Welcome Readers from Girl and the Globe. I was glad to do a guest post for Becky today while she is traveling. I enjoy reading her blog and have met her several times. I hope you enjoy my blog and come back to visit.
My son and I made a last minute decision a while ago to take advantage of a long weekend and have a short holiday in Guatemala. We have talked about traveling together for years and finally it happened.
We both were extremely excited about this trip for some of the same reasons, as well as different reasons. For me, I was excited to have my own adventure and to travel with my son. I had been living vicariously through my kids travel adventures for the past few years; always helping with flights, alerting them to the dangers of some countries (hey, I’m a mom, I can’t help but worry), and what souvenirs they should bring home for me (opals in Australia, silk in Thailand, turquoise in India, etc). Another factor was that while I was raising my children we spent lots of time together but as we grew older, that time seems to be diminished as they began working full time, married and began raising their own children. They get busy with their lives and we try adjusting as empty nesters. This trip would be a good chance to spend some quality time together. For my son what he was looking forward to was watching me haggle with a Guatemalan woman over the price of a purse. For some reason he thought the idea of me haggling would be comical.
On the way to IAD (Washington Dulles) my son wanted to prepare me just in case things did not go smoothly, so he decided to talk about “worst case scenarios”. Here was our conversation.
Son “Mom, lets talk about the worst thing that could happen just so that we can be prepared.”
Me “I could get brutally raped and murdered.”
Son “No silly, we could miss the ride to Antigua”. So anyways….neither of those situations happened. Obviously my worse case scenario was very different from my son’s.
The actual traveling to Antigua part went by without a hitch. Things could not have gone smoother. We flew TACA from IAD to San Salvadore and did a quick change of planes to fly directly into Guatemala City. My son had arranged to have a driver pick us up as Guatemala City can be very dangerous. I was grinning like a little girl before Christmas on the plane as I was taking my very first adventure.
Our driver met us with our names on a sign and brought us to his car. We were instructed by the driver to keep our windows shut till after we left the city as hoodlums could reach in the car through the window and rob us. The drive to Antigua was through the mountains in the fog and at times I was a little nervous…okay, at times very nervous. We got to our hotel as planned and I have to admit, it was not too shabby. We were a block from the Parque Central (where all the action is) and we had our own bathroom with hot water. What more could we ask for.
We managed to go out for dinner by the arch in Antigua at Frida’s (they have the best tortilla soup) and then out for a drinks. We enjoyed watching some of the young men and ladies as they were dancing the salsa.
The first day we spend the day wandering around the city. We did a lot of window shopping where I bought some handmade necklaces. We actually ended up eating a lot of street food. We found this little street vendor that was selling ceviche and he got one of those. We then noticed these strange beers that everyone was drinking so of course we had to try one of those as well. Apparently you took a normal beer, add diced onions, juice straight from a lime, and then some brown stuff that looked a lot like soy sauce (but wasn’t). It was very different and was pretty tasty according to him.
Our big adventure for the day was a dangerous hike from the center of town up to the cross at Cerra De La Cruz. The overlook at the top gives you the best view of the entire city of Antigua. The hike was not dangerous because the hike was difficult, but dangerous because a lot of people get mugged. So we hid all of our money in my shoes (it was a lot of money to us) and then we hiked up the mountain without a problem….Blogger Son #1 and I both shared a laugh about the poor ladies at the market the next day that were going to end up with our stinky dollars.
The next day we took a shuttle to the famous market of Chichicastenango …this was an an all day event. I really looked forward to Chichi because Blogger Son had told me that typically Guatemalans come from their small villages to the Chichi market to sell their wares. He had been there before a few years earlier and thought it was something that I would want to experience. It was a great chance to see traditionally dressed Guatemalans and eat local food.
