Friday, May 13th 2011 – Monday, May 16th 2011:
Okay, so let’s back pedal a bit. I just finished writing about my trip to Cuba. That was a big deal for me. I had been anticipating it way before I even got my passport, not sure I’d ever actually get to go.
But I got my passport just about two years ago. Since then I’ve been to Guatemala, Peru, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and Cuba. Before the year is out I’ll have been to France and Spain as well. I think six foreign countries in two years is a pretty good start. I hope to at least match (or double) that in 2013.
But first, let’s go back. Machu Picchu was always at the top of the list. I had been planning trips with friends for years, all of which fell through. When I finally convinced an old friend from high school to come along with me I was no less anxious, of it actually happening and of traveling far from home. One late night after a few glasses of wine I found a cheap plane ticket to Guatemala online, bought it on a whim, I was going. A sort of trial run. The next morning I was terrified reading all the US State Deparment travel warnings about Guatemala City. I had never been that far out of my comfort zone. After a bit of nervous morning research I knew what I was going to do. Antigua. It seemed perfect. This amazing, out-of-the-way anomaly in Central America, about an hour’s drive from the airport. Here is where my new life-long wanderlust begins.
It’s hard writing about a place a year later, so instead here is the notepad stream I typed into my iPhone over the first couple nights. Antigua is beautiful. I definitely need to go back one day.
I’m sitting here at a french bistro drinking a glass of wine. I have to keep looking out the window to remind myself that I’m in Guatemala. I’ve been here for about five hours and I already feel pretty comfortable. The initial culture shock is wearing off. It was an hour drive from the airport in Guatemala City to Antigua. I can’t even describe it. The most beautiful, dirty, terrifying drive of my life. They definitely don’t have exhaust emissions here. I feel light-headed but that could be because I haven’t eaten in nine hours.
After checking in to the hotel, Meson Panza Verde, I took a walk around and stopped in for a beer to cool off at the same restaurant I’m in right now, Bistrot Cinq. Bartender was cool. Talked about Miami and girls in Antigua. Just had the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had. Steak frites up next. Then I’m going to try to make it back to the hotel without getting mugged. Damn, that was a little decadent. I’m not going to do the fine dining thing alone again. Except the last night at the hotel. About to drink my first cup of Guatemalan coffee. Then I’m burning this city to the ground. Actually that was totally cheap for one of the best meals ever. About $37. On the way back to the hotel there were police escorts blocking the road for some sort of marathon. Now I’m sitting on the roof drinking another glass of wine. I should separate these notes but I’m just going to make it one crazy stream of consciousness ramble. It’s only 9:28PM. I’m just so worn out and tired. I love that I actually came and did this by myself. Makes me feel stronger. It would be nice to have someone else here though. Tomorrow will be great, but when it gets dark I know I’ll want to talk about the amazing insanity of what’s happening, what I’ve seen. I’ll definitely travel alone again, but now Peru with a friend is looking better and better. I don’t need a friend here though, this is a city where you need a girl.
One of the more surreal things I’ve seen just happened. I was sitting on a bench in the park in front of the fountain, just drinking a cup of coffee. A procession of nuns walks by, about 40 of them, they stand in front of the fountain. Next I see a mime/clown running through the park screaming “policia!”. Then two cops, one with a machine gun, follow him to the corner. Not sure what happened but there were a ton of people crowded around trying to get a look. Back to coffee. So the second night in Guatemala is coming to a close.
Today started rough, no sleep, hard to breathe. But once I relaxed I saw the ruins of three amazing churches. Had a margarita at a place called Fridas. Ate an insanely good dinner at a Belgian restaurant, Como Como. Eating alone in a nice restaurant is shit but the food was amazing. Then I walked to a bar called Monoloco. The bartender was American, raised in Maine. He’s been here for about a year off and on. Asked me if I was just passing through. Good music. Guatemalan teenagers singing along to Weezer. Drank a bunch of beers. Too shy to talk to anyone even though I overheard three local girls talking about how they thought I was cute. It’s only 10 but I’m not sure what else to do. I’m a bit tired and I feel this odd constant heartbeat. Tomorrow should be good.
Just brunch, visit a huge monastery and some museums, check out the market, buy some souvenirs. Then home. I’m not sure what that’s going to feel like.