View of the El Calvario Church in Leon. (Kassi Magruder)
Leon was the heart of the Nicaraguan revolution. It stands in stark contrast to Granada, the seat of the conservative ruling party of several generations past. Leon is non-touristy, where Granada is all Irish Pubs and mojitos, Leon is cuba libres and buckets of Victoria beer on ice. Leon is for locals. This is our day to be city people. This is our day for 1,000 photographs. Leon is also known for being the city of churches and along with markets, I love churches. We wander the streets of town, visiting what is hailed as the best coffee shop in the country (agree), an art gallery boasting some of the best from artists around Central America, and 4 or 5 different plazas. We are both drawn to the city. I have been boasting about street food vendors and we find a few ladies selling from a hot cart in the local market. We each buy a huge plate of food and sit down to eat. The bill comes to $5 total and it's the best meal we have during the entire trip. I'm surprised by how good the food is. When I lived in Guatemala, I wasn't overly impressed by the local cuisine, but Nica food some a bit more developed, using more spices, it's more complex. Ian finds a pair of boots he can't part with and we continue to wander the streets, photographing everything that is unique to the country: the horse-drawn carts careening through the streets, the 3-4 people riding on motos at the same time, two men playing chess next to a street food vendor, the murals scattered everywhere depicting scenes from the war, couples making out on park benches in the dark. I'm starting to realize that I love this country and it might be the most under-rated place I've come across. I don't know whether to shout about how much I love it when I come home or keep it as a secret to myself. I think I'll do a bit of both. Today is Ian's birthday, so we eat in style! The best dinner of the trip, without a doubt, is at Meson Real. The restaurant earns rave reviews on Trip Advisor for a reason. The owner is the head chef and he runs an intimate, jovial establishment. We feast on shrimp and succulent beef and buy two bottles of wine on special. Chef Gustavo chats with us for awhile and asks after our travel plans. I really can't say enough positive things about the food, atmosphere, etc. LOVE IT!
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