Fiestas & Siestas
A "siesta" is one of my favorite Spanish words that doesn’t have a perfect English translation. It means a midday nap, and I am here to tell you that during my fiesta filled weekend, there were lots of siestas to be had.
Allie and I arrived in Antigua Friday night via Uber. We had talked about hopping on a $10 bus from the Guatemala City Airport, but after comparing prices, we realized we could pay a few more dollars for an Uber and arrive in Antigua earlier and more comfortably. We reached the tiny town around 8:00 pm, and needless to say, we were beat from a long day of sun and driving.
Since Allie attends school in the heart of Antigua, our Uber driver swung by her homestay first and then took me to my hostel, Cuchuruchos Hostel after. We had made plans in the uber to freshen up and reconvene for dinner after I checked in and got my massive backpack put away.
The hostel was per Allie’s recommendation, and this is me going on record saying the Cuchuruchos Hostel is hands down the best hostel I have ever stayed in. They called it a “boutique” hostel, and rightfully so. The decor was stunning, the beds and linens were great, plus there was (delicious) free breakfast. Also, for the duration of the weekend, the receptionists would buzz me through the security doors and greet me by name. I stayed in an all female dorm, though the sleeping arrangements were interesting. The beds were essentially little cubbies, three high by four wide. I was on the second row of beds, so I had quite the adventure scaling the ladder every morning and night.
After unpacking, Allie swooped me from my hostel and we headed out on foot in search of food. We were both extremely hungry and it was 9:00pm by the time we hit the streets, so our pickings were slim. We found a tiny restaurant right off plaza central with the most delicious smelling food. I wish I could recall the name, but my appetite was the only thing on my mind at the time.
After dinner, the two of us tricked our sleepy bodies into a drink at a tiny bar called San Simon. Antigua is cool in that you can walk everywhere (at your own risk, anyway. The cobblestone sidewalks are death traps). San Simon served a Guatemalan drink made with Cusha, a specialty liquor made in the country, that Allie had been talking nonstop. She was firm that San Simon made the best cusha cocktails. And so I had to verify... for the blog, of course.
I’m actually pretty sure Chusha is illegal, but my god was it tasty. San Simon was nestled inside a courtyard of other bars and restaurants, and from what I gather, is pretty much only frequented by locals and expats. When you order, the bartender gives you choices between sour, sweet, salty, smoky, refreshing flavors and so on. I would highly recommend a salty and sour drink. I had two during my time there, and I would have gladly had about 20 more if the time and budget had allowed.
We finally made it back to bed, though admittedly zombie-like. We agreed to message each other when we awoke the following morning, and in a strange plot twist, we both ended up rising at the ripe hour of 8:00. Breakfast was the first thing on our to-do list, and Allie (my tour guide and favorite local) suggested El Viejo.
I ordered the same thing I ordered every morning in Guatemala- the Guatemalan take on huevos rancheros. I would highly suggesting stopping by El Viejo during your time in Antigua. I truly don’t think there’s a single thing on the menu that won’t blow you away. Plus, the tables are all situated in a beautiful courtyard- a delightful setting to enjoy delicious food.
After breakfast, we walked around the city. It was my first time seeing everything in the daylight, and I was absolutely in awe of the beautiful colonial style architecture. Antigua is a UNESCO Heritage site, which means all of the architecture is either original or repaired/renovated in the method in which it was constructed. In every case but one- the roads and streets withstanding- this made the city all the more charming. Pro tip: bring comfortable shoes, and don’t even consider packing anything with even the slightest heel. I died in flat shoes, and I’m here to tell you that in heels, you will be a casualty of roads.
First thing on my list was pictures (big surprise), so we navigated to Antigua's famous arch that frames a volcano oh so perfectly. Enter bad-luck Sydney. So little backstory: when Allie and I met in India in 2016, we drove 7 hours to tour the Taj Mahal only to be informed that restoration work was underway. Scaffolds obscured the entire frame of the Taj Mahal, and I was livid. Allie ended up returning to Agra, India a month or so later after I had already left for Morocco and got to see the world wonder without the dumb scaffolding. This particular weekend, as my luck would have it, the famous arch in Antigua was being repainted.... and, yep, you guessed it- was obscured by freaking scaffolds. Leave it to me and my fantastic good fortune.
Perhaps you can feel my wrath in the pictures below. Maybe?
The walk from the famous arch is one of many stores. From artisan crafts to local thrifted goods, the two of us covered an obscene amount of retail ground. One of my favorites was Kolt Handmade. They create jobs and support local artisans with their handmade Guatemalan leather products. You can actually purchase good through their online store linked above. The price you pay reflects the quality and fair labor wage that goes into it so it's slightly expensive, but oh boy are these shoes, purses, and accessories stunners.
I mourned the death of my highly anticipated arch picture with a margarita at a restaurant called Fridas. I think the bartender must have sensed my distress because my guava margarita sure lifted my spirits extra quickly. Allie ordered a mint margarita (like a margarita-mojito hybrid) and we split chips and guac. While not exactly a local spot, Fridas is definitely somewhere I’d add to my list of places to visit in Antigua.
We ended up exchanging lunch for a far more inventive concept of coffee shop touring. Allie took me on a taste tour of her favorite coffee shops in the city. One of her very favorites- Para la Gente- is definitely worth mentioning, as it should be on anyone’s Antigua bucket list. Oddly enough, Allie found this coffeeshop through one of our mutual friends from India, Hannah. Hannah’s friend from home, Beck, had moved to Guatemala to work as a barista. When Allie moved to Antigua, Hannah connected her with Beck, and ever since, Allie has been a regular at the coffeeshop and made friends friends with all the baristas. I had the immense pleasure of meeting all of them- the coffee was great; the people were even better.
