Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Archive for the ‘Central America’ Category

All travel posts for locations in Central America

Destination Wedding at San Jose el Viejo in Antigua Guatemala: Rishi & Diane

Posted by Rishiray on July 30, 2014

Destination Wedding at San Jose el Viejo in Antigua Guatemala: Rishi & Diane

Here continues the photo blog for our wedding … I thought I was being a bit self indulgent with my pre-ceremony posting, but I’ve gotten so many positive notes and comments from my readers, so I’m just going with it. It also helps to have some great pictures to post … so here is part 1 of our ceremony at San Jose el Viejo in Antigua, Guatemala.


















Photography and Film: Julie Comfort : Comfort Studio | Shoes: Amanda King : A Crafty King | Floral: Escensia | Videographer: Jonathan Yonkers | Reception: San Jose el Viejo and Las Capuchinas catered by Westin Camino Real | Invites: Diane Mitchell : Handstampology.com | Hair & Makeup: Melissa Woods : Golden Studio | Grooms suit: Manhattan Tailor, Phuket Thailand | Truffles: Antigua on the arch street | Cookies: Maria Jose Garcia Gandara | Dress: Pronovia Gowns, Washington, DC | Wedding Favors : Diane Mitchell : Handstampology.com

Posted in Central America, Guatemala | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Yet another I Do Guatemala horror story …

Posted by Rishiray on July 30, 2014

Over the last year, I’ve gotten many responses and e-mails from brides to be about to my negative “I Do, Guatemala” wedding planner review. A regular business is only as good as the satisfaction of it’s customer … but wedding planners are a bit insulated from this feedback model because it’s a referral business. It also helps when you have a business that has a quasi-monopoly on being a destination wedding planning business to English speaking brides. If you can’t find the links to the first I Do, Guatemala review or my FAQ, here they are

Normally, I wouldn’t post the back and forth e-mails, but Veronica’s story was so similar to our story that I had to cross post. We would have cut ties with Diana but she held our wedding venue reservations for Las Capuchinas and San Jose el Viejo and we didn’t want to risk her cancelling the venues and hence completely ruining the wedding planning. The letter is just an opinion and is meant to help prospective brides with their planning … like any business interaction, your mileage may vary and Diana could be a good planner for you, she just was terrible for us and now Veronica.

Name*: Veronica Gomez
Email*: ligia21@att.net
Website: http://
Subject*: Wedding 2015
Message*: Good afternoon Rishi,

I had emailed you before, regarding the experience I was having with Diana of I do Guatemala. As it turns out both my fiancée and myself agreed 110% that cutting ties with Diana was better than dealing with her inconsistency, even if we lost our deposit (which we did!). I’m not sure what month I emailed you, but late last year we had a lot very personal and unfortunately family circumstances that prevented us from continuing the planning of our wedding and when tried to talk to Diana over email or Skype she was very short in her response and never available. My heart was not in it, I even tried contacting her and explaining what we were going through, but she never responded; very unprofessional.
I saw that you posted my original email and I’m glad you did, because now more bride/grooms will know not to hire her based on what they see online or pictures she posts, which was my original mistake.

My fiancée and I have been together for 10 years and have two beautiful little girls and happy to report that we are moving forward with our plan to get married. I’m for the most part doing a lot of things on my own, which means I will probably be traveling to Guatemala and with the help of my sister in law who lives in Guatemala I will put together a wonderful and beautiful wedding.

I’m so happy to see that you answered a lot of the questions others had and I’m going to be using some of those tips and contacts.

Planning a wedding can be an overwhelming and scary thing to do, that I’m glad people like you are out there to help guide those of us that can feel lost in the process.

I had one more question, in your list of contacts I did not see any information regarding the bartenders you used. I would like to maybe use the same ones you used; I would be very grateful if you could provide that information.

Thank you again for everything.

Best Regards

Veronica Gomez

Posted in Central America, Guatemala | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Do Guatemala review follow-up : Questions and Answers

Posted by Rishiray on July 4, 2014

It’s been almost a year since our epic wedding in Antigua, Guatemala. It’s also been almost since our exorcism from the wedding planning outfit of “I Do, Guatemala” … we’re still not over how upset we were with them. Based on the number of e-mail responses from other brides who had WORSE experiences than us … I think enough time has passed and enough responses gathered to ascertain that we were not the only ones who were completely screwed by the lack of planning, preparation and care exhibited by “I Do, Guatemala”.

Here’s a sample list of questions from one

  • Could you possibly give me a rough idea of what you did yourself and/or what was provided? For example, you had gorgeous little notes with your wedding favours, and I love the fans that doubled up as programs. Were those provided by you or I Do Guatemala?

