Finding Granada

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June 25, 2013

When last we saw our intrepid explorer, he had just stepped off a cramped bus somewhere in Nicaragua…

My first impression of Granada was not glowingly positive. But walking just a few blocks, I arrived at the parque central and took in a whole different vibe. Granada was founded as a Spanish colonial outpost- a few years ago, Karen and I visited the Moorish city it’s named after in southern Spain. While much strife has crossed these avenues, the citizens have rebuilt and restored key buildings after each conflict. The central park is bright, clean, and bustling.

Looming particularly large in Nicaraguan history is William Walker, a Tennessee native who in the 1850s set his sights on no less than conquering all of Central America. After his army was turned back in Santa Rosa, Costa Rica, he sought refuge in Granada. However, he hadn’t made many friends in the region. When the Honduran, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan armies came knocking, he fled. Naturally, his men set the town ablaze on their way out.

The residents seemed to have patched things up nicely, ready and waiting for us photo-snapping tourists.

Basking in colorful colonial architecture is nice and all, but I was worn out from that bus ride. After dropping my bag at the hotel, I stumbled back to Parque Central seeking a snack… and found one of my favorites: plantains- in this case, plantain chips with cheese.

So simple, so delicious. Rejuvenated, I made the most of the remaining daylight. Climbing to the top of Iglesia de La Merced’s bell tower reveals a boffo view all the way to Lake Nicaragua and beyond.

You call that a view? Ha! The guidebook tells of a fort, Fortaleza La Polvora, with “the best view in town.” Walking west to find it, I noticed the city’s painted veneer wearing off, block by block. The fort rests in a scruffy part of town, with ramshackle homes resembling those along the bus route.

Turns out the fort was closed, so no “best view” for me.

Back in the park, where painted buildings abound, I stumbled upon a good old-fashioned singing/musical/dancing exhibition/competition/spectacle (rural Nicaragua’s version of a reality show?).

Hmm, that clip wasn’t exactly up to my usual standards of hard-hitting video journalism. Actually, I just wanted to get back to the hotel, where I discovered… the nap. A monumental invention, dating back to- well, a long time ago. Ninety-five degree days… in Latin America… and until now I’ve forgotten to take a sueñecito. A nap.

OK! I’m back! Full of energy! Oh, yeah, it’s 8pm. I treated myself to a fancy dinner: a trio of fancy enchiladas and a glass of wine for US$13. Well-rested and well-fed, I wandered the streets a bit, snapping night photos around the park.

Yes, this is the sort of walk that would terrify many fearful Americans. No, I didn’t feel at all unsafe.

Granada was drifting off to sleep, and soon enough, so was I.