The ride with Billy and Mike, an English Mono Loco customer who also hitched a ride with Billy, was quicker and much more comfortable than a bus. We got into Antigua a little before midnight, and I got a $20 room in Hotel La Sin Ventura next to the Antigua Mono Loco. Quite convenient, we ate and drank in Mono Loco until closing. I regret not getting a picture of it, Mono Loco in Antigua is nicely laid out in a centuries old building about a block from the central square.
The next day I toured the city. Antigua was founded in 1543 and was the capital of Guatemala until 1776. The capital was moved to Guatemala City after people got tired of constantly rebuilding everything following earthquakes, especially a whopper in 1773. Antigua is surrounded by three occasionally active volcanoes, which can make for unstable ground. It was the most interesting, safest and tourist friendly city I had visited in Central America. Not surprisingly it also had the most tourists of any place I'd been since San Jose, Costa Rica. Antigua lacked the San Jose sleaze, I liked it much better. I stayed until September 12 taking pictures, checking out bars, mostly Mono Loco, and even watching a little college football. I could only watch football in Central America in tourist bars.
Some pictures from around Antigua--first is the exterior and interior of Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Senora de La Merced, usually just called La Merced. It was begun in 1543 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1717. It was reconstructed and redestroyed in 1773, a recurring theme in Antigua. It was repaired again from 1850 to 1855 and has done reasonably well since then:
Here is an example of a church they gave up on, the Iglesia y Convento de La Recollecion. It was built between 1701 and 1708 and also destroyed in 1773. The thick walls were an attempt at earthquake proofing. It didn't work:
The Iglesia de San Francisco has a little of both the preceding churches. It was built in the mid-1700's, but rebuilding and reconstruction makes it difficult to date what is now standing. Following two pictures of the intact church are the parts of the church that did not survive the centuries:
Antigua's Catedral de Santiago has a similar story. It was founded in 1542 and continually damaged or destroyed and rebuilt until 1820. The original Cathedral was huge, as was befitting the Cathedral of the capital of Guatemala. What is now serving as the cathedral covers what had originally been the narthex of the original structure. According to the dictionary, the narthex is the lobby or entrance hall to a church:
Behind the current cathedral are the remains of the older, much larger cathedral:
That's it for churches and the cathedral. The Casa Popenoe is a mansion built in 1636, destroyed in 1773, and restored and turned into a museum showing how the rich and famous lived in 17th century Antigua. That's all the narrative I have for a whole lot of pictures:
From the roof of Casa Popenoe a view of the city and surrounding mountains/volcanoes:
And a shot of Vulcan Agua from a street in central Antigua:
A picture of two of the Mayan street vendors that wander the tourists spots in Antigua. The way it works is you buy a souvenir off them and they let you take their picture. However while you are choosing your purchase a dozen other vendors surround you and hound you to buy something from them. Kind of a nuisance.
Finally, I found this warning outside an internet cafe I used. In Costa Rica it was unsafe in the cities and safe outside of them. According to my guidebook most cities in Guatemala are safe but the countryside could be dangerous. This posting supports that warning:
While in Antigua I took a day trip to Vulcan Pacaya and took enough pictures to warrant a separate page: