Buenos Dias, Antigua!

February 5, 2018 No Comments
One of the questions I get asked the most after I return home from a trip is “What did you eat?” Going to a country like Guatemala, people expect me to say something a little exotic or exciting. So, what was the first thing I ate? A delicious, warm, fresh…bagel.


I had a lot of anxiety going into this trip, which is a little unusual for me. I think most of it was knowing I would be doing a lot alone in a country in which I knew almost nothing of the language. Well, I’m really being too modest here: I can count to 15 in Spanish and I am well versed in Tex-Mex dishes. Anyways, I went to Guatemala for a wedding, but all of my friends were in the wedding party which basically means MIA. So even though I’ve traveled (read: flown) a ton on my own, I’ve never really ventured solo. After leaving NY at 5:45am, only having eaten a (delicious) breakfast taco during my layover at the Houston airport and coming out of literally the only exit at the Guatemala City airport to a giant mass of people waiting (in which our driver was one of them, until he disappeared for 45 minutes before reappearing with our chariot) I was completely starved by the time I arrived at my hotel in Antigua. My travel buddies were off to bridesmaid duty at the rehearsal dinner, so I was left to fend for myself for a few hours in the wild, wild cobblestone streets of Antigua.


Hotel Eterna Primavera
So here I was sitting on my bed at the lovely Hotel Primavera Eternal. This beautiful boutique hotel has the most lush courtyard and my room was full of historic charm with exposed stone walls and wooden beams. The wifi, however, did not work the first night so I was thanking the stars for Verizon Travel Pass so I could look up something to eat. One day Verizon will pay me for this, but Travel Pass is the best money I’ve ever spent on traveling. So I immediately pulled up my new BFF, Trip Advisor, to evaluate the local to-go food options. Had I known on the other side of the main square was a plethora of American food options such as Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts I might not have been filled with dread at this task, but I did not, so here we are. Perusing the olde Trip Advisor I saw something called The Bagel Barn, and knew that was it. Feeling good about my choice, I darted through the Parque Central to the Barn and came back to hotel a short time later with what seemed like the best thing in the world at the moment, a ham and cheese bagel sandwich. Threw on a little CNN International, attempted a nap, then off to wedding welcome drinks on the beautiful rooftop of Casa Troccoli. I was already feeling renewed on my Guatemalan adventure and excited to explore the city the next day.


Parque Central


I made plans the next day with the husband of one of my friends, K, and a boyfriend of another friend, J. Both of my friends were in the wedding, so the boys were free for exploring. First stop, Fat Cat Coffee House. Just down the street from my hotel, it’s a well known coffee spot in Antigua. I had noticed it on my jaunt to the Bagel Barn, but the guys had already made plans to go Saturday morning so I happily agreed to come along. And Fat Cat definitely did not disappoint. They had every kind of coffee and coffee gadget you could imagine. I kept it classic and got a french press and a slice of banana bread. With the temperatures being mild all year round in Guatemala, we were able to enjoy our coffees in this cozy and simple space with the windows and door open to the street, watching the morning life of Antigua pass us by.


After finishing up at Fat Cat, I had to meet my walking tour group in Parque Central. The bride and groom set up various activities for the wedding guests through Antigua Tours. I had already planned to explore the city on my own, so I figured I might as well get some information while I was at it. We started in the Parque, which is the center of life in Antigua. It has only be cleaned up in recent years and is still maintained privately. Surrounded by the Cathedral (not actually a cathedral), the Royal Palace (only high ranking officers, not royals, stayed here. It is now being renovated to be used as a social space), and City Hall, it is a beautiful place to sit and watch daily life go by.


Parque Central


You’ll notice how short all the buildings are. Guatemala experiences many earthquakes every year. While many of them are rarely noticeable, the country is always at risk for large earthquakes due to their proximity to the meeting of two plates, so they keep their building shorts to prevent major damage.


Next, we went into the cathedral. While this structure is only in a small part of original church, it is still a beautiful example of the Spanish colonial architecture that Antigua is so famous for. They have several statues in the church, some of them are several hundred years old, that are taken out occasionally on fiestas, where they have huge parades and festivities throughout the town. Behind the current church, are the ruins of the cathedral. The building was heavily damaged during an earthquake during the 1770s, in which the capital of Guatemala was moved for the last time to what is now Guatemala City. The ruins are vast and definitely worth walking around in.


Cathedral ruins


Next we walked to a jade museum, where we looked up our birthdays on the Mayan calendar! The Mayan culture is still very important in today’s Guatemala. We ended our tour at Casa Santo Domingo, a former monastery. Currently, this space is used as a hotel, restaurant, convention center and wedding venue. There are also several museums here, in which our tour guide Elizabeth Bell is very involved in the curation of. You have to pay extra for the museums, but I definitely recommend coming to Casa Santa Domingo to at least walk around. You would have no idea from the street how big this gorgeous property is.


Lunch time! After the tour I met up with J as he was also a lone ranger not in the wedding party. We had lunch at Sky Cafe. The food is a bit of everything, but I kept it classic with enchiladas. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of Mexican food in Guatemala, which I definitely did not complain about. To drink, I had what had quickly become my go-to Guatemalan beer, Gallo. Sky Cafe isn’t the most obvious place, sitting on a quiet street on the far east side of town. But after climbing the tiny spiral staircase, you find yourself on a beautiful rooftop with 360 degree views of the city.


