Panama Canal Cruise travel blog

Volcanic mountain outside Antigua

1850's public laundry in Antigua

First of many churches in Antigua

Making fresh tortillas for our lunch

A monk blessing an RV

I can read these

Lots of churches in old Antigua

Lots of salespeople

One more church on the town square

Lots and lots of cobblestones

The nuns' bridge in Antigua

Damage from the 2018 volcano

Sunday, January 27

Today was Guatemala day. We ordered room service for 6:30-7:00 since we had to meet our excursion at 8:20. Neither of us heard the alarm, and were awakened by the waiter knocking on the door at 6:45! I think I need to use the wake up call or my phone from now on—the little travel alarm doesn’t do the job for me anymore (remembering oversleeping on the day to visit Valley of the Kings in Egypt).

We thought we’d have to shuttle to the cruise port (the regular dock has been damaged, so we are in the industrial area). The excursion buses came to the ship however, so we climbed on our bus to Antigua. It was a 90 minute drive up into the mountains (1500 meters/4500 feet). We were on freeway part of the way, but veered off onto secondary roads to reach the old colonial city. The volcanos go through Guatemala as well. There was a major eruption in 2018 that destroyed some villages, and there was still devastation to be seen along the way, much like Mt. St. Helens, but narrower path. The people are housed in temporary shelters still, and not certain where they will be relocated. We passed many sugar cane fields, including one being burnt off, and lots of other agriculture as well. I would say that Guatemala is not doing as well as Nicaragua, but the people were very friendly and happy to have tourism. Our guide was excellent once again, with lots of information, friendly and helpful.

We took the ‘Antigua on your own’ tour, which was nice. The big bus had to stop on the outskirts of the old colonial city, and we were moved to two small buses that could fit in the narrow streets. We were dropped us off at the jade factory, and given maps and an orientation to the city, and went on our way. There is a dormant volcano very close to the city that is useful for orienting yourself. Streets were numbered, with streets going east and west and avenues going north and south. I came to this understanding after I tried to find ‘Oriente’ street on the map and realizing that meant ‘east’!

We saw some ruins of impressive buildings, including ones being restored. The city was founded in the 1500’s, so it is a very old and picturesque city. The streets are cobblestone, and it was necessary to keep an eye on your feet. I was happy finish the tour without tripping, falling, or otherwise injuring myself! We passed a public laundry in the park (1850’s) with a pool of water and several connected basins that were being used by local women to do their wash. We went on to a large church which was having services (it is Sunday). There was a market set up along one side of the courtyard, and people selling food as well. Since we won’t be on the ship for lunch, we got some street tacos. Women were making tortillas and barbecuing pork, so that was our lunch for a big two dollars! We cruised along the small market before moving on through the city, enjoying the sights and atmosphere. There were lots of vendors trying to sell things—woven shawls, jewelry, beadwork, and more. They were persistent, but not too aggressive. We stopped in the central park/square to rest a bit. Being Sunday afternoon, there were lots of locals out as well. We found a market just off the square for some more shopping, then walked up to see the bridge over the street (built for the nuns to cross to the school without being watched by the local men). Thanks to a friendly local we got back to the meeting place for the ride back to the port in plenty of time. The sun was bright, and we walked on the shady side of the street when possible, but it wasn’t as hot due to the elevation.

We got back to the ship about 3:15 and relaxed with show and tell of our purchases, then changed for dinner, since we had such a light lunch. We changed tours for our excursion in Puerto Vallarta, then headed for the dining room, where we both ordered two entrees! We had enough oomph for the show at 8:00, then back to the room for the night. We don’t need to do an early morning tomorrow, since we don’t dock until 1:00, so we can sleep in.

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