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Column: Consider Antigua

Posted: November 8, 2018 3:57 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Summer vacation may be over, but it is always the right time of year to travel somewhere new. For a long weekend, we’re lucky: Camden is located within driving distance of both the mountains and the ocean. But for something extra-special, drive to the Columbia Metropolitan airport and catch a quick flight to Guatemala City. From here, you are about a 45-minute Uber drive from Antigua, a city nestled in the mountains of Guatemala.

This city is so pretty, it almost seems like a dream. The cobblestone streets and gorgeous architecture have been preserved for ages and everything is painted in shades of pastels. Besides the dreamy aesthetics, Guatemala -- and Antigua, especially -- is famous for its chocolate and coffee. Walking around Antigua feels a bit like being in a Disneyland for adults.

Start your day at Stela 9, a boutique and café with a dreamy airBnB attached. Order a cup of coffee and avocado toast or a green mint smoothie and sit out on the terrace or check out the locally made wares in the boutique. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hang out with Stela’s employees of the year -- two friendly dogs wearing hand-woven collars.

While in Antigua, you must visit the museo de libro, a small museum of books that has one of the first editions of Don Quixote. This adorable museum is right across the cobblestone streets from the park, which is the city’s center. Also on the must do list: wander over to the historical yellow arch and head inside N’im Pot, a market teeming with colorful textiles woven in Antigua. Here, you can pick up colorful woven blankets, handmade tassels and Guatemalan chocolate and coffee. but they also have hand-painted masks and an enormous section of used books.

For lunch, try Rainbow Cafe, a local spot that’s been around since 1992. They have delicious and healthy options for lunch, plus a bookstore and a shelf of handmade leather bags in the front. Or, grab freshly made guacamole and artisanal margaritas at Micho’s, a small restaurant that has tables in a big, open courtyard. Then, head to the Choco Museo (seriously -- the Chocolate Museum!) to sample some chocolate made in the museum’s workspace. Save room for dessert because they also have the best gelato in the city. If the Choco Museo really piques your interest, stay a little longer -- they offer cooking classes onsite.

After lunch, indulge in a Guatemalan custom, the afternoon siesta, then head to the park to flip coins into the fountain and wish for more time in this gorgeous little city. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, Antigua’s coffee is world-famous so try a cup from one of the coffee shops surrounding the square.

There are so many stellar places to eat in Antigua, it’s hard to pick one for dinner -- so don’t. Grab pre-dinner drinks at Luna de Miel and ask for a table on the roof, where paper star lanterns and a colorful mural create a mellow, happy atmosphere. Then, walk over to Frida’s, an eclectic restaurant designed around the owner’s personal collection of Frida Kahlo memorabilia, including a Frida-themed jukebox. After trying the nachos or shrimp quesadillas, take the long way home and walk by the yellow arch which is lit up beautifully at night.

While in Antigua, you must put climbing a volcano on your to do list. Most hotels offer afternoon-long excursions to one of the surrounding volcanoes where you will be able to hike to the top, enjoying gorgeous, natural views of Guatemala on the way up. At the top, marshmallows are roasted over hot lava.

Fall is the perfect time for a long weekend trip. Next time you decide to take a break and get out of town, consider Antigua.

(Stuart Pennebaker grew up in Camden and currently teaches in Honduras.)


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