View from Sky Cafe


After lunch, it was time to rush back and get dressed for the wedding. The venue was Santo Domingo del Cerro, an outdoor art space owned by Casa Santo Domingo, which was up on the side of a mountain. The backdrop of the ceremony, volcanoes and clouds. I don’t think any wedding I ever go to after this will top that view. After, lots of Zacapa (the local rum) and Coke, good food, a beautiful reception.


Wedding ceremony


With the wedding over with I had two days left of leisure. While most of the wedding guests headed off for brunch, K and I went off for a coffee plantation tour at the Filadelfia Coffee Estate. Our tour picked us up from a hospital on the edge of town, so our first step was to flag down a tuk tuk to get us there. Honestly, riding in the tuk tuk was one of my favorite experiences from the trip. What is a tuk tuk, you ask? It’s basically a motorcycle with a tiny cab on the back. The ride through the cobblestone streets is anything but smooth, but there is no better way to feel like a local. After our ride, we waited for what ended up looking like a safari vehicle to take us to the plantation.


Tuk Tuk in Antigua


As Guatemala is well known for their coffee, I was thorough excited for this tour. First, we started off looking at the baby coffee plants. Filadelfia grows arabica coffee, but to create a stronger more durable plant they use the roots from the robust coffee plants. These babies need lots of shade, so we left them to it and moved on to the more mature coffee plants. Here, we were able to pick the fruit of the coffee plant, which is a small red berry looking thing. Squish it, and two little white coffee beans covered in slime come pouring out. Hesitantly, at the request of our guide, I popped one in my mouth and it was surprisingly sweet. Next, we took off through the coffee plant wilderness to where they clean the beans and lay them out to dry on a giant patio. Finally, we move on to the wonderfully fragrant building where they roast the beans and sat down for our sample. One of Filadelphia’s big clients is Starbucks. While I enjoy a good espresso specialty drink from there, their regular black coffee is one of my lease favorites, so I was worried I wouldn’t like the actual coffee at the end of the tour. I can safely say it was delicious and I ended up taking a bag home. Back to the city, we flagged down a return tuk tuk to meet up with some others for lunch and accidentally eat Texas BBQ. Later that night, we met up with the rest of the group to go up to Cerro de la Cruz, a hill side park overlooking Antigua.



A theme through this trip was that time and punctuality in Guatemala isn’t a thing. Maybe it’s the American in me, but we were constantly laughing at how time didn’t seem to realllllyyyy matter here. So our bus hired to take us to Cerro de la Cruz literally forgot to show up, so we ended up getting to the park after dark. Now, do not come here after dark. The groom, who is a native Guatemalan, had sent his mom up to the park ahead of us to scope it out. The park is not a particularly safe place after dark, so I highly recommend coming up here during the day. Anyways, strings were pulled, we went after dark as a big group. It was here I saw a volcano finally shoot up some lava! Sadly, my camera wasn’t set up so all I got was a blurry photo. To summarize, nice view of the town, come in the day.


The next day was my last day in Antigua and it was the day I had been looking forward to the most. We had a group trip organized to the Pacaya Volcano. Even though we had to wake up at 4am and it ended up being quite cold in the morning (in Central America, who knew!?), a volcano hike is a must in Guatemala! It was definitely not a beginner’s climb, and at some points I truly did not think I was going to make it. But when we finally got to the very windy top about an hour and a half after we started, you tend to (almost) forget how hard the hike was.


The top of Volcan Pacaya


After taking in the views, we continued on to go inside the crater. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was hoping to see some flowing lava since Pacaya is an active volcano. The last eruption was in November 2017 and the crater looked like something out of a Star Wars movie with dark dried lava rock covering everything. Our guide took us to a spot that remained warm, it felt soo good, and we roasted marshmallows over it. A little ridiculous, but a little awesome. The walk down to the crater was extremely steep, and the whole time I thought “there better be a different way out of here.” There was not. So back up the ridiculously steep path, a short break for lunch at 9am, then back down the volcano we went. I opted to go to the faster way. Faster does not mean easier. So after basically sliding down a volcano, we were back at the bottom. Exhausted. Back to Antigua to hit up the markets and say bye as some of the group was continuing on to the lake country while the rest of us returned home.



The next day, I finally got to enjoy the breakfast in the courtyard of my hotel, and then it was back to the airport. What should have been a simple travel day back to NY through Houston (in first class because it was only $25 more!!!) took a turn for the dramatic when a ice storm hit Houston and NY got snow. I almost got stuck in Guatemala City for the night-alone-which was not what I was in the mood for. Finally our plane arrived and we got to Houston three hours late. And since I was being fed booze and food in the comfort of First, I really did not care. I was just happy to not have to navigate myself to the Guatemala City Courtyard Marriott. Luckily, my parents live in Houston so I was able to stay with them for the evening and head back to NYC the next day.

Even though I felt the trip started a little slow for me, I ended up loving my time in Antigua and would love to go back someday.


Antigua Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala - Lindsey On The Go

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About Me

About Me

I'm Lindsey

I recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee after living in New York City for seven years. Spending six years in Scotland as a kid sparked a love of travel in me, and I have now been to 32 countries on five continents. When I'm not traveling, I work as a freelance graphic designer and hang out with my dachshund mix, Denali.



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