Here I am, after a night and day of travel, enjoying my pretty little hotel in Antigua, Casa Encantada. The airport was efficient and the driver was waiting as promised, he was relatively restrained and the road was reasonably wide so no hair-raising moments yet, though I´m sure they will come later in the trip.
Antigua is an enjoyable colonial town set deep in a valley with green-clad mountains ringing it. My room is reached from the sitting room of the hotel through a flooded courtyard garden on stepping stones :) It has a lovely rooftop terrace where one can sip drinks while gazing out over the town. And a house computer with wireless, hence the blog!
Today I fought off the urge to sleep though I was too tired once I got here to do anything much useful – I wandered out into Central Park and enjoyed the people and the warmth, browsed through the shops, and explored some neighboring streets.
Odd impressions – the beautiful central square was ringed with expensive shops and banks, hence many more men with guns than I am used to seeing – mostly private guards I gathered, for the banks and shops. I dodged the men with guns and got some money from an ATM, and spent some time poring over an interesting jade shop.
This is apparently a very famous area for jade and they did have many fine specimens, though more worked into fancy jewelry than I prefer. There are very unusual colors here, light lavender, orange, yellow, and all shades of green, red, and black. The salesman did a great job interesting me and even gave me unworked specimens in a little Guatemalan purse, but I did not buy anything – I am told the market is very good at Pantajachel where I am going next and I expect the prices will be lower.
I next went in search of trees, as Antigua is remarkably birdless. This is not too surprising if you just glance at the contrast between the town and the surrounding hillsides, no self-respecting bird would prefer the town (other than the ubiquitous white-winged doves which are the rock doves of Latin America). However, I could see an area with trees so I headed off in that direction.
Of course, it turned out to be a private gated community, with tantalizing trees over high walls. Everything in these Spanish towns is like that – all the good stuff is in courtyards behind high walls with enormous polished wooden doors. Someday I want to have one of those lovely courtyards with exotic plants, hammocks, arches and shaded areas with outdoor living. Further down the road I found that another area with trees was a coffee plantation.
On the other side, I finally saw an open gate and went through it, to find a large nursery. This was interesting, I wandered around it for a while, looking at exotic irises and fruit trees, until I came to the coffee plants and realized you could grow your own coffee :) Now that would be a fun project – but extremely complicated to actually make coffee, as I understand.
I had a simple dinner at the cafe there and headed back to the hotel for a nap, getting up later to try to stay up late enough to get back on the right schedule. Tomorrow I´m going to get up in those hills one way or another :) I talked with some people at the rooftop bar about places to go – coffee plantations, musical instrument museum, churches and hotels on the hills with great views of the town. I also need to buy some disposable cameras and take some pictures or my Mom will kill me!