Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Posts Tagged ‘guatemala’

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

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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 »

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.



















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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.


















Posted in Central America, Guatemala, Wednesday Photo Nights | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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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Ceramic and pottery shopping in San Antonio Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on August 3, 2013

If you’re in Panajachel, Guatemala … you might want to take a side trip up a volcano or even do some hiking. For me, I was mostly content to eat pizza and hang out enjoying my view.


However … if you do happen to get a little tired of the spectacular view, unlimited rum and cokes and stone oven pizza made by your in-house staff, then you could wander off property and go pottery shopping in San Antonio Guatemala. When you’re staying up the mountain, it means that you have to head downhill to get to town. This is no easy feat, as you have to walk or you can hike in the back of a pickup truck. Riding in pickup trucks in Guatemala is always a tricky adventure … especially if you’re a westerner not accustomed to the bounces and shocks, but the ride into town will be worth it. Your photographic skill will be tested – shooting awesome pictures while bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck is not in the manual … but I used simple math to rationalize things … if I shoot 200 pictures, 1 picture will be blog worthy.






Many of the villages around Panajachel are considered to be some of the best places to shop for handicrafts. San Antonio is no different, with a high proportion of Maya people living here, higher quality of handicrafts and the number of visitors, it makes for a good shopping climate. If you’re not into negotiation and bartering, then you’re naturally going to pay a higher price.
Once you get off the back of the pickup truck, then start walking up hill to the town. It’s an easy 10 minute walk and will definitely help you work off some of those calories gained by the pool. If you don’t have a local guide to take you around town, that’s not a problem, you will surely be accosted by locals offering their services. Just be smart and negotiate every price with the understanding that the people generally make 80Q ($10USD) or less per day.



If you choose to shop at the most convenient locations, you’re going to pay a higher price and encounter more resistance in your bargaining than if you choose to walk uphill into town. The quality of the goods in the store is definitely quite good.



Our local guide i.e. village child … offered to take us to the people who make the ceramics. This turned out to be a little treasure hunt through some alleys in the village. It seemed like a scene out of a movie, where you’re surrounding by guns and cartel members asking for your kidneys. Thankfully, we didn’t let the paranoia of western media get to us and we eventually got to the center of it all. (It also helps when you have Guatemalan friends with you, to help navigate and scout the location for you!)



The pottery makers were kind enough to give us a tour and some explanations of their process. If you’re been a pottery demonstration or made pottery before, then you know the drill … but it was nice to see how things were made locally and see the environment in which it was made.



Once you’re done with your pottery tour … you can always buy some.
Tip: If you buy ceramics at the “factory”, it will be cheaper than buying it back on the streets. The only drawback is that you’re not going to find the variety that you might be looking for.
In town, you can also wander around looking through the two churches and catch the view over the lake and maybe make a friend!



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

Wednesday Photo Nights #17 : Wedding Messages in Antigua, Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on July 26, 2013

I love long frame photography. There is something to be said for those effects that you get when you open the lens and let nature and light do their things! As part of the wedding week, we wanted to do some wedding messages in Antigua hence we lit up some Chinese Paper Lanterns and sent them off to the sky. Getting these puppies in the air, isn’t as easy as you think, especially if there is a lot of wind!



Things didn’t necessarily go to plan, as you can tell from the lantern that fell to the floor and imploded. When these things go up in flames, they definitely … go up in flames!!


However, things do go right and you get to make your wishes on those floating lanterns. I also love starlight photography!! When you open the shutter, you can always get some inventive and funny creations!



Our spelling seemed to have taken a turn for the worse … and the drawings got progressively funnier and a bit pornographic!!


Have you done any travel open shutter photography? Would love to see your examples!!!

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Antigua, Guatemala Travel Tips

Posted by Rishiray on March 15, 2013

From the last couple times I’ve been, here are couple notes about Antigua that should help, when planning a visit:

