Nicaragua Day 3: Leon

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Another stunning day in Leon! Matt wasn’t able to join the volcano boarding group last minute, so we wandered into a local breakfast buffet near the tour place. It was very intimidating to see a huge selection of food I didn’t recognize except perhaps at its most basic: “something with beans” “something else with beans” “might be boiled plantain” “meat in a gravy.” We abandoned ship and went back to Libelula, whose menu we now knew was filled with appetizing and relatively cheap options. I had a papaya crepe, and Matt got the Nica breakfast special.

A typical breakfast in Nicaragua features gallo pinto (guy-oh peen-toe), which is red beans and rice fried together with some onion and a bit of garlic. It is usually accompanied by an egg or two, some tortilla, maybe some fruit, and if you’re extra lucky, some cheese. Matt and I both really enjoyed this type of breakfast, and the first morning after we came home we actually cooked up a big batch of gallo pinto, scrambled some eggs and sliced some cheese for desayuno typico.

Torre was very busy while we ate our breakfast, climbing in the booth, crawling under the table, and using cutlery as drum sticks, but it was nice to share a meal with Matt because I’d been preparing myself for a morning alone if he did the volcano tour. We had the same waitress as we’d had the day before, and she was so patient and kind as we laboriously ordered our food, asked for coffee refills, and got the bill.

We spent the rest of the morning at the hostel. Matt went to the town square to exchange the rest of our American money – many cities have unofficial money changers who hang around high-traffic areas fanning huge stacks of of bills to advertise their services. While unofficial, they are legitimate, and they often offer as good a rate as the banks or currency exchange without charging any fees. It pays to know what a good rate is, because as with everything in Nicaragua, the first offer they make you may just be to test the waters and they’ll expect a counter-offer. The man Matt dealt with gave him a great rate, and since there were no fees it ended up being a better deal than the money we exchanged at the airport when we first arrived. Matt was happy, and the money changer was extremely happy to get a big piece of business.IMG_20141120_101527

While this was going on, I settled Torre down for a nap and then read about half a book from the hostel book exchange. It felt very vacation-y to soak up some sun (although I was actually in the shade or I would have been roasted!) and spend a few hours in a book. Once Torre woke up, we went to El Sesteo for lunch. It was about 2pm, and the day was less strikingly hot. We had some conversation with the waiter, and after our meal he brought Torre an ice cream sunday with sprinkles! Very cute.

After lunch we went across the square to the cathedral. It is so beautiful on the inside and obviously very well cared for, in contrast to the obvious age that shows on the outside.

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We walked then asked someone if we could go up on the roof – something Matt had read was possible online. It turns out the little door on the east side of the cathedral leads to a little room where they store figures for festivals and where a caretaker sits to sell tickets to access the roof. For 78 cordobas (3 US dollars) each, we got a receipt to take to another little door on the south side of the cathedral, where a man let us in. We climbed up several narrow flights of stairs to a big, unfinished room where we had to take off our shoes, then down a short flight of stairs and we were on the roof of the cathedral!

The roof is painted white, so in the sun it is dazzling to be up there, but there was a wonderful breeze and amazing views of the city and surrounding mountains, and we did find some shade from a bell tower to rest from the sun. If we ever return to Leon, going back up on the roof of the cathedral will be at the top of my list of things to do. Here’s comes a TON of pictures:

Something interesting from today was when we went into the cathedral itself to ask directions up to the roof, a young man approached us and asked Matt to remove his hat inside the cathedral. We were both so happy for this reminder that even though this 200+ year old building that sits open all day is still a place of reverence and respect and worship, not just a tourist attraction. Every time we’ve been in the cathedral there have been people there praying as well as wandering around, and even though we had to take our shoes off on the roof to avoid causing extra wear, it just emphasized that this whole building is holy ground.

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