Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cooking Without a Kitchen - Beach BBQ Style

I don't want to jinx myself, but it *sounds like* I get to stay in home number nine for longer than originally planned (so stoked!!)

The only thing that isn't cool about it, though, is that it has no kitchen...
It has space for a little kitchen area - I do have a small refrigerator, I have a coffee maker, there's room to add a sink, and I can totally go out and buy an electric stove top range..  but for now, I have no kitchen.

No worries, though! Luckily, I hang out with someone who can cook up a bangin' beach barbecue..

Step 1
Peel and de-poop shrimp. Marinade chicken breast. Cut up barracuda fillets, peppers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic. Remove husk from corn on the cob.
Seal everything (except chicken and corn) in tin foil packages.

Step 2
Go look for coconut husks, dried out leaves and other things for your fire. Stay on the beach taking pictures of pretty flowers and lizard tracks while di man go into the bush looking for necessities.

Interesting flowers (haven't figured out what they are yet) just growing wild on the beach

  The beach is striped with lizard tracks

Di man, dealing with mosquitoes and looking for husks

Step 3
Make a grill using two cinder blocks and a borrowed grilling surface. Get the fire going, lay down packages of potatoes, barracuda with veggies, and shrimp with veggies and scream like a little girl when a scorpion runs out of the fire and towards your feet

               Gets the job DONE

            They still freak me out 

Step 4
Throw the chicken on the grill once everything else has cooked for a while, then the corn and tortillas. Take random pictures of the cats and the yard while waiting for dinner to finish up. 


Step 5
Eat delicious food that tastes better than anything you can go out and buy in town


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nicaragua - Part 4 - San Juan del Sur and back to Managua

I was almost tempted to leave out this last post about Nicaragua, due to the fact that I found San Juan del Sur to be slightly... disappointing.
Since I don't have much else going on at the moment though, I decided to get'er done.

Getting to SJDS from Granada was interesting - we were picked up from our hostel with two guys from Israel and driven about forty minutes out of the city, where we then pulled to the side of the road and waited for another van to come bring us the rest of the way. The second van was bigger, had air conditioning, and was more comfortable... probably very comfortable for 8-10 people... but they had about sixteen of us shoved in there and Kathy and I got stuck sitting on little, wooden, fold out stools wedged in between the seats.

We had planned on following a fellow traveler to her favorite go-to hostel just outside of town when we arrived, but, since it was Independence Day weekend, we quickly found out that pretty much all of the hostels in the entire area were already booked. Luckily, we just went for a walk to look around, saw a cute hotel not far from the beach, went in, and were able to get a room for two nights - Friday and Sunday... (We aren't even going to talk about Saturday night - just know that you should never, ever stay at the Atlantic City Hotel and Casino. Trust me)

This was a cute hammock area, when it wasn't raining

Lots of space to sit and hang out inside

Cute little botique area with soaps, bags, towels, and jewelry 

        Fountain in the dining room

After getting settled in to our room (no picture, sorry, but it was perfect and could have slept four people comfortably) we went out to find some dinner and drinks and to get a feel for the town....

I had been told by many different people that I had to go to San Juan del Sur. They assured me that I would love it - "cute little surf town," "awesome beach," "people with 'your kind of vibe'...." 
Maybe my expectations were too high, but.... meh. 
Just wasn't feeling it. 

We had dinner at one of the multiple beach restaurants that all look exactly the same and have, basically, the same menu as one another. 

View from the restaurant - that's Jesus up there on the hill. (Christ of Mercy)
One of the touristy things to do here is to walk up to the giant Jesus statue, but other than being able to take a sweet picture of San Juan del Sur from there, the idea just didn't appeal to me. 
Maybe if it was a giant leprechaun statue or an enormous ball of twine.... 

That night's sunset, which looked prettier through my knock-off Raybans. 

We walked around town a bit that night and ended up drinking at an American style sports bar with a  bunch of old, retired American dudes. It felt like home...Kathy and I, once again, got giggly and banged shots of tequila along with our beers and had our own little party in the corner. 

We went back to the same bar the next morning and the bartender was surprised that we weren't hung over. (He told us we were there for almost three hours and had at least six shots- we told him that's nothing.)

I really don't even have many pictures of San Juan, now that I'm looking through them for this post. We were there for three nights and these are all the "town shots" I took :

The tide is so far out during the day..

Really... that's all of them. 
This was supposed to be a surf town, yet, I didn't see one person surfing the entire time, and only a handful of surf shops.

Town was quiet during the day - absolutely no one in the water except for a few small kids on boogie boards, no one laying out on the beach, no one doing anything. 
At night, though, holy crap. 
There were so many people - the bars were all loud and crowded (except for our favorite sports bar) and the streets were packed with cars and pedestrians.
This was THE town where I felt the most likely to get pick-pocketed or mugged on the beach at night. It was a total party scene and party scenes are not my thing. 

Enough about SJDS now - just a heads up that if you want to leave San Juan del Sur by bus, there is only one that heads to Managua, and it leaves at 6am (we found this out around 1pm the day we needed to get to Managua) Also, no shuttle buses run on Independence Day, and a private taxi will end up costing you $75us. 

