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The Tale of Two Citys: Leon Vs Granada – Our Opinion

We spent time in both and fell in love with one and felt drained by the other and couldn’t wait to leave.


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We spent time in both and fell in love with one and felt drained by the other and couldn’t wait to leave.
Our time in Nicaragua began in Leon, a colonial architecture student city that is only 20km from the coast. We arrived in our shuttle later than expected at 8pm. It was a 15min walk to our hostel down some dark streets. Our hostel was relaxing and by the time we had checked in it was already 9pm, which even on a Saturday in Leon is when a lot of places close for the night. We headed back out on a mission to find food that Lewis could stomach. He had managed to gain another small dose of food poisoning ☹ It was a quick Panini and then back to our hostel to rest.

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The next morning after a free pancake breakfast I discovered our hostel has turtles who just walk around the grounds. They live off the bananas that they get feed.

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After marvelling at the little cuties I ventured out into Leon and explored the city. Lewis was still feeling terrible and I was trying to let him rest so we could go to the rooster fights that afternoon. Sadly the rooster fights weren’t meant to be but I had an amazing morning exploring the city and falling for the city and it’s people. The city warms on you pretty fast. The roads are filled with horse and carts of people bring in their goods, bicycles, motorcycles and taxis.

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The cathedral is slowly being re-painted but it still is stunning in either form. The people are friendly and will offer you a “Hola” as you walk past or attempt to help you find your way if you appear lost. Taking a photo of them is no problem and they welcome the chance to chat and find out a little about you. The town is full of cathedrals!

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If you want to go on a tour then you go to their office and book it, there aren’t people haggling you on the street. Leon is a city where the tourist is not it’s main focus and it is this part that I hope doesn’t change. We spent the afternoon looking at the art gallery which is free on Sunday. It was full of contemporary pieces and was a great place to look around. The galleries are housed in massive former houses.

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Due to Lewis being sick it was a quiet day. The next day we booked and went Volcano boarding. I am not going to lie. I hated it! Haha. We walked up a volcano for an hour where I nearly fell over the side with my board due to the wind and then we slid down the 45degree slope. The rules when we went up. If you feel the earth move (The volcano is over-due to errupt) RUN! Thankfully that wasn't an issue for us. :)

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The views from the top showed the stark contrast that it had with the surrounding area. We put on some fashionable suits and safety glasses before we headed down.

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At the top before we started there were hundreds of butterflies. I managed to not freak out before I went down but also managed to fall off along the way as I couldn’t stop. The butterflies were definitely a great distraction from the massive downward slope I was about to slide down! Lewis ended up getting stuck in the stones a few times before he finally gained momentum.

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I was happy to say I survived volcano boarding but I definitely wouldn’t call it the highlight of my trip, I personally would have preferred a cooking class. Lewis said he had a great time but was pretty gutted he got stuck a few times.

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After our time up there we got back just in time to go onto the roof of the cathedral. The roof has only just been painted and it is an excellent experience to walk between the domes, I honestly felt like I was in another country and wished I wasn't dusty and covered in ash but rather in a gorgeous floaty dress. We were warned to not leave our shoes as they were likely to be stolen (yay for Central America!).

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Our final day in Leon we went to a jewellery making workshop and made our own silver rings. It was a great morning with Hector and Juan Carlos. The rings turned out pretty awesome. I have made a photo essay about the experience which I will try and post up ASAP.

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We left straight after our ring making and went to Granada. It took us three hours on public transport to arrive in Granada, we accidentally got on the public bus rather than the public shuttle in Managua…The issue was that the bus stops every two seconds and it was 5pm. If we had taken the shuttle then we would have arrived faster. We booked into La Siesta, our hostel run by Boris, a Frenchman. The hostel was just what we needed and it was full of French people. After the first restaurant forgetting our meal and only realising after an hour we were off to the next one. The Garden Café is renowned in Granada with tourists. It is definitely not a place that serves authentic food but we were starving and were trying to stay off the main street. The food though pricey was delicious. I also got Calala juice (passionfruit) which was decadent. We saw the cheesecake and brownie in there cabinet so knew we would be back at some point solely for that.

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The next day we explored the area and I convinced Lewis to come up the bell tower of the church for me as the view was meant to be outstanding. Thankfully the view lived up to it’s reputation and we could see the whole of Granada from the volcanos to the lake. It was beautiful up the tower. The whole way there and back we were asked for money and offered tours. It was a constant thing. That day I wasn’t so great so spent the afternoon sleeping while Lewis chatted to a lovely American who has land up in the Esteli region, a region we would have loved to go to but sadly just didn’t have time. She had hurt her knee but it meant that we could chat to her about the current situation politically and in general in Nicaragua and Granada. I also discovered pitaya juice that day and Pita Pita. An Israeli man's shop that made delicious pita and falafels. We chatted to him and discovered he was a baker in Israel and is slowly trying to bring in sourdough and whole wheat pits. He was an interesting guy and it was great to tell him how much we enjoyed his food.

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Our last day in Granada we were drained, some places have a way of doing that to you and sadly Granada had done that to us. The president and a large Chinese investor that is wanting to build a canal through Nica were in town. Locals weren’t to happy about it. The new canal would be owned by the investor for the first 100 years, so would not really have a great benefit to Nicaragua. The canal would also go through lake Ometepe, causing pollution and also it would destroy indigenous lands, the people on these lands, live in a remote way and don’t know any other way. Moving them from there would cause them major issues. Lets hope the canal doesn’t go through at this point until things are organised better and the Nicaraguan people and government aren’t just convinced by bribes and money. Protests about this and the election system are currently happening around Nicaragua.

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We opted to go zip lining on Volcano Mombacho. It was great fun going through the trees like a monkey again. I would zip line over volcano-boarding any day! Lol. We headed to the Garden Café one last time to have Brownie a la Mode (Brownie and Ice-cream). The brownie was crunchy yet gooey just like it should be. It was definitely a comfort we needed in Granada. We got up early on our final day and headed to the local bus station. We opted to take the chicken bus to Rivas as we didn’t want to wait until 12.30 for a shuttle. The bus was a lot of fun. We meet a lovely Egyptian guy who was in Nica for only 5days (He had plans to see Granada, Leon and Ometepe!).

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Overall we were both happy to leave Granada. Granada is supposedly grander and nicer version of Leon. Sadly I didn’t find that the case. I tried to like it the whole time we were there but I couldn’t do it. I just hope that the town finds something other than tourism to keep it going. When we were in town it was off-season and you could see the struggles because of it. I think that is what both of us found. Granada doesn’t have anything else really but the tourism dollar. Everyone runs the same tours, there is nothing original and sadly it appears that they have lost some of their culture, vibrancy and life because of this. Apparently this has not always been the case. Lewis thinks that it is likely that Leon has it’s vibrancy and due to the students presence in the city. Lets hope that is the case and tourism doesn’t have the same influence on Leon as it has in Granada.

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Posted by chellebelle 19:00 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged cathedrals volcano granada boarding love leon ziplining hate jugos calala brownie Comments (0)

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