This blog is most definitely not a travel blog. I can’t cope with the sheer pressure of having to report accurate details of every trip I take – I much prefer to enjoy them and then savour the photos. This is part of the reason the blog has not be inundated with posts about random Central American villages, despite the fact I’ve been travelling between them for the best part of three months. But I go home on Wednesday, so thought this would be a marvellous opportunity to share my highlights of the trip (and maybe a few holiday snaps, if you’ll excuse me).
In the summer of 2009, while waiting for my A-level results in that glorious commitment-free summer before starting university, I spent five weeks volunteering in Guatemala. This is in the running for the best thing I’ve ever done. The people running the charity were two of the most committed and inspirational people I’ve ever met, and I truly felt that what I was doing would change lives. I was teaching in a volunteer-run school for indigineous children, all of whom were incredibly poor and would not otherwise have had the chance to go to school or even learn Spanish, as they all speak a local indigenous language. When I was there, classes were taught by volunteers from developed countries, but the plan was always to make the schools self-sufficient, training ex-students as teachers. And I was so so proud to find on returning that this has finally been achieved, after 10 years of hard slog!
In case you’re interested in finding out any more about the charity, it’s called Fly the Phoenix and their website can be found here. It truly is very worthy cause, and I’m so proud to be associated with them.
Anyway. Getting back on topic. As well as the amazing experience of volunteering, I had the chance to live in quite possibly the most beautiful town in Central America – Antigua, Guatemala. I adore this place. I’ve met so many people who complain that it’s too full of tourists and it’s true, there are a lot of foreign tourists about and a huge selection of language schools. But the amazing thing about Antigua is that it still retains a lot of its Guatemalan personality. There are cobbled streets, brightly painted buildings, and ladies in traditional indigenous dress all over the place. And because there are so many language learners, people go out of their way to speak Spanish to you, rather than English.
So of course we simply had to make sure we visited on this trip.
The town has the most incredible setting, surrounded by three volcanos that you can always see in clear weather.
One of the reasons I don’t mind all the tourists is that, because of them, Antigua has some pretty great cafes and bars. In fact, we spent most of our time there this time stuffing our face with cake and crepes, and drinking extortionate amounts of tea. If, like me, you are an addict of both tea and chocolate, this is pretty much heaven. I’ll pop another post up with my top places, in case you’re interested.
This chilled out atmosphere means that I count Antigua as one of the places I could happily live, regardless of where it is in the world. I probably wouldn’t ever actually up sticks and move there, since I’ve discovered this year that I don’t cope well with being far away from my family and friends. Even so, I can definitely see myself coming back here yet again in the future, it’s one of my places.
My favourite town in the world? Very possibly.