Posts Tagged ‘Antigua Guatemala’

Our front door 2016

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Every year when Olivia and I return to Antigua and visit the house where we lived together in 2003, we take a photo of us standing by the front door. Last summer, we forgot to take the picture, or so I thought. I found this on Tim’s phone, from 2016.

Kids hurtle through changes at this age! Here’s Olivia in 2011 and 2013..

And 2003.

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Ruth, the one and only

Monday, September 12th, 2016

With school back in session, summer vacation seems eons away. But here we were in July in Guatemala, visiting with the legendary weaver Ruth, who sells her wares outside the ruins of Antigua’s El Carmen. Ruth’s design skills are matched by her formidable memory for faces. If Ruth meets you once, and sees you again a decade later, she will remember your name and your child’s name, and maybe even the size and color of the textile you bought. Ruth is that good.

Look for Ruth the next time you’re in Antigua. Or, if you’ve met her already, Ruth will look for you.

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Guatemala calling

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

In Guatemala, I use a tiny blue phone locals call a “frijolito,” because the phone size is like a little bean. You don’t need a complicated ownership plan, just add minutes with a phone card you buy at any tienda. Mateo and I arrived back in California, and this morning, my frijolito rang, which surprised me, because I thought I turned the thing off. And even more puzzling, the Guatemalan carrier is “Movistar,” which doesn’t exist in the US. Yet, just now a new message urged me to buy a phone card because, “Today is Quadruple Minutes!”

Feels like a small piece of Guatemala, calling out to me. xo

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Canillas de Leche

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

For his 5th-grade cultural project, Mateo chose the food of the Ancient Maya. Mostly this involved discussing the history of chocolate and tracking down roasted cacoa beans like the ones Mateo learned about this summer at Antigua’s Choco Museo. Because Mateo loves to cook, he also decided to make the very sweet Guatemalan milk candy known as canillas de leche. The candy is sold everywhere in Guatemala, and especially in the shop Maria Gordillo, located on Antigua’s Fourth Calle, up a block from the textile paradise, Colibri, and across from Hotel Aurora.

I don’t recommend making this particular version of canillas de leche. Recipes abound on the internet, and there’s one in the cookbook, False Tongues and Sunday Bread. Mateo and I used a “quick” version we found in the comments section of a blog I can no longer locate, which called for sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated and confectioner’s sugar instead of regular. We also bypassed the hours of stirring and cooking required while waiting for various “soft ball” stages. Although our process was quicker, our finished product in no way resembled the sublime sweet smoothness of Maria Gordillo’s.

According to Mateo, though, none of his classmates complained. ~

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Maximon Monday

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

One of my favorites shops in Antigua, Guatemala is Casa de Artes on Fourth Avenida Sur, around the corner from the Hotel Antigua and down the street from the small house where Olivia and I lived in 2003 while we waited for her adoption to become final. The goods sold by Casa de Artes are extremely beautiful and mostly out of my price range, but every trip I visit anyway, to gaze on their museum-quality textiles, masks, jewelry, and pottery, and learn something new from the knowledgeable and helpful women who work there, The ladies remember Olivia from when she was a baby, and always comment on how tall she has grown and how healthy she is. They remark on her developing Spanish skills and express delight that she returns often to visit. They know Olivia’s birth family is from the Highlands, and honor her heritage by bringing out to show what I call the “good stuff”–the rare, antique huipiles and cortes hidden away from light and dust in cabinets, made by talented artisans long ago in remote areas.

That’s a lengthy introduction to the real purpose of this post, which is to share an email I received today from Casa de Artes, informing me that October 28 is Maximon Day, which Casa de Artes is celebrating by spotlighting their Maximon sculptures and candles. I’ve written about Maximon before, but because the folks at Casa de Artes explain the man and his significance much better than I ever can, I’ll let their words speak for themselves. The photos are terrific, but you have to click on the link to see them. Apologies for the extra step! ~

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Pacaya 2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Mateo and I climbed Volcano Pacaya in February 2013 and I remember the trip as rigorous and hard. Something I was proud to have done, which I never needed to do again. Until this past July, when Mateo and I rented a house in Antigua with 10 other people–four adoptive families from the Bay Area, friends all–who really, really wanted to climb Pacaya this trip back. In fact, climbing Pacaya was the Number One item on their wish list of Things to Do in Guatemala. Pacaya was a must. We couldn’t leave without climbing it!

