Vigil at Santa Ines del Monte – 10th Day of Lent

Santa Ines church Antigua Guatemala

Processions will be ramping up this weekend – there will be two happening on Saturday, one on Sunday. As is the custom, a vigil is held at the church where the procession is scheduled to come out of. On Wednesday, I visited tiny Los Llanos church, in Jocotenango. On Friday, a vigil was held at another small church, Santa Ines del Monte.

Santa Ines is a small town located at the entrance to Antigua, right about the time the winding road into the city levels off and the tumulos (speed bumps) begin.  It’s easy to spot Santa Ines church. Just as you go past the first speed bump, keep your eyes on the left for the small yellow church. Admittedly, it looks more impressive in the picture below, though I think it’s more of a perspective angle that makes it seem more imposing than it really is.

Santa Ines Antigua Guatemala

Santa Ines del Monte Pulciano Church

I loved the flower carpet design – while the borders had the traditional patters, the design at the center was a stylish, modern crucifix. I’d love to figure out at some point who comes up with the designs and how they come to fruition.

Santa Ines del Monte Antigua Guatemala

Santa Ines Vigil Display

A close up of the alfombra. Digging the baby crocs on the lower corners…

Santa Ines Antigua Guatemala Velacion

Close up of flower carpet

There’s always a fish somewhere in the display. Meet the Papaya Shark….

Velacion Antigua Guatemala Santa Ines

That’s one sweet shark

This display’s story was Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. If you look closely at the pic below, you’ll see water pouring from one of the water jars, which was pretty cool and the first time I’ve seen that wrinkle used in a display this year.

Water into wine bible story

Water is literally pouring out of a jar

As mentioned earlier, processions will continue on Saturday – one at 5:00 pm and one at 6:00 pm, the first one leaving from Cuasi Parroquia and the second one from Santa Catarina Bobadilla. For the full procession schedule, download my free guide from http://bit.ly/OkAntiguaSignup

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Did you catch this vigil?

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Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala: Visitors Guide

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

Hobbitenango, near Antigua Guatemala, is one of the most interesting attractions in the area and a popular day trip destination.

The restaurant, ecolodge and camping grounds have unmatched views – you’d need to go on a 6-hour volcano hike to get the views you can enjoy from here. In fact, on a clear day, you can see five volcanoes from here: Pacaya (near Guatemala City), Agua, Fuego, Acatenango, and even Toliman at Lake Atitlan.

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala

From left to right: Pacaya, Agua, Fuego, Acatenango and Toliman volcanoes.

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The Guatemalan Shire

As you can guess by the name, the concept is based around the idea of building a real-life Shire – J.R.R Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” if you still don’t get the hobbit/Shire references. The owners turned what used to be a personal camping spot and have built a self-sustaining, environment-friendly complete with organic garden.

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala

Restaurant (center), private cottage (left), dorms (right)

Admission to Hobbitenango

There’s free admission from Monday through Saturday.

Admission on Sundays and during holidays

On Sundays and during holidays admission costs Q35 per person, which includes transportation from the parking lot (usually Q10 roundtrip). The admission fee is waived for visitors that arrive after 4 pm and those who purchase buffet packages (see below).

Hobbitenango’s All You Can Eat Buffet

Hobbitenango has buffet service on Sundays and holidays. Visitors who purchase any of the “All You Can Eat” breakfast/lunch/all-day buffet have admission included in the price.

The All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet runs from 8 am to 12 pm and costs Q75 per person (admission fee waived).

The All You Can Eat Lunch Buffet runs from 12 pm to 4 pm and costs Q135 per person (admission fee waived).

The Whole Day Pass All You Can Eat Buffets allows visitors to enjoy both breakfast and lunch buffet and costs Q185 per person (admission fee waived).

For children, the buffet prices are as follows:

Kids All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet costs Q35 per person (admission fee waived).

Kids All You Can Eat Lunch Buffet costs Q65 per person (admission fee waived).

