The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anniversary Trip to Guatemala

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 - Leave Bahia del Sol on the local bus….this time however, we got the “Autopista” which goes on the highway and is somewhat of a more direct route. The character of the bus, however, is still unique!

We stayed at the hotel on the second floor of the bus station so we would be ready for our 6:00 a.m. departure for Guatemala the next morning. We took King Quality and the first class buses are a far cry from the chicken buses. We had our own stewardess who passed out pillows, blankets, and a hot breakfast. Our bus was a double decker so we had a great view of the country side leaving El Salvador and heading into Guatemala.

When we got to the border the stewardess took our passports and within 10 minutes we were on our way again with passports in hand.

Guatemala City is huge and we were pleasantly surprised at how clean and modern it was.

Once we arrived at the bus station in Guatemala City there was a shuttle van waiting to pick up another passenger going to Antigua….lucky for us they had room and we were off to Antigua. Antigua use to be the capitol city for Guatemala until it was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1773. It was slowly repopulated in the 19th century and is currently a quaint little place with cobblestone streets and its own flair. There are lots of great restaurants and coffee houses and a variety of places to stay. We stayed at Casa Cristina ( and had a wonderful little room on the third floor. The host and hostess speak English, have internet, and a great roof top garden.

View from our room.

Time to check out the town.

The first night we ate at a restaurant called Fusion and had fun walking around the town.

Al and his new buddies.

Mac with her new friends.

The second night, Monday October 5, was our anniversary and we made reservations at Panza Verde. We started off at Café Sky for cocktails and a roof top view of the city. Within minutes of arriving on the roof it started to rain so we headed downstairs.

Al's new favorite beer "Gallo".....rooster.

We had dinner in “The Cave” at Panza Verde and what a wonderful dinner it was. Our waiter recommended an excellent bottle of wine and Alan started off with escargot and I had crab cakes. Alan’s main course was lamb and I had pasta with prosciutto and peas and they were both delicious. We then moved over to the fire place for baked Alaska, chocolate mousse, port, and a cup of tea. It was one of the best meals we’ve had in a restaurant in a long time……….what a wonderful way to spend our anniversary.

The next day we were off to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan.

We stayed right on the lake at Play Linda. We had a second floor room with a fireplace and believe it or not both nights we made a nice little fire when we got back to our room. We had a great view out over the lake and a nice balcony to enjoy it.

The hotel was owned by a retired gringo who was the Project Manager for the Pan American Highway. He had two great little dogs, a Dachshund and a Jack Russell terrier. His manager was a wonderful little man who was also chief of his village. The grounds were beautiful and had lots of flowers and birds to enjoy.

We’re water people so of course we had to take a tour around the lake. We stopped at 3 villages along the way: San Pedro, Santiago, and San Antonio. We always enjoy the markets and people. We found in Guatemala, more than any other countries we have visited so far, how many people wore traditional clothing. There is obviously certain fabrics and patterns that distinguish a village or family. We also love the bright colors they use.

Their small boats are different from the coyucas we’re familiar with in El Salvador. They seem to be a bit smaller and have a nose that points up.

(There was one boat we were very familiar with….)

There were also some very large and beautiful homes on the lake.

It started to rain and could up on our way to the last village. We opted for a beer and a cup of hot tea on the balcony of the restaurant just enjoying the view.

(woman getting green onions ready for market)

Then back to the docks and a little nap before heading out to dinner.

(our hotel is behind the restaurants on the shore line)

The next day it was back on a shuttle through Antigua and then on to Guatemala City where we caught the 3:30 bus back to El Salvador. We arrived in San Salvador around 8:30 p.m. so we again spent the night at the “auto bus” hotel. The next morning we were off to do a little shopping, have lunch then on to the “chicken bus” for Bahia del Sol…..and we do mean “chicken bus”….. look closely under the seat, yep, there’s a real live chicken!

**Special note for cruisers; we had originally planned to continue on the bus to Mexico so Alan could get a new visa (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador all honor each other’s visas). We were told we might be able to get an extension for him in Guatemala so we found a wonderful man in Antigua who does visa extensions named Jose Caal. Come to find out when we entered Guatemala and crossed the border immigration stamped our passports and gave us a 90 day visa. Jose explained our new stamps were good in all 4 countries and we didn’t need his services. (He charges $45 to get you a visa extension should you need one…it takes about 3 days… his cell number if you need him is 5518-3128.) When we arrived back in San Salvador on Friday morning Alan ran over to immigration to make sure the new stamp was good….it was. So we lucked out, can’t promise you will be as lucky as we were but might be worth checking out any immigration stamps you get when entering into Guatemala, might save you some time and money like us.