Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pan y Paz - León, Nicaragua

delicious bread - Pan y Paz, Leon, Nicaragua
Pan y Paz is one of our secret treats in León. We enjoy it for many reasons.... the baguettes, the pan y pasas, the quiche, the fresh fruit drinks ....

This is the kind of place where you can relax and enjoy a nice light lunch or just a simple coffee and treat in their courtyard patio. When we are on the go then we take their bread home as an addition to our spaghetti dinner or we make a sandwich with their multi-grain triangles with homemade egg salad - yummy!

Pan y Paz is a traditional French style bakery and they use only natural ingredients using ancient French recipes. To our delight they use butter rather than margarine in their products - it makes all the difference in how they taste!

You can find Pan & Paz right in the center of León, just 2 blocks from the Cathedral and Central Park.

Address:  From the corner of the banks, 1 1/2 blocks west
Telephone: (505) 8956 5076 or (505) 8631 2760

They are open Monday - Saturday from 7 am - 7 pm

They have wifi if you need to stay connected.

Quiche at Pan y Paz - Leon, Nicaragua

Pan y Paz - Leon, Nicaragua

yummy treats - Pan y Paz, Leon, Nicaragua

fresh rolls at Pan y Paz - Leon, Nicaragua

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Renovations to Central Park in León are finally coming to an end!

Last week we took a peek over the barricades at Central Park and we could see that they have been making great headway in completing the renovations. All of the pathways look to be complete and there is a lot of nice new seating with benches scattered throughout the center area.

area in front of City Hall - León, Nicaragua

still some final touch-ups to be made

lots of benches to sit and relax - León, Nicaragua

Central Park - León, Nicaragua
Hey - what's this? Why are all these people in the park? Last Friday evening we noticed that all of the barricades were down and people were milling around the park. Later that evening a huge display of fireworks were set off and when we walked through the park we noticed that there were folk dancers performing in front of the Cathedral. We assumed that this meant that the park was officially reopened. However, when we were downtown yesterday the barricades were back up. We asked one of the local artisans when he would be returning to the park - he said they would be returning January 30, 2013. I guess there are still some finishing touches before the park is officially re-opened to the public.

Central Park - León, Nicaragua

Central Park - León, Nicaragua

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Eat a Quesillo like a Local!

Quesillos y Tiste Mi Familia - La Paz Centro, Nicaragua
Nicaraguans LOVE their quesillos. They are a popular roadside treat when you are traveling and can be found being sold coast to coast.  They are sold downtown by portable vendors and if you go to Nagarote or La Paz Centro there are a number of carts that are bustling with activity.

Honestly, I couldn't understand what the appeal was. I found them messy and difficult to eat - I was wearing more of the cream than went in my mouth! Fortunately, I found out a few days ago that it was all because I didn't have the correct technique in eating them. Our friend, Sergio, showed us where we were going wrong.

Quesillos, like so many things in Nicaragua, are prepared and then sold in plastic bags. The vendor may hand the quesillo to you with the top of the bag open. You need to close the top of the bag - tie it off with a knot. This will allow the yummy cream to soak into the tortilla. Choose one of the corners of the bag and make a good sized hole in it. Now you can gently bite off small chunks of the quesillo and suck it into your mouth - be careful not to bite through the plastic bag! The technique is very easy to learn and you will find that you will enjoy your quesillo immensely and are a not to be missed treat.

Sergio and Pat eating a quesillo - La Paz Centro, Nicaragua

PS - we have been told that the best quesillos can be found in Nagarote.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Casa Ulrich - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

resident mascots at Casa Ulrich
We traveled to Pearl Lagoon over New Years - a trip that was decided at the last minute. Since there are few options for accommodations in Pearl Lagoon we were a little concerned that we would have difficulty finding a suitable place to stay with such short notice and over the holiday period. After reviewing the accommodations in Pearl Lagoon listed on TripAdvisor and Vianica we narrowed our choice down to Casa Ulrich. We received a quick response to our email indicating that they did have a room available (only $15.00 per night for a room with shared bath).

a hearty Nica breakfast at Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon
We left Managua on the 9 p.m. bus and were on the 6:30 a.m. panga from El Rama to Bluefields. We arrived in Bluefields at 8:10 a.m. which meant that we were able to make the 8:30 a.m. panga to Pearl Lagoon. Arriving in Pearl Lagoon by 9:30 a.m. we were on the doorstep of Casa Ulrich hungry and tired. No problem! Our hosts - Fred and Reyna had a room ready for us and Fred fired up the grill for a delicious Nica breakfast.

Fred and Reyna took over the property that has become Casa Ulrich three years ago and are in the process of making many improvements. Their waterfront property has a number of budget priced rooms that share a couple of bathrooms as well as six rooms with private baths. They have a couple of rooms that can accommodate families or small groups traveling together. There is also a large restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy the view as well as Fred's culinary skills. Fresh shrimp and fish is always on the menu!  We spent five nights at Casa Ulrich and ate almost all of our meals there.

