Trip Report: Guatemala City--mostly

Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:54 AM
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Trip Report: Guatemala City--mostly

This trip report is mainly about Guatemala City. We were in Guatemala for five days in early April for a conference and stayed at the Westin Camino Real in Guatemala City. Of course the hotel was first rate, very professional, clean and efficient. We had absolutely no complaints. The hotel is located in the “hotel zones” of nine and ten, which also includes many restaurants and other fine hotels. Directly outside most of these establishments, police and/or security officers with guns—M16s and sawed off shot guns-- were positioned everywhere, literally on every block. It was very disconcerting and surreal. We were advised not to walk around the city, but to take a taxi to anywhere from the hotel. We actually saw no crime at all while there and wondered if the effect of all those visible officers was successful in preventing crime. Who knows. And, against the repeated advice of the hotel and conference personnel, we ventured out, walked to a few nearby restaurants and shops, felt safe, and had no problems. We walked only during the day, not at night, and our excursions were to nearby places. On another note, there are no stoplights or stop signs at the street corners in these zones where we walked, so crossing a street, any street, was a challenge. That might have been the most dangerous part of walking around, really.

We ate at two restaurants a block or so from the Westin, and I would recommend both. Our favorite was Kacao, which served delicious Guatemalan fare. The food was great and the atmosphere was conducive to having a nice relaxing meal. We really liked the place, everything about it. The other restaurant, Casa Chapina, was just across the street from Kacao. It, too, served Guatemalan food, and although the food was fine, the restaurant and experience seemed a notch below the Kacao.

Having read wonderful reviews, we tried twice to eat at Tamarindo’s (a several block walk from the Westin) but both times it was closed, once even when their hours indicated they should have been open. I would recommend calling them first.

We arrived a day early in order to take a day trip to Tikal. We arranged it through Elizabeth Bell who is frequently mentioned by others on this forum, and really enjoyed the excursion. Even though it was just a day trip, we found it to be enough time. The park was not nearly as crowded as we expected it be for a popular tourist destination, and I was able to get tons of photographs easily. (Photographs excluding other tourists in the shots are always a challenge at popular sites). I would highly recommend Elizabeth Bell’s agency and the day trip to Tikal. There were six of us in the tour group and our full day guide was very knowledgeable in flora, fauna, and in Mayan civilization.

The day trip to Antiqua, arranged and escorted by conference personnel, turned out very differently. Both my husband and I got the worst cases of travelers’ sickness we’ve ever had, and ended up spending most the next three days in our hotel room. Fortunately it was the Westin, so the surroundings were good. I can’t say much about Antiqua, but do remember liking the first stop, Casa Santo Domingo convent and museum. I also took a few photographs of the Palm Sunday procession although the streets were simply packed with people. We still can’t figure out what made us sick. We took the usual precautions of bottled water, cooked food, etc. We even had to have antibiotics prescribed for us while there. We’ve traveled extensively, but never got this sick. So, Antiqua, and what it has to offer, will have to be saved for another trip. We had a nice, but brief stay in Guatemala, and will probably return some day for a more thorough introduction to the country.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 10:13 AM
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Ew - sounds like a mixed trip and sounds like you made the best of it. Thanks for taking the time to share. Hope you're feeling better!!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 11:10 AM
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Thanks hopefulist. We did have a nice time, but realize that we'll need to return to really experience what the country has to offer.

And, we are feeling better, back to normal.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 08:08 AM
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Sounds like a good trip overall. What a horrible experience it is to get sick while travelling. Definitely go back to Antigua some other time - it's a lovely town. Thanks for posting.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 10:20 AM
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Susan, It was very good until it turned. I am glad we went to Tikal first, since it was high on our list. All the other places, including Antiqua, will have to wait until another trip. And, we will return to Guatemala--someday. There's so much there to see.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 06:05 AM
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It's really too bad you were not able to enjoy Antigua which is a beautiful and historically interesting city.

Thanks for sharing your experience staying in the new city section of Guatemala City.
Our family stayed only briefly in GCity at inexpensive B & B's right near the airport. That is a safe suburban neighborhood but has no restaurants/nightlife. We saw very little other than the excellent collection of Mayan artifacts at the national archeological museum.
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Old Apr 27th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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Vttraveler,
I will miss not being able to have visited a couple of the museums in Guatemala City--the Ixchel and the PopolVuh on the campus of Francisco Marroquin Univ., and the Nat'l Archeology and Ethnology Museum, which I believe was the one you visited. I'm a big fan of museums, and we thought that since our stay was in Guatemala City, it would be the perfect opportunity to see them. We'll save them for next time, as well as the entire city of Antigua.

Also, in your trip report you wondered where tour groups had lunch at Tikal. Our group of six, as well as many other groups, had tables at a large restaurant in the park. I can't remember the name of it. The food was fine-not great- but was enough at the time. Tikal was wonderful and was the highlight of the trip, although other Mayan sites, Chichen Itza and Uxmal in Mexico, and Machu Picchu in Peru, were more interesting and enchanting to us.

Loved hearing about your car excursions. You were adventurous, to say the least.
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 04:02 AM
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Kathleen--Yes, we visited the National Archeology and Ethnology Museum in Guatemala City. It has an amazing collection for anyone interested in Mayan history and art. Unfortunately the presentation (including written information) could definitely be improved.

Our family is really looking forward to watching the Nova show on Cracking the Maya Code on PBS which is showing on our local station this week
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/mayacode/
I think I mentioned in my trip report that our younger son who has visited Mayan sites in the Yucatan including Chitzen Itza in addition to the places we saw in Guatemala is thinking seriously about majoring in archeology. He is going to UPenn this fall so will have a great collection of Central American artifacts right on campus!

Renting the car in Guatemala was certainly an adventure and enabled us to see some very interesting places. I would not have done it on my own but am glad my husband was up for the challenge.
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 02:45 PM
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Vttraveler
Thanks for the heads up on the Maya (Nova program) on PBS. In our area it's on Thursday May 7 8PM. We will plan on watching it.

Good luck to your son in his studies at UPenn.
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