This morning's wake up call was not that of a screeching siren, or the cuckoorooku of the dove but that of human voices, the jubilant voice of one of hosts here at the Hotel Casa San Francisco, Terry Leary.
Terry, and her sister Nancy came here in 2002 before tourism blossomed in Nica. They are originally from the US, the Bay Area of California, however both have spent many years with the Peace Corp. They fell in love with Granada and immediately purchased the home of Nicaraguan family Barberena, and lovingly created the Hotel Casa San Francisco. The home is situated in the Plaza San Francisco, next to the San Francisco Cathedral, and hailing from the San Francisco area, the name Hotel Casa San Francisco was obvious.
Having realtor experience, both sisters laughingly tell us that Nancy was Granada's first realtor that had never spent time in prison! Not sure if it still holds true today, however 16 years ago, there were no regulations or licensing, very much a wild, Wild West.
Nancy claims to be serial entrepreneur from the time of her first lemonade stand, and Terry loves to design and build - a perfect match! Once one project, house or business is completed and appropriately decorated, they start on the next one. Our hotel is decorated with beautiful artifacts from the world over, wonderful attention to detail and very tastefully done. Fero notices the fabulous detail to the workmanship and plumbing fixtures, I just love all the 'pretty' things!
Mark joins us for breakfast and before long we realize we have a great deal in common. He is also a builder, like the ladies, however he has also been a professional photographer and documentary filmmaker. He too has enjoyed climbing mountains at high altitude and the conversation switches to the adventures and memories of some very unforgiving places. We all agree there were many times we uttered 'what the heck were we thinking'! A family from the US (parents are originally from Mumbai) overhear our conversation, and the gentleman confesses he too climbed to Annapurna Base Camp and thought the exact same thing, 'what was I thinking!
Our pace for the day slows following such a lively and interesting breakfast. We head for the Plaza Central, first popping in to visit the Cathedral de San Francisco. It is the oldest church in Nicaragua, and the whole of Central America, built by Franciscan monks over 490 years ago. The construction is simple compared to other cathedrals we have seen, however very beautiful in its simplicity.
The Plaza is buzzing with activity, vendors selling everything from food & refreshments from small food carts,to hats, clothing and souvenirs. The Plaza Cental is always the corazon (heart) of any Latin American city. Granada antigua has very strict regulations and the preservation of the colonial buildings and vibrant colours is stunning.
We are in search of local t-shirts and head to the Mercado where we know you can find anything. Granada's market is very different to Leon's and is almost an assault to the senses. It is an array of haphazard booths spilling off the sidewalks on to the streets, vendors shouting, pungent smells and throngs of people. It wasn't very long before we looked at each other and said 'let's get outta here'.
Our next stop was a outdoor food stand in the Plaza Central for a cool refreshment. We downed a cold tamarindo juice in seconds and stayed for a dish famous in this region, Vigoron Mixta, which is cooked pork and yucca with a spicy cabbage on the top. It was absolutely delicious. Ahhhhh, we are feeling much better now, however we still have the issue of purchasing our t-shirts. As luck would have it, there were four stalls in the plaza that had exactly what we are looking for - yay. Time to head to the hotel and relax for a wee bit.
It's 4:30pm and cooler breezes are enveloping Granada so we head out and sit on the hotels narrow patio and watch the Nica world go by. Before long we move over to La Hacienda restaurant & bar and order a Cerveza Tona and una copa de vino tinto. Next in order, Natchos - let's see if they can beat or even match those we had in Managua. Nope, not even close, shame! After the next round we decide it's time to order dinner. While waiting we chat with a fellow at the next table, Scott from Littleton Colorado. He is staying in Granada for two weeks with a rental car (rather brave) and doing day trips from here. A super nice gentleman and a pleasant conversation.
Just as he is leaving, our friend Mark strolls by and we invite him in for a rum. We ask Scott to stay but he is off to see if he can get in to the fancy 'cigar smokers convention' across the street - nope they turned him around! Seriously, it was a cigar smokers convention and they had the 'cigars, cigarette, cigarillos girls' to boot.
And of all coincidences, we find out that Mark lived in Littleton, Colorado from 9-18 years of age. We had a lovely conversation over some Flor de Cana and then it was time to call it a night - quite a day!