Personal Journeys


October 03, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A worried father warms to Guatemala

By Doug Bruns


When our daughter, a college sophomore, asked to go to Guatemala for a semester's study and volunteer work, my wife and I were somewhat concerned.

FOR THE RECORD - A caption accompanying last week's My Best Shot gave an incorrect region for the location of the Ducal Palace, built in Urbino, Italy, during the Renaissance. The palace is in the Marches region. The Sun regrets the error.

Central America lingers in our North American consciousness as a troublesome area, despite the wonderful advances places such as Belize and Costa Rica have experienced. So, being the dutiful father, I joined my daughter for a week to get the lay of the land.

I was wonderfully surprised.

Granted, Guatemala City is dirty and a place of unsettling conditions. But once out of the city, the landscape takes on a more hospitable personality. And Antigua, our destination, is by any standard charming and beautiful.

About 45 minutes from Guatemala City, Antigua is nestled among three active volcanoes. Upon entering Antigua, our driver announced that we were at "the end of tarmac," whereupon the car rolled onto cobblestone streets, which are one of the charming features of the city.

Laid out on a grid that starts from the Central Park (considered by many to be the most beautiful park in Central America), Antigua can be walked -- or rather, strolled -- end to end, in 20 minutes. However, with shops and cafes seemingly everywhere, the stroll could easily slip into an afternoon's adventure, and therein is the allure of the place.

After two days, I said to my wife back home, "This place really gets into your bones."

I am not alone in this assessment.

Antigua is filled with young people. It reminded me of my visit to Prague, in the Czech Republic, 10 years ago: Backpackers and students, adventurers and those looking for a different life have come here to explore and have consequently put their own cultural stamp on the place. Many have settled in and found a home.

The pace is laid-back, typical for Latin culture, and it was wonderfully refreshing. The weather was perfect, with warm afternoons and cool evenings requiring a fleece jacket before going outdoors. The economies were equally inviting, with basic accommodations running on average $45 (U.S.) and upscale meals costing less than $15.

I plan to return to take advantage of one of the many Spanish schools for which Antigua is also famous. But, in reality, the language school is an excuse. The fact is, I'm simply looking for another warm afternoon in the park.

Doug Bruns lives in Fulton.

My Best Shot

Hugh C. Davey, Ellicott City

Before the storm

While traveling through Italy this summer, my wife and I visited the hill town of Urbino in the Umbrian region. One evening, we hiked to the top of a hill at dusk to view the medieval castle below. Lying on the ground with my camera mounted on a small tripod, I was able to photograph the castle at dusk. Shortly afterward, the sky darkened and a strong thunderstorm came up, hurling lightning bolts around us as we scurried down the hill toward town.

Readers Recommend


Eileen Chaffee, Baldwin

While in Ireland, one of the most eye-catching sites was the Cliffs of Moher. I thought that Baltimore's Irish residents -- like myself -- would enjoy seeing this beautiful landmark. Ireland truly has 40 shades of green throughout the country.

Adirondacks, New York

Liz Young, Phoenix, Md.

My husband and I visited the Adirondacks last fall -- what beautiful scenery. After a while, we stopped taking pictures of the lakes, mountains and rivers. There were so many gorgeous views, we found ourselves so busy taking pictures we weren't enjoying the driving. Then we drove mile after mile through an astounding forest. The stream pictured is just one of the many we enjoyed on our trip.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you; about the nostalgia a certain place evokes; about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

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