Our tour of ruins in Antigua continued with La Recolección, a huge monastery and church that was destroyed by an earthquake only months after its completion in 1717. In 1773, the second version was destroyed in another earthquake.
With my in-laws still in town, DiploMom and I were able to enjoy a night away in Antigua – our first ever night away from DiploTot. We had a wonderful time and were very impressed with our room and the Hotel Cirilo. The hotel is a tranquil retreat and was built amongst the ruins of a colonial church.
We made our first visit to the beach this weekend, as we headed south out of the city to the Pacific coast. The beach scene on the Pacific isn’t all that touristy or built up, but it provided a nice change of scenery and some good time to relax. We stayed in a great condo complex that has an incredible pool, which is key in deciding where to stay. The waves and undertow are quite strong along the Pacific coast, so we weren’t in the water, save for walking along the shore in the morning, which is why a great pool is definitely needed.
All this time with the great weather in Guatemala City and the Western Highlands has gotten me quite spoiled. It was strange to be down at the coast where the temps were in the low 90s. I’m definitely gotten a bit soft after all this time away from Houston heat.
We only ventured out on Saturday for lunch to a town, Monterrico, about 20 minutes further down the road from where we were staying. This is the “largest” town along the shore and it made for a tasty meal and DiploTot enjoyed making a turtle friend.
A great time was had by all. The drive is only around two hours and the road is much straighter, which made for a nice change from the curvy roads to the lake.
We finally managed to make it over to the La Aurora Zoo a few weekends back. The zoo is less than 10 minutes away, and with the beautiful weather here, it is a wonder we hadn’t made the visit sooner.
We were very impressed with the zoo. It was larger than I would have expected and it had a great diversity of animals, including a relatively new exhibit of penguins, which residents have been going nuts over since they arrived.
There was lots of pointing going on throughout our visit.
So much to see, don’t slow me down!
Here’s DiploTot making friends with random Guatemalans again. She climbed right up next to them and even got a bit of the pastry the daughter was eating.
The Community Liason Officer (CLO) at the embassy organized a trip to the aging facilities of Guatemala’s world famous rums – Ron Botran and Ron Zacapa. DiploMom was on-the-ball signed me up as soon as the initial informational email was sent out a few weeks ago, so I was able to secure one of the coveted spots for the trip. On Saturday, we headed out from the embassy at 6:30 a.m. to make our way west, past Lake Atitlan, to the town of Quetzaltenango.
It is about 3.5 hours to the town, so I knew it was going to be a long day, but it was an experience that was totally worth it. The company rolled out the red carpet for us and everyone had a great time. Besides learning about the history of the company (started by 5 Spanish brothers in the early 1900s), we were able to see how the barrels are treated and prepared, even being able to hammer in the top on our very own barrel. We also saw the warehouses where all the barrels are stored for aging, some for 15 or 23 years before being bottled.
Of course, the part we all looked forward to was the tastings, and they didn’t hold back on the experience. If one was only hearing our tour guide take us through the tasting, one would think we were sampling wine, with all the discussion of flavors and smells and aging. The rums they produce are delicious and we even were able to sample their most expensive – Ron Zacapa 23 and Ron Zacapa XO – with a bottle of the latter retailing for $100.
Here is where Ron Botran is being stored before being placed in barrels.
Mmmm, one of the tastings, with 5 different rums, all from different ages and barrels that previously were used for American whiskey, port and sherry, which contribute different flavors and aromas.
Huge storage facilities for Ron Zacapa.
Sampling Ron Zacapa 23 and Ron Zacapa XO – safety first.
We arrived back at the embassy at around 7:00 p.m., so it made for quite a day of traveling, but as I mentioned, totally worth it. I’m by no means a rum connoisseur, but I can understand why these rums have won so many awards. With a previous visit to the Gallo beer brewery, I’ve now been able to visit two of Guatemala’s largest and most recognized companies.