    Done by Diane … in fact, because of “I Do”, she made ALL of the favours. The lessons she learned from the wedding translated into a thriving little side business at handstampology.com (Good things can happen from bad people)

    https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/HandStampOlogy/

    The fans are not available right now, since Diane’s been inundated with orders and she’s at capacity because of wedding season. However she can send you a private listing of the fans that she’s sold … or you can see fan pics at

    https://www.facebook.com/handstampology

  • What did you decide to do on your own because it was cheaper?
    We organized the liquor, the food, the housing, the transport … it was all cheaper and easier to do on our own. A lot of the props like antique boxes and the old school bell, we bought in the craft markets prior. We stored all of our stuff with friends who live in Guatemala City.
  • How was the food? What did they provide?
    The food was catered by Hotel Camino Real (The best hotel in Antigua) … the food was amazing, however we did many tastings – I’m very specific about the food. The hotel catered the servers, food, and transport along with cutlery etc.
  • Was the quote for flowers, etc., enough? Or were there lots of hidden extras?
    The quote for flowers was worked out with Escencia. Not many hidden extras to speak about.
  • You talk in your blog about a contact list, but I couldn’t see it – would you be able to send this to me?
    I didn’t ever publish the contact list – since there were too many emails to go through and I just haven’t had the time to collate this. Invariably … it got pushed to the wayside.

    What I do have to publish are the other horror stories from other brides who have emailed me based on their experiences with I Do. It’s not pretty.

  • I may try to do the whole thing without a planner. Is that possible???
    • Only attempt this with the following parameters
      • If you’re from Guatemala or speak Spanish AND
      • If you have a network of friends there who are willing to go back and forth between Guatemala City and Antigua AND
      • If you have a husband with unlimited airmiles who can fly you there 3-4 times between now and your wedding for tastings, meetings and shopping AND
      • If you have friends who understand the Guatemalan way of booking things, permits and doing business
I Do has business and can keep screwing people because as beautiful as the place is, they know that people will pay a premium not having to deal with all the BS on having to do business in Guatemala.
  • Do you have a trusted friend or person that you can refer me to, that can help with my wedding??
    If you’re looking for someone to help you, we have a friend who also got into the business after going through this with another friend. I’d be happy to pass along the information to you. Please e-mail me directly for this.
  • You’re scaring me … so you’re saying that I should have a planner, but you can’t recommend “I Do” … can you recommend someone else?
    No … read our story again. Multi-level failure by Diana at I Do … that scares anyone from using another planner.
  • How many events did you have in your wedding week?
    We had four days of events
  1. Day One: We had an Antigua tour which we rented the hop on-hop off buses and they provided a really great Antigua tour, followed by a meet and greet with traditional Guatemalan food, drinks and music (marimba) at the houses we rented.
  2. Day Two: we had the rehearsal and dinner for immediate family followed by a salsa night out where we provided nachos, drinks, salsa lessons, etc.
  3. Day Three: the wedding day.  The lanterns, table decor, flowers, etc. were all done by our designer/decor guy who’s name is Mario Ayala from Escensia
  4. Day Four: the day after brunch was held at Hotel Camino Real-they have a beautiful outdoor area, and a delicious buffet.  We also priced out the terrace at Trocolli. I gave up on that idea because I kept getting different prices and the quotes just never seemed to work out.
  • How did you find a hairdresser there?
    We lucked out … we had an amazing hair/makeup artist … Melissa Collins, she’s a Canadian woman who lives in Antigua – she was phenomenal. Unless you’re Latina or Guatemalan, don’t go with the Guatemalan makeup girls … we had a number of trials. The makeup artists were either late, no-shows or put on clown make up for Diane. I don’t get the whole Latina, overdone make up BS.
  • I loved your videos & photos but couldn’t you have hired a Guatemalan video/photographer
    We previewed many wedding videos … most of them were just not great. You get what you pay for and what you research. I suggest that you put a LOT of time into picking our your videographer. It’s probably the single most expensive item you’ll pay for and probably the item that will be shared the most.http://vimeo.com/81519327 : This one looked like a Mexican telenovela – there’s a lot of this. It wasn’t our style.
  • Your officiant was great … how did you find him?
    He was amazing! In fact, he was one of the only good things that Diana did. We’re both not very religious and he completely understood what we wanted our ceremony to be about.httpsvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ejRqOF4Cco
  • Are you sure you’re not making this stuff up?
    It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? Well I’m posting a couple emails I’ve received from readers who had similar experiences – I’ve taken full names out and masked the email addresses.