  • The main plaza is beautiful.  Like many Latin American cities, the zocalo is the hub of all of the action – but unlike many other place, the zocalo in Antigua has FREE WI-FI!! Beat that!!
  • Since we’re chatting about that connectivity thing — there is Free WI-FI everywhere in Antigua.  Every hotel.  Every hostel.  Every shop.  Every cafe.  Every restaurant.  Free WI-FI is easier to come by in Antigua than hookers on crack, and that’s pretty goddamn easy.
  • Don’t worry about changing money in the airports and getting raped in your face … There are tons of ATM’s around the plaza in Antigua.
  • Saturdays are busy in Antigua, as artisans set up around the plaza. Additionally, they cordon the street from the plaza to La Merced Cathedral (Iglesia La Merced) and it is only open to pedestrian traffic.
  • The stretch from the plaza to Inglesia La Merced is loaded with vendors, especially on weekends. You’ll always find something interesting, even though I think it’s overpriced compared to what you will get in the market.
  • If you don’t like bargaining, then buy nothing. If you do buy without bargaining, then you’re a fool and a chump! Bargain with street vendors.  Prices start high — about double what you should actually pay. I typically pay 40% of the price.
  • The textile market is the cities main market and is a great place to spend an afternoon.  It’s just a few blocks off of the plaza.
  • There are very clean PUBLIC bathrooms available throughout the city for 2-3Q (about 25 cents US).
  • Negotiate taxi fares before you ride. Taxi rides within Antigua should cost between 10 – 15 Q. Pay nothing more than that …. but to be safe … always negotiate your taxi fare.
  • Jardin Barvaria, has the biggest sausage in town.
  • Never judge any place you see from the front … since every restaurant has a great terrace or inside location.
  • Carriage rides are available. I think they’re for chumps who like smelling horse shit. If you do want one, negotiate … I wouldn’t pay more than 75Q.
  • It’s very safe in Antigua.  No sense at all that Antigua is a “dangerous” place  – it’s very different from Guatemala City
  • There is always a “Ladies Drink Free” location from Monday to Thursday and even on Fridays. Ask around or check Michael’s blog … it’s fantastic

Some activities

  • Ruins at the Church of San Francisco – You can wander around for at least an hour and look on these larger-than-expected ruins and inspired to take many, many photos.
  • La Azotea Coffee Farm Tour – This seems a bit steep at 7$ but it’s worth it.  Ask your hostel about the free van pickup the coffee farm provides from the Central Park about every 30-60 minutes.
  • Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm Tour – The tour is free.  You just have to take a chicken bus about 20 minutes.  It’s just past Ciudad Vieja.  The bus drivers know the place, so you should be able to ask and figure out which bus will take you there.  On the way back, you just wait on the main road and a bus to Antigua will pass at least every 20 minutes.  TIP: Don’t eat breakfast before you go, so you have room to order the pancakes made with macadamia flour and topped with a heart-stopping serving of macadamia butter.  It’s around $5 so not cheap (comparatively), but it’s worth it.  Also, you can buy beauty products made with pure macadamia oil, so bring some extra cash if you’re interested in that.

Favorite Cafes, Restaurants, and Bars – Here is a list along with names

  1. Santa Clara Panadería – You will not see a name on the outside of the building, and it’s a really small place.  It is on 2A Avenida Sur between 6a and 7a Calles.  Great coffee (always served with a little something sweet and a smile for 7-8Q), great baguettes, great meat and cheese filled bread sandwiches (called Trenzas), and great dulce (sweet) treats such as cookies, cakes, and sweet breads.  The cheapest and most delicious I found.  Go early in the evenings as they often sell out of things.
  2. El Portal:  Great place for a reasonably priced and good quality coffee.  Located on the Central Park.  Only get the coffee, you can find better places to eat.
  3. Cafe No Sé :Definitely a place for foreigners but a very cool atmosphere.  The place reminded me of the set of Tales from the Crypt:  small, very dark, only lit by candlelight with those giant candles that have creepy wax drippings, writing all over the walls.  And my favorite part was the midget door you had to bend over to walk through to enter one of the adjoining rooms with another bar and small, cozy seating area.
  4. Cafe Fernandos : Great coffee, fantastic 16Q tipico breakfast.
  5. Travel Menu: Been here twice, and like everything here, it’s reasonably priced compared to the other restaurants if you order the set lunch.  Located on 6a Calle.

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Another installment of eating in Antigua … Jardin Bavaria

Posted by Rishiray on March 15, 2013

This week of wedding tastings has been a bit obscene on our waistlines. I’m officially a little tired of eating. Here was the “eatathon” I had to endure today …

  • Breakfast at home = Can of Dukal frijoles! This is awesome …unless you hate frijoles.
  • Wedding tasting at Kolibri restaurant
  • Coffee and breakfast for dinner at Fernando’s

You would assume that should have been a very full day of food. It would have been a very good idea to stop there. I was ahead on all caloric measures but then my other half decided that we would go to Jardin Bavaria for “dinner”. In Antigua, it’s actually listed on the “Things to do” list. If you love German food and/or good beer, then you’ve come to the right place. Their selection of German Beers is the best and largest in Guatemala, and everything on the menu is homemade. They offer a variety of German sausages, schnitzel and other homemade foods in traditional Bavarian style.

