Friday, April 2, 2010

Another world, close to home

Feeling somewhat confined to the house because of the thousands of tourists that have been roaming the streets of Antigua for the last several weeks, we headed out for a not too far from home, mini-adventure last weekend. Even though we live on the far side of town (that is from the main entrance) we also happen to live nearby a close quick escape route. So we scooted down the Panormana road (avoiding the maze of detours and lines of cars just a few blocks away) and headed south into the volcano, destination San Juan. More formally known as San Juan del Obispo (San Juan of the Bishop), the town received it's name because it was there that they 1st bishop in Guatemala chose to have his home palace. High on the hill with a magnificent view of Antigua from one side and Volcan Agua from the other, San Juan del Obispo is a traditional Guatemalan village that just so happens to have a really magnificent palace in it!

San Juan also is a village where many of our Common Hope affiliated families live. Through my job as a Hospitality Coordinator, I have met several of artisans that are affiliated with both Common Hope and As Green As It Gets. Each time we have a vision team come to volunteer with us, we invite the artisans to hold a market where our teams can purchase quality artisan products at a fair price, directly from the artisan. Since it's no secret that I love all things handicraft, I've slowly made my way from one artisan to the next, purchasing a little something from everyone's path I've crossed. One of my unexpected favorites (unexpected because I'm usually a sucker for textiles) has been Roberto's Carpenteria. Having once worked at Common Hope, making and installing literally all of our doors and window frames, Roberto started up his own business a few years back. His specialty is intricately carved furniture. It's gorgeous. Basically if you show him a photo of it, he can recreate it. While he doesn't do much business selling bedroom suites and dining room tables to our vision teams, he brings a great selection of wooden trays lined with guipiles (traditional women's blouses), carved picture frames, beautiful jewelry and tea boxes and a variety of other little, packable items. Recently Ricardo and his sweet wife Yolanda opened up a storefront in San Juan and invited us to come a see it, so that we did.

That's Yolanda with her son Jonathan.

Quite a picture, isn't he!

Well of course we were greeted with open arms at the store and certainly we didn't leave empty handed. I can't say exactly what it was that we purchased (it just might be a gift for one of our loyal readers), but we did walk out with a block of San Juan's finest chocolate (for making hot chocolate) and we also placed a few special orders. We love having a home filled with special souvenirs from our travels, especially ones that were made by friends.

Parched from all our shopping we grabbed a giant smoothie next door at Fruti Liquados.

Strawberry Banana for Ben
& Pineapple for me.


Making our way out of San Juan we stumbled across another interesting find. Homemade Nispero wine. One of my favorite tropical fruits, nisperos are sweet and juicy - perfect for wine. And you can bet that we pulled over for a tasting, right then a there and even came home with a bottle for later.

Since we now had wine on the mind we thought why not head a little further up the volcano to the local winery? Several kilometers down a dirt road past Santa Maria de Jesus (the highest village up Volcan Agua outside Antigua) we pulled into Chateau Defay
- the one and only Guatemalan vineyard that we know of.

If it's not the only vineyard in Guatemala, it certainly must be the only chateau!

Ok, so they weren't really giving tours that day since they didn't actually think that anyone would be able to venture outside of Antigua in car, but we did get a tasting (which was all we really wanted anyway)! Making our way from the whites to the reds, we chatted it up with Bruno, the house winemaker who comes from 5 generations of winemakers from Silicy. He claims to be the best wine maker in all of Guatemala - and the worst wine maker in all of Guatemala (aka. he's the only official vinter in the country)!

Honestly it wasn't the best we've ever had, but it wasn't bad either and since we had come so far, why not leave with a bottle or 2?

Au Revoir Chateau DeFey!

Heading back down the mountain, exhausted from the day's adventures, we couldn't help but to notice the huge amounts of trash littered on the mountainside. Sadly the Guatemalan culture doesn't recognize how horrible it is to litter and what a problem this country has with trash. Living in the tourism capital of Guatemala we can often forget about it, but as soon as we leave, it rears it's ugly head.

Maybe it's because these mini-adventure type trips don't happen all that often in Denver or maybe it was just us making the best of being holed up at home, but either way we had ourselves quite an interesting day. Hopefully there are more days like this one lying ahead!


Benjamin Barnett said...

You don't have Roberto's phone number by any chance? We live in the capital and are looking for a sturdy king size bed. Great pics btw!

Krista & Ben said...

Roberto's contact information for anyone who wants to check them out!
5548-6960 & 5211-3990,