Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It’s like we’ve died and gone to backpacker heaven.

In the morning, Yellow House continued to live up to its promise from the night before. After a week in the heat, Antigua had been cool enough for us to get a good night’s sleep. The spotless showers had plenty of hot water (a luxury) and breakfast was a big spread of not just fruit and toast but eggs and beans and... spaghetti? (for the vegans, I guess). It was easy to understand why so many of the guests had been there for weeks and sometimes months. Some were studying Spanish, some were working in pubs but most were just hanging out. Like the two Italians who checked in just behind us last night after doing a visa run to Mexico since they’d already been in Antigua for 30 days.

The only negative things about the Yellow House? Their wifi didn’t work and the two free computers were limited to 10 minutes of use when there was a line, which was all the time. Nonetheless, we decided to stay and switched to a now free private room. It wasn’t much different than the three-bed dorm except it had a tv with 100 channels and was further away from the noisy street.

Eventually, it was time to escape the backpacker heaven. Not to explore the city but to get rid of some of the library we’d, well actually Adrian had been carrying around for the last month – and the reason his was so heavy. We consulted the Lonely Planet for the list of used book stores and headed to the first. Unfortunately, Lonely Planet got it wrong and this place only sold new books. So we headed to the other end of the city to the second one listed. They wouldn’t exchange our books but they would buy our old ones for a pittance – barely enough to buy two new ones. Adrian was unhappy until I reminded him that we’d actually picked up one of the books for free so we didn’t lose any money. But it was a good lesson that we should keep an eye out for book exchanges rather than used book stores.

The book store was attached to a cheap but tasty café so we stopped for lunch. Then it was off to retrace our steps back through the city only this time we’d actually take it in. Because Antigua deserved our full attention. It was one of the prettiest if not the prettiest towns on our trip so far. Every street was cobblestones and all the buildings, old colonial ones. It was like something off a movie set.

And that comparison was especially true in the plaza mayor. On one side was the city hall and on the other the beautiful old cathedral which we decided to explore only to discover that it was just a façade (photo above ) – just like a movie set. The original cathedral had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1773, leaving the interior exposed to the elements but still cool to explore.

Across was the museum in the old university but it was closed for renovations so we headed back to the square. The vibe was backpacker-friendly without being too touristy, thanks to a healthy local population who lived and worked in the city. It kept the number of tacky souvenir stores to a minimum but it also made the street vendors a bit more aggressive in their pitches. However they were still easy enough to get rid of. And it was even easier to shake them by slipping into one of the museums around the square. We passed on the old book museum and popped into the Palacio del Capitanos instead. It was a disappointment for the price and just a collection of old maps, weapons and other old things related to the history of the local government.

That was enough sightseeing for day one so we decided to do what all good backpackers do – call home. And being in a backpacker friendly town, it was easy. For the first time on the road, we saw numerous places advertising cheap overseas phone calls. So Adrian phoned his parents and I phoned mine. After 6 weeks on the road we figured they were due for a check in and we were due to hear the sound of some friendly voices.

Afterwards we decided to add a taste of home to our day by heading to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner. Although believe me, I tried to find something else to cook. But without a decent spice section or collection of President Choice Memories of Wherever Sauces or an even an oven back at the hostel, it was hard to figure out what else to make. However, when in backpacker heaven one should do and eat what backpackers do.

No comments: