Jan 28, 2019 – It’s been a little too cold in Virginia lately, so we’ve been planning to warm our old bones with a little Central American sunshine. Thanks to the government shutdown ending just in time, we hopped a very pleasant flight to Atlanta and then one to Guatemala City with nary a hitch. Neither flight was filled, and we actually got to spread out a bit and felt like humans instead of packages in transit to a hub!
So, where is Guatemala? No, friends, we are not in, or anywhere near Venezuela where the current politics are a bit dicey, nor are we in Brazil where the dam just burst. There are no caravans forming here headed for US borders. Heaven knows we are not in Guam, despite the spelling similarity, nor in Guadalupe (see Mexico 2018)!
Guatemala (pronounced like What-emala) is just south of Mexico, with volcanos to climb and jungle ruins to explore. We only jumped one time zone, so no jet lag. We are currently at about 5000 feet elevation, similar to Denver. We are in the dry season, and the weather is temperate, with daily highs expected in the mid 70s.
The money here is the Quetzal, which is also the national bird. As a bird, it is long-tailed and resplendent. As money, it takes between 7 and 8 of them to equal a dollar. Now you know everything I learned about Guatemala online.
We found an ATM deep in the darkened airport with the assistance of a friendly taxi driver (who didn’t even ask for a tip), then called our B&B for a pickup. Ten minutes later, we walked in to Hostal Guatefriends, a very nice place indeed, with a private toilet and hot water shower. We don’t expect this level of luxury everywhere in this country.
Jan 29 – After a nice hot breakfast (eggs, black beans and good strong coffee ) we set out to see what there is to see in Guatemala City. There’s not much, and most guidebooks suggest not to bother, but we are here, so we will see. Our hostal is about 4 miles from the city center – too far to walk, and taxis depend on haggling, so we decided to Uber. Oswaldo picked us up in two minutes flat. Uber (pronounced Oovair) rocks!
Our first destination was the Palacio Nacional, which has a museum inside.
We tried to walk in, but were stopped at the door. Although Guatemalans may enter for free, foreigners must pay $6 US each, and stand outside until the next tour starts (on the hour). A guided tour for foreigners – how nice! Will the tour be in English or any other foreign language? No, solamente Español. Oh well. With 50 minutes until the next tour, we decided to move on.
Next door to the Palacio is the Catedral Metropolitana. The Cathedral sustained damage from several earthquakes, and has been rebuilt.
The Cathedral has small chapels dedicated to various saints, and paintings of the life of Christ all done by Pedro Ramirez in the 1600s.
There’s also a life size Nativity tableau.
Then we walked over to the Mercado Central, where everything you can imagine is on offer. The market, formerly three stories tall, was also devastated by earthquake, and is now mostly underground.
A big part of the market is selling fresh hot food, and we picked the busiest booth, on the theory that the best food was there. Don’t know what we ate, but it was delicious!
A great first day. Tomorrow, we’re off to Antigua!