the evening.
Some commuters on foot rushed across the street and walked heads down on the opposite side of the street. Bicyclists and motorcyclist evacuated the area as quickly as possible. Occasionally, someone crossed themself before moving on.
We’re told the funerals draw little attention because horse-drawn carts are common in Granada. A slow-moving group, walking behind a cart is mostly a nuisance rather than a moment of respect.

Anything you want, in one chaotic place

By Vicki Barnes

The kids used to tell me that I was missing the “shopping gene”. Unlike most women, I hate shoppimg.

I usually lack the time, the financial resources and the patience to go to the mall or the box store and wander through neat rows in tidy stores looking for who-knows-what. Continue reading

Eating cheap in an unusual place

By Vicki Barnes

Dining in the museum is a sweet experience

Dining in the museum is a sweet experience

A chocolate museum is something bound to catch the eye of any woman…and most men.

A few blocks off the central square in Granada, Nicaragua the Choco Museo (chocolate museum) is a shrine to the favorite sweet of most of the world. It is a place to learn and a place to indulge. Continue reading

GM Granada Hostal

By Vicki Barnes

The owner of the GM Granada Hostal in Granada, Nicaragua is an enthusiastic California teacher who loves his job back home. In the oasis that is his hostel across the Pan American Highway from the Ticabus station in this country’s second largest city, he loves to bring people together to learn about each other and about the things they have learned during their travels. Continue reading

It’s all in a day on the road

Do you want speed or do you want adventure?

A van from the beaches in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica, where we stayed a few nights, to the nearest airport in Liberia is about $50 per person. A flight from Liberia to Managua, Nicaragua – the nearest airport to our destination in that country is about $120 per person. A van from the beaches where we were staying in Granada is about $40.

The route from Point A to Point B is not so easy sometimes.

The route from Point A to Point B is not so easy sometimes.

So for a mere $210 per person, we could have been here in a few hours.

Or, for $21 apiece, we made it here in seven – laughing, sore and sweating the excitement from every pore. Continue reading

Super fans watch the Big Game in Costa Rica

Seahawks fans in Playas del Coco enjoy the Super Bowl Costa Rican style

Seahawks fans in Playas del Coco enjoy the Super Bowl Costa Rican style

By Vicki Barnes

On the north side of the main street in Playas del Coco in the northern Nicoya peninsula  in Costa Rica gringos are hunched over their drinks at the Lizard Lounge. Three televisions and a projection TV are tuned to the American Super Bowl. Conversation is a bit subdued.

Across the street at Zi Lounge, the place is rocking. Patrons are lifting their beers and umbrella-festooned tropical drinks in happy cheers, slapping high fives with their neighbors and screaming indecipherable epithets to one another and into the street. Five huge screen TVs are blasting the NFL championship game. Continue reading

Take time to smell the roses…and everything else

By Vicki Barnes

Costa Rica is a beautiful country of bright colors and lively sounds, but there is another sense that is tantalized when walking through the streets here: the smells of this country bombard you with every step.

On the main roads, where the tourists travel, there are restaurants of every persuasion. The beans, onions, cilantro and plantains of the local fare mingle with the hamburgers on the grill at the place where you can get comidos rapido.
Fresh fish  on the grill or frying chicken are common scents. Fruits of every variety are always being sliced at corner stands. The familiar scents of bread and tomato sauce are fairly common in the tourist areas as well. Continue reading

What’s this guy doing?

imageThis guy is not picking through the trash outside the bus station. He’s sorting through the packages that have been shipped to town via bus. In a country with few street names and no addresses, packages are usually taken from place to place in the cargo areas of the ever-moving buses. For example, if I wanted to send a birthday present to my Tio Juan in Pinas Blancas, I would take my box, marked with his name and the city to the main bus stop here and put it on the bus. He would go to the main bus stop in his town, show his ID and pick it up. Not as simple as taking it to the post office in the US, but certainly effective. I don’t believe that the packages are guaranteed to arrive undamaged – or to arrive at all.