Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time Off in Guate & Antigua

Guatemala City (known to locals as Guate) is not at all what I expected.  I've done a fair amount of  traveling and have never seen a city laid out with greater feats of engineering.  Come to find out, the city's designer was an Italian architect.  It is a very sophisticated city, the newer parts certainly comparable to large European cities.  This little gem is a Gothic church we passed on our way to immigration.  We had to start the process for our Visas.  We'll be headed home before the process is complete.

We stayed at the beautiful Barcelo Hotel in the city center.

Our wonderful tour guide, Sergio, took us to the University museum, rather against my will.  Seeing a museum with displays in Spanish doesn't do much for me, but he took us to an English version of a presentation on Guatemalan dress that was simply amazing.  The museum store was even better and I may have to go back again on my way out of the country.  Granted, there will be no room in my suitcase, but I'm willing to wear what I buy on the plane.

Later we went to see the huge Guatemalan relief map that unbelievably was engineered over a hundred years ago.  It's a must-see if you're in Guate.

In the afternoon Sergio drove us to Antigua, where we spent the night in a boutique hotel that was once a monastery.  It was a lovely, restful place to unwind.

The passageways and staircase in the hotel.  It really couldn't have been more delightful.  We watched our first American TV show in 15 months-an episode of Monk.  It was a fun reminder of home.

Hotel library

The streets of Antigua are filled with beautiful flowers and their accompanying fragrances.

Our morning climb to the look-out point where all three volcanoes are visible on a clear morning.  We were fortunate to see all three.  Fuego isn't shown in this photo, but it is visibly active most days and it had a minor eruption just a few months ago.

Known to locals as the birthday cake church.

Famous Antigua arch

Sergio took us to the convent that was destroyed in an earthquake, despite its European architecture and walls that were several feet thick.  200 people lived in the convent and only 50 escaped.  These are the frescoes that haven't been destroyed over time.

In the afternoon we found a hotel that had a delightful garden restaurant inside and we stopped for a long, leisurely lunch that was exquisitely prepared and served.  I forgot I wasn't in Europe.

Our morning included some time in the artisan's market.  Sergio introduced us to his friend Fredy who is a very talented artist.  He paints these beautiful boxes and I had to buy several.  One of the choice things about Guatemala is buying directly from the artisans.  

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