Kids Whole Day Pass All You Can Eat Buffets costs Q75 per person (admission fee waived).

Hobbitenango Restaurant

The restaurant has a conventional menu (burgers, pasta, soups, salads) with a few items dressed up with Hobbit-themed names – mildly amusing. Check out Hobbitenango’s complete menu here. There are options for kids as well.

Outside food and drinks are not permitted. Payments are accepted in quetzals, dollars and credit cards – Visa only.

Hobbitenango Restaurant Guatemala

Jalapeno “The Dragon” Burger at Hobbitenango

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala Hobbit-themed cocktails

The bar has a nice selection of cocktails, beers, wine, and even champagne if you’re in a celebratory mood. You can “upgrade” the quality of your cocktail for a fee.

Main Area

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

Hobbitenango’s main lounge

The property’s showstopper is its Hobbit house-like round door, which it’s my guess would become the most photographed door in Antigua if the grounds were located there.

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

 Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes can be seen in the distance

Even the restrooms have million quetzals views.

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

Bathroom at Hobbitenango – Agua volcano in the background

Hobbitenango Ecolodge and Camping

Hobbitenango used to have a two-bedroom cottage (very rustic and charmless) and dorms.

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

Original private cottage structure at Hobbitenango

There are now two very nice cottages, which you can check out here. The cottages start at $75USD/night.

There’s also a campsite (Madam Balam) with room for seven tents – it has an eco-toilet, but no shower, and space for a campfire. Camping is $11.25 for a two-person tent. Oh, and you must bring your own tent and sleeping bag.

How to get to Hobbitenango

You can drive up to Hobbitenango – it’s reasonably straightforward to get there. Just head north on 1ra Avenida Norte, as if traveling to Cerro de la Cruz – go past it. Once you get to Aldea El Hato (where the turnoff for Earth Lodge is) keep driving uphill on the paved road. After 5-10 minutes you’ll spot the sign to Hobbitenango on your left.

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala

Entrance to Hobbitenango

Here’s where things get a little dicey. From this point forward, the road is rutted and only fit for 4×4 vehicles. You can leave your car parked on the side of the road and huff your way uphill. More on that in a moment.

Alternatively, you can catch a shuttle in Antigua – it’s Q35 per person roundtrip. Shuttles start departing from Antigua daily every two hours, from Hobbienango’s office located at 1a Avenida Norte #36, just past the basketball court as you walk towards Cerro de la Cruz.

The first shuttle leaves at 8:00 am. Call the folks at Hobbitenango ahead of time to let them know you’ll be waiting for shuttle service (phone #: (502) 3090-8812).

If you drive here, you can park at the lot at the bottom of the hill. All-day parking costs Q15 for cars, Q10 for motorcycles.

Arriving at Hobbitenango

Shuttle vans will only take you so far as they’re not 4×4 vehicles. From the bottom of the hill is a strenuous (for us at least) 30 minute walk uphill. Unless you’re in top physical shape, or don’t mind making lots of stops to catch your breath  – it’s up at 2,400 meters here – pay the extra Q10 per person (roundtrip) and have a pickup give you a ride from the bottom of the hill and haul you up the required 800 meters.

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

The “easier” uphill walking path of the two

Once the uphill walk levels off a bit, the scenery turns very pleasant.

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala

Walking paths

As you get closer, Hobbitenango will come into view.

Hobbitenango antigua Guatemala

Hobbitenango in the distance

Hobbitenango Antigua Guatemala

Getting closer…

After an arduous walk, reward yourself by plopping on the couches and ordering a cocktail or smoothie.

Things To Do at Hobbitenango

If the uphill walk hasn’t woken up your appetite, maybe head for the nearby trails around the property to get it going.

In addition, they also have a few Middle Earth attractions to keep you entertained. There’s an archery range, horseback rides, hammocks, really high swings, and even a jousting stage. They also have live music every weekend.

