Thursday, October 17, 2019

Livingston an experience for the heart and senses

When you find yourself in Livingston (literally it’s a place to find yourself) an essential part of the experience is the gastronomy.  It is a contrast of luxury of flavors with staple ingredients, a hot soup in an even hotter climate.
The tapado is a coconut base soup with plantains and a feast of seafood: fish, shrimp, crab and snail plus the secret spice. 
Every restaurant offers it. I have not try them all but enough to tell you of the three best places to have Tapado in Livingston (not in a particular order)

At someone’s home:

If you are lucky to have someone treat you to a Tapado say yes. Of course each family might have their own twist. As complicated as it seems it is something done very frequently so it can be done with whatever ingredients are accessible that day, versus a commercial/restaurant one that will meet all the checklist.

On the beachfront:

Laru Bella in Barrio  Pueblo Nuevo would be the place I would recommend. To me you need to eat it on the sea side not on the riverside. Hotels catering foreigners are on the riverside. Yes they do have tapado and most probably cooks are local yet it’s lacking the local ambiance.

In town:

If you want authentic, delicious, comfortable and pay with a credit card then Margoth is the place. Sit in a nice open restaurant and see everyone pass by. The owners are usually there and are super friendly. There is a full bar and a wonderful menu of traditional food. Here are pics of my last visit to Margoth

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pasteles del Trópico, Puerto Barrios` best kept secret

Pasteles del Trópico was my everyday stop during the time I was in Puerto Barrios for my PHD research.

This more than 40 year old bakery and “cakery” is just fabulous. In spanish there is a difference between panadería (where you buy bread) and pastelería (where you buy cakes and usually can also get coffee). It is tucked in an unpaved street. If a local does not tell you about it you will miss it. I was lucky to be introduced to it by a colleague I was working with and since then I don’t know what happened but my car just drove there by itself!

All cakes are great my favorite were coconut pie and cheesecake, but the corn cake and chocolate cake are also delicious. You can also buy bread with local flavors.

I was there during independence celebration so I was able to be get a taste of the traditional food from the festival they do once a year.

Añadir leyenda

Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Fruits

I am wrapping up my second week in Puerto Barrios, where I am doing research for my PHD dissertation.

During this time I tried two new fruits Jocote Mico and Mangostán, both good but specially the latter one.

Jocote mico my first impression was that it was a green mango but it isn’t. You eat. It peeled and add lemon, and salt. If they are ripper you have to eat sort of sucking it off the stringy core but others don’t have as my strings. I bought a prepared bag for Q3.00.

Mangostan, this one is delicious, sweet, refreshing, juicy I loved them. Have not seen them in the city.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Plaza Berlin

Plaza Berlin is located at the very south end of Avenida Las Americas, which is the prolongation of Avenida Reforma. When Guatemala city had grown to be merged with all its neighboring cities this was the furthest day trip south inside the city.

This Plaza was named after the city of Berlin and built jointly with the German Embassy in Guatemala. It has a wonderful view of Pacaya Volcano so it became a viewpoint where people would come eat tostadas, watch the sunset. As you can guess it was an is a favorite stop for couples in love. During the 90`s it became somewhat dangerous. Since it is tucked in behind the buildings of the area and has lots of trees people started often becoming subject of thefts and assaults. This has changed now with a renovation undertaken by the City. The project involved a renovation of the fountain and murals but also great landscape job, along with an outdoor gym and playground.

As it reads on the park´s sign:  “Berlin Square was constructed 1965, through joint planning between the Municipality of Guatemala City and The German Embassy. A concrete mural named Divided Berlin was placed in it, and in front of it a unique fountain made with mosaic brought from Venice.” 

During the restoration this new mural was incorporated. It reads peaceful coexistance. It is part of a larger iniciative that has the objective of recovering public spaces and making the safe and accesible for all.

In the year 2006, the monument Berlin for Liberty was erected, which is made up by three original sections of the Berlin Wall, that diveden Germany between 1961 and 1989... A fallen pieces was placed, symbolizing the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989. The tree pieces had original graffitis, which with time were lost. The current design was done by Guatemalan artis Daniela José Dávila Villa and symbolizes life, liberty, peace and respectful coexistance ideals shared by Germany and Guatemala and whose colors are represented in the mural painted by youngters.

This bear is the most recent addition, it is part of the  United Buddy Bear project. In the back Pacaya Volcano.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Truck Load of Happiness

I was in traffic resigned to just drive and get to where I was going whenever I got there, and in that mode I saw this wonderful sight!

A truck load of happiness, about 1,000 balls?! 

You can picture construction workers playing their classic lunch break “chamusca”. How many happy goals? How many fun plays for only Q5.00 a ball?
You can picture dozens of kids running on dirt fields behind a plastic ball on recesses across Guatemala. How many exciting yells of Gooooooooooooooool?
The classic and always there in every corner store, the plastic ball.

They are multifuntional. It’s greatest day are felt and seen  of course on the feet of kids, but later you can see kids wearing them as helmets  (half a ball). The red ones are bought as  bulb shades hung on the outside of houses to indicate you can buy tamales there. A restaurant sell cocktails prepared with local liquor in balls with a straw. I have seen them as tree ornaments on town squares hanging from  trees.

The red ball on the door means Tamales are sold there.

