Lay Low in Leon
25 October 2007 | Leon, Nicaragua
After enjoying Grenada and the surrounding areas for a while, I have moved to the northern part of the country, where Leon is located. My plan was to reach into the central highlands and explore those regions, however the rains and floods have been quite strong and travel to that part of the country would be slow, if not impossible. Roads are washed out, power is unreliable, and water supplies are most likely polluted due to the run off. No big deal to me though, just another excuse to come back to this amazing country.
Leon is also a vibrant city, possibly more active than Grenada. Street vendors, horse carts, and taxis el loco are abundant. Simply walking through the streets and markets is enough to force an afternoon ciesta. Interestingly enough, Leon is one of the oldest cities in all of Central America, founded in 1523 by Don Francisco Cordoba, the famous Spanish conqueror. Senor Cordoba also founded the beautiful city of Grenada to the south, so he left his Spanish colonial mark in a fairly large way. Cordobas are now the national currency, for obvious reasons. 19 Cordabas is equivalent to one U.S. dollar, and 11 Cordobas buys a can of local beer in the market. Full blown meals in restaurants, cafes, or sodas range from $2 to $6 dollars, drinks and tip included. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating out the majority of the time, which is something I do not regularly do in the states, unless it is at Costco or the $2.99 Subway weekday special. I tend to seek out local places where the Leonese meet , menus are nowhere to be found, and lines are long. These places are noisy, crowded, and often times chaotic. A solid meal of rice, beans, fried or grilled chicken, yucca, and fried plantains normally run under $2.50 or so. This is generally a safe rule for hygiene issues as well, due to the food being very fresh, hot, and eaten by many. Although, I have had a few bad tacos in my day. It is all part of the experience.
In the center of town is a nicely sized park and large cathedral. My small hotel is conveniently located just outside the center park, so I spend the majority of my time in this area. Ruben Dario, the famous Nicaraguan poet is buried in the cathedral, although I have yet to find his grave despite searching for hours. I can only think of the De Vinci Code as I walk around the cathedral, my head titled high, and a confused look on my face. I normally take shelter here from the hot sun and pollution from 1 pm until 3 pm. The air is cool inside, it is somewhat dark, and the structure is breathtakingly beautiful with wonderful arches, old paintings, and chilling acoustics. A few times female choirs sung classic hyms in the side wings, sending harmonious Spanish melodies through the holy building. These were some of the most special moments I have had in Nicaragua. Young students can be heard playing soccer in the square just outside the church, a reminder to me that this is just another normal place to the Nicaraguans, similar to the park in Moraga, or Scottsdale.
I plan to continue enjoying my time here in Leon for a few more days. I may return down to Grenada for the weekend, stopping in Managua along the way, but it depends on my mood, and what I feel like doing. It has been a great joy to be on my own, decide where I go, how I do it, and when. And this afternoon, I will lay low in Leon.