After a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, and coffee we checked out of the hotel and headed to Leon. Once in town we immediately got lost having to drive around for a bit until we saw a landmark and got our bearings. We quickly learned that the traffic on the streets running north and south had the right of way and east and west traffic had to stop at each intersection (even there are rarely signs). Almost the streets are one way and alternate on every block. We eventually found our way to our first choice hotel, La Posada Doctor but the gate was closed and nobody seemed to be there. Someone we met recommended Lazy Bones Hostel and even though hostels aren’t really our style we decided to check it out since they did have a pool. It seemed pretty mellow and the private room they showed me was large with a private bathroom for $28/night and they also has a garage where I could park the car. We decided to keep looking so we drove back to La Posada Doctor and someone was there to open the gate. The hotel looked nice but the room was tiny and since it was on the outskirts of the downtown area I didn’t think it was worth $50/night. We passed by La Perla which is probably the nicest hotel in the country. Kat wanted to check it out but I was certain that it was going to be way out of our budget. I went inside and asked and was surprised that the rooms were only $80/night! Even though it was over our budget we decided that we should treat ourselves for the next two nights. The hotel is incredible – it’s an old colonial mansion that has been completely renovated. The entire hotel is plush with an elegant air conditioned restaurant, pool, plasma TV in the bar, robes in the room, etc. It would easily cost $300/night in the US. They are building a casino across the street and Mark showed me the construction and told me I could park the rental car inside the garage.
After getting settled into our room we dropped off some laundry we needed done at trhe front desk and then went to the hotel bar for some beers and met the owners, Mark and Jim, who were both very personable and gave us a lot of information on the history of the hotel and places to go in the city. We were hungry and expressed our disappointment of missing thanksgiving and they said that they had some turkey left over and had the cook make us some turkey club sandwiches. Before we decided to head out Jim told us that the entire downtown area was completely safe. They organized other hotel owners in Leon to contribute to a fund to pay for 10 tourist police officers.
First we went to the Centro del Arte museum which was really nice including a Picasso and a paintings by Diego Rivera (among many others) and was well worth the $2 entry fee. From there we walked around taking pictures of the many political murals along the streets.
We then went to the Central Park and watched a “La Gigantona” performance.
People were also setting off fireworks and rockets in the middle of the street. One cop even stopped traffic so a guy could set off a rocket! The schools were having graduation ceremonies and there was a parade through the street complete with a marching band and the carrying of the Virgin Mary at the end – very cool!
We then got some more cash from an ATM inside the bank with really cold air conditioning and went to the supermarket to buy some rum and coke to drink in our room before going back out later.
When we got back to the hotel we found that all our laundry was done and nicely folded. After a few drinks in our room we headed out to do some more exploring and find a place to eat dinner – we ended up at the Via Via bar/restaurant which is attached to the hostel of the same name. The bar was pretty crowded with a good mixture of travelers and locals playing pool and drinking. We got some seats at the bar and stayed for a few drinks. I thought it was definitely the coolest bar I’ve been to so far in Central America. The bathrooms were also impeccably clean which gave me an even better impression of the place. After a while a band was setting up so we thought things might get too crazy for us to eat dinner there so we headed back out. We found a lady barbecuing meat behind the Cathedral. For $2 each we got tortillas with a big piece of meat and a salad. It was really good! Around us were a lot of really skinny dogs hoping for a hand out. We walked a few blocks to the supermarket and I bought a big bag of dog for $2 and went back and poured it out for the dogs to eat.
Next we went back to the hotel and took a dip in the pool to cool off and then back to our room, watched a movie on TV and then went to sleep.