Guatemala Trip – Part 1

As we mentioned in the previous post, we took a trip to Guatemala to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. (Let’s hope we can survive the trauma of building a home and make it to 36!)  The trip was wonderful despite some transportation issues and we would love to return there sometime in the near future. We spent two nights in Antigua, three nights in a lovely hotel on Lake Atitlan and one night in Guatemala City.  Since we have many beautiful photographs that we want to share, the trip is divided into two posts.

Instead of driving to the main airport in San Jose (2-1/2 to 3 hour drive), we decided to fly from the very small airport closest to us located in Quepos. We booked tickets on Sansa, one of Costa Rica’s regional airlines.  The plane had 12 seats not including the pilot and co-pilot, very tight quarters.  Because weight is always an issue for small planes, there was a maximum of 30 pounds for checked luggage, only one bag each, and everyone had to step on a scale with their carry-on bags.  We have a luggage scale here, but not a regular scale, so I had no idea how much I weighed. I couldn’t resist weighing myself without my carry-on bag.  Yikes, time to go on a diet, after our trip, of course!   If checked luggage is overweight, there is an extra fee of $1 per pound and in addition, there is a chance your luggage may end up on a different flight especially if the plane is full.  The good news is that the flight was only 25 minutes.  The plane traveled at 6500 feet, so we were able to take some nice photos of the Costa Rican landscape from the air.

Waiting in the Quepos airport to board our flight to San Jose

Waiting in the Quepos airport to board our flight to San Jose

We are boarding our "Luxuryliner"

We are boarding our “Luxuryliner” aircraft

We are sitting directly behind the pilot and co-pilot

We are sitting directly behind the pilot and co-pilot

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On approach to San Jose International airport

On approach to San Jose International airport

The Sansa terminal adjacent to the San Jose main airport

The Sansa terminal adjacent to the San Jose main airport

We were supposed to have a 3 hour layover in San Jose, but unfortunately, our plane (Avianca Airlines) had mechanical issues and we ended up spending all afternoon there.  In true Costa Rica fashion, the departure time kept changing as well as the gate.  Everyone was afraid to venture too far off as not to miss the flight.  On the plus side, we were served sandwiches both at the gate and on the airplane.  The food was pretty good for an airline.  The flight was about 2 hours.

Ready to board our Avianca flight

Ready to board our Avianca flight

On our approach to Guatemala City with the volcanoes in the background

On our approach to Guatemala City with the volcanoes in the background

Due to the delays, we ended up in Guatemala City airport in the evening.  Once we were through immigration and customs, it was about 7:30 p.m. and we had an hour drive to get to Antigua.  We had wanted to take a shuttle, but the shuttle driver kept wanting to wait for “one more flight” so he would have more people than just us.  We waited for a half hour and then gave up.  We decided to take a cab, which cost twice as much, but at least we arrived at the hotel at a decent hour.

In Antigua, we stayed at a hotel that was in town, but far enough away from the main square that it wasn’t noisy at all.  The building in which Casa Encantada Hotel is located is very old, but has a lot of charm.  Our room was tiny, but comfortable and the staff was attentive.

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To get to our room you had to pass the built-in sobriety test!

To get to our room you had to pass the built-in sobriety test!

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The next day, we walked our feet off all over Antigua which is full of history and interesting sights. Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala was struck by a massive earthquake in 1773.  In 1776, the city was officially evacuated and condemned, when the capital was moved to its current location in Guatemala City.  However, many people chose to stay and rehabilitate Antigua.  It is now the most popular tourist spot in Guatemala.  There are ruins of old churches and convents on almost every corner.  Some have been partially renovated amongst the rubble.

The Arch of Santa Catalina with Volcán de Agua in the background

The Arch of Santa Catalina with Volcán de Agua in the background

La Merced Church and Convent (built in 1546).  It is still an active church.

La Merced Church and Convent (built in 1546). It is still an active church.

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The Cathedral at the central park

The Cathedral at the central park

The "Chicken Bus" is the main mode of public transportation around Guatemala

The “Chicken Bus” is the main mode of public transportation around Guatemala

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We ate lunch at Casa Santo Domingo, an old church and convent that has been converted to a 5-star hotel and restaurant.  The food was fabulous!

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The grounds were extensive and we spent several hours there wandering through the ruins, crypts and little museums.  In the silver museum, there were all sorts of ancient ceremonial headdresses and staffs, sacramental pieces and jewelry from centuries ago.  The silver was very tarnished and it was too dark to get good pictures.

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Look closely and you can see the skeletons

Look closely and you can see the skeletons

There was a museum with artwork dating back to the 14th century and one with statues of various sizes dating back to the 16th century.  Here is a photograph of a carved wooden statue of St. Joseph holding Jesus’ hand, which is from the 17th century.

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Toward the end of the day, we had to take a rest in the central park where we saw to women in native dress hawking their wares.  The little boy was very entertaining.  We were so tired that we decided not to go out for dinner, but to share a snack at the hotel.  A fun, but busy day!  Stay tuned for Part 2 covering the rest of our trip.

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P.S. While Eddie was uploading the photographs, he accidentally hit the “publish” button before we were finished with the post.  Sorry about that!

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