Monday, December 27, 2010


Lake Atitlan

Riding in La Excusa

Fireworks in Santiago lake Atitlan

Well, if Xmas eve was interesting is Xmas Day.  A lot of the local market was closed so we hired a launch named"La excusa" and  motored across Lake Atitlan  to one ofthe12 indigenous villages, Santiago, to explore.  Mickey and Joaquin were using their Spanish and bargaining skills with the local merchants and I learned alot.  A small boy decided to follow us and be our guide whether we wanted him to or not!  He turned out to be helpful.  We wanted to see "Moxhimon" the god of vice that is a left over part of the Catholic conversion of the local natives.  The indigenous people picked the Saints and traditions they liked , and kept some of their own...Moxhimon grew out of this.  He travels to a different house every month,with his father,the lord Jesus, evidently.  Our little boy guide took us through alley's and back streets, until we were wondering where they heck we were.  Finally, in what looked like a garage, we saw the Moxhimon (pictures: 2 quetzals, please).  The two men sitting with him were speaking the indigenous language, so our little helper translated into Spanish for us.  Moxhimon had cigars, and liquer, and your everyday vices, but looked pretty tame that day.
When we wanted to go back, our boat was not at the dock. Hmmmm. and we paid in advance.  Jim got angry andwas telling the locals a thing or two, when the boat appeared, and it was all ok.
Steve had spent the day PARAGLIDING with a Frenchman named Roger.  As we were   crossing the Lake, we looked up and saw them flying high over the Mts. and cliffs of the lakeside.  I thought how cool my day was, here in a very remote part of the world....I was in a boat on a beautiful lake and Steve was soaring high above....all on Christmas Day!  For me...perfecto!


We arrived in Lake Atitlan on Xmas EVE day, and got settled in the Hotel Don Rodrigo.  Very typical and comfortable hote lwith a nice restrurant and pool with a water slide for the grandkids.  Wine time on the beautiful patio looking over the lake.  We decided to enjoy their Xmas eve dinner, which was turkey, etc.  Very good, although Mickey had a cheeseburger!  Everyone got small "market bought gifts" and I gave all the men a "Hamayama" puzzle.  More on that later!  That was a hit and funny as it consumed them for a couple of days. 
Earlier in the day, Jim and I and kids took a "tuk-tuk" (3 wheeled vehicle with a motor) to the local's market where we bought a lot of fireworks to blow off that night.  Fireworks in Guatemala are not controlled, and you can basically buy bombs or huge explosives, which is what we did.  My idea of buying sparklers and "bees" were sort of nixed.
After dinner we went to the Lake side and lit the bombs!  We met a funny Canadian, eh? He had some Roman candles and we shared our explosives.  Xmas Eve Guatemalan style.  At midnight, EVERYONE lets off big explosives.  It makes our 4th of July seem rather calm.  We did try an interesting  tissue paper hot air balloon which one lit the fire underneath and as the ballon filled with the hot air it assended towards the lake.  The wind was blowing and it landed in a tree, but fortunately it burned it self out before it burned the tree.
We want the biggest bang for our buck...or Quetzals!

Praying or "Hanayama"?

Xmas Eve

Lighting the paper balloon....

Oh-oh...into the trees...NOT good.

Thursday, December 23, 2010



La Cumbre is the name Denise's family gives to the mt. cabins outside La Antigua.  The road used to be rutted and dirt and mainly just a way for indigenous people to get to town or to other villages.  It has been paved, and much easier to get to these remote villages which are pretty much the same as they have always been.  While we were waiting for the chickens to get smoked, we hiked all over and saw the land that Jim and Denise have purchased.  We got hungry and Norbeto (Denise's dad) sent for fresh hot tortillas made by one of his farm worker's wife.  In fact, we sent for fresh hot tortilla's about 3 times!  MUY BUENO!

ANTIGUA cont....

Here are a few pictures of our hacienda at El Cojito in La Antigua.


We arrived in Guatamala City and went to the house of Graciela Matzer in a very beautiful area.  We were treated royaly and after a good nights sleep, we rented a car and traveled to the colonial city and old capital of Guatemala...La Antigua.  The house we are staying in is very beautiful and spacious and we each have our own room with bath, a pool, a tv in each room and many other things including a daily maid.  Hard life!
El Fuego
The night we got here El Fuego, one of the many volcanoes, was burping smake and gases.  It is very close to our hacinenda, and a beautiful sight back lit with the sun.

I am sitting in an internet cafe right now, and one hour of connection is 1bout 1.80 US.  Densie has left for the sirport to pick up Jill and Thom, Steve is in the banco trying to get small change, Joaquin is eatuing breakfast, and Jim is checking back home at work. 