I don’t think  there is one Guatemalan who has not held on of these (now Q5.00, during my childhood Q0.25) plastic balls.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Laguna de Ixpaco

The day we went to Laguna El Pino we had such a nice time with Nicole that we decided to extend out tour to another nearby lagoon: Laguna Ixpaco.
Coming from El Cerinal we took the road back to Guatemala and turn towards Pueblo Nuevo Viñas, you would recognize the turn by all the pineapple stands on the road. Just before town there is turn to the left to this laguna. It is a dirt road (a beautiful but scary dirt road if you have not been). We drove for some 20 minutes not knowing exactly what to expect and thinking if we get stopped there is not much we can do.

This lagoon is so particular because it is Sulfer with it hard boiled egg smell and dandruff control shampoo color. It is so because it is vein from the nearby Tecuamburro Volcano.

The last time I had been was about 35 years ago. I went with my parents to a fancy wedding in a coffee plantation somewhere around there because I remember driving by on the way out. Which made me think as we kept driving there must be another way to get to this place because for sure we where not off road so long then.

The pictures do no justice to how beautiful it is, the color is amazing and the feeling is as if you have stepped into a prehistorical movie, particularly because like almost all potentially touristic places in Guatemala there is nothing to remind you of the modern era (except for the plastic litter because there aren´t any trashcans either). At dinner we discussed about it, on one hand of course being so natural is great yet if not taken care and appreciated it slowly and silently gets ruined. With so much need for development in communities an eco tourism project ran by the locals would be great, like on the Dead  Sea were you can get in, get mud baths, there are showers, eating areas and such.

The Lagoon was on the news recently because what appear to be a crater started forming, here are two videos of hot bubbling substance on the lagoon shore.

We had a wonderful time admiring this nature´s wonder. We were debating weather to exit towards a main road  continuing the the dirt road we were on, but waze and maps showed the road interrupted.  My gut feel said there was a road, so we risked it  and I am glad we did.  It was no more than a 5 minute drive out to the main road towards Chiquimulilla. We exited right at kilometer 84. Now we know that the best way to get there is taking the road to El Salvador, turning  at el Boqueron  towards  Chiquimulilla and then making  a right turn on Km 84.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A divided and torn Guatemala

I don’t want to get too political so I will just tell a little real life moment from Saturday afternoon. I went to protest against the “cooperation agreement” signed between US and Guatemala, but the comical part, if you may, was that there were 3 protest going on the surroundings of the main plaza. Each one distinctively different on cause, ideology, and even the way each group was dressed.
The next day a newspaper confused the pics and causes to the disgust of a group.

Today I read an article on the Colombian winner of the tour the France and it was almost as the writer was describing Guatemala (minus the win).
We are so divided and there are so many congruent issues, feelings, causes. I quote here part of the article: “In our country it is normal that we have winter and summer the same day, sun and hail, shame and happiness, pain and joy up to the highest summit of our mountains”

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Food stop at El Boquerón, Santa Rosa

This will become our new official stop going to Monterrico from the road to El Salvador.

Right at the turn to Chiquimulilla is this quaint restaurant/cafeteria called “Estación Boquerón”, KM 65.5. It is on the road with parking in the back. 

We had pacayas envueltas, battered pacayas, a good place to have them since they are grown in the region. 

Today we stopped on the way back from Chiquimulilla were we did Human Rights training to some very a proactive and enthusiastic group of police agents. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Laguna de El Pino

Today we decided to go explore Laguna El Pino, the last and only time I had been was about 20 years ago that a Rotarian friend who had (or has) a weekend house there invited us. I had and idea of where it was but since it is not such a popular destination I had to Waze it. Laguna El Pino is on the road to El Salvador about 45 minutes from the city, on a Sunday with no traffic. It is in the department of Santa Rosa and the entrance is in El Cerinal.

We decided to take our bikes (city bikes) and test our luck. We payed Q3.00 per person an Q5.00 for the car. 

Mountain bikes would have been a better choice but we were able ride some short trails to go to the shore, throw rocks, and take some pictures. We got there early so we were there along with the church groups who were having their service and baptisms and  with the the teams of the early soccer games.

We ventured out the park to ride around the lake, there are a couple of restaurants where you can rent kayaks and just hang out . There are also placers to hold private events. Again our city bikes were not ideal, we turned around half way unsure of the road to come but a big group of bikers passed us and then encounter us back at the entrance, so we know there is a way to go all around it.

We came back loaded the bikes and then took a little boat rides Q30.00 for the three of us. We took some nice pics with Acatenango and Agua volcanoes on the back

Finally we joined the Sunday crowd, mostly locals, who were eating and chatting watching the kids play in the water. Our menu elotes locos and chiles rellenos.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Art of Piñatas

I cannot ever get over the cleverness and ability of the Piñata Makers. For Sofi´s and Cooper´s 4th birthday we got Sky, Forky (OMG), and McQueen.
Although I don´t particularly love the idea of hitting your favorite character nor getting in a wrestling match for the fallen candy, if in Guatemala your childhood has to have Piñata memories.
Consider having a little piñata party when visiting Guatemala, each one of these piñatas was Q40.00 (less than $US6.00), the candy can turn out to be more expensive than the piñata, that in itself tells a not happy story about labor cost in Guatemala.

This is Guatemala, sweet and sour.