the winter of 2003, intimidated by George II's eagerness to appease anti-Castro
radicals in Miami by harassing travelers, we reluctantly skipped our usual
cycling trip in Cuba. We went to Nicaragua instead.
the advice of several veteran Central America travelers, we left our bikes
at home, and it was the right decision. Nicaragua isn't a good place for
bicycle touring. The traffic on Nicaragua's few paved roads is heavier
than in Cuba.
a positive note, there seem to be millions of miles of rough dirt roads
in Nicaragua that would be ideal for mountain biking, as opposed to touring.
We found fabulous beaches some even more beautiful than ones we
love in Cuba! The food was often better and more plentiful than in Cuba,
for tourists at least and prices were lower.
Nicaragua is a rewarding destination
for the curious traveler; and like Cuba, Nicaragua can be an eye-opening
experience for us Americans. Therefore we will introduce you to some of
our favorite places. If you aren't prepared to go cycling in Cuba, consider
exploring Nicaragua but do so by bus or rented car, rather than
spent a few nights in Costa Rica on our way to Nicaragua. Our very first
stop was El Colibrí, the home of Jan and Ili Boer, a delightful
couple. Jan is Dutch and Ili is Costa Rican. Their home is about 25
minutes by car from Costa Rica's main international airport.
|They have built a small,
two-unit accommodation near their house, just below the swimming pool.
It is comfortable and immaculately clean. Jan or Ili pick up guests at
the airport and drop them off upon their departure a wonderful
convenience for tired travelers.
point about our few days in Costa Rica: On the way north to the Nicaraguan
border, we stopped for a night in La Cruz, at a remarkable hotel. The
Amalia Inn was slightly run down when we were there, with few guests,
and the dining room was closed but what a beautiful old building!
All it needs is more patronage to bring it back to life.
a setting! Amalia Inn sits at the edge of an escarpment with an extraordinary
view of the Pacific. If you're traveling in the north of Costa Rica, give
it a try.
On to Nicaragua!
town is probably Granada. Spending your first few days in Granada certainly
makes for a "soft landing." There is good accommodation, an
excellent selection of cheap restaurants, and the water is even safe to
drink thanks to a modern treatment plant.
plaza in Granada is splendid for hanging out, enjoying cold fruit drinks
and light meals. Our favorite lunch was vigaron, a combination
of shredded cabbage and onions, spicy sauce, and chicharonnes -
fried pork rinds - all served on a banana leaf. Sounds weird, but it's
staying at "Another Night in Paradise," despite its name. Owner
Donna Tabor came to Nicaragua with the Peace Corps, and she has stayed
on to continue managing a project that helps street boys.
Another Night in Paradise are simply furnished, clean, and comfortable,
and there is a pleasant second-floor verandah for relaxing with a view
of the local volcano.
the tiny, gated patio outside our first-floor room.
Granada, we tried to improve our Spanish at one of the many language schools
in town. Wally liked his instructors. This school was One-on-One Tutoring,
possibly the best of the bunch. They're on the web at www.1on1tutoring.net/
Granada, like much of Nicaragua, can be very hot. If it were not for
the constant breezes off Lac Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), people might
melt into the pavement. From Granada we traveled to the Island of Ometepe,
a volcanic island in the lake.
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