Top Places to Stay

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After 5 weeks of serious Spanish immersion in Xela, Guatemala we headed south to the colonial city of Antigua. Excited to be on the move again we packed up Marlin, said goodbye to our lovely host family (there were even a few tears) and set out.

Antigua was just what our Spanish laden minds needed. We chose to stay at Posada La Merced, a small hotel owned and operated by Gail, a lovely woman from New Zealand. She gave us a great room and let us use her parking space while she was out of town.

Despite the fact that our Lonely Planet gives Antigua a bit of a ho-hum review we both felt it was definitely worth the visit – it’s not the cheapest place in Guatemala and three to four days is more than enough time to get a feel for the area.

Climb Pacaya
Seriously…you get to see real, hot, flowing lava after a pretty painless hike (around 2 hours up and maybe 1.5 down). This is one of the coolest things to see in Antigua, take the afternoon hike, watch the lava as the sun sets and then see the red hot liquid rock flow down the volcano as you hike down at night. Wear good shoes or risk melting your soles and bring a walking stick, you will want the extra support, or you can rent one on the volcano.


Climbing Pacaya from Kels M on Vimeo.


Walk the City

Well-kept haciendas, immense churches and stunning ruins can all be found in the ancient city of Antigua, a true photographer’s paradise. The city is small enough for a well-organized traveler to see quite a few ruins and museums in one day or, for the more low-key wanderer, take a few days and enjoy the city’s cafés and restaurants in between. Don’t miss Casa Santo Domingo, a luxury hotel created around a former convent, which housed the order of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. The hotel design incorporates the ruins in creative and innovative ways. It costs 40Q to visit the grounds and explore the galleries, both Tom and I were very impressed with the use of raw ruins juxtaposed against modern museum techniques. The sprawling grounds are beautiful and immaculately maintained; we had limonadas in the garden and relaxed in the tranquil setting.

Chilling in Casa Santo Domingo

Chilling in Casa Santo Domingo


Eat at Café Condesa

Best Breakfast Ever.

Best Breakfast Ever.

Yum.

We spent a quiet 5 days in Tonala while we did a little shopping for Mexican crafts. Tonala is a suburb of Guadalajara where many artisans reside. Thursday and Sunday are the market days and the market is MASSIVE. Pretty much all the streets are filled with vendors selling everything from leather wallets to huge ceramic pots. You really have to search to find quality items but it can be a lot of fun. You can find interior decorating treats like this:

Why go basic when you can have patterns on your toilet?

Why go basic when you can have patterns on your toilet?

Tlaquepaque is a higher end district with nice restaurants and artist boutiques. We did shop around here and I found tonnes of cool things to buy but they all came with a large price tags so we admired instead!

We stayed in a nice hotel called Hacienda del Sol. The staff were super helpful and it was well-priced. The little cafe located inside has surprisingly inexpensive but tasty meals. This was an added bonus as there were not too many places to eat after 6pm in Tonala due to the fact that most Mexicans eat their main meal at 3pm. Either way it is a great little place to stay for a few days.

Mexico City is amazing…

I almost think that is all I need to write about La Cuidad de Mexico. Sure parts of it are unsafe and dangerous but it is like that in any city anywhere. But we did not encounter any problems at all while we were there…in fact people were extremely friendly and helpful.

After driving in from Cuernavaca which is an hour away from Mexico City we managed, with some very good directions (thanks Luisa), to find our way relatively quickly to our bed and breakfast. Our accommodation was a small home tucked away on a back street in the bohemian neighbourhood of La Condesa. Casalula Condesa is an absolutely great place to stay. Luisa, the owner, knows the city well and can easily recommend dozens of fabulous, yet reasonably priced, places to eat as well as interesting things to do. She really is the master of giving directions as we did not get lost once while we were there! Her sister Dani owns a cool shop worth checking out in the Condesa area as well.

After managing to converse in Spanish with the people taking care of the home we managed to fit Marlin into the teeny tiny garage, brought in our things and sat back to enjoy a beer with another girl, Fabiola, staying in the house.

It was an action packed week with lots of art, culture, shopping and really, really nice people.

Since there was so much crammed into one week I am breaking it down in a list…

We spent 4 hours wandering through the massive Museum of Anthropology which consists of 12 massive rooms all dedicated to the people both pre-hispanic and hispanic in Mexico. To give you and idea we could only manage 4 rooms…that is how gigantic the rooms are and they are filled to the hilt with artifacts. And, since it was Sunday which means the museum is free for nationals (but of course not us) the museum was crammed full of people. Note: Maybe Sunday is not the best day to go.

El Grito, the most famous speech in Mexican history, occurs annually on Sept 15 at 11pm to celebrate El Dia de Independencia. We managed convinced the gals who live at the house to join us. We left the house early and had drinks and chicharrones which are sort of fluffy chips things (think pork rinds but made of flour) with salsa and lime. They are my absolute fave snack here…Anyway we made it to the Zocalo (city centre) after getting sprayed with shaving cream and trying not to lose each other then we listened to the speech, enjoyed the festivities and were treated to the biggest fireworks show I have ever seen.

We chilled out in Frida and Diego’s neighbourhoods — Coyocan and San Angel.

Ate deep-friend quesadillas with Luisa and her grandmother and then topped that off with churros and hot chocolate.

Walked the streets of La Roma and La Condesa and shopped for trinkets. Tom took a bazillion photos of all the old architecture. And we mused over the fact that most of Mexico city is sinking…

Sinking or not we will be back!

Mazatlan was great…actually I think it was so great because we had just spent 18 hours on a ferry from La Paz and cabin fever was setting in. After orienting ourselves and driving in a few circles we made our way to old Mazatlan and looked at a few hotels. Unfortunately the bed and breakfast we wanted to stay at was closed so we checked out a few other hotels in the area. They were pretty dingy and no one wanted to budge on the cost of sleeping in a dingy room. Tom and I decided that we needed to look around a bit more. On the road beside the Malecon we spotted a small sign for the Mazatlan Oceanfront Inn. Tom decided to stop and ran in for a look, I had already assumed it was out of our price range. Tom came out with a big grin and happily announced that we had a great place to stay within our budget. The Mazatlan Oceanfront Inn is definitely someplace we will return to.

Once settled in we spent our days doing the following:

  • Biking the streets of old Mazatlan
  • Drinking cucumber lemonade at Pura Vida…the best drinks ever. We had about 6 of them in 4 days.
  • We spent a morning (a good 5 hours) fishing for Dorado with Jim. We managed to catch three of them each between 12 -15 pounds. It was loads of fun but the best part was that I did not have to pee over the side of the boat as there was no bathroom on board! Thanks Jim!