We are standing on the corner of the plaza in line for the cajero hoping that Visa documented Spencer’s call explaining that he would be withdrawing money from various spots around Guatemala for the next two weeks. There’s always a long line at the cajeros in Central America. While we wait a small group of people gathers and starts to point up at the sky where some strange clouds are forming. A woman with a Canadian accent pulls me up onto a higher step to witness the action and I see that we’re not looking at clouds. We’re watching smoke rise out of the a volcano. Fuego is erupting.
So we grab enough money to for a hostal, several pupusas, many margaritas, and take off down the street to find every possible spot where the volcano is visible because it's our first morning in Antigua and we obviously need the perfect picture to post everywhere so that our short-term/overwhelmed memories can be reminded when we are back in Colorado next month that we saw a frickin' volcano erupting!
Alas, we did not capture the image perfectly because, I imagine, a perfect picture of a volcano erupting is just not possible (or at least, not within my limited range of photography skills). Also, our little friend Fuego was quite coy and wouldn't commit to a specific eruption schedule. At times we would look at the sky intentionally, camera ready in hand, and...nothing. Other times we would glance over at a woman selling elote and boom! Volcano! Like a quick snap, pointing out that we should forget what was planned on our shared Google calendar and just enjoy the fact that almost nothing in this life is within our control. So why worry about any of it.
The Santa Clara arch is the first picture you will see if you search Google images for "Antigua." It's beautifully placed to frame the street, church, and mountains behind quite dramatically. And it makes for a lovely cover of any guide book. Walking underneath was like walking through my past imagination of what this place might look and feel like. The architecture in this city is overtly Colonial, and reminds me a bit of Segovia, Spain. Minus the Zara. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site based on several criteria, including one of the oldest outstanding examples of city planning in Latin America (although I certainly never got the hang of it...) with a grid dating back to the 1540s.
This is the typical breakfast listed on every menu in Guatemala and it is REALLY.DANG.GOOD! Seriously.
The Sky Bar is without a doubt, the most badass-awesome-radical-groovy spot in the entire city to hang out and watch the sunset. Actually, it might be the only spot. Walking around the maze (perfectly planned grid) of streets, we discussed with surprise the lack of rooftop bars in Antigua. People in this town have money, live here to make money, and come here to spend money. It's very clear that Antigua is a hot-spot destination given the weekend warriors who head here from Guatemala City every Friday. Sunday afternoon ski traffic in Colorado is nothing compared to the influx of cars on these narrow streets, which are constantly undergoing repair Monday through Thursday. Then Friday night hits and wham! Watch out cobblestones! So moral of the story? Want to live in Guatemala and strike it rich-ish? Open Sky-er-est Bar across the street.
Switching gears...this is Lake Atitlan, and my goodness was it insanely gorgeous. Atitlan is a volcanic lake located in the Guatemalan Highlands next to the city of Panajachel (Pana). Surrounding the lake are several Mayan villages, all only accessible by boat or footpath. At the base of the lake are many vertically built hotels and above the lake in the hills are paths connecting the villages. Does this sound pretty amazing? It was.
I'm just going to go ahead and say that without a doubt, this was the coolest casa I've ever stayed in. I mean, first of all - it's built up the side of a mountain that extends out of the deepest lake in Central America. Second, that first balcony to the right of the retaining wall? Unobstructed views of everything. Sunset. Sunrise. Volcano. Boats and kayakers and guest arriving or departing. All of the hotels around the lake have food shipped in every day since the closest market is in Pana, a 30 minute boat ride away. So in the morning you've got to decide where you want to have dinner that night and tell the hotel or else...no dinner for you. Or like us (who decided to test the system on our second night there), look convincingly hungry until some one takes mercy, throws up their hands, and feeds you a leftover slice of cake.
Travel. It's an adventure. It's real and it's wonderful and I really can't imagine anything better in this lifetime than exploring as much of the earth as possible. It can also be challenging at times, even when you are traveling with your favorite person in the world. Sometimes you don't agree on where to sleep or if you can spend an extra $5 on dinner that night. But in the overall scheme of the journey, do you want that person's arm around you when you go to sleep? I sure do. Always. More often than anything else, it's just fun. And I keep coming back to the feeling that fun and the creation of joy is what we've got - it's our best gift to ourselves and to others. Keep laughing and pass it on.