Day 2 – Antigua Guatemala

17 Mar

Woke up this morning at 6:20am and found out later that an earthquake had just happened. The world didn’t move for me though. Considering this was past noon UK time, it was more like my normal getting up time anyway.

Had breakfast in the hotel with Werner (lives in Edinburgh, works in Aberdeen, sweats more than me), Tracey and a couple who’s names I have already forgotten. Breakfast consisted of toast, scrambled eggs, fried plantain (like banana) and refried beans – looked a bit like nutella, but was served hot. It actually tasted quite good! (Q 50 = £5)

We met Olivier (no relation to Lawrence), our tour guide for the morning, in the hotel lobby.

Parque centrale with people flowers for the lenten season

Parque centrale with people flowers for the lenten season

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We started in the Parque Centrale and found out about the history of Antigua – meaning former- Guatemala. In 1773, there was a big earthquake that devastated the town and the capital moved to Guatemala City in 1776.

We walked through the cathedral which contained a glass coffin containing the body of Christ. Apparently this is in every church in Central America – some miracle that! The facade and the nave are unusually no longer in the correct orientation due to earthquakes knocking stuff down.

We moved on to various other churches (mostly from the outside) but did enter the Franciscan church which houses the tomb of Santo Hermano Pedro (Saint Brother Peter), who was born in 1626 and died from starving himself to death 41 years later. He was only made a saint in 2003.

We also wandered past lots of artisan markets, and other shops, as well as numerous restaurants and coffee shops. There was also a bridge built across a street so that closed order nuns could cross without having to be seen in public. The town put a clock on it so that everyone else would find it useful!

The tour ended at a church decorated very intricately like a wedding cake – in yellow with a white relief.

Most of us then went to change money into quetzales. There is a limit of $200 per day and you can’t return for another 8 days! Most of us took the advice to change the lot. By the end of the day I’ve spent only a third of it. BAM was apparently faster at changing money than BAC, although as it turned out, the ATMs were faster still. After a short queue and an easy transaction at BAM, I finally came away with some local currency.

Tim, David and I planned to eat lunch together and we were joined by Bitte, Tracey, Werner and Vicky (cruise line retail worker). All of the aforementioned were travelling alone. I had forgotten that Lou had warned that Guatemalans like their food. I ordered a starter and main course and was full after the starter. Also had a drink of rice milk and cinnamon called Horchata, very refreshing. £15 for lunch but really should have been half of that. Stuffed! Really nice food, not suitable for dieting with.

We then went our separate ways for a free afternoon to explore Antigua. I decided to avoid the museum of Hermano Pedro’s underwear and went with Tim to an Artisan market. I saw lots of interesting things, but reminded myself that tat was tat, no matter where you bought it.

Found a bandero (flag) for myself and a fridge magnet for Ian’s dad. Had a bit of help from one of the assistants who turned out to be very interested in the fact I was from Scotland. He wanted to find out if I wore anything under the kilt and seemed quite insistent. After casually mentioning that he taught English, Spanish and Mayan he also dropped in that he was gay and would I like to meet up with him later? I informed him rather forcefully they I was not of that persuasion, but he continued to show us round the shop, Tim now trying hard to contain his laughter.

After finding a section of masks for extortionate prices, the man caught up with me again to give me his name and email address, so that any of my friends could be sent over to him (Dave take note).

Tim persuaded me to buy him a pink chocolate bar to say thank you for showing us round. I don’t think he got the point of it though!

I then went on my own to the top of a small hill which had a viewpoint over Antigua. Cerro de Crux. I had been told the general direction and ended up stalking a local who looked like he was out to climb a hill. It is very hard to follow a person 2 feet smaller than yourself and not catch them up very quickly. I think he was getting worried that I might rob him. I tried to maintain a distance of at least 2 paces behind him!

Found some stairs up the hillside and made the “40 minute” walk to the top in 20. Must have been Guatemalan paces or time to measure that one.

Took a couple of photos, including a self timer one, and them met a young American lady, called Anna, who was walking a dog. She had been in town for about 5 weeks and was staying with a family whilst learning Spanish. She was heading home to Oregon on Tuesday.

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Red Macaws

She offered to show me some places and we walked down the hill together chating about life in Antigua. She took me to the (5 star) Hotel Santo Domingo and left me there. It had a museum which you were apparently supposed to pay £4 for, but I also asked about the chocolate shop, which was free to visit. Had to buy a nice chocolate and got a couple of free samples in the vey nicely air conditioned shop. Then I toured the rest of the museum which was a bit disappointing except for the red macaws which were in residence. Lots of close up photos of them on their perches – no cages and no tethers to be seen.

Wandered back to the second recommendation from Anna – the chocolate museum, where you can make your own chocolate. Unfortunately you had to book a day in advance, but it was a nice, if small, place.

Back at the hotel, a quick shower washed away the day’s sweat.  I headed to the hotel’s roof terrace to take some photos of the sun setting behind the volcanos. Had seen one of them being active earlier in the day (just a small puff of smoke).

Cool Sky cocktail

Cool Sky cocktail

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Wandered back to the main square to purchase some water and then we met for dinner – the whole group except Suzanne, who wasn’t feeling up to it. Lou marched us to Cafe Sky, which unusually had two floors. It was dark so the views went unappreciated. Stuck to one course, but did try a cool sky cocktail, which could will become my drink of choice. £11.50 for the meal of chicken and cheese quesadillos, two cokes and the cocktail. Not bad.

Headed back to the hotel a different way (grid pattern of streets, so easy to get lost)  and them back out to the nearest bay with Phil and Peter (Pedro). Phil had lost his credit cars on the plane, but they were being rescued and would be picking them up on the way to Honduras in two days time.

We met a 19 year old American bartender and he managed yup get me a Quetzalteca (well three in the end) which was a very nice local alcoholic drink (17%). Also had a 23 year old special rum (40%) – straight, which wasn’t.

Back in the hotel and time to blog and bed. Early start in the morning!

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