Antigua is Spanish for old. And the full name of the city is Antigua Ciudad de Guatemala, because until an earthquake wiped out most of the city it was the capital of the country. Now it was home to lots of 20 something backpackers and Antigua had a double meaning for us, as we were beginning to feel old. Antigua’s was not a backpackers heaven so much as it was a procrastinators paradise – although some people would argue they’re the same thing. And I was beginning the pressure to do nothing or fight it and do something.
I started by getting up at 6am. This paid off because despite all the signs saying the best time for hot water was between 9-3, I had the first truly hot shower since we’d arrived. And let me tell you it was glorious. I also got to use the computers uninterrupted so I was able to send out some enquiries to Spanish schools in another town. I tried to share my newfound knowledge with Adrian but Mr. Cranky Pants just wanted to sleep. He was lucky that most of the other guests had been out late the night before and were still sleeping when he eventually got up.
Jesus was up however. I thought he and Stefania were both from Italy but Jesus was from Honduras. And he was a super nice friendly guy. He asked us why Adrian and I hadn’t gone out the night before and I told him that we were too old for that. Nonsense he replied, he was old too but it didn’t stop him. Old is how you feel not how old you actually are. True but old is also when hangovers get so painful that the fear of them stops you from drinking. That he understood, as he was in a lot of pain that morning. And he wished he’d remembered that the night before.
I told him we were off to see the rest of the sights of Antigua. He was off to do laundry but said maybe he’d see us in town if he could get rid of his headache. The other non drinkers from the hostel – the pregnant couple from Quebec appeared so I filled them in on our volcano experience. I told them perhaps might be too strenuous for pregnant woman but they could get a second opinion from some of the other folks who, like the couple, were in much better shape than us. But after talking to us and the tour operator, they’d decided not to risk it.
Finished with being old at the hostel we set out to see the old of Antigua. We started with the ruins of an old church and convent at the end of the street (photo above). They were a lot like the Cathedral, fallen pillars, collapsed roofs, piles of stones – except the admission price was ten times as expensive. The ticket looked like it was good for the other 5 church ruins but when we went to the next place on the map, we discovered nope the 30Q was per ruin per foreigner. Locals paid just a 3Q. It was time to get Adrian some Spanish lessons. With his tan he’d been continually mistaken for a local until he opened his mouth. Too bad, we could save a bundle on entrance fees. Until then we decided to pass on seeing any more ruins.
Instead we walked through the market. It was split in two with one side being the artisans market (i.e. for the tourists) and the other side being the local’s market (i.e. where you could by everything from appliances to zapatos). We ignored all the vendors trying to sell us wooden trinkets and trash and headed for a tiny barber shop so Adrian could get a trim. For $2.50 he got the most thorough haircut of his life, including all the old man hair that grows in places it shouldn’t. If that wasn’t enough to make him feel old, the guy giving the hair cut looked like he had yet to hit puberty, although in Guatemala that probably means he was 45.
By now we were realizing that most of Antigua’s sights were either ruins of churches or restored churches, with the rest of the places like the main museum and colonial house closed for renovations. However, we stumbled upon one old church or convent that had been recently turned into a cultural centre/art gallery and better yet it was free. An exhibition had just opened called “Painting after painting”. I couldn’t tell you what that meant as I didn’t really see a theme and I couldn’t translate the signs – frankly, I can’t understand most art gallery description even when they’re written in English, too much talk about versimilatude, motifs and thematics. But the art was intriguing. Adrian was particularly fond of the anonymous tacky tourist art made more commercial by the addition of sesame street, star wars and other cartoon characters. I really liked the series of paintings of close ups of people biting into pastries. The video of a woman putting an entire tube of red lipstick on her lips was oddly disturbing. The building was pretty stunning as well.
And that was it for Antigua’s sights, so headed back to the Yellow House so I could pick up my computer and find some wifi. Rather than head back to Kafka for the third day we tried to branch out. Unfortunately, the Rainbow café wifi wasn’t working and the only other place I could find was McCafe – that’s right, we were in Guatemala and their McDonald’s not only have the fancy McCafes they also have fast wifi. It was good until the staff started to make our orders. It took tham least 20 minutes to make two lattes and I think they broke 5 dishes while doing it. In fact, every time someone ordered something it took forever and was accompanied by an orchestra of crashing crockery. As it got closer to the end of the work day that meant more people, more orders and more noise.
I managed to get some blog posts up and arrange for Spanish lessons in the town of Xela. But I had to call it quits when the noise began unbearable. It was time to move on not just from McCafe, but from Antigua too.