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Hobbitenango is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, until 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The bar is open until 10 pm on weekends.

More information at https://www.facebook.com/Hobbitenango

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What was your experience like at Hobbitenango?

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Vigil at Cuasi Parroquia Los Llanos – 8th Day of Lent

Flower Carpet Antigua Guatemala

Today’s vigil was at Los Llanos, inside Cuasi Parroquia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, a hamlet north of Jocotenango – the latter a busy town immediately north of Antigua. I’d never visited the town before – had no reason to until I decided to catch as many vigils and processions as possible.

The town is easy to get to, as there are buses at the terminal clearly marked “Jocotenango – Los Llanos” (Q2 fare one way). Once dropped off at the terminal, it’s a 5-minute walk to the church. While Jocotenango has a reputation due to past gang activity a few years ago, locals I spoke to said Los Llanos was a fairly quiet, easygoing and safe town. It definitely seemed so when I visited.

Aldea Los LLanos Jocotenango

You know you’re getting close when you start seeing food stalls…

The name Cuasi Parroquia is a strange one, as it literally means “Quasi Parish.” Turns out, a “quasi parish” is one that has been granted permission to establish itself as a parish, ut hasn’t been blessed as one by a bishop, for whatever reason, the most common one being that their temple hasn’t been built yet. This did not appear to be the case – unless building a new church is in their plans.

Velacion Cuasi Parroquia Los Llanos

Humble Cuasi Parroquia

While the exterior wasn’t as glamorous as that of other churches, its vigil display was very well done. Rather than get cute or creative with their alfombra, the folks at Cuasi Parroquia opted for a traditional alfombra design, which was the best I’ve seen so far this season.

Sawdust carpet Holy Week Antigua Guatemala

The display’s theme was “The Rich Young Man

Flower Carpet Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra at Cuasi Parroquia

And of course, no display is complete without an edible animal of some sort, be it carved out of fruit or a baked creation.

Pan lagarto Guatemala

Semi-sweet Pan Lagarto (Lizard Bread)

There’s a tiny procession scheduled at Cuasi Parroquia for next Saturday. It’s so small that it won’t even leave the neighborhood, making it impossible to catch unless you head there for the express purpose of seeing it.

Cheap Eats: Inexpensive, Tasty Burgers

It was easy to photograph the display at Cuasi Parroquia – the church is relatively out of the way, so it was nearly empty when we arrived. Some local girls I asked for directions didn’t even know there was a vigil being held at the church.

Once out of the church, we explored the hamlet a bit. On the way to the church, we noticed there was a small La Bodegona Supermarket, which I had no idea existed. Next to La Bodegona, there was a small restaurant serving burgers, one that’s owned by La Bodegona.

Hamburgers La Bodegona Antigua

Lamburguesa Sign

In Antigua, La Bodegona has a small take-out restaurant that sells burgers, hot dogs, and nacho cheese. The burgers are a tasty, inexpensive alternative to McDonald’s burgers a few doors down on 4ta Calle Poniente – the sweet, caramelized onions are what makes this burger worth eating.

The drawback to the Antigua location is that there’s no seating due to lack of space. No such problems at the Los Llanos location.

Hamburguer La Bodegona Antigua Guatemala

Inside Lamburguesa

La Bodegona Antigua guatemala

My daughter gave the “Jot Dogs” two thumbs up

The combo (burger + fries + drink) is Q20 -a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, the Antigua location doesn’t sell french fries.

Up next is a display at another tiny church, Santa Ines del Monte Pulciano.

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Any recommendations for cheap, tasty burgers in Antigua?

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Santa Catarina Bobadilla Procession In Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala Processions

Today was Antigua’s first procession of Lent and it was a fairly big one and consumed most of the day – from 11 am to 11 pm – to make life miserable for people who live here and hate gridlock. It’s only going to get worst.

