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View of Pacuya Volcano from Antigua
View of Pacuya Volcano from Antigua
In the clear light of day, the courtyard that had looked somewhat mysterious in the subdued light the previous night, burst into a profusion of colors. After the previous day's diet of airport food, we eagerly attacked a most satisfying breakfast of huevos, black beans, tortillas, fresh fruit, and of course, coffee. Promptly at 9:00 AM, we were met by Gary, our ebullient and informative guide for the next four days. Gary was most enthusiastic and inquisitive, approaching sights and street scenes as if for the first time, but with the confidence of a local. He would peer into shops and ask people cooking in open store fronts what they were making, even soliciting a taste from time to time. Of course we saw the standard sights starting with the Central Plaza, Cathedral and Palace. In touring the latter, we came upon the office of the mayor that was closed with yellow tape. ''He's not here'', Gary explained - ''he's in jail''. I had read about his incarceration, and understand a certain embarrassment coupled with pride in a system that was starting to work. In a country often riddled with corruption, finally there appeared to be some accountability. In touring the ruins of the Cathedral, many details were pointed out which our less experienced eyes would have missed. Of the many other sights that morning, the church and monastery of San Francisco was a standout. Following a quick lunch, at Gary's suggestion, we were off for the La Azotea Cultural Center in nearby Jocotenango. Here we visited both a coffee museum as well as a music museum. It was a fascinating and beautiful experience walking through the coffee plantation and witnessing the production of the famous Guatemalan coffee from berry to brew. The music museum was likewise captivating, with much of the Mayan culture being brought to like through music and dance. Rounding out our first full day of touring was a wonderful meal at Bistrot Cinq, a fine French oriented restaurant within an easy walk from our hotel.

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