“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.”
― Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris
If the French consider sidewalks to be the stage, then Nicaraguans consider sidewalks to be the entire theater. El Castillo, Nicaragua is proof that sidewalks set the stage for connection and interaction with others, especially in this tranquil community lacking cars, motorcycles, and other forms of motorized transportation.
Entering the port in El Castillo, the sidewalks lead tourists to hotels, restaurants, schools, a medical clinic, baseball fields, a cocoa cooperative, a museum, a butterfly sanctuary, and of course, the highlight of El Castillo, The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception.
Disembarking at the port, we turned left and followed the sidewalk to the end. Hotels and restaurants dotted both sides of the main sidewalk which ran parallel to the San Juan River.
We made reservations online for Hotel Victoria, but a few words of caution. After making online reservations through their website two times, I was nervous because I hadn’t received a confirmation. When I called them, the conversation went something like this:
Me: I made reservations for 4 nights for Hotel Victoria through your website. Can you confirm that you received our reservations?
Hotel Victoria: No. Our website doesn’t work because we don’t have an internet connection here.
Me: Oh no! Que lastima. (What a shame) Do you have a room for us?
Hotel Victoria: Yes, yes. No problem. We will take your reservations.
That was the first time I called. The second time I called, the conversation was way different.
Me: I am calling to confirm our reservations.
Hotel Victoria: We do not have a record of your reservations.
Me: Oh no! Que lastima. I called last week, and made reservations two times on your website.
Hotel Victoria: Our website does not work because we don’t have internet.
Me: Do you have a room available for us for 4 nights?
Hotel Victoria: No. We only have one night available.
Me: Que lastima. Well, we will take that room. My name is Deborah. Please make reservations for us under Deborah. That’s D.E.B.O.R.A.H.
Hotel Victoria: Please use our website.
Their website says they offer free wireless internet in the rooms, but don’t be fooled. There is no wi-fi available anywhere in El Castillo.
After a leisurely mocha helado at Border’s Coffee, we found the fabulous Hotel Luna del Rio our home for the next three nights.
We arrived at the Cocoa Cooperative high above El Castillo, where we were treated to a tour of the process of roasting the coca beans, making chocolate, and selling the finest beans at 5,000 cordobas a sack to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where they are exported to Germany for processing.
Sidewalks were the theaters in the peaceful town of El Castillo. They demonstrated the interplay between inheritance and traditions still exhibited along the paths of this unique and laid-back river town.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Do Sidewalks Connect the communities of the Solentiname Islands? What I discovered may surprise you.