Monday, March 25, 2013

Marcella's Baby Shower!

On March 23rd, 2013, I was invited to a baby shower for Marcella (our landlord) and her little girl, Danna, due in May.  The shower was held at her mother's house on the corridor outside their home and was beautifully decorated.  The tables covered with pink and white table cloths and had a box full of popcorn and a purple heart balloon.   

People arrived one, two or three at a time.  Some I knew and others I did not, all speaking in Spanish and having a wonderful time.   I watched and listened and after a short time, a young woman sat beside me and started talking in English!  Many things were explained and information shared including the fact she, Karina (hopefully spelled correctly) had been studying English for 6 months with one class a week!  UGH!!  Her English was incredible and my Spanish leaves much to be desired!!

There were many different games, of course, it's a Baby Shower.  Who can empty a baby bottle the quickest, who can walk a distance with an orange between their legs and drop it into a know how it goes!  

At the end Marcella opened a mountain of gifts.  Our contribution is the little sweater and Mary Jane booties in the photo.
She received lots of adorable dresses, shoes and warm things, many in pink and others in different colors.

It was a fun afternoon and now we all look forward to meeting Danna!

A Day at the "Old Market" in Masaya!

Once settled in Granada at our little B & B, we spent a little time chatting with the owners asking for suggestions of what to see.  As you saw on the previous blog, they suggested the Bell Tower, the Lake, Downtown, the Park, a great Pizza Restaurant and...the Old Market in Masaya about 25 minutes away.  We had heard of the Market from some of our other travelers who had taken a $30.00 taxi there and spent the day.  Being who we are, we opted for the $.80 bus ride and headed for Masaya first thing Tuesday morning.

To begin with the bus ride was an experience all its own.  Each bus is owned by the driver and on our ride there, it was obvious that the bus was also the drivers home.  There was a t.v. and bright colors everywhere.  As in Berlin, the bus was an old school bus and very short of knee space for US tourists.  As most Latin Americans are a bit smaller, it is probably not a concern for them!  Anyway, the bus also has a steward who hangs from the bus calling for passengers and helping people aboard and collects money.  While this is all going on the bus driver has a very special "horn"  (almost sounds like a train whistle) that he honks at each stop to get riders attention.  Unlike Berlin, the area is very flat, hot and dry but also very beautiful.  It's always a treat to see the incredible trees and flowers that grow naturally and to view a totally different lifestyle.  Along the way we see all kinds of "homes" from shacks to spectacular homes to some places that almost look like camping.

We arrive at the "Old Market" and are awestruck at what we see.  It is very large and bustling and some of the vendors make their "store" also their home.  First off I fell in love with the beautiful large baskets shown in the picture here.  We were first introduced to them when a lady boarded our bus and tossed one on top!  At the time we thought that was pretty different until we noticed all the other buses going in the opposite direction.  Not only were there baskets on top but many of them were full!  In addition to baskets we saw pipes and bikes and other things I can't remember at the moment.   

The market was colorful and busy and full of things we recognized and things we didn't so we jumped right in not knowing which way to go first.Chickens were sitting in one of the wonderful baskets along their relatives already butchered and ready to be eaten.

Personally, we preferred the live ones!  Can't imagine eating a chicken that has  been sitting in the hot sun all day!

The fruits and vegetables were endless and beautiful!

And went on and on!

We loved the variety of people selling their wares!  

Can you believe all those papayas ??  They went way back inside this particular booth and some of them looked a little beyond the sell by date!
 In addition to food they had numerous and sundry other items from shoes, to clothes to just about anything you could imagine.

Don bought a pair of work boots and took them to one of the shoe fix it guys, of which there were many, for reinforcing.  For $1.50 the boots were hand stitched around the bottom where they were initially only glued.  Very fascinating to watch!  The variety and quantity of shoes new and used that were available was staggering.   I looked and looked but couldn't find anything to fit my large feet!!!

There were many places to eat and somewhere along the way we were adopted by Jose, our personal shopper, who took us to his aunt's place for lunch.  Great food!  Jose also knew all the good places to go to get Don a hat and his boots---cheap!!!  Well, reasonable anyway.  As our shopping ended Jose took me aside and asked me for $20.00 as his payment for helping us shop!!!  That is more than we pay our worker--who works much harder--and in Nicaragua the wage is about half of Costa Rica's, at least for coffee workers!

Fish anyone?  We bought some very tiny dried fish for soup.  We'll let you know how they work out!

 This was such a fascinating spot to watch!  People brought their dried corn to this place and it was stone ground with water to make the paste that is used to make corn tortillas!!  People came with bucket after bucket of corn and left with a wonderful paste.  They also ground something that was red but we are not sure what it was.

BASKETS!  And, believe it or not, people put stuff on these carts and pushed them through the narrow pathways of the market!

Grains Galore!

Bunnies and ducks and birds and chickens and...

