Title: The price is right... Location: Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Most travelers don’t stop in Guatemala City and is very understandable. I’m fortunate to have friends living in the city who are familiar with the parts that are worth experiencing. I have been to many nice restaurants and have met very nice friendly people. They all treat me like family. It is a nice feeling. This time, after being in the capitol for a few days I decided to explore the rest of the country. I caught a bus to Quetzaltenango, commonly known as Xela (pronounced Shay-la) to the Guatemaltecos. Aproximately 4 hours later the bus dropped me a few blocks off of Xela’s Parque Central. This is the town’s focal point. One can see teenage girls giggling when boys go by, little boys playing soccer, women chitchatting, etc. It is quiet a relaxing atmosphere.
I had made arrangements prior to my arrival in Xela to spend a week studying Spanish in one of the dozens of Spanish language schools there. The school also made arrangements for me to stay with a family. My week in Xela flew by and through my school and host family I made many friends. Forming fast and meaningful friendships seems to be second nature to travelers, and it still amazes me how in one evening at a bar it’s possible to connect with a group of people who are traveling as well, and in a manner of hours feel like you’ve known them your whole life.
I enjoy going out in the evening and I was pleased to find that Xela’s nightlife to be more than adequate. The various clubs, restaurants and bars kept me occupied every evening. I found myself comparing Antigua and Xela often in my mind, and I came to the conclusion that for value and balance of gringos to locals, Xela is more to my taste. I thought that if I ever have the chance of going back for a longer period of time, I’ll stay in Xela. One of my favorite places is “Bajo la Luna,” a shockingly European wine and cheese bar with a cozy cellar-like atmosphere and excellently priced carafes of house vino tinto. It is worth checking out. Another must-visit bar is Salon Tecún. Reputedly the oldest bar in Central America, Tecún is situated directly off of the park in one of the few buildings to have survived several devastating earthquakes in Xela over the past century. I apologize for all the talk about the bars, but honestly they were some of my favorite parts of Xela aside from the friends made and Spanish learned of course. There’s something about the air of the town.