Monday Sessions – Nicaragua


Hello and welcome to the Monday Sessions where I post questions to some of my traveling friends. Everyone has a story to tell of what they have seen with their own eyes. Travelers are no different. Be it fun, practical, eye opening, a learning experience,  or a shift in thinking the experience of new places and people can be an incredible thing. These sessions aim to provide a bit of travel motivation so you may be inspired to craft your tales of adventure. 

Starting the series is my friend Bobby whom I met a number of months ago. Earlier this year he and a friend went travelling to Central America. Of the countries they visited Nicaragua was a his favourite. Here’s what he has to say about this gem of a country.


The Mesaya Volcano

The Mesaya Volcano, Nicaragua

WTW:  You visited several countries in Central America on this trip. Why did you choose Nicaragua for today’s focus?

Bobby:  To tell you the truth I did not know much about Nicaragua before I went. One of my best friends is in a punk rock band and his drummer is from Nicaragua so they told me “you have to go, its awesome.” They showed me some pictures and I was sold. Once I got there I have to say it was amazing. This tiny little country has something for everyone. 

WTW:  What areas of the country did you visit? Which was your favourite?
Bobby: I visited San Juan del Sur, Ometepe, Rivas, Grenada, Masaya, Esteli, Somoto, Leon, and Las Penitas. We went on many excursions and hikes in between these as well.

I liked different places because of different reasons, but my favorite experience was hands down in Ometepe. It was mostly to do with with the people I met there and the fact that the island was not as touristy as other places I’ve been to in Nicaragua. This island is made of two volcanoes in the middle of Nicaragua lake, which is the only place in the world you will find fresh water sharks. The island does not have much traffic and most people get around using scooters or motorcycles. There’s a natural spring there which is awesome, and a few good hikes as well.

WTW: That sounds amazing! I can see why you enjoyed it. What type of activities did you do while in Nicaragua?

Bobby: I surfed a lot in San Juan. I watched a couple baseball games in Ometepe between Moyogalpa and Altagracia (the two rival towns on the island). Rode scooters around Ometepe and my friend and I got our licences suspended in the process. Got to experience the Nicaraguan legal system getting our licences back in Rivas. Amazing Spanish colonial architecture in Grenada. Saw real lava at the Masaya volcano. Had some amazing coffee and cigars in Esteli. The Somoto canyon hike was the best hike in all of Nicaragua. And I got to board down a volcano in Leon. 

WTW:  Those make for great stories. What surprised you the most about the country?

Bobby:  What surprised me the most is the diversity and beauty of the country; there is so much to do and so much to see for such a small country. And contrary to what people say it was extremely safe. The prices are also very affordable which was nice. There is a little something for everyone in Nicaragua: young or old, shy or bold, just look at some pictures and you’re sold.

WTW:  Can you name a favourite memory?

Bobby: There are so many but one of them has to be hiking through Somoto Canyon. It was a hike that involved both swimming and hiking through a gorgeous canyon. We did some cliff jumps at one point and rode in a boat at another point. The hike was one of the most beautiful I have seen. 

WTW:  That is fantastic! Nicaragua sounds amazing. Any tips or suggestions for travellers considering visiting Nicaragua? 
Bobby:

  1. Just go, you won’t regret.
  2. Take the local buses (chicken buses) they are really cheap and fun. Every once in awhile people get on the bus and sell a wide variety of stuff. For example: food, drinks, candy, medicine, groceries, electronics etc. It’s like experiencing going to the mall from your seat on the bus.
  3. Travel a bit off the beaten path, this way you will see the true Nicaraguan hospitality. Ex: one of the person that worked at the hostel lent us his spare scooter. He just met us and trusted us with it. Wow.!
  4. If you like to party go to San Juan del Sur for “Sunday Funday” it’s a massive pub crawl. Also stay at Big Foot Hostel in Leon, they are the original volcano boarding hostel. 

WTW: Thank you so much Bobby. I agree with you that it sounds like it has much to offer everyone. Below are a few photos that he agreed to share (all photos taken and owned by him).  If anyone has comments please add them below.

Happy Travel from Wanders The World.

Volcano boarding outside of Leon

Volcano boarding outside of Leon

My friend Volcano boarding in Leon

My friend volcano boarding in Leon

 

 

Me and my friend riding on a borowed scooter

Me and my friend riding on a borrowed scooter

Grenada

Grenada

Drinking from coconuts on Ometepe

Drinking from coconuts in Ometepe

Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Mexico City Centro Histórico (Historical Centre)


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Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City – Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

I have been to Mexico 5 times. All of those have been to resort destinations. I enjoyed all my vacations as I was able to unwind and get a tan. That being said, I do claim that I have never really seen Mexico as I have only encountered that one particular aspect out of all that this country has to offer. For today’s feature I thought focusing on North America’s largest city would be the place to start to learn more. Mexico’s capital has plenty of history so let’s begin on “where it all started”, so to speak.

The oldest area in Mexico City is the neighbourhood of Centro Histórico (or Centro). It dates back to the Aztec town of Tenochtitlan (1325 CE) prior to the Spanish conquest. The heart of the Centro is the 240 m / 787.4 ft Plaza de la Constitución, commonly called the Zócalo. One of the world’s largest squares it is home to numerous concerts, fun events, demonstrations and the popular Festival de Mexico. Adjacent to the Zócalo is the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral – the largest one in the Americas with its twin bell towers housing 25 bells each. To the north-east of the square is the Templo Mayor, a large museum built on a former Aztec temple and showcases many of its ruins. These few places barely scratch the surface of what this single area of Mexico City offers. With copious amounts of history, churches, museums, architecture, food, stores, and vendors I would say it is evident that the Centro is a place where one can wander for a couple days.

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Mexico City’s Zocalo – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned By Flickr user schlaeger (http://www.flickr.com/photos/schlaeger/51220620) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

My Top 5 Cities to Wander


The Internet is riddled with Top 5 lists or whichever number is trending so I figure I will post one too. Where does this wanderer like to wander? Aside from just about everywhere I do have some faves. As I continue to traverse the globe I suspect this list will change though this is the list currently. 

It’s all about the cities. I have to say I prefer cities and the energy found within them. Of course small towns and nature are phenomenal and even entire countries I find amazing, though today it’s about the urban landscape. 

Here they are:

  1. PARIS – Paris! Paris! Paris! Arguably the most beautiful city on the planet, I always find wandering in Paris a joy. The art, the history and vibe. 
  2. ISTANBUL – An extremely close second, Istanbul took my breath away with its history, architectural beauty and culture.
  3. CHICAGO – Not only did I have a fab time in the Windy City I adored its arts, buildings and that deep dish pizza
  4. BUDAPEST – Not only does Budapest offer a gorgeous and clean city there is much to do.  Caving nearby, history, ruin bars & thermals baths makes for a very fun city!
  5. GEORGETOWN (a.k.a. Penang) & BELGRADE – tied for 5th as I was unable to decide. Both so different yet equally cool. Penang’s street art and street food within a chill atmosphere compared to Belgrade’s history, great people and fun nightlife made it a definite tie. 

There you go. My current top 5 cities. Next up will be my fav countries. 

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World 

 

Top row (L – R): Paris, Istanbul, Chicago
Bottom row: Budapest, Belgrade, me on boat in Belgrade, Georgtown (Penang)