Before we left Guatemala, we knew we wanted to be able to check a visit to El Salvador off of our list. So, taking advantage of the Monday Presidents’ Day holiday, we headed out on Saturday to spend a couple of nights in the mountains of El Salvador on the Ruta de Las Flores.
The route has several nice little towns to visit and we stayed at a great little place that had a cabin with a separate room and a restaurant onsite, both of which were key to making this happen with DiploTot and DiploBoy. It is getting more challenging traveling with the kids now, so we weren’t sure if the trip would end up being a total disaster or not. All in all, things went pretty smoothly with them, save for the drive back which was an exercise in frustration.
Here are some of the sites from the towns we visited – Ataco, Apaneca and Juayua.
Not too far outside of Antigua, past Jocotenango is the little town of Pastores, where one can procure awesome deals on handmade boots. On a bit of a Sunday whim, we decided to load up the kids and finally head to the town to check out the selection. The only other pair of boots I had were a cheapo pair of ropers purchased 20+ years ago during my first semester at Texas A&M so I had something to wear to go two-stepping.
I really never ever wear them anymore (maybe once a year for the Rodeo when we were in Houston) and hearing about the good deals to be had, I decided it was finally time for a new pair that would be a great reminder of our time here, of much better quality and not to mention easy on the wallet.
There isn’t much to Pastores, but the main road through town is fronted with boot stores. Boot making is this town’s industry. We parked the car and got out to start browsing through the stores. We expected more of a hard sell when we would walk into a shop, but everyone was very laid back and there was no pressure at all. I ended up picking up a beautiful pair of boots for only $50. The price was so reasonable and the quality so good that I didn’t even bother trying to haggle.
We worked a good price for DiploMom at one store since she wanted to purchase two pairs and they were about $40 each. These are all super high quality boots – boots that I am sure would be selling for $150-$200 or more back home. DiploTot even got in on the action with some nice pink boots. These are much better than the cheap, made-in-China pair we picked up at Target for her Halloween costume when we were back home in the Fall.
We were so glad we made the effort to load up and head to the town. I’m tempted to go back once more before we leave to pick up another pair for myself and a pair for DiploBoy to have waiting for when he gets older.
I had been hoping to be able to make one more visit to Chichicastenango before we left Guatemala, but we knew we were not going to attempt the visit with DiploTot and DiploBoy, which meant the chances were looking pretty slim. So needless to say, I was thrilled when DiploMom told me that some other embassy friends were going to be at the Hotel Atitlan and that they were planning to go to Chichicastenango on Sunday since they had never visited before and I was welcome to come along.
We headed out shortly after breakfast on Sunday and I was eagerly anticipating the sights and sounds of the Sunday market. While the market has attracted more tourists, it really exists for the locals, which is why in the midst of booths selling masks and other items, you’ll see groups of women haggling over radishes and onions and others making their way through the crowds with baskets on their heads. Not to mention hearing the various indigenous Mayan languages along with the Spanish. It is all just a sight to behold.
This is a pretty standard sight in highlands, but I’m never able to try to grab a shot since I’m always driving. This truck was ahead of us just as we were getting to town. And for what it’s worth, we’ve seen these little Toyota trucks filled with even more people, or sometimes 6 mattresses, or piled high with so much fruit that it seems as if the slightest bump or swerve would send them all crashing to the road.
Things hadn’t gotten too busy when we first arrived, which made snagging a parking spot a little easier. It didn’t take too long, though, before the streets started to get pretty full. My cash was stashed away in a pretty secure zippered pocket, which is necessary when visiting. Our friend Jim had nothing in his pockets, but told us that after one particular point of congestion where things got quite tight and folks were shoving a bit, that he felt a hand digging into his pocket.
Here are more photos from the morning. I had a great time and was so pleased that I had the chance to work in one final visit.
In any of our previous visits to the lake, we had never stayed at Hotel Atitlan. Given that we didn’t have plans to take a boat anywhere else on the lake, and that we would be staying one night, we decided to reserve our rooms.
They have a great pool and beautiful grounds which give plenty of areas to keep DiploTot running around. As well there are macaws, parrots and a pen with rabbits – an especially big hit.