Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sleeping with Mark Twain - San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The best thing about travel is coming upon the unexpected.  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is known for surf.  Big, heart pounding waves are the custom.  Most travelers here were the nomadic surf types.  With boards in tow, they moved up and down the coast of Central America in search of the perfect wave.   Other than these well tanned watermen few if any knew of the region’s beauty and remoteness.

That all changed in 2010 when Hollywood found its way to southern Nicaragua and filmed its Survivor Nicaragua season.  Quickly the town became more than just a dot on the map.  Restaurants and hotels sprang up to accommodate the flood of tourists.  Even an upscale resort has been built that overlooks the city’s bay.  Rooms at the Pelican Eyes Resort and Spa are pricy and not what most have become accustom to paying when in this developing country.

All of the above I knew.  In fact I was drawn by the siren of the world class waves with third world prices.  I did find that.  While prices in San Juan del Sur are not what they used to be, they are still affordable.  A decent meal with waterfront dining can be had for under $15 dollars per person.  Beer and rum are equally cheap and seemingly run without end to the majority of the youthful visitors.

One hotel stands apart.  Built in 1902 the Victoriano Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in town.  The structure is of Victorian Architecture and was built using cedar.  The smell is both romantic and intoxicating.   The entry doors are like a portal into a different era.  Ceiling fans whirl overhead and the wooden floors creak out your arrival.  Old black and white photos adorn the hallway walls.  Most depicting either pictures of the once sleepy fishing village or of the hotels most famous guest, one Samuel L. Clemons.

What we learn is that before the Panama Canal was built, in an attempt to bypass the arduous trip around the bottom of South America travelers cut across Nicaragua.  Debarking at San Juan del Sur, they traveled by horse drawn wagons to Lake Nicaragua.  Here they boarded boats that ferried them to the opposite side of the large body of water and down the San Juan River until they hit the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Like most travelers, Twain spent his first night ashore at the Victoriano Hotel.  The lodge has memorialized the room and for an additional $10 dollars over the normal rate you can sleep there.  With hopes that some how, some way the great authors ability or spirit would in some shape or form rub off on me I was happy to pay the extra.  As you can tell, it was money misspent.  Regardless, it was an added extra surprise to our travels in this wonderful country and a brush with history that will long add to my wealth of memories.

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