Some people go on vacation to a new country and fall in love with the place, then go home, quit their jobs and pack up all their worldly belongings to move there. Not me. I’ve been carefully planning my exit from Canada for the past year by scouting possible destinations, studying Spanish and setting up my work so I will be able to continue to have an income to support me while I am living my dream.
High on my list of possible destinations is Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest colonial city.
One highlight—of many—was the “Parque Central” (Central Park) which is the hub of the city and filled every day with vendors selling local arts and crafts and an assortment of fresh foods and snacks (you haven’t tasted a cashew until you’ve tasted a freshly grown and roasted one).
Sundays are the most fun because it’s a day off for locals and a popular day for tour buses from Costa Rica. But you don’t need to take a tour bus to visit. Many foreigners don’t realize how safe it can be here, so they’ll only take a guided day trip. (I’m a 50-something woman traveling solo, and have had all positive experiences.)
On one side of the park are the horse drawn buggies (taxis):
Ask the driver for a tour of the Old Town—it’s a great way to see the sites and several of the drivers can speak English or will have a guide that can. Right behind them is the colonial Hotel Alhambra where I would often sit on the restaurant patio after my daily Spanish class to check my e-mails and to order a “mixta con jugo” (fresh fruit smoothie) for $1.50 or a cerveza for less than $1. From the Alhambra patio you have views of some of the incredible colonial architecture of the city, including the 16th-century cathedral across the park.
Each day was an adventure exploring the colorful neighborhoods, with building fronts painted in vivid shades of pinks, blues and yellows, reminding me of the Caribbean islands.
All around are workhorses and wagons clip-clopping down the streets. And while I was there, at any time during the day there were people sitting on the sidewalk in front of their houses visiting with their friends and family. Who has time to do that in Canada or the U.S.?
One of the expat retirees I met there moved to Granada two years ago, after living in Costa Rica for a few years, because he was looking for more simplicity and a place where he could stretch his retirement dollars further. He pays $400 a month for an upscale two-bedroom apartment—in “el centro,” the priciest part of the city. That includes internet and telephone. He pays separately for air conditioning but has no heating costs due to Granada’s year-round tropical temperatures. And he doesn’t need a car because you can take a taxi or horse buggy anywhere in the downtown center for about 50 cent during the day and $1 at night.
Although everything one needs is available in downtown Granada (top-notch restaurants, medical services, dance clubs, shopping boutiques, massage, yoga classes, and the daily local food/clothing market that goes for blocks), there are many buses going to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, if you need a major shopping center or the international airport.
One thing my scouting trip showed me was that you won’t be left short on ideas for how to spend your days in Nicaragua. You have cheap and easy bus access to nearby cities like Masaya, which has a fantastic artisans’ market, and the nearby surf town of San Juan del Sur if you want to have a weekend beach experience. Local guided tours offer ample sightseeing experiences like the Islets in Lake Nicaragua—where I saw my first wild monkey—or the many nearby volcanoes.
It’s plain to see why Granada is high on my list of possible retirement destinations, wouldn’t you say?
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