During my stay in Antigua this summer I woke up very early each morning. Really early- usually before 6am. I got in the habit of taking a morning walk each day when the streets were a little more peaceful and it was easier to take photos. It was interesting to walk around at the beginning of the day and see the street vendors setting up. Several people were peeling fruit and dividing it up into individually wrapped portions to sell through the day, and others were stacking newspapers and setting up shoe shine kits. Normal, everyday things.
Most of the Spanish Colonial buildings date back to the 1700’s when they were rebuilt after most of the original city was destroyed in an earthquake, but ruins from the original structures are still found around town. One morning there was a craft market in front of the ruins of Iglesia El Carmen – a former cathedral and convent. Seeing the bright patterns of the Mayan fabric and crafts juxtaposed against the collapsing structure was a pretty incredible way to start the day.
Antigua is known for being surrounded by imposing volcanoes – Agua, Fuego and Acatenango – and their overwhelming presence is one of the things I remember most vividly about my time in Guatemala. The volcanoes tower over the town and create this unbelievable backdrop behind everything else. I never stopped being blown away by the breathtaking volcano views that kept appearing around corners as I walked and walked. Fuego always looked especially dramatic with the fluffy smoke rising out of it’s top constantly. An active volcano – right there!
They looked so commanding. Every few blocks I had to stop and stare at them for a few seconds. I visited Guatemala in June, during raining season, so the weather was a mixed bag. Some mornings the sky was clear and sunny, but other mornings were cloudy and the varied conditions changed the view of the volcanoes. Sometimes they were barely visible in the mist, and on a few mornings only the peak of Volcán de Agua appeared above the clouds.
Antigua is an extremely walk-able town. The streets are a laid out in a grid and named numerically so its hard to lose your way. I wandered for about an hour every morning. Passed cathedrals and ruins, through Parque Central and down side streets full of beautiful homes and charming details. The bold colours, the flowers in the window boxes, the cobblestone roads. It was all so lovely. Almost everyone I passed saying “Buenos Dias” with a smile and kind nod.
Each morning I ended up at the same spot after my walk. Fernando’s Kaffee on 7a Avenida Norte had the most delicious coffee I found in Antigua – a city with an abundance of great cafes. Fernando’s roasts in house and also makes their own amazing chocolate. The smell of the brewing coffee as you walk in the door…ahhh I wish I had some right now.
I drank a lot of coffee in that cafe, and plotted each days adventures as I had breakfast. After about a week of daily visits I had sampled a good percentage of their menu and loved it all. It was exactly the type of place I like…quality menu, a little shaded courtyard, friendly staff and a relaxing vibe. There is also a sweet grey tabby named Misha at the cafe who is the queen of the courtyard. She was a amiable host and I’ll admit it was hard to say good bye to that nice little cat on my last morning in town. http://www.fernandoskaffee.com/
Antigua is one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever seen. Along with it’s beauty, the mix of deep history, the fascinating Mayan culture and warm locals really do make it a special place. I’m not surprised so many travelers have arrived in Antigua expecting to stay a short time but end up staying for months and even years. There’s a lot to keep a person there.