    • From: Alissa Jo******* <alissa******@gmail.com>
      Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM
      Subject: The “I do” review!
      To: rishi@rishiray.comHi Rishi (and Diane),

      First, thanks for posting your review of I Do Guatemala.  I’m getting married in Antigua with Diana in a little over a month and experiencing nearly everyone of these issues!  So frustrating!  So at least this validates my frustrations! I luckily do have some really great friends and contacts living in Guatemala that have been able to help… but still…! Will also set up some sort of review when this is all said and done!
      I’m writing as it being too late for me to fire her… I’m wondering if you can pass along the contact sheet you mention in your review.  I’m also interested in knowing where you got your lanterns, as that is a line item that seemed really pricey for what it was!  And flowers- how did she end up charging you for them?  She just has this arbitrary number no matter what I say I like that is confusing me and she won’t give me any more details about it…
      I guess any other tidbits you have that helped you manage are appreciated too!
      Again, thanks for posting.  Your wedding was beautiful and I’m sure everyone had an amazing time!  This whole process has made me want to move to Guatemala and be a wedding planner… I could do SUCH a better job… clearly, you could too:)
      best,
      Alissa
    • Name*:    veronica Gom****
      Email*:    carleal_*****@msn.com
      Subject*:    Antigua Guate. WeddingMy fiancé and I are planning our wedding in Antigua Guatemala for 2015. It scares me to read your review of I Do Guatemala, because we have already put a down payment for the venue and I Do’s service. Like you I’ve yet to see our receipt and have not heard back on some items that I needed information on. I’ve thought of doing everything myself, but because I don’t live there I wouldn’t have a clue where to even begin.I’m wondering if you can provide me with a list of the contacts you used (i.e. make up, flowers, vendors…) I would greatly appreciate it. This whole process has caused me so much stress, that I have even thought of cancelling it all together and see our deposit as a loss. I just think of how beautiful it all can be, that I almost have talk myself back into having it there.
      Gratefully yours

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I Do, Guatemala review : 8 reasons why you shouldn’t use them.

Posted by Rishiray on September 18, 2013

Hiring I, Do Guatemala meant that I literally had to DO all of the work when planning our wedding…

If you’re planning your dream wedding in Antigua, Guatemala it can be a dream … but, we strongly recommend that you do your research before hiring I Do, Guatemala and Diana.  When we originally began the search process to find a planner, I simply found one beautiful wedding featured on a bridal site, saw the planners name and thought “Wow! She must have been good if she pulled this wedding off” – and that was the single biggest assumption I made.  In retrospect, I now know that that wedding was so beautiful, not because of the planner in particular, but because of the amount of prep work that  bride did on her own in combination with hiring a very talented decorator/florist (whom we also hired-more to come in our “great contacts in Antigua” page).  We have no idea how they work for locally organized weddings, but if you’re not from Guatemala, then you need a wedding planner who is honest, on schedule and communicates effectively.

Top three reasons why we wanted to create this board:

1) To ensure that NO bride will have to go through what we did when planning a wedding.

2) To share some of the wonderful vendor contacts we made along the way.

3) To share important lessons learned about planning a destination wedding! (It can actually be fun and rewarding!)

When searching for information on Diana’s services, we couldn’t find a single review.  (and trust me, I tried…I’m a good detective like that) It wasn’t until after we hired her, and things started going wrong, that I really did some digging and found other unhappy brides who had already gone through the same thing I was.

If there was a detailed review, we definitely would NOT have hired them for our wedding.

Here’s 8 reasons why I wouldn’t use Diana Sciarillo or I Do, Guatemala!

  1. Never accepts accountability or accepts that she made a mistake.
  2. Completely disorganized.
    1. One bride who hired her said that the major hotel in Antigua (Santo Domingo) where she had her wedding do not work with her because of the way she works.
    2. Has staff that are completely ineffective.
    3. Important things like budget for our wedding was still not confirmed as late as the week prior to the wedding!
    4. I went two weeks before the wedding to book, plan, order, and set up many little pieces that were still not complete. (Thankfully, I had two Guatemalan friends who were kind enough to take me around and complete all of this!)
  3. Horrible remote communicator.
    1. She is excellent in person, but doesn’t follow through on promises, dates, or actions. (two months after the wedding, I am still waiting to get the digital pictures from our photo booth…I assume I will never get those)
  4. Cannot manage emergencies
    1. I (the bride) was left stranded on the wedding day…(the shuttle she arranged wasn’t allowed into the housing compound where I was waiting (first fail)…they were also given the wrong address (second fail)…) It wasn’t until I was already 10 minutes late for the ceremony, that I tossed my bouquet and purse into a bag, hiked my dress over my shoulder and started marching down the street during a thunderstorm, that I found my ride banging on the wrong house! Diana kept telling concerned guests that I was on my way for over 35 minutes (I was less than a 10 minute drive away)…not once did she try to sort the situation out…or try to get me as she was the only on with a car. (third fail)
    2. Unable to organize seating at the post wedding brunch as planned.
      1. Brunch was at Westin Camino Real hotel (which was awesome btw…more to come on our “great contacts” page)- we reserved tables ahead of time so that guests would be together. This was not done and Diana was simply standing around telling everyone that we will just have to spread out.
      2. Groom discussed with Abel Murga (Hotel GM) and seating was arranged in 5 minutes!!!
  5. The head wedding planner Diana Sciarillo was completely dishonest with us on multiple occasions. (also see #6 on suspicious mark-ups)
    1. Made us change scheduled flights and time off because of “last minute” change by another bride. We later found out that she double booked us and made us pay the flight change costs and completely inconvenienced us as we also had to change our holiday time.
    2. Completely lied about the other bride’s emergency … there was no last minute change – which we confirmed with the other bride. They had a website clearly stating their dates.
    3. This was huge … since it destroyed any trust we could have in her.
  6. Creates suspicious markups-despite the fact that our contract clearly stated that, “I Do, Guatemala will,  negotiate in the client’s best interest.”
     

