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What I Ate Today: Ceviche de Camarones

What I Ate Today: Ceviche de Camarones

Ceviche (“seh-BEE-chay”)

The first time I was introduced to ceviche was almost eight years ago in a restaurant in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica.  

“Gord, you can’t eat that! It’s raw fish. You’re going to get sick.”

I was so wrong!

This hugely popular Central American dish is made from fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice, and spiced with chili peppers. Additional seasonings, such as chopped onions and salt are also added. 

Is ceviche cooked?

A dish in which raw fish is marinated in citrus juice, isn’t cooked. But it’s not exactly raw, either.  Both heat and citric acid are agents of a chemical process called denaturation. In this process, the heat or citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process of denaturation turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.

Ceviche spooned onto crackers with a dash of chile now happens to be one of my favorite appetizers.  It’s a nice light tasty snack that is great for sharing.

If you enjoy fish (cooked or raw) and have yet to sample ceviche I high recommend you give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Author’s Note:  The dish shown in the photo is a shrimp ceviche that I enjoyed poolside at Rocamar restaurant in San Juan del Sur. Cost was C$110 ($4.40 USD).

Another 90 Days in Paradise

Although Elisha and I have lived in Nicaragua for more than a year now we have not yet applied for residency. Compared to many countries the process is relatively easy and inexpensive. That being said, there are still numerous hoops to jump through to obtain residency in Nicaragua.

Elisha and I are currently living in Nicaragua on a tourist visa that we are required to renew every 90 days. This 90-day visa can actually be extended for an additional 90 days at most immigration offices in the country. The cost is approximately $60 USD.

Just before our visas expire we leave the country and re-enter.  This restarts our 90 day clock. Luckily for us we live less than an hour from the Costa Rican border, so renewal is only a small inconvenience.

We get a lot of questions regarding tourist visa renewal and border crossing so we decided to document the details of our most recent “border run” so that we could share it with you.  

The time line below summarizes a typical border run for us. Well, kind of…

This particular time we took a little longer than usual because Elisha took approximately one hundred photos and jotted down about three pages of notes. I too held up the process a little trying to decide on my alcohol purchase from the Duty Free store.

9:02 am
We left home with our “itineraries” in hand. 

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– These United “itineraries” may or may not be authentic. Shhhhhhhh!

Costa Rican immigration now requires that you show proof of onward travel from their country.  

9:10 am
Gas tank topped up. Check! Windshield washed. Check! Fluid levels checked. Check!

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– UNO Gas Station – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

9:54 am
Our Hyundai Galloper is safely parked just 50 meters outside the border entrance at Comoder Mayra. The dude shown in the picture below will hang around and watch your vehicle for you for a small fee. For a few extra cordobas, he’ll even wash it!

Another 90 Days in Paradise

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– A chicken bus leaving the border and heading to Rivas

It’s a short stroll to the first gate.  If you’d like can get a meal or do a little shopping on the way.

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– Shoe Shopping at the Nicaraguan Border

10:00 am
We pass through the first gate. A Nicaraguan immigration officer looks at our passports to check the date of our last entry into Nicaragua, then we are on our way to the Nicaraguan immigration office.

10:01 am
On the way to the immigration office we must stop and pay $1.00 USD for tax to the city of Penas Blancas.

Penas Blancas tax collection booth.

– The town of Penas Blancas getting their tax money

Penas Blancas Tax receipt

– Penas Blancas tax receipt

10:09 am
With our tax paid we enter the immigration area and get in line and fill out our customs forms. An agent checks our passport and forms and then keys some information into the computer. At this gate we paid a $3 USD exit fee.  The friendly agent stamps our passports and we’re off.

Central American Customs form

– Nicaraguan Customs form

10:13 am
We are officially stamped out of Nicaragua and approaching “No Man’s Land” as we like to call it.  We are now walking between the two countries.

10:20 am
Yet another check point. This photo friendly agent was checking for the stamp that showed our exit out of Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan Immigration official

– This Nica Immigration officer thinks taking pictures at the border is cool

10:20 am
We are now entering Costa Rica. It’s about a 200 meter walk from the Nicaraguan Immigration office to the Costa Rican equivalent.

Welcome to Costa Rica

– Bienvenido a Costa Rica

Taxis to take you to Costa Rica from the immigration office.

– Taxis to transport you from the immigration office to your Costa Rican destination

10:27 am
We enter a line up for the Costa Rica immigration office. Thankfully we arrived just before of a group of 60+ people who were traveling on a Tica bus. 

Lining up at the Costa Rican Customs and Immigration building.

– Lining up at the Costa Rican customs and immigration building

The Costa Rican Immigration office after a Tica Bus arrives.

– Sometimes it’s all about timing!

10:44 am
After a short wait we enter the immigration office with our completed customs forms and “itineraries” in hand ready to show the immigration official.

Costa Rican Customs and Immigration form.

– Costa Rican Customs & Immigration form

10:49 am
Not suprisingly the agent asks for our boleta (ticket) showing proof of onward travel out of Costa Rica. This is a fairly new practice and seen by many as a money grab. 

To avoid hassle most expats simply purchase a $25 open-ended bus ticket – which is good for one year – but never actually use it.

Unlike Nicaragua, Costa Rica does not charge an entrance or exit fee. However, it seems to us that the government is trying to compensate for that revenue by requiring you to purchase the bus ticket.

Costa Rica entry requirements.

– These signs went up recently when they started to require proof of onward travel from Costa Rica

10:54 am
We distract a police officer by asking him if we can take a photo. In exchange for a quick little chat we avoid having to walk further into Costa Rica.  We walk back the way we just came from and get in line on the opposite side of the immigration building.

