Antigua is the number one place in Guatemala to spend some time. Like Chiang Mai in Thailand this is where the majority of expats hangout, work online, play music, chill. It’s got a real young, hipster vibe about it – but genuine hipster vibe, not some contrived mustache wearing hipster instagramming his big mac whilst wearing short shorts.
The town is just outright beautiful. Small cobbled stones streets, low level buildings all painted in multicolour hues, Spanish architecture peeping out from every corner hinting at Antigua’s colonial past. You could guest lost drinking local beers and coffees here for days, and many people do.
I wanted to really understand a bit more about the city than Wikitravel and lonely planet could tell me so I went on a day trip to explore Antigua, a couple of nearby towns and a coffee plantation with Guatemalan Adventure. They assured me that this was the best way to explore the ‘real’ Antigua, I was skeptical actually but they had been so awesome in organizing my other day trips that I thought I’d hop on board and trust them.
The daytrip was in 2 segments, the morning was spent checking out a local coffee production outfit and the afternoon was lunch in a local restaurant and hearing a little bit about the city and it’s buildings.
Normally the coffee tour would be in a polished, tourist-friendly coffee ‘factory’ – not really my scene. However, I had happened to book it for a Sunday and the factory was closed – so we had to improvise. We went straight to an actual coffee town, met an owner of a coffee production place and set about making our own coffee.
We saw how coffee beans were grown, harvested, cleaned but then the real highlight came. The owner invited us into his house where his wife was, as usual, making coffee. We brought her some beans and she showed us how they would roast them on her ‘oven’, we roasted our beans for 15 minutes or so. Then she brought out an old-school ‘grinder’ where we were on our hands and knees crushing the beans into coffee powder. I say ‘we were’, I managed about 45 seconds before my arms were aching and the 60 year old women came in and finished the job for the next 5 minutes without a complaint. I lost some serious man-points there.
As soon as the powder had been ground, we whipped up a cup of our own coffee, sat down and chilled. The language barrier obviously existed, but sitting down and drinking teas/coffees/beers in other countries around the world, complete with a grateful smile, seems to me to be one of the real equalizing activities and it was a really warm 15 minutes or so as we finished our freshly made coffee. After a warm goodbye, I was off to lunch in Antigua town.
My guide from the tour company took me to a brilliant local restaurant where I could choose any of the various local dishes on offer. Check out the pic and tell me it doesn’t make you hungry?!
After lunch we wandered around the city for a couple of hours hearing about the damage the earthquake had done to all the original buildings, we were pointed out all the various churches, cathedrals, parks and with it being a Sunday the place was alive with local families enjoying their day off. Around 3.30 or so the day trip was up. I love it when day trips run from 9-3 as opposed to 7-7, so I was off back to finish some work then meet a follower of my site for a cheeky beer in the evening. Antigua, you’re a real gem.