I have a nice sleep in today, but I wake up feeling even worse. It’s a full blown cold, my friends! I am tired, I’m stuffy, I have a headache. But this is my last day in Guatemala and there are things I need to do, dammit!
I head out to start my ruins tour. As I mentioned, there are many ruins in Antigua because of the earthquakes in the years past and many of the remaining ones belong to churches and monasteries. My first stop is San Francisco church; there are two massive ornate gates as entryways.
Its style is baroque Spanish and features twisted salomonic columns in the front by the doors. Locals come here for pilgrimage to pray for miracles at Saint Hermano Pedro’s tomb.
I do not go inside, but I head to the right of the church where the ruins of the convent remain. There is a small museum dedicated to Hermano Pedro so I have a quick look before venturing into the convent.
The gardens in the ruins are very pretty and walking through the crumbling brick archways is so cool.
The only thing that puts a bit of a damper on things is the guy flying the drone through the ruins. The sound is annoying and I’m trying to take pics without the drone in it. But as you can see, it’s a very beautiful place!
Next is a short walk over to Convento Santa Clara ..this one is in front of La Union Park and the haunted public laundry. The outer walls of the convent are large and very ornate; the perfect example of the Baroque architecture.
This convent was run by Franciscan nuns and was built in the early 1700’s. It was also damaged in the earthquake, but it’s in decent shape.
It is quite large and there are lots of areas to explore. There is a large courtyard in the centre with a beautiful fountain.
The church part has large circles in the ceiling, so you can see the blue sky above.
The convent was two stories but most of the upper walls have fallen. It’s very peaceful and not many tourists are here today so I can spend the next hour taking in its haunting beauty.
As if one convent isn’t enough, I’m off to the next one…Convento Capuchinas. It is said to be one of the finest examples of an 18th century convent.
This one is much smaller than Santa Clara and is rumored to be haunted. There is a circular area, where the cells of the nuns were located.
I find the nuns bathroom, with large holes that were used as bathtubs.
There are also underground tunnels – how creepy is that! You can climb down to a small portion of the tunnels. Of course, there is a courtyard with a pretty fountain.
I take a look at the church next to the convent – it’s a vast empty room.
I leave the convent and walk a few blocks up and I see this church…. This one is not on my list! It is called Church of Our Lady of Carmen, and the façade that is still standing is just stunning.
It is fenced off so I can’t go inside but there isn’t much left of the inside anyways. But next to the church is a small indoor market. I give it a go, but I’m already not feeling well and the heat and humidity and claustrophobia are making me feel like I’m going to pass out. So that’s enough of that – I consider calling it a day and going back to rest at the hotel but as I start walking again I feel much better. I head over to the main street where the Santa Catalina Arch stands over 5th avenue north, the yellow color reflecting bright in the sunlight
Fun Fact: this arch used to connect the convent and a school so the nuns didn’t have to go on the street to pass between the buildings. This is a major spot to take pics, so there’s always lots of people around. At the end of 5th avenue is La Merced, a gorgeous yellow Baroque church.
There is a large white rosary draped over the front of the church; it lights up at nighttime. The ruins of the monastery are behind the church; the fountain in the centre is believed to be the largest in central America. It is in a shape of a waterlily, symbolizing power.
I climb up to the rooftop and look down onto the fountain. There are also great views of the volcanoes from up here.
And this concludes my church and convent ruins tour!
On the way back to the hotel I see a lady with a street stand selling bags of fresh mango. OMG yes! Mangoes are my favorite fruit. I find out that eating mangoes from a bag is very messy and sticky and I don’t have any wet wipes with me this afternoon. Dammit!
I relax at the hotel a bit and debate if it’s worth going out again. But I suck it up and head over to the chocolate museum where they offer a chocolate making workshop. It’s only me in the class today and my teacher Francisco is super fun and knowledgeable. So it turns out making chocolate is similar to making coffee. The cacao beans are picked and are given time to ferment. Francisco grabs some beans and we roast them and have a little chitchat.
Once they have been roasted, we have to crack them to separate the husks from the bean. We use the husk flakes to make a chocolate tea…just add a bit of sugar and there you have it! Very subtle but tasty. Now we grind the beans to make a paste…not an easy task. Takes a lot of muscle!
I try it manually with a grinding tool but there is also a machine with a crank that does it a bit quicker/easier. We make a couple more drinks…one is a traditional Mayan recipe flavored with sugar, chili, vanilla, honey, paprika (Mayans used blood, but since that’s gross, paprika is our sub). There is a special way to mix it…. pouring from one pot to the other.
It tastes rich and spicy. Then we make a Spanish style drink with sugar, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. This one is smooth and sweet. I love both of them! I also get to make my own chocolate…I pour the liquid milk chocolate into the molds and choose the toppings. I use coffee, macadamia, almond and sea salt. I’m sure Francisco is laughing to himself when he sees how much sea salt I’ve put on one of them.
Advice- a little sea salt goes a long way…I couldn’t even eat it without gagging! HAHA. Thanks for the warning, buddy.
My appetite is close to zero at this point but I have to eat something. I decide to check out Antigua Brewing Co. for dinner and beers. I begin my night up on the rooftop terrace and the views of the volcanoes and the city below are so pretty. But then it gets a bit chilly so I move inside. I order the flight of beers so I can try a few different ones. The flavors are fruity, spicy, coffee, chocolate, toffee…they are all so good!
And this concludes my time to Guatemala. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, as it’s not a place that alot of people venture to. But I loved it! Such a beautiful country with equally beautiful people.