Going Dutch! Patata Frites, Antigua Guatemala

patata frites antigua guatemala

One of the things I enjoy about Antigua Guatemala is the number of eating establishments. Owning a restaurant is one of the most difficult businesses to run successfully here, going by the number of restaurants that open and close every week. It’s a tough balancing act – they need to differentiate themselves enough from the rest to attract tourists, while at the same time be affordable enough so that the locals keep coming during the tourism off-season.

Patata Frites (6a Avenida Norte #35 – moved here) is one such business. This popular new place, only half a block away from Parque Central, (UPDATE: new address listed, now half a block from La Merced) does one thing: sell Dutch-style, freshly fried French fries (say that fast three times).

French Fries and Flavored Mayonaisse at Patata Frites

French Fries and Flavored Mayonaisse

In the US, fries are a sidekick to burgers, fried chicken, and sandwiches, not meant to be the main attraction. The crazy Dutch have other ideas, as “patat frites” are a staple at roadside stands – also in Belgium, by the way.

In Guatemala, it’s not uncommon to find baskets of “papas fritas”, for sale, though it’s a food item more commonly found at “ferias”, or patron saint celebrations. And that’s how Patata Frites manages to be quirky enough to attract tourists looking for something different while being accessible to most chapines (slang for Guatemalan).

Patata Frites, Antigua Guatemala

Patata Frites, Antigua Guatemala

So what makes a basket of French fries switch citizenship and turn Dutch? Mayonnaise – lots of it.

Menu of options at Patata Frites

Menu of options at Patata Frites

Besides choosing the size of your Patata Frites, there’s an array of toppings to choose from, erroneously labeled as “salsas”. From Ranch-flavored mayonnaise (ranch being hugely popular in Guatemala) to exotic Wasabi-flavored mayo, there’s bound to be some combination that will appeal to you. On top of that, there’s a secret menu of sauces and items available upon requests, like sweet and sour sauce and avocado-flavored mayo. You can also choose between regular fries and curly fries, the latter being my favorite as I’m convinced the curls make the fries tastier. If you’re not a fan of “fried” anything, ask for their baked potatoes.

A standard plate costs about Q10 for a small one, Q15 for a large. There are also “Baby” portions for children. In addition to regular baskets, there are also specialty fries, like the chili beans and jalapeño basket, and the sweet potato and Nutella option. Those cost Q25. Each dousing of sauce costs Q3 to Q5 each.
"Grande" Specialty Chilli Fries

“Grande” Specialty Chilli Fries

While not big enough for my usual lunch meal – my 10-year-old daughter didn’t get filled up with the regular “small” sized basket, nor did I with the specialty plate, there are enough carbs in each serving to be useful as a late afternoon snack or stand in for a light dinner.

Sweet Potato Fries Patata Frites Antigua Guatemala

Small” Sweet Potato Basket with Buffalo Sauce and Sweet and Sour Sauce

As far as seating, there isn’t much inside the small location. There’s a small three-chair table in the corner and a single chair next to the register. Take it to go and saunter over to Parque Central instead.

Inside Patata Frites Antigua Guatemala

Decoration Inside Patata Frites

Tip: Check their Facebook page often, as they may have special offers from time to time.

Patata Frites
6a Avenida Norte #35
(502) 7832 1510

Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 10 am to 8 pm & Friday – Saturday: 10am to 10pm

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More restaurants here: https://www.okantigua.com/antigua-guatemala-restaurant/

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Have you been to Patata Frites?
How was it? Share below!

Shopping Online From Antigua Guatemala Via Rapidito Express

La Concepcion Convent Antigua Guatemala

UPDATED 12/12/2015: As highlighted at the end of this article, it was only a matter of time that Rapidito Express would run afoul of SAT – which they did. All shipments were suddenly held in limbo last November, while SAT began the task of examining every. single. package. and assigning customs duties to the items. Unfortunately, I had placed an order just days previous to the freeze.

