Wednesday was a free day to explore Antigua on our own. Some went shopping, some visited the old Churches, (some in complete ruin, some partly rebuilt, some that looked almost new) and some went to find fun places to eat. A few did all three. Antigua was the capital of most of Central America from 1543 to 1776 at which time the capital was moved to Guatemala City. The reason for the move was that several earthquakes destroyed most of the city. The city lay in ruble for almost 200 years but in the last 50 years has regained some of its’ former glory. It is hard to imagine how big and beautiful some of the seminaries and convents were. It is also hard to realize how developed Antigua was before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Thursday we traveled to Flores,El Pete’n and the gateway to Tikal, but first one last tour of Antigua. We visited the grandiose hotel - Casa Santo Domingo. It was built incorporating the ruins of a large convent compound. Much of the old convent was saved and all new construction matches the old and ancient. The rooms are top of the line as well as the restaurant and grounds. In addition, it is one immense museum and some of the display rooms are exquisite. We then bused to Guatemala City and took a plane to El Petin and the jungles of Guatemala. After getting settled in our hotel room we had a unique evening when David invited us to come to his parents’ home for a tamale dinner and a chance to meet his extended family. Was this part of the tour or were we just lucky?