To be honest with you, I was sort of dreading Granada. I had envisioned a large, bustling, '3rd world' city, where street merchants would follow us the street, poverty-stricken children would grab at our t-shirts, and the traffic noise, starving stray animals, and garbage would be everywhere. I am pleased to say that I was wrong on absolutely every account. Granada surprised me deeply with it's charm, it's walkability, and it's laid back vibe.
My husband and I splurged and stayed at the absolutely stunning 'Hotel Real La Merced'. I booked our stay there about 3 months in advance, and we nabbed one of their smaller rooms for about $80 a night. This proved to be a total steal for a hotel of this calibre, staff as friendly and well informed, included hot breakfast, and accessibility to everything the city centre holds.
- The food in Granada is surprisingly good. There is a HUGE variety of international options, and the quality of ingredients is really quite remarkable. That said, it's expensive. We paid the equivalent of $80 USD for two wood fired oven pizzas and two sodas at El Pizzaiol. Cheap meals can certainly be found, but if you go into any of the well decorated, recently renovated, tourist-oriented joints, you going to pay a premium. Lunch/Dinner will likely cost you just as much (or more) than what you would pay at home for a similar meal.
- The Mercado Municipal (Aka, the Street Market where all the locals do their shopping) was... authentic. If you're looking for gritty, intense, urban Granada-- hold your purse tightly, & go there.
- Street vendors/Tour operators/Anyone who approaches you trying to sell you shit will leave you alone if you simply say 'No thanks'. I am pleasantly surprised at how considerate and decent the vendors in this city were. I never once felt harassed, or unduly pressured.
- Exercise extreme caution when out at night. Avoid sparsely populated, unlit streets. Do not walk alone. Do not walk when you are obviously inebriated. The bad guys come out at night.
- There are dudes on the corners outside banks with STACKS of cash who offer to exchange bills for you. Initially I thought these guys were some sort of a scam, but they're totally legit. You will find that many shops are unable to break 'large' bills-- visit these guys to have larger bills broken into more spendable, small notes. They can even exchange USD into Cordoba for a very reasonable exchange rate.
We did, however, enjoy an informative, and boisterous 'Chocolate Making' Class at 'ChocoMuseo'. Our teacher was hilarious and very enthusiastic, and had us all shouting and cheering from the moment the class started until it ended 2 hours later. My face hurt from smiling after we were done. To be honest with you, I wasn't crazy about how our resulting chocolate bars actually tasted, but that almost seemed entirely inconsequential. The journey getting there was a blast.
The thing is, as travellers, we don't have to fall in love with every place we go. Some places, cultures, languages, and histories appeal to us. Some do not. It matters less that we love each place, and more that we simply go with an open mind, and an eagerness to learn. Admittedly, Nicaragua was not exactly my cup of tea. I don't know if I would ever want to go back, but I am still so thankful for the experience. It was different than any place I had ever been, and I will certainly never forget it.