10:59 am
We enter the building that we just left and fill out another immigration form.  This time it’s to leave Costa Rica.

11:05 am
Our passports now have three stamps and we are out of Costa Rica and on our way back into Nicaragua. 

There is a misconception that you must leave Nicaragua for a period of three days before you can re-enter and renew your tourist visa.  This is not the case at all. There is no law indicating how long you must be out of the country before you may re-enter.

In fact, on this particular border run we were only in Costa Rica for a period of 16 minutes.

On the other hand, if you are living in Costa Rica on a tourist visa you are required to leave the country for a minimum of three days prior to entry back in.

Nicaraguan and Costa Rican Exit and Entry Passport Stamps

– Nicaraguan and Costa Rican Exit and Entry Passport Stamps

11:16 am
Check point back into Nicaraguan frontera.

Checkpoint at the Nicaraguan Frontera

– Check point at the Nicaraguan Frontera

Nicaraguan Immigration

– Nicaraguan Immigration straight ahead

Shoe shine at the Nicaraguan border.

– Need your shoes shined?  No problem – get it done before returning to Nicaragua!

11:24 am
We are back at the Nicaraguan immigration office and pay a $1 USD tax to the city for the second time that day.

11:25 am
Entrance forms are completed. We pay $12 USD for our 90-day tourist visa and entrance back into Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan Immigration office

– Finally…our last passport stamp of the day!

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– Sandals anyone?

11:29 am
Since we are here we might as well get some cheap duty free treats. We haven’t actually left long enough to qualify, but no one ever cares or even checks to see if you have duty free.

The shops are setup after you clear customs and are right next to where we park the truck. In truth you wouldn’t even need to leave the country to shop at the the duty free store. In fact, we have friends that own a bar and they used to shop there regularly.

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– A border run wouldn’t be complete without a quick stop at the Nicaraguan Duty Free Shop

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– Lots of goodies at Duty Free!

11:36 am
We are good to go for another 90 days and ready for a snack before making our way to a Rivas for some shopping.

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– A couple of snacks for the drive to Rivas

11:40 am
We pay our parking attendant C$40 cordobas for his services. He’s happy and so are we!

Another 90 Days in Paradise

– Our truck (and our parking attendant) are safe and sound exactly where we left them! 

Cinco Aniversario

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Elisha and I were married on Playa Ocotal in Costa Rica on January 8th, which just happens to be five years ago, so it was time to celebrate! We decided to celebrate our anniversary the same way we would in Canada, with a great meal and a nice bottle of wine.

Having lived in Calgary for 10 years we had a list of favourite places we liked to go, many of which were through recommendations from friends.  In Nicaragua it happens to be a bit of a different story. First of all, we have no dining out experience and secondly, we have only one local friend to rely on for recommendations. Although Carlos from Hostel El Pulpo is a wealth of knowledge, romantic dinners out aren’t really his specialty, so onto Trip Advisor I went. Meson Real (a Spanish influenced tapas bar) turned up as the number one rated restaurant in Leon and appeared to be “right up our alley” so the plan was agreed upon – Meson Real it was!

Maybe I have a little Nica blood in me because I didn’t even realize our travel plans were a little odd until Elisha pointed out the fact that this was the first time that we had ever hitch-hiked to a date. Wearing a button up shirt for the first time since being here is what I was noticing, much more so than our mode of transportation. Thankfully a nice Nica/Russian guy with his daughter and grandson picked us up and dropped us off within a few blocks of the restaurant.

This was our first time in Leon at night and it turned out to be just as lively at night as it is during the day. There were many more food stands around and people were making their way to social commitments instead of work. It being Sunday evening all of the churches were in full swing. On one street Elisha and I thought a band was playing live music at a club until we noticed all the lights on. When we peaked in the window it ended up being evangelical church rocking it out.

We made our way to Meson Real and to our surprise it is only one block away from the house we are moving to later this week and unfortunately to our disappointment it was closed. I guess our next purchase should be a cell phone so that we can avoid this in the future. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a car after that? But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves. With no way to check for the next best ranked restaurant on Trip Advisor we chose a place that is right beside our future home. After taking a quick look at the menu we decided that Mediterraneo-Terraza would be just fine.

Once seated I immediately flipped to the wine list to see what kind of night we were going to have. If you’ve been to Nicaragua you will know that 90% of the wines here come from Chile or Argentina. I have found that these wines range in category from very drinkable to gasoline. Nicas don’t have a big wine culture, so it seems like they will import whatever is the best price which makes the gasoline easiest to find. To my delight there was a nice Italian Valpolicella on the menu for $417 cordobas ($18.29 USD). That made the next decision to order up a couple of steaks more than natural.

We enjoyed a great dinner with two appies, two steaks with all the fixings, a very nice bottle of wine and dessert for a whopping $1069 cordobas ($46.89 USD). This by far has been our most expensive dinner in Nica.  No complaints here though – the food, the wine and more importantly the company were excellent.

After dinner we walked hand in hand around some of parks and huge Catholic churches. Due to the fact that it was Sunday night we were unable to find any live music. We did, however find out that Barbaro doesn’t slow down on a Sunday though. This pub we’d previously visited was full and “just a rocking'” to a DJ playing crazy Spanish music videos.

We stayed for one drink and then hopped in a cab and headed back to our quiet little town of Poneloya. On the way home we decided to have a date night like this monthly. Maybe we can go to Meson Real next.

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