Good sport that he is, Mateo agreed, and talked me into accompanying him. I’m so glad he did. This time we hired a guide on-site–a family of guides, actually: a young mother and her son, and her mother, the boy’s Abuela (see photo above), and various helpers–who led us up a gentler path than the one we traversed in 2013. The family of guides came equipped with horses, two of which members of our party chose to ride. The rest of us soldiered forth, walking sticks in hand, until we reached the summit. Marshmallows were roasted, and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consumed. Before we headed down, fistfuls of sweet vanilla cookies were scarfed, rightfully earned.

The day was misty and overcast,  the gray sky threatening rain. We finished before the deluge, victorious.

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Antigua nostalgia

Friday, July 31st, 2015

During my trip to Guatemala with Olivia this summer, I felt very nostalgic for our earliest days together, when I moved to Antigua and we lived in a small house to wait for her adoption paperwork to be finalized. We were first getting to know each other then, and many of those days weren’t easy.

I remembered the hours we passed playing at Antigua’s Mickey D’s, wandering through the markets, and admiring the artwork painted on the sides of local buses. I also remembered the care shown to Olivia by our dear Guatemalan friend Yoly, who babysat during the afternoon hours I studied Spanish.

As I watched Olivia navigate her life in Guatemala this June–confident, happy, independent–I thought, How far we have come. ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Choco Museo

Friday, July 17th, 2015

This week, we went to the Choco Museo on Antigua’s Fourth Calle to watch a demonstration on chocolate, from cocao bean to market shelf. Our English-speaking guide, Pablo, captivated our group of six Guatemalan-born kids with hands-on activities and tales of the bean. After two hours, we each took home the fruits of our labor–a personal cache of artisan chocolate. Beyond. Beyond! ~

 

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Antigua, Guatemala

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Dear Mateo:

Yesterday in Antigua, we met up with Deborah Feore and her two lovely and amazing daughters from our Bay Area adoption group. You’ve met them at our annual adoption party, remember? It was so much fun to re-experience Antigua through the eyes of the enthusiastic girls. They liked everything about this town!

We ate lunch at Cafe Sky, took a stroll through the Square looking for the famous vendor “Ruth”–(her son’s name is Mateo!)–bought woven tablecloths at Colibri, ate orange chocolate bread from Dona Luisa’s, and wandered through the municipal mercado, where Deb revealed herself to be as mad for plastic “canastas” as I am. Canastas are the word Guatemalans use for the plastic tote bags that I buy a lot of, many of which are stashed in the closet downstairs.

As we walked along the cobblestone streets, one of her daughters said “This feels like my second home.” Ahhhh. — That was nice to hear.

We miss you!

Love,

Mommy (and Olivia, too) xoxo

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Recommendations for what to do in Antigua

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Friends who plan to visit Guatemala often ask me for recommendations of what to do there. I recently posted a reply to that exact question on my Mamalita page on Facebook, and decided to re-post here. That way, if anyone asks again, I don’t need to, as a former boss of mine used to say, “reinvent the wheel.”

This list is not comprehensive–for example, I really like the small Textile Museum in Antigua, near the mercado, but it’s rather low-key and may not appeal to everyone. Also, an Indian restaurant friends introduced me to, Ganesh. In addition, now that our kids are older, we’re exploring towns farther afield. For example, in June 2014, we traveled to the Western Highlands to Nebaj and its environs. Again, not for everyone. I loved the kites at Sumpango, Christmas in Antigua, Semana Santa. But those trips require special planning.

So this is a general overview for a trip you might take in the summer, with kids, when you stay mostly in Antigua. Okay! Now that we’ve established the parameters…

So many, many things I love about Guatemala, it’s hard for me to narrow down. But for a first “big” trip back, a few ideas: the dancers of Ninos con Bendicion. Children wearing traje from each Department in Guatemala, marimba music, and your kids will learn how to make authentic tortillas.  A visit to the Choco Museum. This is new-ish, but a big hit with my children. A shopping excursion to the Mercado, of course. Just to admire the crafts. A stroll through La Bodegona, Antigua’s main grocery store. Jade factory? Interesting, even if you don’t buy. A weaving demonstration somewhere. A meal at Pollo Campero. We saw a wonderful dance demonstration one night during dinner at Posada Don Rodrigo; can’t remember what night. Personally, my favorite place is the Municipal Mercado, near the Artisans Market. I wander through and see the stalls of fruit and beans and flowers and fabrics and ceramics, which for some reason makes me very happy. Could be daunting for a first trip–crowded and dim and a bit hard to navigate–arrange for a guide with Nancy Hoffman? A great store on Fourth Calle is Colibri. High quality woven textiles. Also Texura on Fifth Avenida. Nim Pot on Fifth is legendary, a must-see. Next door, the best bead store in town.

