Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Food and Fun With My Sister

My sister and I did a lot of walking, shopping, eating, laughing, and exploring during her six days here in Panajachel. We strolled Santander several times and bought a lot of gifts: some planned, some spontaneous. We got to meet with Victor of tuk-tuk 88, Jesus the card seller (who is now 15!), the shoe shine boys, Catarina the persistent street vendor, and ran into many friends just walking around town. I love Pana!
Macadamia nuts for sale on the street. In Panajachel, if you can put it in a wheelbarrow or on your back, you can sell it!

Photos at the Pana dock at the end of Santander.

Suzanne doing a super model (or super hero?) pose.
Our first dinner was at Paris Paris on Santander. It was delicious! I love beef. I  need to eat more of it.
She's not wasted, promise! We only had one drink by the lakeshore. The beer can says Q10 right on it but the tienda owner charged us Q12. When I asked why, he told us it was because it was cold!
Drinks at Pete's! Not wasted, honest!
Bert joined us at Pete's for an impromptu dinner on Monday night.
NJP making dinner in his awesome kitchen. We had beans and peppers and onions and chicken on tortillas. Very Guatemalan!
We also had some rambutans, which you can see in the bag on the bottom left.
Pete keeps his food staples in old paint cans. Keeps them very dry.
I got Suzanne to try granadilla. We were joking with Arturo, Pete's friend, and said it looked like frog's eggs! He laughed at us. :)
Tuesday night dinner was amazing sushi at Restaurante Hana. OMG divine!! We had California rolls 2-for-1 special plus tempura. Sushi is about Q65 a plate ($11.30 Cdn), so the 2-for-1 special is an awesome deal.
Restaurante Hana is in Casa Cakchiquel on February 14th Street. (I kid you not. That's the name of the street.) It has a lot of historical photos of Guatemala. Super cool to look at.
Dhal at La Cocina on Santander. The only Indian restaurant in Pana! Yummy. This was Wednesday lunch.
Beef and veggie samosas at La Cocina. They were so amazing! I could eat these every day.
Funny how my sister comes to Guatemala and we end up eating Japanese and Indian foods! But we had a lot of other delicious Guatemalan food such as tamalitos de chipilin from the lady who sells them from her woven bag on the street. It tastes like asparagus. (Click the link to see a video recipe.)

And of course, we had to have COFFEE.
My happy sister at Cafe Loco on Santander. Check my YouTube channel for a quick video of the inside of this small but amazing coffee shop.
So happy! This is the roasting room at Crossroads Cafe. Michael, the store owner, let Amazing Iva and Suzanne back there to see the roasting. Suzanne was in heaven!
Our dinner on Wednesday night was with some friends who are here in Pana for a year. J&N invited us over for dinner at their lovely home and we had the best time hanging with them and chatting with their three adorable kids.

On Thursday night, Suzanne, Iva, and I had our farewell dinner at Altamar restaurant right down by the lake. It had such a beautiful view and we had the place to ourselves.
Me and Suzanne enjoying drinks and food at the Altamar Restaurant in Pana overlooking Lake Atitlan.
Can't beat this view! There was even lightning in the distance. 
Suzanne and Iva chatting it up.
I had nachos (not bad) and Suzanne had chicken tacos (excellent) and the hugest plate of french fries (yum).
They had amazing fancy drinks there! Strawberry daiquiri with real pureed strawberries for Q35.
I've got two more blogs to write about my sister's visit. One about the Atitlan Nature Reserve that we visited on Tuesday -- amazing! -- and one about our trips to Sololá and Santa Cruz. Keep on reading, amigos!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Antigua With My Sister

I purposely took the chicken bus from Panajachel to Antigua early in the day so I could spend some time walking around Antigua. I'd only been there once before and it was a very focused visit -- the fruitless search for glow bracelets! This time I got to wander the streets as I pleased, basically just following my curiosity.

