Buying a Vehicle — Rivas, Nicaragua

3.7.14

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Back in the States, people do not really think much about owning a car. It’s such an easily obtainable and necessary (to some) component of daily life. Nancy and I knew that when we got to Central America we would want a vehicle. The ability to move about freely without relying on other means of private or public transportation was high on our list. Moving about in Central America is vastly more difficult and cumbersome as compared to the ease of mobility we experienced in Europe for two months last Fall – oh how we wish the same type of wonderful, easy and consistent train travel in Europe existed in Central America…but it does not – boo.

So, knowing all that, we accepted the energy and expense involved in buying a vehicle in Nicaragua, here’s how it happened. I had been researching the car buying process for months before our arrival, reading anything that had to do with purchasing a car in Costa Rica(CR) and Nicaragua as we did not know where we would be landing long term, Nicaragua is where we landed. The car buying process is much the same between CR and Nicaragua, the only difference, and it’s kind of a big one, is the registration process – in CR we could legally register a car we would purchase in our names, in Nicaragua, only residents can legally register a car. We did buy a car and by “working the system” a bit. We own the car but it is just not registered…yet!

Our much appreciated 1998 Isuzu Trooper Diesel.  Nancy refers to her as 'The Princess Coche'.

Our much appreciated 1998 Isuzu Trooper Diesel. Nancy refers to her as ‘The Princess Coche’.

Nancy and I were extremely lucky in buying our vehicle, we had two very helpful Nica’s, our Spanish teachers, literally hold our hands the whole way through this process. We honestly don’t know how we would have done this without their help, we surely would have paid a lot more than we did and would not have purchased a quality vehicle like we did.

The process starts with the search. Right from the start we learned never to buy a vehicle from a used car dealership, because, as a Gringo, you will surely be ripped off. So, no dealerships, private parties only. That’s not to say one cannot find a good car at a used car dealership, and the dealership takes care of all the paperwork in buying the vehicle (more on that later) and, as in the States, there is a convenience factor to buying at a dealership, this option was not for us. I started scouring encuentra24.com, this is the Central American equivalent of Craigslist. So began the long search for a vehicle using Google Translate as we looked at countless vehicles online. When we did find a vehicle we were interested in, next came the hurdle of, “how do I converse with the seller?”. Most likely the seller will not be bi-lingual, some are, and the minute the seller realizes the potential buyer is a Gringo, either there will be no negotiating in price or, as I learned, emails do not get returned. Our Spanish teacher, Eliezer, said to let him know what vehicles we were interested in and he would contact the seller and ask questions – this was a huge help!

Our focus on finding a vehicle was to look outside of the San Juan del Sur area where we live because the roads can be pretty rough around here. A vehicle from this area most likely has taken a beating. We were looking for vehicles in the capitol of Managua, a large city of 2 million and 2 hours away, the car buying process here is certainly not a walk in the park! We found a Toyota Hi-Lux (4 door, diesel pickup) we were interested in and it was in Managua. Eliezer spoke with the seller getting answers to all our questions, this sounded like our vehicle! Next came getting the vehicle checked out by a reputable mechanic…ha, good luck finding one of those! But wait, we are the fortunate Gringos who have our trusty Nica friends at our side. Eliezer has a mechanic, Carlos, who he has been working with for years and he lives in Managua! Eliezer calls Carlos who then meets the seller, checks out the vehicle and all checks out fine, whew! Next step, Negotiations; the sellers ad states the price is negotiable so we, through Eliezer, counter offer the $13,500 asking price to $12,500 which Carlos said was a fair price for the year and condition of the vehicle. The seller came back at $13,400, apparently negotiable means not really! We settled on a price of $12, 600 after much back and forth through Eliezer and agreed to go to Managua a few days later and complete the transaction with Eliezer by our side. Feeling as good as we can about committing to buying a vehicle sight unseen, assessed by a mechanic we have never met, we now needed to get funds from the US to Nicaragua – next hurdle, we do not have a bank account here. Easy fix, we wired $12,600 dollars into our Spanish teachers’ bank account. Part of which had to be wired into his mother’s account because of the dollar amount…yup, I’m sure as you are reading this you’re calling us crazy, it gets a little crazier!

