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Trip Report Trip Report: Guatemala City--mostly

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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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