The Journey to Antigua

You have to take the good with the bad and sometimes the bad shows up first. That being said, these obstacles are always worth it and usually not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Our trip to Guatemala started out with a late departure from Calgary, a missed connection in Mexico City…you know what? Let me just tell you about that.

We land in Mexico City and of course have to take a bus from the tarmac to the building. We walk into the customs area and … Oh. My. Goodness. This line up is unreal. There is no separate line for people with connections, not much signage to tell a person which line they belong (resident or foreigner), no staff member pointing you in the right direction. There are barriers but they only go so far. After the barrier run out the line just turns into a mass of people bottle-necking into this excuse of a line. Anyway, we take our place in line and after about thirty minutes we have barely moved. Please understand that I have gone through my fair share of customs in much more chaotic countries, but this was another level. So we look at each other and say, “We need to try and cut the line”. Walking all the way around the Foreigners line, we found we were not the only ones trying to make out connection. Some very nice people let us cut in front of them…and about five hundred other people. Being Canadian, this meant we felt obligated to offer approximately five hundred thank you’s and a thousand sorry’s. So now we have made it through customs with about forty minutes before our flights takes off. Keep in mind this connection was originally two hours. You would think that would be enough time to catch a flight.

Now we have to collect our bags, check them again and go through security again. Fifteen minutes until take off. We haul our butts down to the first gate (of course) and show our boarding passes. “I’m sorry, the flight is closed”. There is no tarmac bus to take us to the plane. I begged, but nothing. So after cutting in front of five hundred people at customs, we have still missed this flight. We were rebooked on the next flight out and spent a couple hours chilling in the Mexico City airport.

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Snacks at the Mexico City Airport

Customs at GUA was much more organised. Trinh and I were endlessly entertained by the first cultural observation in Guatemala…the line switching. No one was cutting in front of anyone else, but people would switch lines or have their travel partners queue up in different places and then switch over if one line was moving more quickly. It was hilarious. Like watching a game of chess but with human and and airport. Either way, it was much more organised than MEX.

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Flying over Guatemala, AeroMexico style.

I thought for sure our pre-booked ride from the airport to the hotel wouldn’t be there, seeing as we had missed out original flight. I was prepared to have to deal with yet another hurdle, but alas…upon walking out of the airport, there was Rodolfo right at the front with a “HELEN” sign held up high. In that moment, the clouds broke and light shone down from the heavens to illuminate this man. Saint Rodolfo.

I slept on and off for the hour drive to Antigua, and I think Trinh might have dozed off a bit as well. Rodolfo stopped at the end of Calle Del Arco, as it is a closed street, and pointed out our hotel to us. A lovely Guatemalan lady named Anna greeted us, speaking almost no English. So we used Google Translate and many smiles to check into our room.

The hotel is lovely and small and the room is clean and comfortable. Great view, excellent location. Please check out Casa Del Arco. I will be back here for sure.

Change of clothes. Faces washed. Teeth brushed. And ow in search of FOOD! We walked the cobblestone Calle Del Arco, towards the yellow Arco de Santa Catalina and ended up in a sort of park/courtyard. Mayan women had tables set up under tarps, selling tortillas and subs topped with whatever you choose. A pollo salad sub on fresh bread was looking real good, with lettuce, pico de gallo, pickled cabbage (I think), tomato…she pointed to the various toppings and we said yes to everything. It was delicioso!

Right on time, the rain started to come down and let me tell you, those vendors whipped up more tapes and umbrellas in the blink of an eye! We stood underneath for a little while and then decided…it’s just water, let’s continue on our way and see what we see.

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Arco de Santa Catalina

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My favourite person upon arriving in Antigua. We bought delicious chicken salad subs from this lovely Mayan woman.

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A mime putting on a show just outside the doors of our hotel.

Of course, the first thing to do when arriving in a new place is to find a big bottle of water. So we did that and paid far too much for it. Lesson learned. Back at the Casa Del Arco hotel we relaxed on the terrace and started chatting with a couple of the other guests visiting from the States; Adrienne and Jody.

Eventually we made plans to go out in search the Antigua Brewing Company, which Trinh and I had noticed on the ride into town. Let me tell, this place knows exactly what it’s doing. Craft beer, a terrace that looks out into Agua and Fuego volcanos, Bob Marley playing on the speakers…this is a haven for western tourists and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. Good on them for figuring that out and making it happen. It was a lovely evening. Trinh and I enjoyed a Maple Bacon Brew, because… Canada. It was quite tasty!I’m not a beer aficionado in the least, but let me give this a try. The Maple Bacon Brew was a reddish amber colour, smooth and very slightly sweet. I quite enjoyed it and would certainly return for another. Our new found American friends enjoyed a bottle of the well-known and well-loved Gallo beer. Light and easy to drink (we did a sip-for-sip). Relaxing and enjoying the view, we invited a couple of other tourists to join us; Emily & Andrew, also from the States. We enjoyed watching Fuego pop off a couple of volcanic burbs as we nursed our beverages. I found it exciting to see an active volcano being… active!

After a couple of hours, we paid our bill, said our goodbyes and well wishes and left the Antigua Brewing Company in search of a pre-bedtime snack. Adrienne and Jody had pointed out a good taco place on our way over, so me and Trinh stopped in at Ta’Cool for a bite. Maybe the best taco I’ve ever had. Big portion for about three Canadian dollars, with all the toppings bags and sauces you could need. Perfect!

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After a nice talk with the hotel manager, we were off to bed. We slept like babies! Well-behaved babies who sleep through the night. Buenas noches!

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