Saturday August 3, 2013
Our dorm room was pitch black, it was like a cave inside. There was a small frosted window that was illuminated by a fluorescent light outside, one kept on for 24 hours a day, so I had no idea what time it was. When our roommate silently slipped out of his bunk and out the door, I figured it had to be around 6 am since he had been in bed for so long. I closed my eyes again, even though I was fully awake, until Ana Bianca peered her head down to my bunk, apparently awake as long as I had been, and informed me that it was close to 8 am. Well crap. With the full day ahead we had planned, sleeping in was not one of them. Trading my sweatpants for jeans, I tiptoed barefoot out the door and to the bar area to see what was being served for breakfast. Besides a few other early risers, all on their smartphones or laptops, the area was quiet and empty. Sitting alone for a few minutes, I decided to quickly run back to the room to grab my laptop and then settled myself at one of the larger tables that was just vacated by a group of young girls that had just been picked up by a bus. Since a two day trip had my bag crammed full and I still have no idea what I’ll fit in there to last me six weeks through Michigan and South America, I was tempted to ask them, “How did you pack for this trip? What is in your backpacks?!”, as they were walking out the door, but I’m sure a conversation such as that between girls would have taken much longer than the 15 seconds of time they had on their hands. Instead, I waited for Ana to join me, where we browsed the extensive breakfast menu and were soon served large plates of food that rivaled any cafe back home. The reviews were not lying when they said it was worth coming to this place for it’s breakfast alone.
Changing out of the rest of my pajamas and packing up my new messenger bag, the two of us hit the streets for a little sightseeing before our 11:00 massage. Every building in the town was beautiful, but it dawned on me even more how commercial this city is, and having a boutique or upscale restaurant or jewelry store on every doorstep made the place lose some of it’s Guatemalan authenticity. It was definitely a town that catered to tourist, and it showed. That’s not to say that Guatemala isn’t entitled to it’s own European like upscale towns, but in my mind, the facades reminded me too much of Trinidad in Cuba, which I preferred, but the vibes of these two towns were so vastly different.
One of the upscale shops we went into was a Mayan Jade store. Jade carvings were everywhere as well as all different kinds of jewelry. My first mistake was picking up any of the items, and my second mistake was trying them on in front of the mirror. The rings, the necklaces, they were all so beautiful and the words girls weekend kept popping in my head. I deserved to treat myself to a little something, right? I’ve been so good for so long, not having asked for anything since the $2 root bracelet I bought on our waterfall day back in Jamaica. I went through a stack of rings, trying every single one on, and then finally deciding on one, when I went in a back room to see where Ana Bianca had strayed off to. Inside was a tower of necklaces and keychains, each with a symbol on the front and a word on the back.
Speaking to a man that worked there, we found out that they were the Mayan symbols for your birthday, and kind of like astrology, had something to say about you based on when you were born. Flipping through book to find my own (based on the month, date, and year of your birth), I found out I was Aq’ab’al, or the bat. The salesman picked up a necklace with my symbol and handed it to me along with a card describing that symbol. Just as soon as I had decided I could part with a few dollars for a ring with a small jade bead on it, I was now in love with a necklace that bore my Mayan symbol for about three times more money. Damn. Oh well, at least it will be personal and have meaning. I can’t say I love what the card had to say about me though. ‘Early riser’? I think not. ‘They tend to get ill, to get mugged, or be pursued’. Thanks for the vote of confidence of good things to come.
After prettying myself up with some jewelry, it was time for us to make our massage appointment. Now it was very beneficial I had Ana Bianca as my translator, because even though just about every other shop in this town spoke English, this one did not. Even though we signed up for a couples massage I guess I didn’t expect that they’d follow through on the ‘couples’ part of it, but we were lead into a room that had two massage tables side by side. Ana Bianca was instructed, and then relayed to me, that we were supposed to strip down and then lay face down on the table with the towels covering our behinds. On her way out, allowing us time to undress, the woman turned down the light and put on romantic music. Ana Bianca and I kind of eyed each other and then burst out laughing, half expecting Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ to start playing.