So, if you happen to be visiting Pearl Lagoon you can't go wrong staying at Casa Ulrich!

view from the back of Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

view of second story accommodations at Casa Ulrich

budget room at Casa Ulrich - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Casa Ulrich has space big enough for families

room with private bath - Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon

quiet sitting area - Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon

view of second level restaurant - Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to get to Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

view of the wharf as we were leaving Bluefields
Bluefields is the jumping off point to a number of locations - one of them being Pearl Lagoon. So, after our 6 hour bus ride from Managua and a two hour panga (boat) trip up the Rio Escondido to the small port city of Bluefields we were ready for the next leg of our journey.

After we got off the panga from El Rama we had to cross over to the part of the wharf where the pangas leave for Pearl Lagoon (you may need to ask for directions because there aren't any signs that I saw). You have to pay a 5 cordoba (per person) port fee when you enter this section. On the small wharf there is a fellow walking around with a clip board - he is taking names of passengers for the next panga. We were very fortunate because the next panga was leaving in only a few minutes and he still had a number of spaces. So, before we knew it, we were departing on the 8:30 am panga!

boats in the marina
The one hour trip along the small rivers that lead to Pearl Lagoon was very scenic. There appeared to be mangrove trees in some areas. You could also see some modest homes where people are going about their everyday life.
Mangrove trees

there was a short stop at Kukra Hill
Our final destination - Pearl Lagoon

Pearl Lagoon, RAAS Nicaragua
The cost for this leg of the journey was only 165 cordobas. However, if you don't like to travel by water it is possible to get to Pearl Lagoon by land. Rather than take the panga from El Rama to Bluefields you would wait for the bus to Pear Lagoon. The trip from El Rama to Pearl Lagoon by bus takes 5 hours (with a short break at the halfway point) and only costs 150 cordobas. The trip by bus is two hours longer and the roads are not in the best condition.
Road from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama

Road from Pearl Lagoon to El Rama

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Taking a trip to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua by bus

We have always wanted to visit the Atlantic Side of Nicaragua and early in January we were finally able to make the trip.

We left León at noon by the inter-local which took us to the La UCA terminal in Managua. We left León early because we had reserved our tickets for the bus and we were told we had to be at the Costa Atlantica (Ivan Montenegro) Terminal by 4 pm to pay for them or risk loosing our seats. It is possible to take a chicken bus from the Mayoreo bus Terminal but be aware that they can take up to 8 hours since they stop all along the route. The Wendelyn Vargas bus is an express bus and it will get you to your destination in only 6 hours (there is a short "lunch" break half way through the drive).

After lunch at Metrocentro Mall we took a taxi across town to the bus station. We paid a little more for the taxi because we took a "secure" taxi from the Mall - $250 cordobas for the two of us.

Upon arriving at the bus terminal we paid our fare and received two tickets for the trip - one for the bus with a seat number written on it and one ticket for the panga once we get to El Rama. The night we left there were 3 buses traveling together. Your ticket will indicate which bus you are on.

Poster with Bus and Panga times and current rates
 The buses are old "school" buses with "deluxe" seating - more comfortable chairs than your regular bench seating. Your luggage will be stowed on top of the bus and covered with a tarp to keep it dry. They start loading the luggage about an hour before departure. The buses will be marked I, II or III and if you have any doubt which one you are assigned to the attendants will help you out.

Old school buses used for your trip to the Atlantic side of Nicaragua

Tickets for the bus and panga
After an uneventful ride across country we arrived in El Rama at 3:15 am. There were a few food vendors open for business but there were no bathroom facilities available at this time. After collecting our luggage we noticed that there was a line up at the office. We had already bought our tickets for the panga and didn't think we had to join the line - but you do! This is when you get your panga assignment. We were at the end of the line and were given #8 which caused a lot of confusion when it came time to load onto the pangas - there was no panga #8...... No worries - we were squished onto #7. This office is also where you will purchase your return bus ticket to Managua.
Office in El Rama where you get your panga assignment
About 4:30 - 5:00 am you will notice that the Port Office across the street is open. You will have to pay 5 cordobas per person to enter. There is a large waiting room, but more importantly there are bathroom facilities available.
Entry to the Port of El Rama
 About 6 am they will start loading the first panga by calling out the numbers in order.  They will put your luggage in the front and cover it with a tarp. They should have life jackets available for everyone on the panga. They panga ride from El Rama to Bluefields will take about 2 hours (or less if you have a crazy driver like we did). If it starts raining along the route the driver will hand out a plastic sheet to cover the passengers with to try and protect them from the worst of the rain.

Loaded into the panga and ready to go

We enjoyed our trip out to the Atlantic side of Nicaragua - a true adventure in itself. We found that traveling by bus and panga was a fairly quick and inexpensive way to get around. The cost to get from León, Nicaragua to Bluefields, Nicaragua was only 586 cordobas per person (including our expensive taxi across Managua) or just under $24.00 CDN.  In comparison, if we had taken a flight from Managua to Bluefields the flight alone would have cost us $82.46 US - so the bus is truly a budget option!

We arrived in Bluefields at 8:30 am - tired and ready for breakfast!

Check out the Rightside Guide website for all kinds of information about exploring the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua.