We woke up right around our 7:45 alarm. We could hear everything through the walls and doors, and there was a loud family nearby talking about putting on suntan lotion and some other nonsense. We got cleaned up, then grabbed breakfast. It was fresh fruit, some breads, some eggs, but most notably were the refried black beans, which were very flavorful. We met Aura at 9 in the lobby, and she took out maps of Guatemala and Antigua to orient us. The "normal" day tour in Antigua usually involves a walking tour in the morning, and then touring a coffee farm in the afternoon (cue "picking beans in Guatemala" joke). But there were Holy Week processions scheduled for today, so we were deviating from the normal tour. The weather outside was nice, albeit a little cloudy. The city, at least the downtown part, is much the same as it was hundreds of years ago, including cobblestone streets. As we walked around, Aura indicated the surrounding volcanoes, which are just outside of town. To the south was Volcan de Agua, so-called because it had a lake in a crater on top, and during one eruption (or maybe earthquake) the water broke out and came cascading down the side of the mountain and into town. To the west was Volcan de Acatenango (which has two distinct peaks) and Volcan de Fuego, which is very much active. We saw some puffs of smoke as we were walking around.

Our first stop was at Casa Santo Domingo, which is a hotel (that was booked) but also has some nice grounds and a museum. There was a display hall that had Mayan crafts, specifically clothing and purses that consisted of very bright colors and exquisite designs. They looked really nice, but one of the benefits of our new place is that it is so small that we don't have any room for "stuff," so it's much easier to talk ourselves out of buying things. Our next stop was Iglesia Escuela de Cristo, where there was an extravagant setup for Holy Week (Semana Santa). There was a vigil inside, and for the vigil there was a brightly colored "carpet" and a bunch of fruit and vegetables in front of the altar. This is known as the “garden,” symbolising the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ prayed after the Last Supper. There was also music playing, and the church was full of people. We noticed the people weren't very tall at all, actually shorter than anywhere we'd ever visited, including the Philippines. Crystal was taller than most everyone, and Justin stood out like a sore thumb. Outside the church was a courtyard that had a bunch of stations of the cross.

From there we went to the Iglesia de San Francisco, which was a much larger church. We didn't go inside, however, as we weren't wearing the necessary attire. We'd asked Aura the night before if we needed to wear anything special, and she said no. It wasn't a big deal, however, as we knew we'd be seeing several other churches today. There was an area where people were selling different colored candles. Aura indicated that the various colors have different connotations, and so you burn the candle with the color you're hoping for (health, wealth, etc.). Our next stop was the Cathedral de Santiago, which is a tiny church with a much larger ruins area, where a larger church was until badly damaged by an earthquake. Aura told us that earthquakes are very common in the area, and over the centuries there have been many large ones that leveled the city. The Santiago cathedral had much of its shell left, but the roof was missing. It also had some underground areas that we checked out quickly.

It was close to noon, so we headed over to the central plaza area to grab lunch. We took a quick look at the plaza, and it reminded us quite a bit of the one in Arequipa, Peru. Actually, the whole city reminded us of Arequipa, albeit on a much smaller scale. Aura told us that there were a couple ATMs in the area, so we tried to get some cash. As has come to be usual on our travels, our first try was unsuccessful. So we briefly split up, with Justin going to one ATM that had a lengthy line, and Crystal and Aura going to a different one. Just as Justin was about to get to the front of the line, Crystal and Aura came back and said they'd been able to get some cash. We got lunch at Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo. The restaurant was next to an interior courtyard, and it felt like we were eating outside. The food was good, particularly the guacamole. Aura told us that the Hass avocado that is grown in California has two parents, one of which is from Guatemala.

After lunch we headed north, past the Santa Catalina arch that is one of the landmark symbols of Antigua. There were lots of people milling about around La Merced, which has both a church and a convent. There were people getting their outfits and other materials for one of the processions, but almost no one visiting as tourists. We walked around for about 15 minutes, then continued heading northwest towards San Felipe. As soon as we left the Antigua city center, the cobblestone turned into pavement, and it became much easier to walk. The road into San Felipe was a bit uphill, and it wasn't long until we came across the first person making a "carpet" for the procession. Aura mentioned that most are made out of dyed sawdust, but others are made from sand, pine leaves, and other materials. Aura mentioned that pine needles were the original material used for this, but now sand and/or sawdust is more commonplace.

