Antigua Roadshow

Travelled for a few hours into Antigua via shuttle and some terrible mountain roads on the 23rd for Christmas.

Antigua does not disappoint. Cobbled streets, colourful single storey colonial buildings and lovely churches, small enough to walk across in half an hour, various parks for sitting and people watching, views of three surrounding volcanoes – one typically puffing out smoke, and colourful artisana stalls selling traditional clothes, bags, belts (you name it). It is absolutely gorgeous. Eminently liveable (as the expat community attests). The backpackers budget does limit your access to most restaurants and bars in this city, but you can find enough to get by.

Guide book quote:

“If you’re on a budget, this is not your place”

Just How I like my Women Joke of the Day

Antigua is so pretty, but very expensive…

Christmas was a low-key affair (for us). On Christmas Eve we wandered around a quiet town, had a very expensive drink, so headed home and later watched an amazing fireworks show from our Posada’s roof terrace. At midnight everyone lets off fireworks, the cacophony echoing around the mountains,  360 lightshow from the top of hills to the neighbouring property, and smoke… so much smoke. Aside from being visually and aurally stunning, there is a touching connection you feel to everyone in the area doing the same thing at the same time – humans in unison. Even the nuns in the convent opposite were up on their roof watching, as is their habit. Really nice way to ring in Christmas.

Christmas itself featured face-timing, drooling at pictures of Christmas dinner, another fireworks extravaganza at midday, wandering around a quiet town, delicious ceviche for lunch and burgers for tea.

Our festive theme has been “Puppys and Pappys”:


We had booked a lovely Posada as our base, very central and a fantastic rooftop terrace for looking at surrounding volcanoes and mountains… but the best thing about it was the puppy they (Carlos and Hazel) had just brought home – Choco.

Gratuitous puppy watching, if you’re so inclined…

Soooo lovely to play in the afternoons and laugh at her rolling around, falling over, chasing shoes, trying to escape.

Sadly, however, my puppy was just for Christmas.


THE most amazing meat we’ve had since we’ve been away. Had a rib plate with 2 sides for lunch, and back again for amazing double burger. Very tasty Christmas treats.

Pappys also has the best wifi router name we’ve encountered on this trip: Prettyflyforawifi. Hehehe.


Other Important Conversations: 

Guatevision (the Guatemalan Chuckle Vision):

“Tamale, to you…. Tamale, to you”

“That rum gives me headache”
“Oh, ok, I do alright on it”
“Yeah, I know. Maybe it’s you.”

“Nobody likes a smartarse Emily. Apart from me, apparently.”

“Look at me, I have got the body of a 39 year old… in the cupboard.”

“What food are you looking forward to when we get home?”
“Curry Night 1, Roast Day 2”
“What a great result!”


And so, as we sorted out a booking failure for onward travel to another country (Gekko Trails Explorer has a bad review coming), we thought about how much we have loved Guatemala and ruminated on what made it special for us.

1. Fresh fruit and vegetables are cheaper than McDonalds: the way it should be

In Antigua even this place is rocking a view: “Where’s Ronny?”

2. A smile begets a smile: smile and say “hello” and you always get a cheery and welcoming response, not the shocked “are you going to mug me?” or “what do YOU want” of a typical Londoner

3. Perfect weather: hot and sunny by day, but plenty of locations to be cold at night (try room 8 at Posada de San Carlos – freezing!)



4. No celebrity news: priorities are straight

5. Heritage: keeping hold of your language, your artisana skills, your traditional clothes of vibrant colour, despite so much Spanish and Catholic interference seems to me its own quiet revolution, a testament to resilience.


Hermit Hole

We’re not quite sure what we did to deserve it, the travelling Gods must have been smiling on us – on the 11th we were upgraded to an amazing apartment. Open kitchen and living room, 2 bedrooms, flat screen TV, brand new. Incredible views from the living room and bedroom out to the garden, the lake and the mountains. Its bigger than our flat in London. The Manager (Matt) did us a massive favour so we could stay for a month overall. I’m led to believe we qualified because we’re “not dicks”.

I almost cried when we moved in, it was a bit overwhelming. Then I promptly made use of the loo to vomit. Not so much overwhelmed as under the weather. We’d eaten street food the night before (plus drunk a fair amount of rum) so the first bout of gurgling stomachs ensued. Nothing like your own apartment to speed recovery, however.

“Do you want more ron (rum)?”

