La Antigua

antigua guatemala

Framed by three volcanoes, one of which can be seen puffing out clouds of smoke above the colored rooftops, La Antigua Guatemala is a picturesque town located about an hour’s drive from the country’s capital.  With beautiful vistas at every turn, it’s one of the most visited towns in Guatemala as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Central America.  Like Cuernavaca in Mexico, Antigua is nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring for it’s near perfect climate.  The town is a mix of amazing architecture, ancient ruins, stunning churches, countless language schools and a cosmopolitan array of restaurants, cafés and shops. 

Despite all of  it’s modernity, Antigua, like San Cristóbal de las Casas, is deeply embedded in the world of the modern Maya.  People in colorful traditional dress crowd the streets carrying baskets on the tops of their heads, babies strapped to their backs with pieces of cloth.  Indigenous artisan’s markets can be found next door to high end clothing stores.  Outdoor tortilla stands crowd the streets in front of fancy restaurants and five star hotels.  And repainted schoolbuses commonly referred to as chicken buses belch out thick clouds of black smoke as they bounce up and down the cobblestone streets.  Not surprisingly, they always manage to fit another person in alongside the others already crowded into the aisles, hanging from the doorways and occasionally lounging on the rooftop luggage racks.

It’s been just over six months since we left the U.S. and slightly less since we packed our bags and began traveling.  Here in Antigua we’ve rented a room in a guesthouse with a communal kitchen that doubles as an dining and entertainment space.  Several times throughout the week bus-loads of tourists arrive, the people running the guesthouse prepare meals and mariachi bands show up to provide the entertainment.  We’ve spent several evenings enjoying the music from our room on the second floor while waiting for our turn to use the kitchen.  I’ve taken advantage of the fact that we’re hanging around here for a few weeks leading up to the incredible Semana Santa celebrations and enrolled in language classes at Cooperación Spanish School.  And in addition to becoming more accustomed to the differences in culture and lifestyle, it appears that my Spanish is finally beginning to improve, finally!

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