If you have time, a trip to Lake Atitlan. A spectacular setting surrounded by volcanoes. A lancha ride to a town on the Lake. Santiago Atitlan? An important cathedral there. Also, a specific kind of bedspread they make, with a lovely border along the edge. (one of which I own, btw, in purple). Also San Antonio Palpo, the blue pottery. If you sponsor a family at Mayan Families, or even if you don’t, visit them in Panajachel. Or Mission Guatemala in San Andres. A stop at the ruins at Iximche on the way to Pana. Handmade tortillas anywhere. For kid food, my kids love the chicken fingers and french fries at Mono Loco, the pizza at Queso y Vino, the pancakes at Dona Luisa, the fruit plate at Cafe Condessa. Everything at Epicure. Las Palmas for dinner. My kids love their grilled chicken and veggies with rice and tortillas. These may not be the “best” restaurants in Antigua, but the ones I found my kids consistently will eat the food. Which means “best” for us.

Hope this helps! And doesn’t add to your confusion. If you have specific questions, please ask. Buen viaje!

Here’s my post on climbing Volcano Pacaya. Might as well keep it all in one place…

Before I forget, I want to post about our recent ascent of Volcano Pacaya, my first ever volcano climb. Our friend, Nancy Hoffman of Guatemala Reservations, made the arrangements; she hired the guide and private shuttle through The Old Town Outfitters, in Antigua.

Our group numbered seven: Mateo, my sister Patrice, and I; and two other US adoptive moms with sons the exact age of Mateo—eight years old and all energy. Six of us made it to the top; one turned back and couldn’t finish.

It’s a tough climb! Much tougher than I thought it would be, and far more rigorous than the reviews on Trip Advisor led me to believe. We set off from Antigua at 8 AM, and didn’t return until 4 in the afternoon. Total hiking time was about three hours. The remainder was the bus shuttle, the getting ready, and the recovery. If you can request a particular guide, ask for Wilbur, an ultra-fit, uber-capable, bilingual triathlete who led us on an excursion our sons will never forget. Lava formations! A sunken sauna! Marshmallows roasted over naturally red-hot rocks! Not to mention the wild race to get down the mountain and earn the title of first to reach the finish. I’ve never used the word “pell-mell” in a sentence before, but that sums up the descent, exactly.

Crazy!

On the shuttle ride home, Wilbur admitted that guides at Old Town Outfitter lead climbs tougher than the ones taken by other companies, because that’s what their clients prefer. No wonder I slept like a rock that night. But don’t be alarmed: You’re probably in better shape than I am, and, regardless, Wilbur can tailor the hike according to your fitness level. Besides, there’s no shame in turning back if that’s what feels right.

A few tips:

Rent the walking stick. You’ll need it. You pay five quetzales from a local little boy or girl who will greet you the minute you arrive on-site. If you don’t thank me on the way up Pacaya, your knees will thank me on the way down.

Bring a substantial snack. Old Town supplies a delicious lunch, but if you’re like me, you need to nibble. Pack some power bars and fruit.

Carry more water than you think you will need. Two liters per person was not too much. Don’t forget a hat. Sunscreen. Sunglasses. If you’re there in dry season, the sun will blaze.

Wear sturdy hiking shoes and long pants. The lava is sharp, and the volcanic soil dusty. Two of our group members wore bandannas over their mouths to protect their lungs. I wish I’d thought of that.

The boys got to stand in the sunken sauna, which actually is some kind of subterranean hot-air vent. They thanked us Moms for making them wear long pants because their legs were toasting. (Don’t worry: They stayed in only a second.) Mateo cautiously roasted one of the many marshmallows he consumed while I was distracted taking pictures. Near the summit, he and I pose with my walking stick, victorious.

Climbing Pacaya stands out as a memorable highlight of our February 2013 trip. Do it if you have the chance! ~

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