Monday, June 30, 2014

A good Sunday and Monday Morning

Yesterday morning started off with a lovely swim in my pool. The first time I've used the outdoor pool in my building and definitely not the last. I did a few laps to get the cobwebs out but I also enjoyed lying on my back and looking at the sky surrounded by the 2 towers and wondering if anyone was watching me or was I making too much noise cause it was 7:30am sunday morning or worse still was someone going to spit on me ;-)  After a while I let go of those thoughts and just enjoyed the swim.

Pic of the pool just before stepping in, I had the whole pool to myself. usually there's tons of people suntanning and a few people in the pool, was happy to do some laps.

After the swim, had some breakfast, did some laundry and song downloading for my sister and prepared to watch the holland Mexico game. I have been upset with Holland since the south african world cup. I thought they were unsportmanlike and played a dreadfully physicall game against spain. Plus you never know which holland would show up.  And true to form, they almost lost against Mexico but got a late penalty from a drive from Robbin, very classy indeed. The next match was truly a gem: Costa Rica beat Greece in a nailbiter that went to penalties. Again a questionable red card call against a costa rican player reduced them to 10 men for most of the second half. But their keeper kept them in the game by making some amazing saves including one in the penatly shootout.  The shootout was one of the best kicks i've seen, all confidently struck and but for the one brilliant save, it would have kept going.

PURA VIDA!! I have a fondness for Costa Rica since visiting and it really is a Cinderella story for them to proceed this far. Now let's see if they muster up the confidence to face the Dutch.

The night was spent visiting Vash at the airport as she ended her trip. It was great to see her and she came baring gifts which was really sweet. Stay tuned for a pic of my cool looking panama hat. All I need is a matching Cigar ;)

Today at the office I came in to be greeted with a beautiful site of plants that I rarely notice but Today I did and was grateful for the message on the walls behind. Very inspiring.

a little garden at the entrance to my office

Good inspiring words to start the week.

I put up the licence plate of Costa Rica that Vash gave me yesterday , makes my cubicle look brighter and more welcoming. Pura Vida!

My desk area. Yes I'm still using a really old CRT monitor. if it ain't broke, I can still use it! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day of island hopping and horse and buggy touring in Granada

Having brekkie at the hotel while chatting to a couple from Utah.

Wednesday morning started of with an awesome breakfast in the pool area talking to my favourite Utah couple about politics and why they're moving to Granada. It was fun sharing our common viewpoints and learning how different things are in Nicaragua when trying to buy a house. All in Latin American time. Wayne is a contractor and his wife is a special Ed professor so they will keep themselves busy here.  
Our amazing tour guide Jose.

at 9am sharp our tour guide Jose came to pick us up for a tour of the islands of Granada. There's about 365 little islands that were formed when the volcano erupted. I think it was Mombacha Volcano.  We got on the boat and it was a stunning views of green and forest as we docked off in the swamp waters. We were going on Lake Nicaragua, which is a massive fresh water lake. (not sure if it's bigger than lake Ontario?) its second only in size to Titikaka which is an awesome name :D. 
Waiting to embark on our island tour

The tour on the boat was incredible as we stopped from island to island. The first stop was a lookout point where we saw some great views of the city and the other islands. A lot of those have really beautiful houses and owned by the very wealthy (mix of foreign owned and local businessman) you can buy an island for around 300k or rent one for $300 for the weekend. That's definitely something I would consider doing the next time I'm in Granada. I had a lot of fun eating the local mangos. The guide told us that mangos are so plentiful that people through them into the Lake to feed the fish! I picked a juicy one from the ground and ate till I was happy. 

Vash checking out pics of beautiful Granada, this was a lookout point from the fortified island 

Mangoes Mangoes everywhere, I picked up one and ate it, delicious!

Our next stop was to see some local monnkeys( including a mother  with child) inhabiting one of the islands, they all have Latin names and they came out on demand because they are used to being fed. One of the monkeys we saw had a big belly so he was getting too much loving.

Monkey welcoming us as we approach the island with our boat. 

Fat cat Monkey waiting for some food, the local restaurants feed them very well and these monkey rely on outside for food. not enough on the little island.

The last stop was on an island where 3 families live. This was a throwback to the old days, we saw pigs and horses and chickens roaming around completely oblivious to us. In the funniest scene a guy was wrestling with the pig as he attempted to bathe it. The pig was behaving like a little kid and running out of the water. A few minutes later, the guys wife did bathe her little son in the water. We lauhed as Vash captured the scene on video. Even the rural of places in Granada has a local bar and we stopped to enjoy some refreshing coke and coconut water while soaking up the view.
Vash thrilled to watch the local family bathing their pig!

