Monthly Archive for December, 2007

Guatemala, Day 3 – Antigua

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. This is Day 3 of my 9 Day account.

jades.jpgWe get up late (by comparison), maybe 9:30. We go over to a store named Jades, and pick up some gifts. Later we stop by an outdoor market. Looking at what they charge at the bazaar, I wonder if I was ripped off. We start the day off slow, visiting Casa Santo Domingo, a former monastery converted to a luxury hotel (how is that for a commentary on man’s transition from worship of God to worship of the Almighty Dollar). The ruins are impressive, including an open air altar with 50 foot ceilings.

window.jpgaltar.jpgcrypt.jpg

e_bell.jpgWe then head over to Antigua Tours, and meet the illustrious Elizabeth Bell, an Antiguan tour guide and travel agent who has been called one of the best tour guides ever. She sets us up instantly and painlessly with a coffee tour, volcano tour, and hotel for our next stop, Panajachel. Elizabeth shows consummate grace under the time pressure my buddy has all but conjured. She’s one fine lady. I wish we would have had time to go on one of her legendary tours, but alas, it is Sunday.

urquizu.jpgcart.jpgWe eat lunch at a local haunt called Cuevita de los Urquizu. The aroma from the curries is irresistible. The food is fantastic, probably the best we had in Guatemala. We wait at about 2pm for the shuttle to take us to the coffee tour, but it never comes. Elizabeth had given us her home number if we ran into problems (how amazing is that!) and I took advantage of it to get her to compel the tour operator to properly retrieve us. After a long hour, we are picked up for the tour.

plantation.jpgcoffeebeans.jpgJosue, our guide at the tour, is terrific. Because it is Sunday, we cannot see the farm and the machinery in action, but it is interesting nonetheless, since I have never even seen a coffee bean before. The coffee they serve is black without sugar, but it tastes as though it has milk and sugar, it’s that good. The sun sets behind the Acatenango volcano as we head back towards Antigua.

We walk around Antigua at dusk, taking in an early evening mass (they LOVE them some God here). Later, we stumble into a wine/cigar shop, where I pick up a Cuban to smoke in the central square (Parque Central). We reminisce about our college days, a bittersweet pasttime. Afterwards, we have a great meal at Fonda de la Calles. There, we run into Marty, a former Pan Am stewardess who we met at the wine shop. She does social work with kids who live in Guatemala’s dumps. After a big dinner and a bottle of wine, we turn in for another early morning to see the volcano.

Guatemala, Day 2 – Tikal

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. This is Day 2 of my 9 Day account.

The alarm goes off obnoxiously at 4:30 am. Defiant, we sleep in at first. When I finally wake up to check the time, I nearly have a heart attack when I see it is 6:15 (our flight is at 6:30!). Adrenaline rushes then ebbs as I realize that we are on Central Time.

We make it to the flight. The security process is far more civil than in New York, highlighted by the fact that there is a large, dedicated “recovery area” where you can at least sit down and put your shoes back on. Flying on a regional airline, we realize that air travel is a much bigger deal to people from Guatemala. What is a frustrating means to an end for us is a wonder to them. We sleep for most of the short plane ride to Flores, then deplane for a shuttle to Tikal.

We climb the ruins, which are a bitch. They are pretty impressive, though. After walking around for 4 hours, I ask my friend how long he thinks we’ve walked. He estimates 1.5 miles and I am incredulous. I say we must have been doing at least 20 minute miles. I invent the concept of the “exertion-adjusted mile,” and calculate that we must have done around 7-10 miles!

2108816104_7b5172bbb5_b.jpg

Deathtrap!Sprouting2109108684_a32d2607ed_b.jpgLater, we ascend an absolute deathtrap. My friend asserts that this

is the best part of the trip. I learn that I am acutely afraid of death. Not heights, so much as falling to my death. Tikal is amazing, a civilization sprouting thousands of years ago from the jungle. The imagery of huge stone temples poking out from the treetops is very symbolic.

That night we return to Guatemala City, then to the former capital of Antigua, which is beautiful. Mariachi sing, and children are so pervasive, you’d think it was Disneyland. We stay at Quinta de las Flores, which is way too far from the action of the central square. Though Quinta is beautiful, in retrospect, Casa Azul would have been a better choice due to the location. We have steak and wine at El Sereno, which is just ok considering the high price. Afterwards, we go to Riki’s for a drink – it’s a lot smokier than any bar in New York but you can’t get a michelada in New York either.

Guatemala, Day 1 – Arrival in Guatemala City

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. This is Day 1 of my 9 Day account.

cncl_martinez_a.jpgFlying out of LaGuardia to Miami. Sat next to a councilman from Washington Heights named Miguel giving a proclamation to a Dominican organization. Turns out he is a pretty prominent Dominican city politician. Glad I gave him my business card! We talked politics, mostly about the illegal alien drivers licence issue.

My Miami flight to Guatemala City was delayed. I finally arrive at Hotel Otelito, Hotel Otelitoand enjoy a great steak, with frijoles and black beans at the in house restaurant. The tortilla soup was pretty good too. Otelito is highly recommended by Lonely Planet, as a “boutique hotel.” My travel buddy arrives a little later on and we wander around Zona 10, which is where all the town’s hot nightspots are. We settle on Panagea for drinks. Everyone is very attractive, young, and very white, which surprises us. We are almost completely ignored but we have fun anyway. We call it an early night because we have to get up impossibly early tomorrow for a flight to Flores.