"To Guate and Back - Parte Uno"
Hola todos! I have returned from the land of Guatemalan-ness. Ok, I've been back for over a week and I apologize in advance, Facebook friends, that you've probably already seen these pics. But what a fabulous, much-needed trip I had! It was short, sweet, and jam-packed full of stuff so I'll get to it...
First of all, Guatemala doesn't seem like it's that far away on a map, but the plane ride is about 7-8 hours. I know you're thinking, "But you flew to KOREA, many times!!" But the difference was drugs. I, unlike Meeka, didn't drug myself for it because I knew I'd be groggy. But in hindsight, I think a little grogginess would've been better than white-knuckling it during the turbulence. I'm still a crappy flier. So we arrived in Guatemala City after a short flight delay. This is not one of those English-friendly places either. Everyone spoke to us as if we knew Spanish and that was an adjustment for sure. I haven't been bombarded with the language since 2004. We exited the terminal and it was mass chaos. People crowded behind rickety gates yelling for familia, cabbies offering up rides to No Man's Land as if it were a seedy, red light district proposition, and Meeka and I looking starry-eyed amidst it all. I'd forgotten my contacts back home, Meeka is half-blind anyway, and my glasses are pretty old so I couldn't see the designated sign with my name on it. I sensed that people thought we were crazy because we walked carefully from cabbie-to-cabbie, squinting at the signs for a glimpse of recognition. Once we finally found it, we were whisked off, leaving behind the madness of the city.
Along the hour ride to Antigua, I was reminded of my initial landing in Guadalajara all those years ago. I was just excited to be in a new country, experiencing somebody else's culture. We passed by some U.S. staples like Chuck E. Cheese, a mall with a Zara, Burger King, and big car dealerships. But on the whole, Guate City felt much like Manila and what I imagine other crowded, developing countries feel like - kinda dirty and dangerous, like there's a seedy underbelly lurking around the corner. The Guatemalan government is concerned about crime, poverty, public safety and a host of other issues. So it's not so surprising that pollution from fuel emissions ranks low on the priority list. I fully understand it, but it didn't make inhaling black smog any more enjoyable. I was kind of thankful to escape the city.....and boy, did we escape!
In one word, Antigua is adorable. It is rustic, beautiful and cushioned perfectly between ancient volcanos. It is a sublime backdrop for love and romance, fit for a lavish wedding. Instantly, I thought of those historical romance novels I'd always read prematurely - the cobblestoned streets (which are dangerous in flats and heels alike), the rainbow-colored buildings, the handwoven arts and crafts all contributed to the overwhelming sense that this town had been perfectly preserved since 1524. Natural disasters hadn't destroyed the natural beauty. Our hotel, the Meson Panza Verde, seemed to be carved from the middle of a rainforest. It was that lush and tropical-feeling.
**in the hotel lobby**
So, we dropped our things and went in search of food and souvenirs. We found a cute, nearly abandoned restaurant called Cielo. It was quite large and our waiter treated us like we'd just peed on her leg, but the food was remarkable!
**Having lunch at Cielo**
We walked along the streets, snapping pictures. Went to a few different markets and browsed around. The woven fabrics are very typically Guatemalan so I bought a picture frame and a change purse. I even sat in a Jesus-shaped chair. I probably would've bought it if it had matched my decor. I can imagine the awkward conversation at my housewarming:
Me: Hi! So glad you could make it! Make yourself comfortable...
Guest: Oh, thanks! **looks for a seat** Umm...is that, uh, is that Jesus?
Me: Why, yes! It's a souvenir from Guatemala! Nifty huh??
Guest: **laughs nervously** Yeah, uh, where's your bathroom?
Me: Straight back, first door on the left. I also bought a matching Jesus toilet seat so He'll know if you're full of sh*t!
Guest: **praying quietly to leave**
You know, I'm not trying to be that one. So I passed on the Jesus chair. :) But did take a pic!
Rustic buildings along La Quinta Avenida (5th Ave)...I believe they are Mayan ruins.
***Hanging out with my friend, Ti, in her hotel suite (at the same hotel)***
Her room was massive with high ceilings and a bathroom that I wouldn't be ashamed to sleep in. I'm not kidding...