But if you’re a tourist? There’s no better time to be in Antigua Guatemala. Check out the pictures below.

First, we checked out the flower carpet at Calle de Los Pasos, on Antigua’s east. While Antigua’s temperatures are comfortable throughout the year, the sun can be scorching at midday, which it was today.

Alfombra at Calle de los Pasos

Sawdust carpet

With sawdust carpet, the trick is to keep the sawdust moist. Once it dries up, sawdust will easily blow away, ruining the alfombra’s design. The job of the waterboy is to constantly spray the carpet until it’s ready to be trampled on.

Calle de los pasos

Seems like a fun thing to do…

About a half hour ahead of schedule, the first section of the procession arrived.

roman soldiers, procession

I bet they were miserable standing under the sun…

The first anda (image platform) wasn’t as big as others I’ve seen, but it was very well done. The people at Santa Catarina Bobadilla definitely know how to do processions and top-notch displays.

Santa Catarina procession

Santa Catarina’s Anda

Antigua Guatemala Processions

Procession…

I was surprised to see children carrying this anda, as it wasn’t announced it was a children’s procession. My guess is that it’s not labeled as a children’s procession unless the and is strictly carried by children the entire length of the designated route.

Children carrying anda

Children carrying anda

While anyone, provided you can pay the fee and purchase a robe, can sign up to be a cucuruchoanda carrier – the job of a timonel – steers anda –  is not one to be taken lightly and usually requires years of experience carrying an anda.  In fact, many timoneles, once they acquire the post, spend years doing the same job. They are the ones that coordinate how fast/slow an anda goes, the rhythm, and keeps an eye out for power cables and annoying photographer that set up in front of them, disrupting their rhythm. The best ones are said to not even need to push or pull an anda – just a few words often will do.

Timonel steering the anda

Timonel

Incense bearers

Incense bearers

Drums at the procession

Drum section

After anda bearers have trampled a flower carpet and moved on, it’s the job of the cleanup crew tailing behind the procession to clean up any alfombra debris left on the street.

cleaning crew for processions

Cleanup crew

Because we live along the route of Santa Catarina Bobadilla’s procession, we got to see it again upon its return to its home church. This gave me the chance to photograph more alfombras.

sawdust alfombra

Sawdust carpet

Alfombra fruit art

Interesting fruit art

nighttime alfombra

A simpler alfombra

Jesus Nazareno de la Salvación

Jesus Nazareno de la Salvación

Virgen de Dolores, Santa Catarina Bobadilla

Virgen de Dolores, Santa Catarina Bobadilla

Procession, Virgen de Dolores

Procession, Virgen de Dolores, Santa Catarina Bobadilla

As with every procession, a band trails the main anda and plays funeral marches.

Processional music

Funeral marching music

Traditional Guatemalan Food

Tonight, food vendors came out in droves to the plaza in front of Calvario church. I had the opportunity to try buñuelos, a dessert that’s served traditionally during Lent, but because they’re so delicious they’re easily found year-round at most street fairs.

Street vendor selling bunuelos

Vendor frying buñuelos

Buñuelos are fried dough balls, but unlike doughnuts, they’re crispy on the outside and very soft inside. They’re typically served hot and drenched in a light honey, cinnamon and anise syrup. Tasty!

Up next is a vigil on Wednesday, in Los Llanos, Jocotenango, in a church I’ve never heard of before. Shouldn’t be hard to find – I’ll just go where the vendors are.

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More Holy Week photos here.

San Felipe de Jesus Vigil: Lenten And Holy Week Photos

Antigua Guatemala Holy Week

The only activity planned for Lent today was a vigil at San Felipe de Jesus, at the same church where the first vigil was held. This vigil was noticeably less attended than the first one. After all, there are 36 days worth of vigils and activities, so it makes sense for people to pace themselves.

In any case, for me, it was the opportunity to once again visit the church I love photograph more than any other church in or near Antigua. Yep, San Felipe Church.

