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I visit La Antigua Guatemala, a 500-year-old world heritage site under the shadow of a volcano

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

When the Spanish decided to colonize the Americas, they did not waste any time.

On Saturday we landed on the west coast of Guatemala and I took a tour to la Antigua Guatemala, a former Spanish capital of Central America and World UNESCO heritage site that was founded in 1541 - that's 49 years after Columbus first landed.

It survived as the regional capital for more than 200 years but was eventually evacuated (except for some hardy holdouts) because the buildings kept toppling over in earthquakes. The ruins are still there, and there are many fabulously facaded heritage buildings, as well as a large number of Mayan hawkers (women, man and children) wandering the streets selling textiles, jewelry, toys and musical instruments.

We were warned not to take their pictures without asking (paying) ... so ... this is me being sneaky.

On our 90-minute drive to the mountain town, through the sugar-cane fields and past the coffee plantations, it was impossible not to notice the large smoking volcano to our left.

Our guide said yes it sometimes explodes ... most recently in 2018 ... and yes 'a few' people had died (a few being nearly 200, I found out later via Wikipedia).

We left the buses and strolled through the town, which is today quite large. Our hike through the hot sun took us 7 k over streets cobbled with volcanic rock. I was feeling quite fatigued by the end of it and honestly wondered how the grannies and their canes managed to do it.

We saw at least three cathedrals, two of which were built in the 1500s, and inadvertently crashed a wedding. I didn't realized I got the bride and groom in this shot until I got back to the ship.

Some of the facades are quite spectacular.

And yes, I did but two colourful scarfs from the Mayan ladies who claimed they had made them by hand (doubters in that, but I am happy to contribute to the local economy.

There was also a massive indoor mall full of tourist tchotchkes... which was rather overwhelming!

And we ended at a jade museum where we could have purchased some beautiful jade and silver jewelry ... if we had a few hundred dollars American roaming free in our pockets - which I thankfully did not.

Back at the ship, I received a message from Josie (one of my Windsor friends) to say that she had tested positive for COVID. So too had her sister, so they are now in isolation and I have lost my rummy pals over the next two days at sea.

This ship is honestly a floating cauldron of virus. Everyone is coughing and hacking - and I suspect there are a lot of people who have the virus but have chosen not to isolate. But I feel like I have immunity super powers thanks to my bout last week.

But I have much reading ... and I have yet to visit the margarita bar (two dangerous words when placed in that order) ... so that is looming in my near future.

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