Our Central America tour (21): Antigua

On Tuesday, we had a late start of 9.30 am (oh, joy) for a tour of Antigua or, to use its full name, La Antigua Guatemala. Our guide Sandra lives here so, she was on home territory.

This was Spain’s capital for all of the middle Americas until an epic earthquake of 1773 led to an official decision to abandon the city and create a new capital at Guatemala City. It is one of the oldest and loveliest cities in the Americas, characterised by cobbled stone streets, arched colonnades, and so many pretty doorways, windows, arches and courtyards that the place is a photographer’s dream. Vee & Roger fell in live with this colonial city.

Sandra took us first to the Merced Church which is built in a style of architecture called “seismic Baroque”. The adjoining covent has a large fountain surrounded by cloisters and an upper floor which provides fabulous views of this picturesque city overlooked by Volcan Agua. In the church itself, a recording of sacred music was playing quietly which made it very atmospheric.

Then we strolled round to 5 Avenida which is a million miles away culturally and architecturally from New York’s Fifth Avenue. It is a narrow cobbled street with shops and cafés all along and Maya street vendors selling small quantities of fruits, vegetables or craftwork. At one point, a white arch joins the two sides of the street.

Next we went round to the old cathedral, virtually obliterated by earthquakes but preserved for visitors. In the grounds, we saw a newly-wed couple about to be photographed in the grounds and were excited to find that the photographer was an American called Marie whom Roger had befriended on the aircraft from Flores to Guatemala City. Finally we were taken round to see a jade factory and showroom. Vee fancied a lilac jade necklace but changed her mind when she found that it cost £240.

About 12.15 pm, Sandra left us to spend a couple of hours on our own, looking around and having lunch. Roger & Vee returned to 5 Avenida and found a wonderful Mexican cafe cum restaurant called “Fridas”. It was themed around the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo with pictures of or by her on the menu and all the walls and even in the toilets. The food was good too.

All too soon, it was time to leave Antigua to drive to our next hotel. So at 2.40 pm, we headed west and climbed up to the highlands with their terraced farming, stopping for a break at Tecpan, driving through boisterous Solala, and finally arriving at our destination at 6 pm. Our arrival point was the town of Panajachel (named after a local fruit called ajachel) on the north-east shore of Lago de Atitlan. Here we stayed at the Regis Hotel, another example of chalet-type accommodation. For the second time on this holiday, we were staying in a fifth different hotel in five consecutive nights. In fact, Roger & Vee ate at the hotel with delightful members of our group, Christine & Charmian.


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