Now why should you or I care about eating there. That’s a great question and my answer is this …

It does strike an odd note in your soul to see this odd mix of Bavaria and Guatemala, especially since my soul doesn’t normally hanker for a plate of German sausage, sauerkraut and fried potatoes. The waitresses do rock classic Bavarian dirndls (Those super dorky poofy-sleeved white blouse and striped aprons). As for the menu … order the “Salchichona Teutona”, if it’s only two people and you’re super hungry!

If you’re even hungrier, then you can order the Sueno de Sandwiches for two.  This is a honkin’ big plate of four kinds of sausages, and yes, sauerkraut and fried potatoes.  The sausages are quite authentic and are made in the fine old “wurst” tradition. The mustard, which is all important since it is the only condiment, also had that German authenticity – as though I’m some German expert (Does three trips to Germany qualify me as anything?). The meal will come with two kinds of pretzels, hard and soft, which are baked in the Jardin’s kitchen. In the evening, they’ll start up a nice little fire to warm your soul and spirits, if you’re drinking all that beer.

As for the beer and football …

In the end, it’s a lot of food but it’s good food, the service was excellent and friendly, and you’ll pay a 1/3 of the price you would pay at German restaurant in Canada. BTW I’ve found an excellent “Antigua” news blog … for the gossip … http://michaelsherer.com/ – it’s entertaining as hell.

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Flaming Love Shot …. Espress Arte Cafe in Antigua, Guatemala

Posted by Rishiray on March 14, 2013

Once you’re in Guatemala, it seems that you automatically need to become a coffee expert, since everyone else is. It seems that if you’re not somewhat knowledgeable about the 8 different coffee regions in Guatemala, how altitude affects the maturation of the coffee cherry which then affects the acidity and bouquet of the resultant coffee bean … then you don’t know shit about shit. Now I’m not saying that I don’t know shit about shit when it comes to coffee, but seeing that I’m not a coffee fan … even seeing impressive examples of Latte Art doesn’t move my life. However, the coffeephiles out there, love their latter art. For instance … how best to impress your lady, if not with a rose in her cup?

If the latte art doesn’t impress her, then how about a Flaming Love Shot? (And get your mind out of the gutter people!!). It seems that at the Espress Arte Cafe in Antigua, Guatemala … you can get this shot. It’s a very cute coffee shop located right in the heart of the square, as you can see from the next two pictures.

A random ex pat was driving by us, when she stopped to offer us advice on Frosty’s coffee. BTW Frosty is the lad below, who makes the Flaming Love Shot. Of course, if you’re going to ask how did a Guatemalan barista come by the name “Frosty” … the story goes that he was so fair as a baby and so fat as a baby, that he looked like “Frosty the Snowman”. Go figure!

If you’re also wondering why the cup in his hand is on fire … that’s the start of the Flaming Love Shot. The shot consists of the following ingredients :

  • One shot of mezcal (lit of fire over a spoon … of course, who doesn’t know that)
  • One shot of double espresso
  • One shot of dark chocolate

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWM5y5uNuuU

Pictures don’t necessarily capture fire as well I would like …. but the resultant shot looks like this … so when you’re here for a visit … go get a Flaming Love Shot and tell Frosty that I sent you 🙂

 

 

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Wednesday Photo Nights #12 : Scenes from Antigua

Posted by Rishiray on March 14, 2013

Antigua, Guatemala is definitely one of those old looking, rustic, classic places that never goes out of style. Wandering around, you’ll be amazed at the number of ruins that you’re going to stumble upon and how accessible they are. It makes photography extremely easy … one will always have interesting subjects to photograph.

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Ceviche diving in Puerto Escondido … kinda like buljol … but not really

Posted by Rishiray on March 11, 2013

In Trinidad, the closest thing we have to ceviche is buljol. I didn’t grow up eating sushi/sashimi but I quite like it – I had the same taste evolution with ceviche. It was a natural extension of the sushi/sashimi flavour palate, and in my travels across Central and Latin America, it’s always a staple in my food hunting. As for the similiarity to bulojol … it’s practically the same thing as traditional ceviche except that we use “salt fish” rather than fresh raw seafood. I mean take a look at the ingredients

  • 1/2 lb saltfish (salted pollock or shark )
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp hot pepper sauce or half a hot pepper (or add pepper to taste)
  • 1 sprig chive chopped
  • 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes chopped
Notice any similarities there … however aside from the ingredients – there is nothing similar about the taste. Today’s adventure in Guatemala City involved going to a sort of “Ceviche Alley” in Zona 5. It’s always a sign of things to come, when even the locals don’t know about the place.