It is a typical winter day in this city...Sunny, slight wind and about 69 degrees so far.  Yesterday we drove about 10 miles out of the city to a high mt. where we spent the day with Denise's father on his land which is very beautiful with goreous views of 4 volcanoes, the farms on the hill sides and and the woods all around.  He was smoking 5 chickens in his smoker to give as Xmas gifts.  He explained to me the process:  The chickens come from one of his farms near the coast where they are fed a special diet that doesn't permit too much fat to add to their weight.  After he butchers them he soaks them in a weal brine for a fw days and then rubs them with his concoxeon of salt and sugar.  Then he hangs them in his bric smoker where they smoke for 5 hrs, and voila......the most delicous chicken i have ever eaten.  tender, juicy andsooooo good.  My grandson , Joaquin, says he can eat a whole chicken by himslef, and i beleive him.  They are about 5 lbs after they are cooked...big, fat, and suculent!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Who spends Christmas in Guatemala?  We do!  Along with the whole family we are headed for a few weeks in La Antigua, with side trips to Panajachel, lake Atitlan and some other areas
Right now, we are hunkered down in a hotel room by the airport  because we have an early am flt to Dallas for a plane change.  I have lost my cell phone, and Steve didn't bring his!  We are hopeless cell phone users and losers, and for that reason, we have reverted to the cheap trac phone.  It is a huge inconvienience to lose one all programed with numbers, but it's cheap to replace.

Hoping I will find WiFi access in Guatemala, but not sure when or where I will be, so until then.....we'll catch you later....

Sunday, November 14, 2010


As in any travel, there is a lot more, but you sort have "had to be there" to understand the daily ins and outs of tromping through foreign territory.  It was a safe, comfortable trip, and we saw much more than we ever imagined.  There was the "shoe sole" guy who had configured a shopping cart of some kind and would put brand new soles on your shoes while you waited.  I watched a few people do just that. I loved all the fresh veggies and fruits at every meal, and the Turkish coffee, and the many "tea breaks" during the day  with little tea glasses.
Soles while you wait!

The captivating "Kismet" Hotel
I loved the 50's Art Deco Hotel, Kismet, and all the pictures of the famous people who had stayed there. I loved all the "Turkish patterns" one sees everywhere, and their vibrant red  flag with a crescent moon and a star.  This flag had it's origins in Gallipoli, where legend has it one could see the moon and stars reflected in the blood on the ground around the Turkish positions.  I even loved all the stories of the wars, as those wars are what shaped this country to what it is now.
Turkish Flag

 Turkish Tile Pattern Everywhere

I loved the day we spent in a Greek Ghost town that used to hold 5,000 people, 2,000cottages, and a basilica.  Everything is still there but the people, which were "repositioned" back to Greece after the War.  It was eerie, and fascinating, and we hiked all over it.

....and I really loved swimming in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, in clear, cool, water.  I loved the mornings when the sun turned everything red out the port hole of our cabin.  And even the 8 hrs of torrential rains and lightening we had our last night on the gulet.  What a show!
I am probably the only person who REALLY likes those stinky camels, too.  Camels are not used too much in  Turkey any longer, but I came across one who I swear was smiling at me!

Morning out the Porthole

The last night we spent in Ankara, which is the Capital.  I opened the shades in our room, and saw this depressing looking building with the Iranian Flag on the top. (well, I thought it was the Iranian Flag).  Sure enough, it was the Iranian Embassy right next to our room, and our guide cautioned us standing about taking pictures, and such......OOPS!

Finally, a word about one of the nicest, most patient and funny guy...Kaan Gulcur.   One of these pictures is what I call the "Gulcer Camera shuffle".  He would graciously take pictures for everyone with their cameras, anywhere, anytime.  I finally had to take one of him doing the deed.  At the end of the day he always had a big smile and a couple glasses of Raki with his dinner!  He told us hilarious stories, and not so hilarious stories.  He made history come alive, and no question was ever out of line or off limits with Kaan.  He knew world affairs better than anyone I have talked to in  a long time, and we enjoyed many dinners discussing how the world could be a better place.  We miss him and he is one of the reasons we liked Turkey so much.  I hope he retires to his olive farm by the sea, as he wants to some day! 

GOODBYE TURKEY.........for now

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Ok...the Turks love their sweets, but they weren't exactly like ours.  I never saw cake, cookies, or pies...but anything soaked in honey was BIG.  Nuts, fruits...soaked in honey.  Figs, baklava...soaked in honey.  Turkish Delight  was served in many ways, with nuts, without, and with all kinds of "flavours".  There was even a Turkish delight made with carrots and pistachios which I really liked.
Turkish Delight Rolls

Honey and Jam store

Turkish Delight shaved off the brick
This Turkish delight was in a convenience store.  They would  slice it  off the slab and put into containers.  Mint and Pistachio and Carrot Hazelnut.
Some times they would just serve fresh melon or pears after dinner.  Of course, for Steve and I, that just didn't cut it!  We would wait and drool for the sweet stuff.  One place we found had these awesome chestnuts covered in dark chocolate.  They were toasted, or ground, or candied and in many shapes, but they were all Chestnuts and covered in a delicious dark chocolate.  Jams and flavored honeys were abundant, and cherry jams seemed to be traditional...and 'bitter orange" marmalade which was made with a green orange, very pungent and flavorful.
 All these candies are made with only chestnuts and dark chocolate.  They weren't overly sweet.