“More ron – that’s what you should have called your blog!”

A backpackers diet can be heavy on the carbs – you can get salad and fruits as extra sides but we tend to stick to a main course only to keep to budget. Lots of bread, rice, beans, tortillas, pasta. So we headed to the local market to stock up on fresh veg, salad and fruits now that we can store it and cook for ourselves. I’ve been hoovering it up at every opportunity. We’ve had a couple of big cook ups – pasta, curry… all good to last a few days.

Found some other interesting food. There isn’t much good meat around, unless you’re up for a live chicken or freshly caught fish from the market, or you like spam. But there is a guy (Nester) who produces some good stuff (bacon, sausages, steaks etc).

“Let’s go gander at some sausage.”

And I never expected to be eating this while travelling …..

“I have never had to pay for that before!”

The days seem to roll by in reverie and leisurely routine at the ‘Hermit Hole’. Fresh bread for breakfast, learning Spanish in the shade on the lawn, reading, cooking and watching movies. Chilled out Heaven. Matt asked us “What have you been keeping yourselves busy with?”. Erm, nothing!

Watched a fire roaring up the mountains opposite us one night at 2am (from our bed!). Enormous, lighting up the night sky orange, we were concerned that villages were being taken out. As it turns out, we took a couple of boat trips to towns around the lake and close up you could tell it was very well controlled – of course they know what they’re doing.

We got a lancha to Santiago (basically a town full of market stalls, armadillo skin anyone??) and Panajachel (where most tourists stay). Views back to the three volcanoes from Panajachel were incredible – had some obligatory “marvelling” beers.

Jim has developed sweaty ‘knee pits’.

“Sounds like something you could have with haggis.”

Watched some paragliders gliding and landing, pretty cool.

Otherwise not much else there, other than great street food stalls and loads of ‘artisanas’ approaching you to sell you stuff. Journey back from Pana was the best bit – into the sun setting, along the lake edge past village after village, admiring the magnificent houses clinging to the mountain edge – there is some money here after all. San Marcos looked to be the most ‘modern’, with nice properties on the lake edge, bars with terraces lined with big white sofas etc. Its odd, San Marcos is supposed to be a hippy town:

“Well Emily, if you can live like a hippy you can probably afford to.”

Jim has finally succumbed to testing me on my Spanish. He randomly selects a phrase in English in my notebook and I have to translate to Spanish. “Why don’t you do it?”. “I’m leaving right now”. “What are you doing right now?”. “What are you saying?”. “Why don’t you speak Spanish with me?”.

“All this time, have you just been learning how to moan in Spanish?”

Had a quick trip to Smokey Joe’s BBQ (Nester’s weekly meat fest) on Sunday at the pool… massive plate of food and delicious spicy bloody mary in the sun.

Also finally got out on the kayaks to have a look around the (very grassy) lake shore. Had some fun trying to record a Christmas message 😉

And over the last few days our minds have turned back to itineraries and research and how much I can put on the credit card and transfer to 0%. Its amazing and exciting thinking of the incredible things we’ll be doing, but still doesn’t mean we’ve missed the organising part, the moratorium has been appreciated. Still such a lot to do, and time is dwindling fast. The next few months will be busy, moving every few days.. and a lot heavier on the wallet than our last month in Super San Pedro. Hold tight!

Other important conversations:

“I need to become a surfer I think”


“I don’t know.”

“How would that work?”

“Yep, exactly. I wouldn’t work.”



San Pedro La(ze) Laguna

It has taken two weeks to write this post. We’ve been here, in the same place for 2 weeks – and we’re staying for another 1.5 #stuck

When you see what it looks like, you’ll understand. Plus, its cheap, its small (15mins walk to anywhere), there are lots of bars and everyone is friendly, no mosquitos, a cool breeze but hot sun. Oh yes, and its cheap. And its beautiful. And cheap.



Snippet of journey out of Lanquin…

We arrived on the 27th via shuttle from Lanquin, revelling in the luxury of the transit compared to our last journey (i.e there was a roof).

Features of the trip, roughly in this order, were dirt tracks overlooking steep drops into lush green valleys, a debate about whether the hills were mountains or just hills (is there not something in between?), boulders from past landslides littering the road, dog roadkill, and pot holes.