The main part of Antigua is very easy to navigate. The city streets are in grids, and all numbered. The ones running east-west are calles (streets) and the ones running north-south are avenidas (avenues). The lowest numbers are in the north and east. The big volcano (Agua) that can be seen from almost every intersection is in the south. So you can't really get lost for more than a block! Plus, it's easy to remember where the Central Park is -- 5th and 5th.

Antigua has all these broken down churches, which are fascinating but also kinda weird. Why not restore them?
The classic Antigua shot of the Arch and Volcan Agua (water volcano).
The volcanoes were shrouded in clouds most of the time but my eyes were still drawn to them.
This is such a beautiful church! It reminds me of the one in San Cristobal.
The intricacy is astounding!
I highly recommended going inside the churches. Quietly, of course. 
Standing in the middle of the street. I always wonder how long those cobbles have been there. How many people have traveled over them? If rocks could talk!! :D
The Antigua market is HUGE! So much fun.
And I thought the Despensa in Panajachel was low class. Wow. (And they didn't have any kitty litter. Grrr.)
More run-down churches.
A not run-down church in the Central Square.
OMG the Antigua McDonald's on 4th Street is the most beautiful McDonald's EVER. Video on my YouTube channel.
Suzanne had booked The Feathers Hotel for us to spend the night, so I checked in there to have a rest after my walkabout. As I was flipping through Spanish movies on the TV, my phone rang. Suzanne's flight had been delayed by three hours and she quite ingeniously got onto Facebook at the Newark airport to appeal to my friends in Guatemala to somehow get a hold of me. Amazing Iva was the lovely friend who took the initiative to call me on my cell phone and saved me a boatload of waiting! (Thanks, girl!)
I contacted the shuttle service I had hired, Omega Car Services, and spoke with the fantastic driver who agreed to change our pickup time for a small increase in price. I mean, we were going into the city at midnight on a Saturday! Of course, I agreed to the price increase, just glad to have a reliable and safe way to get into the city and back out again quickly.
Outside the Guatemala City Airport at midnight! Big TV playing ads and also warnings about how you can go to jail for money laundering.
The arrival area in the airport is outside. I remember being shocked that people had to wait on the street to pick up their loved ones. Not very good planning, that. But watching people hug and laugh and cry when meeting passengers is super fun. And it was lovely and warm, so no complaints from me! Plus my sister arrived!!! YAY!!

We chatted like crazy all the way back to the hotel, then zonked out. We got up pretty early, considering our late night, and wandered the streets of Antigua. We spent a lot of time sitting near the church just chatting. We were treated to some amazing loud fireworks too! And a parade and a bicycle race. Always something going on in Guate. And this was all before noon. :)

The first picture I took of Suzanne. We went into a pretty church by our hotel and she did her morning prayer.
I took Suzanne to see the yellow church and we had breakfast from the friendly ladies cooking out front.
Don't be afraid of street food! This was Suzanne's breakfast. It was a breaded and fried chicken and veggie patty with guacamole and veggies and beans and all sorts of good stuff. We ate standing up near the fountain, using the ledge as our table.
At 12:30, we got in our nice shuttle for the beautiful drive to Panajachel. Much nicer than the chicken bus, that's for sure! And it was more restful time for chatting and catching up with mi hermana.

I've got many more blog posts to do about my sister's visit but they will have to wait until another day. It's Power Outage Day today! That means another day of doing chores and reading books and going outside. Yay!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chicken Bus From Panajachel to Antigua

Just a quick post for travelers about how to take a chicken bus from Panajachel to Antigua in Guatemala. A few pics of Antigua as a bonus at the end.

I had to go to Antigua because my sister was visiting from Canada. She was flying into Guate City late at night and it was recommended to us that she stay overnight in a hotel in the city or in Antigua and travel to Pana the next day. We chose to get a hotel in Antigua so that we could spend the next morning exploring the city before catching a shuttle to Pana. (So glad we did! Antigua is lovely!)

