Granada was a place I had read mixed reviews on. On one hand, it was supposed to be the colonial heartland of Nicaragua, displaying architectural wonders at every turn. On the other it had the reputation for being a bit devoid of character, a less authentic version of León. There was only one way to get to the bottom of it all and that was to experience it first-hand.
Arriving in Granada by tourist shuttle was strange and the only time we would give a thought to transport at that price again but it was efficient and comfortable, taking us to the door of our next hostel. Hostel Oasis is set around a square courtyard garden, surrounded by hammocks. The rooms were off of the courtyard and there was even a small pool, we didn’t give staying there a second thought. We used and abused those hammocks, chilling in them relentlessly. That was until hunger took over and we headed out for some much-needed grub.
A food recommendation from myself is usually a trustworthy and even sought-after commodity, however my reputation was tainted this day when I saw some good reviews for Cafetin el Volcán. This was a little café in the centre of Granada and stuck my neck out for them and believed the good reviews. We regretted our decision as soon as we went into the empty cafe. We were treated with hostility and what we thought was a pathological hatred for us from the waitress. The food was not great but was cheap. We returned to the hostel for a chilled evening, vowing never to return to the café of irrational hatred.
The next morning, I consoled my despairing stomach with the all you can eat breakfast of American pancakes of which, eight were devoured, alongside a healthy smothering of maple syrup and topped with a banana to level out the unhealthiness, well kind of. Heading out into the city at about 11am we proceeded to La Inglesia de la Merced. Its an old church, one might even say a very old church and we enjoyed the many paintings of Jesus and such things. The main attraction however was the bell tower, from which the entire city was visible, with an especially impressive view of the cathedral. The cathedral, which we visited next, was also impressive (obviously not nearly as majestic or grand as the 13th century Salisbury Cathedral), but a good effort all-round.
Continuing our exploration around the city with its many churches and colourful buildings we quickly found ‘the strip’, otherwise known as Calle Caldaza. The wide street lined with trees and outdoor seated restaurants was extremely enticing and was a hot spot for the tourists and wealthier locals. However, we resisted the urge to have a seat and continued towards Lake Nicaragua. On our way, we found a local children’s baseball game which we peered at. Truthfully the standard of pitching, even to an uninitiated baseball player such as myself, was abysmal. Frankly the 10 year olds didn’t live up to the standards of baseball I was promised from my many years of watching Francine dominate in the timeless classic, Arthur. Down at the vast and fairly brown expanse of the lake we were treated to a menagerie of sorts. Cows, a goat or two and a rogue pig, all enjoying the shoreline was a sight to behold but didn’t entice us to go for a swim.
Back in the centre of Granada we headed for an open-air courtyard enclosed with multi-storey shops and cafes. Here we had spied the quarter final of the Euros about to begin, so we sat down, ordered two litres of beer and a hefty portion of chips. We were content. The game was intense and everyone was getting into it, most supporting Italy over Germany. After Italy had lost by penalties, much to the disappointment of the crowd, we tipped the extremely friendly and helpful waiter and decided we’d try and chill at the hostel for as long as our stomachs would allow.
Back to the strip for dinner because we were not going to repeat the shambolic culinary experience of the day before. We instantly hit the jackpot at the restaurant ‘Nectar’, arriving just in time to take advantage of happy hour. We ordered two Macuá cocktails each (the national drink of Nicaragua) and munched on some free Yuca crisps. The sun was setting as our food arrived, I had strips of beef with various roasted vegetables and of course a small amount of gallo pinto while Brendan had some chicken filled tortillas. We were both impressed with the food and it was great location to relax and enjoy the refreshing evening air.
The next morning it was time for us to leave Granada but not without a quick trip to Palí, our favourite supermarket for some essentials. Alcohol and deodorant. Ron Plata was the spirit of choice, it was a large bottle of Rum for a ridiculously low price (probably due to its tasting like white spirit mixed with industrial drain cleaner). The deodorant was because I didn’t have any as of yet, and the need was dire, so after this purchase I had 1 out of 3 essential items for the trip. Deodorant, soap and suncream. It wold take me a whole 2 weeks from the the start of the trip to acquire the full set.
Granada was better than either of us had expected. It was the first established European city in mainland America and while Leon may retain more of its original features due to Granada being burnt to the ground in the 1800s, Granada felt more welcoming and relaxed.
The city has been rebuilt tastefully with the colourful streets and impressive buildings, if we had had more time in Nicaragua we would’ve stayed there longer.