    1. The prices on most items or services she was responsible for procurement or tried to procure had unreasonable markups
      • e.g. Liquor prices quoted were 25% -40% higher than what we got at distributors in the city (depending on the alcohol)
    2. Quoted a price for bartenders from TGIF Guatemala City of $700 USD for two bartenders. We hired the exact bartenders directly and paid $150 USD total! …and they brought a third bartender for no extra cost.
    3. Was quoting us $700 for a day after brunch for 45 guests.  Another bride paid $300 for 60 people at the same location.
    4. Quoted us $144 for 12 sky lanterns to be used at the end of the evening.  Purchased 20 online for $13 total.
    5. Quoted us $855 for a salsa night out for our guests…we arranged it ourselves and paid a total of $600 including three alcoholic drinks per person, food, a private space in the bar, DJ and salsa instructors.
    6. Quoted $65 per person for make up only.  I found an amazing Canadian stylist…and paid, $20 per person.

    These are a few of the examples which is often why I just ended up booking things on my own…I saved money and didn’t trust her to find the “best price” for me. (How could I after seeing continuous gaps?) This made me feel like she was lining her own pockets.

  7. Has ineffective/sloppy and unaccountable staff
    1. We delegated 5 room bookings at the Westin Camino Real to one of her staff … she forgot one of those.  Thankfully I was in charge of the other 40 guests housing!
    2. Her staff aren’t very strong English communicators – which makes delegation completely impossible
    3. Staff failed to confirm the wedding night after party at Monoloco’s.
      • We showed up after the wedding to no reservation
      • One of her staff was there waiting and couldn’t resolve the issue.
      • Groom had to successfully resolve this with Monoloco management. Complete and utter scheduling and communication failure.
    4. Wrong entrance song for the reception (despite communicating this with Diana and her team multiple times).
    5. Wrong father/daughter song despite communication.
    6. Wedding rehearsal wasn’t even in the ceremony location!!  How does that even happen?  Of course, this wasn’t communicated until the afternoon of.
  8. Almost a complete no-show the day of the wedding  before the ceremony/reception.
     

    1. Nothing was setup at San Jose el Viejo until 30 minutes prior to the wedding ceremony
    2. Guests came to San Jose el Viejo with no food, drinks or anything setup … they had to wait while staff setup everything.

This is just a high level collection of failures we experienced when dealing with I Do, Guatemala! So many more to discuss… plus other horror stories from other brides.

Of course you must be wondering, “Why didn’t you just fire her?”

GREAT QUESTION!!

Here’s the answer…we chose Antigua because of the ruins we could hold our venues in.  San Jose el Viejo for the ceremony and Las Capuchinas for the reception.

The very first thing Diana did for us was book the venues…even before we officially hired her.  When we did hire her, I pressed for the receipts  (proof of booking).  When I finally got the receipts, I realized that they were not in my name.  I was terrified that if I fired her, I would essentially lose my venues.  The thought of losing my venues and her holding onto them after letting her go, scared me to the point of simply keeping her around and putting up with her.

LESSON ONE:  Make sure that every venue, booking, reservation made is in the bride or grooms name!!!!!

Posted in Central America, Guatemala | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Rishi & Diane’s Wedding Trailer

Posted by Rishiray on September 17, 2013

Posted in Central America, Guatemala | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Renting a house in Lake Atitlan … if you’re in Panajachel.

