Nicaragua, Leon, 8 February 2016

Rose early (still a bit in lag mode), I wrote up Ogblog some more and fidded around charging up devices etc. We took an early breakfast. Daisy had bacon and eggs. I tried pastry things that are a little difficult to describe. Think infeasibly thick, heavy pastry, possibly the early efforts of a child and you are imagining along the right lines.

I read some Ruben Dario and also had a short go with Benjy (the bariton ukulele) as we had so much time before  guide was due to arrive; pretty pleased with the results of putting pdfs onto the Kindle Fire for the ukulele purpose.

Our guide was named Danny Morales; very young and eager. He explained our itinerary. We were already aware that some of the smaller sights would be closed on a Monday, but he at least oriented us so we can go to those on our own tomorrow.

We started in Parque Central, looking at the various buildings, the Gigantona (gigantic facsimile of a Spanish girl) and especially the Cathedral of Leon, aka the Basilica de la Asuncion.

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This is an enormous church, the largest in Central America. There was a mass in progress as we went in; the use of guitar as the accompaniment to the singing gave the service an immediate Latin feel. We saw all the bits you are supposed to see, such as the Black Jesus and the tomb of Ruben Dario, then climbed up to the roof and explored that strange construction barefoot, taking in the vistas and taking many photographs.

After the Cathedral, a few short steps to the market, primarily a food market, which was wonderfully photogenic and about as friendly as you’ll find anywhere. We treated ourselves to some king coconut water at the end of that bit; Danny tellingly lugged the coconuts around with him for the rest of the day.

We then looked at some murals depicting the Nicaraguan struggle. After finding and buying a clutch of just the right type of bandannas in the Parque Central, we then visited the rather depressing Museo de la Revolucion, where we met some of the FSLN vets.

By this stage Daisy was getting quite hot and bothered with it all, but we persuaded her to progress to our next stop; Al Carbon restaurant, where the definition of a light lunch turned out to be a huge platter of meats served with some beans, taters and fried plantain thingies.

Danny then went off to get what we thought was a driver but in fact was a car under his charge for the rest of the day.

Our next stop was an art school in the Sutiava district, where we got to try our hands at “carpet making”; a local art form using dyed sawdust to make artworks on the ground ahead of a procession which will then destroy the works. Traditionally these pictures are religious and fairly classic-looking in nature, but Daisy and I went uber-modern for our effort. I tried to get away with it by naming the piece “madonna and child”; indeed if you look carefully at pictures of our seemingly abstract effort, you can distinctly see all the religious faces, bodies and symbols required for that name to be utterly appropriate. Or perhaps you can see an image of me kissing Daisy at the bottom of the work. We eagerly await notification that our masterpiece has won a prize.

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One of the art school boys then offered me the chance to play his guitar, which was quite a stretch from the baritone ukulele, but I managed to bash out all three chords of First Cut Is The Deepest and then La Bamba, the latter enabling the youngsters to join in. Funny that.

We were supposed to then see the house where they make the Gigantona, but when we got there we discovered that the man of the house is sick and it was all closed up. Instead, Danny took us to Radio Shack as I was keen to acquire some adapters for these US sockets (success) and also in search of some good music CDs (failure).

Back to the hotel for a while; Daisy was so tired she wanted to skip the evening, but I suggested she fight the lag by coming out again. We had hoped for some Gigantona/street parade action around central parque but it was all very quiet, as were the bars which we were told tend to have live music; but not on a Monday evening.

Daisy had a beer in Cafe Taquezal, before we hit on the idea of having a room service sandwich with our remaining wine back at the hotel. There is a lovely nook overlooking the courtyard garden containing modern portraits of  famous people, so we enjoyed a light supper and the rest of that good bottle of wine in the company of Yasser Arafat, Princess Diana, Charlie Chapin, Pele, Sandino and many others. Daisy had brought a few little Valentines chocolates and decided (I think wisely) that they were unlikely to survive much more travel in the heat, so we did the sensible thing with those too. A very lovely evening in the end.

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