We had a lovely breakfast and great coffee at our hostel. While relaxing over breakfast we realized that a shuttle to Granada was leaving right from the front door at 9am and only cost $10 each. We realized at 8:55am. Thankfully we were already packed and ready to go, so off to Granada we went. On the shuttle we bumped into Brian and Dara, who were on their way to the airport.
When we arrived in Granada we happily realized that the shuttle dropped us off only a few blocks away from our next Guesthouse, Hostal La Mexicana. The owner was super-friendly and though I wouldn't eat off the floor, this place was much nicer than our accommodations in León had been ... and there were two fans in the room that both worked 😊
Granada was founded along the coast of Lake Nicaragua in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. Built to impress those who'd just been conquered, Granada is the grandest European city in Central America. The city has been witness and victim to many of the battles with and invasions from English, French and Dutch pirates trying to take control of Nicaragua.
It was also where William Walker, the American filibuster, took up residence and attempted to take control of Central America as a ruling president. The city has been razed and set ablaze more than once in its history.
For many years Granada and León battled to be capital city of Nicaragua. The city of Granada was favored by the Conservatives, while Léon was favored by the Liberals. For many years there was conflict that at times became quite violent between the cities' families and political factions. In the mid-19th century a compromise site was agreed on and the capital was finally established at Managua between both cities. Granada avoided much of the tumult of the Sandinista Era in the 1970-80s and this is evident in the photogenic elegance of the city; a picture postcard at nearly every turn. The thing I noticed immediately, Granada is clean and seems to cater much more to tourist-traffic. In many places this would put me off a bit, but I loved this city for all sorts of reasons.
Like many, we decided to use Granada as a base from which to do day-trips. But first, a tour of
Granada itself. The first church we came across is one of the oldest in the Americas and was just down the street. Iglesia La Merced was built in 1534 and is perhaps the most beautiful church in the city. The view from the bell tower is fantastic. Originally completed in 1539, it was razed by pirates in 1655 and rebuilt with its current baroque facade between 1781 and 1783. Damaged by William Walker’s forces in 1854, it was again restored with the current elaborate interior in 1862.
Granada’s cavernous cathedral is a mammoth, unbelievably grand building. Although commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs in the early 1500s, construction began only after Isabella’s death, and didn’t finish until 1704. The result is a variety of styles: baroque outside, and Renaissance inside. The Cathedral is the centre of the city, and it fronts a large park and square like the Spanish cities it is modelled after.
We made the mistake of thinking that the signs to the Centro Turístico would lead us to a tourist information office. We were wrong but our mistake led us to the beach which was a nice place to visit. Centro Turístico
is actually a lakefront area with restaurants, discos, sandy beaches, kids' play areas, picnic spots, and is the launching area for kayaks or Las Isletas boat excursions. We walked around this area for a little while before heading back toward the central square via La Calzada. Along the way we came across the stunning Iglesia de Guadalupe which was built in 1626 by the monk Fray Benito Baltodano. This grand church was used as a fortress by William Walker in 1856 when he was being driven out of the country. Reconstruction was completed in 1965.
We continued walking toward the central square and La Calzada became more and more upscale with many restaurants and shops along the way. There were also a few tour companies and we soon discovered that the last possible night-tour of volcan Masay was tonight. (At first Ann & I thought that this was just an excuse to try to sell us a tour, but we confirmed that during Sanata Semana many tourist sites close for the long weekend). We didn't have a lot of time, so we booked the tour and headed for Masaya only a few minutes later.
We spent a total of 4 days in Granada and I would have been happy to spend more time here. Our entire visit was during Semana Santa and every night leading up to Good Friday there were processions that progressively got more somber as the death of Christ approached. The many churches around town seemed to often have something going on. We went into most of them and each was lovely in it's own way. On Good Friday we happened across San Francisco church and saw a wonderful artistic display (and we met the artist). We returned for the service later that evening to see the finished work.
We found many great cafe's, restaurants and pubs. We bought an awesome hammock at Café de las Sonrisas. On our last day we visited the local market (not the tourist market). What an awesome place, it reminded me of some of the markets in the middle east. A lot of raw meat hanging or being chopped ... stray dogs wandering around hoping something falls. Crazy sights, smells and sounds. We found a few items we were searching for, and I got a haircut for less than $2 ... and
Ann got a manicure for around $3. Easter Sunday our Nicaragua adventure came to an end and we caught our Ticabus bound for Costa Rica.
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