Posted by Rishiray on August 27, 2013

If you’re in Guatemala for any extended period of time, a visit to Panajachel is a “must-do”. Panajachel, or “Pana” as it is widely known is a small town on the North shore of Lake Atitlán and along with Antigua is the other major tourism areas in Guatemala. Lake Atitlán is a volcanic crater lake and definitely the deepest lake in Central America. There are many indigenous Maya tribe still living around the volcano, to the point that there are 23 separate Maya dialects/languages spoken at the day markets. This type of linguistic diversity is incredible and leads the area being called “the Switzerland of Guatemala”.
As part of our wedding festivities, we organized a 4 days excursion to one of the lake houses in the district. So if you’re Renting a house in Lake Atitlan I would highly suggest using Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO). We found a spectacular house overlooking Lake Atitlan. As part of our amenities, we had the following:

  • Full time gardener
  • Staff on site 24/7 – although we never called anyone
  • Paved Road access with secure parking.
  • Use of cellular telephone
  • Maid, cook and butler service is available – we absolutely had this done!
  • USA Direct TV with all channels

The main attraction was the infinity pool overlooking Lake Atitlan and what a view it was. When you were too cold, you could walk into the Sauna on the side of the pool with Eucalyptus leaves in the rocks for a refreshing sauna.

The sauna was on the right side! Here’s a tip … don’t drink a lot of vodka and fall asleep in a sauna!


httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxaZ6wAGW2U
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlXLHeXAcms
Another of the amazing amenities was having our own personal chef on site. This was an additional charge of 20$ per meal + ingredients. We had between 8-10 people in the house at anytime, so this worked out to about 3$ per meal.

In the house, we had a wood burning oven, so guess what we ended up having every other day? Yep, you got it … wood fired pizza for lunch. We were only supposed to have this for one day … it was so good, that we ended having it for lunch every day! I’m totally inspired to have a wood burning pizza oven in my house at some point in my life. Our cook has been cooking Italian and Guatemalan meals forever, so she made a superb thin crust .. I ended up have two pizzas of my own, simply because I was the only person not having cheese!

This is a traditional Guatemala chicken dish. There are more than 10 green ingredients in this sauce … it was simple yet amazing!

This was our dinner scene every night!

As for the overall feel of the house.

Master Bedroom

Walking out on to the master bedroom gallery

View from the master bathroom!

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvgqsfUGixM

Now on to the rest of the house …

Our living room with crackling fire … yep, the staff always have firewood

The entire house was constructed to have this tree spanning from the bottom to the top of the house!

Who doesn’t like a mini art gallery in their walkout closet?

One of the guest bedroom. There were four in the house!

Who doesn’t believe in this?

Another one of the guest bedrooms!

Same room, different view from the gallery!

Yet another bedroom … for the kids! We didn’t have any there .. except me!

If you’re into a bit of video, here is the terrible Rishi video walkthrough
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zsB4kJSHqE

So if ever you’re heading to Guatemala, a lake retreat with some of your good friends, should be super high on that list of things to do.

Posted in Central America, Guatemala | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wednesday Photo Nights #22 : Wedding Reception in Convento de las Capuchinas – Table Settings

Posted by Rishiray on August 21, 2013

As the second part of the our wedding celebrations, we had our guests move from San Jose el Viejo and had the Wedding Reception in Convento de las Capuchinas. The Church and Convent of Capuchinas is a notable convent and church in Antigua, Guatemala. It is one of the finest examples of an 18th-century convent in Guatemala. The venue is an absolutely spectacular place to hold a great party.
In putting on an epic wedding celebration, there are so many moving parts to consider … but women seem to love the small details in combination with the larger details like venue. For this photo post, I’ll focus on the venue and table settings. There was so much detail put into the venue and the tables to make this a special experience for our guests. We wanted to create a luxuriant yet creative space that encompassed our personalization and taste.
For instance, there were many small items that we put our logo or our titles on or props that we gave to our guests, to allow them to have as an interactive experience as they could have at our wedding.





We gave our guests … crayons for their antique paper setting … Andria Hinton was a bit over creative!! 😀

We gave our guests tons of props to make their own experiences too. Thanks for the pic Andria Hinton

Lovely guest photography by Andria Hinton

Raw Ice Sculpture photo by Srini Teelucksingh

The crayon container for the guests with some drawings by Amanda King 😀

Another ice sculpture photo … this time by Shannon Berseth!

Personalized handstamped napkins with our logo … by Shannon Berseth

Another table layout by Shannon Berseth. Each heart was hand stamped with our guest’s name.

The hand made program and custom tissue packages … all made by Diane

Our program fan … handmade by Diane .. photo by Daren Ramsaroop

Another table layout … this time by Daren Ramsaroop

In layering all the personalizations, nothing works if the venue isn’t set up properly. Our designer/decoration Mario did an amazing job in making the vision and lighting work together to bring together all the elements and incorporate it into the venue.



