Buying a car in Nicaragua requires the assistance of a lawyer, you do not just write a bill of sale, get the title and be on your way like in the States. When you buy a car in Nicaragua you need to make sure all the paperwork is in order – just as in the States. You need to make sure the equivalent of tabs and emissions are current, if not, you walk away from the vehicle as it’s a huge hassle. If not, in addition, it is required that all vehicles have up to date insurance and the insurance policy transfers to the new buyer. All checked out except for one item on our sight unseen purchase and that was the vehicle had never been registered by the current and previous 2 owners. What that means is for us to register the car, we now would have to pay the lapsed registration of all 3 owners. That would be over $1,000 dollars – this deal was officially dead because the seller was not willing to compensate for that expense. Lucky for us, Eliezer is studying to be a lawyer, so he knows what documentation is needed to register the vehicle. Upon his request to see all the documents needed for the lawyer to draw up the paperwork to sell the car, he noticed the lack of registration. I cannot stress enough how fortunate we are to have developed this friendship with Eliezer, and his wife Zaira, who also is studying to be a lawyer.

So here Nancy and I are, without a car and with $12,600 dollars sitting in our Spanish teachers’, and a mother’s bank account, talk about throwing caution to the wind! Car purchase phase 2 – spending the day in Managua. On a Friday morning at 6am, Eliezer, Zaira and Carlos picked us up at the little studio apartment we were renting and we drove for 2 hours to Managua to look at vehicles we had scouted out, along with looking at some used car dealerships that were friends of Carlos so in this case, a used car dealership was ok. In a nutshell, the day was a bust, nothing we looked at was the right vehicle for us. What a day that was, driving all around the large and hot city of Managua, 5 people in a Toyota Hilux without air conditioning and not getting back home until 8 pm that night, it was an exhausting day and at the end of it our glasses of wine never tasted so good! We were feeling very discouraged and dreaded another Managua car shopping day…the hunt was back on. I continued looking on encuentra24 and on about 4 different Facebook groups Eliezer told me about for used cars. I was not finding anything. So here we are, no car, money in our friends’ bank account and our 3 week stay at the studio apartment is coming close to an end. We really wanted to have a vehicle before finding our next long term housing. Looking online days later, I found something that interested us and it was in the city of Rivas which is only 40 min away, oh please, please, please let this be the one!!! Eliezer contacted the seller, asked all the pertinent questions and yes, this one was properly registered, he confirmed when we could go look at the 1998 Isuzu Trooper 4×4 Diesel with only 90,000 miles on it. On a Tuesday morning we went to look at the car, Eliezer could not go with us so we went with Carlos the mechanic, who does not speak English, this is going to be interesting. We arrive in Rivas and locate the car. The owner was a really nice Dr. who took great care of the car and drove it mainly on the paved highway between Rivas and Managua on the weekends. After a test drive, speaking with the Dr., who did speak English, and Nancy’s limited but useful Spanish, we were able to confirm the cars reliability, all documents were in order and price negotiated, we struck a deal! The asking price was $10,300, Carlos told us the fair value was $9,500 so we offered $9,000 and the Dr. came back politely with “$9,500, no other negotiating”, we were great with that! Cars hold their value in Central America, so if you move down here, throw out any ideas of paying US prices for used and new cars here, especially vehicles in good condition!

Here we are after finalizing the deal with the DR., we are all very happy!

Here we are after finalizing the deal with the DR., we are all very happy!

Now we just had to finalize the deal of our 1998 Isuzu Trooper. After a phone call with Eliezer, he instructed us to take pictures of all the documents and the sellers driver’s license and email it to him so he and Zaira could get all the paperwork/sales agreement in order and we would drive back that evening to finish the transaction. Eliezer and Zaira picked us up at our place with our $9,500 cash he had withdrawn from he and his mother’s account (yes, we got the rest back a couple of days later) and headed back to Rivas. The document Eliezer and Zaira had prepared for the sale of the vehicle was like a short story, legal sized paper, full with verbiage on the front and half on the back. After she read it in Spanish to the seller, we all signed the paperwork, handed the good Dr. his money and we were on our way back home feeling a huge relief that this car buying excursion was over…almost.

Here we are, minus Mike's head with our trusty mechanic, Carlos.  This picture was taken by the Dr., let's hope his medical skills are better than his photography!

Here we are, minus Mike’s head, with our trusty mechanic, Carlos. This picture was taken by the Dr., let’s hope his medical skills are better than his photography!

