PHOTO: View from my b’fast table looking to the lobby and street.
Dateline Thursday April 13, 2006. We’ve been in Granada 15 hours and 15 minutes, only 4 in the daylight and only 6 of it awake (the boys are still sleeping). And it is definite: we LOVE Granada. We may never go home. We’ve been Nic’d. (OK, I just made that word up. It’s like "punk’d" only nice.)

Nic’d in a big way. Even Morgan said "I could live here." Morgan, who looks most of the time like he just ran into a wall and is still a little dazed… That’s how strongly this place grabs you. So it’s 6:51am on Day 2, I’m having coffee in the lobby of the Kekoldi Hotel, which couldn’t be more lovely, glorious in its ancient 2nd world country pristine fashion. Driving in yesterday, I NEVER thought I’d feel this way. Let me backtrack…

We took the bus from San Jose to Nic, the Executive Bus which includes breakfast and a movie. Driving these roads can be such a nightmare. Apparently crossing the border with your car is flat out impossible, only worth it if you are moving. And can’t live without that particular car. The bus is only $40pp round trip… It just made too much sense to pass up.

The bus was huge with spacious soft comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, big windows… this brings to mind the torturous flight from NYC to Heathrow. You are crammed into tiny seats with the seat back In Your Face for 8 hours. It was hell. Anyway. That’s another story. Suffice it to say this was NOT that! Breakfast was tasy gallo pinto con juevos (seasonsed rice and beans with eggs) and a coke. Perfectly acceptable. The ride is from 7am till 3:30pm (long but acceptable), including the 2 hour stop at the border. You get checked as you leave Costa Rica (no baggage rifling) and then again entering Nicaragua (baggage rifling).

Not everyone gets their baggage rifled, of course. Just as the bus pulled into Nic customs, one of the bus attendants strolled thru muttering what we later realize must have been instructions. After departing the bus, we see the old-timers gathering their luggage from the bowels of the bus and getting in a line. Aha, customs.

When you get to the front of the line, the official looks at your customs declaration and directs you to push the button: a small beige plastic thing with a yellow plastic button that operates the stop sign (sitting just under the stop sign which is next to the official in the photo ). I push, the green light lights and he let us pass with no rifling. Nervous work if you are a smuggler, I’ll bet. Judging from the enthusiasm of the customs officials, I’ll also bet the stats are on your side.

Successfully back on the bus, when the movie starts. Argh, it’s 2 o’clock so that means there’s enough bus ride left for a movie… Ok. At least we are comfy. "Lucky Numbers" with John Travolta and Teri Garr. They were great, the movie desperately lame…. We did have a good laugh before the movie started. As the video starts to play, the first thing you see is "FBI Warning: This video is for private viewing only. It is illegal to show it before clubs, groups, or any commercial gathering." Seemed particularly ridiculous as we passed thru what turns out to be the barren wasteland of pre-Granada Nicaragua… Who is going to report this violation?

During the longer stretches of lucky number inanity, I peered thru the closed curtain at the passing landscape. Barren, as I mentioned, with vivid images of crushing poverty. This is indeed the dry season and by this time, these guys need rain. So the homes and land are brown and dusty, the people look the same. The poverty level is reportedly 75% here in Nic. The evidence is overwhelming. I can’t look for too long… so desperate to glance away, I go back to the movie.

By the time we get to Granada, my spirits are pretty low. I’m thinking we’re going to be trapped in this desolate country for 3 days. Visions of death squads start marching thru my head. (NOTE: When my friends and family tell you I’m dramatic, they mean totally and completely. Give me a single vision and I can write a movie. Hey! Screenwriter!! That could be my next career! Michael Moore did it… how hard could it be? He was in this movie, by the way. He sucks almost as badly at acting as he does at "documentary" filmmaking. Do you know he owns Halliburton stock? He is a big fat stupid hypocritical unethical white man. I feel better now.)

We got off the bus and into a cab… the worst looking cab. It practically didn’t have a floor, two of the doors did not work, it was SO dusty… Anyway, he brought us to the Kekoldi hotel and, unbelieveably, the transformation began. The falling in love… it took awhile, mind you. But it is complete.

Our room is as basic as it gets, private bath with hot water, AC (one of those in the wall Samsung units). A queen bed and two twins, all hard as a rock with tiny pillows – one each. We all slept great, by the way. Small old TV, but we haven’t had TV in over 3 months – so this TV is most excellent! Nice bathroom with hard scratchy towels. But so? A beautiful tile wall covering, shiny moroccan looking thin quilts, nice sheets and all so pristine. The terrazzo tiles are waxed to a slippery finish. The bathroom is squeaky clean. Everything is squeaky clean. That impresses the heck out of me. I LOVE clean.

And bright – everything is painted in beautiful colors. The floor tiles change color and pattern in every room; on the sidewalks, they change as you pass from one home to another. Yes, the sidewalks are tiled. Granada has a distinct Spanish feel. Of course.

We go for a walk during our 2 hours of daylight remaining. The streets are narrow, the buildings short and closed up. But this is Spanish architecture: the houses open up onto courtyards (like our hotel) with the gardens in the middle and the house built around the courtyard.

Hal has always wanted to build a house in this style. I can see why.
As we walk, we are afforded glances into a few of the doorways and it is magical inside: huge center atriums with light and air… lots of color, beautiful detail…

We find a hot dog restaurant (I know, hot dogs in Granada? But when I get to a new place, I like something familiar to eat. It’s my way.) The hot dogs are exquisite. We wander thru the ancient square, then back to the hotel at dusk. We are off today for a tour of Granada and the lake, the islands in the lake. Pictures of day one will be posted later. Off to our tour, ready to be Nic’d some more!!!!!

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