It’s a solid two hour drive from our cozy room in Arte-Sano to the colonial city of Granada on the shores of Lake Colcibolca, the largest lake in Central America. We set the GPS to bring us to the Centro Turisrico which is a large park directly lakefront on the southern edge of the city. The idea was give Oso a place to recoup from holding down his bed in the backseat for the trip. The park was a little bit in disrepair. A grand idea in its day that never really took off with the locals so the miles of malecon don’t receive the funding needed for its proper upkeep. A few locals were sitting on the benches but it had a mostly ghost town feel with maybe 30% of the restaurants still in action. Which actually made it great for Oso to run around and do his business.
We didn’t stay more than a half hour before we drove into the heart of the city and parked next to the cathedral in front of the main park. An orange vested entrepreneur promised to keep an eye on the car so we stepped over a sleeping vagabond and walked along the cobblestones until we found a small restaurant facing the large colegio across the walking street. I felt a little entitled feeding my dog a chicken breast while a hungry beggar laid on the sidewalk not 50 meters away. Lots of bikes and foot traffic to watch as we sat and enjoyed our lunch. The self proclaimed poet of Bluefields, a Creole man with one leg, visited our table and recited a beautiful love poem for PJ and I. John Oliver was easygoing and humble and it was a pleasure meeting up with him. We finished up our meal and headed for the park slipping a handful of Cordobas into the palm of the old gentleman resting on the sidewalk as we passed.
The park was hopping and Christmas decorations were getting set up all around. Food carts dotted the perimeter and souvenir stands were hustling gringos to come on in. Being the tourist that I am, I bought a Nicaragua cap to add to the collection having fun with the lively sales lady as she tried to get us to add more to the cart.
The cathedral takes up a full city block facing onto the park with its large spires and bright yellow paint. We walked around the outside and stopped into the small gift shop across the road to buy a few trinkets and cards. Granada has become a destination on the foreign tourist trail and resembles little the humble town we would visit in the nineties for our border runs. Upscale B&Bs are the norm, beautiful hotels created from the old colonial buildings with
their lush internal courtyards and big wooden doors. The downside is all of the touts and hustlers trying to work you for a buck. After buying my Nicaragua hat, a tour salesman followed us down the street aggressively pushing me to give him my old cap. It’s my souvenir from Panama so I wasn’t giving it up. About half a block later, he gave up and we turned the corner walking down the hill.
We continued down La Calzada, the several blocks long walking street, but it was mid-afternoon and not much was going on. Restaurants and hotels line the quaint street filling the center of the road with their tables. We grabbed a couple of Red Bulls at a small shop in a boutique hotel and sat at a sidewalk table listening to the waitresses banter as they set out the chairs.
Form there it was back up to the park then over a few blocks to the church that American William Walker burned down in the mid 1800s when he was attempting to make himself the impromptu ruler of Central America. A group of students were inside getting a history lesson from the nun who had walked them to the church grounds. We wandered around outside reading the plaques and watching the horse drawn carts clopping up the street lined with colorful houses. The day was getting on, so we said farewell to Granada and threaded the car through the narrow cobbles out to the main highway that leads out of town.