Kristiaan and I visited Antigua, Guatemala a few weeks ago. At first I argued with her and said that Antigua is an island – only because I had actually been there. I soon discovered there was another Antigua.
Antigua was recommended by one of K’s mom’s colleagues and after a few weeks of obsessive internet searching and sending me 100+ websites we were convinced – well more so her than me.
When we first arrive, it was a breezy 70 degrees and not at all what I was expecting. I was tired. Hadnt slept the entire night – left DC around 4am – and we began our day in Antigua. The drive from Guatemala City to Antigua was about 50-60 minutes of new and interesting sights. I was unimpressed, however I noted to Kristiaan that my current mood was severely affected by my lack of sleep and probably some underlying missing of Luna.
During the drive to Antigua, I realized I hadnt done any research on where I was going, other than reading Kristiaans 100+ email/web links. I thought to myself:
‘is this a third world country?’
‘why on earth does every store have a machine gun or shotgun gaurd?’ (even pollo campero!) ‘
‘this place better be perfect for our wedding!’
‘why dont I speak Spanish?’
The ride continued up and down steep windy roads, as I glared at emaciated dogs, women walking barefoot on the side of the road carrying large baskets on their head and a reduction of a seemingly LA skiyline.
We arrive in the uneven cobblestone ridden small town of Antigua. Things start to feel a little better. Everyone walks or bikes, aside from the tuk-tuks and cars – no street lights what-so-ever. Traffic rules are non existent but understood. Its interesting to watch how things are done elsewhere.
We began our Guatemalen journey at… Cafe Barista, to check our email, surf the web and grab an average bite of non-traditional Guatemalen food – what Americans we are! We walked through town visiting pre-planned locations (a la wedding), admiring tourists and natives alike and being drowned in photographic beauty.
Antigua has some serious character. I’m sold, it really only took a few hours, or at least a few excellent meals. This little town is incredibly warm and inviting, you just get a good feel from the prevalent culture and pride in local heritage.
I’m going to divert a bit so that I can do some ‘note-taking’ and documenting of what we did.
Meson Panza Verde
La Posada de Don Rodrigo
Como Como – insanely good food and service from Belgium; our favorite
El Viejo Café – perfect for breakfast; try the petit dejuner or crepe primavera
Fonda de la Calle Real – authentic Guatemala
Hectors – (hidden restaurant near La Merced)
La tienda de Dona Gavi – Herbal shop with unique, fresh homemade ice cream
Panza Verde Fine Cuisine – super high quality international cuisine
Tabacos y Vinos – if you like wine, cigars, or chocolate this is your spot
Tartines – fabulous French cuisine
Things to visit/do
Central Square – hang out at different times of the day for sites and sounds of Antigua
5a Avenida Norte a.k.a Calle Del Arco (main street where the yellow arc is located)
San Jose El Veijo (most likely our reception location) – old ruins, church
Cappuchinas (most likely our ceremony location) – old convent, ruins
Santa Clara (runner up for ceremony and reception) – old convent, ruins
…As the week progressed we fell into a happy little pattern, wake up in a new hotel, eat, visit possible wedding locations, tour the city, meet people, eat, take pictures, sit in the Central Square and people watch, walk, eat, pictures, maybe a drink or two, bed. We happily wore ourselves out everyday and loved every minute of it.
On our second to last day we went to visit Pacaya, one of the active volcanoes in the region. I didnt know what to expect but I was excited. We were told this was a level 4 of 10 in terms of hiking difficulty. Well we were told wrong, at least on our levels of hiking this was at least a level 6. As we started the hike children of the local village were trying to sell us walking sticks for a buck. In retrospect I should have just given each one of them a dollar to leave me be since I didnt need a stick. The next ‘tactic’ was the have horses follow us up and wait for one of us to ‘drop’. Unfortunately after 30+ mins of steep uphill climbing Kristiaan had to hitch a ride a la $15 usd. I kept going, sweaty – in upper 50° temp and out of breath, it was still fun. I am a glutton for physical exhaustion. Being that we had left Luna back in the states I was pleased to have been joined by one of the tour guides dogs who, without command, followed us up as if he was guarding us – this was the non-emaciated dog.
As we reached the top of the first part of the hike we were greated by a stunning view of Pacaya with a little puff of smoke billowing from the top. Then as we looked around we could see ‘everything’, simply amazing. The next part of the hike involved some very fun rock, or gravel sliding. There was a steep decent covered in well over 10 inches of loose gravel that if you ran down fast enough turned into a mini slide down the hill – pending you had ninja balancing skills like myself. At the bottom, it appeared we had jumped to another planet, nothing but lava rock as far as the eye could see. It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. After a few more minutes we reached an area where you could roast marshmallows, or your fanny over a fairly deep and deadly pit. In the states, this would be where you see a sign that says, Danger Off Limits and a huge electrical fence. But here, simply dont fall in and youre good to go.
This was also were we met Pacaya (need to get the video from K). This poor dog was the definition of emaciated. Within a few weeks she had given birth to puppies which were taken away by the locals. Somehow this poor dog, which we named Pacaya, was left out there on her own. The section where we found her was soft dirt but it was clear she was too weak and fragile to make it through the lava rocks, up the loose gravel climb hill and back down the first climb we made. I was heart broken, really heart broken. I gave her some of my food and half of my water. You could tell how grateful the poor girl was with her ohmygodthankyousomuchforthis tail wag. Heart broken. I wanted to carry her back but I knew I wasnt physically capable. Sigh. She was basically stuck out there unless someone had a stretcher and was willing to bring her back. Among the many ‘poor’ situations of 3rd world countries dogs do not even get treated with any worth. They are either nuisances or livestock to the majority of the locals.
This was however a great way to end our trip, even though we didnt get to see any actual lava flow it was still a great experience.
So we went to Antigua with the goal of finding our wedding location and we did. We’ve also decided on a date Feb 19th 2012 and are quickly working to get our wedding website up and send out invites.
Enjoy the pics.