Posted in Central America, Guatemala, Wednesday Photo Nights | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday Photo Nights #21 : Meet and Greet at Fridas in Antigua

Posted by Rishiray on August 17, 2013

As part of the wedding week, we did our second Meet and Greet at Fridas, which is a very popular bar on Arc Street in Antigua. If you’re going drinking in Antigua, it’s almost inevitable that one night will be dedicated to eating or drinking on Arc Street … it’s Antigua’s most touristy strip. It’s also where you go for New Years to see the lights change … it’s their version of the ball dropping in Times Square.

we had



The agenda at Fridas included a basic meet and greet for the late comers … as many people had been with us as far as a week before in Panajachel. It was basically drinking, plus a Salsa dancing lesson and then more drinking.






We provided polaroid cameras to our friends to snap candids during the upcoming days. It was definitely a winning idea.

People shots time … you don’t have to know everyone, but I chose the shots that told a story 😀

More love around 😀

My dad … da boss!!!

Drinking Tequila will involve a lime shot!

I don’t even want to know assume about this shot!

Hey .. you know what I’m talking about …

The shot box grew as the night went on …

Majosita being surprised at some saucy question … I’m sure!

Like who says that … really? Yeah right ….

Now that’s what I’m talking about … BOOM!

It’s Salsa lesson time!



Gotta love Dancing Dave 😀

Yeah I’m Derek Zoolander … this is Guatemalan Steel!

Of course … 2.0 with 1.0 …

Love it … Amanda’s killing it on the dancefloor!

More Majosita … loving la vida loca

Hmmmm …

As a venue, Fridas was fantastic and very fair. The manager was extremely accommodating as they allowed us to book the entire second floor for our event and the total cost for the salsa instructor, venue, drinks and food was less than 700$ for 50 people which is extremely reasonable. Our guests didn’t even finish the food provided and the manager offered extra drinks to compensate for not finishing the food, which was very fair and more importantly showed really good customer awareness.
If you’re looking to host an event in Antigua, I would really recommend Fridas – they’ve been consistent after 5 visits … decent food, great customer service, extremely accommodating and centrally located. You can also get a very decent Sangrita to go with your Tequila!
Here’s their contact information:

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Foodie Porn … Wedding Tastings in Antigua Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on August 16, 2013

Prepping for a wedding is just a steaming, stinking pile of stress. When one plans a ridiculous one week adventure wedding in a different country, you’re going to run into a lot of issues that require resolution. Combine this with someone who is ridiculously particular about his food and this generally leads to some type of disaster.

If you think disaster will come, then it surely will come … as the chef that I chose to cook for our wedding quit the restaurant that I had settled on. That being said, we went through many tastings over the last 4 times in Guatemala … and yet another reason to choose Antigua for your wedding … would be that you can find epic cuisine for relatively cheap prices compared to what you would pay in North America or Trinidad. In fact, I have to now rank Trinidad as a lower value for money food destination than many other places … we can find very good street food and local food, but if you’re looking for a gastronomic experience in Trinidad, prepare to spend a lot of money.

Here’s some of the highlights/lowlights from our wedding tastings in Antigua Guatemala …

My artsy latte cost the equivalent of 1.30$ USD

My flaming love shot … complete with double espresso, mezcal and chocolate

Mini Caprese Salad appetizers … with Ceviche spoons!

Pepian Pumpkin Seed Tenderloin

Ceviche shots with Teriyaki Lomo and Fried Mozarella Balls

Deconstructed Tortilla with edible flowers

Ceviche Shrimp Cocktail

Sample appetizer plate … summer salad, green gazpacho soup, Fusilli salad and mini Caprese tower

Don’t try layering micro slices like this at home …

Fried Potato Pear anyone?

Pumpkin seed tortilla chip with Guacamole, Asparagus and Bacon Aioli

How about some Pomegranate Gelato along with Mint Basil Lemonade Gelato

Yet another version of the Ceviche Shot

Proscuitto, Croque sampler

Goat cheese and frijole tostadas!

Obviously we couldn’t serve this at the wedding!

Guatemalan sampler plate … this wasn’t a huge hit with me .. hence this vendor got the axe!

Tasty but definitely uninspired Guatemalan fare!

I wanted to serve Absinthe shots … but then I thought flaming alcohol and drunk people … potential disaster!

Minicake tastings … meh!

First tasting disaster at Camino Real!

Teriyaki fish, Basmati rice and chicken … uninspired!

Reason 7182 for holding your wedding in Antigua, Guatemala … even after many tastings

Phenomenal food, phenomenal service for much less than what you expect!

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Wednesday Photo Nights #20 : Ceremony at San Jose el Viejo, Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on August 15, 2013

Here continues the photo blog for our wedding … I thought I was being a bit self indulgent with my pre-ceremony posting, but I’ve gotten so many positive notes and comments from my readers, so I’m just going with it. It also helps to have some great pictures to post … so here is part 1 of our ceremony at San Jose el Viejo in Antigua,  Guatemala.


