I did also have the obligatory journey mishap.  I left a jacket on the first shuttle to Antigua (we had to change buses). I had only worn it once, on the shuttle bus, that day… and fell in love with its cosyness (Uni Qlo down, toasty). Via the power of google translate, some hastily fired off emails and a nice tip, I did actually get it back the next day, amazingly. “That wouldn’t have happened if it was an iPhone” says a local.



Spent the first 2 nights in a decent hotel (Sak’cari) to reward ourselves for a dank stay with the cockroaches. Stunning views of Lago de Atitlan, very happy (non)campers.

Sorted out language lessons, somewhere to stay for a week, and red hair dye (yes, its an essential!) in the space of about 18 minutes on the first morning. The subsequent list of things we’ve accomplished since then is undeniably short. Four things. Yes, four. Its all rather leisurely here, once again immersing ourselves in the culture. Ahem.



Been out a few nights (cook up with the AC gang at their hostel, various “Sublime” nights, Buddha Bar chats etc) – most of which featured a fresh injury. Took some skin off my toe trying to walk and talk at the same time. Was attacked by my own flip flop (traitor!). Sat on a broken chair and got a massive scratch up my back. #notevendrunk


Completed a week’s worth of spanish lessons at San Pedro school (next door to our hotel). Was OK to get the basics but our teacher was a bit, err, creepy. “Imagine there is a condom on this table” <to explain the difference between ‘this’ and ‘that’>. “Emily won the most sexy chica in London”, “Emily won the most intellectual in the university”<By way of verb practice examples>. Awkward. This week we’re back to a combination of apps, programs and audio to learn the basics ourselves before wasting any more money on lessons. Added benefit is being able to do this in the sun in our gorgeous hotel garden, on the lake edge.

First day of school…

Serendipitous moment when Jim’s program accidentally taped our conversation…..


Experienced my first earthquake. Well 5 actually. Jim said it was a sign from the Gods, and later Wimbledon won their FA Cup qualifier and drew Liverpool for a money-spinning 3rd round tie. I liken the first tremor (at 5am) to the reaction Jim would have had if in bed when he heard this news – i.e. jumping up and down on the bed.

Its incredible to think the entire caldera of a once ginormous volcano (in which the lake formed) was shaking. Makes you feel small.



Hiked up Indian Nose. Possibly 40 minutes up a very steep hill, in the dark. Pausing to let the heart rate slow down and get enough oxygen every so often. Wonderful to watch the sunrise behind a volcano letting out little puffs of smoke, with the lake stretching before you.


And yes, of course there have been a few other things on our agenda – mostly eating, I have to admit.

Ate a lot at Cafe Atitlan which does pesto pasta for Q32 (£3). Traditional, ahem. They also sell small Harry Potter style bags of something (probably coffee) we’ve been meaning to investigate:

What would you put in your Harry Potter bag Jim?

My mini Harry Potter wand!

We have been enjoying Jim’s daily recounting of his Malarone (malaria meds) Dreams – often after waking himself up laughing. One morning he was a Koala, which we both think his brain concocoted in order to remember the correct pronounciation of “Cuál” (‘which’ in Spanish) that had been causing no end of problems. Another morning we had broken up so Jim had gone to visit Don Draper to get a job (Mad Man indeed). Another he was a road-sweeper – I cannot imagine why he was laughing at this. Considering it now, we might need to plumb this humour if we find it actually happens!

Being able to sleep at any time has had some surprising results. My record is 8pm. Seriously. I went to sleep at 8pm. #livingthedream

And looking. I’ve done a lot of looking. Staring at mountains, volcanoes and water. Why not? Sun on my face, cool breeze, stunning view, brain stasis. Behold, creation! My capacity for this is proving to be really quite astonishing. It is as if it might all disappear if I don’t keep it front and centre. Let’s just say I’m ‘meditating’, sounds less lazy.

San Pedro’s other features include:

  1. Shots fired here and there, randomly, every day.
  2. Fireworks, randomly, every day.
  3. A lovely local community: traditional dress; ancient, teeny-weeny ladies selling fruit and veg at the market stalls, or swatting flies from a couple of small fish they’ve caught that morning
  4. Dog Holes. Loads of stray dogs making nice comfy holes in patches of dirt. “I found the perfect dog hole in San Pedro”. “Oi!”. “Why are you saying ‘Oi’? You can’t deny a man his dog hole!”
  5. Dog of the Month in the local listing
  6. Dog of the Year in the local listing


Other important conversations:

New name for a Bike Shop: Bike Curious

The title of Frank Muir’s Memoirs: My Memuirs