I have to say, Rapidito as a company behaved atrociously toward customers through the process. The customer rep in Antigua repeatedly lied about what was happening and promised over and over that packages would be in Antigua “just next week“. I was first notified via email that the rate was officially changing to $2.99/pound plus customs duties, effective immediately. It didn’t matter that I had placed the order – and it had arrived at their offices in Miami – before the rate change. I’d just have to wait and see what sort of fee SAT would impose. And so I sat waiting for my package for what at the time were two additional weeks.

In any event, SAT, I learned later, wasn’t prepared – they were too lazy is what I believe – to open and calculate customs fees for every single package that Rapidito had waiting for them. And thus, a deal was struck. To save “overworked” SAT employees, officials decided that if Rapidito charged a rate of $8.00/pound, everything would be back to normal. The new fee would cover shipping and customs fees – basically, a $3.00/pound hike.

Conveniently for them, Antigua’s Rapidito office closed suddenly at the end of November, with little warning save for an email over the weekend, directing everyone to contact Rapidito’s main office Guatemala City. I’m assuming this was to avoid backlash and having to face actual customers in Antigua. Just a couple days earlier I had talked with the Antigua rep, who assured me all was taken care of with SAT and I would have my packages on hand – “next week” (by now almost a month later).

In any event, Rapidito’s Guatemala office called and informed me that not only would I have to pay the new $8.00/pound rate I hadn’t agreed to, but I’d also have to pick up the package in Guatemala City or pay an additional Q35 to have it delivered to my home in Antigua. So from a $15.00 fee I was slated to pay to have my order shipped to Antigua (what turned out to be a 3lb package), I’d now have to pay $24.00, plus an additional $5.00 if I didn’t want to make the trek to Guatemala City. Did anyone at Rapidito ever apologize? Nope. Did they ever even hint about being concerned that they changed the shipping terms on customers twice? Not at all.

Eventually, I ended up picking up the package at the warehouse in Guatemala City, a trek of over an hour via private transportation. Not worth the trip if you’re not anywhere near there on other business.

I’d be hesitant to use Rapidito again – customer service is poor, they lie, and as I mentioned, they don’t think twice about changing the shipping terms. Dishonorable people. Use at your own risk.

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You know what’s one of the things I’ve noticed I miss most about living in the US? The ability to shop online. It’s hard not to miss being able to click a few buttons and have items magically appear at your door a few days later.

Something that’s always bugged me about living in Guatemala is the high cost of electronic devices and parts. It’s often difficult to locate certain items, especially in Antigua. Sure, you may be able to find many items in Guatemala City, if you know where to look – but that requires that you have a vehicle or a friend that’s willing to drive you around for a bit. Hire a taxi from Antigua and you’ll easily be spending well north of $50USD roundtrip, effectively negating any cost savings.

La Concepcion Convent Antigua Guatemala

Casa Convento Concepción

For the past few months, I’ve had sort of an unlucky streak with electronic devices. First, I dropped my iPod Touch and cracked its screen. Then, I dropped my iPad – reading in bed is an old habit of mine – and also shattered its screen. Last month, my laptop overheated – something to do with all the ash from Fuego Volcano, which fried the hard drive.

First, I tried having my iPad screen fixed in the city – regrettably looking for the lowest cost. Geek Stores did such a shoddy job – for $65USD! – I decided to fix the iPod myself since I couldn’t find anyone to quote me less than $100USD for the repair. But first, I needed to find a replacement screen.

For the laptop, it was the same story. I looked at the prices in Antigua and they were laughably high – almost 50% higher than what costs were in the US. After consulting with a few people, the consensus was I could get the best prices by shopping in Guatemala City at Intelaf – the stores in Antigua will do in a pinch, but be prepared to pay through the nose. The hard drive I wanted was selling for $100 in the US, through Amazon, while at Intelaf I’d be paying $136 for a similar hard drive of lesser quality. Wanting to save as much money as possible, I started looking into how I could have the hard drive and iPod replacement screen shipped to Antigua.