Eliezer and Zaira have a cousin in Managua who is an attorney, they graciously submitted all the documents for the sale to her to process. The car we purchased has not been registered yet but was recorded in such a way that once we have our residency established, which should be completed in the next 9 months approximately (story to tell there too so stay tuned) we can then finish the registration process in our names. The sale was structured in that it shows we are the legal owners and all our documents are in place…finally, we are free to roam about the country.

Our new vehicle’s insurance had expired 2 days previous to the sale. So two days later Zaira took us to a local bank to purchase an insurance policy. The bank is where you purchase home and car insurance. Zaira spoke with the bank representative about what we needed, pictures were taken of our passports, and then we were issued our laminated proof of car insurance card. Cost for car insurance for two people for a full year, $55 – shame on you US insurance companies…rip off!!!

Here is the Princess Coche after we've had it for just about a month now. Living outside of town, as we do, is by way of a dirt road, obviously.  A trip to one of the Auto Lavado's in town for about $10 USD will have her all clean inside and out, ready to haul her heiness about the Nicaraguan land!

Here is the Princess Coche after we’ve had her for just about a month now. Living outside of town, as we do, is by way of a dirt road, obviously. A trip to one of the Auto Lavado’s in town for about $10 USD will have her all clean inside and out, ready to haul her heiness about the Nicaraguan land!

The car buying experience in Nicaragua was very interesting, frustrating and fun at times. Definitely something we do not want to relive anytime soon. Buying a vehicle was actually more stressful and involved than buying a house. Stay tuned for our house buying story as there is some real interesting information we will share with you. So sign up and follow along by getting alerts when we have a new post to share, it’s great to have you along on this adventurous ride with us!

Seafood Lunch: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

2.7.15

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Saturday morning, Nancy and I walk into down town, San Juan del Sur, where we drop off 12.5 lbs. of laundry at Gabby’s Laundry, pickup tomorrow after 11:30 AM, will cost $9.35 USD and will be neatly folded, we are liking this having our laundry done by others!  After that we go to the Saturday market for fresh vegetables and to a local mini mart that has a surprisingly decent selection of wine.  We do all this and head back for home but not until we stop in at Comedor La Lancha (The Dining Boat) for a tasty, fresh, inexpensive seafood lunch.

Small and tucked away, just how we like it!

Small and tucked away, just how we like it!

San Juan del Sur is a fishing village so there is a steady supply of sea bounty that comes in daily.  La Lancha is a new establishment this year and we have walked by it a few times and noticed it always smells good, so today it was time to try it. Nancy had Pesca a la Plancha and I had Aroz Camarones — we both had a glass of wine, the total with tip was $14.96 USD.  The meal was fabulous!  Fresh, generous portions and full of flavor. Put this one on the must eat at list if in SJDS, Nicaragua.

 

Nancy's filet, perfectly seasoned and cooked.  The plantain fries were yummy.

Nancy’s filet, perfectly seasoned and cooked. The plantain fries were yummy.

My shrimp with rice came with lots of tender, juicy shrimp and the same tasty fries.

My shrimp with rice came with lots of tender, juicy shrimp and the same tasty fries.

Surfing Camp: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

2.3.15

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Nancy and I have had one thing in common from the first day we met, and that is we both love to be in the water. So what better way to kick off our lives together as newlyweds than to attend surfing camp! We both like a challenge and love the thrill of speed so now that we will no longer be able to participate in our beloved sport of Autocrossing back in the States, we thought surfing could help to fill that void.

From a very strong recommendation by one of Nancy’s colleagues who has surfed for years and has attended a handful of different surfing camps in Central America, he recommended we spend a week at Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica,so we did and had an absolute blast…new thrill hobby found!

Witches Rock Surf Camp -- Easy to find, close to the center of town on the main drag.

Witches Rock Surf Camp — Easy to find, close to the center of town on the main drag.

We made reservations in September of 2014 before leaving on our European excursion so we’d be ready after our short return to the states. The reservation process was a delight with the Witches Rock staff — they were extremely helpful with the many questions we had, and they were very responsive in an impressively timely manner. We booked one of the Penthouse rooms,  deciding to splurge a bit since this was also our honeymoon and we’re glad we did because we shared a rooftop deck with the Penthouse next to us so not only was the view spectacular, but we met some nice surf camp attendees.

Home for the next week!

Home for the next week!

Our room was very clean and completely adequate; kitchenette with fridge, microwave and hot plate, double sink bathroom with large walk in shower which had a clothes line inside so drying out our surfing garb was a snap!

