Leon, Nicaragua - Why you should plan a Nicaragua visit

 
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Content creators and travel bloggers, Cathie & Al from Flat World Travel give us an amazing insight into one of the favourite cities they visited during a recent trip to Nicaragua/ Read all about Leon here and follow the links to their blog for more on travel in Nicaragua.

 

Contributor:
Cathie

Nationality:
USA

Social Links:
Website: http://travel.flatworldonline.com
Instagram: @flatworldtravel

Age Group:
 

Gender:
Couple

Travel Style:
Couple travel
Adventure

 

Destination: Leon, Nicaragua, November 2017

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Inspiration:

We were hired to do photos and video for a destination wedding in Cancun in November. We decided to add on to the trip and go to Nicaragua. This was the perfect destination. We found one of our favorite cities on the trip was Leon.  We were looking for somewhere warm to go after the wedding.  And through Instagram and travel blogs we had seen some beautiful photos from Nicaragua. I always had an interest in this country. We started researching it and fell in love with it’s mixture of colonial historical cities that we love to explore as well as beautiful nature to be adventurous in. Nicaragua really does have it all. While we didn’t spend anytime in the major city of Managua we did enjoy Leon. You can get a real feel for city life of the people and not be far from nature and adventure at the same time. And who could pass up the opportunity to go to volcano boarding down an active volcano.!!!

Getting There:

We flew from Cancun to Nicaragua since we already had our flights arranged from Philadelphia to Cancun. Once we arrived in Nicaragua and for our travel around the country we hired private drivers through our various boutique hotels. Because we were traveling with a lot of photo and video gear, more than we normally do since we were coming from a wedding, we wanted to always make sure we traveled in the safest way possible. Even if that meant spending extra. It was also nice to always be in air conditioning and to  talk with the drivers. Well at least try since our Spanish is very limited. Our driver dropped us right off at teh place we were staying in Leon.

Local Knowledge:

Leon is known for being even the most artistic and progressive city in Nicaragua. The people of Leon were the first to support the Sandanistas in the 1960’s and ’70s. As a result, the city and its people suffered some of the worst attacks during Somoza’s crackdown. Their central market was torched, different parts of the city were bombed, and anyone suspected of sympathizing with the Sandanistas was often tortured or executed. And the United States flip flopped on who they supported, all to the detriment of the people of Nicaragua.
And you can see minutes of resistance throughout the city. From graffiti to beautifully painted murals. Definitely worth visiting is the Museum of Revolution

Leon is also known for its beautiful churches with sweeping vistas of the city, a lively Center Plaza, bustling commerce, and amazingly beautiful volcanoes.

Where To Stay:

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We stayed at the Hotel Azul for $72 a night. I would consider that a little high for most places in Leon but it had great rooms, a pool, a restaurant and breakfast included. Hotel Azul is a great spot and the location being so close to the main plaza was perfect. We would Totally stay there again!

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What To Do:

Really our favorite thing to do in Leon was just to wander around. Going to the areas where it's mostly locals. We really didn't see a ton of tourist when we were there. We spent hours just checking out neighborhoods around the city just seeing what it was truly like. We also were lucky to come across an amazingly fun festival in the central plaza one night. It was almost all locals there so we could really get a feel of what celebrations are like in Nicaragua. this one was for the "opening of Christmas " "The Festival of Lights" and it was a total party!

and Do check out the Revolution Museum. One of the highlights of touring around Leon was Museo Historico de la Revolucion the ‘Museum of Revolution”. It is so easy to spot with its anti-Bush graffiti still on the front. Once we paid to get in, we also had a tour guide. Of course he didn’t speak any English and our Spanish is very limited. However, knowing how to put together some words and with the help of Google translate, we felt like we learned a lot. And our tour guide was a very interesting man. He fought with the Sandinistas. You could even see on his shoulder where he’d been shot. And he showed us the spot in the building where it happened, this being the old City Hall building. You can still see blood on the walls and the impacts where the bullet hit.

One of the cool aspects of the tour is getting to go up on the roof. As a photographer and videographer, we always aim to get higher whenever visiting a new location. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land and get some killer views. There’s something so surreal about being up on the roof of the museum. And we had a great view to the white cathedral known as Basilica de la Asuncion (Our Lady of Grace Cathedral).