It seemed that in the midst of Zona 5, there was a sort of “Ceviche Alley”, since I counted no less than 5 other cevicherias within walking distance of Puerto Escondido. I can’t lie … the place is in a rather sketchy area of town and if you’re not going with a local person, it is rather difficult to find.  Once you get there though, it was PACKED! There are three floors to this place and thankfully we ended up with seating on the top floor, where I could take pictures of the surrounding cevicherias.

Since we had the help of locals, I could sit back, play dumb and just observe and order whatever tickled my fancy. In the end, we ordered a couple things off this menu

In the end, we started with some beers and 4 bowls of ceviche mixtos – I don’t really know what the difference between the small, medium or large was … but I do know what the extra large looked like.

The apple on the tray of ceviche or fried shrimp confused everyone … including the Guatemalans. I love Diane’s awesome reaction to the apple on the plate – it truly made no sense to us … and the Guates couldn’t explain it either. If someone else is reading this blog, please let me know why they put the apple there (I did see locals eating the apple)

As for those shrimp that you see on the plate … and yes, they were shrimp – I wasn’t terribly impressed. For an example of fantastic fried shrimp, I highly suggest that if you’re ever in Edmonton, try the Shrimp Pakoras at Guru Indian restaurant. It is the epitome of what spicy fried shrimp should taste like! Anyway, back to the Guate shrimp – it looked like a chicken leg.

Next on the block, was the portions of ceviche and a vat of seafood soup (caldo de mariscos). Latin American seafood soup has to rank as one of my favorite dishes in the world, when it’s done right – since I do love soup. I don’t know what size we ordered but I think we ordered the medium soup, and this came out.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKQk9XT1Yr8

The reaction to the soup was also epic … more awesome reactions from Diane … and even the chick behind Diane was impressed … maybe she was enjoying our reactions to the nonsensical size of the bowl.

Our ceviches weren’t left in the dust either … those “tiny” bowls – I think each one was about 1 1/2 lbs each of assorted seafood nonsense in a bowl. I love how almost every bite had tons of cilantro on it. They must go through a lot of cilantro …


In the end, here was our entire spread … note that everyone was digging in … there was Carmen ready to mug for the camera. Normally, it’s Maria Jose in the far background to mug for the camera. Here is the before ….

and here is the after … any questions about what we thought of the meal?

Here is the address :
21 CA 35-01 Z-5 – Guatemala, Guatemala

Here is a good link to an old ceviche forum : Maximum Velocity.
A couple more places I found online …

  • Boca del Rio (unmatched)
  • The Safari (Puerto Barrios)
  • The Estero
  • The Gabiotas
  • Cocos Drive (by the Landivar)

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Wandering through Mercado de San Lucas

Posted by Rishiray on December 30, 2012

When you’re travelling, you’ll always find that the main tourist thoroughfare will be overpriced in comparison to the local haunts. Antigua is no different from any other tourist place – the only difference is that the overall price is still so low, that tourists from North America/Europe/Australia really don’t care. For those visiting Antigua, Guatemala – I do suggest that if you’re looking to get away for another truly authentic Guatemalan food experience, then you should head over to the San Lucas market. Any Guatemalan friend might take pity on your foodie brain and say “Vamos a San Lucas Sacatepéquez.”



It is about a 15-20 minute uphill drive from Antigua – your ears will pop going up and down at that altitude. Once you’re in San Lucas, I’ll have to warn that it’s really a small bus depot kinda town … but you’re not going for the architecture or the culture … you’re going to stuff your face with some great Guate’ food. The mercado is packed with restaurants and while the food is all great, I found the best chicken soup I’ve had in years … like revelatory!!!

The market layout is typical for any island person … in fact the market was similar to the Chaguanas market in Trinidad – so the Trinis will not be surprised by the overall layout or feel of a Guatemalan market.

san lucas

Your first find will be the women making Black/Blue Corn Tortillas. They’re quite different and quite the tasty part with meat or cheese. They cost 1Quetzale for 3 ( .16 USD), so 1.60$ you can 30, which would feed about 8-10 people.





As for the market itself … as usual, the food, colours and variety lends itself to awesome photography









If you’re taking a taxi to Panajachel, I’m sure your driver would be thrilled to stop at the market and would probably even show you a few of his favorite places. But you’re going for the food and if you’re hungry, then you can eat like a king for 35Q. My meal here was a side of chicken, a whole avocado, rice, half an acorn squash, carrots, some other veggie and the best chicken soup in your life.



Everything is cooked and prepped at the market … the only thing is that your clothes will smell like charcoaly goodness, because there is so much BBQ meat at the market. There is a lot of super fried goodness …











After visiting the market, I feel like gained 60lbs just watching the food … however, if you’re looking for an authentic Guatemalan street food experience and want to avoid any gastro-intestinal difficulties, then you should head over to San Lucas.

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