Nicaragua Day 3: Leon

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.

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Nicaragua Day 2: Leon

Leon is hot but not unbearable. The staff at our hostel are friendly, and we’ve chatted with some fellow travelers. I really enjoy the hostel vibe compared to staying in hotels – even when we speak different first languages people are open and interested to hear where you’re from and why you’re there, and it makes for such a nice atmosphere.

For breakfast we took a long walk following inaccurate internet directions in search of a cafe named Libelula. The sidewalks here are narrow and tiled/cobblestone to weather frequent earthquakes. They are frequently interrupted by ramps or stairs, or broken tiles that leave gaping holes usually filled with garbage. To cross the street you may need to descend one or two steps from the sidewalk to the street, and many of the roads are only one way. How drivers know whether a road is one way or not, we have no idea. On foot, it is interesting to try and find your way without street names, especially when Torre is in his carrier and I can’t actually see where I’m putting my feet!

IMG_20141119_090130 IMG_20141119_090202After our wanderings, we made our way back to a restaurant we’d seen the day before near the cathedral – El Sesteo.

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Nicaragua Day 1: Leon

Nica car seat

Our cab to the bus station with our Nicaraguan-style car seat 😉

Our first morning in Nicaragua we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel, chatted some more with the Spanish family we’d met the night before, converted some currency and bought a local cell phone at the airport, then took a long cab ride to the bus station.

The first city on our itinerary was the colonial city of Leon. There are two kinds of public transit in Nicaragua, express buses and chicken buses. Express buses cost a little more than a chicken bus, but you get a seat, and they travel directly between cities. They are 12-15 passenger vans that leave when they’re full, and as soon as one bus leaves another one is ready to take its place at the bus station and start filling up with passengers.

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