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15 October 2003

Tiff is Having Too Much Fun

Wow--The bus trip here was so beautiful. Lots of
little hand worked farms crawling up the sides of the
mountains and mountains in the background covered in
green everywhere.
We got here and grabbed some cheap digs as they say--a
whopping 7 dollars a night. that was also our price
in Lake Atitlan. Here we even have a volcano view and
we share the T:V: with the family.
Antigua is great. Its kind of rubble strewn from the
earthquakes but the ruins are so spectacular its like
Rome or ancient Greece. The original cathedral was
huge. About 1/6 th of it has been restored--The rest
never will be as the capital moved to Guatemala City
and all the art was taken there--not to mention all
the money. Antigua was a ghost town for 2 centuries
until someone hit on the idea of Spanish schools with
homestayes which are now the backbone of the economy
and has enabled people to hang onto and renovate all
the beautiful old Spanish colonial homes.
Anyway--The food situation has changed dramatically.
I never saw so much wonderful food and its all so
beautifully displayed. Sightseeing and eating and
lattes (at last). Its as good as Starbucks.
There are over 4 earthquakes a year here over
5.0--Suff is built really solid. They call it
Earthquake Baroque.
There are no signs, etc. in old town--so all is very
authentic and old world. There is a McDonalds but you
would never recognize it--It has a beautiful garden
with a fountain and all.
Speaking Spanish here is great because that is the
idea of the town and they are so patient and whatever
you say--they make it out. I guess they have had lots
of practice.
The volcanoes surrounding the town are up to 13,000
feet and one smokes continuously. Its way
otherworldly--like a movie set of a distant volcanic
planet with old colonial buildings in the foreground.
We have such luck. We were just trying to figure out
which ruins we were looking at (as getting oriented is
a bit of a challenge with no street signs, or
addresses--also the walls line the streets with the
courtyards, etc. in the center of the block so you
really can,t see anything from the street except
walls) when an old gentleman came up to help. It
turned out he was a diplomat to here and Peru, Chile,
and Iran and a bunch of other places and has lived in
Antigua for 40 years. His house is in the totally
most historic section next to the cathedral. His
house is actually the old sacristy (350 years old)
which was the only part of the cathedral left totally
intact after the big quake of 1976 that killed 22,000
people in the surrounding areas. He invited us in and
showed us paintings of his protege who is a local
Mayan artist. His house actually belonged to Gore
Vidal before he bought it. He has kept things as
original as possible with a huge open court bathroom
with the old original walls and a huge tub with plants
growing up and over everything. It is the greatest
house ever. He played some Chilean music for us
(Chile was his favorite country). He also loved Iran.
He was in Iran in the 60s. He was in Chile for 3
years. Anyway he invited us to lunch Thur and is
going to have his expert chef cook for us. He asked
us what kind of people we like (nationality) and he
would invite some for more conversations. He asked if
we minded the British or if we liked Hollanders. We
said we like everyone.
He offered us some old books but we declined. He is a
lovely, cultured man but is about 85 and looses track
a bit but totally interesting. He said all his old
friends are dead and he has to look for ways to
entertain himself and I guess he found us
entertaining. Anyway we went to a slide show and
lecture about Antigua tonight and found that no one
ever gets to see inside these great old homes--but we
did without even knowing what we were up to--but we
knew we stumbled onto something totally cool. I want
his bathroom--don{t think Seattle is the place.
Tomatoes and Poinsettas come originally from here. No
one (not even the locals) drink the water because the
pipes are old ceramic and with so many earthquakes
they are all cracked. I was surprized that even the
locals purchase water in big containers for drinking.
Unlike Peru the ice is made from drinking water and
the restaurants advertise that they wash vegetables in
clean water.
Guatemala is a gorgeous country. They are really into
tourism. There are all kinds of services. The
tourist police will take you when you want to go to a
remote site. The ATMS and tourist financial services
are guarded by guards with guns and they are alert.
Last night the lights went out at Lake Atitlan and we
were about a mile from our hotel. The minute the
lights went out--Tourist police were
everywhere--running up and down the streets to guard
against anyone taking advantage. They really work for
your safety guarding bus stations and all tourist
routes. I am impressed. Its a lot more organized
than Peru or Italy for that matter.
They have the coolest thing here--movies where they
serve dinner and drinks. The movie is free.
Antigua is a good last stop. We are sightseeing all
day tomorrow so will learn lots more.
Anyone for Chile?

posted by - 11:32 AM


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