**Cute carvings in a shop window**
The rest of the day and night, we had dinner at a Guatemalan restaurant. Three people can eat very well, very cheaply in Antigua including a bottle of wine. I was quite pleased with day one....on to day 2...and dirty mules! :)
"To Guate and Back - Parte Dos"
Let's pretend there wasn't a 5-week delay between these posts k?! Where was I? Oh yes, so the second day in Guate, we woke up semi-early (meaning Meeka woke up at 6 because of some allergy-related attack and I slept obliviously til 9) to have breakfast at the adorable dining room. This little abuela made tamales and served us fresh juice and fruit. She was precious!!
**The rooftop terrace of our hotel**
So after breakfast, we decided to walk to the local coffee plantation. It didn't seem that far, but walking 2.5 miles down dusty roads in 90-degree weather has a way of tiring you out. Along the way, we passed gorgeous mountains, brightly-colored buildings, and a bustling market. All very picturesque.
**on the way to the coffee plantation, Finca Filadelfia**
**outside the plantation**
Naturally, whenever Meeka and I get together, we have to do some random things. Seeing a coffee plantation is nothing to write home about...but seeing it on the back of a recalcitrant donkey? Well, that's a story your grandkids will be begging you to tell over and over again. Oh, yes. So, they named all the donkeys after democratic presidents and their wives. Meeka's was Jackie O. and I chose Hillary. Something should've told me that she would be especially stubborn, but I threw caution to the wind. Hell, I was in Guatemala! After getting directions from Esteban about how to handle Hillary, I thought there wouldn't be any problems. Pull the string to the left and that's the way she goes...up will make her stop and so on. Easy right??
**ready to ride!**
**all smiles...for now!**
Not even 10 minutes into the tour, this crazy donkey is apparently starving and keeps stopping off on the side of the road to eat weeds. I'm thinking, "Hmmm, ok...well just this once is okay..." But NO, that heifer takes off galloping through the fields in search of MORE FOOD!!! I'm flailing and waving my arms, trying to pull up to make her stop and she is completely ignoring me. Esteban and the other kid who was helping us were trying to corral her back to the pathway and I could only shriek in terror as I imagined her pitching me onto the rocky road below. Now, you may be wondering why there are no pictures of this incident and that's because Meeka was laughing way too hard to snap any. I, obviously, was trying not to die. For the rest of the ride, I was terrified that she was going to flip out again. When you're 6,000 feet up a mountain, the last thing you wanna think about is your donkey going buckwild. Simply put, she was a jerk. A hungry jerk at that. I guess I can check that off my list though! So, if you ever go to Antigua and do a plantation tour by donkey-back, DON'T ride Hillary. Part 3...la boda! :)
**stopped for a break, volcano smoking in the back**
"To Guate and Back - Parte Tres"
My friend had an evening wedding and to say this was the most elaborate wedding I'd ever witnessed would be a gross understatement. It was beautiful, immaculate, and a ton of fun.
**at our hotel, ready to head out**
**the grounds of Casa Santo Domingo, where the wedding was held**
**two of my coworkers...the altar and ceremony were inside Guatemalan ruins**
**a little blurry but you get the idea!**
**the beautiful bride and her father**
The ceremony was traditionally Roman Catholic, with a lot of "amens", kneeling, praying, and even communion! It was also in Spanish. I understood most of it, but I definitely blanked out on some parts because I would get engrossed in my surroundings. Many times I would just stop and think, "Wow, I'm in Guatemala...sitting inside of ancient ruins...at a wedding!" It was quite an experience and I enjoyed every minute.
**the happily married couple!**
Right after the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour where mojitos and fruity drinks flowed like rivers. I believe this is formally referred to as Heaven.
**I totally broke up their conversation to snap a pic...so many good-looking people in one place! And they actually ended up sitting at our table anyway, go figure!**
The reception was even better!! Equally splendid, it was held in the same hotel but in a huge banquet hall. The food was served buffet style with a pasta station, meat carving station, salad, side dishes and everything in between. I definitely had seconds...maybe thirds!
The live band was great, too! They played a lot of Latin music which got folks moving. Meeka put the moves on a
**even I joined the conga line!**
Later in the evening, there was a Michael Jackson impersonator and a tequila fountain! What more could you ask for?! It was a great way to end the night and the weekend! So if you decide to visit Antigua, don't wear heels and don't mess with Hillary the mule. That is all. :)
**a fountain of tequila**