Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saint Brother Pedro Bethancourt and Stunning Ermita [Hermitage ruins] Sta Cruz, Antigua

spotted it in the travel broChyurchure; Balet Hispanico performance against the backdrop of this stunning 17th century facade.

we started off the day waking up with Adolfo and Thelma sleeping in our sitting room; we shared our meager breakfast with them before heading for more abundant fare in La Chimenea restaurant at Soleil; their sons had been having breakfast; we were late but somehow the four of us, together with Tita and Alfonso were able to have a real breakfast brunch there.
After that when other members of our party arrived late and made for La Cabania I had enough of eating and looking at food and made it back to the room to write...
After saying goodbye to Thelma and Adolfo who went back to Guatemala City, Aura and I stepped out to go for tickets at the Hermitage; there was a box office, and price was steeped by local standards, Q270 a head for platea general admission.
We them serendipitously came across the church of San Francisco Grande where  Saint Brother Pedro -Guatermala's only canonized saint -he was lost from Vatican attention for over 200 years until JP II got him canonized in the 1980s; seems like a person who really deserved the veneration of the poor and indigenous to whom he dedicated his life...
My wife, Aura, is very proud of the fact that her last name is the same, Bethancourt; Brother Pedro was from Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Wedding of Carinio and Gerardo at San Bartolome de Becerra, Antigua, Guate

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Wedding Sat 26th at 4:30 p.b.

naturally, they did not take out the statue of Christ, as this was not Holy Week
but rather a very happy occasion
The reception was held at Antigua Finca Santa Isabel

Friday, February 25, 2011

In Beautiful Antigua, Guatemala

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 a Tuc-Tuc

Thursday 24 Feb

up at the crack of dawn, 10am

Had to find a safe place for our valuables; it was the first time in my life i had ever deposited anything in a safe deposit box! We did this here at Soleil La Antigua, impressed as i was with the two key song and dance...
Late we took a trip on the Tuc Tuc into the city center
Breakfast in the wonderful setting of La Condesa accross from the Central Park main square; there were too many Americanos there! But they did not order the huevos rancheros.
Later we began taking care of the essentials, going to the Farmacia  Don Miguelito to buy aspirin and a couple of creams; Aura chatted with the owner, a cousin of the original owners whom she had known in Ciudad Vieja "a few years ago" when she was a girl and was staying with her aunt who lived across the street from Don Miguelito; she remembers spending Christmas at his home and with his children. That was a nice coincidence...
We visited the rather disappointing "Museo del libro" [book museum and they charged us 30 Quetzals, $4.50; Aura went back and got her money back because she is a native of Antigua! ]" in the square and optained good views of the plaza from the Town Hall balcony. Up there I spotted an unusual green bird in the trees below; a local told me it was a "clarin" and I took note of that; he said it was greenish blue. There were a fair amount of armed guards around but they are young and friendly; this area also has special tourist security police; we felt completely at ease as we walking around. Knowing the lingo, of course, is a big advantage. People smiling and friendly; i like to notice the local nuances and customs which i always delight in. In Guatemala, instead of "Have a nice day" they say "Have happy day" Que tenga Ud.un dia feliz!
Around 5pm we had a rather heavy rain shower; the guide we chatted with explained that February is the crazy month when the weather changes quickly during the day. "Just like Ireland" I remarked to Aura but she reminded me of that cold wind that was hard for her to take. In the cool evenings here a sweater or light jacket is enough.
Only the facade of the Cathedral can bee seen from the square; the cathedral has collapsed so many times because of seismic activity and floods that this is like the third reconstruction. We took the street on the right side of the cathedral and strolled north; I noticed a fine building across the street; the plaque read "This is the building that housed the University of San Carlos founded in 1675; from here culture spread throughout the kingdom of Goethemala." I was enchanted by this building, one of the few to have survived floods and earthquakes; covered in white stucco with pink decorations of Spanish baroque and Moorish influence; of particular note are the scalloped arches of the main square, adorned with a beautiful fountain in the center.
Here we bumped into an Irish American from Chicago, Tim, with whom I shared my excitement for this building; across the street we visited the ruins of the cathedral and paid a guide Q50 -$6.00 for a tour; he was very knowledgeable and a bit uppity about his qualifications as a tour guide; he had an ample knowledge of the history of the cathedral and Antigua as well as native traditions and beliefs -the Mayan underworld -  and Tikal.
Tim had plans to take a bus to Tikal later that evening and wanted to grab a bit to eat; he was yearning for local fair and we were able to oblige as we had been following a tip for a very good Guatemala cuisine restaurant; so off we went to La Cuevita de los Urquizu; the food is displayed at the entrance and you pick your dish and they lead you to your table. Tim was delighted with the ambiance and the food and we three chatted away amicably until it was time to go and he took off for the main square and Aura and I just walked the streets; she was keen on me seeing the magnificent Santo Domingo Hotel; night was falling as we entered the main door and strolled around the gardens strewn with ruins; she took me as far as an impressive canopy covered auditorium which was being readied for a performance -men were lighting candles around the grounds to [be continued]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Arrived in Guatemala City

Municipal Palace, Guatemala City

picked up at the Guatemala airport by the bride and groom, Gerardo and Carinio, we adjourned to the Garcia home  where we partook of sumptious local cooking and finished off with a drop of Bailey's Irish Cream...; The airport is in the middle of the city and the city is surrounded by mountains; the old colonial acqueduct immediately jumpt into view surrounded by building old and modern.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brunch at Cedar Knoll Restaurant, Alexandria, VA

Sybil, Theo, Aura, and Eugene, August, 2010

Sally being Sally showing off one of her presents

My small group of English speaking birthday celebrating friends got together at midday on this glorious Spring day at a restaurant over-looking the Potomac River 3 miles from Mount Vernon, home of G. Washington, the revolutionary general.
After a very short while Theo, our Swiss friend, botanist, hiker and nature lover, noticed a mocking bird outside the window - the first one I had seen this year. The mb looked healthy as it bobbed on the bow briefly before bouncing off.
Theo and Sybil -from Shropshire - is one couple, Aura and I are another, Sally our full-blooded American from Denver, CO, who also loves to hike  and has just been to the Himalayas, is single; and Eugene is our Portuguese friend who lost his dear Esmeralda two years ago, is retired and living in DC close to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
It had been a few months since we were together so there were lots of presents to exchange; we were getting to gether to celebrate my November and Aura's December birthdays! We also brought along our Christmas presents. The presents were wonderfully wrapped and appropriate for each one. The fare was good and the conversation lively and good natured.
As I drove home later with Aura I could not help feeling very moved: How I love to be surrounded by my friends, to see them happy and enjoying themselves. "How good and joyful it is for [brothers] friends to be together as one", as Scripture says

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Planning Guatemala Trip

I am planning a trip to Guatemala on February 23, Deo Volente.
I already have some background but will be learning more before I go.
Will start off in Antigua where my wife is from and where a friend's daughter's Catholic wedding is taking place -World Heritage Site colonial city.
I also plan to write during the trip -at least this is my intention; it would be fun to write a simple travelogue in Spanish and English
Geograhically this little country of 13 million people seem to have it all:
a variety of warm tropical microclimates
mountains, valleys, two coastes, plenty of volcanoes -some active
beautiful lakes,
Maya ruins, Tikal the highest pyramid
Colonial Cities