After we were each situated on our tables the women came back and asked of we were ready, explaining to each of us what they’d do. Ana Bianca was getting the deep tissue, but I was getting the hot stone, and I just nodded to everything the woman said in Spanish, pretending I understood what was going on. Since this was my first massage ever I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I had a feeling that due to my slight frame the massuse would be go too easy on me for fear of accidentally breaking or bruising something, so I had asked just before she came in how to say ‘stronger’ in Spanish. And true to my premonition, although the massage felt excellent, it was lighter than I could handle. But with my face buried in a towel it never felt like the right time to roll over and say anything, so I went with the flow and enjoyed the oils and hot stones. It was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing hours of my life, and I may have to start requesting more of these now.
Like my new necklace?
“There’s nothing wrong with me…lovin you…”
Another great thing about our girls weekend to Antigua is that Nacho and Annica were coming over from Guatemala City to see us. After we’d gone back to the hostel and washed the oily residues off our skin, we went back out to the city square to meet our friends. Upon seeing them we were greeted with hugs and quickly ushered ourselves into a cafe to warm ourselves up from the drizzles that were springing up outside. They asked what we’d been up to with our time there and we filled them in with the things we’d done, along with the fact that we’d just grabbed lunch at a popular place up the road with giant nacho’s called Monoloco’s (thanks for the recommendation, Nate!). Nacho replied that he was friends with the owner, Jean-Louis, and that we were actually scheduled to visit his home in Antigua in just a little bit to enjoy some cheese and wine. What are the odds…
Before we stopped by there though, Nacho and Annica wanted to take us on a tour through a very old monastery. The Capuchin Convent was completed in 1736 and today is partially complete and partially in ruins. We didn’t have long, but we roamed through the grounds with Nacho giving a narrative on the parts he knew. We saw the very small and sparse living quarters for those residing there and appreciated the architecture that was still standing after the Santa Marta earthquakes in 1773.
With not much daylight left on our hands now, we one of the winding roads up to Jean-Louise’s home. Even though he had never met Ana Bianca or myself before, he eagerly welcomed us into his home, and an avid sailor himself, wanted to know all about our lifestyles, our boats, and our passages. While Ana Bianca, who knows much more about boats than I do, went in depth about her boat and how it handles, I took a few moments to look around his beautiful home that was perched up in the hills of one of the volcanoes that towered over the town. It was a mix of modern and African safari, had a great balcony with gorgeous views, and I instantly fell in love with it. Opening up a bottle of wine while Nacho made more croquettes in the kitchen while the rest of us sat at the table, sampling cheeses and talking about travels.
Jean-Louise was quite a character, and quite a traveler as well. As one bottle of wine turned into another and another, he shared stories of his past travels and Nacho would jump in at points on trips they took together. We were all having such a good time that we almost didn’t realize it was time to leave for our eight o’clock dinner reservation in town. All of us piled into Nacho’s SUV and wound down the roads back to town and the conversation continued in Spanish, surprisingly with me having an understanding of 40% of what was going on. Or at least, I knew it was about politics and social economics. Thanks Michel Thomas for interjecting those words in my studies! Apparently, they did come in handy.
Ana Bianca, Annica, and Dan.
The five of us had a wonderful dinner together in town at a restaurant that was famous for it’s onion soup, and it did not disappoint. It was actually so filling that I could not even order an entree, although the did have steak on the menu, and a tender medium-rare piece of meat was sounding very good at that moment. But between the nacho’s at Jean-Louis’ restaurant, the cheese and croquettes from Nacho, and now the soup, I did not have the ability to take another bite of anything. That was, until I saw the dessert menu with a Nutella crepe listed on there. I know this sounds kind of silly, but just about every travel blog I’ve ever read has it’s travelers going worldwide and yet each of them has found Nutella crepes at one place or another and has raved about them. On our own little trip, I’d only spied them once before, at a roadside stand in Utila. The first time we passed by we had no cash, but I made Matt promise that we’d visit again. That never happened. So when I saw them again on this dessert menu in Antigua, Nacho must have seen my face light up like a Christmas tree because he was quickly asking if I wanted one. I shyly nodded yes while mentioning that I’d never had one before and always wanted to try it, but what I wanted to scream was “Oh my god yes, I can’t live without it!”. When it was placed down at the table with five other forks I did my best to take slow bites and offer it to everyone else around the table as well. But who was I kidding. They knew just as well as I did that this was a dream dessert for me, so after each taking a bite just to sample, they let me devour the rest on my own. It was heaven.