Category Archives: Nicaragua

Ten Things In 2012.

As 2013 rapidly approaches, we pause to take a look at our top food memories and discoveries of the year.

Jill: My itinerant adventures included a spring trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rice, summer visits to New York City and Cleveland (yes, a worthy destination) and a last-minute trip to San Francisco spurred on by World Series baseball. Below are a few things of note as I look back at the year that the world was supposed to end.

1. One-Course Meals.

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In 2012, I realized that while I may not be able to afford three courses of fine dining, I can create my own buffet of great eats by visiting several places for one course each. San Francisco was the perfect backdrop for this style of eating, and I found myself slurping oysters not once, but twice in the ten-day stay. The key, by the way, is to be upfront with servers from the beginning. And to tip a little extra before heading out for the next snack.

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San Juan Del Sur Selections.

Thanks to Nina’s excellent negotiation skills, we awoke early to a dorm room full of empty beds. With the exception of some midnight dog choruses, very little noise kept us from sleeping, which is unique for a hostel. We woke up early with a plan: visit the market, have breakfast, learn to surf. The first two, I’ll cover in this post; the latter will be for another day.

After being told by a server the previous evening that the market wouldn’t be open until 10 a.m., we decided to find another source. A market that opens at mid-morning? It seemed unlikely. Our instincts were correct, which allowed for plenty of exploring — and fruit buying — before our surf lesson. Half of our selected fruit would be left in the hostel kitchen the next morning; the remaining would accidentally be left on a bus in Costa Rica. Oops.

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Beachfront Bonanza.

San Juan Del Sur is for hippies, beach bums, expats, surfers and — it makes me cringe to write it — yogis. And it was research on this west coast party town that solidified Nicaragua for Bethany as a solid choice for our visit to Central America. This blog post convinced her that the place would be the perfect venue to relax and ease out of the daily stresses of social work. With yoga, surfing and a chance to “hike to the world’s second largest Jesus,” I couldn’t say no.

We arrived and immediately found Yajure, the “surf hostel” that a friend-in-passing had recommended to Nina. At the time, we didn’t know the name; we just knew that it was “on the other side of the walking bridge.” (The address on their Facebook page is “Just left of the walking bridge after the Crazy Crab, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.” Effective.) Shortly after unpacking and scheduling a surf lesson for the next day, we went directly to Nicaragua Beach Lounge for lunch, based on the recommendation of Chely, the hostel’s owner.

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Friday Five: Things To Do On Ometepe.

Here’s a list of things to to while visiting Ometepe in Nicaragua.

1. Walk past the cabbies when you get off the ferry.

You can do this pretty much anywhere in the world, and you’ll save a few bucks. That first guy, the friendly one who’s making you a deal? He’s not. I always forget this. Luckily I travel with people like Bethany or Maya who aren’t as easily walked over as I am. So, keep going. The price will go down.

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Words with Friends.

It’s taken me some time to write about this next phase of my trip to Nicaragua — the two days in Ometepe — because it lacks a story. Sure, things happened. We couldn’t stay at the farm we’d read about, so we had a perfectly lovely time at the place next door. Dinner took too long at a restaurant, causing us to walk back to our cabin in the dark. We’d forgotten to stock up on cash before arriving on the island, so we ended up paying for our swanky volcano-side lodging with PayPal. All those things are somewhat interesting, but none were defining moments. And, frankly, as I tried to go into detail about them, I bored myself.

In the two days we spent exploring Ometepe, an island made of two (one live, one not) volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua (Lake Colcibolca), my favorite moment was the one pictured above. Bethany and I eschewed dinner in favor of two large Toñas while watching the sun set behind (live) Concepción volcano on the front porch of our cabin. To explain why I enjoyed this experience over all others would strip it from its simplicity. Let’s just say this: sometimes it takes two plane flights, as well as a bus ride, ferry ride and two cab rides to get to a place that facilitates conversation—without interruption, without distraction, without Words with Friends. Actual words. With friends.

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A Taste of Granada.

Soy vegetariana. I am vegetarian.

Bethany and I arrived in Nicaragua armed with a tiny Spanish dictionary and 40 or 50 handmade flash cards with useful phrases, provided by Spanish-speaking friends of ours. My fluency in the language is questionable at best, and all-reliant upon my memories of my C+ average Spanish classes in 1995 and 1996. For the most part, the cuisine of Nicaragua seemed to be free of meat. Despite this, and despite the notecard and the fact that vegetariana is one letter away from the English version of the word, I messed up the phrase without fail, talking around it whenever possible.

Mi amiga no me gusta carne, I’d explain while pointing at Bethany with her fancy eating habits. Directly translated, My friend, I don’t like meat. Not confusing at all.

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Friday Five: Postcards from Nicaragua.

When considering a week-long trip south of these United States, Nicaragua wasn’t the first country to come to mind. Brazil had that honor, but its $1200 airfare pushed it far out of the eight-day destination category. (My equation isn’t exact, but if the airfare tops $1000, the destination deserves at least ten days, if not two or more weeks.) The lower price tag of Nicaragua (most flights from CMH were closer to $600) and the quick flight (less than three hours from ATL), combined with a friend’s lavish praises piqued my interest. Simply put, it was personal economics that landed me in the poorest — and safest — country in Central America. I’d go back in a second.

Today’s Friday Five is a quick peek of our fleeting visit to three areas in the Southwest region of Nicaragua.

1. Granada’s Market.

With only half a day to experience the famous Spanish colonial city of Granada, we placed a visit to the market on top. Piles of produce (some recognizable, some not), clothing and countless street food temptations sang to us as we wandered the streets of the sixteenth century city.

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Eight Ways To Die.

You may have noticed that IF-OH has been silent of late. That’s because I’ve been preparing for a new trip: Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I’ve developed a method for my travels that truly honors the “itinerant” part of Itinerant Foodies. This method heavily involves the use of Google Docs and wikitravel. Basically, I write a middle school report on the country I’m visiting. My many anxieties are somewhat quelled when I fight them with knowledge. So I research every possible thing there is to know about a place in hopes that a) I don’t miss something good while I’m there, b) I don’t get stuck someplace awful and c) I don’t die. Vacations with Jill are so fun!

Bethany (of Tanzania and Philippines fame) will be joining me on this new adventure, and I’m hoping that her complete understanding of “island time” will balance out my we-need-to-be-there-four-days-early-to-catch-the-bus mentality. We’ve been working for months on the trip, interviewing friends who have been before, scouring the backpacking message boards and trying to learn some last-minute Spanish. (Thanks to two years of Spanish in 1995 and 1996, the burden of language is on my shoulders for this trip. In the past, I’ve had the luxury of Bethany pre-learning the local dialect prior to my arrival. There will be a lot of grunting and pointing, I fear.)

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