It would be hard to find a place more blessed in setting, climate, and sheer beauty than Antigua, Guatemala. Doorways like the one this this photo open into patios full of flowers and perhaps a fountain - there's even a small fountain with koi at the center of Doña Thelma's patio, where I'm living for the month. The straight streets and houses that start at the sidewalk are interrupted by frequent ruins of historic churches and monasteries. They're set against the stunning background of volcanoes and steep green hills.
In many ways this city reminds me of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like Santa Fe, it's supported by tourism and is self-protective of its looks (there are four permitted colors for houses, which is about three more than in Santa Fe, but the same requirement to get approvals for any exterior changes). And Antigua, like Santa Fe, offers the artesania of its indigenous culture - Mayan here, Pueblo there. Yesterday I went on a school excursion to a coffee beneficio complete with a coffee museum and museum of Mayan muscial instruments. It's very close to Antigua, but as we drove the 2 kilometers the houses and little stores suddenly began to look like the rest of Centroamerica - and I have to say that was refreshing!
Speaking of coffee, you'd think a place famous for its coffee would have coffee presses and coffee cones in the stores. No. You can get a 12-cup electric drip or a pot to boil the coffee in, and mostly Antigueños seem to drink instant coffee, as does Doña Thelma. I came without my little Melitta cone, because it's the one treasured thing that seems to have disappeared in the moving process (or is lurking in the bottom of some box). Today I bought a funnel and some Melitta filters (those are available) and I hope to have real coffee with breakfast tomorrow morning.