The purpose of this blog is to communicate with our family and close friends while we cruise "New Horizons" to new destinations.

"We don't know exactly where we're going, but if we get lost, we'll just pull in somewhere's and ask directions."

Saturday, August 31, 2013

La Antigua Por Favor!

We took a launcha from Burnt Key to Fronteras and then a bus to Guatemala City where a collectivo bus took us to Antigua.  It was a long day of travel, but it was so good to get off the boat and travel inland!   

Antigua is one of most heavily traveled cities in Guatemala. One of the big draws is the cooler temperature.  There are a number of Spanish Schools; some that offer lodging and meals too.  Lots of cruisers take advantage of learning Spanish this way.

You can stay at a hostel or a lavish hotel.  Lots of history, lots of churches,
restaurants and bars to frequent, and  a plus for us cruisers, lots of walking. It was very nice not being a "galley winch" for a change!  It is a partying place for the young crowd.
The Central Park is a great place to relax  and people watch. There is a very large outdoor market operating 7 days a week where you can buy ANYTHING you want from clothing to electronics to fresh produce etc.  It is amazing to see the amount of used clothing that is donated. There were at least 25 vendors renting space to sell second-hand clothing and such. This is in addition to the many artisan shops where you can buy jewelry, leather goods, art; it is a shopping mecca! 

Of course, we had to visit McDonald's, one of the loveliest you will ever see, complete with the kids play area and a lovely outdoor garden.  They had to make adjustments to their normal US look to stay within architectural guidelines.  It's got to be one of the nicest McDonald's we've even visited, with a lovely outdoor garden.
We wanted to make the day trip to Lake Atilan while we were in Antigua, but we went to Monterrico instead; big mistake!  Since we love beaches, we thought Monterrico, on the Pacific coast, would be good. Wrong, there was virtually no one to talk with and it was sweltering.  
The main attraction at Monterrico is Johnny's Place,
a beach side restaurant/bar.  Even though their bungalows were full, no one was out and about; it is off season.  Of course, they had their own private pools!  Monterrico has a black beach, which you really don't even want to be near!  You can't even walk on it until the sun goes down.  Being it is on the Pacific side, the draw for us, the waves were just pounding the beach!  So even had I wanted to brave burning the soles of my feet I would have drowned in the surf!  Still looking forward to going to Lake Atilan another time. 
A little history; Antigua Guatemala means "Ancient Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city. The city has been moved several times, on September 29, 1717, an estimated 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Antigua Guatemala, and destroyed over 3,000 buildings. Much of the city's architecture was ruined.  Again in 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town. The Spanish Crown ordered (1776) the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was thereafter referred to as la Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala).

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcan de Agua or "Volcano of Water", 12,356 ft high. When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú. To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, 13045 ft high, and the Volcan de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire", 12346 ft high. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Steam and gas issue from its top daily, a larger eruption occurred in September 2012.

La Antigua is noted for its very elaborate religious celebrations during Lent, leading up to Semana Santa. Each Sunday in Lent, one of the local parishes sponsor a procession through the streets of Antigua. Elaborate and beautiful artistic carpets predominantly made of dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles and even fruits and vegetables adorn the processions' path.
Due to its popularity amongst tourists and its very well developed
tourism infrastructure, Antigua Guatemala is often used as a central location in which many choose to set up base. Cruise ships that dock at Guatemalan ports offer trips to Antigua from both the Pacific and Atlantic.
Antigua also holds a sizeable retirement community from the US as well as Europe as its colonial charm and mild climate has appealed to many who have crossed paths with this enchanting and romantic town.  Some rent apartments, others have purchased villas. 

One US lady has set up her business in Antigua.  She arranges a package deal, combining transportation to/from US to Antigua/Guatemala, hospital stay and then recuperation all at an affordable price. Many US residents come here for everything from a gall bladder operation to hip surgery to a facelift; a whole lot less expensive that doing so in the states. Her business is growing by leaps and bounds.
Antigua is also known for its chocolate makers. At the Choco Museo Antigua (Chocolate Museum and Workshop), visitors can learn how the Mayas used cacao, and  you can even make your own recipe for chocolate inside the artisan factory.  They sell chocolate in many forms; a tea, and even chocolate condoms!!!

Hope to return to Antigua en route to Lake Atilan next time.  It is a lovely place.  The only downer for me was that after going out for a fancy dinner I ended up with food poisoning.  It was not fun and I lost two days out of our week. 
We are still working our way through the cosmetic stuff on the boat, but hope to make another inland trip and go to Lake Atilan next time.
Stay tuned!