Our day has come to an end and it is now time to head back to Granada on one of these wonderful buses!  As before the trip was an adventure in itself land we loved every minute!  Check out the paint job and the rack on top for baskets and other necessary items!

With a little help from "Flat Mistaya"  we left Granada early in the morning for our 6 - 8 hour bus ride depending on the time it takes to pass through customs and immigration.  We arrived in San Ramon about 2 p.m. hoping to pick up our repaired vehicle and drive home!  Unfortunately, work was not completed to lunch, a bit of shopping and home on the bus!!  By Friday and my Spanish lesson the car was ready to drive home!  Although an expensive visit to the mechanic, we are happy to have a vehicle that is working!!  Thanks Jorge!   

Granada, Nicaragua, Outstanding!

Monday, March 18th, 2013, we left early to head to Nicaragua to have our visas stamped so that once again we would be legally in Costa Rica.  Our Residence papers have been very slow in coming and until we have them in hand, we are required to leave the country.  The trip also makes the use of our USA driver's license legal.

As our "New Old Vehicle" was without 4 x 4--much needed--we left it with Jorge our mechanic for repairs and walked to the bus stop on Highway #1.  Not sure when the bus would arrive as it was coming from San Jose, we arrived early meeting other Americans also catching the bus.

One couple we met from Alaska was staying at a place recommended by a friend.  As we had no idea where we were staying a place "recommended by a friend" sounded good to us, even though we didn't really know the friend or the couple from Alaska!  As it turned out the place, shown above with the 2 balconys, was wonderful.  We opted for the back "quiet room" with no air and, unfortunately, suffered the noise of others air conditioners.  The room was comfortable, clean and the place adorable and affordable!

Here is where we enjoyed a continental breakfast and chatted with our new found friends.  As we had to leave before breakfast was served on Wednesday, the owners packed us a bag breakfast which was greatly appreciated.  

Here is the view from the balcony.

This is the room we occupied with the wonderful window that brought us a breeze off the huge lake that is next to Granada.  The other photo is our view.

Granada, Nicaragua, is the oldest city on the Latin American Continent.  It was established in 1524 and has been beautifully preserved and renovated and the renovations continue.  It is quaint and colorful and at times reminded me of Charleston, SC.

Here is the park in the middle of the town on the way to the lake.  It is full of people, small sodas and vendors of all kinds with beautiful large trees and all kinds of flowers and birds.  There was never a time when we passed by that it wasn't busy no matter the time of day.  Beside the park await a number of horse drawn carriages, a bit like Charleston, however, the horses are small.

 In the background here you can see one of the beautifully restored and maintained hotels that are found everywhere in Granada.

One of the beautiful streets of colorful buildings.

These horse drawn wagons are everywhere on the streets of Granada and are used for just about everything.  They are all a little different and, although a staple for the people there, add such charm to Granada.A wonderful restaurants that we enjoyed.  The first night we were directed to the a pizza restaurant that was very reasonable and delicious. The second night our new friends from Alaska, Roy and Chris, recommended the Garden Cafe here in the photo.  It was inviting so we decided to give it a try and were thrilled with the ambiance and the food!  Gardens or Court Yards are quite common in Granada and this Cafe had a beautiful one.  The pictures below show the view we had at dinner.   As you will notice in the photos, no one has a yard or a front lawn.  Their front doors are right on the sidewalk and the houses touch. Their solution is to build their houses around a garden and the concept is wonderful to see.  None of the homes have windows, only bars and indoor shutters and inside gardens!  Very different, unique and way fun!  By the way, it is also very hot in Granada.  The temperatures were in the mid to high 90's and we noticed the change after living in frio Berlin!  

Notice the fountain and all the different plants.  There were little white lights, love those little white lights, and many birds coming and going!

For a dollar you can walk up a very narrow, steep, metal spiral staircase that will take you to the top of the "Bell Tower" and give you a birds eye  view of the city of Granada.  Once we caught our breath, the sight was spectacular and a bit dizzying! 

 The church stands out and the age of the buildings seems more evident in their roofs than at street level.


Somewhere in these photos is our lodging but it would be difficult to explain in print.  Happy hunting!

It took us a while, because there was so much to see along the way, but we finally made it to the beach!  The lake looks like an ocean because it is so large.   Although there were many renovations in process the litter on the beach made walking on the beach rather uninviting.  

New sidewalks and mall streets being created.

The main street of Granada where the bars, restaurants and shops are located is also the road to the beach.  These are the renovations that are being done as you get closer to the beach.  They are careful to protect their trees and these in particular are large and beautiful.  They line the streets and offer much appreciated shade.  By the way that "tiny looking thing"  (Ha Ha) is me!

Just one of the beautiful churches, inside and out!

A walkway in front of one of the buildings.

More wonderfully colorful buildings.

And among those beautiful buildings our friends Roy and Chris.  It was fun sharing some of our time with them and running into a familiar face in a place away from home.  Yes, I'm eating---ice cream!!