I have discovered the secret to living in Granada, Nicaragua. You have to go inside to get outside. Behind the long unrelenting facades of cobblestone streets lie the tranquil places for rest. Here you can escape the heat. The gardens are on the inside. The birds know the secret. They know the homes and hotels with the courtyards, complete with bird baths, pools, and babbling fountains. Palm trees and blooming bougainvilleas shimmer in the bright sunlight and whisper at the welcome breezes. They come gently and softly in unsuspecting bursts, picking up an ambient degree of cool from the shade and the pools.
Then there is the history and the stories. Each story unique. The courtyards are protected by the outer shells, the past and potentially the secrets kept contained. Old theaters and pizza parlors, run down forgotten homes, remodeled and restored. Homes handed down through generations. Houses divided and separated become side by side dwellings for sisters and brothers. Exquisite colonial palacios transform into magnificent hotels and boutiques with a vast parade of gardens and water features.
Mi Museo is a cultural museum and a wonderful gift of national pride and history created by Peder Kolind, a philanthropist from Denmark. The museum showcases 7000 pieces of pottery in rotating exhibitions, some dating back to 2000 BC. The original home was built when Granada was re-constructed after the fire of 1856. I learned from my gallery host Robert, that homes typically had three courtyards. The first one was to impress, the second was for growing crops and the third for the farm animals. In 1915, the home was divided in half. Peder bought the home in 2003, and lived in it during the restoration, opening Mi Museo in 2005. The collection is privately owned and Peder sourced and selected every piece. The museum is free. Galleries, classrooms and lecture halls open into the gardens lined with unique artifacts. In the background of the image above are a series of womb or shoe shaped funeral urns.
The Hotel Dario was one of my first respites from the heat. I stopped into the cafe to try the coffee and now the garden view is my ‘office window’ at least twice a week. The original home was constructed in 1910 and owned by Dueña Sra Angélica Balladares de Arguello, known as the first woman of Liberalism. In 1970 it changed hands to the Saenz family who began restoring the building to its current splendor. In 2006 it opened to the public as a hotel. The Moorish arches frame the garden scenes beautifully. I have sat here for hours listening to the water trickle and watching the pigeons fly to and fro in fits and starts.
Hotel Granada is best known for its pool but following the glow of light to the end of each hallway also entertained me. My discoveries did not disappoint. Every wing came complete with a pretty garden. The building was built new and the hotel opened in 1976. The layout and feel alludes to a monastery, appropriately, as it sits across from Iglesia Guadalupe.
I’ll continue to peek through the open doorways as I wander the colorful streets. Many more gardens, greenery, and cool breezes await me.