We were supposed to stay with Carlo again for Kathy's last night, but I think we talked too much about wanting to watch Tommy Chong on Dancing With the Stars at his house, so he changed his mind and we ended up getting a condo at a hotel in Managua for $70us. 
(Most expensive day of the trip, by far)

This place was nice, though...

RDG Hotel

Kathy left the next morning after we walked to the MetroCentro (mall) for breakfast - an actual mall. I honestly can't even remember the last time I was in a mall - with escalators and everything...

I only had one day on my own before coming home to Belize, and I was perfectly content with catching up on some nap time and taking a warm shower. I did wander out to go find something for dinner eventually and ended up at an Irish pub called The Temple Bar.
I must have gotten there right around the time they opened because I was the only one in there for a while. The bartender was super sweet and we were able to have a decent conversation with his broken English and my limited Spanish.
Two other guys had come in while I was ordering food to go and we started talking. We must have hung out for another hour or longer, until the one had to leave to get to a birthday party. They offered me a ride back to the hotel but... c'mon now. They said they were attorneys, but I know very well they could have been part of a big human trafficking ring and I just didn't feel like getting stuffed in the back of a van with another 15 people again - been there, done that.

I had a quick trip back home the next day - take off from Managua was at 12:40pm, we had a 50 minute layover in El Salvador, and we landed in Belize at 3:55pm.

Ooooh, yeah, El Salvador is now high up on my Bucket List - it looks beautiful...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nicaragua - Part 3 - Granada, the Islets of Granada, Monkey Island

After our touristy day at Mombatcho, Catarina, the Masaya Market and the Masaya Volcano,we were dropped off in Granada and stayed at the Hostel Oasis for two nights.
The room itself was nothing fancy, but the rest of the hostel, I thought, was pretty impressive - it has two "courtyards" in the center of the building (one with a little garden and lounging area, and one with a pool) plenty of seats (rocking chairs, hammocks, padded benches, tables and chairs) at least 10 computers with access to free wifi and Skype) a communal kitchen with free coffee and pancakes every morning, big murals on the walls, and a strict 11pm "quiet time" ordinance.

        The gardeny courtyard area

   The pool courtyard and dining area 

             The computer station 

       Bad picture of a great mural 

              Me and my evil twin 

I feel like we got to see a lot of the city even though we didn't do any structured, guided tours there. We wandered around looking for Kathy's Waffle House, which we were told is the best place to go for breakfast in Granada (we agree) and then we got slightly lost while trying to find our way back to the hostel. Even in the somewhat sketchy looking areas that we walked through, where men were hissing at us and telling me they love me and want to marry me, I still felt entirely safe.
Here are some pictures of the city - I'm sorry that I can't tell you more about the buildings... maybe next time I will take some kind of historical tour, since there's so much history here!

    A loooooong line of school children 

Sometimes I get fancy and photoshop pictures

It was Independence Day weekend while we were there - lots of flags everywhere 

Someone down there really likes The Beatles - this is the Imagine bar

              I think this is a museum...

A very important looking church - but I was more interested in the well dressed horse and carriage in front...

                A funeral buggy. 

Speaking of horse and carriages, that's one thing I just didn't like.... All over the country you see people still using a horse and carriage or a horse and trailer to get around. I guess I don't have a problem with that, as long as the horse looks healthy and well cared for (most of them didn't) but I absolutely hate the use of the horse and carriage for a tourist schtick- 

There are so many of them - they're out in the sun all day, I didn't see anyone going around to them with a bucket of water or anything, these particular horses are way too small for the load they're pulling, and I firmly believe that horses belong on farms, not on city streets. 
The concrete is bad for their hooves and the traffic is dangerous. 
End rant. 

Now I'm going to finally tell you about, and show you pictures from, the Islets of Granada.
Here's a picture from my last post to remind you what they look like from the side of the Mombatcho Volcano

             Little... Tiny.... Islands

Ok, so, these little tiny islands - I'm sorry, "islets," were created thousands of years ago (I read somewhere 20,000 years ago!!) when Mombatcho erupted and spewed huge rocks all the way down to the lake. There are 365 of them, all with dense vegetation and many are now privately owned and occupied.
The tour wasn't entirely fascinating, but we did get to go see the Fort of San Pablo on one of them, which was built in the 18th century to protect the city of Granada from Pirates. The view from up there was nice - that lake just seems to go on forever, and the volcano looks so... peaceful..

     Lake view from the top of the fort

          Volcano view, same spot

Some of the houses on the islets are really pretty, and I looked into it, a few of them can be rented out. What you would do if your vacation rental doesn't come with its own boat, I'm not too sure...

    This one comes with guard doggies

One of the islands, I don't know if it's officially or unofficially called "Monkey Island," is inhabited by... Monkeys! It's believed that they were once pets, abandoned by their owners (jerks) and now they just hang out here (where else would they go, really?) and eat whatever fruits, nuts, eggs and shellfish they can find - as well as whatever the tourists bring for them.

Do you see it? She has a BABY MONKEY!!!! So stinkin cute. 

We made one last stop on our islet tour - drinks!

Nothing but a restaurant, bar, and pool... The perfect little island, in my opinion

Well it looks like I'll be able to squeeze out one more blog about this trip - Nicaragua - Part 4 - San Juan del Sur and our last nights in Managua will be up in the next day or so.
Right now, I have to go to the pool.