Saturday, December 19, 2009

Home sweet Antigua.


Home base for pretty much the entire trip will be the town of Antigua. By pretty much all accounts, Antigua is a small but very charming town, chock full of colonial Spanish architecture and cobblestone streets. The town is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and its residents take pride in preserving the colonial look and feel of the town. I read somewhere that there are barely a handful of buildings that are more than 1 storey in height. Whatever the building height, I'mjust hoping I don't see either a McDonald's or a Starbuck's there - that would just crush my expectations!The town is into a valley that is surrounded by three volcanoes that dominate the horizon.



To the south of the town lies the most commanding of the volanoes - Volcán de Agua or "Volcano of Water" which stands about 3766 meters (12,356 ft) high. To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, which last erupted in 1972 and at 3976 meters (13,045 ft) is the tallest of the three volcanoes.  Nearby Acatenango stands Volcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire" which is still an active volcano.  Smoke can be seen rising from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare.  At 7363 meters (12,346 ft) high, Fuego is the shortest of the thee volcanoes.

Antigua was once the third most important Spanish colony in the Americas. More than 30 monastic orders called Antigua home and built stunning monasteries, convents and cathedrals in the town.  Some of those buildings remain intact today others, only ruins remain. 

One of the most famous historic landmarks of Antigua is the church of La Merced which was originally built in 1548. Its present form was designed in 1767 to withstand damaging earthquakes. The intricately-patterned yellow and white baroque-styled facade features important sculptures such as Our Lady of Las Mercedes and San Pedro Nolasco. La Merced is the starting point of the procession of Santa Semana - I and all of Antigua will be there to see the processions.  If joining the masses turns out to not be a good idea, that's okay because my hotel is located just one block from this stunningly beautiful church so I see many opportunities to admire its beauty.

Another famous landmark is the Catedral de Santiago which was originally constructed in 1543 and was rebuilt in the 17th century following an earthquake.  Unfortunately, numerous makeovers over the years have stripped the cathedral of its beautiful baroque details.  Catedral de Santiago overlooks the heart of Antigua - Parque Central.  From the picures I've seen, there are plenty of benches in the park. I will make full use of the benches to rest my feet, have a picnic meal and watch the world of Antigua go by.

And last but not least is the Arco de Santa Catalina whichi is among the many notable architectural landmarks.

If roaming its historic landmarks is not enough to keep me occupied, there are plenty of other activities to keep me busy.  I've started to research some of my options but I've got lot more reading to do before I decide on anything.

Of course, Antigua has a h-u-g-e mercado that, as expected, will be the busiest on Saturday and I plan to go!!  I am planning on packing light so LOTS of room to bring stuff back in :-)

Back to reading up on this charming town!