At some point in the afternoon, the two of us dove into the vibrant market scene. From what I understand, there’s two markets in Antigua: one for tourists, and one for locals. We opted for the local market, and boy was I in over my head. Allie advised me to be extremely careful taking my camera out, but I was too captivated by the hustle and bustle to miss out on yet another photo opp. The market stalls stretched on and on for ages- from orderly booths inside to utter chaos around the outer edges. I had vivid India flashbacks throughout the 10 minute whirlwind experience. The sheer quantity of traffic was suffocating, and all the bold colors saturated the interior in a kaleidoscope-like fashion. Vendors were selling everything from flowers to peppers, and as someone who usually keeps her cool, I was pretty overwhelmed.
Curious about the Guatemalan postres (dessert) selection, Allie and I somehow wound up at a dessert shop splitting a tres leches cake. I swear, my version of traveling to a new country involves eating my way through it. The upside to Antigua is that you definitely feel like you walk everything off. The Tres Leches was good, but it was no competition to Tijuana's Tres Leches.
Our Saturday night was the crown jewel of the whole trip: we went dancing at Latin American clubs. Allie assured me I hadn’t lived until I lived a night of Guatemala clubbing. Now whether it’s all the hilarious stories that came as a result or the night itself, our big evening out was everything I’d hoped it would be.
We had a mandatory siesta before changing and heading out for dinner. Siesta before fiesta, ya feel me? We geared up with umbrellas (it was pouring) and walked to an Asian restaurant for dinner. I haven’t gotten to the bottom to it yet, but the miso soup in Guatemala is the best damn miso soup I’ve had in my life.
Our first drink of the night was at Cafe No Sé where we ordered a Mezcal Mule. This bar is a super popular one among the tourists, and I completely get the hype. It’s actually the first place to have ever sold mezcal outside of Mexico City. We ran into one of the Para la Gente workers I had met earlier int he day, and the three of us were eager to cheers to the serendipitous run-in. That’s one thing about Antigua- if you’re there long enough to meet the locals, you’ll run into them everywhere you go.
After our Mezcal Mules, Allie and I headed over to San Simon where we ordered another Cusha cocktail. Mine came out tasting like a glorified bloody mary; Allie’s was a perfect balance of smoky and fresh. Curious as to what the heck “cusha” actually was, we googled it. Take it from me- don’t google Cusha until after you’re done drinking it. I'll say it’s fermented fruit- which explains why I like it- but I won’t go into detail on the rather morbid side effects of its consumption. Within the same courtyard space, we ventured to the very back shop- a Japanese sake bar. One of Mynor’s best friends works there, so we were given two beers on the house. We ordered sake and it took one tiny taste for me to decide I was out. Not a huge fan of sake, as it turns out.
At the Sake bar, we ran into another one of Allie's local friends who just so happened to be a tattoo artist. Already few strong drinks into the night, and suddenly a tattoo sounded kinda cool- especially one from Antigua! My better judgment kicked in (aka Allie dragging me out of the Sake Bar) and so I escaped Guatemala without a second tattoo. So sorry, mom- I hate to disappoint ;)
The first bar we went to, Reilly's, was per Allie's suggestion. It was a locals-only kind of place and somewhere people went to dance. I swear we were the only two foreigners there, so needless to say, we were offered lots of free drinks (and attention). Slightly disappointed in the non-latino music playing there, we exited on cue to a Justin Bieber song in search of something more authentic.
Our hunt for a new bar lead us few streets up. The two of us made friends with a group of guys outside, and at their insistence, went to a nearby "tienda" to try some local lemon cocktail thing. We made it back to the bar and quite literally spent the whole night pinballing from group to group. Attribute it to being American, but I like to think that Allie and I are quite the interesting duo to strike up conversation with.
The next morning was not our finest. I awoke to the smell of a bar, and realized promptly that the awful smell was me. I loafed down the ladder and hopped in the shower right away, consuming an entire bottle of water in the process. Since I was up at a fairly early hour, I snagged a few waffles from the breakfast buffet and climbed up to the rooftop patio where I worked on homework.
At 10 or so, I met Allie at Plaza Mayor where we began our search for a gallon water and brunch. We wound up at a precious restaurant right on the outskirts of the plaza. From there, we went to lounge at Allie's homestay, stopping to take a few pictures along the way. A few turned into a lot, but neither one of us could help ourselves with the beautiful backdrop behind us.
At 2, we regrouped from another siesta and headed out to buy a gift for a baby shower. That's right- your girl right here got invited to a Guatemalan baby shower in under 48 hours upon arriving in Antigua. Guess you attribute it to my mad skills. Or being friends with Allie who was also friends with a pregnant Guatemalan lady. Either one.
In all seriousness, the baby shower was a blast. Allie's program coordinator in her study abroad program was the one who was pregnant, and all of the other women who taught or directed her program were invited, which meant I got to meet all of them. The only kicker about a Guatemalan baby shower is that it's conducted entirely in Spanish- you know, games, toasts, conversations, and all. The both of us actually faired pretty well. I won a game of bingo, but didn't know how to yell bingo so I just babbled a bunch of Spanish jibberish. It's "lotería", in case you're wondering. Tuck that in your back pocket for when you visit a Spanish-speaking country and need to know what to yell when you win bar trivia or something.
Our last meal in Antigua was at an incredible Italian joint called Angie Angie's. We sat outside in the most beautiful courtyard and recounted the crazy all the experiences to add to our ever growing list. The next morning, before heading back into Guatemala city to catch my flight, Allie and I met for one last cup of coffee.
I can't say I was anywhere ready to leave my best friend or the paradise that is Guatemala, especially Antigua. Here's to one more cheap ticket, rich adventure, and priceless best friendship.