30 years ago, the US backed Contras were fighting the Sandinistas in a bitter Civil War that almost brought down an American presidency. In the end, the Sandinistas won and now…. While Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, it also has the fastest growing middle class. There is an extensive renewable energy program using mostly wind and geothermal power, with a goal of 90% renewable energy by 2020. Tourism and real estate are bringing in dollars and the country’s roads and infrastructure are improving rapidly. A perfect government and a perfect country? No. But the question keeps coming to mind: we sold arms to the Iranians to prevent this?
Our trip is just a quick one down to visit Central America, a part of the world we’ve never seen. With only about ten days, we decided to stick to one country and made that Nicaragua. Less expensive and less touristed (at least so far) than Costa Rica, but still friendly to travelers. Having a couple of friends who live in the country also helped make our decision.
We took off at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning from National Airport, transited through Miami and made it to Managua by early afternoon. Great views from the air of the Cuban coast, and Nicaraguan volcanoes and Lake Managua as we approached the city. We were met at the airport by “Chips,” the driver sent to collect us from the Casa San Francisco in Granada.
Relaxing Upon Arrival
Granada, nestled on the banks of Lake Nicaragua, is Nicaragua’s oldest colonial city, founded in 1524. Although the city is on the western side of the country and much closer to the Pacific, access through the Rio San Juan and Lake Nicaragua makes it accessible from the Caribbean. Originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, the city became a major trading center under the Spanish. Today it is Nicaragua’s largest tourist destination with travelers from the US and elsewhere enjoying its colonial architecture and sights, and using it as a base for short trips around Nicaragua. There is a growing expat community, with significant investment in real estate and the local economy. Carol’s friend and former classmate, Terry Leary, joined with her sister to purchase a run-down property in the early 2000s which they have transformed into a beautiful boutique hotel, Casa San Francisco. The sisters, both former Peace Corps Volunteers, have been calling the city home ever since and have been witness to city’s booming growth over the past decade. We availed ourselves of Terry’s hospitality and friendship, getting personal tours of the city and environs.
Casa San Francisco
Our home in Granada, Casa San Francisco is clearly a labor of love. Terry and Nancy have done an outstanding job of creating a quiet, comfortable retreat in the heart of Granada.
We spent a lot of time just wandering around the city. Lots to explore, and we only saw the tip of it! Just enough to know we need to come back.
A Walk to the Lake
Lake Nicaragua is the 9th largest freshwater lake in the Americas, and the largest in Central America. Once part of a coastal bay, volcanic activity closed it off from the Pacific Ocean and slowly turned from saltwater to fresh water. Although close geographically to the Pacific, it is linked to the Caribbean through the Rio San Juan. The lakeside in Granada draws Nicaraguan and foreign tourists.