I kept the best for last in Honduras. My last day is a perfect day for hot baths in the jungle at Luna Jaguar. The weather is windy and cold with grey skies when the shuttle carrying me and 5 other tourists heads out from Copan. The road to Luna Jaguar is rough and windy, but the views get increasingly more beautiful as we leave the dry, dusty area around Copan and move into the lush, green jungle.
There are few people visiting Luna Jaguar - only one other shuttle besides ours. A guide shows me the different baths and heads off while I settle into my first hot bath, which ends up being my favourite:
Sitting in the hot water, I stare at the treetops and think to myself "I'm in the middle of the jungle in Honduras, it's bloody cold out, and I'm relaxing in the best hot bath ever." It's pretty damned cool.
The water is 90C when it comes out of the ground. It's mixed with cold water from a surface stream to create pools of different temperatures. There's a pool filled with round stones - one side is hot and one side is cold. You're supposed to walk through the pools to get a foot massage. Another pool has a tub of clay next to it - you can cover yourself in clay and rinse off in the pool. The hottest pool is 70C. I also get a 30 minute massage for $25US while there.
The next day, I take several pictures of the main square in Copan Ruinas and Google combines them into one without my asking,which is pretty cool since I have no idea how to create a panoramic picture intentionally!
The bus back to Honduras leaves at 3:00 and is scheduled to arrive in Antigua at 10:00pm, but it's already 10:00pm when we arrive in Guatemala City. Only two of us are going on towards Antigua so we're driven in a pickup rather than a shuttle. The driver drops me off in the city a couple of blocks from the Hedman Alas office rather than driving me to my hotel. It's 11:00pm and I have to trek to my hotel on my own, tired from my long ride over, carrying my heavy backpack. It's a Saturday night though and the streets are full of people so I don't feel unsafe, but I'm glad I'd checked out the hotel location a week earlier so I know exactly where I'm going.
In the continued spirit of ending on a high note, I like to book a room in a nicer hotel for my last few days. I'm usually tired by then so it's nice to be able to relax in a more luxurious setting. I got very lucky with my booking at Hotel Galeria. It was a last minute booking so the room was 48% off and I got an additional $18 off using accumulated points with booking.com. In the end, it's only $10 more/night than my room in Honduras. Hotel Galeria is a nice colonial building with a small courtyard. The bathroom is large and modern but surprising for a normally expensive place, I only get hot water one of the three times I attempt to take a shower.The breakfast is great though, and I have a large crepe filled with fruit and yogurt.
I spend part of the day working and then head out for a late lunch at a vegan restaurant where I get a smoothie, a Buddha bowl, and sweet potato fries. The restaurant is set by a large courtyard shared by a number of restaurants and shops surrounding it. It's yet another one of those secret spaces that you can spot when walking past the doorway.
I was given a bamboo stick to use as a straw! Damn backlighting, the Buddha bowl looked much prettier in real life.
Heading back to my hotel, I can see preparations happening for a procession. Turns out I got lucky - it's the first Sunday of Easter so I get to witness one of the famous Easter processions!
In a perfect bookend to my vacation, in the evening I meet up with Jorge, the Guatemalan man I spoke with on my third day in Antigua. We meet at Frida's, a Mexican restaurant that, judging by the menu, seems to have fantastic food. Unfortunately, I'm still full from my late lunch and not hungry enough to eat anything. The place is full anyway, so we head around the corner to Blu Antigua. The bar has an upstairs terrace with a fantastic view that I would never have discovered if Jorge hadn't shown it to me - you really have to know it's there to find it. There's a swimming pool at ground level, the only swimming pool I've seen in Antigua. There's no one swimming in it, but it makes for a nice ambience.
My plan for my last day is to take some dance classes at Beat, but I get off to a late start and I have to hunt around for a lavenderia to drop off my clothes, so I decide to skip the morning classes and enjoy the sun and walk through the city one last time. Someone kindly offers to take the requisite photo of me by the arch:
I check out the display of artwork at Hotel Santo Domingo. The use of colour in these paintings is so joyful. I really need to think about getting a painting next time I visit.
And another Antigua "must see" - I check out the courtyard at MacDonald's! This is probably the most beautiful MacDonald's in the world. I get a couple of funny looks from people when I videotape it!
I don't stay to eat, though. Instead, I head over to Samsara for a vegan lunch. I've barely made a dent in all the vegetarian and vegan options in Antigua. I'm pretty excited to be getting actual zoodles for this meal! And of course, the cashews are locally grown. Mmmmmmm.....
In the evening, I head off for a Yoga Baile class at Beat. I have no idea what to expect from a yoga dance class. Turns out, we learn a short choreo to Britney Spears's toxic with some yoga moves embedded in it. It's tons of fun and the other people taking the class are very friendly. Based on the two classes I've taken at Beat, it would definitely be my goto spot for dance classes if I come back for a long term stay in Antigua.
I'd planned on grabbing something to eat in the evening but I'm a sweaty mess post class so I just head back to the hotel to pack and go to bed. And just like that, it's time for me to head home. After 26 days I'm ready to get back to my life.
My Adrenalina Tours shuttle gets me to the airport at 10:30am for a 2:25pm flight, and it can't have taken me more than 20 minutes to get my boarding passes, go through customs, and get through security. I'm glad I got a Scotiabank Passport Visa a few months ago since I can spend the wait time in the Priority Pass lounge where I indulge in a cappuccino, bruschetta, and a glass of wine. Turns out the Priority Pass lounge in Guatemala is much much nicer than the Priority Pass lounge in Atlanta where I have a 3.5 hour layover. I finally get home at 1:30am, 15.5 hours after leaving Antigua. And there you have it - it's a wrap!
Some lessons learned: Comfy sandals instead of elegant sandals next time: Teva hiking sandals and my jazz dance shoes would have been enough. I never used my filtered water bottle or my water purifying tablets. Antigua is a wonderful place for a long term work/leisure winter stay. It's safe, cheap, small enough to walk everywhere, food is fantastic, Spanish is easy to understand (and most people also speak English), beautiful plant filled and colourful courtyards everywhere, and has lots of dance and yoga classes. The only downsides: a bit crowded on the weekend, especially with cars. And I miss having no body of water nearby. The latter is a bit strange, since I'm really not a beach person. Still, it's nice having the sounds, smells, and sight of the ocean nearby, even if I'm not going to spend hours lying on the beach. So while it's unlikely I'll be able to find all the pluses of Antigua in a beach setting, I'm going to keep on looking. Still so many places to explore.