Winding Down to Antigua

It’s our last full day in Guatemala as we make the winding trek down from the highlands of the Mayan Indians to the Colonial city of Antigua; a stark contrast from where we’ve been.

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On the way we make an unofficial stop at an enormous coffee plantation. The red beans are ready for harvest and to make their way to Starbucks (that uses predominately Guatemalan beans). Our driver thinks he knows a way we can “sneak” onto the plantation (and not pay the exorbitant fee charged by the “Gringo” owner for a “touristy” tour). Unfortunately we are stopped by a guard, but get to see enough.

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Our first sight in Antigua; the church Merced de Antigua (Convent of the Mercy). It was first built in 1548 and subsequently destroyed twice in the earthquakes of 1717 and 1773.

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The church has been restored beautifully as you can see by this view overlooking the courtyard.

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Looking in the other direction from the balcony you get a great view of a truly active volcano (part of that cloud is actually steam that is almost always rising from the crater. If you look closely, you can see a lava flow toward the left side.

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The convent also has a ton of avocado trees like this one full of ripe fruit. We’ve never had better avocados than at meals here. When they are part of a dish, you don’t just get a few pieces, you are served at least an enormous half or more. You can probably see Marsha salivating.

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A main street in Antigua, influenced by colonial Spain and now a very wealthy city. Those humble looking storefronts contain some of the finest and most expensive hand-work of the Mayans and designer “stuff” from around the world. We also take a look (a look only) in the jade factory. Spectacular stones and stories. Factoid: the upper class Mayans showed their wealth and power by drilling into their teeth and inlaying pieces of jade. Ouch.

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Nice use of old ox carts.

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Gullible? The joke works on Marsha and fellow-traveler, Wendy. They believe us when we say the un-restored building behind is our hotel for the night.

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This really is the beautifully restored luxury hotel (Casa Santo Domingo) that once was the immense monastery of the same name. They serve a spectacular lunch. I have the pleasure of another Pipian, this time with beef and big chunks of local vegetables. Can’t wait to make it at home.

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Wandering the hotel grounds after lunch we discover this local artisan who produces some of the most beautiful weaving in all of Guatemala. It’s fitting for a hotel that charges up to $4,000 a nite for some of it’s rooms. We find a beautiful main chapel area set up for a wedding that night. Can’t imagine the cost, but can imagine the guests we see staying there not too worried about the bill.

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The gorgeous grounds of the hotel have been tastefully restored into a cultural zone including several small museums, subterranean crypts, artisans’ workshops, exhibitions of local textiles and crafts, and an art exhibition space. What a great place to wander.

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The museum of Maya art and modern glass in the complex exhibits Maya artifacts and ceramics with contemporary glass-works influenced by them — a wild, but terrific concept that certainly works for us.

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Look closely at the threads and intricate weaving being produced on this traditional back-strap loom. It takes week upon week to complete one of her spectacular woven pieces.

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Marsha makes a last run at the local market. It’s pretty pedestrian with no special goods to offer. But full of spectacular color and beautiful faces. Some things you just don’t have to pay for.

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Like I said….

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The town square is famous for its fountain with water streaming from women’s breasts. We don’t ask why.

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Some young girls in beautiful local dress walk away as we start getting ready for our departure from Guatemala tomorrow morning. It was a wonderful, and memorable trip. We are so happy you could join us…. By the way, we stop in Miami on the way home. We’ll be spending almost a week there visiting some relatives and exploring some new sights and some places we haven’t been in years. If you’re interested, check out the final blog of this trip with some highlights of our stay.

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1 Response to Winding Down to Antigua

  1. rhoda says:

    THANK YOU! Rhoda

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