Highlights of the week end

A trip to the big city…

Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, is an hour away from Granada, yet at the same time a world away. It’s big and bustling and has none of the charm of Granada. So what were we doing there? We went to get our health insurance taken care of. For $600 each at the private and very highly regarded Pellas hospital, we are covered for one year. Compare that to the monthly bill for healthcare in the States!
We also made a stop at the Nicaraguan version of Costco for some much needed items not available in Granada, such as cat food, cat sand and wow! strawberries. Then off for lunch at the yummy organic restaurant Ole Verde.
Mango brings it on in the evenings…
Mango is the soccer star of Calle Corralles which is our street. Most nights, on our way home from eating dinner, there is a group of boys between the ages of 7 and 20 who have nightly make shift soccer games in the street. Mango, trained by Adam, is a veteran player even though the downside can be a soccer ball punctured by sharp teeth. There is much admiration for the way he jumps high up in the air and twists to get the ball, and this is seen as being akin to a circus trick that he pulls off for their entertainment. So Mango is now no longer referred to as the “dog on the roof”, but he is the “dog who plays soccer.”

Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods in Nicaragua…
Those of you foodies out there might have seen Andrew Zimmerman’s show. He’s not our favorite by any stretch due to his excessive focus on weird shit to eat and his less than appealing demeanour. (Everyone knows we love Anthony Bourdain…) Ok, but he did do a show on Nicaraguan food recently and… after showing in 70 countries it had a special showing for the first time on Saturday night in Nicaragua – down the street from us at Casa San Francisco.
Casa San Francisco, a small and charming hotel a stone’s throw from our house, is owned by two sisters (Americans) Nancy and Terry – two of the first people we met three years ago. Their adopted stray dog, Carmen, was the subject of Peta’s first painting of a Nicaraguan stray dog. For the Zimmerman show, the restaurant’s chef chose to highlight two Nicaraguan specialties (from many): fermented cheese complete with maggots and soft boiled iguana eggs! The show is called “Bizarre Foods”, not “Good Food”. it was great to see the show on Nicaragua inside the restaurant where a section was filmed.
A sleepy Sunday afternoon at Lake Cocibolca…

The streets of Granada are pretty sleepy on a Sunday. The streets are quiet. The sun is hot. Time to head toward the breeze of the lakefront with the dogs.

The lakefront is an interesting place, as it has the feel of stepping into an old fashioned movie. Concrete benches painted in pastel colors line the path way, huge trees shade it, and the sand is a coarse volcanic black.
For the most part, Nicaraguans swim in their clothes. The lake is warm like a bath and has a long area that is shallow, which makes it perfect for swimming.

The dogs go to the lake daily with our dog walker, Pedro (who is also the pool guy) – he has his own dog and is thrilled to have this additional job ($2 per daily trip) which allows him to go and swim in the lake every day. Still, on the weekend its a treat for us too….

Sitting on a bench, looking out towards the 365 Isletas (formed by volcanic eruption 300 years ago), and enjoying the stream of slow paced vendors from another era. One sells handmade dulces (caramels), another whizzes by with a cooler at the back of his bike that reads “ceviche”, and another with “quesito” which is a Nicaraguan salty type of cheese. The “raspaldo” is ice shaved by hand with a rustic tool, smothered in syrup which comes in three standard flavors – sweet, sweeter and sweetest.

Street food for dinner

Nicaragua isn’t as blessed as its northern neighbors, say Guatemala, when it comes to gastronomy. The crushing poverty that has been pervasive in the country for so long has yielded a culture where food is, when available, for subsistence. The standard daily fare is Gallo Pinto, a rice and beans dish that grows on you. Another recurrent dish is plantains, a cousin of the banana, that is fried. Both of these are available at street side stalls, such as the one around the corner from our house. Their specialty is barbecue chicken. It comes with maduros (sweet fried banana) or verde (crispy banana chips). Dinner comes wrapped in a banana leaf, to go.

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