Antigua is a beautiful city, but it is also a hub for tourists….while there are inevitably many tourists in Chichi, it didn’t take away from the craziness of a market. My son was hoping to get me on a chicken bus….saying that it was something that everyone should experience in Central America. But I opted not to do it which I felt was wise but instead drove there in a mini-van. We still had a lot of the excitement – passing buses going 90K on a blind corner, barely dodging stray dogs, and of course the Nascar- like approach to the windy mountain passes. In a shuttle bus you don’t have to deal with the kids crawling on your lap and the live animals in the walkway. We got there without any problems and met some pleasant other travellers on the bus ride.
The market was more intense than he had remembered. It was really crowded – so crowded that you couldn’t turn around without bumping into someone or something. I’m tall for a woman and my son is tall for a man; the Mayans ten to be short so we really stood out. It was hard to get away from all the hustle and bustle…but I guess that is part of it. I had a lot of fun but just could not get the currency conversions down, or how to say numbers in Spanish, which led to a lot of funny haggling conversations. My son tried as much as possible not to get involved and to shoot me silent signals. I ended up with a number of nice souvenirs including two blanket. I think the most memorable part of being at the market was the lunch that we had. We ate at one of the most basic “restaurants” that Blogger Son have ever been too. It’s difficult to describe without being there but it was great and he was very proud of me for handling it well. The rest of the day at the market was much of the same…haggling and haggling, and the shuttle ride back wasn’t too bad…we both managed to get a good amount of sleep which always makes long rides shorter (imagine that!).
The next day we had a relaxing day around town…we opted not to do the volcano tour, instead we explored some more of the city, churches, museums, and some of the local restaurants. We each planned an activity for the day. I chose a relaxing day at a local spa, it was inexpensive and I needed to pamper my feet from all that walking! My son chose a horseback riding adventure through the local country side (mountains). He has loved horseback riding since our days at the 9 Quarter Circle Ranch and managed to hire a guide to take him alone, which was a real treat. They went all over the area, through the city …but on top of a horse…going through the middle of town…that was a whole other experience for him. Apparently his horse was afraid of cars, and motorcycles so anytime one would pass, which happened a lot, he would jump…which made it even more exciting for him. Not quite the Roy Rogers parting shot jump…but the horse’s front legs definitely got off the ground! He felt like a true Gaucho! After his ride was finished, he met me at the spa as I was just finishing. I felt very relaxed and thought it was a wonderful way to spend our last afternoon in Antigua after all that we had done. My son was still walking kind of funny from the ride and I was relaxed and ready to go!
Funny side note: On the morning of our first day, we were walking around town. A man selling macadamia nuts came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy any. This was the first vendor that tried to engage me into buying something, and I quickly said NO gracias, a typical, if not somewhat automatic response, anytime someone is asking you to buy something on the street. As we walked away I mentioned to my son that I really would have liked some macadamia nuts. I would randomly bring that up, throughout the rest of the trip anytime that we walked by that area. I was so excited to say NO that I didn’t really take time the to realize that I might want something. On our last night, we ran into the nut man and according to my son my eyes lit up when he approached us. I highly doubt he remembered us…but the way I was smiling I could have worn a big neon sign that said SUCKER that you could read a mile away. I practically jumped out of my shoes to purchase some nuts, and to avenge the mistake I had previously made. My son was laughing up the entire time.
Another side story – sometimes when I am traveling I wake up really early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep. and my mind will wander. On one of our last mornings while my son was sleeping I was going over the 50 US States in alphabetical order. I worked in an elementary school and one of the school musical programs was the Fifty Nifty United States. I also decided to memorize my conversion table! I was really bad at it the day before but was an absolute pro on this day. My son thought it was really a remarkable change…and really funny for him when I told him what I was doing in the wee hours of the morning as he pictured me laying in bed working on her 8’s tables (conversion rate is 8 to 1).
We had a great time and I would encourage some of you to go on a trip with one of your children. You get to know each other in a different way, make new memories and have fun! Antigua is not too difficult a place to travel and I was fortunate that Blogger Son kept trying to push the envelope with me and to encourage me to try different things. I think the fact that he was very proud of me and how well I handled the weekend made me feel proud of myself.