It turns out that traveling with kids and keeping a blog up to date is a tad more challenging than expected. The daily attempt to be present, achieve Spanish fluency (ha) and find appealing semi-balanced meals all make time fly toward early bedtime each night. In any case, I am adopting a "a draft post is better than no post at all" approach.
(More to follow with thoughts on the east coast of Costa Rica.)
The bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to Granada. Nicaragua: We had a van (and included breakfast to go!)
waiting for us at 5a to take us from our awesome family- friendly hotel (The Adventure Inn, w rest/bar/pool!) to the bus station. Unexpectedly (the appropriate word for this whole experience), the station was calm, clean and quiet. The majority of our fellow travelers were nuns. We both said later how HOT they must've been all day (and always) in traditional habits. Soon there were also families with babies and single riders as well.
Dan went to multiple counters collecting different forms and filling them out, and soon we were riding in luxury, with AC and wi fi. A Honduran family with an adorable baby girl sat near us, and we (mostly Dan) were able to talk with them a bit. Jane and Maggie did not miss the fact that the infant's ears were pierced ("Why do we have to wait?") The nuns mostly just smiled at us.The bus wasn't even half full, despite travelers joining along the way. Several rows ahead of us, a mom and a cute little boy about age 6 rode. Later while waiting at the border crossing outside of the bus, the boy serenaded me with the Costa Rican anthem and a song about "Love" in English and Spanish. He kept coming up to me attempting English, and then laughing and running back to his mom. So cute.
Out the window on the ride, There were coffee & banana orchards as far as the eye could see, green lush valleys and volcanoes, brown rivers, full swaying clotheslines in every yard, skinny cows with long ears drooping, and then a huge modern windmill farm just over the border. In several places, there were windmill blades lining the fields waiting to be assembled.
The bus pulled over at a nondescript spot on the street in Granada, and we finally watched as our luggage landed in the thin and crowded sidewalk space between bus and old concrete brick building. Thank God Dan didn't lose the luggage tickets, crucial for bag claim, unfortunately lost by one of the nuns. (You'd think a nun would have the benefit of the doubt. She argued successfully but we were glad that we didn't have to do so.) A taxi driver waited somewhat patiently until we were ready to roll. The taxi was not fit for the road by American standards (think Fred Flintstone sticking his feet through the car floor) but it was a short ride, and the driver was very friendly and professional. Without detour we arrived at the doorstep of the hotel oasis called Casa San Francisco.
Such an oasis! Lush green plants everywhere, little pool, breezy courtyard, terrace, kind staff, impeccably clean) in the historic tourist zone for $65/night. Breakfast included. Incredible.
Granada is a beautiful city, with no modern buildings and there are historic churches and colorful buildings galore. The Nicaraguans are a friendly respectful and proud people who are happy to help but not quick to interrupt or bother a tourist just walking around to see the city. (Nicaragua is the safest Central American country, with a crime rate that is half that of the U.S.)
People take pride in looking nice, and I can't fathom how they get & keep their clothes so clean (assuming many do not have washing machines, and most homes have full clotheslines swaying in the breeze all the time.) Bathrooms are clean enough to rest on the floor, without exception.
The girls are doing well w using only filtered water, TP in the trash can rather than the toilet, no AC in the heat, doing school work, very carefully crossing streets, saying por favor, gracias, buenas dias. :-)
Nicaragua is a very special place. I would like to return and spend more time here. One of my favorite memories of Granada is an early morning walk to the lake, as people washed roads and sidewalks and prepared to open for the day's business. (Dan went first and I am happy that I followed suit.) Perhaps we come here with my niece Ellie someday. (Her birth grandmother was 100% Nicaraguan! I have wanted to buy her pretty much everything from every local vendor (pottery! hammocks! handcraft furniture!,) but managed to find some tiny gifts that we can carry until Thanksgiving.