Monday, May 23, 2011

What to do in Granada (when you don’t want to be in Granada)

I bite my thumb at you, Granada!

Like a bad rash, Granada is back on our agenda. And, like the really nasty kind of rashes, it’s even better the second time around. The basic reason for our misery is that our passports (and all of Vinko’s already limited possessions except two pairs of clothes) were stolen over Easter Weekend on Ometepe Island. So we’ve been back in Granada to sort ourselves out. I’d rather have the rash. It is an unbelievably painful process, which I've jokingly blogged about in another post. In summary, I wish nothing but a perpetual attack of chiggers onto the thief.

But here we are, in Granada. Again. We figured we deserved a few days sulking and complaining in style so we checked in at Hospedaje Valeria, a Nicarguan/ Italian outfit which is a very good deal in an old colonial house with pretty courtyard and a spacious room with AC, cable TV and private bathroom (with hot water!) for about $35. And not to mention Valeria herself, who, with her larger than life personality and whirlwind manners swept us along into the high life of Granada – family birthdays, nights on the town and beer at home were all in order. She's a trip.

But these frivolities mostly concern our nightly hours. So what to do with all those glorious sunshine hours when we are not dealing with the bureaucratic beast of summoning our passports from many seas away? In other words: “What to do in Granada when you don’t want to be in Granada?” Here are some of my top picks of how we passed the time.

The main palapa, finished in January this year, where classes and shows are held.
There is a giant water storage tank under the foundation.

Diego and his delightful little grandson

We feel truly blessed to have come across the Escuela de Comedia y Mime (School of Comedy and Mime) in Granada. This project gives children of precarious family situations the opportunity to develop skills in entertainment and performance very similar to that of Cirque du Soleil. At the moment, 65 children come to the school every day after their normal school classes to learn, practice and share with their circus friends. Diego Gené, the director of the school, invited us with open arms when we went for a day visit to the school, also known as the Casa de Botellitas (House of Bottles), which has been built using plastic and glass bottles. 

One of the beautiful walls at the Escuela Comedia y Mime

101 things to do with plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in the rivers

I want this window. Or at least a close approximation of it.

It is an amazing space, not just because of the creativity and beauty of the building and garden, but also because of all the happy faces running around. The atmosphere is that of a giant, happy family and we toiled there all afternoon not wanting to go anywhere else. Since that afternoon, we’ve already returned once for a show featuring local musician Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy and performances by the senior members of the school – a spectacular evening that we’ll never forget. If you are in the area and looking for some inspiration I would highly recommend contacting the school and visiting for an afternoon.

The airplane, with instruction from teacher Rafa
who was in these guys' shoes ten years ago when the project began.
Rafa and other members of the teacher group now tour Europe and Central America regularly.
The start of a pyramid
The kids are so happy and cheerful, it's heart warming and infectious

The kids are split into smaller groups who rotate through
many different skill workshops each afternoon

We watched as Lester patiently taught a group of kids the art of juggling.
The boys in the back were running around on stilts trying to synchronize tricks.

The hope, love and new possibilities that the school gives these kids,
most of who are growing up in very poor and troubled households, is amazing.

Finally, Vinko finds someone to juggle with!

Isletas de Granada / Jicaro Island Eco Lodge
There are 365 tiny little islands scattered in Lake Nicaragua around Granada – the locals like to boast that there is one for every day of the year, but I wonder if there are really 365 or if was just rounded up/ down to suit some marketing scheme. I tried counting them on a map, but got bored. Either way, it is possible to take a little boat trip through some of the islands with any one of the lancheros who will find/ hassle/ chase you down on the street, and it’s a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon. You can even see Volcan Concepcíon on Ometepe Island looming in the background.

The whole Jicaro Island Eco Lodge is on one of the isletas of Granada.

We took a special little boat to go to Jicaro Island Eco Lodge, one of the lodges we had on our list and one we were very interested to go see. It really is a beautiful spot, with amazing service and orgasmic food smells wafting from the kitchen. Unfortunately, us poor buggers couldn’t afford to stay overnight, but we had two terrific staff members walk us all around the property to explain the various sustainability aspects of the lodge, including the water supply and processing, which we were very interested in, and their community development programs which stretched further that we imagined. Overall, we were impressed – this is a beautiful, top-noch hotel and would no doubt be a great treat for anyone making a stay.

The island even boasts a little freshwater cenote

The infinity salt water pool in the centre of the hotel

Maybe I should have photoshopped myself into this picture...

Apoyo Lagoon
About 30 minutes north of Granada is Laguna Apoyo, a crystal clear crater lake surrounded by densely forested hills. Even though we picked the only rainy day all week to go (damn you prepaid shuttle!), it was still a nice little escape and the extra moisture encouraged the birds to go haywire singing all day. Vinko and I took a kayak (the shuttle from Oasis Hostel in Granada to Apoyo drops you at Paradiso Hotel, where you can get kayaks and over-priced food) and paddled along the shore. The water was a lovely temperature and we heard howler monkeys in the hills. The shores are still mostly undeveloped and there is only one small village, so the only sound was the paddles dipping in the water and the birds and monkeys. This was one of the most relaxing days we had just kayaking, reading, lying in hammocks and enjoying the peace and silence.

This is the best I could do in terms of photos on this rainy day.
Still, it looks pretty nice despite no sunshine!

We meant to go to the market in Masaya and the Pueblos Blancos (white wall villages) around Granada to go climb the mirador lookout tower in Catarina… but we couldn’t quite manage to get enough enthusiasm together today to get on a bus for another day trip. So we’ll just stroll around town (again), have some lunch and maybe a beer on the restaurant strip (again), laze around our room and waste time on the internet (again) and keep waiting for the day when freedom – in the form of a new passport – arrives. 

And when you get completely bored and run out of options,
you can always go for a haircut... and return with unexpected pink hair.


  1. *Investing* time on the internet my love...;-)

  2. That was a great read, thank you! I'm sorry to hear about your misfortune, it's really too bad there are people like that (thieves) out there :(

    Your pictures and the experiences that you get out of traveling are great though. I've been on a boat paddling away into silence/nature, and it sure beats listening to the dishwasher (that's what i'm hearing right about now)

    Take care,

  3. every dark cloud has a silbver lining my dear child, love you lots, E

  4. Thanks for the positive messages, we are trying to fill our time with as good an experience as possible...for the last while we have spent time hanging out at the beautiful Playa Maderas just outside of San Juan del Sur, a very nice little tourist town in Southern Nicaragua.