The carpets we saw were all very distinctive, and most people's work was still in progress. Aura told us that it doesn't make sense to finish the carpets early, as then they can get messed up, whether by dogs walking across them, the wind blowing material away, and so on. Along the way up the street, we passed right by Aura's house, so we knew we had a local guide that would be taking us to where we wanted to go. The procession was supposed to start at 2, but we didn't see any signs it had begun, or that it was about to. So we meandered around the streets, watching people work on their carpets, getting some water, and trying to find a good spot to watch. Near the church where the procession was starting, there was a sharp corner in the road, and Aura suggested we stop there, where we could watch the procession go around the corner. We had a good vantage point, on a raised sidewalk with a wall behind us - plus we were taller than everyone.

For the procession, nearly all of the men were in purple hooded robes, and there must have been hundreds if not thousands of people dressed up in the robes. Many of the women were dressed in black. At the front of the procession were some folks dressed up in Roman-looking garb, to symbolize, we suppose, the Romans. There were also some people with smoke cannisters full of incense. At first, everyone walking past us avoided the carpet, walking on either side. It was only when the people carrying the floats came by that the carpets got walked on. And that took quite some time, as the people were walking at a snail's pace, kind of rocking side to side as they went forward. The first float was carried by men, a second float was carried by women, and then there were musicians behind. It reminded us a bit of a giant New Orleans parade.

After the procession passed us, we walked to the San Felipe church, then went back towards Antigua. Since the procession was snaking around, we didn't have to walk very far to see the procession come past again. We were on a bigger street this time, near the local hospital. Where we stopped there was a massive carpet that was just getting finished, with just a minute or two to spare. There were little figurines that kept falling over, and the kids tried to keep them upright in advance of the floats coming through. After the procession passed us, we walked with it for a bit, then tried to get in front, which was difficult with so many people. Eventually we escaped out the front, and then started walking back towards town. When we got to Aura's house, she gave us directions back to our hotel, and we walked the rest of way from San Felipe. Not surprisingly, there were tons of cars, as certain roads were closed and this was wreaking havoc. We got back to the hotel without having to open our map, so that was good.

At the hotel, we rested up for a bit, as it was lots of walking. When we originally put our itinerary together, we were just going to stay one night in Antigua, do a quick city tour in the morning, then head onto Lake Atitlan. But because of some difficulties finding hotel availability around Tikal, we had one less night there and one more in Antigua. We were glad it worked out this way, as we'd never seen one of these Semana Santa celebrations before, and it was really amazing. Crystal wasn't a huge fan of all the people in hooded robes - it is admittedly a bit creepy - but it was fascinating to watch.

After getting our feet some rest, we went to dinner near the main square. Just before getting to the main square, we saw the procession again, as it was just making its away into Antigua. The main square area was completely different than at lunch. There were people everywhere, and there were lots of lights and toys and bubbles, not at all what we might have expected. [We aren't sure what we did expect, but it certainly wasn't this.] We grabbed dinner at La Fonda de la Calle Real, which was right on 5th Avenue. Just as we were sitting down, we first heard, then saw a procession again - this time it was the kid's procession, the one we had seen people getting ready for when we were at La Merced. Dinner was good, Crystal got shrimp, and Justin got "un poco de todo," a little bit of everything. They brought out a spicy green pepper sauce for the table, and it was very good, but incredibly hot, so we just dipped our fork in there to wet the tips of the fork. Finishing up dinner, there was yet another procession, but it looked like the kids again, just making a circle.

We walked back towards our hotel on street 3A. It's a bit confusing, as the north-south streets are numbered, and the east-west streets are also numbered, but with an A on the end. We stopped at La Barrica, which appeared to be a local's bar. It was far away from the city center, and no one looked like a tourist but us. Everyone was hammered, and singing karaoke. The drinks were very inexpensive, and we just chilled out and watched until everything closed down a little after 9, when we got our last call drinks. We were back at the hotel between 9:30 and 10, and went straight to sleep.

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