I don’t think Antigua is the new home I’m searching for, but it grew on me during the month I stayed there. If you can get past the nuisance of walking on cobblestones and the (relatively) inflated prices, the people are friendly, the town pretty and the climate quite comfortable. The real appeal remains hidden, though, behind the painted walls. The school garden was only the first glimpse I had of this. Half way through my stay, I ventured into a hostel and found an oasis of palm trees, fountains and a bungalow bar. I thought it was a special location until I discovered a few more such places.
One Sunday morning, we discovered an open door only 100m from our homestay. Upon peeking in, we discovered a guard standing in an ornate entrance hall. He gave us a grin and beckoned us inside. Beyond the entrance hall was a vast site of uncovered ruins, gradually being restored to its former beauty, but somehow more impressive for its semi-ruinous state. The sound of playful splashes of a large fountain were drowned out by the amplified oration being given by a priest to an audience of local churchgoers. I recalled my teacher telling me of this place which was dug up by savvy businessman who found some artefacts when digging up his back yard, and then bought up all the adjacent land until he owned the whole site. It’s now a museum, but the entrance through the church provides free access on Sunday mornings. It’s also apparently a hotel, and likely the source of the music which has kept me awake on weekends.
Then there is the gathering place where, in ancient times, women washed clothes and caught up on gossip. And every time I managed to peek through a doorway I found vast spaces, sometimes used for parking, but often full of lush greenery. It’s this secret Antigua that I will remember as I move on to Lake Atitlan.