Eating:

Nicaragua isnt really known for its "culinary delights" but we had some awesome food while there. in Leon we mostly ate at small places that didn't cost a whole lot. I don't eat meat but I am a pescatarian. One lunch place we really enjoyed was Cocinarte. It is a vegetarian place and is located in the oldest house in Leon.  
Another great lunch spot we went to was Pan y Paz French bakery, which was way cheap AND awesome! We didn't expect the sandwich shop to be so good. and there are a couple locations around the city. 
We ate dinner in at Al Carbon, that was pretty cool. Al really wanted some steak and I needed a place with good seafood. We also stopped in at a great rooftop bar at Calle Vicente to take in the local flavor mixed with a few tourists. It’s a great place for having a drink and doing some people watching!

Must Do:

Go Volcano Baording down Cerre Negro. So much fun you will want to hike right back up to do it again. Sadly we were only allowed the 1 time.
You have to do it with an organized tour. The drive was a little more than an hour and you have a chance to go to the bathroom before beginning your climb up (take the opportunity!) Everything I read talked about how easy the climb up was. Of course most articles focus on the fun and safety coming back down the hill on a thin piece of wood. Let me tell you that climb up was not easy. It was hot as hell, even though there was a nice breeze every now and then. It is rocky and straight up for most of it. It’s not the worst hike I’ve done by far, but it certainly is not the easiest either. Plus you are carrying a small cloth bag with your gear and a long thin piece of wood on your back. When you are small like me, it acts like a wind sail!!

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Must See:

Without a dounbt-the rooftop at  Basilica de la Asuncion (Our Lady of Grace Cathedral). The Basilica de la Asuncion took over a 100 years to build and it is one of the largest churches in Central America. And it is Awesome. There are so many different details in the outside of the building. But the best part is certainly its roof. You need to check the schedule for when it is open and it costs 40 Cordobas to get in, this is less than $1.50 . Is really cool up there. You don’t expect It to look like a Greek city. It definitely looks very Grecian with all its white domes. And it offers wonderful vistas of the city. Just be mindful you will have to take your shoes off once you get to the top of the staircase.. 

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Number 1 Travel Tip:

Take the time to at least learn some basic Spanish. And being polite and patience goes a long way. While we knew some Spanish words such common phrases, nouns and verbs we weren’t good at putting them all together. Also make sure to download Google translate on your phone. This will help you when trying to communicate. You can even hover over text and read the translation in English. Very few people speak English there. Often times, you could find at least one person working at the restaurant who may know English a little better and loves to practice their English with you. Bye-bye been able to communicate somewhatYou definitely have your experiences broadened.

And I know it's only supposed to be one tip but if you're a photographer or videographer don't bring your drone. They're not allowed. And it's just not worth the risk. Just honor their restrictions!

5 Word Travel:

Friendly
colorful
beautiful
cultural
Adventurous

Excess Baggage:

You’re not in Kansas anymore… things just aren’t like you might think. Even with all the above we found people just saying Si ‘(Yes) even when yes shouldn’t be the answer. For example, I may say “no come carne” when ordering chips and cheese and just stopped being surprised when still came with meat which I don’t eat. It seems like trying to get anything different than what they have listed just doesn’t translate. Remember this is a Spanish-speaking country!! So some things just won’t translate to be exactly what you mean.

and oh yeah....In Leon don’t be alarmed by the 6am church bells going off. And then at seven there’s a siren that goes off letting everybody know it is time to go to work. It can be quite jarring if nobody warned you in advance LOL!!

San Francisco, USA - Making the most of a work trip!

 
 

Work trips provide an amazing opportunity to explore new places. Check out what Cat and Al of Flat World Media, got up to on a 5 day trip to San Francisco!

 

Contributor:
Cat & Al

Nationality:
USA

Social Links:
Web: www.travel.flatworldonline.com
Instagram: @flatworldtravel

Age Group:
 

Gender:
 

Travel Style:
Adventure
Couple

 

Destination: July 10-15 San Francisco

Inspiration:

We had a business trip for our commercial side, Flat World Media Productions. We had 2 days of shooting scheduled with our client but had evenings open. The shoot was also on my birthday so we thought we may as well add on a couple of days for ourselves so we could explore more. It had been years since I had been to SF and Al had never been. so we thought- what a great idea to combine business and pleasure!! SF is such a beautiful city and the temperatures were going to be a lot cooler than an East Coast City in the Summer. (Actually it was even chillier than we had expected so I bought a scarf!!) 
We wanted to explore the different tourist areas as well as get off the beaten path. And we Knew we had to spend time hiking in Muir Woods and walking through the quaint town of Sausalito

 
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Getting There:

We had our flights covered by our client so we had no added expense there. And we made sure to fly with American so we could also earn points!! Once there we rented a car. We only did that because we had filming equipment and shoots all over the city. But honestly it is so easy to take the Bart from the airport and the subway system there is great. And if you need a an Uber driver- make sure to check out @colorfulrides on IG! Met him along the way and his IG is Fantastic!! Just make sure to pack Very comfortable shoes- those hills are No joke!!