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Wednesday Photo Nights #19 : Pre-Ceremony at San Jose el Viejo, Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on August 14, 2013

Today’s post is a special one with the wedding highlights from the pre-ceremony at San Jose el Viejo in Antigua, Guatemala. It’s a bit self indulgent, but it has to do with travelling and incorporating travel into one’s life … so I figured why not … the photography isn’t half bad either.

























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Why I love Meson Panza Verde … Part 2 and 3

Posted by Rishiray on August 11, 2013

Avid readers of my blog have sent notes/tweets about my review of Meson Panza Verde in Antigua, Guatemala. It’s the place that made me decide that I should have my wedding in Antigua, Guatemala. Well that and I wanted Ignacio Boreli to play salsa and meringue at my wedding. We ended up taking the entire family … hers/mine to have them experience it … for the photography buffs … I didn’t change the White Balance on my camera, since I liked the red tint to the pictures.




Even our parents liked the romantic atmosphere … in Trinidad, there aren’t enough places like this. In fact, I can’t think of one classically romantic place to have dinner, music and atmosphere in Trinidad, which is kinda sad … I’m sure there is, but I just can’t think of a place that springs to mind … maybe having dinner, while listening to David Rudder live under the trees at the Hotel Normandie



As for the food and music …


If you are going to propose or want a special touch to your dinner … they’ll even put flowers/rose petals to help hook you up.

Here’s another little video of Ignacio playing on Thursdays …
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0ouQ8jkVdA
After dinner, you can have a romantic stroll past San Jose el Viejo … although from my video, you couldn’t tell that it was romantic.

San Jose el Viejo from my crappy BB10

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8CKygM4DBw

So reason #5467 to have your wedding in Antigua, Guatemala : Family dinner at Meson Panza Verde.

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Wednesday Photo Nights #18 : What to do in Santiago Atitlán?

Posted by Rishiray on August 10, 2013

What to do in Santiago Atitlán in 3 hours? From the first 2 posts about Santiago Atitlán …

You should be wondering what there is to do in this town … so here’s a synopsis of what to do in Santiago Atitlán in 3 hours?

Listen to creepy chimes in the town square!
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h0ZOLVBIV0
Shopping




Wander the streets and market looking for photo perspectives







Go the church and look at the icons



Take pictures of the Ferris Wheel!





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How do I get to Santiago Atitlán?

Posted by Rishiray on August 5, 2013

[mappress mapid=”99″]
When you’re thinking about visiting Santiago Atitlán, you have figure out “How do I get to Santiago Atitlán?”. Here are the five ways I found to get there … but doing a day trip from Guatemala City would be the least palatable option unless you have Maximón in your car.

  1. Private Car: You can drive here in your own car. If you’re a tourist, I would highly discourage this option. If you don’t speak Spanish, I would also discourage this option, but if you have Guatemalan friends as we did, then this is obviously the best option.
  2. Private Shuttle or Van : There are many services that pick you up at your hotel or at the airport at a cost of Q750 or about $100. I think this is a ridiculously expensive option, but it is an extremely safe and reliable option … you get what you pay for. Typically, the driver is your personal driver and will make as many shopping, food or rest stops as you would like.
  3. Tourist Shuttles : Shuttles run by Atitrans can pick you up at your hotel or airport. (A reservation is required.) Travel time is four to five hours to Panajachel at a cost of $25. From there, you can take a boat across the lake ($3.50) to Santiago Atitlán. From the docks you can take a tuk-tuk — a motorized rickshaw taxi ($1) — to anywhere in Santiago
  4. Chicken Bus : If you’re in Guatemala City, you can take a chicken bus. I have no idea how long that will be, but considering that it took us more than 3 hours to drive to Panajachel from Antigua, you can be assured that it will take you a lot longer. Here’s a couple other thoughts on Guatemalan chicken buses … while they leave every hour, these recycled U.S. school buses are poorly maintained, drivers do not adhere to speed limits, the rides are long, uncomfortable, usually crowded and prone to robberies. In the end, you can save a couple bucks on the fare with a gamble on your comfort and safety – the choice is always yours.
  5. Collective Ferry : If you’re staying in Panajachel or close by, then find a pickup truck or taxi and let them take you to the public docks. To get to the dock, go to the end of Calle Santander, turn left and go until the end of the road, then turn right. The collective boat transfer costs approximately Q25, but like everything … locals pay less.

You’ll find that after your pickup truck ride to the docks, you’ll be glad to get back to a stable base. Getting to the docks is a routine ride, but if you’re new to Latin America or the Caribbean, then it will be quite the adventure for you.


Like most travellers, time of the essence and we didn’t want to wait around, so we used our pickup van driver to take us to the docks. We had a private launch waiting for us … I wouldn’t necessarily call this a private boat, because it was just a collective boat that we hired. There were barely enough life jackets for the posse … but somehow I don’t think that the life jackets would be very useful to us, even as we were leaving the public docks.




