Granada. Well, it’s been pretty lousy weather since I arrived yesterday, steady rain on and off, but during the breaks (and sometimes during the downpours) I’ve been able to get out and do some wandering. I spent the first part of the day yesterday looking for a new book since I finished both of mine. Went to Mavericks here in town (very friendly) and El Tercero Ojo (‘The Third Eye’) to browse their used collections, but finally decided on a book in the book exchange pile at my hotel called Whiteman by Tony D’Souza - strangely enough, a signed copy dated 06/07 from San Juan del Sur. It’s a good book and a very fast read. Combined with The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami and Absolute Friends by Le Carre, it’s been a good reading trip (though Murakami was my favorite).
Because of the crappy weather, I spent much of the day, my first day, and reading over gazpacho and beer at Tercero Ojo and on my patio in my hotel. Tercero Ojo is a good place, new-agey with an interesting selection of books (most in Spanish, including about 12 volumes of Lenin) and pretty good food. It was a good place to shelter in for a few hours. My hotel, Casa San Francisco, is very nice - I have a fairly small room, I guess the smallest they have since I’m traveling solo and the other rooms look much bigger from what I’ve seen, but it’s clean and comfortable with a beautiful, small pool in the courtyard about the size of my living room. I’d actually like to have one that size...
After a while the rain let up and I went for a walk exploring the city, which is quite pretty in the central area with a healthy (or, depending on your point of view, unhealthy) contingent of expats and Americans. Between rain bursts from Hurricane Felix I did visit a few of the cathedrals and generally just ambled. I stopped in at a Mexican restaurant I read about in LP (they said it was good because the chef was actually Mexican) and was getting ready to dig into chips and salsa when the power went out. Luckily they had a generator, so I was able to eat and read. The food was actually very good, delicious burrito and pico de gallo. As I left, however, I realized that the entire town was out of power (I later learned form the guys at my hotel that this was fairly common, they’ve been losing power often for about four hours at a time). I decided to stay by the Parque Central at a wine bar with lights blazing and have a few glasses of wine, just reading and thinking about all kinds of things (how we live and the Nicas live, what it would be like to teach again, etc. I actually had a hypothetical debate on “truth,” which was kind of interesting).
A few glasses of good red wine and a slice of cake later, I was brave enough to walk back towards my hotel (three blocks from the parque) through the rain, hopping from lighted spot to lighted spot like a frog to lily pads. Luckily the very nice bar immediately across the street from my hotel was open, so I snuck in for a beer just to be around other people for a while. One man was in the corner watching a telenovela, a few folks were sitting outside drinking, and I took a table in the doorway, just reading and watching the owner’s son play ball. After my beer was finished, I set off for the hotel and bed.
Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep well at all. I woke up at around 4am and never went back to sleep, I watched a little TV, read, and fidgeted with my glasses (which were crooked for some reason, and reminded me that I never got my prescription filled for new glasses - yech) until it was light and the rain let up a bit. I went for a run, cris-crossing the city and dodging the bikes and motos and cars, then came back to the hotel and just sat in the pool for a little bit (which felt as good as it looks - it really is a nice pool). After a shower I went back to Kathy’s for breakfast, which was delicious.
The morning slowly grew hotter until it was blazing hot and sunny. I spent the day just wandering, looking for new books (finished Souza, on to Blindness by Saramago), reading and watching people in the parque, and having a great lunch at a place called Garden Cafe (tuna salad and a smoothie). I also got some cigars for a friend, almost got him some ‘Revolucion’ cigars with a picture of Che on them, which was almost worth it for the delicious irony, but ended up getting some from Esteli instead. I also got a small pot for my sister and my daughter. There really is very little to buy in the way of photography and artwork here, though they are known for their pottery - most of the stores are just basic pulperias with essentials, they are still really catching up to the tourism thing. Started getting tired at that point and I was dripping with sweat from the heat, so I ambled back to the hotel, took a dip in the pool, and lay down for a nap.
The last night it rained almost all night, and the power went out again as I sat down to dinner (all the generators buzzed on again), but dinner was absolutely delicious, seasoned flank steak in one of the nicest places in town. The guys sitting next to me must have been in government; they had ribbons around their necks and looked official... Went to the same wine bar and had cheesecake and wine, then the same bar across the street from my hotel and had a beer while I read and heard a song that made me ache for home and my family.
Impressions of Granada - it is pretty around the center, and the parque central is gorgeous with prettily decorated horse carts lined up for tours along the edges. The outlying areas, like many other cities in this part of the world, are a little rougher around the edges but have nice spots too. I have to say that there’s not a lot to do in town, though there are lots of excursions available (volcano hikes, kayaking the isletas, etc.). A day and a half is plenty of time to spend in town alone, for sure, which I’m sure you could stretch with outlying trips. Have to say though that I really prefer the beautiful colors of Antigua, though the people here tend to be much more pleasant and it is certainly less touristy.