There are quite a few companies that offer to ship to Antigua Guatemala, such as TraeloYa.com, DHL and AeroCasillas. These services are expensive and/or quite slow. One service had decent rates but would take up to three weeks to deliver my items. Another was faster but would charge 4x as much as the lowest-priced shipper. However, for the best blend of speed and cost, none can touch Rapidito Express. In fact, it’s so fast and relatively inexpensive that looking at stuff for sale online is no longer depressing. Here’s how it works:

Online Shopping Through Rapidito Express

After looking up the Rapidito Express Antigua location online, I headed over to beautiful Casa Convento Concepción (4a Calle Oriente, across from the old gas station, near the exit to the city, and pictured above), which now houses several retail offices, in addition to Rapidito’s. OFFICE IS NOW CLOSED. By the way, it’s pronounced Rah-pee-DEE-toe, not Rapey-ditto. Just thought you should know that, person who shall remain unnamed.

Rapidito Express Antigua

Entrance to Rapidito Express’ Offices

At the small office, the young man at the desk gave me the lowdown on how to have your packages shipped through Rapidito. Turns out it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Provide your contact information. You’re advised to provide Rapidito’s Antigua Guatemala office with your name, phone number, and email. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’ll save you from having to check in with them to see if your package has arrived. If they have your contact information, they’ll reach out as soon as the package has arrived.

2) Order your package online. Here’s where most people screw up and fail to follow directions. The result is that they end up waiting needlessly for their package. You must enter the correct shipping information so that the package arrives at Rapidito Express’ offices in Miami. Their Miami address is as follows:

NAME / NOMBRE: NOMBRES Y APELLIDOS (Full Name)
ADDRESS / DIRECCION: 8518 NW 66 ST SUITE 783
CITY / CIUDAD: MIAMI
STATE / ESTADO: FLORIDA
ZIP CODE / CODIGO POSTAL: 33195-2684
TEL: (305) 890-1560

The first line (your name) is very important, as the RXA code indicates to Rapidito that your package should be shipped to Antigua Guatemala, NOT Guatemala City. For example, if your name is Joe Schmoe, then the package should be addressed to:

Joe Schmoe /RXA

Screw this up and you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to locate the package, as it seems the Guatemala City and Antigua offices are completely independent of each other.  All packages go to Guatemala City now. You have to pay an additional Q35 fee to have GuatEx ship to your house in Antigua. Also, don’t forget to add the Suite number.

By the way, there’s nothing else you need to do. You could, or anyone for that matter, send a package to that address in Miami, with the RXA code, and the package will end up in Antigua without ever having to talk to anyone in Miami or registering any information online. Just show up to see if your package has arrived.

3) Pick up your package and pay for delivery. Pick up the package in the city or pay extra to have the package shipped to Antigua. Rapidito charges $5USD $8USD per pound now and rounds up weight to the next pound. If a package weighs 1 pound and 1 ounce, you’ll end up having to pay for two pounds ($16).

If you do want your package delivered to Antigua, I recommend you call Rapidito and have them EMAIL you the final bill – their word is worthless, but at least you’ll have something in writing should there be an unannounced price hike. Once you deposit payment into their account at a local bank, you’ll have to scan your slip and email proof of payment back to them.

My Experience with Rapidito

So how did it work out for me? Pretty swell actually! Well, with a few very minor issues. I placed the order on July 31st. Through Amazon’s tracking service, I learned that my order had been split into two shipments, even though I’d indicated that the items be shipped together. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, since shipping was free via Amazon. But because I now had two packages coming my way, I’d be billed for two packages, not one. Not Rapidito’s fault, as they don’t open packages or bundle items.

In any case, Amazon notified me that the first package had arrived in Miami three days later, on Monday, August 3rd. On Wednesday, August 5th, I got a call that my package was in Antigua. On Thursday, August 6th, the second package arrived in Miami and on Saturday of that same week I was notified via phone call that the package had arrived. Not bad at all!

Since I’d received two packages, both unopened by the way, I ended up paying $5 each (40Q), for a total of $10 (80Q). Good luck trying to pay anywhere close to that elsewhere for three-day shipping to Guatemala. So using Rapidito is a no-brainer, right?