A nice cold beverage for me and coconut water for Vash, even on a less developed island with pigs and chickens, there is a bar for tourists.

I'm pretending to photograph our tour guide so that I can ge the family in the background. i was quite taken with how rural they live, considering the neighboring islands are so well developed.

Later that day we stopped for a delicious meal back in our room of mexican pizza and I ate my leftover salad.  We napped and then ventured out for a horse and buggy ride through the town. It was a great experience because we got to see a lot of the local streets and admired the brightly coloured houses, each family decides what to paint their house and I'm sure there is some collaboration because the colors blend quite nicely from house to house. The bright colours inspired me to do something with my condo. It gets very hot during the day and the local people spend a lot of time by their open doors and windows just sitting and chatting. It's amazing how many houses do this and it spans across the generations, not just old people. It was lovely to see them doing this every day and you get the feeling that there's a lot stronger social ties than in north America. If I didn't have air conditioning I guess I would do that too!

soo happy to get a hose and carriage ride and not working after a long day in the sun visiting the islands.

one of the gorgeous bright coloured buildings in Granada. very pretty city

it's up to the owner to paint their own house and they usually try and contrast their neighbours.

vsah and I in front of Lake Nicarauga, it's a huge fresh water lake, 2nd only to Titikaka. we had biked around the lake the previous day and it's very pretty, lined with lots of local bars with patios and dance floors for latin music.

more examples of beuatifully painted houses in Granada. so inspiring.

We had a nice dinnner, I decided to have a fillet steak and vash had a lovely local dish that I wished I ordered instead. It's a good thing she shared cause I stopped eating my meal and had hers. Vash fed my leftover steak to the dog. [One thing I noticed about Nicaragua and costa Rica is that animals do not eat well and frequently look undernourished]. 
filet mignon, was okay, I preferred Vash's flavourful dish

chicken burito dish that was delish.

After dinner it was off to some dancing at Kellys sports bar. It caters mostly to tourists so they had a nice mix of club and Latin music. I chatted up a Brazillian girl and invited her to our table. She didn't speak any English but was able to understand Spanish so Vash and her spoke. To my surprise the Brazillian had a friend who was very cute and she and I danced and chatted during the night.  I had a great time but vash was disappointed that there was no salsa music so she had an okay time. We left at midnight and got a taxi. A very full day!

a nice cozy bar in Granada, we danced here at our last night in Granada

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

First full day in Granada

Beautiful hotel lobby! Vash did a great job finding this place. Very cosy.

Chilling in the room before ordering a meal for dinner.

This place has a little pool which is open to the outdoors. Same area used for breakfast. I'm going to take a dip in a few minutes to cool down!

At a local dive we discovered after riding a couple bikes. We were very thirsty and Vash is super happy to rest and listen to Bachata music.

I decided to have a shot of local aged rum. Was very smooth. I heard the 18year old is even smoother. Will give it a try when we go to the bar tonight.

Vash and I a bit tired after the ride in 34 degree heat and found a swanky place for lunch.

Very trendy place. Like the decor and you pay for it. This restaurant charges in dollars but no more expensive than an American place.

I had the home made humus which was divine. The bread was also delicious and freshly baked. Much better than bread in Costa Rica 

Vash had a delicious tomato soup which was freshly made. Yumm.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hola Granada

Refreshing Local beer tasted so good after long bus ride

Vash chatting up Carlos, our super friendly receptionist. Was so happy to be in a good hotel. 

Taking a selfie on the 4 hour bus ride from Liberia to Grenada.

We waited half hour outside the McDonald's for the bus which was operating on Costa Rican time. Vash calling bus company to make sure they coming!

Vash and i arrived safely at hotel Kekoldi in Granada at 8pm. We were very lucky to find a taxi guy right away who took us to the hotel which is very charming. I was thinking we could go out and get a bite to eat but the hotel reception staff Carlos advised us against it because of the robberies they had this month. 5 this month. The jist of it is make sure we get back to the hotel by 7pm to be on the safe side. So I'm enjoying my first beer and we ordered a mexicana salad from a pizza place. Time to chill and enjoy the night after a 4 hour slightly stressful but uneventful border crossing from costa Rica.Vash did a great job picking the hotel and making sure the taxi guy didn't screw us with the ride to the hotel. Which ended up being $5.
I am soo happy to be out of the all inclusive an start our next adventure. 
Hasta luego

Hasta luego Costa Rica

I am sitting at the McDonalds in the heart of Liberia waiting for our Tica bus to Grenada, Nicaragua. I've attached the lunch I had at the pollo tropical fast food joint across the street. It's so much better than the greasy food of this mcdonalds, what a shame the McDonalds chain has the Latinos hooked on their cheap greasy food :P   
It's a 4 hour journey across the border and so far my sister vash and I have been here for 6.5 hours while we wait for our bus. It's been fun though, taking the time to catch up on our planning for where we're gonna stay in Granada and deciding to go till Leon instead of back down the coast. I think it's going to be a fun social trip. I am avoiding Managua altogether and just focusing on Grenada and Leon for the next 5 days. I leave back to Toronto on sunday morning at 7am from Managua international airport.
So far today i found a scotiabank and they converted my Canadian dollars to American :). In Nicaragua the people accept both currencies,  their local and American.  But no luck with Canadian as I found out in my stay in costa Rica.

Speaking of costa Rica, I had such a wonderful trip. The highlights being the family time I spent and the luxurious resort with warm staff and the wonderful activities which was capped off Friday with ziplining, horse riding, watersliding  and a lovely mud bath activity. This along with the ATV and swimming in the beach was definitely the highlight. also the highlights for me was definitely the fine cuisine of the different a large carte themed restaurants and the breakfast buffets. I also loved the freshly squeezed juices and I had more than my share of watermelon juices.
The quality of food and the comfort of the rooms made this the best all inclusive place I've ever stayed at. It reminds me of sun city resort in south africa.

Yesterday was my mom's birthday and we spent the day celebrating her from breakfast to a really lovely dinner and capped off with a trip to pacifico nightclub. She had a great time and was really touched with how special it was to have her family together for this special birthday. She got emotional when she received her gifts and really enjoyed her designer dress that Vash bought for her as well as the ipad mini from the rest of us. I was relieved when my mom and sisters enjoyed the video that I put together. It was a nice team effort and I am glad the many hours spent working on it got the desired appreciation :)

I was very grateful that we had good weather and it rained for a  very short period. We got plenty of beach and pool time and I especially enjoyed the chilling time I had in my room chilling on the comfy bed reading and listening to music. what a treat to not have any worries and completely unwind from work. Feel truly blessed.
Over and out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Activities yesterday in costa Rica.

Yesterday started with room service at 6am. Vash and i were up early so decided to have a light breakfast before our swim. I had fresh squeezed papaya and pineapple and a plate of fruits and granola. Vash needed protein so she had beans and rice :)

At 8am I met my niece and mom and we all went swimming in the giant pool. We did laps and taya and vash and I were racing. Taya is an amazing swimmer and she beat us both. I was helping mom to swim. Watching her as she did long laps. After staying in the pool for a couple hours we went for the buffet breakfast which was really good. The food so far has been excellent, the best of any all inclusive that I've stayed at. There is a lot of choice. After the meal, we hung out at the beach for the first time on the trip. The water was warm and it was a very hot day. Prior to going I bought a cowboy hat and hat for my mom to help block the strong sun. My nephews and I had a lot of fun in the water. The undercurrent was very strong but we were safe because we didn't venture too deep. Also there is quite a big drop at the hotel beach and it's got a lot of crushed rock at the bottom so it's not the best beach to swim at. After doing this for a couple hours and having virgin cocktails, we decided to rent 4x4 RVs and do a 2 hour excursion along the beach and through wilderness trails and on the road of neighboring towns. It was a ton of fun! Thanks to my brother Rodney for organizing. He is an amazing planner and organizer for fun things. I rode with my little nephew jett and he didn't want to be last so we always pushed the throttle to beat everyone else. It was my first experience riding a 4x4 all terrain bike and it definitely won't be my last.

Midway through the ride we stopped at a beautiful calm stretch of beach and we all got in to swim. This was so much better than the previous rough beach and it we all had a blast swimming. We got back in our bikes and made our way back to the hotel via beautiful nature trails,  we got the feeling like we were really riding in the wilderness.  After this we had lunch at the pizza place and I took the kids to swim at the pool. I played ping pong with my niece. The boys have an abundance of energy. Wow I needed a nap after so I went to the room and slept in wonderful AC. I got out of bed around 7:30 and it was time to get ready for Dinner at the Italian restaurant. This restaurant is the best dining restaurant at the resort and it had a lovely ambiance with a live saxophone player who played really fun hits from the past. He came to our table and played to the kids who loved it! I had a good 4 course meal and was stuffed. When we came back to my place, I chatted to my sister for a bit and then watched a bit of Delhi Belly an Indian movie that I started a month ago but yet to finish :) it was nice to hit the comfy bed and pass out!