Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Christmas in Antigua

It certainly wasn’t a white Christmas this year for me although is was bit chillier than I had planned. I have friends from high school who are working with a non-profit organization (www.semillasparafuturo.org) helping the villagers of Chocolรก to become self-sufficient in their cacao, coffee and vegetable farming and it was my pleasure to visit them for a few days of R&R. I flew to Guatemala City, arriving late at night where upon I immediately had a chance to practice my high school Spanish with my driver, Ernesto, who drove me to Antigua, the former colonial capital of Guatemala.

During my 45 minute midnight drive, I learned my favorite new word: "bacho," which is pothole in Spanish. I was to find this word to be very helpful over the next week of traveling local roads both major and minor.

The city of Antigua has so many beautiful courtyards, churches and haciendas full of smiling locals happy to help the touristas. Their central plaza is a town gathering place and sitting there with a coffee from the soda fountain shoppe nearby was a constant source of entertainment as we watched the world go by. As you can see from some of my photos, I got involved in buying a few gifts for friends back home, practicing my bargaining techniques at the same time.

My stay at the Hotel Casa de Don Pedro was another treat (www.hotellacasadedonpedro.com). Benjamin and Cecilia Villegas are most hospitable and friendly and their lovely hacienda has comfortable rooms with lots of outdoor seating area to enjoy the lovely gardens and view of Fuego in the distance. If you want to learn more Spanish, talk with Benjamin and he can arrange a tutor for your stay or just converse with you and help you enjoy you stay even more.

If you have a few days to spare, I recommend at least 3 nights in Antigua for a wonderful experience that can include hiking, biking, exploring churches and marketplaces galore. It was wonderful to be able to experience the people and culture through the eyes of friends, new and old, in such a beautiful country with so much history. I look forward to returning later this spring to work on my Spanish and watch Fuego spew more plumes of ash.

I highly recommend Guatemala to those looking to explore any of the many countries south of the border!

Below are just a few of my favorite photos from the trip.