At night, streets in Granada take a different character.
Familiar places look different and different places become familiar.
Granada is about to become past tense, about to become another disappearing city in the rear view mirror.
This evening the cities poor people come out of their houses and rock in wicker chairs on their front porches. Country people are cooking tortillas on front yard fireplaces and tending to the chickens, goats and pigs that sustain them through hundreds of years of political upheavals from domestic as well as foreign instigators.
This trip winds to an end but as long as reasons to go outweigh reasons to stay home, Scotttreks postcards will keep telling their small quiet stories.
Nicaragua, a place I wasn’t certain I wanted to see, has been a surprise.
Making new places your friend is an endearing part of traveling.
There is a bit of Columbus in all of us once we let ourselves sail, accept that we can be wrong, allow new things to season us.
One trip to a place, however, doesn’t make you an expert.
This country, like most others, bristles with undercurrents that can take you down and never let you come back up for air.
There are only three countries in the world that have a primitive art movement. One is in Haiti, another is in Yugoslavia, the last is in Nicaragua.
In the southern part of Nicaragua are a group of 26 islands in a province called Solentiname. A Catholic priest arriving there many years ago noticed locals painting on gourds and helped them move their inspirations to canvas. Local artists continue to paint and earn livings from this stylistic folk art.
This room, at the San Francisco Convent Museo in Granada, is dedicated to the Nicaraguan primitive art movement that celebrates nature, community,order, and color.
The works and artists, though different, all belong in this room. They work within a style that is larger than they are, an ocean that supports their boats.
It is like the Garden of Eden calling you home.
The intensity of the artist’s focus is like the eyes of a tiger watching you from inside it’s cage.
In the San Francisco Convent Museo are a series of paintings that chronicle Nicaraguan history.
The paintings start with aboriginal peoples who first inhabit lands before they are claimed by anyone but God. Then paintings move, in book style, through discovery and founding, colonization, building and commerce, fights for independence, reconstruction and modernization.
These paintings wait for the arrival of a brand new brother or sister.
Maybe the next painting born will be of a new Panama Canal, through Nicaragua? Maybe the next will show the country moving from Socialist/Marxist group ideology to free market small business capitalism, the way the United States used to be before it lost it’s way.
People all over the world these days seem weary of their leaders.
People following their own drummer seems a healthier recipe than falling in step with someone else’s twenty year plan.
Ann’s art studio is also a gallery, a meeting place, a classroom, a resource of information, a great place to pick up a brush if you have an itch.
Studios, as opposed to galleries, are works in process.
There are finished and unfinished compositions on the walls, stacked in corners, left on easels. There are cans of brushes and rags, solvents and photographs of scenes that interest pinned to boards.The discussions here are about color, line, proportion, texture, what you want to say, how to put paint on a flat canvas to get a three dimensional shape and how to create art people want to buy.
Some of the works here have Nicaraguan scenes while others channel European or American traditions.
A studio is a place of discovery.
All these projects are around me, whispering, laughing, demanding attention, asking me to purchase them and find a place at home to show them off.
The pursuit of art is noble even if it gets messy and expensive.
Calzada Street begins at the Granada Cathedral and ends at Lake Nicaragua. This street has become a main tourist draw and has everything a tourist might want, and plenty they don’t need.
In the stretch down both sides of Calzada Street you have bars, restaurants, street vendors, an open seating area in the middle of the street, waiters standing on sidewalks promoting mojitos and two for one Happy Hour. This place is a mixed drink of locals, foreigners, tourists, ex-pats, hustlers, transients, businessmen, artists and artisans, homeowners.
In the old days this was a sleepy street and residents lived normal lives. With an influx of foreigners, real estate became more valuable than most could have ever imagined. A quiet street on the way to the Lake became the Las Vegas Strip. Old adobe homes were suddenly valuable.
This house on Calzada Street has brought local issues out into public.
It’s owner calls out swindlers, by name.