His and Hers = harmony :)

His and Hers = harmony 🙂

The Witches Rock staff had a lovely tropical flower arrangement waiting for us congratulating us on our recent marriage and thanking us for choosing Witches Rock Surf Camp – a very nice touch that was appreciated and not expected, we enjoyed viewing the floral arrangement all week.

A very thoughtful gift.

A very thoughtful gift.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, flying into Liberia International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. After making our way through the beautiful new airport and customs, just as the reservation staff said and confirmed before we left, a driver was waiting outside with a sign. We joined the other surfers and had a pleasant 40 minute ride to Tamarindo in a comfortable, air conditioned shuttle. Our driver was very personable and extremely helpful, he even lugged our really heavy suitcase up to our room! There is no need to pack a lot for your stay here, we did though as our tickets were “one-way” so we had some additional items that one would normally not take. We could tell the driver was looking at us a little funny as he lifted the very heavy and oversized suitcase, we just looked at him and said “thank you and that we weren’t going back with a smile on our face”…he then understood.

Arriving later in the afternoon we were tired from our flight so we appreciated very much the two onsite restaurants, they even have a micro brewery with their own signature creations. We sat downstairs at Joe’s and had a bite to eat along with some cold cervezas.

View from Joe's every morning as we enjoyed our free breakfast.

View from Joe’s every morning as we enjoyed our free breakfast.

When we did eat at the on site restaurants we were always pleased with the quality of food we received, they even have sushi. Hailing from Seattle, WA where we have lots of quality sushi at our disposal, the sushi at surf camp was absolutely acceptable and was an appreciated menu choice. We were also impressed that breakfast was included in our surfing package and this was no typical hotel buffet fare – we got our choice of anything on the breakfast menu, real food that tasted great! After lunch we went to the main reception area where the staff explained in detail to us how the week would progress. They showed us the daily updated board which stated what time our surfing lesson were for the day, who our instructor was and who was in our group. Additional information on the board consisted of who is arriving to surf camp and who is departing and at what times. It was very organized.

Beach Club Restaurant on the South side of the camp.  Fun to sit and have a tasty lunch while watching the surfers and beach people come and go.

Beach Club Restaurant on the South side of the camp. Fun to sit and have a tasty lunch while watching the surfers and beach people come and go.

Sunday morning, 11:30 am, day one of surfing lessons! We made our way to the surf cage behind the hotel on the beach/water side and met our instructor and other classmate. The student/teacher ratios appeared to be kept low for obvious reasons, any more than 3 to a group would be too difficult, 3 students was a perfect size and some groups had only 2 students. Our instructor had our surf boards all ready so he instructed us to pick them up and follow him to the beach, so we did like the good little surfing lemmings we were. Our first lesson was on what to expect out in the surf, our instructor was very focused on everyone’s safety and expressed what his expectations were of us when we are out in it, this safety talk was firm and very appropriate. Before heading into the surf we learned and practiced many times the all-important “Pop-Up”, which is the motion you do to stand up after you have “caught” the wave. Nancy and I cheated a little bit by watching some youtube videos weeks before we arrived and made part of our daily gym routine practicing our pop-ups. That and the conditioning we did before arriving to surf camp really did help! After about 30 min of group and individual instruction on the beach we attached the surf board leashes to our ankles and ventured into the surf. It became clear immediately that we will be getting beat up by the waves, carrying an 8-10 foot surf board into the surf was no easy task at first, but after a bit you start to learn how to negotiate crashing waves coming over you while you basically carry a sheet of plywood! The waves at Witches Rock Surfing Camp are perfect for beginners, not too big but big enough that when you do catch a wave, you are truly surfing. It was exhilarating the first time we successfully caught a wave and rode it in. We enthusiastically paddled back out for another! Each day’s lesson was 1.5 hours and that was plenty! We were all tired and it felt so good to retire to our room, change into dry clothes and sit on our upper deck enjoying a frosty one while we reflected on our first ever surfing experience…life is good 🙂

The Surf Cage filled with boards of every kind.

The Surf Cage is filled with boards of every kind.

As the days went on we progressed. As our skill set increased so did the quality and performance of our surfboards. Witches Rock has a ton of surfboards to choose from — beginner to advanced, they have them all. They rent all of their boards too, although our surfboards were included in our surf package and we could go get a surfboard anytime outside of our scheduled lessons if we wanted to practice on our own. During the week we had changing weather conditions, which affected the quality of waves. We also moved up the beach to some bigger waves as we got better at surfing. It was great to experience different areas and different surf – a lot like skiing, conditions can and will change day to day.

Our boards laid out for us each day and an easy walk to the surf.

Our boards were laid out for us each day and it was an easy walk to the surf.

The quality of instruction was great, the instructors know their stuff and in a positive way they were firm with us in their instructions and expectations. I appreciated this because you could really tell they wanted us to learn and get better, you could tell when they were proud of us with their wonderful, loud yelling of approval when we did something right.

A surfer newbie catches a wave!

A surfer newbie catches a wave!

The lessons were not limited to the water only, Witches Rock has a classroom on site where we attended seminars on things like Surfing Etiquette, Surfing History, and photo/video recap of the days lesson which I particularly enjoyed as we all got to be together as students and see what we look like, lot’s of fun and many laughs were had!

This seminar we attended was how to choose a surfboard and what the different types are.

This seminar we attended was how to choose a surfboard and what the different types their are.

Topping off our week, the Witches Rock staff had another unexpected surprise for us. Learning this was going to be a honeymoon trip for us, they planned a special beachside, linen clothed table dinner for us complete with romantic tiki torches. They explained before the dinner night of our choosing to let them know what we would each like for dinner and they would prepare it — anything, even something special that was not on the menu if we wanted! This was such a romantic, special evening, we had a dedicated waiter just for us while we enjoyed sushi appetizers, whole fresh red snapper, prawns, dessert and generously flowing wine! We were absolutely blown away by this unexpected act of thoughtfulness, it truly capped off a memorable week.

Our memorable beachside dinner

Our memorable beachside dinner

The meal was amazing in both taste and site!

The meal was amazing in both taste and site!

So, bottom line…if you have ever wanted to or are planning on attending a surfing camp, you really can’t go wrong with Witches Rock Surf Camp. From quality, accommodations, location and price, they really are hard to beat. Plus you will walk away with a new skillset that you can improve upon if you wish, which is exactly what we will be doing as we unfold and discover our new lives in Central America, and…we can come back if we choose to attend intermediate and advanced classes that they offer, I know we will be back!

Coming in for a cold cerveza...ahhhh :)

Coming in for a cold cerveza…ahhhh!

The relaxing infinity pool was so refreshing.

The relaxing infinity pool was so refreshing, a great view too!

 

Just outside our room was Juan Julio, our private guard Iguana.

Just outside our room was Juan Julio, our private guard Iguana.

You will never tire of the view....We didn't!  We look forward to coming back for intermediate lessons.

You will never tire of the view….We certainly didn’t! We look forward to coming back for intermediate lessons.

Taco Tuesday at FT’S — Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1.22.15

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Another economical noteworthy establishment to share.  FTS Restaurant, Sleep and Surf is right across the street from our hotel, we have actually eaten here three times now as the food is very well prepared, fresh and reasonably priced.  We have come to the conclusion that dining out is either inexpensive and value oriented or overpriced and a bit disappointing.

FT’S gets two thumbs up for us though!  Taco Tuesday’s you can choose from Steak, Chicken or Fish tacos, we had 5 tacos total, guess who had 3!  The steak was really yummy and tender. The beef we have experienced so far is lean and tasty, no doubt local and grass fed.  The fish was my favorite, Sea Bass — I actually had Sea Bass filets for dinner here the other night in a garlic sauce that was cooked perfectly and the portion was very generous.  The tacos were generous in size too with fresh slaw and guacamole, the tortillas were certainly not factory produced.  The cost for all this; tacos were $3 each and the 2 for 1 strong margaritas $6, so 5 tacos and 4 margaritas set us back $31 USD and again, tip was included.  FT’S also offers up hostel style rooms so if you are traveling on a budget this place could be for you!?  The staff was very friendly and attentive, clean environment and we really enjoyed hearing the resident Iguana scuttling about the edge of the roof while we dined one day.

Stay tuned for more Tamarindo info like our upscale Spa experience, courtesy of our good friends Mickey and Rebecca for a wedding gift, and our econo spa treatment since it was coming out of our budget minded travelers wallet 😉

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Our Taco's spilleth over with fresh yumminess!

Our Taco’s spilleth over with fresh yumminess!

Cut this guy off and tell him to put down the Iguana ;)

Cut this guy off and tell him to put down the Iguana 😉

After dinner Big Screen TV channel surfing...I love this channel!

After dinner Big Screen TV channel surfing…I love this channel!

We Scream for Sushi!!! — Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1.20.15

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Today we had an awesome lunch experience for something we’ve been craving…Sushi, good Sushi, and we found it!  If you are planning on visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica and you are a Sushi lover you must put Bamboo Sushi Club on your list.

Hailing from Seattle, WA, Nancy and I have some pretty darn good Sushi places to choose from and have eaten at many of them.  So, that being said, we were absolutely satisfied with the fresh, large and very affordable lunch we had here.  The atmosphere was extremely inviting.  Bamboo Sushi Club resides on the main drag through Tamarindo but is set back a bit from the moderately slow but busy road.  As you walk into the restaurant, you pass through a bridged tunnel with river rock walls that have lightly cascading water flowing over them.  After passing through you arrive in a wonderfully landscaped courtyard, the feeling is one of being in an Asian jungle.  Although I have never been to an Asian jungle this is what it felt like to me.  We had our choice of sitting in the landscaped area with loose rock underfoot or in the wood floored seating area which is where we sat — open air dining of course.

It was 2 for 1 Mojito Tuesday so we opted for a round of those and they were great! — traditional Mojito flavor with a hint of Mango.  These Mojito’s were more slushy than liquid, very welcomed on a typical warm and sunny day in Tamarindo.  Our server was pleasant, curteous and attentive which is always appreciated.

After looking over the menu we opted for Salmon, Tuna and Shrimp Nigiri along with an order of Shrimp Tempura.  The food was absolutely to our liking; beautifully presented, fresh, tasty and filling.  We were very impressed by the quantities as we are typically accustomed to 2 or 3 pieces to an order back in Seattle.  Our Salmon and Tuna Nigiri cam with 7 pieces each.  The pieces were about 2/3 the size we get back home which we really liked as they were very easy to eat.  Typical accompaniments of wasabi, thinly sliced ginger and two kinds of soy were available.

The cost for all this yummy bounty?….$40 USD which included tip!  In Costa Rica, restaurants automatically include a 10% service fee(tip) so when you have a satisfying meal eating out and your bill is more than reasonable, well, that just makes for happy travelers!

This was just a little taste of our time so far in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  We are in the middle of our stay at a surfing camp so stay tuned for a detailed write up on that along with more details of the town of Tamarindo.  After surf camp we are crossing the border into Nicaragua so stay tuned and sign up for blog alerts!

Until later, we say as the Costa Rican’s say… “Pura Vida”, meaning “Pure Life”, which is certainly how it’s done down here!

A typical walk into town...hug the side of the road and walk!

A typical walk into town…hug the side of the road and walk!

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Pleasing eating environment of Bamboo Sushi Club

Pleasing eating environment of Bamboo Sushi Club

Main dining area, family friendly establishment.

Main dining area, family friendly establishment.

Cold, yummy Mojitos.

Cold, yummy Mojitos.

Linens too!

Linens too!

The bounty swims to our table.

The bounty swims to our table.

Local shrimp on steroids...huge, tender, juicy and tasty!

Local shrimp on steroids…huge, tender, juicy and tasty!

Happy Sushi Girl :)

Happy Sushi Girl 🙂

After lunch aperitif ;)

After lunch aperitif 😉

 

 

Leisurely Lucca: Lucca, Italy

1.8.15

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After leaving the hustle and bustle of the busy port town of Genoa, Italy, we found ourselves in Lucca where we had a very memorable and enjoyable stay. Intact Renaissance-era city walls surround Lucca, we learned that a coliseum stood where Lucca is now and the walls are from the original structure. The population of Lucca is approximately 87,000.

Lucca oozed of comfort. Our AirBnB hosts picked us up at the train station, which was conveniently just outside of Lucca’s walls. We drove around to the opposite side to another entrance, which was closer to our apartment. We parked and then walked the remaining way “into” Lucca, as automobiles are not allowed in many areas within the city walls. We heard this before we arrived and that we would see a lot of bicycles rolling about, which there was…but, we were quite surprised at the amount of cars we did see and had to get out of the way of – yikes!

We spent hours meandering the rough cobblestone streets, passing by all the different storefronts, which ranged from a craft brew supplier to high-end clothing retailers. Our focus as usual was the local markets, Butcher shops and wine stores and restaurants – yes, we certainly do have our priorities straight!

The meals we experienced in Lucca were all fabulous, we really felt we received great value for the money. Items such as Wild Boar Pasta, Sliced Steak with Mountains of Truffles on top, Wild Boar Stew, Risotto with Smoked Bacon and Saffron and “the” best wood fired Pizza we have ever had. When it came out of the oven, huge slices of thin cured ham were cut in front of us and draped over the entire surface of the pie. We ordered a large thinking how great it would be to have some leftover pizza for our train ride the next day but that didn’t happen because going back for ‘one more slice’ five times results in an empty pizza box!

Lucca was certainly one of our favorite destinations in Italy and we feel it is worthy to be placed on anyones traveling list if you’re visiting Italy.  Although we did not go, Pisa is a short 30 minute train ride away so a fun day trip can be had while visiting Lucca…next time for us!

So nice to be inland Italy with greenery and clear blue skies.  This is the perimeter wall around Lucca that we walked a few times.

So nice to be inland Italy with greenery and clear blue skies. This is the perimeter wall around Lucca that we walked a few times.

Looking into Lucca as we walk the perimeter.

Looking into Lucca as we walk the perimeter.

This looks a little boring but super wow tasty...Wild Boar Stew!

This looks a little boring but super wow tasty…Wild Boar Stew!

Pirates in Italy!  This restaurant was so much fun and the owner was a kick!

Pirates in Italy! This restaurant was so much fun and the owner was a kick!

As we walked the walled perimeter we thought this was someones great backyard garden but learned later after we left that it was a small public garden/square.

As we walked the walled perimeter we thought this was someones great backyard garden but learned later after we left that it was a small public garden/square.

Nancy's incredible perfectly cooked sliced beef with a mountain of Black Truffles on top -- it was insanely decadent.

Nancy’s incredible perfectly cooked sliced beef with a mountain of Black Truffles on top — it was insanely decadent.

The first time we went to this cafe they were sold out go this...Risotto with smoked bacon and saffron.  Again, looks simple but incredible taste.

The first time we went to this cafe they were sold out of this…Risotto with smoked bacon and saffron. Again, looks simple but incredibly tasty!

Typical Lucca scenery while walking about.

Typical Lucca scenery while walking about.

An Italian favorite we enjoyed during our truffle infused fancy dinner night out.

An Italian favorite we enjoyed during our truffle infused fancy dinner night out.

Walking the rough cobblestone streets inside the walls of Lucca.  This tower caught my eye with the trees growing on top.

Walking the rough cobblestone streets inside the walls of Lucca. This tower caught my eye with the trees growing on top.

The view out of our newly renovated apartment we stayed in.  Peaceful and quiet.

The view out of the newly renovated apartment we stayed in. Peaceful and quiet.

Here is our AirBnb apartment within this 16th century building.  Freshly renovated, we were the 2nd guests to stay here.  Super comfy and way better than doing the hotel gig!

Here is our AirBnb apartment within this 16th century building. Freshly renovated, we were the 2nd guests to stay here. Super comfy and way better than doing the hotel gig!

 

 

We’re Back!!!!! Seattle, Washington…but not for long ;)

1.5.15

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Hello All!

It has been quite awhile since our last post and we apologize for that, especially to our much appreciated readers who are following us — thank you!  Nancy and I are now stateside once again and have been very busy gearing up for our next departure…more on that in a bit, so let’s get caught up to speed on everything else leading up to our upcoming departure.

Since our last post about Nice, France, we have visited Italy, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and a second round of France.  We will be sharing highlights from this last leg of our 64 day European tour soon — various reasons caused a sharp decline in our posts including my getting sick for a second time on this trip — not fun!

Our new adventure starts when Nancy and I wed later this month, we are very excited about this and feel so fortunate to have found each other.  After that celebration we are off to start our search for a new life of permanent residency in Central America.

images  First we will be exploring a surfing camp in Costa Rica, then the hip beach town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where we will we spend weeks immersed in surf and Spanish lessons — if we are going to live permanently in a foreign country we have to commit to learn to speak the language.  Then it’s off to the historical Colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua to see what city life is like compared to beach life.  This fills up our calendar for a while as we will not be on the move every 3 to 4 days like we were on our European Tour.  This will give us the opportunity to write more in-depth about our surroundings and adventures.

Surfs Up!

Surfs Up!

Hip New Discoveries :)

Hip New Discoveries 🙂

Colonial Cultural

Colonial Culture

Stay tuned and we hope you follow along as we explore all that Central America has to offer!

Adios for now Amigos!

Mike and Nancy