Earlier this year I read a travel narrative by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor entitled Traveling with Pomegranates: a Mother-Daughter Story (in case the name is not familiar, Sue Monk Kidd is the author of the acclaimed novel The Secret Life of Bees). The narrative is told through both women, each of them taking turns writing their respective chapters. While I wasn’t a huge of the book, much preferring Ann’s chapters to Sue’s (I guess I could identify more with the younger woman’s writing, especially since I was decades from experiencing menopause, a frequent topic of Sue’s chapters), the descriptions of where mother and daughter traveled were terrific-bustling Athens, the ruins of the ancient Greeks, the beautiful isles, Paris, French towns.
What I loved most was the close-knit relationship between mother and daughter that is clearly exhibited throughout the book. In many ways the personalities and dynamics of Sue and Ann clearly mirrored my mom and me. While Sue is married and Ann subsequently becomes involved in a serious relationship as the book progresses, they still went off and traveled, multiple times, just the two of them, leaving behind Sue’s husband and Ann’s boyfriend.
Some years ago my mom and I did “girls’ road trips.” One year we visited the Gettysburg Battlefield. The next year we had an even more fabulous trip, first visiting Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia (site of abolitionist John Brown’s infamous raid on the arsenal there in 1859) and then onto the Antietam Battlefield with a lovely stay at a historic bed and breakfast in Sharpsburg, Maryland. These trips were taken when I was in college and still living at home in the summer so logistics were much easier then compared to what they are now (we live about five and a half hours apart). However, I hope one year to do an international girls’ trip. Guatemala is the top contender for a number of reasons namely that Central America is not a region my dad would ever care to visit which makes it easier to “leave him home,” and flight and other traveling costs are negligible. More importantly, Guatemala is a Spanish speaking country so I could certainly act as the de facto translator. Moreover I think it’s a destination both of us would enjoy.
There are some people who are turned off by exotic locales, many of which are in developing nations. They prefer to travel where their native language is spoken and where stuff smells, looks, and tastes just like “home.” My mom is not this type of traveler. So while I know Guatemala would certainly be a culture shock (mine to a lesser degree since I’ve lived and traveled in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nicaragua where culture shock can hit you with equal force) with the crowds of people, the different smells, the hawkers, I know she would still enjoy every minute of it.
I would have us based in Antigua, the former colonial Spanish capital of Central America. (The individual nations that comprise Central American today did not become so until the early 1820s.) While Guatemala City is the capital of the country today, having gained that title in the 18th century after the government decided to abandon Antigua after one too many earthquakes, many people remained behind (it’s about an hour drive between the two cities). While Guatemala City turned into a modern urban center with time, Antigua today is a perfect example of beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture. It’s also one of the country’s most popular tourist areas. The city was founded in 1543, making it one of the oldest cities in the Americas. Antigua follows the traditional Spanish colonial design consisting of a main plaza (town square) surrounded by government and Catholic church buildings.
Although I certainly scored plenty of great (i.e. dirt cheap) deals when studying for the semester in Costa Rica, from what I’ve read Guatemala is even cheaper (more on par with Nicaragua). Hotels and bed and breakfasts housed in beautiful colonial era buildings that would cost hundreds of dollars a night in most developed countries cost less than $100 a night in Antigua and that, for Guatemala, is still somewhat high. El Palacio de Dona Beatriz is just one of the many luxury hotels I would consider staying at, especially since a junior suite only costs $110 a night and includes a full breakfast.
While I absolutely adored Costa Rica, especially its diverse flora and fauna, I missed the history. Costa Rica was considered a backwater by the Spanish during the colonial period and so, unlike places in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico where stunning cities were developed complete with elaborate homes and churches, centuries old buildings in Costa Rica don’t exist.
In Antigua I would be most anxious to check out sites like the Palacio de los Gobernadores, Convento de Capuchinas, Convento de Santa Clara, the Iglesia de la Mercred and most especially, the handcrafts market. I own some crafts that I purchased at Ten Thousand Villages and through the non-profit organization MayaWorks which I absolutely love, so I’m sure being in the country in which they’re made would be fantastic.
My mom is like me in the sense that there are few places in the world where she would not want to travel. While I’m sure there are destinations maybe even more fantastic than Guatemala, it seems like it would be a great mother-daughter trip, one that I look forward to planning one day and look forward even more to experiencing.