I've spent the last few days in Antigua, Guatemala, which represents little of "real" Guatemala but is still a lovely, comfortable place to hang out. I've stayed at a really nice hostal with cute rooms, breakfast buffet, drinking water, internet, and solar power-a bit of a splurge ($7/night), but worth it. Town is full of brightyl painted architecture and cobbled streets, with several nice parks. The market here is huge and very different from those in Mexico. On the west side all of the chicken buses come to pick-up and drop-off. They are the most elaborately pained school buses I've ever seen, with flashing lights, painted characters, and entertaining drivers. I looked like a silly white girl walking around between them, just taking it all in. Most of the fruits and veggies are in the outdoor section of the market and the prices are even cheaper than in Mexico. I bought potatoes, carrots, garlic, onion, green beans, and avas (I don't know what they're called in english) and made a pretty tasty veggie soup. I aslo bought delicious hand-made blue corn tortillas, and found a wonderful panaderia-the best bread I've had so far (sorry, Casa del Pan).
Yesterday after breakfast,reading on the roof, and a walk around town I took a "tour" to Pacaya volcano, the only active volcano around Antigua. IThe tour was really just a ride and then a guy who walked in front of us on the path and didn't really talk. Thick clouds were all around the volcan and this "sunset tour" looked like it might turn out to be a bit disappointing. Anyway, it kind of felt like walking on the moon: weird grey rock, thick clouds sitting on the ground, and at one point we wet "skiing"-there is a section of the side of the volcano that is reallt loose rock and you just rin down it. Then we hiked further up to where you can actually see and touch the red lava-ther were people roasting marshmallows. On the hike back all the clouds magically cleared and we saw the red red sunset and all the other volcanoes around the town. It was beautiful!
When I got back I met up with some people from the hostel and went to see one of the members of Buena Vista Social Club play weith another group of musicians. They played a couple of my favorite songs and people were dancing some great salsa! It was a great last night in Antigua, and now I'm off to the lake.