Lenten vigil in San Felipe de Jesus

Not a cloud in the sky…

Today’s vigil was in honor of Virgen de Dolores. Typically, these images are “role players” and carried in platforms – known as andas – behind images of Christ.

Alfombra display inside San Felipe

Small alfombra, too far away…

This was the least elaborate of the display I’ve seen so far. Its length made it difficult to see the rather small alfombra near the altar. Here’s a closeup of the altar:

Display at San Felipe Church

I really need to get a zoom lens…

Other than the kid who was taking care of the display and touching it up, there were hardly 15 people there at any point in time.

Velacion en San Felipe de Jesus

Trimming candle wick

Traditional Guatemalan Food

Since we arrived at lunchtime, we figured we’d go have a traditional Guatemalan lunch at one of the places locals highly recommend for home-cooked meals in San Felipe – the aptly named “Comedor San Felipe”.

Comedor San Felipe

Pretty it ain’t…

Now, something to explain here. There are many places to eat in Antigua, from street stalls to high-end pretentious cuisine. Comedores are way down on the totem pole – sort of like greasy spoon diners.

The closest place to find comedores in Antigua are the ones at the Mercado – none there any local has ever recommended. When people mentioned this place, I half-expected a small restaurant, not actually a comedor, which is the sort of place I normally don’t go to unless recommended to me, as was the case with this one.

Decorations? This place really didn’t have any. But clean it was, which is more important than dusty plants or old, faded paintings.

comedor en San Felipe

Simple tables and benches at Comedor San Felipe

In the back of the kitchen, the owner and her assistants prepared the ingredients for the stews, which were later to be cooked right out front, next to the lady preparing the blue-corn tortillas.

Guatemalan kitchen comedor

Kitchen

Guatemalan comal for tortillas

Front of the restaurant

The place was fairly big and even though there wasn’t much activity in town that day, a stream of people kept coming into the place.

We sat down and ordered off the menu of the day. All dishes are Q35 and include sides, tortillas and a drink, which that day meant tasty horchata (rice drink). Other drinks can be ordered for an additional cost.

Guatemalan horchata

Sorry dear, no soda for you

Wife and I ordered the traditional regional stew, pepian de gallina (spicy beef stew) and carne asada for our daughter. By the way, I have to make a note here. When ordering chicken dishes, you’ll sometimes see something-something de gallina or such-and such de pollo. Well, what’s a gallina? Chicken. What’s a pollo? Chicken. In English there isn’t a distinction between the two, but in cuisine, absolutely.

A pollo, what most of us consume in the US, is a chicken that has reached full size (takes about two months, less if being pumped with hormones and chemicals). A gallina is when that chicken has been allowed to reach full maturity – usually five months. It’s like talking veal and beef.

Is there a difference between the two? Some people swear there is – I can’t tell. What is different is the texture – gallina meat is a lot tougher than pollo is, something that leads to ridiculous reviews online when people complain that the chicken in their caldo de gallina (chicken stew) is somehow too tough. It’s supposed to be that way. If you want your chicken to be tender, make sure pollo is what you order, not gallina. unless you’re ready to duke it out with your meat.

Pepian, rice, and black corn tortillas

Pepian at Comedor San Felipe

The pepian de gallina was good – wife agreed, though my only complaint was that the stew wasn’t hot enough temperature wise, just lukewarm. The carne asada was great though, really tender and tasty and one of the best I’ve had in any of the cheap places I’ve been to. I’d probably order that next time around.

Carne asada plate

Carne asada at Comedor San Felipe

After leaving stuffed, we headed to Mercado San Felipe next door to pick up some sweets.

Traditional Guatemalan Sweets

Lots to choose from…

Tomorrow is back to Santa Catarina Bobadilla to catch the procession – the first of the season! – leaving Sunday at 11:00 am.

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More traditional Guatemalan dishes here!

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Have you visited San Felipe yet?

How was it? Share below!