The bottom line is that this house is not for sale, unless, of course, the price is right.
Swindlers buy dirt cheap and sell sky high.
Swindlers, and those swindled, dance a fine line on Calzada Street.
Walking narrow streets and sidewalks, you meet massive walls and sturdy doors, wrought iron,sturdy secure steel gates.
When you peek through cracked doors, or open windows, you are surprised with glimpses of cozy interiors, plants, fountains, bicycles on tile floors, rocking chairs, big screen televisions. Drafts of cool air, funneled through the house, hit you in the face.
These old original homes are built with thick adobe walls which cuts noise, keeps temperatures constant, and keeps occupants safe. By opening windows and doors you get ventilation. There are multiple porches and open spaces for dining and entertaining.
If I lived in one of these old homes, I would spend much of my time on the upstairs porch, rocking in a chair, sipping coffee, listening to the neighborhood.
The rest of the day my shoes would be in the streets following the pied piper.
These colonial homes, re-habbed, or not, all use lots of space, built in a time when there were fewer people in the city, space wasn’t sold per square foot, and families were bigger.
There is still, in Nicaragua, plenty of space to lose, or find yourself.
I have never been to Jamaica, but sometimes you have to go to Nicaragua to experience Jamaica.
This tea, served cold or hot, is made from flower pedals of the hibiscus. It is a deep magenta color and tastes a bit like grapes or wine without the alcohol. It is also called sorrel, and is served often on holidays to guests in Africa as well as Jamaica.
Drinking flower pedals is an epicurean exercise that wealthy Roman Senators would have had down pat.
When a commoner can sit down and enjoy Jamaica Tea, at a Cafe in Granada, Nicaragua, you know the world has gotten a whole lot more even.
Panaderia’s are common in Central and South America and this is one that has American style doughnuts and fresh ground Nicaraguan coffee early before it gets hot. You can drink your cup inside at a small table or outside in a small courtyard and watch the street wake up.
This morning they are doing a brisk business making and selling cakes for birthdays and weddings.. At the counter, you can buy fresh bread, cookies, pastries, slices of carrot cake, and chocolate concoctions for your sweet tooth. They have ham and cheese and sub sandwiches for a modest price and I feel like I am back in Uruguay looking inside Eduardo’s back seat at his sub sandwiches in front of the Punta Del Este construction site.
Seating myself at a small table in a corner I watch eyes light up as kids see their birthday cakes for the first time and ex pats come in for their breakfast on the way to the market for fresh vegetables and fish and get news about the U.S.and Europe off their cell phones.
Once you find your best places in a new town, you start to feel more lat home.
Bakers in the back kitchen, knead dough, squeeze icing out of tubes to decorate elaborate wedding cakes, chatter about their boyfriends and girlfriends, Grandma, and Presidente Ortega.
This little bakery feels like being on an inner tube on a river that lets you lie back and let the river carry you along on a perfect summer day where all you need is a swim suit, or less.
Finding relaxed places in new places is what lots of us traveler’s like to do in foreign lands.
Being busy all the time isn’t much of a vacation, or a retirement..
When you ask locals where the best places to dine are, in Granada, El Garaje restaurant is one of the first to be mentioned.
The first time I walked past the place, it didn’t register as important.
It was closed then because of an electrical outage but the proprietor came to the door and apologized and shook my hand.
When I returned. he remembered my name.
The restaurant is called ” El Garaje ” because it occupies a spot that someone’s car used to occupy. Many homes in Granada have a garage directly in front of their house, You open the iron gates to your property, drive right into a garage, park, and then walk up garage steps and walk right into your living room. The owners of this restaurant have turned their garage, at the street front, into a restaurant.
This restaurant has limited seating, and, when full, stays full until someone leaves. Paul serves and his wife cooks.
The vegetable barley soup is so good that I go back to the menu for a pulled pork sandwich with caramelized onions and homemade coleslaw without mayo,
I leave without trying the sour orange cheesecake for my pocketbook’s sake.