Guatemala - Antigua

Our next destination was Antigua in Guatemala. We planned to take one of the first class buses from San Salvador to Guatemala  City, change bus terminals and take another bus to Antigua. While we were in San Salvador the hotel employed a taxi driver who we used several times. He persuaded us that it was cheaper for him to drive us to Antigua. We thought this would be far more comfortable and arranged for him to pick us up at 8.30am. He was late because of the preparations for President Obama's visit the next day. We never thought to confirm where he was taking us. A few kms outside the city we got diverted to a  road that went over the volcano because of a demonstration.  So we went on, we didn't seem to be taking the PanAm highway as we thought we would, but didn't think anything about it. 4 hours later we arrived at the border, there were not many people there - strange this is a major crossing. The immigration officer asked where we were going 'Antigua' we said. The driver said 'Oh no we are going to ........'   A place we had never heard of....... Stunned silence. We had no idea where we were. To add to the problems there was a very odd noise coming from one of the front wheels. We said nothing until we were over the border and then a very loud and lively discussion took place. For some reason the driver had driven us to a border in the north of Guatemala, that would take us another  4 hours to get to Guatemala City, a change of terminals and another hour to Antigua. While the discussion was taking place the driver stopped at garage and said he had to change the brake pads! The end of the story is that we finally arrived in Antigua 6 hours later than we should and we lost a half day in the city we were returning to because we had enjoyed it so much 10 years ago.
Looking back on it, we could hardly believe that a thing like this would happen to us! Saga finished and I am sure some one will write a suitable comment about checking things!!!!
We were very happy to be back in Antigua - it is a beautiful Colonial city. At one time it was the Capital of Guatemala and had 22 Churches, 14 convents and 11 monasteries!!!! Most of them have been destroyed by devastating earthquakes. The city has been rebuilt several times, and is now has a huge tourist industry linked into many Language schools.
We  stayed in a very nice converted house.
The next day was walking day, the old entrance to the city is as we remembered.
The celebrated Convent hotel to the left of the gate didn't look as good as it used to!
Antigua is surrounded by Volcanos. The biggest and nearest dominates the city.
The other two are some way a away, one is always smoking!
Yes, That is smoke and steam!
.The streets are narrow and cobbled, the house's front doors opening directly onto the pavements.
Behind the doors are the famous court yards.

The main square is surrounded by old buildings, with covered paths.

The ceilings beautifully painted.
The reconstructed churches are very beautiful. But, we are now in Lent and I have realized that Lent is celebrated in Central America. In Spain only Holy week is celebrated with processions, but here all the towns and cities have processions for the full 4 weeks of Lent. All churches are decorated with purple banners and flower decorations are everywhere.
Antigua obviously celebrates to the full. La Merced Church has piped mass going all the time and all the figures were on their carts ready to be paraded in the streets.

Next to the church is a ruined convent. The old cloisters had a huge fountain in it.
The arches were beautiful.
The crosses were ready for the processions.
and stored in a corner were the old demi-johns!
Walking out through one door
I wondered if the nuns were allowed to leave through the huge entrance door!
Floral decorations were everywhere.
In the fountain.
And purple ones on buildings,

In entrances
and even in wine bars.
We walked past the old washing place.
To the Capuchinas Convent.
It was different inside. Jesus was given food.
And people were praying.
 It was a fabulous day,but we decided to check the buses for the trip to Huehuetenango.
As we walked back we came across a shop specializing in Lent and holy week clothes.
The poster told us the program
and we could buy the necessary clothes.
Just in case you needed a souvenir of the processions the models were available.

And of course the following are not allowed!
But, one is encouraged to read.
And marriage is very important.
There are always people chatting.
 And always the churches and volcano are there.

El Salvador

Our visit was only a few days - we missed Obama by one day, as we were leaving he flew in!
The journey from Santa Rosa de Copan (Honduras) was up hill and down dale again in
a good comfortable bus.
We literally got dropped - the bus stopped for about 30 seconds to disgorge us and our luggage
on the road towards San Salvador
The heat hit us! It must have been about 40degrees. No humidity either, we felt we were drying up!
The old colonial capital, Suchitoto, was where we were heading, while we waited sitting on the curbside side for a 'chicken bus', this lady passed by.
We had to walk quite a way to the hotel, dragging our wheely bags along the cobbles in the boiling heat.
Finally the gates came into view.
The next shock was - no reservation and it was 20$ more than we thought!!
After much discussion a price  was agreed and we were offered a suite! 
Here it is!
And this is the bathroom.
And the view from the terrace 
was fabulous.
This is a fisheye setting  view!!!
We decided to gather our strength, by having a siesta,
 before venturing out into the evening light.
Lent has begun here, The procession of  'The12 stations of the Cross'
was being prepared. This was the 8th Station, being prepared by two old ladies.

We wandered around the Town, enjoying the ancient buildings.
The church was impressive in the evening light..
We went in and saw that Jesus was ready for his journey.
Mass was in progress, so we wandered out into the square., admired another 'Station'
A few moments later Jesus was carried out of the church.
The altar boys didn't seem to know what to do.
and people were milling around.
until the Priest got them organised.!
With the help of  the technical team!
Finally everyone was in position and off they went.
We stopped at a cafe, to have a beer and enjoy watching life go by.
There is a very 'calm' feeling about the town and we were relaxing too!.
We went into the church, which was huge.
It had some very old stained glass windows.
We walked back to the hotel passing gardens.
and looking at Patios.
We had to leave at lunch  time the next day, but had time to explore and marvel at the old buildings.

This building was a restaurant. Inside was a  very imaginative use of a piece of wood!
I love these 'corner' windows and their grills.
The wooden bench outside the school was interesting.
We came across the town 'dough'making shop. The locals took their ground corn flour and it was made into dough for them to make their Tacos at home.

The town is full of artists' studios.

And of course we found the tiny market.
The corn wrapped potato is eaten at the weekends!
Simple furniture was for sale too.
In El Salvador they paint the lampposts!
The pink flowering tree was glorious.
and so we said goodbye to Suchitito.
The Capital of El Salvador (San Salvador) is a typical Central American city; -
Filthy, noisy, car,buses and trucks belching forth foul black exhaust fumes, very poor people living in appalling conditions, the wealthy living in palaces, protected by high walls crowned with razor wire. And everywhere armed guards.
Religion is important, The newly built Cathedral is huge.
Inside the windows were equally impressive.
Outside, there was a park.
and an old colonial building that was empty, but guarded by the police.
We were so overcome by all the fumes and noise we retired to a bakery and had a coffee and biscuit!
Outside  San Salvador is the small village of  Panchimalco.        .
We took a micro bus out to the village. The church is one of the oldest in El Salvador, and the village supposed to be one of the prettysts.
The church was a classic Colonial facade.
 Inside was pretty impressive.
The aisle still made from terracotta tiles .
The ceiling, the original wood.
The Altar screen, wood and silver.

Jesus was ready for his journey here, as well.
Outside it was hot and the ice making boy was busy mushing up the ice!.
We didn't think the village very remarkable, the people were obviously very poor.

But still managed to plant flowers outside some of their houses.
Tiny shops lined the main street.
And women still carried items on their heads.
We visited the cemetery, which is usually an interesting place.
But this one was a shock. It was filthy.

Returning to San Salvador we visited the Ethnological Museum .
It was new, very well presented and of course had some exquisite Pre Columbian pieces.

We liked the toy dog on wheels  about 1,000 years old!
And the glazed braziers form Inca temples.