After a 12-hour drive through the mountains of southern Mexico and into Guatemala, over breathtaking but narrow zigzagging mountain roads (the so-called “PanAmerican highway”), we arrived in the first colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua, losing our original B&B reservation because both our Mexican cell phones expired as we tried to confirm it. We ended up in a lovely hotel with a courtyard and pool, and surrounded by two volcanoes; we decided to make these two days a “vacation within the vacation,” reading, blogging, and swimming.
Both of us had been here last in 1974, John with Elizabeth on their way to Panama and their South Pacific sailing adventure, and Deborah with Bob studying Spanish. So there were memories as well as changes, but the magical colonial architectural charm and historically earth-quake devastated churches persist.
We enjoyed meals in ancient structures, one where the maître d’ took us on a tour up to the rooftops, insisting on taking tons of romantic photos of us in the moonlight…!
John ventured out toward one of the volcanoes, determined to hike up the mountain, but ran into some obstacles. First he took the wrong way for a long way up and down the steep hillsides overlooking the town. Then on the right road, he managed to turn the wrong way yet again. Finally directed by locals, up and down more hills, the pavement turned to dirt, rocks, dust and deep pot holes.
Now far from town and high up the volcano, he noticed that he was almost out of gas. As the road improved further on, he assumed there must be a gas station ahead. Luckily it was mostly downhill, so he sort of coasted down the required 15 K + for a fill-up. No time for climbing, but an exciting adventure…!
Antigua is also known for its amazing artisan work, and we were drawn into immense shops with artifacts and piles of old huipiles (woven blouses worn by Indigenous women, even more now as a sign of resistance to western cultural intrusion/imperialism per Deborah). But our best introduction to the central art of weaving in Guatemala came from our visit out to the community of San Antonio Aguas Calientes where Deborah had taken hip-strap weaving lessons 41 years ago. There we found women weaving at their booths in the central market, as they softly tried to convince us that they could offer us a special deal. We came away with samples of this town’s style as well as stories from the two women who had woven them.