I had asked for advice from the helpful folks in the Panajachel Facebook Group. I was expecting to hear that I would have to take several chicken buses to get from Pana to Antigua but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a direct bus leaving Panajachel at around 10:45 am and it would cost only Q36. And I was even more pleasantly surprised to find out that this information was actually true! :D

I arrived at the parada de autobuses (bus stop) on Calle Principal at 10:40 on a Saturday morning and noticed several gringos hanging about. The helper asked for my destination and told me to wait for 10 minutes. Very shortly, a green and cream Rebuli chicken bus pulled up and everyone scrambled onto it, including the majority of the white people waiting. It was the most gringos I'd seen on a chicken bus!

Then the fun began. The bus drove to the north part of town near the market to see if there were more passengers. Then it drove back south past the bus stop and stopped on the side of the road 100 meters down to drop off some big parcels off the roof. Then we did a 3-point turn at the fire station and went back to the original bus stop to see if there were more passengers. Went up to the market a second time, circled back past the bus stop a third time, and finally left Pana at 11:05.

Moral of the story: if you're late for the Antigua direct bus, just wait and it will come 'round!  :D

The ride was beautiful, as usual, but was basically a giant blur as the driver was going insanely fast. Like LUDICROUS speed. Pretty much every time I get on a chicken bus, I imagine that it's my last day on Earth. It was pedal to the metal the whole way, with very brief stops to pick up passengers.

Departed Panajachel 11:05 am
Tecpan 12:15 pm
Chimaltenango 12:45 pm
Arrived Antigua 1:40 pm

TOTAL TIME 2 hr 35 min

If you can't make the direct bus from Pana, you can do the more complex route.
Pana -- Solola -- Los Encuentros -- Chimaltenango -- Antigua
Estimated prices are Q3 -- Q3 -- Q20 -- Q10
As always, don't be afraid to talk to the ayudantes (bus helpers) to make sure you're on the right track. Buses run very frequently during the daylight hours.

The Rebuli chicken bus that took me to Antigua. Rebuli is the company name. All the buses in their line are painted the same colours.
The bus station in Antigua is huge! So many pretty chicken buses.
Antigua chicken bus station. It's not far to walk to the Central Square.
After arriving in Antigua, I checked into our hotel and then went walking. It's a lovely city. I'll write more about it in the next post. My dinner? WENDY'S!! Oh, it was sooooo good. And a really pretty restaurant too, with two floors and lots of comfy seating. A single hamburger combo cost Q43, or about $7.41 Canadian. Pretty expensive, actually. But then again, I'm always comparing everything to local prices in Pana like three tacos for Q10! Spending Q40 on a meal is a lot for me now. :)
The sign inside the Wendy's at the Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala
One of the many half-destroyed buildings in Antigua. A fascinating city. I highly recommend a visit.
More blog posts to come, as soon as I can get them up. The six days with my sister went by so quickly! I've managed to upload the videos to my YouTube channel so head on over there to get a sneak peek of all the fun we had.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pictures From The Garden

No negativity today. Just pictures from the garden of my apartment building.
Morning glories that greet me on my stairs.
Don't know what these are but they are a lovely pale blue/purple.
English Ivy climbing the stair railing.
aloe vera plant
Huge aloe plant!
bird of paradise
Bird of Paradise flowers are blooming right now.
bird of paradise
Another Bird of Paradise flowers
lime tree Guatemala
Limes! We also have lemons and avocados.
This is called a Black-Eyed Susan vine. There are many varieties growing around Panajachel with different color combinations.
Ferns taking over the space between the wall and the stairs.
flame of the forest tree Guatemala
This is a huge tree with amazing bright orange flowers. I looked it up and it's actually called Flame of the Forest. The hummingbirds love these trees!
Pink-spotted plant. So cute!

Teeny tiny rose.
As I'm standing on the roof watching the birds, I look down to see Rui chillin' between my crocs. :)
There were two of these beautiful orange butterflies zooming around. One of them landed and I only had time to snap this picture. High-fives and headbutts to any photographer who takes good pictures of butterflies. Little dudes are super camera shy!
When I'm stressed out about work or just tired of looking at my computer screen, it is so nice to be able to just step outside and be immersed in nature. Plus, the lake is only a five-minute walk away. Love Guatemala!