We were up early to head out towards Granada. The plan was: no plan. Drive along and stop along the way at anything interesting.
We rented a truck from the same hostel that had provided my hut earlier in the trip. We packed overnight bags and all piled in. Complete with my hosts’ french bulldog Mister Pants. This was the first time I spent time outside of the little town of Playa Gigante. Since I landed at night I hadn’t seen much of the countryside. What I saw were dark mysterious landscapes that managed to romance your imagination. Enticing you to speculate in awe at the wild unknown. Starry skies juxtaposed against the fiery glow of volcanoes at rest send a different vibe than what I’m used to in back home in Atlanta.
In Catarina, I picked up some cocoa pods with the ambition of making my own chocolate from one of the stalls. From another stall, we got pretty yummy pina colada they made fresh right there and garnished with star fruit. After we finished perusing the goods on offer at the market in Masaya we headed on towards Granada.
Granada is an old mission city, with roots stretching back to the conquistadors. The streets are busy with horse-drawn carriages darting past cheerful buildings in shades of turquoise and canary yellow. We arrived at a cute hotel next to a big lake in Granada. But they were fully booked, so the owner suggested a new hotel that had just opened up around the corner. They were even kind enough to show us the way so we wouldn’t get lost and made sure that Mister Pants was allowed ( talk about customer service!!). We were all a little skeptical since it was a new hotel in a highly touristy area of a big city. Naturally, we thought maybe it would be devoid of character or half finished. We had to eat our unsaid words as we entered the Boutique Hotel Maharaja. It’s an East Indian owned courtyard style hotel. It feels like you’ve stepped through a portal to a place ruled by timeless charm. There was a turquoise pool in the middle of a courtyard adjacent to their restaurant surrounded by perhaps 20 rooms. Our room was comfortable. Consisting of two beds, an en-suite bathroom and an air conditioner (which we needed for Mister Pants who does not cope with heat well). There seemed to be an interesting theme of art on the walls. There were 3 individual prints on each wall- but each of the three prints hailed from the Kama Sutra. There was a little giggle about the interesting choice in decor. After we settled into our sex-themed lodgings for the night we ventured out into the city center for a look see. Our first stop was right next door to a little cafe that sold pretty fantastic falafel. The girl behind the counter was gracious when I overpaid her. She honestly gave me the correct change, in addition to the best falafel I had during my visit. (It was also the only falafel I had while visiting so this is a true statement). I found the textural simplicity of the café inspiring. I sat quietly basked in the old world charm while waiting for my food. After falafel the three of us wandered onwards towards the city center.
After our tour through Catholicism, we wandered into the town square. It was Saturday evening and there were mariachi bands playing to crowds of locals and tourists alike. My friends remembered a chocolate museum that was nearby. We meandered in that direction stopping off at an exhibition of Nicaraguan paintings. We ducked in for a few moments. The works were largely colorful and cheerful, depicting jungle scenes of lush forests and vivid birds and waterfalls.
When we entered into the chocolate museum we were met by a cheerful staff member who invited us to sample varieties of chocolate liquors that they make there. The flavors included familiar combinations like chocolate mint, but also more exotic flavor profiles like chocolate hibiscus. After a round of samples, we explored the museum which was also attached to a hotel with an atrium. The lovely surroundings invited us deeper into the hotel where we found a living oasis complete with a bar and pool with a waterfall. Feeling excited by our discovery we ordered pina colada at the bar- they were made fresh with frothy coconut milk and served in coconuts. Sipping our beverages we journeyed through the oasis/bar to the rooftop where we had an excellent view of the city, and volcano in the distance. Below us, we could see the pool and the wild ducks and bunnies that seemed to be happily cohabiting with sunbathers and hotel guests. I think being in the company of good friends having such a delicious drink, witnessing so much authentic exotic beauty- made the day. I felt like a kid in never land, and I didn’t want to go back to reality.
Ginger Liquor Recipe
1 quart of Clear Rum – I used Fleur De Cana
1 large ginger root
1/2 cup of honey ( I used macadamia honey)
I cut up the ginger and allowed it to sit in the rum in a sealable jar for a couple of weeks. In hindsight, I don’t think this immediately flavored the rum. However, when I added the honey a few weeks later it brought out the ginger and sweetened the rum. It’s great when mixed with a sparkling water served over ice. This is inspired by the ginger liquor served at the Chocolate Museum and Hotel in Granada.