Well, a mild case of heartburn from Taco Bell after a fun night out, but I got over it quickly….
THIS time I had decided that I would leave for Guatemala City EARLY in the morning so as to be well into m hotel before the sunset. This did not mean I didn’t get lost again as I circled the city three times, and had to ask directions twice. But I made it to the hotel at the easy hour of around 1:00…I had followed the advice of some other overlander’s to the Quality Service, a dynamite spot central and safe with excellent parking. And I would highly recommend the place for anyone visiting the city for value and location.
The owner had lived in the US, and was very friendly with help and advice on places to go around the hotel.
My first day out, I ventured over to 6th avenue, along pedestrian shopping boulevard, very European in feel, with a calm, relaxed vibe, and even Michael Jackson impersonators! I enjoyed strolling along, looking in the shops, and just being a part of the action. This was definitely not the war zone that I had been warned so intensely to avoid. Just folks out strolling and shopping, enjoying the time together.
Interestingly, I was sitting at an open corner cafe watching the people strolling by and some crews were taking down a section of the Christmas wire. They would keep pulling it up, and people would trip if they happened to be in that spot. But, an amazing thing would happen. Nothing. The folks would just go on about their day, and the crews would just trip the next people (unintentionally of course). Can we say lawsuit in US? Canada? But here, people just kept doing their thing, unconcerned as it seemed no one was really getting hurt.
After a day on my own, I met up again with William, who was also meeting up with Alexandre, another couchsurfer from Montreal, and took us on a whirlwind tour of the downtown area, the main square, a huge park in the city, and a stroll down one of the main boulevards that is closed on Sundays so families can be out skating, walking, lounging, and even horseback riding for the children! And once again, I found myself almost ashamed for even having the slightest thought of passing by and missing these wonderful spots in the city!
Guatemala City was the scene of the declaration of independence of Central America from Spain, and became the capital of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821. The main square is truly breathtaking. HUGE and stately, again, with many families out enjoying the vendors and each others’ company.
Then the following evening, I met up with William again, and his friend Jorge for a night on the town. Our first stop a cozy bar with live music that literally reminded me of the Victory Cafe in Toronto, great spot with an incredible vibe! And after we finished off at another bar down the street from there in a area lined with great places to go! Great fun and great folks!! Unfortunately I hear from William that Jorge’s camera had been stolen, so unfortunately no party pics!! Bummer!!
Next day we headed to the mercado for some Guatemalan fare where its the best!! Busy, chaotic, overcrowded, one of my favorite places to be!!
We also stopped by William’s house and enjoyed some Guatemala fruit desert that was delicious!
Soon it was time to move on from Guatemala City. I had made the decision to go on to El Salvador based on some recommendations I received from some other road trippers, despite, once again, the portrayal in the media. I felt more comfortable going on the advice of folks that had actually been there than folks reading from a television prompter or writing a story from their desk in the newsroom.
I was also lucky enough to get in contact with John, a local in San Salvador, originally from Toronto who would be able to help me locate a spot to stay and show me around the city a bit. He has lived in San Salvador for 4 years and writes a blog on the experience, and in my research I came across his article about driving in the city, and sent a note on the article.
I also found out that Alexandre, the couchsurfer from Montreal, was headed the same way hitchhiking, so I gave him a ride along, and soon we were off toward the El Salvador border!
Guatemala City definitely became a memorable part of my trip thanks in a large part to William, who really takes pride in his city, and the potential within it. The city should be paying him as an ambassador to so many visitors who I’m sure, leave with a great experience and likely spread the word that is can be a very fun and interesting place to visit. Now, lest anyone take my writing too generally, I will advise that there are definitely parts of the city that should not be explored. Even during the daylight hours. In relation, it is only the same caution that a traveler would take in many large capitals around the world. But otherwise, with a regular travelers caution, there is absolutely no reason not to go and enjoy Guatemala City and on the cutting edge of knowing a culturally rich city with great people that many others miss!