Antigua

Sunlight does magic, and the dark walls came to life this morning, lifting Spanish melancholy off the property. In fact, the roof terrace was quite delightful, with its views of the volcanoes, the nearby staggered roofs, and the chimneys. We had breakfast up there, watching the live volcano, Fuego, putting up a show for us by blowing out plumes of smoke into the air at regular intervals.
The town itself is still disappointing to me. It’s purely colonial, Spanish, with no traces of Maya, and, aside from the churches, quite restrained. It is not really charming. The streets are cobblestone, but straight and wide, the rows of houses are single-storey (to withstand the numerous earthquakes plaguing this area). The houses are barack-like, would look like warehouses, were they not painted different bright colors. There are practically no decorations on the outside, but once you step in, you are in a different world. Once passed through the front door, one enters an inner court with a pool or a fountain, lush gardens, exposed brick and stone, wood carvings, and tiled floors. As a matter of fact, to me, the most beautiful places here in Guatemala, aside from the natural wonders, are hotels, often housed in former monasteries and convents and grand houses.
Today, we toured the town, mostly its churches. The churches here are decidedly Catholic. No pagan hanky-panky in this city! So the decor there is kinda blah. In front of all churches, there are piazzas, but they are neither lively nor charming.
It’s an interesting town, definitely historical, but I am no fan of Spanish towns. They never touched a cord within me, so what did I expect?
Half a block from our hotel, there is an only upscale craft store we have seen here. The masks and textiles for sale are the most exquisite and refined. So exquisite, in fact, that the prices are in dollars. Even if you don’t want to lighten up your wallet here, it’s worthwhile visiting the shop to ogle the beauty inside.
Tomorrow, we are being picked up at the ungodly hour of 4am to fly to Tikal. It’s going to be early to bed tonight. I’m writing this in the living room of this little hotel, a former home of a conquistador’ family, I hope. To the left from me is a fireplace with a Madonna painting hanging over the mantle and a wooden angel below. To the right, a long pool of water with a fountain featuring some catholic saint. This is quite authentic, even charming – it grew on me. The music played alternate between Ave Maria, Santa Lucia, and such. I’m actually enjoying myself
Will report from Tikal tomorrow night.

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