Sunday, 13 December 2015

So, howizGwatamalaCity?

I'm not really sure how to describe Guatemala City. Our first impressions are good. It's no way the 'in ya face' dirty, hustling, thief ridden den of iniquity the guide books would have you believe. OK, we're staying a bit out of the centre but we've walked into town everyday and to be honest it feels pretty safe.
The owners of our hotel (the excellent Casa Jocetenango) couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. They advised us that as long as we stayed on "Walking  Street" (6th Av) we'd be fine and they were right.
Within 10 minutes we'd get to the main square which is currently set up for christmas celebrations complete with ice rink, fire twirlers, a 'son et lumiere' of the nativity projected onto the church and crazy side show stalls. It's absolutely seething with thousands of locals generally milling around enjoying the free entertainment.
On the walk down we pass lovely old colonial buildings. Some converted into trendy bars, some in a total state of decay, some converted into corner shops. Not that you can go in though. No, here in GC you just point at stuff though the heavy metal bar/grill and the owner scuttles around behind in safety, picking up the items you point at. That is unless the place is a bit fancier and can afford a guard, then you can enter, under the watchful eye of a heavy looking dude tooled up with either a pump action sawn off shotgun or a semi automatic rifle.

Makes Oxford street look like a village

Sampling the "on the house" rum

We've not quite got to grips with the food yet. The street stalls just look a bit too dirty plus we have no idea how to order as there are no menus. The next step up in price jumps to what seems to be every Guatemalan's dream - the American style fast food joint. The real Mc Coy maccas, Subway, Dunkin Dreadfulls are here for the richer folk but on the way up you can also sample the delights(?) of the local versions. It's probably (hopefully) due to the fact that we're wandering around the equivalent of Leicester Square but to be honest, it's not really come together yet and we hope that once away from here we'll get into it and start to not have chips with every meal....
Another thing that we hadn't really taken in is the price of everything. It certainly isn't Asian cheap. It's more like half to two thirds the price of UK which is certainly going to add up a bit quicker than we were expecting. In Asia we'd worked on $50/day between us, we'd increased that for this region to £50/day but reckon that if it continues at this rate it's going to be more like £75 which over 3 months is going to add up a bit.....
In typical Will & Kate style we spent the first day here visiting all the bicycle shops. Our friend Mel is joining us from the UK for 3 weeks so needed to hire a bike out here. I mentioned this to the hotel owner who said he wanted to buy a bike. It was straight down to business. If he bought a suitable bike, Mel would then rent it from him. Everyone's a winner! So we jumped in his car, got a free guided tour of the city and came home a few hours later with a spanking new mountain bike in the boot of his car.
Speaking of cars, the driving here seems ok. For our 13Km ride in from the airport we were expecting a baptism of fire but the drivers seem pretty courteous and sensible. You do have to watch out for the ones that don't indicate (probably cos their car has no wings let alone indicators), the crazy 'chicken buses' and  the odd nutter who clearly owns the road but on the whole it seems ok and the absence of blaring horns is definitely a welcome surprise.
We wandered back to the main square to watch the Sunday religious festivities. We went via a church on a nearby hill (recommended by our hotel owner). The service was a bit long winded and we slipped out half way through but not before the vicar was helped out by a singing trio complete with guitar which certainly perked up the previously long winded and somber affair no end. When we got to the square there was a huge procession. Coffin bearers struggled along, surrounded by very religious looking dudes all stony faced and serious. The whole group then stopped, padre said a few words and hey presto, the brass band kicked in and the coffin continued its way down the street, this time though being merrily swung left n right in time with the musicians that followed and right behind them was the 2015 addition to the parade of the 'Generator bearer'.  

And before I sign off I thought I better uphold the English tradition of talking about the weather. In a word, gorgeous. Early to mid twenties and lovely hot sun all day then cooling off in the evening, requiring jeans and a jumper for our evening stroll.
Couldn't resist this photo but didn't bother to enquire about the room rate!


  1. Couldn't make out your last photo of hotel name. Otherwise enjoying the reading in between my Christmas shopping and wrapping.

  2. The last photo was of Betty Apartments that's all...