Local Knowledge:

There are so many things that are unique about San Francisco. Being a West Coast city it is such a different vibe than Philadelphia or New York. The people are in less of a hurry, a laid-back chill vibe. There are so many different neighborhoods to just sit back and people watch, and there is something for everyone. We asked some locals at the shoot we were doing for some tips of where to go and places to eat. Most of the sights were on the Scenic  49 Mile Drive. Honestly this is a great place to start to map out the sights you want to see. It was nice to ask locals what they thought of certain places like Lands End where we hiked to the point and then sat and watch a group of 6 whales playing in the bay waters for over 30 minutes.

Where To Stay:

since it was a business trip 3 night of our 5 night stay was covered. We searched a ton of hotels and Airbnb's.  We narrowed our search to include free parking since we would have a rental car. Not paying for parking can save you some serious cash! We also wanted an outdoor balcony so we could sit out at night and relax overlooking at least part of the city. 
We chose a place in Pacifica Heights in a restored gorgeous SF mansion. You know one of those colorful homes with a turret and all!! Pacifica Heights was a good district that was close to where our shoots were mostly taking place. And it didn't take us more than 20 minutes to drive to any part of the city we wanted to go.

 
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What To Do:

We are great at doing a LOT in a little time! and WOW- we did a lot!! We really like exploring The Castro, Chinatown, Mission District, The Ferry Building and stopped through Fishermans Warf to get some homemade authentic SF sour dough bread to take home. We arent big into a lot of torusits places so we didnt spend much time there besides getting the bread and checking out the sea lions. We mostly enjoyed all the great nature at Lands End and the Presido. We also had a blast renting those crazy pedel bikes in Golden Gate Park and walked all around Stow Lake which was Gorgeous! We are big nature buffs so going to Muir Woods and walking amongst the Redwoods was certainly a highlight. And you can't beat the Amazing pancakes at the Light House Cafe in Salsulito when you are done. You want to get to Muir Woods early if you ahve a car beacause the parking lot fills up fast. We really wanted to go to Point Bonita Lighthouse but it was closed. It is only open Sat, Sun, Mon 12:30-3:30.

Eating:

We ate some great food. Some of the highlights were Flour + Water in the Mission (good but not really worth all the hype and 45 min. wait time). We LOVED La Mediterranee in Pacifica Heights. It was on the airbnb hosts recommended list. It was a small family owned place with great food, good prices, and super friendly owner. I also had a friend ride the ferry over to have lunch with us our last day at the Slanted Door at the Ferry Building. It was delicious (a little on the expensive side but worth it). One of our highlights was going to Beach Blanket Babylon in North Beach. After the show we really enjoyed dinner at small family owned Italian Restaurant called Firenze.

Must Do:

If you love whales make sure to spend time at Lands End and keep you eye on the water. You never know how many whales you may see. Hands down, Muir Woods. Have I mentioned how much we love nature! lol! But for a total SF experience you ave to go see Beach Blanket Babylon. This show is the world’s longest running musical revue and one of the most popular San Francisco attractions.  It is filled with song and dance centered on pop culture satire and changes with the times! We will certainly see this show again next time we visit SF!

Must See:

Well, everyone wants that perfect photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately none of the 5 days we were there was it visible due to the fog. But the view from Coit tower gives you an Awesome 360 vantage point of the whole city.

Number 1 Travel Tip:

Bring comfy shoes and lots of layers!

5 Word Travel:

Steep
Friendly
Cosmopolitan
Lots of green space
stunning visitas

Excess Baggage:

if you want to go to Alcatraz, which i did many years ago and wanted to take Al- you have to order your tickets online WAYYY in advance. The 3 weeks notice we had for the trip was not enough time. We could have done a boat cruise around the island but all the tickets for the actual island  tour were sold out. Also another we didnt even know about, but next time we are Totally going to rent one of those cute little yellow cars and ride down the crocked street (Lombard).