Our 2008 Panama Cruise

Page 6

Our 7th day was also spent at sea. On Day 8 at 9AM we arrived at the industrial "Puerto Quetzal" in Guatemala.

We knew that the port would be a little boring so we signed up for an "Excursion". Excursions are packaged tours run by locals and sold by of the cruise line. They are usually expensive (50 to 100+ dollars per person) and their quality can vary considerably. However, if you feel uncomfortable "rolling your own" tour or have difficulty getting around, an excursion may be your best bet.

Our excursion was a 35 dollar 2 hour bus ride (and self guided walking map) to Antiqua, Guatemala's third Spanish Colonial capital city

Here is a look at Puerto Quetzal. Not much to look at! There was, however, a small shopping area just off the pier where local handcrafts were sold.

A bit of history here: Antigua was founded by Spain in 1543 as it's Capital of an area that included most of Central America and part of Mexico. It grew and developed as an administrative and military center for 230 years. In 1773 a series of earthquakes destroyed much of the town and the capital was again moved a 4th time, this time to Guatemala City.

What was left behind were ruins of churches, convents, a university, and many public buildings, most of which have remained untouched (but stabalized) for another 200 years.

This is the Cathedral Church on the Parque Central. All that is left is the facade, but it still reflects the beauty and complexity of the archetecture and construction undertaken during it's 230 years of development prior to the earthquakes.

This is a small park that contains a working hand laundry and fountain (the yellow structure). Behind the laundry is the ruins of the "Convento de Santa Clara". Again, only the facade and some of the interior remains.

Here is another view of "El Convento". Note the motor scooters, the horse draw carriages, and the cobblestone street. Cars were scarce here. I think they are expensive and the streets beat them up.

There is another mode of travel, however, the Guatemalan "Tuk Tuk" taxi. These vehicles were brought to Guatemala (probably from Thailand) in 2001 and there are over 8000 now in the country and about 200 in Antigua. They are noisy, smelly, rough riding, very unsafe, but they are cheap and the tourists love them.

Here is that hand laundry in front of "EL Convento". A woman is dipping water from the fountain pool and pouring it into the stone basin where laundry is washed. There is a drain in the basin that leads to a sewer. I bet this laundry is 4oo to 500 years old. Amazing!!

This is a back street in Antigua. The buildings all over Antigua are one story and are very coloful. We walked a lot of these back streets to get away from the street peddlars. The men were selling jade)?) jewelery and the women were selling brightly colored home made(?)fabrics

Some of them are up on the left getting ready to pounce on us.

We took a breather from our walking and tried a cup of Guatamalan coffee in a pretty little courtyard cafe. Mary Ann (the big coffee drinker) found it to be too strong for her taste. I finished my cup AND her cup and did a Flamenco dance in the Parque across the Calle. I don't think the locals were impressed.

Here are two views of another ruined "Convento". This is "El Convento de Capuchinas". One can only imagine what it looked like before the quakes (250 years ago)!

We did see an Antiguan women actually weaving fabric. She let me take her picture. Most of the fabrics that women were selling as "hand made", however, were probably made in China.

A couple of doors away from this woman was a dinky little corner store and bakery. We went in to check it out and guess what? It was stocked with all kinds of "Trader Joe's" products. We were floored (but we didn't buy anything).

One church that has been restored is "La Inglesia y Convento La Merced". It was quite beautiful outside and inside!

One final picture: I decided to put myself in the hands of Jesus. Funny, I don't feel any different. In fact, I think he was reaching for my wallet with his left hand. Oh well...

That's it for Antigua: Una ciudad muy bonita y historica. We caught our bus at 4PM and drove down to Puerto Quetzal. As we approached the port it started to rain. Remember the picture of the lines to reboard the ship?

This time it was pouring and dark. We were soaked when we got back to our "state room". We dried off and went to the Windjammer Cafe for a nice hot buffet dinner. Life is good!!

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