It was my first full day in Guatemala – not counting arrival day which involved a lot of hurrying up and waiting for shuttles to get from Guatemala City to Antigua just in time to see a glorious sunset behind the Volcán de Agua (so named as the crater used to be filled with water until an earthquake caused a crack in the rim, creating a mudslide that obliterated Santiago de los Caballeros.) I decided to explore Antigua, so walked out the front door with a friend and promptly ran into two guys wanting to know if this was a nice area to live. It turns out one chap was from Guatemala and the other from the US – they’d met in college in the States and now the US guy was moving to Guatemala with the help of his friend. We struck up a great conversation and our new-found friends spent the entire day showing us the town, helping us set up day trips and giving us advice about places to see. What a stroke of luck we had running into them; you couldn’t hope to meet nicer people. I simply adore this aspect of travel – those chance encounters that can create something unforgettable. We wandered through the cobblestone streets to perhaps the most famous view of Antigua:
As we hadn’t had breakfast yet, we ambled back towards Parque Central (New York, you’re not the only place to have a Central Park!) and popped into a cute little cafe for coffee and a bite to eat.
While we were eating, all kinds of crazy stuff was happening in the streets outside. Crowds laughing and cheering, the whizzes and loud pops of fireworks – day and night, every day, you can hear the sounds of fireworks, it’s a daily occurrence here – I have become accustomed to the ear-shattering bangs surprisingly quickly.
Fortified, we set forth again, to visit some stunning buildings, including the intricately ornate La Merced Church and the ruined monastery at Casa Santo Domingo. The ruined monastery is a popular place to get married, and as luck would have it they were preparing for a wedding ceremony and we got to wander around and look at things before the ceremony got started.
We also took time to check out the street markets and little shops peppered along the streets, and happened across the outdoor holding yard for the statues that are part of the Easter celebrations.
The town is filled with gorgeous fountains of all shapes and sizes and right now, some interesting Christmas decorations.
Speaking of chocolate, my first purchase at a Guatemalan market – oh, yeah. Delicious disks of coarsely ground cacao mixed with brown sugar – traditionally broken up and melted in hot milk, but equally delicious broken up and eaten in pieces.
Not a bad first day, really, wouldn’t you agree?