Guatemala - Antigua at Last


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Published: August 14th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Antigua at Last


Saturday 7th August



I eventually get into Antigua a day later than planned. The morning after the detour to Nicaragua I’m back at the airport before 6a.m. for a flight that eventually takes off at 9:30 for an uneventful 1 hour flight back to Guatemala City.

Antigua is about an hour’s drive from here but a taxi only costs $30 {I later learn that I should have bargained it to $25}. My impression of Guatemala City as I am driven out is that I have not missed much. The main road out of the city seems to be mainly lined with branches of every American fast food outlet in existence - this just strengthens my urge to get to Cuba as soon as possible! I am impressed, though, with the detail the Guatemalans go into in decorating their buses. Why just paint your buses red when you have all the colours of the rainbow available? The black smoke coming out of the exhausts doesn’t really enhance the effect though.

I finally get to my hotel, Las Campanas, around midday. My roommate for the up-coming tour, Jeremy, arrives just 5 minutes later. We have both travelled
McDonaldsMcDonaldsMcDonalds

You wouldn't even notice it was there
exactly the same route from Heathrow without realising we were heading for the same trip!


Antigua



Although it is wellying it down with rain, Jeremy and I decide to have a look around the town. I’m also expecting that I’ll bump into Heather {I last saw Heather 5 years ago in Beijing but we’ve both booked onto this trip} but I suspect she might have headed off for the day to one of the nearby volcanoes.

Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It had been the capital city of Guatemala until it was flattened by an earthquake in 1773. The centre of the town is all single storey colonial style buildings and cobblestones. A lot of the churches, palaces and other religious buildings are still showing the effects of earthquakes but it does appear that with the Unesco involvement some restoration work is being done.

There has been no redevelopment of the centre of town, no new buildings. Our hotel, Las Campanas, is in one of the old houses based around a courtyard. Even McDonalds and Burger King are surprisingly understated, not being allowed to have any hanging signs in front of the building.

It is also clearly a tourist stop for many Guatemalan families as we see them trying to make the most of their visit despite the rain. The town looks even more impressive as it seems that in all directions we can see the surrounding volcanoes, particularly Agua which erupted in May of this year. While we walk around town we spot some smoke coming from Fuego but we are later told that this is a fairly regular event.


Cute Kids, Bangles and Some Amazing Drumming



Back at the hotel we meet up with the rest of the group and our tour leader, Gemma. There are eight of us altogether, not too many Brits and only one other teacher. After introductions and paperwork are out of the way, we head out into Antigua to find something to eat. We are taken to the Rainbow restaurant which is at the back of a bookshop. This is a fairly lively venue with good food and reasonable service. There is live entertainment there too. When we arrive the entertainment is being provided by some small children who are singing songs from Mary Poppins. This may seem “cute” for the first 30 seconds but after 3 songs I feel like I’m stuck in a really bad episode of Britain’s Got Talent. Fortunately the Cute Kids aren’t allowed to stay out too late and we are then entertained by what can only be described as El Salvador’s answer to The Bangles {they are actually all good musicians} and then a group of drummers from Colombia. When I see so many drummers arrive to play in such a small space my first instinct is to leave but I’m glad I stayed to listen - they were amazing!


Santiago Zamora Women’s Co-operative



The Santiago Zamora Women’s Co-operative is a co-operative set up by a group of women about 20 minutes drive from Antigua. The women make textiles using traditional Mayan crafts and demonstrate their skills. The story they tell is, I suspect, a sadly common one of how the people lost their rights to the land they were farming and of how the women were mistreated by their husbands.

The women have used the money from the textiles they sell to teach themselves Spanish, set up a school for their children, and have recently established a clinic in the village.
At Santiago Zamora Co-operativeAt Santiago Zamora Co-operativeAt Santiago Zamora Co-operative

Telling the story of the co-operative
We are treated to a welcoming dance, a short talk about the co-operative, the opportunity to buy their crafts, demonstrations of various traditional crafts and are given a lunch of rice, beans, chicken and pepian sauce with a drink, “Jamaica”, made from hibiscus.


Cerro De La Cruz



In the afternoon 3 of us head up to Cerro De La Cruz to get a view of the city.

I had wanted to go to one of the volcanoes near Antigua. Agua is the one which dominates the city but that erupted in May and nobody seems too willing to take me there!! Instead we settle for the walk up to Cerro De La Cruz, a hill with a large cross, to get the view. We need to walk up with an escort from the Tourist Police because of the large number of robberies on the road up to the hill. However when we get to the Tourist Police headquarters it is about to rain {this is definitely the rainy season in Guatemala} and we get a lift to the top from the Tourist Police.

That evening we go to the Fusion restaurant. It is Heather’s birthday. She has already had a birthday breakfast, a birthday lunch, a birthday beer in the Irish Bar and an inappropriate birthday grope from a museum guide. Now we are all heading out for a birthday meal and cake. The food at Fusion is really good but perhaps a bit too “nouvelle cuisine” for me - I missed having a big plate of chips with my food!


Additional photos below
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Fuego EruptsFuego Erupts
Fuego Erupts

Not the most convincing photo but there is smoke coming out of it - honest!!
More RuinsMore Ruins
More Ruins

And souvenir sellers who don't give up easily
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