Granada - Take Two

April 5, 2016

Little orphan Annie was right, "the sun'll come up tomorrow!" I was up and at 'em determined to make Granada "our bitch" or at least have a better day. We kicked the day off on the right foot with breakfast. Guests are given choice of a traditional Nica Breakfast, eggs or pancakes. You sit at communal table and the staff takes care of everything. It's quite the spread. They helped us organize a private boat tour of the Isletas at 3 o'clock. We appreciated the help getting that squared away.

Just before ten, we were off to Mombacho Cigars. Our data still wasn't up and running, thankfully, it was an easy find. There was plenty of street parking too. We wanted to do a tour, and one had just started so we joined in. We were given a lesson in growing tobacco, a history of the colonial house, followed by an all access tour and ending with a real hands on experience of cigar rolling. Our guide Jim was from Chicago so we immediately had that in common. His passion for cigars runs deep, he's very knowledgeable and his excitement is contagious so it was a joy to take the tour, even though, I am not a cigar aficionado. I opted not to roll a cigar, but Frank did ($10) and he now has a much greater appreciation for a well made stick.

Mombacho Cigar Factory tour

Look at that tile! All the cigars are pressed in molds before wrapping

Aging cigars

Frank rolling his own cigar

The building is gorgeous and fully restored. The tile work is drool worthy. And there is a rooftop patio with amazing city views. It will later become a bar and cigar lounge. Mombacho or Tierra Volcan (in the states) is in its infancy, but I have no doubt it will become a greater success than they ever dreamed. They take the time to put out a quality product and go above and beyond to keep their employees happy. There is only one machine in the entire factory, it measures the psi to ensure a good smoke. The rest is all done by hand. It's quite the operation.

view from the roof of Mombacho cigars

Mombacho volcano

City views from roof

After the tour, we hung out in the lounge chatting with the guys. Drinking Flor de Cana rum, while Frank smoked a couple cigars in order to best choose which he'd bring home. Before we knew it, we had to rush back to the hotel to meet our guide for the Isletas tour.

Our guide arrived with a driver promptly at three. We were dropped off at the boat docks on Lake Nicaragua. Here, we met our captain from the isletas. Our guide was from Granada, his family owns an orchard. He is a guide for all nearby sights. He learned English just by conversing with visitors. We were impressed. He knew much about the area and was happy to answer questions and would elaborate when he'd capture our curiosity - like discussing the rivalry between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans or the ruins in Leon.

Mombacho volcano & lake Nicaragua

Each of the islands are privately owned

Saw more egrets that any other, but there were a variety of birds

The sights were beautiful. The 365 islands were formed by Mombacho, each is privately owned, most by rich and famous. Many have caretakers that live on site. One, appropriately named, Monkey Island was purchased for the owner's pet monkeys. Five live on the island, they feed off the fruit trees on the island and have grown fond of taking snacks from visitors. They've tired of citrus fruits, but they didn't seem to mind when I fed them clementine segments. Lucy came aboard to go for a ride around the island, but quickly demanded off to raid another tour boat when she spotted they had avocado.

One of the monkeys tried to escape the island via power lines, but quickly learned why his plan was flawed. As a result, he lost much of his tail. The other monkeys did not follow. Now, they eagerly await visitors and anticipate their treats.

One was purchased for the owner's 5 pet monkeys

This guy lost his tail on the powerline trying to escape

Lucy likes to go for ride around the island

They offered to stop at a restaurant on an island if we cared to stop for a drink or bite, but we were content to head straight back. We had plans to have dinner at Charly's. A recommendation from Jim at Mombacho. When we docked we met back up with our driver. Our guide asked if we minding riding with another couple since our hotels were near each other. Of course, it was no trouble. The tour was relaxing and very enjoyable. I was nervous about the heat (breezy), direct sun (shade) or exhaust fumes (none). Frank is known to suffer from sea sickness (it was calm) so he was concerned about that, but from the door to door service through the duration of the boat ride; It was a fantastic experience. Many thanks to Miss Margrit's for making the arrangements ($25pp).

We freshened up, and then hailed a taxi to Charly's. We shared a ride with a local woman, our driver had us to our destination in a jiffy. Charly's is a guest house and German restaurant. Authentic German cuisine and imported beers right here in Central America. Who would've thunk it? We wanted one of everything but we showed restraint and started with goulash, followed by a variety of sausages, sauerkraut, the best potato salad, spaetzle and finally a crepe with fresh jam for dessert. It was a feast!

When we couldn't possibly consume another bite, we settled the tab and had Charly call us a taxi. The driver arrived quickly, he too, had a local family already in the car. We squeezed in, he wasn't familiar with our hotel or places we knew nearby. We failed at trying to convey directions to Miss Margrits. Somehow, I've managed to never learn the words for left or right. Luckily, the kind lady beside me helped us out by translating my hand directions. I made good use of my newest vocabulary word "despacio" when we approached our stop, followed by an "aqui, por favor." Phew, we made it. Then, we settled in for our final night in Nicaragua. All in all, I must say it was a pretty great day. Before I drifted off to sleep, I couldn't help but think about when I read somewhere that advised visiting Granada or Leon, but not both. Sure, both are colonial cities, but they are vastly different. It would be a disservice to heed that advice. Even though, we didn't love Granada. The tours alone were well worth the visit. In any case, I always find it best to form your own opinion whenever possible.

The next morning we packed our bags and had one last Nica breakfast before leaving for the airport. The drive was expected to take an hour, but we feared we could run into issues so we left plenty of time about 2.5 hours. We hit construction in Managua so it took just over an hour. Returning the rental was very easy and they gave us a lift to the airport. No issues with check in, but we had a slight hiccup in security. I had forgotten to transfer Frank's cigar cutter from my purse into our luggage so it was confiscated. Frank was salty. It was a really nice cutter. Lesson learned. We had plenty of time to kill we walked the length of the airport which took all of ten minutes. We stopped for a bite to pass time. It was expensive, but I finally got to try a quesillo. I ended up trading Frank for his nachos. There was too much cream for me, but he enjoyed it.

We flew United back to Houston, but we were stuck at the gate because a passenger refused to turn off his cell phone. We had to wait for him to be escorted off the plane and while his luggage was retrieved. The delay caused us to miss our connection home. Customs was fantastic due to our new Global Entry status. Frank and I gifted it to each other this Christmas. It is worth every penny for the that alone, but the TSA pre-check access is pretty awesome too. We were rooting to be stuck til morning so we could grab some Texas BBQ. But no such luck, they had us on a flight a few hours later. There were severe storms most of the way home so it was a very turbulent flight. By the time we arrived at T3 we were very thankful to be home. Another adventure was in the books!


KathyinNY said...

Thank you again for sharing your adventures. I just love the pictures too. Glad you had fun.

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