Well, not so fast.

While my limited experience with their service has been great, you’ll find Rapidito has as many detractors as there are fans. Some claim packages have been lost, if not stolen, and some question the legality of the whole operation, to begin with.

For the whole “Christmas debacle” details, read this illuminating article here (Spanish). Other companies have accused Rapidito of skirting customs duties. While other companies require that taxes be paid – as high as 25% of item value in some cases – in addition to shipping costs, Rapidito charges a flat fee regardless of the value of the item.

As for complaints about lost packages, the Rapidito employee “assured” me that issues happened during last Christmas season when they were inundated with orders. This created a backlog that took weeks to sort out. Supposedly, they have a better system in place now. That said, it’s unlikely I’ll ever place any orders during the holiday season.

For now, I’ll continue using Rapidito. I don’t like to admit it, but it feels good to dip my toes back in the world of American consumerism again.

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Have you used Rapidito or a similar service?
Share in the comments!

Wallpaper: La Merced Convent In Antigua Guatemala

La Merced Church Antigua Guatemala

Here’s another wallpaper for you! This wallpaper calendar features La Merced Convent. To learn more about the history of La Merced Church and its convent, check out my Visitors’ Guide by clicking hereInstructions on how to download below.

La Merced Church Antigua Guatemala

View of La Merced Church from Convent

This calendar is available in a US-friendly format which marks Sunday as the first day of the week.

To apply the calendar to your desktop, follow the instructions below:

1- Click on the following links to get your preferred version; each of these links will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper calendar in the screen size selected.

La Merced Convent:  1920 x 1200 -&- 1920 x 1080

2- Right-click (or Ctrl-click for most Mac users) on the image. Choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something to that effect. Keep in mind that the exact wording will depend on the browser you use.

3- If the image does not fit your desktop background like it should, you may have to go to your preferred options. On a Mac? Go to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop. Using Windows? Go to Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose “Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

I hope you enjoy them! Feel free to share with friends and comment on our Facebook page.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz, Antigua Guatemala: Visitors Guide

Antigua Guatemala Ermita de la Santa Cruz

This wallpaper calendar features Ermita de la Santa Cruz, one of the oldest hermitages in Antigua Guatemala, its construction dating back to 1664. Located on the outskirts of Antigua (Calle Chipilapa), the church was built to serve the working indigenous population living outside of the capital.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz Antigua Guatemala

Ermita de la Santa Cruz

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History of Ermita de la Santa Cruz

Given its humble origins, it’s a bit surprising to know that the detailed facade of this church was one of the most beautiful in the capital. The local population, a mix of indigenous and those of mixed race (mulattos and mestizos), loved their temple and helped rebuild it after the 1717 earthquakes – something unusual given that the task of financing repairs usually fell to rich members of the population and the religious orders in charge.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz was further damaged during the earthquakes of 1773. The dome remained standing until an earthquake in 1942 brought it down.

Restoration

As part of the city’s restoration process, the council in charge of the protection of the city’s historical buildings (CNPAG) commissioned repairs to the ruins in 1973.

Today, the hermitage serves as an outdoor theatre for cultural events, concerts, and theatrical plays.

Wallpaper

Instructions on how to download your wallpaper below.

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***For a list of Events happening in Antigua this month Click Here***

This calendar is available in a US-friendly format which marks Sunday as the first day of the week.

To apply the calendar to your desktop, follow the instructions below:

1- Click on the following links to get your preferred version; each of these links will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper calendar in the screen size selected.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz:  1920 x 1200 -&- 1920 x 1080

2- Right-click (or Ctrl-click for most Mac users) on the image. Choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something to that effect. Keep in mind that the exact wording will depend on the browser you use.

3- If the image does not fit your desktop background like it should, you may have to go to your preferred options. On a Mac? Go to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop. Using Windows? Go to Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose “Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

I hope you enjoy them! Feel free to share with friends and comment on our Facebook page.

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More places to visit in Antigua Guatemala here.