Five nights in Antigua, Guatemala

It was more than a year ago that Chris and I were having lunch at Mac McGee’s in Historic Roswell and the topic of Lili and George came up. Lili is a good friend that moved to Barcelona back in 2008, and in 2011, Chris and I had met her and her Dutch boyfriend George in Florence, Italy for two-weeks of stuffing our faces with the best food on Earth. We wondered if there might be an engagement any time soon. Twenty minutes later on the drive home, I received a text that George popped the question while they were visiting her family in Guatemala.

Since Lili is originally from Guatemala City, I finally got to dust off my passport which has sat lonely and unused in the fireproof safe since Connor was born.

IMG_4180We flew Delta direct from Atlanta to Guatemala City, meeting up with Angel, another old friend who was connecting from Florida. Chris and I shared our row with a Guatemalan that hadn’t been home for 10 years. A casual business or pleasure question revealed that his daughter had paid for his trip because he had been battling depression over a job loss. He was surprising his family who had no idea he was coming, as well as an online girlfriend he’d never met. I really hope that went well — especially the girlfriend part. He was texting before we hit the ground and she told him she had a “weird feeling.” “Premonition?” I joked. I hope that turned into a positive feeling whenever he dropped it on her that he was about to show up. Very nice guy…just not the conversation you expect when being polite. Angel, on the other hand, had a whole row to herself and sprawled out unconscious.

Lili had booked us transportation to Antigua, so the car met us outside baggage claim to make the roughly 45-minute trip.

I booked five nights at Panza Verde Hotel in Antigua, Guatemala, just around the corner from the hotel where Lili was staying and having her wedding. I was enamored by the pictures on their website and I wasn’t disappointed. Especially when they put a fresh, fruity welcome drink in my hand. I was very pleased with our stay. One particular woman that worked the desk was especially attentive to our questions and booking our reservations. Our only somewhat negative experience was when we decided to eat dinner at our hotel last minute. We knew we didn’t have reservations, but as all the outdoor seating was available, and it was early by latin standards, we hoped we’d be able to be seated. A man was working the desk and his manner left something to be desired. Since we did not have reservations, we could only eat inside. We accepted that expecting the tables must be set to fill soon. But when we finished our meal, they still sat empty and didn’t fill until later in the evening. His manner left me with a bad taste and the feeling that he was teaching us a lesson for not planning ahead. Granted, I will say I have never worked in a restaurant and there may be insider info I don’t know to the logistics of running one, but it rubbed me the wrong way.  But aside from him, I recommend a stay there.

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Chris and I set out to explore. The first day was pretty casual…just walking the streets until we ran into Lili.

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On recommendation from Lili’s brother, we stopped for a bite at Restaurante Mono Loco. We ordered nachos — to share, thankfully — since the plate was as big as my head x 3. I also developed an affinity for Gallo Guatemalan beer, which is available in the States as Famosa.

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We then returned to the hotel to sprawl out and rest before meeting the group for drinks at Lili’s hotel.

At this point, I should probably backtrack a little. Traveling to places like Guatemala, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. is my style. I love Europe and I have done a lot of traveling there, but it is definitely more in Chris’ comfort zone. Had it not been for the wedding, I’m not sure I could have sold Chris on the idea.

His primary concern was safety. Stuff happens everywhere, but he definitely was a little more concerned on this trip.  Me, not so much. Safety should always be of concern, but I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in that I’ve never had anything stolen, and petty crime warnings for travelers persist anywhere you go. Unless there is a major concern for bodily harm, I accept it as the way things are.

The guidebook had warned about being out after dark. When the group decided to go get dinner after drinks, Chris was hesitant. We were still full from the nachos, but I wanted to go for at least one drink, then we could head back since we were tired anyway (suffering from toddler-lag if you will).

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As we headed back, passing through the square I even said to Chris, “See, it’s fine.”

Within 10 minutes, years of traveling luck ran out. I had switched from my usual duffel bag (as Chris calls my purses) to a small purse worn across my body. Everywhere I looked, people were carrying large bags. I even saw tourists toting around designer labels, which I wouldn’t do anywhere but home. Well, I mean, if I had any designer labels. We were cautious of other pedestrians, but as we reached a corner, I stepped to the edge to prepare to cross. Suddenly there was a car right in front of me, perhaps an inch from my body. There was this immense pressure pulling me that I couldn’t process. It wasn’t until I was l lying in the street that I realized the passenger had grabbed my purse at chest level and pulled until it broke, dragging me with them. Fortunately it snapped before I got dragged under the car or otherwise seriously hurt. As the proper smart phone addict that I am, I immediately patted my pocket and began stammering about how “at least they didn’t get my phone!”

He left nasty fingerprints all over my shirt.
He left nasty fingerprints all over my shirt. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

In fact, all they got was my driver’s license (I thought, well at least I can get a picture now that isn’t as bad as that one. I was wrong about that, I learned at the DMV upon my return), my ATM card, which was cancelled within 15 minutes, and my lip gloss (a**holes).

But the most significant thing they took from me was my ability to ever convince Chris to travel outside his comfort zone or think I’m right ever again.

We didn’t let that ruin the trip though. I just chalk it up to my luck running out. It was bound to happen someday — well, getting something stolen. I did not have plans to be dragged by some creep hanging out of a car, but at least I have a story. I’m just glad it wasn’t on one of my solo trips.

Part 2 — What to do in Antigua, Guatemala coming soon!

 

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