Everyone has been telling me to avoid the capital cities, both in Costa
Rica and in Nicaragua, so, from the airport I got the local bus
straight to Granada. "You'll like Granada." That was the general
opinion. The bus dumped me at another of those places that look like a
council depot. I could see the top of the cathedral in the distance.
Why this particular bus decided to stop on the outskirts of town I have
no idea. The shuttles rattle all the way down to the main square.
Granada is another of those low-rise cities. It's situated right on the
lake, which is more like a sea. You certainly cant see the other side,
and a pleasant breeze blows off the water to keep the town reasonably
The hotels all appear to be based upon the same principle: a set of
rooms built around a courtyard. The courtyard contains the swimming
pool and a few trees. It's cool, it's pleasant, and you eat breakfast
by the pool, which is as it should be.
Not all the hotels are what I would wish. I got shut out of my
preferred one for a few days so I went to another, an upgrade as I
thought. Unfortunately the four star hotel I moved to was not an
improvement. Large halls and fancy columns everywhere, but the swimming
pool was inhabited by a bunch of stroppy ducks, and the bedroom smelled
of damp. I moved out after one night.
There are two more four star hotels on the main square. A couple of
folks told me they'd moved out of them for the same reason.
Breakfast was also a bit of a problem in my four star. The kitchen
doubles as a shop, where you can buy coffee beans, and various local
products. There is also a very interesting set of screen prints hanging
from the wall showing how coffee grows and how the beans are made into
We residents go down and order breakfast, and take it back to tables
set in one of the courtyards. This is fine, except if you decide to go
and top up your drink, some interfering blighter clears away the rest
of your breakfast and you have to queue up for some more.
The usual way to start the day in this part of the world is to have a
bowl of gallo pinto. This is not to everyone's taste, but I like to
adapt to the local way of doing things, so I started every morning with
my bowl of rice and beans. It sounds awful, and usually it is very very
dull. I decided to spice mine up a bit, and always insisted on a
liberal dose of chilly sauce to take away the blandness. Since the name
means 'painted rooster' I suspect we ought to have some tomatoes cut
into it as well.
The recipes online sound a lot better than the dish you actually
receive in the average hotel or restaurant. I always preferred the
dishes which had a little something else added to give flavour and
contrast. A dash of onion, maybe a spot of ginger, and a garlic clove,
finely chopped, improve the dish immensely. Usually you just get black
beans and rice.
The other universal dish is a bowl of fruit, which means bananas, and
anything else that is in season. Mind you, everything is in season
pretty well all year round.
You drink black coffee from freshly ground beans, and it's so nice to
know that all the ingredients for your breakfast have come from less
than a bus ride away.
The interesting part of the town is the area surrounding the cathedral.
There are horse drawn carriages to take you round the back streets and
down to the lake. There are shoe-shine boys in the square, under the
trees. There are cafes, and strollers selling everything from bread and
cakes, to packets of cigarettes, fruit, snacks, dark glasses, and
pottery. And the street that runs down from the cathedral to the lake
is chock-a-block with restaurants spreading across the street.
The place has a nice friendly atmosphere. After a few hours I knew I
was going to stay.