View of Lake Atitlan and Volcans Atitlan, San Pedro & Toliman from the shore of Panajachel.
Since I’ve been here in Antigua I’ve made two short trips to Lake Atitlan. The first trip was only for an afternoon and included a 40 minute cruise around the lake. The second time I stayed for three nights and three days. The first two nights I stayed in the Mayan village of Santa Catarina with a friend and her Mayan family.
the multi-million dollar view
Now, when I say I stayed with her family that really is quite the understatement. The house I stayed in was where her parents live. Next to this house was her brother’s house. On another side was her uncle’s house. Another side, her father’s shop, Turn in another direction and there was another brother’s small shop. It was more of a surprise to turn a direction and not see a relative or a relative’s home. I guess that’s how they roll here. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to stay here in Antigua a while longer. Why have I decided to do such a thing? After all, my initial plan entailed flying into Mexico City and heading south until I reached Panama City. So, what happened?
Even before I began my trip I believed that I would be able to enrich my trip by studying Spanish. I always planned to stay somewhere for a few weeks to study. Well, after studying for 3 weeks I realized that I wanted more. That is, I wanted my Spanish to be to the point where I could have long conversations with people who only spoke Spanish. In order to get to that point I need to study A LOT MORE. I’m thinking at least 3-4 months. Will I be able to study for 3-4 months? I’m not so sure. At this point I’m not sure exactly how long I will stay here in Antigua, but I do know it will be until at least May 15th.
When I set out on this journey I made sure that my itinerary was flexible. Now that I realize I need a better understanding of Spanish to make my trip turn out the way I want it to be I’m going to exercise that flexibility and stay put in order to study. I may have to adapt my lifestyle here to do it, but I have to prioritize correctly to make my vision a reality. Buenas dias!
Last week I showed you the preview for a trip I took to Rio de Janeiro in April 2009. This week I present to you a short film giving a more inside look into the fun times that were had in “the Marvelous City”. Check it out…
Back in April 2009, I spent 10 days in Rio de Janeiro with some friends. It was our first visit to Brazil and Rio definitely lived up to it’s title as “The Marvelous City.” We did most of the typical tourist activities you would expect. We took the tram up Sugar Loaf Mountain. We went to the world famous Maracana stadium for a local derby match between Flamengo and Fluminense. We saw Christ the Redeemer up close and personal. We even visited a favela, once for a party and again on an organized walking tour. Another memorable experience was hangliding for the first time ever. The five of us also hung out on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema and absorbed the abundant nightlife in places like Lapa. It was an action-packed trip that left me truly exhausted, but more importantly immensely thrilled.
On the northeast side of Antigua sits Cerro de la Cruz, or Hill of the Cross. It’s a steep 15-20 minute walk up the hill on a paved walkway with stairs. I walked up the hill with my Spanish teacher one day around 3pm and noticed a tourist police officer stationed at the bottom of the hill. It is not recommended to walk up here on your own as the hill was known for muggings. The tourist police of Antigua was formed because of the muggings here. Supposedly since the forming of the tourist police no tourist muggings have occurred here.
Once you reach the Cross you have a panoramic view of the city and also of Volcan Agua to the south of Antigua.
the view from the hill of Antigua with Volcan Agua in the distance
During Lent here in Antigua, Guatemala there are a lot of street Processions. Before the Processions begin, local families and businesses create an alfombra, which is Spanish for the word carpet. These “carpets” are placed in the middle of the cobblestone streets to soon be trampled by the oncoming Processions. These Alfombras are made from differing materials such as flowers, dyed sawdust, pine needles, fruits, vegetables and more. The life of an alfombra is usually a short one, for some as little as an hour or two. Nonetheless, for such a short existence they make quite an impression…
The grandest holiday in Guatemala is Easter and the week preceeding Easter, Semana Santa. Hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the colonial town of Antigua to be a part of the festivities. A primary feature of the festivities are the Processions in the streets. The parades actually take place every weekend for the five weeks leading up to Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The climax of the celebration would be Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday. During Semana Santa the whole of Antigua is packed but especially on Thursday and Friday.
Hours before the parade people prepare alfombras, or carpets, in the middle of the streets. These “carpets” line the path of the Procession. They are made of pine needles, dyed sawdust and other organic materials such as flowers, fruits and vegetables. The alfombras are usually made by an extended family or local businesses. Some take several people and hours of work to complete. The existence of an alfombra is a short one as hours after their completion they are trampled over by the Procession. As the parade draws near people line the sides of the streets staking out their spot.
One of the surprising pleasures of my time in Mexico and Guatemala has been the beautiful central plazas and parks in each city. Parque Central in Antigua is no different. The park is a hub of activity and perhaps sets the tone of daily life in the city. The park is resplendent and features some noteworthy buildings.
On the south side the Captain-Generals’ Palace dominates the horizon. It was the political center of all of Central America from Chiapas, Mexico down to Costa Rica until 1773. My Spanish teacher said that “without this building Antigua just wouldn’t be Antigua.”
The island of Flores is so small that any place to stay on the island will probably do. That being said you may want to shop around for a place or a room with a view that you prefer. I stayed 4 nights at Hotel Casa Del Lacandon. The rooms were definitely cramped and the beds were not the most comfortable, but the price was right. I shared a small room with two single beds and private bathroom for less than $7 each. I also stayed in another cramped room for two nights on my own for $9 per night. A few of the rooms in the rear had great views of the lake. If you didn’t have a room with a view you were only steps away from a magnificent view from the terrace.
The showers had plenty of hot water and the wifi was reliable. These two things, along with the spectacular terrace view make Hotel Casa Del Lacandon a nice budget option for backpackers. The owners are nice and also speak a little English. They offer laundry service and meals at the terrace cafe. I needed a place to store my computer the day I visited Tikal and the owner kept it locked up in his room. Not an ideal place in my mind, but it was my best option at the time and it worked out well in the end.