October 21st and 22nd, 2011
The ride from Xela to Antigua was on the Pan-American highway. When I planned my route I was hit and miss on the Pan American, and had actually planned to avoid it in Guatemala and Honduras, picking it up again just before Nicaragua mainly because the roads were supposed to get worse. But after the heavy rains, and at the tail end of the rainy season, roads that weren’t the PanAm were covered in mudslides and avalanches (the main difference seeming to be the number of rocks).
Look at the top of the bus.
So I was way off my planned route and just making things up as I went along. And the next thing on my list of made up things was Antigua Guatemala.
Antigua is a world heritage site, mainly because of how it has managed to preserve it’s buildings. There are ruins of several old churches, and lots of examples of Baroque architecture. My first impression was the cobblestone roads.
They weren’t exactly a joy to ride on, and the idea of traffic lanes hadn’t occurred to most of the drivers either.
Antigua is well known for it’s language schools, and when I stopped to get my bearings on the public square I was approached by several people asking if I was there to learn Spanish. Most of them went away when I asked about a hotel, but I got a couple of offers for them too.
Since it was still early I went to see if I could find somewhere on my own, and wandered up and down the streets looking for a hotel with a garage. I didn’t have much luck, but did see one with a motorcycle parked in it’s atrium and stopped there.
After some negotiation I got the price down from $50USD to $35 (Just about all the prices in Antigua, or at least the old part of town I was in, were listed in USD) and got a room at the San Sebastian Hotel.
To say the place was nice is something of an understatement. Lonely Planet actually recommends it as the place to splurge on a nicer room, and lists the prices even higher. Yay for off season, I guess. The owner was extremely friendly, encouraging, and full of suggestions when asked (and kept them to himself when he wasn’t, a rare combination). Even at the price (By comparison Hostels were around $10, and there was even free rough camping near the police station) I would stay there again.
With a room arranged I went for a walk around town. My first day was also my four month on the road anniversary, and I was looking for somewhere nice for dinner. This was trickier than you would think, since everywhere seemed nice. I should have seen the pattern and gone the other way –
but instead kept looking for something upscale.
There was a lot to see, and a lot going on even for off season.
He didn’t do the “Trapped in a box” thing or I would have punched him in the face.
Of course, I was looking for dinner. I settled for an Italian place and the Lasagna.
It had carrots in, which struck me as odd but tasted okay and I counted it as an extra helping of veggies.
After dinner I went back to the square, where night had completely fallen
Am amazing amount of the conversation was in English, so much that it didn’t really feel like I was out of the country. Expect the show-shine boys who were constantly asking to polish my boots. I really should have said yes, just to support the local economy some, but it was hard to pay to have my boots clean when they would be dirty again 20 minutes up the road.
I did also find this-
a plaque for L Ron Hubbard. No one really seems to know why there is such a thing, tucked into the public square in Antigua, but this was a popular place from Christian Scientists for a while and perhaps some are still hanging about. I spent some time trying to find out but didn’t really get anywhere.
I went back to the hotel and decided to stay an extra day to work on the blog and relax. Okay, I wanted to go and hike up to one of the volcanoes around Antigua
But was told there wasn’t any tours that day. The weather, or perhaps something to do with the light ash that fell from the sky all day. So I worked on the blog.
and generally slacked off. I had a coupon for dinner, which wasn’t particularly memorable, and watched the sunset.