After Tikal we beelined to Antigua. We are traveling faster now with the goal of crossing the Darien gap in the summer. The drive to Antigua was very very long and required a river crossing and an overnight stop in the town of Cobán. The next day the drive out of Cobán was pretty spectacular. It takes one into the cloud forest where it is known for coffee farms and the elusive bird Quetzal. If we had had more time it would be worth a stop here. Coming down from the cloud forest we looked for a lunch break and wondered why this chain restaurant called Sarita (similar to a better Denny’s) was packed. I went to ask the security guard then returned to the van and announced to my family that today was Mother’s Day!
After a couple nights of camping it was time for a hotel break to stretch our legs and get an unlimited amount of hot water. Guatemala can be a very affordable place to travel in and even the popular Antigua is no exception. We went around a few hotels and saw a bunch of $25 rooms but they were tiny and had no windows! We finally lucked out at Posada Don Madonna where $28 got us a large room on the top floor with three double beds, wall to wall windows and a nice view. We stayed happily for two nights. We spent two days walking around the beautiful city. One day a street dog took a liking to Ty and followed him everywhere. Before this road trip we had planned to take Rocco, our 9 year old Rottweiler, with us. Sadly he passed away just a few weeks before the trip. In Mexico, we had joked that we would adopt a street dog and name it “Mexi.” Here in Guatemala, Ty called this dog “Guato.”
Antigua is beautiful. It was the capital of Guatemala until it was destroyed by an earthquake. There is so much beauty among the damaged buildings. Some have been finely and expertly restored and some are perfect in their broken ways. We visited the number one recommended place called Casa Santo Domingo which was a monastary now converted into a hotel and museum and were surprised that it lived up to its reviews. For only $5 a person, you can meander through some beautifully and tastefully restored grounds of the old monastery including an excavated burial site, and see a couple interesting museums with both pre-Columbian artifacts and modern artwork. This was the highlight of Antigua for us.
Despite the beauty of Antigua it is not the kind of town we would linger in. It is extremely touristy, complete with Burger King, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts! A couple days was enough in our opinion to see most of the sites and move on. On one of those days we ran into a Chinese tourist (Jessica?) that Ty couldn’t keep his hands off of. He was totally smitten with her and didn’t want to let her go. When I asked him why after she left, he said, “She reminds me of Po Po (Grandma).” And yes I could see why – the same petiteness, haircut and glasses. How crazy sweet.
Even though Antigua didn’t sing to us, there is no denying its aesthetic appeal. In addition to the impressive old churches and colorful colonial architecture, the city is surrounded by volcanoes providing a majestic backdrop. It was definitely worth a stop.