We drove north of San Juan Del Sur for a good four hours en route to Leon. We were warned that police may pull us over and sure enough they did. The language barrier is a challenge in situations like this one. I was asked to hand over my drivers licence and the documents for the car. Then to get out and stand at the side of the road with the two police who were on motorcycles. They had pulled me over because I tried to pass on a solid line, and we had been seeing people do it all day. He explained that he would keep my licence and that I had to go to the bank to pay $100US and return the next day with the receipt at 8:30am. At this point we were still 45 mins from Leon and I was not going to drive away without my licence. Lucky enough my friend Heather warned us about this and said that we would likely be able to offer some cordobas, the local currency. As I was using the little Spanish I know and waving $$ around chris told me that I could be put in jail for bribing police here. One of the officers went to pull over a motorcycle and we were left with the stubborn one. It seemed he wouldn't budge but he had not yet written a ticket...Chris started to negotiate. After what seemed like eternity and hopelessness and me thinking we were hooped, the officer reluctantly said $14. The other officer called him across the street, Chris whipped out his wallet and slipped $14US into his clipboard discreetly and when he returned my license was handed back to me. With broken Spanish we thanked him and returned to our car. Apparently this happens often especially with tourists as they make little $$, but I do feel extra blessed that we were able to drive away with my licence!
Arriving in Leon around sundown we were stifling hot with the 32 degree heat. We are staying in a B&B called Paz de Luna with a little cafe. Our first instinct was to rehydrate and they make the most amazing fresh fruit smoothies here. We passed several fruit stands on the way with watermelon and mangos, papayas and pineapples, and we drove by several banana trucks piled high with fresh bananas. This town is also famous for its coffee shops because there are several plantations in the north of Nicaragua. Great news for us! We set out in search of dinner and wandered thru the colonial town past the cathedral. It is huge and glorious. Behind it are several street vendors which make the best and cheapest fritangas in town. We chose grilled chicken and lamb from the BBQ and fresh vegetables with ripe avocados and pickled cabbage, baked potatoes stuffed with cheese and deep fried cheese, plantains and bananas. A fresh tortilla to top it off all for the price of $11US including fresh Jamaica juice. Delicious cold refreshing beverages abound here, from the variety of coffees, fresh fruits, rum drinks and cervesas.
We explored the towns churches and cathedrals today, and hopped on the roof of the bell tower at the main cathedral. The bell tower is worth the climb and takes us up for a breathtaking view of the town and the surrounding volcanoes. We visited a beautiful art museum with the largest collection of Art in central and South America. And now I lie in my hammock of the garden where we are staying for a siesta as it is 34 degrees!
Leon is the historical heartbeat of Nicaragua and the town notoriously known for the revolution. Though it's been over for 10 years and it's very safe here, there are several indicators that the revolution was here. We have noticed some people begging on the streets around the cathedral and noticed some kids in school uniforms but others not. Likely it is their parents who can't afford to send them to school, which starts this week.
Our highlight was a secret garden dinner we found last night, at a funky little restaurant with amazing Cuban food and awesome blended mojitos. Here, anything cold tastes dang good! Now we are off to see the mountain range of Matagalpa and its coffee plantations.