We piled into the Honda Pilot and headed to the Guatemala border. They seemed to have changed the rules because now we all have to get out of the car on both sides of the border. A few weeks earlier, only I had to get out with the passports. I complained to the desk guy and then spoke with the supervisor who said it was an interim program and they were going to streamline it soon. I was a bit pissed off that we all had to get out of the car and go inside while we saw several cars just drive through.
Crossing the border into Guatemala
There was more construction this time but we weren’t delayed very long. Going through Guatemala City, we stopped at the Pricesmart to look for stuff not available in El Salvador and then a Toyota dealership to look for car parts for a friend. Then down the mountain into Antigua. I had booked my friends into a nice little hotel http://www.hotelentrevolcanes.com/index.php which was right in front of the market. Nice place (although you may want to avoid the rooms overlooking the streets since it can get noisy in the morning) and great staff. Whenever we had to ask for something, the answer was always "yes". From staying out late to smoking cigars in the garden to checking out really late to leaving my car in their lot to having extra people for breakfast, they were always completely accommodating.
First floor of the Hotel Entre Volcanes
We met up with our friend Sandy who had been studying at the Christian Spanish Academy (not particularly religious but very professional) and doing a homestay. Hotels in Antigua are quite pricey at about $70 + per night but the homestays are really cheap - around $120 per week which includes all meals.
We did the usual ... shopping in the market for clothes for the kids, white belts, woven goods. Ate at the restaurant in front of the market (Restarante de los Antiguenos?) which has really good and inexpensive local favourites. I had the white bean stew with tortillas ... and a giant Gallo beer.
I stashed my stuff at Michael’s place and we went for a walk. He has been there for about a year now and knows a lot of interesting people and places. We stopped at a tiny but very cool looking restaurant called Hector’s in front of the Merced church which was preparing for a private party ... will have to eat there next time but it may be hard to find since they don’t have a sign. Then we dropped into the Jungle Party Hostal to chat with Monica, the Salvadoran owner of the place. She set up the first hostal in Guatmala ten years ago and now has a very successful and popular place. She was planning on heading back to El Salvador the next day so we decided that she would come with us. We left El Salvador with 5 people and were returning with 7. Check out her place at http://www.junglepartyhostal.com/
Michael recommended we go to La Pena de Sol Latina for dinner. The place is around the corner from the hotel and he is friends with Bill and Mary, a semi-retired American couple who have built a charming and cozy restaurant with a tasty and very inexpensive menu. Their signature drink is a delicious coconut lemonade. Bill is a former session musician who played for years in Memphis (with the likes of Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins) and even raced in Nascar for a while. Now he plays with a local band that fronts Peruvian pan flutes. They also sell these amazing hand made candle screens with colourful and whimsical inserts (Kath bought one with pieces of a coke bottle built in) with the monies going to charity. Check them out at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=43415256326
The Combee/McKerihens and Sandy at the arch
So after the show and many drinks, I went back to the Hotel to smoke a cigar with Jeff. It was pretty chilly by then but we had hot coffee with rum to keep us warm. Then headed back to crash again on Michael’s couch.
A new market popped up on the site of some church ruins
The next morning, we had planned on getting an early start but between shopping and meeting up with Sandy and Monica and having lunch, we didn’t get away until about 3:00 pm. Boy, just in time for very heavy rush hour traffic and major construction delays. We should have taken the coastal route but, instead, took the north route and there was one stretch which was down to one lane and where we were basically parked for 30 minutes. Then I took the wrong road and then we dropped Monica at her Dad’s place in Santa Ana ... and finally got home about 6 hours later! Oh, we all had to get out of the car, again, on both sides of the border. Then we were stopped by cops twice to look through the car. I asked if they were targeting Canadian tourists and one cop said it was just a routine and random search.
I think I’ll be heading back in a few weeks. Deb is coming for a visit from Owen Sound and she wants to check out Antigua. There are so many interesting places to see and restaurants to eat at that the place never gets boring. I want to check out Hector’s with Michael.