The photography and scenery during your boat ride is well worth the trip. You’ll lots of people fishing in the lake, as well as great sight lines of the volcanoes.




Not to mention, the sight of some ridiculous lake houses. One thing in Guatemala … if you have a decent middle class income in the US and Canada or even a decent pension coming in, then you can live a very, very good lifestyle here.


After your 25-30 minute boat ride, you’ll be getting into town. The docks are a pretty dingy affair and you’ll be accosted by tons of kids and vendors trying to sell you stuff.

Here is an excerpt from our boat ride to Santiago Atitlán  to give you a bit of flavor. Everything was completely safe and there was nothing to worry about.
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHd43BUlTo8

 

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Maximón should be a Trini God …

Posted by Rishiray on August 4, 2013

Religion is ever present, in all different forms around the world. In Trinidad, we have our own beliefs, but in travelling to Santiago Atitlán, a Trini should be prepared for two things

  1. Some decent craft shopping
  2. Meeting Maximón.

Maximón (pronounced Mah-SHEE-moan) or San Simón, or whatever other local name he’s called, has about 15 to 20 shrines or santuarios, which are set up for worship of this deity … or saint … or demon. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get the following perspectives:

  • Maximón to the Catholics is an unauthorized and sometimes outlawed saint
  • Maximón to the tourist guides and local business folks is an opportunity to draw tourists and make money
  • Maximón to the indigenous people (and many of mixed blood as well) is a potent miracle worker who needs to be placated with the things he likes – coincidentally or not, the things many of us like too.

When you get to Santiago Atitlán, your quest for Maximón can actually be a super easy one, as you get off your private or public boat, you’ll be mauled by a sea of kids and tuk-tuk drivers wanting to take you on a tour consisting of the market, main square, church, and Maximón. You can hire one of kids or guides to provide you a “tour” and your problem is solved immediately … but if you’re adventurous, I would ignore all of them and head uphill on your own, as the place is super small and has one main road … you can’t get lost. The road will curve uphill to the right and will be lined with dozens of handicraft shops.


Since there is only one main street, finding the market and the church is super easy. Finding Maximón on your own, can be a bit of a challenge (if you don’t speak Spanish) but asking locals is always an easy way to find out where he is located. Maximón like to live in different houses every year, so you will have to ask around, as your guide book will never be up to date.
In our case, we were led down some back alleys to someone’s house, with a weird soundtrack coming from another building. I would describe it as something between moaning and chanting but from experience, I recognized it as people praying for a sick person. Regardless, it’s still creepy being taken through back alleyways listening to those sounds … so resist the temptation to run!


Once you get to the house, you’ll realize that Maximón is a boss … every day, he has fresh beer and cigarettes to smoke. He is definitely a bad ass god. That being said, when you enter the house with him, it seems quite creepy – especially when you find out that on a nightly basis, he is taken upstairs to sleep in a bed, and then dressed and brought downstairs daily to meet his people. Maximón does leave the house once a year during on the Wednesday of the Semana Santa or Holy Week when he is paraded in the streets. After the procession, he changes houses (The locals say he is moved to avoid “amok” for fear of his famed sexual desires) and goes into a different family house for one year and that family does not work the entire year. Their only job being attending to Maximón and his worshippers. As for seeing him, we had to pay 10Q to enter, but USD is also accepted – Maximón accepts all currencies, but prefers US or Quetzals.

Maximón is a short wooden man dressed like a local and heavily adorned with cheap colorful scarves around his neck, with a wide brim hat on his head and a smoking cigar in his mouth. Yep, he is a boss! Looking at him, while he was “puffing” his cigar, resting among the candles and liquor bottles, with a pan for money. You almost felt like you were compelled to pay him, but I didn’t know whether this was a shrine, bar or just random hokum … to believers, Maximón can cure diseases, can break relationships and marriages, can win disputes, get you a wife or a husband. In exchange for his favorite things – money, alcohol, candles and tobacco – he will grant you any wish, provided you believe, that he can help you.

Maximon – Da’ Boss!!!!

In the house, you’ll find many decorations and other sorts of creepiness … like a buried image of Christ and many Christian symbols. I don’t know what it is, but I find the representations here in Central America rather off putting … it’s just an opinion simply borne from lack of exposure to these types of drawings and sculptures.




Even the room was packed with decorations. From the ceiling were hanging colored papers cut in all shapes and forms, ribbons, beads, fruits – almost anything you can imagine was hanging from the ceiling.

In all, I spent about 7 minutes sitting in the room, looking around and taking pictures … but you definitely have some food for thought when you leave the room … for me, I needed a coffee and some tequila!

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