Antigua, Guatemala

Rich in both history and natural beauty, Antigua has it all: charming cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial architecture and bougainvillea blooms at every turn. The city is surrounded by three enormous volcanoes, adding a touch of drama to the stunning landscape. Even the local McDonald’s is practically breathtaking (I’m sorry to throw that in with the rest, but it’s true! Photo evidence below).

Jeff and I arrived on a Thursday, exhausted after a long travel day that *should* have involved one short flight (but you know…Central America). Upon arriving at our airbnb, we were greeted with a warm welcome and a hug from our host, Veronica (who is awesome, but more on Vero in a minute). I haven’t described many of the places we’ve stayed in detail, but our Antigua B&B was an absolute dream and worth sharing:

In addition to a fabulous breakfast every morning, we had access to the house’s rooftop with a 180 degree view of Antigua. We enjoyed a glass of wine — or three — on the roof all three nights we stayed.

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Sunset view from the roof of our airbnb
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Another pic of the roof

Obviously, I can’t gush enough about our accommodations. If you are going to Antigua, you MUST stay with Veronica!

Moving on to the town itself: Jeff and I spent our first full day in Antigua puttering around and stopping to explore anything that seemed interesting. First, we checked out Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande, a gorgeous church opened in the early 1700s (I think). The original structure included a large monastery that was destroyed by an earthquake in the late 1700s; while the church itself was rebuilt, the ruins of the monastery remain and have been turned into an incredible garden.

The church also serves as a final resting place and shrine or sorts to Santo Hermano Pedro, who was — and still is — reputed to possess miracle powers of healing. I wish I could have taken a photo of the inside of the church where dozens of crutches, leg braces and framed notes of gratitude are displayed on the walls, presumably belonging to Santo Pedro’s healed worshippers.

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Entrance to Iglesia de San Francisco
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Ruins from the old monastery
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More monastery ruins

Over the next couple of days, Jeff and I enjoyed exploring the lively Parque Centrale, surrounded by delightful restaurants, cafes, tiendas and the most beautiful McDonald’s either of us has ever seen (seriously, fine dining status). We made our way north to Antigua’s outdoor markets, where I couldn’t help myself and bought a couple of Mayan-woven things for our future home. Don’t ask me how I’m going to find space in my luggage for these things over the next six months…

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Bet you wouldn’t know this was a McDonald’s (but for Ronald on the bench)
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One of the textile markets we visited

Hearing that excellent views of the city could be found atop Cerro de la Cruz, we decided to “hike” to the summit. (An aside: Jeff asked a local if his Crocs would be appropriate footwear for the hike, to which the guy shrugged wearily and said something along the lines of “it’s a long/tough walk.” I had a glimmer of hope that Jeff would heed the guy’s advice and ditch his hideous Crocs, but alas and alack…he wore them anyway.)

The hike turned out to be a 10-minute uphill stroll, so we had plenty of time to watch and quietly chuckle as European tourists took a bajillion selfies. We took a pic too (unfortunately the Crocs also made the photo, as my friend McRae aptly pointed out):

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Atop Cerro de la Cruz

On our way down from Cerro de la Cruz, we ran into our airbnb host Veronica and her friend Juan Carlos as they were driving to a local farmer’s market. They invited us to join them, and we’re so glad we did! It was nice to get off the beaten path and check out something that isn’t in the guidebooks.

The market itself was situated a farm on the outskirts of Antigua. We enjoyed wonderful local food, micheladas, live music, and the delightful company of Veronica, Juan Carlos, and Harry (Vero’s adorable dog, who, like me, has a taste for organic vegetables). After the market, Veronica showed us another beautiful spot with (yet another) gorgeous garden.

We rounded out our last day in Antigua with dinner at Casa Escobar (again, with Vero and Juan Carlos). Jeff and Juan Carlos ordered — and finished — TWO POUNDS of steak. After dinner, we made our way to the famed Café No Sé, a cool, cave-like venue with live music and “illegal” mezcal for purchase.

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Post-dinner at Cafe Escobar

Though we probably drank a little more than we should have on a pre-travel day, it was worth it: Jeff and I agreed that our last evening in Antigua was among the most memorable of our trip thus far.

N.

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